Don’t Toss the Books!

kondo_booksUntil this week I had never heard of Marie Kondo. Apparently, though, she has written a bestselling book on tidying up your house and has a Netflix reality TV show where she goes around doing just that. She calls her method “Konmari” which is just the syllables of her first and last name flipped front to back. While it amazes me that someone can build an incredibly lucrative career around just telling people to throw stuff out, I came across this article in The Guardian that I wholeheartedly agree with.

Maybe, for certain kinds of items, throwing away anything that doesn’t “spark joy” can be a useful technique. But nobody in the world is ever going to get me to do that with my books. You should keep yours too.

The latest TV series by charming, tidy-up guru Marie Kondo has landed on Netflix and while we are all in love with the vibrant folk featured in her show, last week I accidentally entered the damning territory of disagreeing with Kondo’s philosophy – in a tweet that went viral. For while I’d heed Kondo’s “Konmari method” for habits such as folding T-shirts, she is woefully misguided when she says we should get rid of books that don’t give us “joy”.

Present tally among the 25,000-plus tweets replying to mine: 65% agree with me, 20% disagree, 3% think we are fighting over a football team and 5% insist Kondo’s position is way more nuanced than I give credit for. The rest insist I am a joyless frump. But be assured that this joyless frump will not be following Kondo’s advice, to essentially hold my books against my teats and left ventricle to see if they spark joy. If my own novels are anything to go by, I should be slightly concerned if the most recent, Martin John, sparked joy in anyone other than a convicted sex offender or a forensic psychiatrist.

In one video, Kondo helps a woman declutter her books by “waking them up”. Surely the way to wake up any book is to open it up and read it aloud, not tap it with fairy finger motions – but this is the woo-woo, nonsense territory we are in. Once the books are split into keep and get-gone piles, Marie and the woman thank the books for serving their purpose.

The metric of objects only “sparking joy” is deeply problematic when applied to books. The definition of joy (for the many people yelling at me on Twitter, who appear to have Konmari’d their dictionaries) is: “A feeling of great pleasure and happiness, a thing that causes joy, success or satisfaction.” This is a ludicrous suggestion for books. Literature does not exist only to provoke feelings of happiness or to placate us with its pleasure; art should also challenge and perturb us.

Also, what the Konmari folks don’t seem to understand at all is that an aggregate of books can spark joy. Ask any book collector. Put enough of them together and they sing to you – you know, metaphorically. Books are also ridiculously easy to store – they’re designed that way, after all. Standing in a library lined with full shelves is a beautiful, rewarding experience and I simply don’t get the mentality of anyone who says otherwise. The same room with all the shelves empty, or for that matter only thirty books, is just sad.

So here’s my method. I’ll call it “StenScott.” You can tidy up all you want, but keep the books. Or at least keep all of your up-to-date books on subjects that you are interested in and anything you think you might read for pleasure at some point in the future. Now I probably am not dishonest enough to turn those two sentences into a bestselling book that consists of repeating it over and over again using different words. And also, according to one study, something like 80% of adults don’t read for pleasure. If you’re in that group, go away. StenScott is not for you, which means my method has a much smaller audience than Kondo’s does.

I don’t necessarily keep every book I buy. I work in the computer industry, so I do get rid of books on, say, old versions of programming languages and the like. But I keep a lot – and none of the books in my library are by Marie Kondo.

UPDATE: Today there are a lot of folks on the Internet accusing everybody posting articles critical of Kondo of characterizing her as a fraud or a bad person or whatever. I just think she’s wrong about getting rid of books, and I also think that approaching books as individual objects glosses over their potential aggregate effects on your overall happiness. That doesn’t mean I think the rest of her methods are bad or pointless or anything, really. As I said above, tidy up as much as you want, but keep the books. That is all.

