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Bad Horse


You shall love your crooked neighbor with your crooked heart. -- W. H. Auden

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Mar
29th
2017

Literary fiction vs. fimfiction: Popularity · 7:48pm Mar 29th, 2017

I thought I posted something about David Cameron’s 2013 New Yorker experiment, but I can’t find anything about it in my old posts:

I grabbed a New Yorker story off the web (no, it wasn't by Alice Munro or William Trevor), copied it into a Word document, changed only the title, created a fictitious author identity, and submitted it to a slew of literary journals… Every single one of these journals [including the New Yorker] rejected my poor New Yorker story with the same boilerplate “good luck placing your work elsewhere” auto-text that has put the lid on my own sorry submissions….

I grabbed yet another story, this one by a rather celebrated youngish New Yorker author (not Zadie Smith or Karen Russell) and repeated the process. The results, as scientists so often say when describing a perfectly corroborated protocol, were “elegant.”

One key point is that none of the editors seem to have recognized a recent story from TNY as having been in TNY. TNY is considered the top of the heap, the setter of style, and only publishes one short story per week, so a fiction editor at a literary journal should read that one story every week. Yet, apparently, none of them do.

This raises the question, How many people actually read the fiction in literary journals? The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly are general-interest magazines, so their circulation doesn’t tell us.

The next-up on the list of famous literary magazines are probably Tin House and Ploughshares, both of which have significant amounts of fiction (in the case of Ploughshares, half of its content). Tin House’s advertising page says,

Tin House has approximately 3500 subscribers and is sold online and in more than 1000 bookstores and newsstands across North America and the world. The journal’s circulation is more than 12,000 copies per issue. Tin House.com receives upwards of 22,000 unique visitors each month.

“Circulation” presumably includes sales off-the-rack--but do they count unsold copies as being in circulation? How do they count unique visitors in an age of dynamic IP addresses? And how many of the web visitors also get print copies?

Ploughshares’ media kit for advertisers has just been taken down from their website, but the copy in Google’s cache says they have 6500 print subscribers and 2000 digital subscribers. They don’t mention being sold in bookstores.

How many unique visitors does fimfiction get in a month? According to my 2015 DB, which does not have all users in it and cannot count users who don’t log in,

sqlite> select count(id) from users where offline < 30.5 * 24 * 60 * 60;
43207

As a very large fraction of readers don’t log in or even create user accounts, I’d guess this means around 80,000 unique visitors per month.

Then, how many stories do the subscribers and purchasers actually read? I have behind me on the wall 20 issues of Wired magazine which I haven’t yet taken out of their shrink-wrap.

It’s hard to estimate, but I’d be surprised if the individual stories in these famous literary journals, which aspiring writers spend decades trying to break into, are read on average by more people than read a story in the featured box on fimfiction.

Each of these two literary magazines comes out 4 times a year. The most-recent issue of Tin House has 5 stories. The most-recent issue of Ploughshares has 7 stories.

In other words… the number of reads of stories in the fimfiction featured box within a given month is probably more than the number of reads of all the stories in any of the world’s most-prestigious English language literary journals in a given year.

SIDE NOTE:

I can’t help but comment: The home page of Tin House currently has this statement on it:



If they believe that all voices have the right to be heard, and in fighting the lie of the single story, why does their entire staff speak with one voice on an election on which the nation was split evenly?

Report Bad Horse · 1,232 views · #literary #fimfiction
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Comments ( 128 )

Fimfiction: We're bigger than Jesus the New Yorker.

I'm not sure how accurate the assessment is, but I definitely like the idea.

TNY is considered the top of the heap, the setter of style, and only publishes one short story per week, so a fiction editor at a literary journal should read that one story every week. Yet, apparently, none of them do.

Pardon me the nitpick, but, I find it somewhat more likely that none of the editors have actually read the submission, rather than the story published originally in TNY.

