The Mummy or Not The Pole For Your Tent

In Which I Rant About the New Mummy Movie Read More...

Four In One Week or A Quartet of Film Reviews

In Which I Review Four Films Read More...

What To Expect From Your Editor or How To Be Professional As Possible

In Which I Explain the Various Roles of the Editor. Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 31

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 31 Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 30

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 30 Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 29

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 29 Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 28

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 28 Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 27

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 27 Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 26

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 26 Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 25

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 25 Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 24

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 24 Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 23

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 23 Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 22

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 22 Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 21

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 21 Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 20

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 20 Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 19

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 19 Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 18

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 18 Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 17

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 17 Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 16

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 16 Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 15

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 15 Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 14

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 14 Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 13

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 13 Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 12

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 12 Read More...

Dark Screams Vol 5

In Which I Review Dark Screams Vol 5 Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 11

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 11 Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 9

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 9 Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 7

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 7 Read More...

A Month of Horror: Day 6

In Which I List the Selections for A Month of Horror, Day 6 Read More...

A Month Of Horror: Days One through Five or Now We Play Catch Up

In Which I Start Something New and Am Immediately Behind Read More...

The Horror Movie Tag

In Which I Answer Ten Questions About Horror Movies Read More...

Sprit Airlines, You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Word

In Which I Vow To Never Fly Spirit Again Read More...

You Would Be Surprised or Some of My Favorite Books, Non-Genre Edition

In Which I List Some Great Books You Would Not Think That I Had Read Read More...

Tis The Season To Not Be A Douchenozzle.

In Which I Provide Some Handy Tips To Make Your Holiday Shopping Experience More Pleasant Read More...

Thanksgiving

In Which I Discuss A Few Things I Am Thankful For Read More...

Reading is Fun(damental)

In Which I Discuss Attaining My Goodreads Reading Goal Read More...

Dark Screams: Volume One A Review

In Which I Review Dark Screams Volume One Read More...

All The Stuff That Got Missed or Items 10 - 20 on the Facebook Lists

In Which I Discuss Books, Movies, and Lists Containing Same Read More...

Sequels I’d Actually Pay To See

In Which I Discuss Films Which Should Have Sequels Read More...

Do We Need An Origin Story? or Get to the Action!

In Which I Discuss the Importance (or Lack Thereof) of the Origin Story Read More...

Lessons From Sci-Fi Movies or What I Learned on Vacation (On LV-426)

In Which I Discuss Things I Learned Watching Science Fiction Movies Read More...

My Writing Process Blog Tour

In Which I Participate in a Blog Tour and Answer Questions About Writing Read More...

RIP H R Giger: The Afterlife Just Got A Lot Weirder

In Which I Discuss How The Works of HR Giger Affected My Life Read More...

Plateaus or How Horror is Like Addiction

In Which I Discuss My New Plateau Theory Read More...

Coca-Cola, Cheerios, and Why Some People Need to STFU

In Which I Toss In My Two Cents Regarding The Coke Ad Read More...

You’re Not Supposed To Smile For The Mugshot

In Which I Express My Wishes For Twatwaffle Sentencing
Read More...

The Cinema and the Social Compact

In Which I Use A Recent Tragedy To Illustrate The Importance Of Being Polite In Public Read More...

A Word About Urban Fantasy: Part Two — The List

In Which I Discuss Some Urban Fantasy Series Read More...

A Word About Urban Fantasy: Part One — Defining the Terms

In Which I Provide One Possible Definition of Urban Fantasy Read More...

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow (but not really)

In Which I Discuss How To Prep Your Car For Winter (Or A Zombie Attack) Read More...

A History of Cinematic Horror: Three Examinations

In Which I Compare Three Book Which Discuss Horror Films Read More...

Yeah, He’s A Ghost

In Which I Discuss 5 Movies With Shocking Endings Read More...

Like Being on the Satellite of Love

In Which I Discuss My Evening With The Riff Trax Folk Read More...

13 Films to Prep You for Halloween or What To Watch Between Now and Next Thursday

In Which I Discuss The Movies To Watch To Get You Ready For Halloween Read More...

Atmosphere or the Jump Scare, Which Do You Pre-Fear?

In Which I Discuss Fear
Read More...