MeWe Profile Added

mewe_colorAfter playing around with the MeWe social networking platform I’ve decided I’m going to be sticking around. So I’ve added a link for my MeWe profile to my list of social networking links. Google Plus is about to be shut down this spring anyway, so my G+ link will be going away at that time. There’s no way to automatically distribute my posts to MeWe that I know about without going in and pasting URL’s, so that’s what I’ve been doing up to this point.

If you want to send me a contact invite on MeWe, go right ahead. At this point my contacts are mostly a bunch of occult and OTO folks that I know, but I’m looking to expand my network. At some point here I’ll see about creating some groups as well, and generally expanding my presence there. You can connect to my profile here in addition to the aforementioned link under the “Social Networking” sidebar.

Note that I have no plans to actually leave Facebook unless the platform undergoes a pretty precipitous collapse and you’ll be able to find me there for the foreseeable future. I just am getting sick of algorithms limiting posts – I usually have to “Like” my own blog posts before anybody will see them, which is ridiculous – and the ongoing attempts to push me into buying ads that I know from personal experience don’t work at the levels regular people can afford.

Checking Out MeWe

meweEver since Facebook started limiting the reach of posts so that they could charge you to “boost” them, I have been trying to find something that would work as an alternative. I’ve tried various other social networking platforms to see how well they would work in comparison – Google Plus, Diaspora, Ello, and others over the last five or so years. But there were always issues that prevented me from adopting them fully.

Google Plus was probably the most promising, but it still had flaws that led to where we are now – with the platform slated to shut down next year. Diaspora was too slow and nobody was on it. I don’t remember what the deal with Ello was, except that it was kind of buggy and not very intuitive to use. So that brings me to where we are today.

Facebook has been hit by problem after problem. Cambridge Analytica, turning a blind eye to election meddling, multiple data breaches, the whole “fake news” thing, dumb censorship algorithms, locking down personal profiles from blog posting and other legitimate third-party activities, and now the latest “community standards” policy that looks to turn the whole site into a G-rated pile of boring. Tumblr is trying to do the same, but to be fair, they’re owned by Yahoo!. That’s basically the kiss of death in the online world these days.

So maybe, just maybe, we’re to the point where one of these alternative social networks could take off. The problem has always been mass adoption – Facebook has the numbers, so it’s where everybody wants to be and to an extent has to be if you want to be on the same platform as your friends. But it sounds like a fair number of people are leaving Facebook now, and possibly more are leaving Tumblr. That’s a big potential audience that the right platform could capture.

The one I’ve been hearing the most about lately is MeWe, so today I set up an account and took a look around. Here’s what a recent article had to say about the platform.

The social media site still includes the sharing and communications aspects of mainstream sites. Users can share photos, videos, voice messages, chat, and more. The only thing missing, according to MeWe, is the “BS.”

Users can respond to posts with a Like, and send emojis, memes, and GIFs. There’s an option to use a disappearing content feature, which is similar to Stories in mainstream social media. The content will appear for a set period of time, and then disappear.

MeWe privacy settings are customizable so you can control who sees your posts. The app boasts heavy-duty encryption to ensure secure one-on-one or group messages. MeWe’s Privacy Mail feature is like Facebook Messenger (iOS, Android).

The app promises 8GB of free storage space and that MeWe, itself, will always be free. There are special features available and extra storage for a fee. For example, upgrading to 50GB of storage is $5 per month.

If you’re on MeWe, my profile is here. Feel free to send me an invite. At first glace, the site seems like the sort of thing that could possibly replace Facebook if enough people decide to jump. It looks like it works pretty similarly, and I didn’t run into any obvious bugs – though I have heard that there are some and they can take a while to fix when you report them.

So I’m going to experiment with propagating my posts over there as well as on Facebook and other outlets. Seeing as most of the content I post is from either this blog or Augoeides my MeWe feed should mostly match my Facebook feed and will be available on both sites.

Books for the Holidays!

Christmas-Gifting-Books-jpgWith the holiday season upon us, it’s good to keep in mind that the gift of books never goes out of style. Of course, I’m talking about my books. My first novel was published in 2009 and since then I’ve put out additional fiction and non-fiction titles. Naturally, if I do say so myself, they make great gifts.