I am basing this on the observation that blanket bot-spamming recruiters with resumes with tailored cover letters does not appear to work even on the recruiters that are supposedly more likely to use bots to read them. See this article for source. Since the process of having a story selected for publication has so many structural similarities to applying for a job – in a sense, it is applying for a job – the same selection criteria would likely apply.

That does not invalidate any of your further statements at all, of course.

How do they count unique visitors in an age of dynamic IP addresses?

Based on whatever Google Analytics or some other analytics service they use tells them, most likely. The list of actual techniques used would be beyond the scope of this discussion, but you don’t have to know them these days to make use of them.

I agree with 4476363. The in the piece describing the "experiment," David Cameron wrote:

My cover letter simply stated that I am an unpublished writer deeply appreciative of their consideration.

The lesson I take from the piece is that even if you have written a good story, no one will bother to give it any consideration if your cover letter sucks. This sentiment reflects common wisdom from fimfiction about cover art and story descriptions.

One key point is that none of the editors seem to have recognized a recent story from TNY as having been in TNY. TNY is considered the top of the heap, the setter of style, and only publishes one short story per week, so a fiction editor at a literary journal should read that one story every week. Yet, apparently, none of them do.

So, the literary fiction world doesn't eat its own dog food read its own work. This doesn't surprise me:

The Rising Tide of Educated Aliteracy
In the age of information overload, discussing books you haven’t read has become a badge of honour—and, for some, a profession


"Not reading, Bayard believes, is in many cases preferable to reading and may allow for a superior form of literary criticism—one that is more creative and doesn’t run the risk of getting lost in all the messy details of a text. Actual books are thus 'rendered hypothetical,' replaced by virtual books in phantom libraries that represent an inner, fantasy scriptorium or shared social consciousness."

"My first exposure to this type of thinking came, naturally enough, while studying English literature in university. Academics, for no good reason whatsoever, are expected to publish a great deal of stuff that nobody—and I mean nobody—reads. Bayard, referencing David Lodge, is only stating the obvious when he says that most academics don’t read their colleagues’ work. I remember, as a grad student, visiting a professor who had been selected to read the publications of another scholar up for tenure at the same institution. I thought this seemed like a minor inconvenience, having assumed that my acquaintance was already familiar with much of the material since he published in the same area and was a friend of the tenure-seeker. But he was livid. “If they,” the tenure committee that had dropped this unwanted assignment in his lap, “think I’m going to waste any part of my weekend reading all that […], they can think again!”"

Rather than quoting one of Sarah Hoyt's rants blog posts again, I'll just summarize: the literary fiction world is becoming a circle-jerk for the writers/publishers and a virtue-signalling exercise for the readers. It's no longer a part of the "real world" of writing in the same way that the creations you see on runways at fashion shows aren't part of the real world of clothing.

I think it's a fine thing that fimfiction has the kind of pull it does. Is there value in people entertaining each other with something they're passionate about? How much does it matter whether the results are linked by certain fairly arbitrary common elements, such as ponies? Why is it that the sciences are free to "stand upon the shoulders of giants", so to speak, but the arts are bogged down in endless disputes over what constitutes "legitimate" work?

The nation did split pretty close to 50/50, but the results were highly regional. It is entirely possible and in fact quite likely that the entire staff shares an opinion on the outcome of the election. As for the witty question about inclusivity, do you consider it paradoxical or hypocritical to be intolerant of intolerance? What about using violence on people who perpetrate violence? Do you think that whether or not one can accurately identify intolerance or violence should be irrelevant to the answer?

4476362
I like technicolor horses and friendship a lot more than I like transqueerlesbian muslim women of color defeating <generic white male antagonist> with the power of propaganda regurgitation and multiculti. And the latter increasingly dominates short fiction, particularly sci-fi. :ajbemused:

Not too much of a surprise. There's just not much market for literary short stories. Why would you want to buy a magazine when you can read so much for free on the web?

pbs.twimg.com/media/B4QicvMCYAE31Sc.jpg

If they believe that all voices have the right to be heard, and in fighting the lie of the single story, why does their entire staff speak with one voice on an election on which the nation was split evenly?

