Buzzword Books - unusual, intriguing, intelligent, perceptive

Here, you'll find musings from our authors and staff. We don't promise daily updates. Just posts worth your time.

Monday, 26 December 2011


In this vituperative slur, Clinton Smith pours scorn on the device all academics and bureaucrats hold dear.

The days of Virginia Woolf are long gone. Her musings are too dilatory for this century and her cherished semicolons belong to the era of the clothes prob and mangle.

Many writers have decried this bastard child of the comma and the colon. George Orwell, a permanently contemporary mind, told his editor that the semicolon was an unnecessary stop and that he would contrive to do without it. He was right.

Yet, its worthy and indispensable parents faultlessly fulfil their roles. Its mother, the comma, provides an essential breath or pause in a sentence, clarifies meaning, separates concepts, transforms obscurity into sense. Its father, the noble colon, informs us of what is coming, emphatically amplifies a thought. There is no praise too extravagant for these duties brilliantly preformed.

But the semicolon?

It attempts to express a pause slightly longer than the comma. Or to relate two ideas. And does neither well. Its unwelcome intrusion assaults the eye and judders the mind.

This elaboration of the workmanlike comma is merely the stuffy emissary of the dash or a vapid allusion to the colon. Neither fish nor fowl.

None of this bothers the public servant or local government official, the manager of an institution or a university factotum. Mediocre minds use the thing to appear recondite. It helps them cloak their specious, muddy thoughts in defensive ambiguity. Which might not matter except for the semicolon's major flaw.

It is ugly!

As Barthelme pointed out, it is "ugly as a tick on a dog's belly." The redoubtable Gertrude Stein also disparaged it. Are such views merely pretentious?

Have you not eyes to see? The thing is a flyspeck on the page.

Someone recently remarked that a contemporary fop's desire to be fashionable had transcended his sense of the ridiculous. Brave, because people have been crucified for stating the self-evident. And, if our instinctive attributes included a sense of design, then this barnacle slowing the voyage of communication would never have appeared.

So, next time your finger strays to that perverse key on your keyboard, pause - pause: or pause...

The sensible alternatives are there. None offend the eye or the subvocalisation in the mind. All are efficient, direct, sensible, exempliary.

Does it matter?

As sages point out: everything matters, nothing matters.

So yes! It matters.


If this post interested you, see also WATCH YOUR TONGUE on this site.

Monday, 12 December 2011


Humorist Martin Jensen has a problem with Murphy's Law. He's discovered Murphy's Reverse Law! Read all about it here:

There are many self-evident laws. For instance, Etorre's Supermarket Observation: 'The other line moves faster.' And Jenning's Corollary: 'The chance of bread falling jam side down is directly proportional to the cost of the carpet.'
    And although Murphy's Law, 'If anything can go wrong, it will', is the most famous, his Reverse Law is even more diabolical. This states: 'If anything goes right, it does it when it cocks up everything.'

     For instance, I’m driving somewhere and need the pause at the next set of red lights to tweak the GPS or jot down something I’ve remembered. And what happens? Green lights for blocks. Guaranteed.

    Or I’m standing outside the airport terminal waiting for the shuttle to take me to the long-term car park. I know I’ll be there till I grow roots, so light up a fag. And the bus immediately rockets around the bend with NO SMOKING signs plastered all over it.

    I can’t find a taxi on the main road. So I walk around the corner to check the side road and one cruises by on the main road. I go back to the main road and, like quantum decoherence, another flashes by on the side road.

    I really want someone to phone me. So, the moment I go to the toilet or take a shower, they do. I get the phone dripping all over the carpet, or with my pants around my ankles, just as they ring off.

    Masochists can use this law to attract positive events.
    For instance, if your garden's parched and there are water restrictions, simply invite a major business client to a home barbecue. And you'll cop a thunderstorm three minutes before everyone arrives.

    Need company or attention? Easy. Take a private moment to pick your nose or fart. Someone's sure to walk into the room the moment you do it.

    Detest extravagant weddings? Once your wife's ordered the expensive new dress, got the hairdo, nail job, facial and you've bought the presents, plane tickets, booked the hotel... the happy couple will call it off.

    Note, in this context, Zymurgy's First Law of Evolving System Dynamics: 'Once you open a can of worms, the only way to re-can them is to use a larger can.'