The Mastering Enochian Magick Series

Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy

Volume I of the Mastering Enochian Magick Series is still the only book I know of dedicated to exploring the Heptarchia Mystica, an early portion of John Dee and Edward Kelley’s work that precedes the better-known Great Table and Aires or Aethyrs. The Heptarchial system works with sixteen spirits total, a King and Prince for each day of the week plus a King and Prince who rule over the entire system. This book makes a great introduction to Enochian magick that can get the reader started right away without a lot of the complexity normally associated with the Enochian system, and produce impressive practical results.

Click here to find out more and order your copy today!

Mastering the Great Table

Volume II of the Mastering Enochian Magick Series is my own exposition of the attributions of the Great Table or Watchtowers. It is more controversial than Volume I simply because the attributions I use are based on my interpretation of the Dee diaries and they line up with the attributions used by the Golden Dawn, the Aurum Solis, or Aleister Crowley. Even other “Dee Purists” don’t necessarily agree with my reading of the original texts, so this book is not going to be a re-hash of other Watchtower systems that you will find elsewhere. It is, however, rooted in decades of practical work and experience, and the rituals and structures contained therein have been proved highly effective.

Click here to find out more and order your copy today!

Mastering the Thirty Aires – Coming Soon!

Volume III of the Mastering Enochian Magick Series is my exposition of the Aires or Aethyrs based on my work with the Dee diaries rather than the modern attributions derived from the various Golden Dawn-based systems. Mastering the Thirty Aires has been submitted to my publisher but is not available at this time. Watch this space for an announcement once it is ready to order!

Enochian Master Classes


This is not a book but it makes a great gift anyway. I recently participated in a set of Enochian Master Classes along with Jason Augustus Newcomb and Aaron Leitch. These classes are a great opportunity to hear me lecture on my system of Enochian magick and at the same time hear the perspectives of two other longtime practitioners. You can sign up for the course here, and the coupon code STENW-ENOCH7-50 will give you 50% off the registration price.

Click here to sign up today!

Anthology Titles


Holy Guardian Angel

My contribution to this anthology on the concept of the Holy Guardian Angel in modern and traditional Western esoteric systems is titled “The Descended Angel” and is based on my own work in the Thelemic tradition. The limited edition of the anthology sold out long ago, but a paperback version is available.

Click here to order your copy today!

Liber Spirituum

My contribution to this anthology on working with various entities of the Western esoteric tradition is entitled “Evoking Zodiacal Angels.” It covers the lesser-known methods for working with the angels of the zodiac signs based on rituals and techniques developed by my magical working group over the years. The limited edition hardcover has sold out, but a paperback version is available. Click here to order your copy today!

The Guild Series


Arcana

Volume I of the Guild Series is my debut novel that was published in 2009. It introduces the modern-day magical order known simply as The Guild and tells the story of the order’s battle with a powerful demon. This could be the perfect book for fans of urban fantasy who want to read about a system of magick rooted in real practices and devised by a real magical practitioner.

Click here to find out more and order your copy today!

Ipswich

Volume II of the Guild Series is the long-awaited sequel to Arcana. It tells the story of Sara Winchester, a wealthy heiress and newly-empowered magician, as she works with members of The Guild to solve the mystery of her mother’s death. Her search leads her to Ipswich, Massachusetts where she must face a killer who can control the spirits of the dead and the remnants of a rival magical order seeking The Guild’s destruction.

Click here to find out more and order your copy today!

Other Titles


Trump Card: A Terrific Novel

Back in the early days of the Donald Trump administration I was inspired to write this crossover between the Young Adult Dystopia genre and political satire. It tells the story of a plucky, sixteen-year-old heroine who competes on an Apprentice-like reality television series to oppose the Trump agenda. Folks who are plugged in to the magical community will appreciate my satirical treatment of not only Trump but also certain factions and individual occultists who support him.

Click here to find out more and order your copy today!

