Crime novelist RJ Ellory has joined Scott Adams in the ranks of successful, privileged dudes who use sockpuppet accounts for totally boring purposes, and he wasn’t even very diligent about it. I suppose we shouldn’t be terribly surprised, because according to The Guardian’s sources, there is no shortage of prominent novelists using sockpuppets to self-promote.
Boring: he set up a couple of fake Amazon accounts and posted rapturous reviews of his own books and nasty 1-star reviews of his rivals’ books.
That’s the first part that I find weird about this account: the idea of having “rivals” in other authors. How do you decide which ones are your rivals? Readers can buy books from many different authors within a genre, and most do exactly that. How does a fellow traveler in writing novels of a particular genre become a rival?
Anyway, Guardian writer Alison Flood tells us:
Ellory, who won the Theakstons Old Peculier crime novel of the year prize in 2010 for his novel A Simple Act of Violence, was exposed by the crime writer Jeremy Duns on Twitter for posting reviews on Amazon under various identities. Under the pseudonym “Nicodemus Jones”, Ellory called his own novel A Quiet Belief in Angels a “modern masterpiece” and said that readers should “just buy it, read it and make up your own mind”, because “whatever else it might do, it will touch your soul”. “All I will say is that there are paragraphs and chapters that just stopped me dead in my tracks,” he wrote. “Some of it was chilling, some of it raced along, some of it was poetic and langorous and had to be read twice and three times to really appreciate the depth of the prose … it really is a magnificent book.”
But “Nicodemus Jones” was less positive about some of his fellow novelists: Stuart MacBride was dismissed for his novel Dark Blood with one star, with the book described as “another in the seemingly endless parade of same-old-same-old police procedurals that seem to abound in the UK”. Duns spotted that Ellory wrote the MacBride review under the pseudonym Nicodemus Jones, but later in the conversation began posting as RJ Ellory, in a continuation of the discussion. “Nicodemus Jones” also repeatedly signs himself as “Roger” in another discussion, in which he writes that “I won the Nouvel Observateur prize last year for AQBIA [A Quiet Belief in Angels]”.
Not only dishonest, but lazy. Couldn’t even use his sock-name consistently.
Like a raging liar, he just can’t stop using weasel words:
Ellory has admitted posting the reviews on Amazon, and apologised for his actions, issuing a statement in which he said: “The recent reviews – both positive and negative – that have been posted on my Amazon accounts are my responsibility and my responsibility alone. I wholeheartedly regret the lapse of judgment that allowed personal opinions to be disseminated in this way and I would like to apologise to my readers and the writing community.”
Notice the persistent use of the passive voice: “Have been posted on Amazon accounts.” “Allowed personal opinions to be disseminated.” He makes it sound like someone else did this, and he simply failed to stop it. That’s not an apology, that’s just an attempt at damage control, which I expect will be unsuccessful.
It’s not so bad, though, because everyone’s doing it:
But Ellory is only the tip of the iceberg, according to Duns and Billingham. Two years ago, the historian Orlando Figes admitted to trashing his rivals and praising himself on Amazon, and at the Harrogate crime festival earlier this summer, the bestselling thriller writer Stephen Leather said: “As soon as my book is out I’m on Facebook and Twitter several times a day talking about it. I’ll go on to several forums, the well-known forums, and post there under my name and under various other names and various other characters. You build up this whole network of characters who talk about your books and sometimes have conversations with yourself.”
Stephen Leather, what is that I don’t even. Nick Cohen assures us that Leather is not just creating obviously fictional accounts for a fun bit of self-promo; he really pretends to be other people and expects to get away with it.
Oh, but it gets better! It gets so much better! If by “better” I mean you are about to see me make a rude hand gesture:
“[Ellory] absolutely isn’t the only one,” said Billingham, adding that Ellory had also apologised to him personally. “It’s very widespread … And what has been most shocking about some of the more recent revelations is that up until this moment most of us had presumed that the people doing this stuff were self-published writers with no other means of marketing. But these most recent revelations prove this is not the case and it is very worrying.”