What they actually mean is that all voices have the right to be heard, only as long as they agree with that magazine's political views. And that exact thinking is pretty much universal on both sides of the political fence.

4476438

What they actually mean is that all voices have the right to be heard, only as long as they agree with that magazine's political views. End that exact thinking is pretty much universal on both sides of the political fence.

You might be surprised. Canadian lefty here who wants to be able to hear from the right because a) I might be wrong about some things, and b) I want the nutters on both sides to identify themselves so I can avoid them. My American righty friends feel the same way about the left.

Now, I won't pretend we're in the majority, but a lot of us want everyone to be able to share their views.

4476363

How do they count unique visitors in an age of dynamic IP addresses?

HTTP Cookies

an election on which the nation was split evenly

Not according to the popular vote.

4476433 It has been SO long since I actually bought a book... been just trying to go through so many fics that are just, amazing and... yeah, about the only thing I've actually bought, or plan to buy, is The Dresden Files... at least whenever Butcher gets that new book done.

Have been meaning to grab his Codex Allera but, well... so many fics on that Read Later list.....

If they believe that all voices have the right to be heard, and in fighting the lie of the single story, why does their entire staff speak with one voice on an election on which the nation was split evenly?

I realize you intended to ask this as a rhetorical question, but: because they do not feel that the side of the split which won the presidency, senate, and house lacks in existing narrative representation.

I suppose maybe you're trying to make the point that it's shocking they're all liberal? As 4476428 points out, getting 46% of the popular vote doesn't mean that 4.6 out of 10 people you pass on the street will have uniformly voted for the president. According to their website, Tin House Books is based in Portland, OR [1], and Trump got only 17% in Multnomah County. Not to mention that if you compare voters with a college education to voters without a college degree, the degree results in a 17-point to 35-point swing away from Trump [2], and I think it's a pretty safe assumption that small literary fiction magazines aren't going to be staffed by people without advanced degrees. So basically, statistically, this is a "that dog just barked!" kind of observation.

If they believe that all voices have the right to be heard, and in fighting the lie of the single story, why does their entire staff speak with one voice on an election on which the nation was split evenly?

Because they lack irony detectors.

Though to be fair - is this even surprising? How many people in most people here's social circles like Trump?

I'm guessing that the most common answer would be 0.

And to be fair, while the election was closely split (he lost by a few million votes), he has only a 40% approval rating.

FIMFiction has few Trump supporters as far as I can tell.

4476482

I realize you intended to ask this as a rhetorical question, but: because they do not feel that the side of the split which won the presidency, senate, and house lacks in existing narrative representation.

How many short stories have you read by Trump supporters?

4476454

an election on which the nation was split evenly

Not according to the popular vote.

If you're speaking in the purely semantic sense, then no, it wasn't. If you consider only Trump/Pence and Clinton/Kaine votes, an odd number of votes were recorded, meaning an even split was impossible.

If you're not speaking in the purely semantic sense, then pointing out that the popular vote and electoral college went two different ways is very nearly enough to refute your point. But if you want a more extended argument, national polls tend to miss the actual popular vote percentage by about 2% on average—or by almost exactly how much Clinton won the popular vote. The difference between what we'd call a Clinton win and what we'd call a Trump win was miniscule, despite how the outsize results in both the Electoral College (where a few small Trump victories proved very important) and the popular vote (where one state, California, gave Clinton a 4.3-million-vote margin) made it look.

So hey, if you want to talk about this in a serious way, then yes—the nation was split evenly. If you're unhappy with the fact that fully half of this country doesn't agree with your political views, great, try to do something to change that. But please don't try to ignore statistical realities.

4476495
Counting his tweets, several hundred.

4476494
Most Trump supporters in liberal spaces don't tell you they're Trump supporters. That was one of the problems with predictions, along with the more prominent geographic split.

I actually know of several here, but you wouldn't know it by their public statements.