The Pathless Void

This stand-alone novella is my take on old school hard science fiction. It deals with the development of the first functional warp drive, a trip to the Alpha Centauri system, and the discovery of a mysterious alien spacecraft.

Click here to find out more and order your copy today!

Cthulhu Unbound

This short story is a satirical take on the tales of H. P. Lovecraft. A bullied high school boy gets his hands on the dreaded Necronomicon and resolves to conjure the mighty Cthulhu to destroy his enemies. But when he completes the summoning spell, what he gets is not quite what he expects. Currently available only in ebook format.

Click here to find out more and order your copy today!

The Rufus Opus Interview


Back in May of 2017 I was interviewed by fellow magick blogger Rufus Opus as part of his ongoing interview series. We mostly covered esoteric topics related to my non-fiction works on Enochian magick, though I got a couple mentions of the fiction in there as well.

It was a great conversation, and you can click on the embedded YouTube link above to listen. Enjoy!

Facebook Locks Down Personal Profiles

mark-zuckerberg-evil-facebook-founderThe latest bit of money-grubbing nonsense from Facebook is that we can now no longer syndicate our posts to personal profiles. You know, those personal profiles that indie authors like me have spent years building into lists of thousands of people. Now we have to create pages and get fans to like our pages instead. In other words, we have to go down our exhaustive lists of people and spam them with invites to like our pages if they want to keep seeing syndicated updates from our blogging and promotional sites.

So I’m going to apologize in advance for spamming you all. I’m not a fan of doing that, but Facebook is now giving me no choice in the matter. If you want to make sure you don’t miss any of my updates, like my Scott Michael Stenwick author page and everything posted here will keep syndicating to you. Make sure you leave notifications on if you want to keep reading my posts – which, I expect, is the main reason you would want to follow my page since I don’t post much of anything personal on my Facebook account anyway.

Frankly this whole thing sucks, and as I see it, it provides no real value to Facebook users. It’s little more than another attempt to push people like authors into paying money for Facebook promotion – which, by the way, is not worth it, does not generate any sales, and is little more than a big cash funnel for Mark Zuckerberg, who already has plenty of money. Facebook really wants to be the social network that everyone uses, and it has largely succeeded at that. But it also wants to make sure that any avenue for making real money by promoting products and the like is cut off for users.

I’ve long been convinced that online advertising is a gigantic house of cards that will eventually fall. Personally, I never have ordered anything off an online ad, and not only that, I don’t know anyone else who has either. So the only money to actually be made in online advertising is made by Facebook, Google, and other companies that sell the ads. Maybe there’s some critical mass where it has some value for big companies. But I’ve tried doing online ads for my books, and so has Pendraig, and they never managed to get anywhere close to recouping their investment. The only people who made money were – you guessed it, Google and Facebook.

I also have tried running ads over on my other blog, Augoeides. I had banner ads that ran over there for two years, trying to build up enough revenue to cross the $10 threshold for Google to pay me anything. I was at something like $9.50 after those two years, and then Google changed their program so that all of a sudden everything rebooted and they never paid me anything. That’s why you don’t see ads over there and you never will – I’m not going to let one of those big companies sucker me again. I also am now officially boycotting Facebook advertising over their continual screwing around with our ability to promote things – but seeing as I know better than to spend any money on Facebook ads, they aren’t going to notice anything.

I’ll still be posting my links over on Facebook because hate it or not, it’s where everyone is. Now I just have to do it manually. Oh, and I tried connecting up my author page, which they’re supposed to allow, and guess what – it doesn’t work and returns an error message that provides no information indicating why it failed. I’ll figure it out eventually, but it’s just one more piece of annoyance that they aren’t even letting me do this thing that’s supposed to work. So I’m stuck with posting everything manually until I have the time to troubleshoot it and come up with a fix that makes it start working again.