    Well, must finish this. She was going to call tonight and confirm that it's dinner at her place. But the call hasn't come. So, to make sure she rings, I'll have to look forward sincerely to an indulgent meal by myself, crack an extravagant bottle of red and half cook an expensive steak.

    Which reminds me of O'Toole's Commentary on Murphy's Law. 'Murphy was an optimist.'

Liked this one? Then check out Martin's book on Buzzword: "How to Keep Fit Without Avoid Exercise". Click here on How to...

Monday, 21 November 2011


 David Farnsworth brings us his promised insight into Provincial China today - with this comprehensive account of his recent visit and bike tour there.

Yes. It’s important to write about visits before they fade. It’s been a bit over three weeks since I returned. My Chinese/Australian friend has instructed me not to be negative, but rather positive. I shall try. I guess if she were writing about Australia, I would prefer her impressions of Australia to concentrate on the positive.

And of course, as I mentioned in my last blog, Culture Shock is an issue, as is the health after being on the move for 30 hours getting ‘home’.

Three weeks in another town
My latest escapade involved three weeks in Weifang, which is a large city in Shandong Province, one of the wealthier provinces. Anhui, adjacent, is relatively poor, I believe. The pollution was the worst I have seen it since I started coming here in 2002. Eighteen days of it. Then the winds blew and the pollution disappeared. My Chinese friend, Kathy assured me it had gone to Australia. I keep mentioning the lack of water birds on all the expanses of water I pass. She assures me they are having a holiday in Australia. I went to Lake Wendouree in Ballarat and took some photographs to send her to show her how at home her birds are here.

Views from the train 
On the train to Jinan (Provincial capital) I guessed that three-quarters of the smoke stacks were not working. I assume that the smaller factories have been closed down.
Certainly alternative methods of power generation are visible. In Shandong, almost every apartment has solar power. I would guess they are far cheaper than those sold here. Here in Weifang, they are placed on footpaths for sale, along with things like water melons.
And the tree planting along the freeways is far more ambitious and advanced than our sporadic efforts. One of the student text books referred to these plantations as The Great Green Wall.
A previous mayor of the city undertook an amazing beautification campaign, where flowering fruit trees, forsythias, lilacs and magnolias are everywhere. My friend Kathy assures me that the magnolia was the Mayor’s favourite. Chinese gardens rely heavily on large rocks and water. Trees are cared for. I saw a large tree in the middle of a road, protected by concrete barriers.

How people live and what they earn
In the last nine years there has been a rapid improvement in the wealth / living conditions of the middle class. (I don’t really get to see the poor or the rural people.) Most middle class now have an apartment and a modern car. (German, American, French are being produced for the Chinese market as well as a large variety and number of Chinese designs.) A small electric car is available here for the equivalent of $1,000.
In the ‘old days’ I would see women collecting coal which had fallen from trucks or men rummaging through construction rubbish, collecting wire and bricks. Not anymore.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Squatting and Toilets - continued...

Our editor, Dan Mills, can't resist adding to David Farnsworth's article about the traditional "squat" toilet. Here is his expressive commentary:

The invention of the "water closet" - one of the saddest examples of so-called human ingenuity -  is probably responsible for most malfunctions of the lower intestine in countries that consider themselves advanced.  

When defecating, the body is designed to squat. This straightens the colon, supports the abdominal wall and facilitates evacuation.  

Do you really imagine that traditional man constructed some kind of seat before he took a bog?

Sensibly, Eastern nations and some European nations - even until recently in areas not yet Westernised - accepted the hole in the floor with places each side for the feet that is the basis of the "squat" or "squatting" toilet.  This can still be found - thankfully - in some modern airports in the Middle East. One example: Dubai. And in some provincial European cities. Years ago, in Chartres, I found one in a local restaurant. 

The squat toilet has its disadvantages. There is the need to remove trousers to avoid fouling articles of clothing - a small price to pay for allowing the body its natural position.  And the floor toilet is less accommodating than the raised seat. 

But,  if you have two neurons to rub together, the advantage should be obvious . 

The floor toilet allows the body to function correctly - free of the damaging lazy ease that we are conditioned to accept.

So how do we counteract the evil seat of ease and constipation? 

How to use a "water closet" sensibly:

The simple way to avoid this effete scourge is to squat on top of the seat. Again, this involves removing clothing if you are male. And it requires bare feet. But if you visit the can in the morning - clothing and footwear are not an issue.

Admittedly, squatting on a Western configuration toilet may not be simple for those past ninety or obese. For others, it's a doddle.

