Discussion Board

Topic: Writing in another author's universe

From: Brian Conway
Location: Alpharetta, GA
Date: 08/10/2009

I am working on an article about the writer / publisher / reseller relationship.

At the center of this piece is what seems to be a deepening schism between fans of Frank Herberts Dune series and fans of the new Dune novels being published by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.

I have been watching this develop for some time, and it appears that it has reached a new level with the release of Winds of Dune this past week. Part of the controversy stems from some claims of impropriety by KJA / HPL / TOR in regards to manipulating reviews.

Another sticking point is Kevin J. Andersons decision to have a members only message board, which his detractors see as being a vehicle to pay fans to submit reviews by offering giveaway items.

What I would like to ask you is:

What is your opinion on whether authors should encourage, discourage, or in any way advocate fans posting reviews?

Do you think that authors having fan clubs, and providing member benefits such as giveaways, contests, offering ARCs and exclusive previews of works in progress is inappropriate, or could be considered shilling?

Is there any truth to the claim that publishing entities attempt to influence Amazons rating system? How?

Is it just with Dune books? (A member of one of the anti new Dune websites has made the claimed that they work for a publishing company, and has direct knowledge how the publisher can influence Amazon into the removal of the less than favorable reviews.)

Is this kind of controversy something that you and the other two of the Three Bs experienced while writing in the Foundation Universe?

Have you read any of the new Dune books? What did you think of them?

If asked, would you write in the Dune Universe? Why /Why not?

Thank you in advance for taking the time to look at and to (hopefully) respond to my questions&

Re: Writing in another author's universe

From: Greg Bear
Date: 08/18/2009

A whole lot of topics here! Publishing is suffering so badly now that anything that helps sales and promotions seems fair. That said, I don't (often) push people to pump up my reviews on Amazon, and in my experience, only clearly corrupt, slanderous, or inappropriate reviews get pulled there. What Brian and Kevin have done with the new DUNE series is successfuly extend the franchise for a new generation, and keeping (and feeding) a loyal fan base seems a smart move on their part. The controversy is probably similar in many respects to the old/new STAR WARS debates.

Re: Writing in another author's universe

From: Brian Conway
Location: United States
Date: 08/18/2009

Thank you for taking some time to weigh in on this issue. As a lifelong fan of the Sci Fi genre I have always tried to shamefully promote the books and authors that I find of interest, and will continue to do so.

I can truly understand the passion which is associated universes such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Foundation and Dune (and the many more I have not mentioned).

It must be an incredibly hard job to try and stand in someone elses shoes and try and capture the essence of the original authors views, no matter how many notes may be left behind.

I think it is equally important that even the most ardent fans of the original works approach disagreements about quality, quantity and content of new additions to any of these franchises in a mature and respectful manor.

Re: Writing in another author's universe

From: Greg Bear
Date: 08/18/2009

Absolutely! But too often, passion trumps sense--or courtesy.

Re: Writing in another author's universe

From: Brian Conway
Location: United States
Date: 08/18/2009

Well said!

I can only hope that both sides can step back from the rhetoric, and find what common ground is available, even if it is only the mutual respect for Frank Herbert and his original works. No one is being served by the language of hate that is being bandied about now.

The reality check is that by turning Amazons review system into the battleground, people are probably less inclined to try any of the Dune books, new or old.

I personally think that Amazon, a stakeholder in the success of any book it sells, needs to take a hard look at how they have set up their review system to better represent both sides without allowing the useless rhetoric that has seeped into the process.

Re: Writing in another author's universe

From: Kristian Lund
Location: Denmark
Date: 08/20/2009

I have a follow-up question.

If an author has a site, where he promises rewards (such as merchandise, mention in a book and similar) for writing reviews, would you consider that "shilling"?

Personally, I do not have a problem with authors having closed websites. Nor with asking people to review their books in a public forum - although doing so in a closed group is a bit problematic.
I see no problem with competitions about "best blog post" about a work or similar.
What I am asking here is about making an invitation, pre-approved fans-only site. And on that site institute a system of rewards for such things as writing reviews on external sites such as Amazon.
Furthermore, whether such action by an author is ok or nok, would you say it is ok to write such reviews and gain points? Without disclosing that the review makes one eligable for rewards in a note?


