I have never read your work. I make a point of never paying first hand for books written by noted liars. So when I heard that you were writing YA novels under the pen name of Pittacus Lore, entitled “I Am Number Four” I was intrigued but not enough to put money down for the privilege. When I later discovered that not only had the movie rights already been purchased for the at the time unreleased book, but they were already making the $60million film, my cynicism fell from “glass half empty” to “glass empty and smashed across the floor.” Call me old fashioned but I can’t help but think there’s something incredibly artificial and greedy about churning out a book specifically to make a movie of it so you can see the Benjamins roll in. I disliked it when Thomas Harris did it for Hannibal Lecter and I dislike it in a genre I hold close to my heart.
Maureen Johnson posted this Wall Street Journal article on twitter and it’s safe to say you have not gone up in my estimation. Your business Full Fathom Five, created specifically to be a quick, effective conveyor belt of ideas for books solely to be sold to the film market feels incredibly disingenuous to me, not to mention working specifically in the field of multiple book series to milk the cash cow even further. I guess some people would call you a savvy businessman, especially since you employ many writers, pay them next to nothing, then get them to do the legwork. 28 writers working on 27 series? I can feel the creative integrity drain out of me just thinking about it.
But here’s what really got to me about this article, aside from one of your colleagues pitching a YA series idea and insisting that the heroine’s parents be dead (because parentless children have it so good and nobody’s ever read about that before). Your entire attitude to this venture is that of a man obsessed with nothing but monetary gain. The ideas you pitch are derivative but not without promise, yet you seem concerned only with how commercial you can make them instead of how interesting, intriguing or challenging your ideas can be. Teenagers aren’t stupid, they don’t deserve to be talked down to by businessmen in factories churning out stuff they are told they should like because it’s ‘bad-ass.’ You say that “the book world is less accepting of radical ideas” right after a mention of Dreamworks’ marketing team wanting you to create a saleable logo for your Pittacus Lore books. Here’s the truth – the publishing world has been accepting of radical ideas long before you were ever born. It’s how books like Lolita got published. There is a place in our world for low-brow trash and I happily indulge in it myself from time to time, but is there a place for buillshit? Not so much. Your books will probably sell well and the movies will probably make a lot of money too (I notice that there is interest in another movie of one of your company’s yet to be released books starring Jaden Smith) Literature is not something that can be churned out, packaged and dolled up in explosions, and if you seriously think that teenagers deserve nothing but the same old crap then I feel sorry for you.