Simply plant the feet either side of the  seat and you will be delighted to find that elimination progress with a facility you never thought possible. Even compulsively efficient types will barely have time to file their toenails.

The Western Toilet needs to go! Pass it on!

Surely you've noticed the trend?

While the East has become obsessed with motor cars, iPods, fast foods and luxury, the jaded West has been rediscovering what Eastern nations have so readily discarded - from Zen Vedanta and Tai Chi, to acupuncture and traditional remedies. 

And it's high time we rediscovered natural elimination!

This message needs to filter into communal consciousness.  If  it gathers adherents and goes viral -  humanity will be served. But if you, at least, hear and understand, it will not have been in vain.

Stamp out Western Toilets!

To be precise - stamp on them. You'll soon get used to it. And it's a small price to pay for better health.

Addendum: The euphemism plague:

It's  impossible to leave this subject without mentioning the endless labels for the bog hole. In polite English society, "toilet" is considered common and the term "lavatory" favoured - a word even more absurd. 

Then there is "loo", "latrine", "privy", "jakes", "comfort station", "W.C.", "convenience", "thunderbox" and so on. It's a sad list of evasions. As are the jocular expressions for eliminating the body's waste: "Watering the horse", "Emptying the bilge", "Pointing the Peter at the porcelain"...  I'll spare you the jocular terms for defecation, though the nautical "Crimp off a length," deserves mention.

Curious, isn't it, that there is no standard term for the bog-hole?

In an era where the "F" and "C" word issue from the petal mouths of infants, our impolite society still dances around the labels for the loo.

Yes, Buzzword is ready to take suggestions for a standard term.

All comments welcome.


Saturday, 5 November 2011

Squat toilets - an explication

We asked world-tripping poet, David Farnsworth, to write a post for the blog about his latest jaunt in China. We expected a deeply considered piece about psychological perspectives among the Sino-proletariat. Instead, we received this erratic study of international toilets with the comment: "As is my practice, this piece is mainly unedited and written after a considerable intake of red wine. It works for me. It may not work for you." 
David promises to send the expected article as soon as his fine madness subsides.

Like Pam Scott, I, too, suffer Culture Shock. 

For me Culture Shock mostly occurs when I return to Australia. It can even happen after as little a time as three weeks in China (Weifang, Shandong).

For me, Culture Shock is mainly related to people.  I should avoid supermarkets for a few weeks on my return. My own supermarket in Sebastopol Victoria is invariably dirtier (externally) than the one I patronize in Weifang. Inside they are both clean.

My greatest shock and embarrassment is reserved for the airports. 

For instance, Adelaide is primitive, Third World material. Take the toilets. (At the age of 73, I visit many toilets in a four hour period.) In Adelaide,  I swallowed four tablets with water from a tap. And yes, you couldn’t do this in Qingdao (Shandong). But then they do have a drink station with paper cups outside the toilet.

I remember the shock and disbelief of Chinese students faced with buying a bottle of water at Adelaide and bucking at the price($4.00). In China it would cost less than 25 cents. 


Pity that at another basin, the cold water tap didn’t work. It would’ve been the same if I were cleaning my teeth. Do you clean your teeth in warm water?

At Tullamarine, when disembarking, there was a women’s toilet, but no male toilet! The male toilet was hidden around a corner 100 meters away! And the floor felt sticky to my feet. (You know how urine on a floor feels!). There was a chart/ log on the door assuring me when the toilet was last cleaned. I didn’t bother to check. I let my shoes do the checking...

In Qingdao and Hong Kong Airports, the many and conveniently placed toilets all had their own toilet attendant... I assume/guess they had pride in their toilets which were all immaculate.

In the early forties and fifties in Ballarat, all the Public Toilets  had attendants (full time). The toilets were - from memory - always clean. Okay, there’s a cost involved in this. But I assume the expenditure would be minimal. (Car park charges, flight charges, rents.)

Culture Shock? 

The people... Their visages squeezed like a prune, disdainful of others. They are not amused. They are never amused. Unhappy, I might have said.

In China, bus drivers lift up bags into the bus... Here you do your own lifting. I’ve been home a week. I expect the worst is yet to come.

Oh yes. Toilets. (Speak to any traveller and this will probably be an item they mention.)

Squat toilets?  

Well Tullamarine does not have squat toilets. (That is the floor hole, with footprints.) Which is a shame for the people of the Southern Mediterranean.