Why The Drive-In or They Still Have Those?

In Which I Discuss My Love Of The Drive-In Read More...

You Want Great Fiction? I’ll Give You Great Fiction!

In Which I Tell You What You Should Be Reading Read More...

What You Should Be Watching

My Take on Orphan Black and Hannibal Read More...

Behind the Mask of the Horror Actor

In which I review Behind the Mask of the Horror Actor Read More...

Freddy vs Freddy: A Discussion of Two Nightmares Part II: Irony's Revenge.

In which I review the original Nightmare on Elm Street and compare it to the remake. Read More...

Freddy vs. Freddy: A Discussion of Two Nightmares: Part I

In which I complain about cinematic remakes and discuss the most recent Nightmare On Elm Street movie. Read More...

Sure It Sounds Good At First

In Which I Discuss the Hydra/Alibi/Flirt Contracts
Read More...

Is It Me or Is It The Media? or Convenience, the next Plastics

In which I rant on after visiting a video store that is closing. Read More...

A Few Thoughts On Being A Genre Fan II or The Horror Fan’s Lament

In which I discuss the difficulties involved in being a fan of Speculative Fiction’s redheaded step-child Read More...

A Few Thoughts on Being a Genre Fan I or The Oscar Goes to Not You, Buddy.

In which I discuss the snubbing of speculative fiction Read More...

ATTENTION PEOPLE WHO READ BOOKS AND STUFF!!

In which I provide some reading recommendations Read More...

THOSE WHO DO NOT LEARN THEIR HISTORY ANNOY THE SHIT OUT OF ME ON-LINE

In which I rant about the younger generation and how they won’t stay off of my lawn Read More...

A TALE OF TWO HOUSES: HILL v HELL A dual review of The Haunting of Hill House and Hell House.

In Which I review two classic haunted house novels (a post which would have been more appropriate back in October when I first thought of it). Read More...

Did the Sucess of Personal Tablet Applications Lead to Changes in How We Read? or Why Are These Angry Birds on my Kindle?

In which I discuss how I predicted the rise of the Tablet/e-Reader. Read More...

Kermit Would Not Approve A brief rant on sock puppetry.




There has been a lot of furor in the media recently about the use of sock puppets by well known authors. You can be excused if you missed, there was some kind of political thing going on in the States which diverted all media attention to what people were wearing.

In brief, a sock puppet is a false account created for use on a public site, usually a public forum. This includes bulletin boards, social media sites, and others but in the cases in question we are referring to public sites where material is reviewed. The big one is, of course, Amazon.

The debate started when a number of authors (among them some rather famous English mystery authors) admitted to using false accounts to promote their own material. In some cases these same accounts were used to leave negative reviews ("trash" would be a better word), material written by other authors viewed as the competition.

The
LA Times has done a good job of summarizing the happenings here: http://www.latimes.com/features/books/jacketcopy/la-jc-the-furor-over-sock-puppet-amazon-book-reviews-20120904,0,5360238.story.

If you are like most people, your initial reaction is something along the lines of "Wow, that's a totally shitting thing to do. What kind of douche canoe would do that?"*

I'll answer that, but let me throw in a caveat first: I am in no way condoning this behavior. I find it loathsome (more on that in a minute) and have signed an on-line petition stating this and promising to never engage in this behavior.

That being said, I can almost understand it. Writing is a damn difficult way to make a living. The temptation to get a little extra publicity, that little extra nudge, must have been very tempting for the authors in question. Granted, some of them have gone WAAAAAAY over the top. Some of the reviews were so blatantly full of ass-kissery that were I using them to determine whether or not to purchase a title, I would have dismissed them.

More on that can be found at the following article at the Atlantic Wire
http://www.theatlanticwire.com/entertainment/2012/09/sockpuppet-reviews-arent-just-unethicaltheyre-also-unconvincing/56499/.

This is the nature of on-line reviews. While it is exceptionally easy to do, most people do not take the time to review their purchases, hotel stays, service, what have you. This is why places like travel sites send you fifteen e-mails asking you to review your stay as soon as you get home. Who actually writes on-line reviews? Generally, it is the outliers. It is the people who absolutely loved something or who absolutely hated it. It's the people who were really moved to do so because of an exceptional experience.