*clutches bottle of beer in one hand, cigarette in the other*
Hoping to find some answers, Bonhomme filed a lawsuit that was eventually moved to Kane County, where in December 2009 a judge dismissed her complaint. But last month, a divided Illinois appeals court reinstated the case, rejecting St. James’ argument that she was creating fiction and therefore wasn’t liable.
“The concepts of falsity and material fact do not apply in the context of fiction,” her attorney had written, “because fiction does not purport to represent reality.”
No. The liberties of fiction do not apply when someone who has the ability to hire a lawyer and sue your crazy ass is in the middle of your fantasy. Nice try, though; I’m sure it was a fun idea while it lasted.
Y’all have heard about Scott Adams becoming the latest to join the ranks of famous sockpuppeteers, right? Right.
So, with that in mind, I have a little advice for Mr. Adams.
First of all, dude: stop digging.
No one is taking you seriously now, and the way you’re trying to defend yourself is not helping. (Unless, if by “helping” you mean “assisting your race to the bottom.”)
Now, I’m sure that whatever I say won’t mean anything, seeing how I’m a) a nobody and b) female, but why the hell not?
Scott Adams, you have rapidly and single-handedly (though not intentionally) turned the phrase “certified genius” into a punchline. No, sir, we are not laughing with you; we are laughing at you.
At this point, whenever we see someone rushing up the hill to apologize for your behavior, we will assume it’s one of your socks. Your credibility at this point is nonexistent. It doesn’t help that you’re not even a very diligent puppeteer. You attached “PlannedChaos” to your own PayPal account? Dude, that’s pathetic.
If you really want to take over the world using online aliases, there are two things you need to keep in mind: a) Protect your privacy. Create different email accounts, or whatever it takes to cast a credible illusion that these people who exist solely to sing your praises are separate individuals. No, the voices in your head don’t count. b) Make it interesting. Anyone can make socks to be yes-men. You really want to put the blogosphere at sixes and sevens? Cast those socks as your enemies.
And now, for a little filk which recently appeared in my Twitter stream:
Old Scott Adams has a sock,
Ha ha ha ha Ho!
And through that sock he is a troll,
Ha ha ha ha Ho!
With a troll troll here,
and a troll troll there!
Here a troll,
there a troll,
everywhere a troll troll!
Old Scott Adams has a sock,
Ha ha ha ha Ho!
A blog dedicated to sneering at assertive atheists turns out to be a den of dishonesty and self-aggrandizement? I am shocked, I tell you. Simply shocked. The Buddha Is Not Serious has the long version of the You’re Not Helping story, while Glasgow Aspie has the short version.
As a veteran of Harry Potter fandom, my primary reaction to this case is: now that is freaking pathetic. Even the most rudimentary sockpuppeteer can create a handful of alternate identities to shout her brilliance and prop up her ego in front of an otherwise ambivalent or hostile crowd. Bonus points (and by bonus points I mean greater hilarity) if the sock identity points out that she has the same IP address as the primary identity, but there’s a perfectly legitimate explanation for that. (Gee, thanks, sock! I wouldn’t have noticed that if you hadn’t drawn my attention to it!)
A more self-aware puppeteer uses socks to say things that she wants to be said when she doesn’t want her primary identity to take the fire, but doesn’t necessarily show the socks interacting with the primary. A more cunning puppeteer uses socks to feel out other people’s opinions of her, and for maximum dysfunction, may use the sock identity to manipulate other people’s relationships with each other, but doesn’t necessarily use the sock identity to flatter the primary.
A really clever puppeteer, however, creates some socks to be her friends, and others to be her enemies. Or, hell, just creates a bunch of socks to be her enemies. It’s when you control the people who disagree with you that you are really the puppetmaster.