4476495 I don't think that's quite what he meant by narrative representation. :trollestia:

4476482 :trixieshiftright: :trixieshiftright: :trixieshiftright:

4476503
4476495: Apologies for the snark. I was going to edit the comment to make the point 4476507 beat me to, but, well, she beat me to it.

4476503

The president's tweets:
Each its own little story.
Haiku is for this.

4476507

That was one of the problems with predictions, along with the more prominent geographic split.

The predictions were within the margin of error on the polls. That's why 538 gave Trump a 1 in 3 chance of winning. The people who were actually directly looking at the numbers weren't terribly surprised.

Most Trump supporters in liberal spaces don't tell you they're Trump supporters.

Yes, but I'd still be surprised if more than 20% of FIMFiction's user base supports Trump. It wouldn't surprise me if it was more like 10%.

Anyway, about the main thrust of the article: honestly, I've been suspecting this for a while now. After spending some time thinking about how little money is paid for stories, the circulation has to be pretty awful.

Tin House has approximately 3500 subscribers and is sold online and in more than 1000 bookstores and newsstands across North America and the world. The journal’s circulation is more than 12,000 copies per issue. Tin House.com receives upwards of 22,000 unique visitors each month.

Well, it is nice to know that I've written three stories with a larger circulation than their magazine.

I wonder if there's any statistics about what percentage of people who subscribe to magazines actually read them.

Where's that up button for voting on blog posts? I needz it.

4476522

The predictions were within the margin of error on the polls. That's why 538 gave Trump a 1 in 3 chance of winning. The people who were actually directly looking at the numbers weren't terribly surprised.

Nate Silver's prediction was, yes. And the media jumped all over him for giving Trump that much of a chance. The overall predictions were way off, not to mention people's personal predictions.

I'd be surprised if more than 20% of FIMFiction's user base supports Trump. It wouldn't surprise me if it was more like 10%.

I wouldn't be surprised if it's a small percentage. Demographically, FiMfic is young, and people are more likely to vote liberal when they're young. And in fact none of the Trump supporters I know are anywhere near what I would guess as the average age of the site.

I'm going to guess that writers who submit to Tin House are, on average, quite a lot older than average for this site.

4476539

Nate Silver's prediction was, yes. And the media jumped all over him for giving Trump that much of a chance. The overall predictions were way off, not to mention people's personal predictions.

Yeah, I really enjoyed watching the two-day flip between "Nate Silver is such an idiot; Trump doesn't have anywhere near a 1-in-3 chance of winning" to "Nate Silver (like pollsters) is such an idiot; he didn't call the election for Trump."

So what I get from all of this is that we need a horsewords fanzine called Ploughshares to replace the current publication that no one reads.

4476542 imgs.xkcd.com/comics/math.png
4476362
In a weird way, I'm actually incredibly heartened to know that the world really does prefer My Little Pony fanfiction to the snobby crap in the New Yorker.

Another possible explanation of the rejections:

The editor recognised the story as obviously plagiarised and, having better things to do than write a pesonalised response to a low-effort submission, responded with the standard rejection.

This needs to be a talking point when recommending any moderately popular story on fimfiction. Read this story, it's pretty good and in all likelihood more popular than anything the new yorker put out this year

How many digital subscribers read the new yorker short stories though? It must be over half their readership by this point.

On this of all days, I don't think it's possible for we British people to read "David Cameron's 2013 New Yorker experiment" without feeling very, very odd. :rainbowwild:

In other words, writing suffers from the same academic/Pop schism that every other form of art has succumbed to since mass media and manufacturing made Pop Art financially viable.

4476568 I'm American. I don't get it. :derpytongue2:

4476454

an election on which the nation was split evenly

Not according to the popular vote.

I knew somebody would say that.

The ratio of Clinton votes to Trump votes was 1.046 : 1. E.g., if we want to represent voices proportionately, out of the 25 or so stories Tin House publishes each year, 12 should be written by Trump supporters, and if they have 25 staffers, 12 should be Trump supporters. For the purposes of this discussion, "split evenly" is much closer to the truth than "100% Clinton".

