Another genre dust-up and the growing disenchantment with Downton Abbey

Yesterday night, I finished the first draft of a short story called Dream Job. Most of the time, I submit new short stories to various magazines first before e-publishing them myself (all but two of my e-books are backlist stories). However, this story was specifically written to fill a gap in an upcoming collection of themed short stories from Pegasus Pulp, so it goes straight to the e-press.

And now for a new genre dust-up: We’ve had the conflict of interest upset at the British Fantasy Awards and now we have a conflict of interest uproar in the online romance world.

Basically what happened is this: Big name romance reviewer Mrs. Giggles found out that another big name romance reviewer, Sarah Wendell, one half of the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books site, is also a partner in a marketing and promotions company called Simple Progress, whose client list includes several high profile romance authors. Mrs Giggles as well as erotic romance author Emily Veinglory smell a potential conflict of interest. Sarah Wendell responds here. Most likely, this whole kerfuffle was kicked off by this interview between Sarah Wendell and romance writer/academic Jennifer Crusie, in which Jennifer Crusie mentions that Sarah Wendell is running a consulting business with Jennifer Crusie’s daughter Mollie Smith.

Is there a potential conflict of interest? Yes, though it is worth noting that almost all reviews posted at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books these days are by third party reviewers. Besides, the lines between bloggers, journalists, reviewers, authors, PR people, (self-)publishers are getting increasingly blurry and online genre communities are usually fairly small, though the romance community is one of the larger ones out there. Besides, it’s not as if these potential conflicts of interest are rare. Lev Grossman is both a reviewer for Time magazine and an SFF writer. Jeff Vandermeer is an author, anthology editor, indie publisher and reviewer for Amazon’s Omnivoracious blog as well as the Washington Post, while his wife Ann used to be editor of Weird Tales. There are plenty of other examples of such potential conflicts of interest. And as long as these relationships are laid open and everybody knows what’s going on, the reader can make up his or her own mind whether to trust a reviewer or not.

A few weeks ago, I predicted that many viewers would be less enchanted with the second season of Downton Abbey (though why they ever were enchanted in the first place remains a mystery to me), since the second season is set during World War I, i.e. a period that is not exactly glamourous. Seems I was right, for this article from the Guardian complains that Downton Abbey isn’t as good as it used to be and that the World War I plotlines had upset the cozy show a lot of people enjoyed.

In other news, 24-year-old German driver Sebastian Vettel has won the Formula One championship the second year in a row.

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