This is why, when comparison shopping, one should take a close look at the three and four star reviews. Generally, these are the more lengthy ones anyway. They are the ones which give both the pros and cons.

"The vacuum's suction power is exceptional, however this drops when utilizing the crevice tool or other attachments."

The previous statement is a lot more helpful than "This is the best thing since a unicorn farted a rainbow." or "THIS EFFIN SUX."**

The exception to this, is the review of some type of entertainment. I am going to lump books in with movies, television, and music here, but I am primarily talking about books. The reason I do so is because these reviews are more subjective than those of other products. Sure, there is a degree of subjectivity to ones appreciation of a vacuum cleaner***, stove, or automobile. However, there are also specific factors which one can point to most items which allow it to be compared to other items of similar function. If you don't believe me, go check out anything on Consumer Reports or the Kelly Blue Book site.

Conversely, there will be people who enjoy some forms of entertainment despite their obvious flaws.*4 I personally love the occasional shoot 'em up movie, regardless of the degree or acting ability or lack of plot. In fact, there were many times that I would go see a film just because Gene Siskel hated it.

A great many people, at this point, will be asking the "Who Cares?" question. Why is this important? Aren't all reviews subjective anyway?

These are some of the questions raised by outspoken Indie author JA Konrath
http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2012/09/writers-code-of-ethics.html and http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2012/09/enough-already.html.

Allow my friends at
Forbes to field that one: http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidvinjamuri/2012/09/12/do-consumer-reviews-have-a-future-why-amazons-sock-puppet-scandal-is-bigger-than-it-appears/.

My own take on the whole thing boils down to a couple of points:
People rely on the opinions of others when it comes to entertainment purchases.
This is even truer when it comes to on-line sales.
The negative affect of these reviews is compounded when it directly affects sales.
Engaging in anonymous doucebaggery is cowardly.

Confession time: I have only reviewed a handful of items on Amazon. Honestly, I try to avoid the on-line retail giant as much as possible. I still haven't gotten over their questionable publishing practices and I would rather my money went elsewhere. In fact, I did not even know that they had guidelines for reviews until I read about them in one of those articles I linked to.*5

That being said, I do enjoy reading and writing reviews. I am a compulsive card filler outer. If I can make my next stay at the hotel, next year's convention, next meal a little better, then I am more than willing to take the time to fill out the form. I am also a compulsive quiz taker on-line.

I do have a GoodReads account and I rely on the reviews of others. I am currently enjoying Kim Harrison's Hollows series because of a friend's recommendation.*6 Sometimes I even rely on the questionable recommendations of sales sites.*7 I suspect a lot of people do when it comes to entertainment purchases.

The usual reasons for this apply. People don't have the time to do their own comparison shopping unless it is a big ticket item. Blah blah blah. The oft sited reason that applies most to book purchases is that people are indeed purchasing them on-line. There is a difference between picking up a book in a book store and browsing a few pages on-line. This is where leaving false reviews becomes especially heinous. When someone picks up a book in a brick and mortar bookstore, they are relying on their own judgement to make the decision. Yes, this may be influenced by the opinions of others, what they heard on the radio, what the bookseller tells them, etc. However, a big chunk of the decision will be based on that person flipping through the book, sampling a bit here, a bit there.

While this option is available to a limited degree on sites like Amazon, it is far easier to read other people's reviews of the item. You actually have to click through the book a bit to get a feel for it yourself. The reviews, on the other hand, are right there at the bottom. On the gripping hand, you don't even have to read the reviews. You can just look at the handy dandy star rating system and go from there.

If those ratings have been artificially inflated or deflated by numerous (and we are not talking about one puppet per person here) fake reviews, the puppeteer is directly affecting sales.

But Michael, you say, aren't all reviews directly affecting sales?

Yes, that's why each person gets to voice their opinion.

Once.

Post fifty negative reviews on the competition is simply wrong. There is no way around that fact. Nothing you say will convince me otherwise. If someone reads something of mine and thinks that it sucks, I welcome the review. I would hope that it would be thorough enough that it will include WHY it sucked so I can examine that. Were the characters flat and unbelievable? Oh shit! They are right! I will have to work on that next time.