4476482

So basically, statistically, this is a "that dog just barked!" kind of observation.

So you're saying that if the people most easily available to do the job all happen to be X, it's okay not to make any effort to hire any non-X people. :duck:

4476522

Yes, but I'd still be surprised if more than 20% of FIMFiction's user base supports Trump. It wouldn't surprise me if it was more like 10%.

4476539

I wouldn't be surprised if it's a small percentage.

If only someone had conducted a survey of fimfiction users and asked them which way they'd voted! :trixieshiftright:

TD and BP, you're gonna shit bricks when you see the results. :moustache:

(Wait... didn't I already show you the results, TD?)

4476627
Today on Buzzfeed BadHorse News:

"YOU'LL NEVER BELIEVE HOW MANY FIMFICTION AUTHORS VOTED FOR DONALD TRUMP! (#5 IS INCREDIBLE!)"

4476428

As for the witty question about inclusivity, do you consider it paradoxical or hypocritical to be intolerant of intolerance?

I think we should be intolerant of intolerance. For example, I don't think we should have absolute freedom of religion, but only of religions that agree to tolerate other religions. The political difficulty is that most religious intolerance in America is committed by Christians.

The anti-Trump crowd, however, is only intolerant of the right, not of intolerance. Worldwide, the typical Muslim is much less tolerant of other political and religious viewpoints than the typical Trump supporter. So if the left truly is intolerant of intolerance, they should be directing their invectives against Muslim immigrants rather than against Trump supporters.

What about using violence on people who perpetrate violence?

I don't know why you're asking this. AFAIK the major perpetrators of political violence this past year in the West were (A) Muslim terrorists, and (B) people protesting police shootings. We use violence against terrorists and rioters; this is not really controversial.

4476554

It's such an uplifting feeling to know that there are so many people out there who do not value literacy, education, or intellectual growth. It makes it so much easier for a tiny oligarchical elite to remain on top and keep the masses properly subdued and subservient.

4476647

Worldwide, the typical Muslim is much less tolerant of other political and religious viewpoints than the typical Trump supporter. So if the left truly is intolerant of intolerance, they should be directing their invectives against Muslim immigrants rather than against Trump supporters.

I don't think this necessarily follows. I think it's entirely fair to point out that a lot of people on the left are "intolerant toward intolerance" on the right, and ignore intolerance coming from other quarters (see: campus culture). And I think a "they're not all bad" argument can be made just as well for Muslims as it can for Trump supporters...

...but you're doing a sneaky slide on comparison groups here, between "worldwide Muslims" and "Muslim immigrants", and I'm willing to bet that Muslim immigrants to the US tend to be more tolerant of other political and religious viewpoints than Muslims as a whole. So even if your point holds about who is less tolerant[1], it doesn't necessarily extend as indicated.

All that said, I think obviously enemies of intolerance should be speaking out against intolerance anywhere they see it, and I completely agree that the targets picked by many leftists completely undermine any claim they have to be speaking out against intolerance in general.


[1] And I suspect it does—though I also suspect it's not especially clear-cut since most individuals in both groups are probably decently tolerant, and we're left arguing about which distribution has the more significant tail behavior.

4476627
Damn it, I almost hemmed there, too. I considered pointing out the 4Chan roots of MLP fandom as variable, and how much of the site was pro-#gamergate, but I decided on only going by what I know personally.

So I won't be surprised if it's a larger percentage, either. I will probably be surprised if it's a majority.

4476602

Canadian, but David cameron is an unpopular british politician. Not sure what happened "today", but i seem to recall a story about him supposedly havin intercourse with a dead pig's head.

Also, as a Canadian, i supported Trump because hes the least of two evils. Im not sure how his policies will do, but even if he turns out to be bad, I'd rather gamble on something that looks bad than pick the sure failure of a warhawk that was Clinton.

