Philip Parker has won today’s “Worst Person in Publishing” award. I wanted to give him the “Worst Person in the World” title, but, well, I’m fairly certain that’s been copyrighted. Hmm, maybe the ”’New York Times”’ will share the honors, if only due to its continued lack of critical thinking when it comes to covering books and publishing.
I do not take exception with Parker’s book authoring process — it’s merely an algorithmic process for generating, and I do hate this term, information products. Scrubbing the Internet for source material yields a text on a particular subject matter. Put this collected material together, bind it, and, magic!, book.
Or, if you will, 200,000 books. Parker believes he’s the “…most published author in the history of the planet.” And this is what makes Parker eligible for today’s award: his belief that he is an author. I will accept that he compiles information. I will not accept that he has “authored” books (and, to remind y’all that the ”’NYT”’ remains in the running, the sheer lack of questioning this astounds even the most jaded soul).
I mean, let’s get real:
Perusing a work like the outlook for bathmat sales in India, a reader would be hard pressed to find an actual sentence that was â€œwrittenâ€ by the computer. If you were to open a book, you would find a title page, a detailed table of contents, and many, many pages of graphics with introductory boilerplate that is adjusted for the content and genre.
Assuming that the computer truly “writes” the sentences contained in these books, then Parker is not an author, he’s a programmer. Since the complexity that makes good writing, well, good, comes from the ability to generate sentences of varying length and style together with just right word choice and the all-important voice, then I am amazed that these computers aren’t up for book awards.
The article does not mention how or when Parker credits his sources. It merely buys into his assertions without question. It buys into Parker’s world-view of authorship.
Parker’s hubris does not remain confined to the non-fiction information he’s repurposing. Oh no. His disdain for the craft of writing shines through with this gem:
And he is laying the groundwork for romance novels generated by new algorithms. “Iâ€™ve already set it up,” he said. “There are only so many body parts.”
That is true — and clearly Parker is missing his brain. Naturally, Noam Cohen of the ”’New York Times”’ cannot be bothered to call Parker out on this nonsense. You know, this sort of ridiculousness simply isn’t funny in the 21st century. I challenge Parker — and Cohen — to write real romance novels. To sit down and develop characters and stories and dialogue. And, yes, to put those body parts together in a way that doesn’t get them nominated for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award.
Bet those fine men can’t do it, but I’m willing to let them use their computers to help.
Parker puts together a lot of material in book form. Parker doesn’t author books. I am not sure that he’s capable of authoring books. Likewise, I am not sure that the ”’NYT”’, as close an industry-town publication as possible, is capable of writing about the publishing business with clear-eyed intelligence.
Nor am I sure that the paper is capable of writing even the most passing of references to romance fiction without denigrating the work of a very large, very profitable business composed of highly educated men and women — you know, the kinds of readers you’d think a struggling paper might want to court.