(In my youth. I was amazed that some people felt it necessary to stand on the western toilets and aim.) Also for the Pacific Islands, South East Asia and China.  It’s a ‘small’ thing but, if we are eager to encourage tourists, I imagine the odd squat toilet should be made available at our international airports.

As a foreigner in China, I am frequently delighted by the availability of western toilets.

Of course,  there are now many middle-class Chinese who have Western toilets in their homes. But what about people from the country?

Buzzword Books has now published David's iconoclastic anthology of world-spanning poems MIDDLE KINGDOM.Check the link on the right.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

How much stuff is enough?

This post from Gina Stoner - our resident lifestyle expert. Today she's exposing the time-trap of possessions - both personal and individual...

Collectors collect anything - from vintage cars to Murano glass - and their particular  obsession can be rationalised as a hobby or interest.

But  what about people who are not "collectors" but "unable to throw outers"?


While to have only what is necessary is the first rule of morality, most people surround themselves with a pile of unnecessary things. Forgivable if looking at them gives joy or if they are a back-up for some item that may break down. But despite all the excuses, we are still surrounded by unnecessary STUFF.

The problems with stuff are many:
  • It occupies needed space.
  • needs to be dusted.
  • needs to be protected and insured.
  • complicates life.
  • is a cause of dull care.
Stuff, in short, is a worry - and dispensing with it frees the psyche.  

For instance, is it necessary to keep all your dead mother's bibs and bobs - just because she cherished them?  And what about those fifteen albums of her overseas tours?  Can you bear to throw them out? They were, after all, her security blanket - not yours.

What about your late father's  rather bad attempts at oil paintings? You detest them but he did them and you want to be loyal to his memory don't you? As for their cherished dinosaur lounge suite and tizzy lamps!

We suffer from stuff. Reducing it to the simplest statement, freedom consists in having no more than you need.

And inner freedom?

The analogy continues....

The human plague - an invisible calamity

This from Jack Cross, author of our stunning near future SF saga, The Logos Probe:

As everyone from Dick Smith to David Attenborough will tell you (check eponential population growth is the fundamental cause of:
  • land degradation
  • depletion of finite resources
  • destruction of biodiversity
  • pollution
  • famine
  • lack of water
  • wars fought over territories and resources... 
At the rate we are going, humanity will be the last resource to exploit and the ramifications of that have medieval implications. 

But chances are, when the worst aspects of apocalyptic fiction confront us, we will be too  brutalised to notice. As we chew on the thighbones of our relatives, we'll congratulate ourselves on finding food.

Population growth - the invisible calamity? Why?

They used to say that the customer is king. 


The multinational is king and constantly requires more consumers. So multinationals bribe governments to foster immigration. Nothing consoles business more than the homeless tide now washing around the world.

As for the religions, life is conveniently seen as sacred - particularly if it increases congregations and influence. Religions with political agendas see propagation as the path to world dominance. Even the Bible tells us to go forth and multiply!

So both these vested interests have no wish to raise the population issue.

And where do governments fit into the debate?

The too-hard basket is suspiciously full in this area. Better to pretend to tackle the peripherals - deal with the symptoms, not the cause. Because people represent revenue, voters, units of consumption and business contributions to campaigns. And, not so long ago, the catchphrase was "populate or perish".

But surely China had the right idea?

As the most populous nation has an authoritarian system, it was able to institute a one child policy. Despite the inevitable unfortunate effects - corruption, murders, gender imbalance and so on - this was a brave attempt. So could it provide a pattern for a troubled, standing-room-only future?

Unfortunately, while commendable in concept, it hasn't had enough effect. As for India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia and the rest, there are no initiatives there apart from the occasional covert sterilisation scheme - now consigned to history as far as I know. Though I'd be delighted to hear otherwise. If you have information on this, please provide it.

In the meantime - what can we do?

Will we permit the human plague to denude this once beautiful planet? Will future ecologists favour genocide to decrease the burden on the environment? However you examine the prospects, there are no particularly bright perspectives.

I talked to a friend the other day - a professional person with wide experience. He made one suggestion that could have a short term application at least.

He said that NGOs should only provide aid to countries that agree to permanent contraceptive measures. You can put your own interpretation on permanent but the male snip is simple enough.

Would any authority have the balls to tackle the balls?