4476602 This (Wednesday) was the day that the UK formally notified the EU of its intention to withdraw from the bloc. The referendum that led to this was called by the previous Prime Minister: a certain David Cameron. I'm just tickled by the idea that he might have spent the last few years running experiments for an American literary magazine! (Okay, I'm easily amused.)

And while I'm calling out sneaky slides in reasoning...
4476648
Putting a higher valuation on Fimfiction's stories than the New Yorker's is not (even remotely close to) the same thing as "not valu[ing] literacy, education, or intellectual growth."

Frankly, I don't even consider this to need supporting arguments.

4476572 I don't know if the result is that general. 18th-century Vienna had a vast number of musicians, and Mozart was pop music. Beethoven was also quite popular in some years. So were Euripides, the painter of the Utrecht Psalter, Guillaume de Machaut, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Verdi, Liszt, Chopin, Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck, Robert Frost, and Norman Rockwell. I would be surprised if Jan Van Eyck, Michaelangelo, and other great Renaissance artists weren't popular, though I don't know if we can measure that.

4476658 Just don't tell Trump that Canada isn't part of America, and you'll probably be okay.

4476627

(Wait... didn't I already show you the results, TD?)

I don't remember seeing anything about them. Doesn't mean you didn't, but I don't recall if you did.

What is the answer?

4476655

...but you're doing a sneaky slide on comparison groups here, between "worldwide Muslims" and "Muslim immigrants", and I'm willing to bet that Muslim immigrants to the US tend to be more tolerant of other political and religious viewpoints than Muslims as a whole. So even if your point holds about who is less tolerant[1], it doesn't necessarily extend as indicated.

[retracted & deleted]

4476782
But even then, I don't consider it at all reasonable to think that "people immigrating to the US" is a random sampling scheme on those populations.

ETA: Heck, they've had to go through some sort of screening process to get a Visa, even prior to this point, right? So even if the population of people wanting to immigrate looked like a random sample, you'd have the US government putting explicit pressure on the selection process to make it look more American. And I seriously doubt that the population of people wanting to immigrate looks the same as the general population.

4476647

The anti-Trump crowd, however, is only intolerant of the right, not of intolerance. Worldwide, the typical Muslim is much less tolerant of other political and religious viewpoints than the typical Trump supporter. So if the left truly is intolerant of intolerance, they should be directing their invectives against Muslim immigrants rather than against Trump supporters.

This survey from 2011 doesn't really suggest that Muslims in the US are particularly intolerant relative to American Christians; they only registered 5% higher for "their religion is the one true religion" and 9% higher for "their way of practicing their religion is the only right way" (interestingly, at least 2% of Muslims had to suggest that their religion wasn't the only true religion, but their way of practicing their religion was correct).

Given about 60% of those surveyed were first generation Americans, there's a good chance that Trump supporters are less tolerant than Muslims in the US, if we assume that Trump supporters are less religiously tolerant than the national average (this is almost certainly true of his hardcore primary base),

4476782
First off, the country which appears to have the most ISIS supporters online is Saudi Arabia. Given the Saudis' long history of terrorist attacks against us, if there was any country which should be banned apart from Syria, it would be them, at least by this metric. And indeed, we didn't ban people from coming here from Iraq either. Though of course, Saudi Arabia is pretty populous, so as a fraction of their population, maybe not.

Of course, one complicating factor is that we're friendly towards the anti-ISIS forces in Iraq, as Iraq's government is our ally. As is Saudi Arabia, for that matter, despite the fact that a sizable fraction of their population hates us.

Secondly, Iran is quite hostile towards ISIS. ISIS has been killing Shiites, and Iran is a fundamentalist Shia country. While you can make an argument for the other five countries, Iran makes no sense in this context.

According to this 2015 poll:

infographic.statista.com/normal/chartoftheday_4227_support_for_isis_in_muslim_countries_n.jpg

The countries which most support ISIS don't really strongly correlate with the ban list (though sadly, Sudan and Somalia were not polled).

But the poll puts support for ISIS in Iran at 0%.

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