I am going to look into other possible areas for online promotion, and I’ll be announcing those as they come up. Blog posts from here already go to Google Plus, LinkedIn, and Twitter in addition to Facebook – which I now have to mess around with in order to keep up and running. For those of you who go ahead and like my author page, I thank you all very much in advance. I appreciate your support and interest in my work – which, pretty obviously, Facebook doesn’t share.

Fractal Literature

I recently came across this article from back in 2016. It’s a couple years old, but I found the premise fascinating enough to discuss anyway. As you probably know, one of the things I talk about here is the difference between “literature” and “genre.” The distinction has never been all that clear to me. I especially take issue with literary snobs who insist that, for example, stories with paranormal elements or speculative technologies can never be literary, basically by definition because they fall under “fantasy” or “science fiction.”

There certainly is a lot of bad genre fiction out there, especially these days, but it also seems to be that literary conceits such as “dysfunctional family” are really no less genre than say, stories about werewolves or whatever. I can follow the argument that literary writing requires prose of a certain level, or character development of a certain level, or story complexity of a certain level – or for that matter all three. But if that’s the case, it should be independent of the subject matter.

“Realism,” especially of the “hard materialist” sort, has never really captured my attention. For one thing, magick is totally real. I do it all the time, and it makes my life way more awesome than it would be otherwise. So a world without active spiritual forces seems totally forced and unrealistic to me. Also, why do I want to read about regular life? Especially the regular life of a character who’s way more boring than me? When your life as a magical practitioner feels totally normal, trying to understand a character who lacks that element is really, really dull.

This article, though, discusses an idea that I had never previously considered. According to mathematical analysis, sentences in great literature exhibit a “multifractal” pattern. The analysis was conducted by analyzing sentence length throughout the entire text. The researchers concluded that the pattern was present in the vast majority of “great literary works” that they studied, and was especially clear in texts that were written using stream-of-consciousness techniques.

“All of the examined works showed self-similarity in terms of organization of the lengths of sentences. Some were more expressive—The Ambassadors by Henry James stood out—while others were less extreme, as in the case of the French 17th-century romance Artamene ou le Grand Cyrus. However, correlations were evident, and therefore, these texts were the construction of a fractal,” says Dr. Pawel Oswiecimka (IFJ PAN), who also noted that fractality of a literary text will in practice never be as perfect as in the world of mathematics. It is possible to magnify mathematical fractals up to infinity, while the number of sentences in each book is finite, and at a certain stage of scaling, there will always be a cut-off in the form of the end of the dataset.

Things took a particularly interesting turn when physicists from the IFJ PAN began tracking non-linear dependence, which in most of the studied works was present to a slight or moderate degree. However, more than a dozen works revealed a very clear multifractal structure, and almost all of these proved to be representative of one genre: stream of consciousness. The only exception was the Bible, specifically the Old Testament, which has so far never been associated with this literary genre. “The absolute record in terms of multifractality turned out to be Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce. The results of our analysis of this text are virtually indistinguishable from ideal, purely mathematical multifractals,” says Prof. Drozdz.

The most multifractal works also included A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, Rayuela by Julio Cortazar, The US Trilogy by John Dos Passos, The Waves by Virginia Woolf, 2666 by Roberto Bolano, and Joyce’s Ulysses. At the same time, a lot of works usually regarded as stream of consciousness turned out to show little correlation to multifractality, as it was hardly noticeable in books such as Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and A la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust.

“It is not entirely clear whether stream of consciousness writing actually reveals the deeper qualities of our consciousness, or rather the imagination of the writers. It is hardly surprising that ascribing a work to a particular genre is, for whatever reason, sometimes subjective. We see, moreover, the possibility of an interesting application of our methodology: it may someday help in a more objective assignment of books to one genre or another,” notes Prof. Drozdz.

There’s some speculation in the article on how this observation might or might not related to a fractal structure within consciousness itself. Back in my college days I played around with the idea of fractal consciousness, and the result was this paper. While neuroscience has disproven enough of psychoanalysis that much of the Jungian speculation in it is probably meaningless, I still contend that it makes sense for consciousness to follow some sort of fractal pattern – we just need to work out what the fractional dimension of that pattern is.