Whatever you think of his idea, it has the ring of good practical advice. And it could be good to repeat such statements - to try and insinuate them into the collective consciousness. Then, eventually,  someone in the right situation might own the idea and run with it.

The Logos Probe is available on Buzzword for just $3.99

Friday, 8 July 2011

Effective Living - the Six Essentials

Gina Stoner has spent the past fifteen years as a featured speaker at corporate seminars as well as conducting individual groups on the subject of effective living. Her approach is far removed from the predictable positive thinking and self-promotional gee-ups found in most business manuals and sales force boosting presentations. That is why in her unusual book (Talks With Al—available from Buzzword) her radical suggestions come disguised as a teenage fable. We asked Gina to write us an article based on one of her seminar subjects. She refused but came up with what follows. Note: don’t miss the special offer at the end of this post.

People want many things: status, security, sexual fulfillment, health, power and adulation. So money, possessions, celebrity are worshipped beyond the point of sanity.

Wants are related to fear and both fear and hope drain life energy.  Yet it’s rarely understood how off-centre hope can be.  The effective person cannot afford to be weakened by hope.

Hope is projection, not fact. And effective living must be built on fact.

The effective person has one possibility – to stay precisely with how things are. No elaboration, evasion deviation. No agenda or opinion. Because any need, expectation or fear tips us from the present back into time.

The fabled “zone”.

You will have heard about athletes who attempt to “stay in the zone”. The phrase is an attempt to explain a moment when they are able to do what is needed supremely well.  In this “zone” it is impossible to have inner distraction at all. The prerequisite is to be purposeless or, as a Taoist might express it,  “empty”.  The empty person has the possibility of seeing things exactly as they are instead of through the mired lens of wants, opinions, resentments and beliefs. All these have to be removed from the equation for the response to be total and effective.

Monday, 20 June 2011

The Influence of White Ants on Literature

In his remarkable near-future saga The Logos Probe, science fiction author Jack Cross presents the 2080's in such a cold, pedestrian way that you're convinced you're there. In fact, in his 2080 dystopia, some things don't seem to have changed at all. For instance, Alexander Logos - the great innovator and tycoon - reads Maurice Maeterlinck whose "The Life of The White Ant" was first published in 1927. Jack, like Maeterlinck, sees these insects as a metaphor for us - and made the mistake of showing us some early drawings of his which we insisted he post on the blog. This he has reluctantly permitted.

Over to Jack:

Maeterlink is interesting. Let me quote him:

"In the terminary, the gods of of communism become insatiable Molochs. The more they are given, the more they require. And they persist in their demands until the individual is annihilated and his misery complete."

"...illness is not tolerated and feebleness carries with it its own sentence of death."

"They used to have wings. They have them no more. They had eyes which they surrendered. They had sex which they sacrificed...   ....They might almost serve as a caricature of ourselves, as a travesty of the earthly paradise to which most civilised people are tending."

The "communist" ideal has never worked. Nothing is more pernicious than good intentions. Those who want the best for all change nothing. The worst ants still end up sitting on top of the nest. Unfortunately, the cupidity called human nature is never accepted as a constant. Show me the practical socialist and I will show you a sham - motivated by  naivete, resentment or the cunning of "fortune's slave".

The "capitalist" ethos is no better. It believes in success for the selfish. Of course,  all are selfish. But not everyone is a jackal. The Logos Probe has equal scorn for left and right.

Is there any way out of this?

By now you will have observed how each parliament rapidly becomes a House of the Rising Scum. How each new government touts the same old promises without action. A politician know that, if he does anything he will be attacked from all sides. It's far smarter to merely promise because delivery is death.

"Always vote for the opposition."

You've probably heard that sage in injunction. The idea is to prevent any party becoming entrenched - because the dreary cavalcade of our leaders becomes more venal by the year. All that ever changes are the names on the brown paper bags.

So, in The Logos Probe, Alexander Logos, doyen of the age, remains  deeply cynical while promising the earth. As the powerful have always done, absorbing duplicity at the teat.

But back to the industrious white ants...

These insects, far older than humanity, coloured my early thoughts. I even attempted a cartoon series - using them to express what I felt. I'm no artist, so the drawings were crude but, at least, they expressed what I intended. Many years later, I rediscovered these primitive strips in an old trunk forgotten in a store-room. And made the mistake of showing them to Buzzword.

Should they be posted here?  Probably not. 