PS: I would like to hear your views, too, Conway. For the fifth time: do you claim that this is not an accurate description of what KJA is doing? Are you saying that such a system is not an indirect way of "getting paid for reviews (which we know will be positive because that was criterion for inclusion on the site)?

Re: Writing in another author's universe

From: Peter Hunt
Location: United States
Date: 08/20/2009

Mr. Bear,

I agree that passion often trumps sense or courtesy, and has been evident on both sides of the BH/KJA DUNE controversy. I'll be interested to read Brian's article on the subject.

May I ask, did you get much flak from die-hard Asimov or Star Wars "purists" for your contributions to those universes?

Peter

(Long time reader, by the way. I've enjoyed your work greatly over the years)

Re: Writing in another author's universe

From: C. Holland
Location: Texas, USA
Date: 08/20/2009

Capitalism is fine when it comes to book sales, my dispute is not with the HLP making money off of the Dune Franchise, but rather the quality of product that they want to claim as "Dune". I don't doubt that Amazon, as a for-profit business, wants to maximize its sales. If its Amazon's policy do delete unfavorable reviews, or to allow publishers to "purchase" a certain guaranteed star level, then I believe that should be disclosed. If a reviewer receives kick-backs, financial or otherwise for favorable reviews, shouldn't that be disclosed as well?

Disclosure on my part, I'm a member of a fan-run website that is very unhappy with the new books (to put it nicely). There is a certain level of nit-pickyness that goes with being a fan of an original series, no doubt there. But as Mr. Bear can no doubt allude to, there is a responsibility for an Author asked to write in another author's universe to respect the original author's work. If they need or want to break from the established canon it is their responsibility to explain why and how they reason it to be a continuation of the original. Having not read any of Mr Bear's works (yet! give me time I'm still working through Banks!) I cannot comment on his own personal achievements. Through his work on the Foundation series, and his open to the public fan-site, I no doubt expect he has first hand knowledge of this type of debate.

Re: Writing in another author's universe

From: Greg Bear
Date: 08/28/2009

I do not believe in or support stacking the deck at AMAZON or other review sites in any way. Never have, never will. I do notice top bestsellers almost always have 5 star reviews at Amazon. And of course there's push-polling for different sides of political screed bestsellers. Interesting.

Re: Writing in another author's universe

From: Greg Bear
Date: 08/28/2009

Nothing but positive experiences working in the STAR WARS and FOUNDATION universes.

Re: Writing in another author's universe

From: Greg Bear
Date: 08/28/2009

Actually, I've not experienced much in the way of flame wars. Not sure what triggers them, other than passionate disagreement! I do not believe AMAZON allows purchase of star ratings, nor do they pull negative reviews unless they're libelous or otherwise inappropriate. They don't have time to police all the reviews, I suspect--and review stacking is just part of the hurly-burly. If it's discovered, or promoted, that sort of chicanery should definitely be revealed. (And no, I don't ask my relatives to write great reviews, either! But that's just me. I don't want to find out my relatives hate my books...)

Re: Writing in another author's universe

From: patrick
Location:
Date: 08/28/2009

Nothing but positive experiences working in the STAR WARS and FOUNDATION universes."

Well, sort of. I had no issue with you working in the Foundation universe, I just had problems with how FOUNDATION'S FEAR (which was phenomenal) set the stage, and then how the story ended up being laid out because of it, which for one resulted in tremendous flashback in both CHAOS and FOUNDATION'S TRIUMPH, but also neither of these companions to FEAR really continued with anything of import, either in the story or in just an SF manner.

Mm-mmm. Maybe the culprits were the lame covers of the hard cover additions to those two, whereas I read the paperback of FEAR, which seemed modern and cool. Maybe I should read 'em again.

Respond to this discussion

May we post your correspondence on this site?
Yes
No
IMPORTANT: For form verification, type the following number in the box below: 75




See Also...

Archives: [Oct-Dec 2004] [Jan-June 2005] [July-Dec 2005] [Jan-June 2006] [July 2006] [Aug-Dec 2006] [2007] [2008] [2009] [2010] [2011] [2012] [2013] [2014] [Current] [Search Blog Archives]