At any rate, one of the things I have mentioned a couple of times over on Augoeides is that I have never found it that difficult to distinguish a genuine “received text” from a fake one. There’s a particular feel to the language that seems obvious to me, in terms of how it flows in general and how certain points get elaborated and extended. The Book of the Law, for example, clearly exhibits this sort of structure. On the other hand, most of the “secret fourth chapters” that show up every so often in the Thelemic community don’t. I also see it in historical pieces like Dee and Kelley’s Angelic Keys, and not as much in some of the other conjurations and so forth from those periods.

So is something like this “multifractal structure” what I’m noticing? I’m not sure at this point, but it strikes me as a possibility. It could be the case if the closer something is to stream-of-consciousness while remaining meaningful, the more likely it is to be a legitimate received text. The researchers did apply their analysis to the Bible and didn’t find a pattern, but the Bible is a collection of many texts written in both Greek and Hebrew, and I don’t know enough about the analysis conducted to see whether or not I think that translation might be part of the issue.

Perhaps more practically – can a novel be written in a multifractal pattern by design? If so, it would be an interesting experiment to write the same kind of story that I usually write – fantasy or science fiction – but write it in this “literary” way. Would book critics view it differently? If so, does that imply that multifractal prose is literary and prose without it is not? At the very least, if that distinction exists it would represent an objective difference between these two kinds of writing.

I also think that what we would find is that there should be such a thing as “good genre” and “bad literary.” Obviously it should be possible to write something terrible using a multifractal approach, just like it should be possible to write something really good without it. But I probably am getting ahead of myself there. One study does not a scientific discovery make, and maybe this finding is little more than a stray artifact.

I will say, though, that I’m looking forward to future research along these lines. It’s always frustrating to be judged by a metric that is essentially “I know it when I see it” rather than anything quantifiable. Here’s an interesting experiment to try – find a selection from Finnegan’s Wake or one of the other “high-multifractal” pieces in this study. Write down the length of each sentence in the selection. Then, like composing a haiku, write a narrative that matches the length of each sentence and see if what you get is any good.

Well Played!

In the wake of this whole “cockygate” nonsense, it may be that one of Faleena Hopkins’ targets will have the last laugh. Hopkins sent a cease-and-desist notification to Jamila Jasper, another romance novelist who dared to “infringe” on Hopkins’ “cocky” trademark with a romance novel called Cocky Cowboy. Jasper was quoted in the original article about Hopkins, stating that while she thought this was bogus – like every other reasonable person does – she was not in a position to engage in any legal action of her own and would have to comply and change the title of her book.

Well, she did, and it’s hilarious. Cocky Cowboy is now retitled The Cockiest Cowboy To Have Ever Cocked. Note that the new title doesn’t contain “cocky” and the trademark only applies to that exact word. Also, the new title takes on a kind of Chuck Tingle-esque over-the-top quality that is legitimately funny, especially in light of this whole stupid “scandal” or whatever the heck it is. Jasper is getting a big sales boost over this, and according to her reviews she’s apparently a pretty good writer in addition to being delightfully snarky.

If you want to take a look at the new title and show your support for standing up to the writing equivalent of patent trolling, you can check out The Cockiest Cowboy to Ever Have Cocked right here.

“Cocky” Sounds About Right

faleena_hopkinsWe authors are going to need more than clown sex stabbings to sell books if we keep trying to eat our own. I understand that book sales are disappointing, marketing is hard, and making a living publishing books is basically impossible at this point, but trying to drag each other down fighting over the crumbs of an ever-decreasing pie is seriously not the way to go.

According to this article from The Guardian, romance novelist Faleena Hopkins filed a trademark on the word “cocky” back in April. She is the author of a series of books that use the word in the their titles. Since then, she has claimed to own the word and has threatened legal action against any other author who uses it in a book title.