More importantly, everyone gets to voice their own opinion once
under their own name.

A friend of mine who runs a business from her own home recently received a barrage of negative reviews on her website. While they were all posted under different names, they were all sent from the same IP address. The culprit? You guessed it, the competition. I don't think that anyone has a problem viewing this is improper behavior. The possibility of legal action is being pursued.

Mr. Konrath brings up a number of points including blurbing another author's work, receiving free review copies, and negative reviews among them.

Free review copies sent to reviewers is a question that never made any sense to me. The debate goes like this: the reviewer got sent a copy of the book (album, movie, whatever) and therefore they can not be unbiased as they received something as payment.

Umm, no. They were sent their work. Their job (whether they get paid to do it or not) is to review books (albums, movies, I'm not going to keep writing this). If they don't get the material, there can be no reviews. The fact that they have the material to do their job does not influence how they feel about the material.

I honestly don't see how blurbing someone else's work enters into this discussion. By blurbing I mean when one author gives a little mini-review (what the kids used to call a shout out) to another author. It's usually only one or two lines, but it can include those full page deals in the front of the book that only people with OCD read. The idea is that if someone who is respected in the field approves of this material, that will influence the potential reader to purchase said material.

Usually it works. If I see the phrase "Stephen King calls MR.AUTHOR.GUY the crown prince of horror" I am going to pick that book up and give it a second look. I may not buy it, but I will give it more than a quick glance.

This is where Mr. Konrath has it backwards. Blurbing is the exact opposite of sock puppetry. When someone famous puts their name on a review, they are relying on their name to boost that book's sales. One person, one name, one review. Not fifty reviews from the same person using false names.

I have given positive reviews to books written by people I know. I placed my name next to them. I someone wants to do a little two click research, they will see how I know that individual. The important thing is, I do not blindly review the works of people I know. I have given positive reviews, but only after reading the material in question. You can tell because my reviews are thorough enough to list WHY I enjoyed the material.

And yes, they also include what I did not like about the material.

Which brings us to the "Amazon allows one star reviews" argument. No one said it is wrong to review something negatively IF you have actually read the material. Simply blasting the competition because you are insecure in your own ability as a writer is just sad.

I have given negative reviews. Sometimes it bothers me. This is especially true if it is an author I like. A recent example was for
The Fall the second book in the Strain series by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book. It had some very creative ideas, a new take on vampirism which was refreshing, and some interesting characters. Book two felt like book two in a trilogy. It was a place keeper. The more I read the more I felt like nothing would be resolved until the next book.

Sometimes it does not bother me to give negative reviews. A recent example was
The Night Enternal, the third book in the same series. I didn't finish it. I got to the middle of the book and realized I just didn't care anymore. I asked someone else who had read it*8 who survived at the end and moved on.

Now, see what I did there? I read the books. I credit the reviews to myself. In case anyone missed whose site they are on, I, Michael Cieslak, a real flesh and blood person, take responsibility for the reviews listed above.

No one is saying that you are not allowed to leave negative reviews. What we are saying is that if you are going to do so, have the cajones to put your real name next to them.




*Douche Canoe is currently one of my favorite expressions. It is impossible to say out loud without smiling. Go ahead, try it.

**Which one would think would be glowing praise for a review of a vacuum cleaner.

***Sorry, the last thing I looked at a lot of reviews for was a hand vac for cleaning up dog hair.

*4 For example,
Twilight of Fifty Shades of Gray.

*5 In case you were interested, the Amazon review guidelines can be found here:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/community-help/customer-reviews-guidelines

*6 Thanks Mary!

*7 I tend to screw up
word that is not analog by purchasing unrelated items. "People who purchased Resident Evil also purchased Women's Flip Flops."

*8 Thanks MontiLee.

PREPARE FOR THE FALL



I will be the first one to admit that I am freezing my butt off right now. Granted it's because it just seems like it is still too early to turn on the furnace, but that's more me than anything else. The cooler weather is one sign that my favorite time of year is finally upon us. Although it is sometimes a stressful time, given the various demands on my time which arise once autumn is upon us, it is important to remember that just about all of these demands lead to things which are fun.

