Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Full Fathom Five: Farm Factory Fiction?

For centuries artists have been banning together to create masterpieces. In 1816 Mary Shelley, Percival Shelley, Lord Byron and John Polidori hung out at Villa Diodati, a mansion by a lake in Switzerland, smoked lots of opium, and composed some of the most memorable literature in modern history. Recently, with the rise of self-made-fame, Youtube has become a place for aspiring actors to create they own mini-companies to highlight their talents and the talents of their friends on a collaborative channel. This seems to be in order to generate more page and video views than they would be able to collect separately. Heck, that’s what we are doing together, here on this blog. So what’s the big deal with the Full Fathom Five? The Full Fathom Five is a collection of aspiring writers who are joining together to produce popular commercial fiction concepts they hope will make them rich. Sounds just like the scheme many Youtubers have devised, right? however, there seems to be a darker side to the FF-5 that makes it distinguishes it from Youtube, blogging and other collective art forms… You might not get credit, or a paycheck for your work. FF-5 is the project of author James Frey, well known for his ‘memoir’ A Million Little Pieces that dominated the bestseller list and was even endorsed by Oprah’s bookclub…until it was discovered much of the novel was sensationalized, causing many in the literary world to question, just what constitutes as a memoir? Now, Frey is visiting many Ivy League creative writing programs to recruit writers to produce commercialized fiction and ideas for him. The idea in itself doesn’t sound too bad; a distinguished writer takes aspirating writers in and gives them a great start in the world of publishing, but the actual execution of such a plan is where the problem arises. The darker side of the FF-5 was explained in an article that appeared in the New York Magazine on November 12, 2010 which spelled out what the fancy words in the contract actually mean for writers thinking about getting involved with this.

http://nymag.com/arts/books/features/69474/ - The book (that the writer and others created) would be published under a pseudonym - The writer would not be allowed to speak publicly about the project or about your involvement - The writer would be financially responsible for any legal action brought against the book but would not own its copyright. - Full Fathom Five could use the writer’s name or a pseudonym without his or her permission, even if the writer was no longer involved with the series, and the company could substitute the writer’s full name for a pseudonym at any point in the future. - The writer was forbidden from signing contracts that would “conflict” with the project; what that might be wasn’t specified. - The writer would not have approval over his or her publicity, pictures, or biographical materials. - There was a $50,000 penalty if the writer publicly admitted to working with Full Fathom Five without permission. - Absolutely NO negotiations with the contract. Basically, you write for Frey, he will own your writing, and if the Charlie Sheen of writing suddenly decides to get some one else to write it, or decided not to pay you, you’re Screwed with a capital “S”. I don’t think there is one of those points in the contract that is not extremely disturbing. This isn’t even mentioning the moral dishonestly and deception of the public. Books produced by the FF-5 like “I Am Number Four”, carry the pseudonym of one author who is not even a real person, but several people. As far as we know (and a widely held belief is) that the major commercialized novels that Frey is trying to emulate here like “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” were composed by one author and one alone. Discovering that your favorite book was published by a writing farm is kind of like find out your favorite pop star was lip syncing at his or her concert. You feel cheated, lied to, deceived. And Frey doesn’t even care. He was quoted as saying (with a smile): “I’ve got nothing to lose.” Frey defended his project by citing Andy Warhol’s Factory as an example of conceptualizing an art form. The difference: Andy didn’t compose soul sucking, ambiguous contracts. And for a final word; should we really be aiming to imitate “Twilight”, folks?

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