Faleena Hopkins is the self-published author of a series of books about the “Cocker Brothers” (“Six bad boy brothers you’ll want to marry or hide under you [sic] bed”), each of which features the word “cocky” in the title: Cocky Romantic, Cocky Biker, Cocky Cowboy.

On Saturday, author Bianca Sommerland posted a YouTube video sharing allegations that Hopkins had written to authors whose books also had titles including the word “cocky”, informing them that she had been granted the official registered trademark of the adjective in relation to romance books, and asking them to rename their novels or face legal action. Records at the US patent and trademark office show that the registered trademark for use of the word “cocky” in relation to romance ebooks was issued in April 2018.

Self-published writer Jamila Jasper, who claims she was asked by Hopkins to change the title of her novel Cocky Cowboy, said she removed her novel from sale after she was contacted by Hopkins. “I have to admit I am intimidated because I don’t have many resources to fight this legally if she does pursue,” she wrote on Twitter. Pajiba reported on Monday that the author Nana Malone had been asked to change the title of her novel Mr Cocky, while TL Smith and Melissa Jane’s Cocky Fiancé has been renamed Arrogant Fiancé. Other writers claimed that Hopkins had reported them to Amazon, resulting in their books being taken down from the site.

Hopkins tweeted that the word was “a brand”, and that the writers she was contacting could “keep their books, rankings, reviews and their money by retitling which takes one day”. On Facebook, she said she was a victim of “cyber-bullying”, writing that she “applied for the trademark to protect the future of my series because it helps people. It’s filled with love, hope, and respect to all human beings.”
She added: “I receive letters from readers who lost money thinking they bought my series. I’m protecting them and that’s what trademarks are meant for.”

Others are not so sure. Chocolat author Joanne Harris punned that “such behaviour is considered a dick move” on her blog, adding more seriously that “if it were really possible to legally forbid authors from using a certain common word in their book titles, then the whole publishing industry would be down the drain in a matter of days”.

Seeing as this is totally not how trademarks work, and that it basically fits the definition of “utterly deplorable,” I’m left to wonder if this might be an attempt by Hopkins to employ the “being awful” side of the clown sex stabbing promotion method. If it is, I’ll admit it’s a clever variation on the theme that I have never thought of. It’s got to be getting pretty close to peak awfulness, and it remains to be seen if it boosts her sales like a clown sex stabbing would.

Surely I could trademark the word “Arcana” – the title of my first novel – and then file suit against all makers of Tarot cards! After all, they include a set of cards called the “Major Arcana.” There also are a series of music albums that use the title, and a couple of other things that use it as well. Or I could trademark “Guild” – after the Guild Series – and then threaten to sue every single author who has a guild of anything in their books. That’s even more awful, right?

Seriously, though, if you think this is as outrageous as I do, there’s a petition you can sign asking the patent and trademark office to strike down Hopkins’ trademark. It probably won’t work, because she’s allowed to trademark whatever she wants. She’s just not allowed to beat every other author out there over the head with it, and the courts should eventually make it clear that this behavior is totally not okay.

Awful But Effective

Zoe AdamsI keep reading accounts of authors trying to market books using all sorts of different promotional services, and the results are almost always described as “disappointing.” Marketing is tough, and as I’ve noted previously, it’s a lot easier to make money off authors than it is to make money by being an author. Promotions of whatever sort generally lose money and don’t even generate that much exposure.

Looking through the news lately, though, I came across something that appears to have worked. The trouble is that it’s not the kind of promotion that most of us want to go through. Kieran Bewick is a 17-year-old fantasy novelist with one ebook currently published. He made the news when, in a truly bizarre story that hit all the tabloids, he was stabbed during sex by his girlfriend Zoe Adams, who was dressed as a clown at the time (!). Adams was recently sentenced to eleven years in prison for the attack.

Adams shrugged off this evidence as a joke and claimed that she had no recollection of the stabbing. However, Judge James Adkin, dismissed her defense and said her “cruel and sadistic” actions were those of someone who deliberatly intended to cause harm, reported The Telegraph.