In order to help keep this happy feeling* I have composed the following list.

  • Halloween is right around the corner. This will be a reoccurring theme, but further items will pertain to specifics. This is just the joy that the anticipation of my favorite holiday brings.
  • The cool weather. Yeah, I just complained about being cold, but there is something wonderful about that crisp feeling on the wind.
  • Sleeping. Seriously, who doesn't love sleeping with the windows open when it's cool outside?
  • Snuggling. Cool weather + open windows = dog pile on the bed.
  • The end of that dreadful summer heat and humidity.
  • Fall colors. Sure, it's a little trite but that doesn't make it any less beautiful.
  • Crunching leaves underfoot.
  • Kicking a big pile of leaves into the air like a kid.
  • The smell of woodsmoke in the air. I'm never sure where it comes from, but it makes me smile.
  • Bonfires. I mean the huge ones where you feel the heat on your face from yards away. Not a whole lot of them in the near-the-city suburbs. That's part of what makes them special.
  • Apple cider. Especially warmed with a cinnamon stick..
  • The cider mill. The greasy bag of donuts you would never eat any other time of the year and fighting the bees for your cider. Fun stuff no child should miss.
  • Long sleeved shirts and flannel I can finally pull out of the closet.
  • Wearing hoodies in the house.
  • Feeling slightly less ridiculous curled up on the couch under my slanket*
  • Putting up Halloween decorations indoors. It's fun to see my old friends hanging around when I first get up on the morning.
  • Putting up Halloween decorations outside. This is a little more stressful, but the payoff is bigger because I get all the comments from everyone else.
  • Horror movies on TV. It's nice to take a break from the glut of usual crap and once again be happy that we pay for satellite.
  • Halloween stores. Even if I don't buy anything before Halloween, it's always fun to look.
  • Craft stores. Especially the ones that discount their Halloween merchandise in September.
  • Haunted houses. Getting a group together to go and be creeped out together.
  • Hay rides.
  • Haunted hay rides. Yes, there is a big difference.
  • Midnight showings of your favorite horror movies. Sure, I could stay home and watch the DVD, but it's fun to sit in the audience with a group of people who love the show as much as I do.
  • Halloween parties. Finally getting to reveal that costume I have been working on for months.
  • Preparing for Halloween parties. Not only getting the costume together, but also the prep work for the ones you are throwing.
  • The GLAHW Halloween party. Yes, specifically. Good fun for a good cause.
  • Pumpkins. Pumpkins are cool.
  • Mulled wine.
  • Boots. Sure, barefoot season is nice, but it feels nice to get back into a sturdy pair of boots.
  • NaNoWriMo. The National Novel Writing Month. 30 days. 50,000 words. It's a fun challenge. Even in those years I do not participate, it is nice to know that there are a bunch of crazy would be authors making the attempt.
  • Public appearance. An added benefit of belonging to a group of horror writers is that come Halloween, everyone wants us around. We're giving seminars in libraries, performing public readings, speaking at conventions, and selling merchandise at movie showings.
  • Hanging out after public appearances with some of the coolest people I know.
  • Really crappy B movies. Yes, it is great to be able to pick and choose between showings of your favorite movies. There is something even more fun about sitting down to a movie that you know is going to be just awful.
  • The return of network programming after the summer hiatus. Yeah, I know this is not the kind of thing someone is supposed to admit to, but it is something we each secretly look forward to.***/****
  • Costumes. The chance to play at being someone else, even if only for a night.
  • Ghost stories. They are just creepier in the fall.
  • Halloween candy. Suuuuuuure all of that is for the kids.
  • Seeing the little kids IN their Halloween costumes.
  • Halloween!

That's all for now. I am sure that I will return to this theme again before the snow falls. For now, hopefully this is enough.

*and in a desperate attempt to keep warm.

**Like a Snuggie, but mine is black with skulls on it.

***Even though the summer shows on basic cable are usually more entertaining than the regular network stuff.

****Note I did not mention the new television shows. That's too risky. Most of the ones that I end up liking will end up on the scrap heap after only a few episodes.