But some realist with a half-full cup may care to behold the crude and youthful genesis of The Logos Probe.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Reverse Culture Shock

We asked author, academic and South East Asian expert, Pam Scott, to describe the disorientation she experiences when switching between countries. Here are her comments:

‘Where are you from?’ the woman behind the counter asked me, speaking slowly and clearly but not unkindly. Puzzled at first, it slowly dawned on me that she thought I was a foreigner to Sydney.

I had been living in Vietnam for just eight years at that time and it seemed that I no longer fitted in as an obvious local back in Australia. I didn’t know how things worked any more. Before I went away there was just one telephone company, one electricity company, one gas company in Australia. Now we had competition. I didn’t know where to even start choosing a mobile phone plan. A trip to the supermarket could also bring me undone; I felt overwhelmed by the wall of different varieties of eggs on sale. In Vietnam you bought eggs individually from a street seller, carefully balancing her laden baskets on a shoulder pole. You could select brown ones or white ones, and from what I had seen of village life in Vietnam, everything was free-range.

As I tried to settle back into Sydney, it surprised me to find that living there didn’t feel nearly as convenient as living in a so-called developing country like Vietnam. In Vietnam everything is negotiable. ‘No’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘no’; it just means you have to find another way. Nor do you have to wait a month or two for customised curtains or blinds to be made and hung. They arrive the following day. If you need to move house, you ring a truck company 15 minutes before you want to go and they’ll be there. Buying a mattress? A three piece lounge suite? Chances are the seller will put them in a cyclo and put you on the back of his motorbike and escort you and your purchases home. At no extra cost. And instead of Sydney’s unreliable public transport, there are motorbike taxi drivers on every street corner in Hanoi ready to take you anywhere.

Small-talk in social situations back in Sydney was also a challenge. I wasn’t up-to-date on the latest political policies or scandals, TV shows, ‘celebrities’, the British Royal Family, or pop stars. The Vietnam News, the only English language daily newspaper in Hanoi, didn’t go in for much trivia and certainly not Australian trivia, and the Internet wasn’t available then.

Clothes also caused me some problems. As the years passed I found myself adopting a more Vietnamese sensibility in regard to what to wear. Even when I showed the tailor a photo of what I wanted her to make, it always turned out looking a little different, a little bit Asian. My Vietnamese friends always approved, but when I wore the same clothes back in Australia I started to feel slightly wrong. So I’d buy something in Sydney only to find it didn’t quite work when I tried to wear it in Hanoi.

All of this is part of reverse culture shock and it IS a shock to discover that while you’ve been away becoming socialised into a very different society, you’ve changed, and your own society has also changed so that you no longer fit together in quite the same way. It really shocked me to be not only mistaken for a foreigner in my own country, but to feel like a foreigner there.

These days I am better prepared if I go away for a year or two. I put on my Vietnamese wardrobe and my Vietnamese attitudes and persona when I get off the plane in Hanoi or LinkHoChiMinh City. However, it can sometimes be a bit harder to take them off again when I come home to Australia.

You'll find Pam's three latest eBooks at Buzzword Books.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

The Writing Scam

To kick off the vestigial Buzzword Blog, we asked commissioning editor D. S. Mills to pen us a some kind of rave. Here is the result:

Who knows what happens when you start an on-line publishing company? Possibly little or nothing. But, for authors, the advantage is freedom, often from creeping stupidity.
For instance, several of our writers have received rave reviews from major print publishers and further accolades from leading international literary agents. Did publishers shower them with roses? No.
It brings to mind the old saying: 'Enough of your compliments. More of your purse!' So what is happening in the land of cash and carry literature? The advent of the internet and building sales for eBooks, have seen the always impossibly difficult process of having a book accepted revert to snowflake-in-hell status, even for some established writers.
What is going on?
As we entered this post-literate age , publishers found their margins increasingly squeezed. Soon editorial staff were mortified to find the sales manager and accountants assuming editorial decisions based on promotional possibilities. With the bean counters and salesmen resurgent, the list narrowed to the usually unsuccessful 'sure things'.
Then the uneasy balance between art and commerce, that had remained half decent in the established houses, tipped completely toward the bottom line.
One casualty was the slush pile. The large trade houses got rid of it and even many of the independents refused to see unagented submissions. This meant that literary agents became the sifters, the quasi editorial staffers.
Then writers found agents even harder to acquire than publishers. But did this deter the industry that hangs off the ditsy lust for publication?