Recently a small storm broke in the SF world over a vanity press book. With much fanfare–considering it was indeed a vanity press and POD at that–Of Atlantis by Lanaia Lee was announced and many, many interviews, reviews, and backpats arranged. Until, that is, some sharp-eyed reviewer noticed that the opening chapters were actually the opening chapters of the late David Gemmel’s The Dark Prince with the names changed . The usual circus ensued with people like Jane Little of Dear Author, Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware, and Jim McDonald at Making Light taking various different tacks at the story and discussion. A lot of nastiness was aired–some of it deservedly, some not so much, and some of it was lunacy to the point of self-immolation.
After a while it became fairly plain–mostly through Victoria’s sifting of e-mails and other data–that this was a case of an aspiring writer (I can’t really count her previous poetry publications through vanity press as professional publication) being sucked into a rather dreadful set of circumstances due to her own laziness and gullibility–and a greed–perhaps even, to misquote Claire Booth Luce, a rage–to be published. She was a mark waiting to be taken by some sharp wolves and she was. But like many victims of the long-con, she was complicit in her own fleecing. Regardless of how you feel about that, one thing that stood out throughout the width and depth of the whole disaster was Ms. Lee’s (and her agent’s) inability–in spite of many, many admonishments–to shut up and get out of the limelight before it burned her to a crisp. She was advised by at least one writer of my acquaintance to drop the book completely and go on to something else, as this project was so completely tainted it would never emerge from its own corrupting filth as anything but an embarrassment. Obviously, I’m in agreement with that professional.
Would that Ms. Lee had listened. Alas, not only has she not taken any of that advice, now she is spamming other writers’ blogs, sites, and e-mail with a new press release that includes a copy of the still-remarkably-similar first chapter of her opus (yes, it still looks remarkably like Gemmel’s work, if not exact, still frighteningly close.) These aren’t reviewers, or critics–in one case the writer has said nothing at all in public either in support or condemnation of Ms. Lee’s book–these are just ordinary word-grinders trying to make a living and it’s abusive and foolish to spam them with further evidence of monumental cluelessness. This is not helping Ms. Lee’s case with the writing community.
The purpose of writing is not to fill every space possible with words, nor to force them down the throats of the unsuspecting. It is not simply to get published, or to bask in the glare of the public’s scrutiny no matter how negative or badly colored it has become. The telling of tales, the singing of the music of one’s soul is sometimes improved by the caesura and the ellipsis. What is left unsaid, a pause, a moment’s respite from the battering of words or sound heightens the effect of what comes after. In some cases, “the rest (and perhaps the best) is Silence.”