The fool on the hill (sees a little further)

He lay there, blue eyes wide staring into the bright open sky.

“Cover his eyes, for he is dead,” said the great man.

There was a pause. A brief breathless moment while we were awash in the horror of it.

The fool wrinkled his broad monkey-like forehead. “Why?” he asked.

“Because he’s dead, Fool!”

The fool stepped away from the cuff he knew would come. “But if he’s dead, covering his eyes won’t make any difference. He can’t see. Covering our eyes would be more to the point. It would stop us seeing him, which would be more useful. Ow!”

“You’re an idiot, Fool!” shouted the great man’s chorus, unsurprisingly, in chorus.

Which might have been true, but it didn’t alter the fact that he was also right.

It’s a bad habit of fools, being right, and not moving far enough out of the way when they are. Still, I have this theory (probably best not expressed in the presence of ‘great people’) that the fool has the right of it most of time simply because he does not look at it in the same way, and, unimpeded by the status quo group-vision, sometimes sees the emperor’s undercarriage… Which has three side effects: 1)the emperor doesn’t like it. 2)Nor do all the people who told the emperor how beautiful his clothes were. 3)The possible saving to the economy – in not paying shedloads of money of nothing, and spending it on something productive are huge.

Whether you apply this to writing, the economy, science or how to get out of being the first over top of the trenches, it’s the third one that counts. Of course the first two will be doing their best to swat you or shut you up… or trying hard to ignore you.

The trouble of course is that there are fools who are wrong too.

My own touchstone is if we all know it is true, then we ought to look at it again, from a different perspective, because we’re probably wrong. A good scientist QUESTIONS everything. It’s only true when proven, and then it’s only true until disproven, which you ought to be trying to do. (When I hear of ‘consensus’ science, I wonder if the chorus can harmonize too). I’ve tried to apply this to my writing (My friend Bolg thinks like this too.

Therefore according to my impeccable logic, it is the product of gravity. Tall people, (which largely excludes children, dwarves and me) perhaps have a problem pumping blood all that way up, which is why they’re a bit dizzy and think even if the emperor looks naked, it must be their eyesight. I think we need to apply it to economics too. If the great men think printing money, or cutting public spending, or relying on China are the answer, then they probably aren’t. The same at a smaller commercial scale applies to the latest thing out of Amazon. Amazon Author Rank appears to have received the accolade of as near universal condemnation from all the great ones and the loyal chorus. The fool suspects that means Amazon are on to something. After all, the NYT bestseller list is based (so they tell us) on anonymous and supposedly widely sourced data from a lot of bookstores, and wholesales who retail to other outlets… And has: 1) reputedly been cooked before 2)As we don’t know the methodology is hard to check – but we know some very popular books never make it, and books which don’t sell that many copies (17K hardback was reputed to get you onto the extend list, according to a friend who got there on that) 3)We know Bookscan data is pretty close to GIGO – so it’s hard to see where the NYT would get better data.

Locus lists suffers from shall we say the same data problem, the Wall St Journal list relies on Bookscan (which may report 1/3 and 2/3… depending on the book, where it sells and rather odd data capture.)

If the NYT bestseller list is that accurate… Amazon Author Rank won’t affect bestsellers. If the two differ it will be… interesting. They’re also running a top 100, which may give a far better, wider picture of what is being read.

I’d like to see all of the distributors follow suit. (Curiously, I am seeing a big fall off in my Amazon sales, but a commensurate pick-up in sales elsewhere. Things are changing. This may be why Amazon is trying this. Or not) And then someone put together a summary list.

It’s a data-mine, and mined right could make an author (or publisher or retailer) rich and successful.

Or just the Fool on the hill, seeing a little further.

Cross-posted at Coal-Fired Cuttlefish

4 comments

  1. You started a train of thought. You might as well have it:

    What if the Great Man and the Fool were reversed? What if the one who should have been the Fool is the hereditary ruler of a kingdom/dictatorship – and the populace is stuck with him? And his wacky ways? What if the Great Man is actually forced to be the court fool? And doesn’t do it very well because, well, he’s not suited to it – his comments aren’t witty and he ducks when the King tries to give him one upside the head?

    Sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s the Fool.

    1. 🙂 Pratchett. The king of Lancre IIRC. And as genetics without selection is a fairly disaster-prone way of selecting a leader, the hereditary king may well be a fool… And the great man may really be quite funny, when he’s not being taken seriously…

  2. Chorus: “But the rankings come from Amazon so they must be corrupt, or poorly calculated, or fail to consider Important Things of which only the Great Men know.”

    Such an aggregate of actual sales rankings would be fascinating, depending on how they are/were broken down. And would quite likely give the NYT and literary-fiction types a case of the vapors not seen since Queen Victoria’s day. That or confirm their suspicions about “the tripe read by the hoi-palloi.”

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