Adkin added that the attack was premeditated, citing the duct tape and knife that had been taken into her bedroom prior to the attack. “You had decided to cause serious harm to Mr Bewick during sex,” Adkin said. “I am sure that by that time you had already become disinhibited by drink and drugs and the more sadistic side of your personality had come to dominate.”

Bewick, an aspiring fantasy novelist, survived the attack but was left was life-threatening injuries, including a collapsed lung. In his victim impact statement, Bewick said he is going to be emotionally scarred for life and that the attack will further exacerbate his fear of clowns.

“I struggle with the knowledge that someone I genuinely cared about would do this to me. Just after I got out of hospital, this thought played on my mind a lot,” he said. “But having had time to think about it, I am convinced that she planned it. It wasn’t personal. She was going to do it to someone and it just happened to be me. Strangely, that makes it easier to deal with.

Checking the sales rank on Bewick’s book, I can confirm that with only one review and a two-star rating, it currently is outselling every single thing that I have ever published. Bewick lives in the UK, too, so he doesn’t have to offset his earnings against hospital bills. That alone would make the clown sex stabbing  approach less viable in the states, even though in terms of sales it seems to be working better than any commercial promotional service I’ve seen.

And I joke – sort of. To be clear, I’m not making fun of Bewick or his book, or this awful ordeal that he’s been through. My point is that this is one more piece of evidence that “going viral” is not a thing that happens due to simple word of mouth or individual people sharing posts. As I’ve mentioned here previously, according to a huge data set amassed by analysts at Yahoo!, the “viralness” of anything is directly proportional to the circulation of the largest media outlet that covers it. That’s the only metric that matters.

The upshot of this is that aside from massive publicity outlays that may finally produce a return on investment, but which no independent artist or writer can afford, outrage and incredulity are what make most popular artists popular. It has almost nothing to do with technical skill or quality of work. People telling you that you can become a bestselling author by focusing all your efforts on writing the best book you can? Flat-out wrong. Getting attention for your work is exponentially harder than doing the work in the first place, so if you really want to make even a meager living at writing that’s where you have to focus.

Because of the outrage and incredulity factors, the only shortcut is to be an awful person (to generate outrage) or, like Bewick, have something awful happen to you (to generate incredulity). And to be clear, the awfulness you need to cultivate is not just any awfulness. It has to be kind of mystifying and bizarre to anyone who reads it, a “man bites dog” kind of story, because that’s what will make major media outlets pick it up.

Guy gets stabbed by his girlfriend? Boring. Guy gets stabbed by his girlfriend during sex? A little less boring. Guy gets stabbed by his girlfriend during sex while she’s wearing full clown attire? We have a winner, folks! It’s whole clown thing that really pushes the story over the top and makes larger outlets want to report on the story. And the resulting media coverage sells books. But the problem is that this is a pretty difficult thing to do on purpose.

I’m a practicing magician, so I probably could come up with some occult-related stunt that at least fundamentalists would find awful. At the same time, so few people care about the occult that I doubt I could push anything like that into clown makeup stabbing territory. I don’t really want to commit a crime or wind up in a hospital, so that limits my options. And I think if anybody is outraged by what I say on my magick blog, Augoeides, I would know about it by now.

So at the moment I’m still standing here at the drawing board, trying to brainstorm an approach that fits all my criteria and is as sensational and weird as a clown sex stabbing. I think I’m going to need a lot of luck to pull that off. Truth be told, I’m probably nowhere near masochistic enough or messed up enough or surrounded by messed up enough people to do it. That’s by design and it’s the life I want to be living, but clearly the drawback is that it limits my potential marketing appeal.

To wrap up, this all makes me weep for the future of our art, and if there’s a hill I’m willing to die on, this is it: writers should not have to subject themselves to clown sex stabbings – or their equivalent – in order to sell books. A world where that’s the norm is a dystopian nightmare, and we’re already closer to it than I think any of us would like.

How did we ever get here?