The Paolini Effect

Nancy Li Fan makes Christopher Paolini look like a doddering greybeard.

The Observer reports:

A fantasy novel about tribes of warring birds, written by a gifted 11-year-old girl who lives in the southern-most province of China, is to be published worldwide in English.
The young author, Nancy Yi Fan, won the extraordinary opportunity by simply emailing her manuscript to the chief executive of HarperCollins, Jane Friedman, at the publisher’s New York office.
Fan has since been hailed as a prodigy by her editors who will use her book in a new attempt to establish the firm in China . Her story, Swordbird, is an epic allegory about the struggle for peace and will be printed in this country in the new year.

No offence to Fan, who may well be a child prodigy. But this looks like the Paolini Effect at work: the backstory sells the book, and unless it’s putrid-terrible, what kind of evil reviewer would slag off an 11-year-old author?
And well, on one hand, more power to Li Fan and Paolini: at eleven and 16 respectively, most of us were scraping the chewing gum off our pigtails, not signing book deals. But does anybody remember, say, Flavia Bujor? Teen sensation, wrote The Prophecy of Stones at the age of 12? Or Catherine Webb? Neither did badly with their “teen sensation” books, but both became the publishing industry equivalent of the two-or-three hit boy/ girl bands.
This CSM story explored what happens when the very young write that first book.

5 comments

  1. what kind of evil reviewer would slag off an 11-year-old author? Well, they wouldn’t slag off. But there are good reviews and good reviews. There’s “the book is quite amusing: this 11-year-old shows promise and could grow to be a significant writer”, and there’s “the author shows a command, purpose and maturity that would be remarkable in someone three times her age: this is a must-buy”.Unless I read multiple rave-reviews from respected reviewers, or knew the author, I wouldn’t buy the thing.It’s like reading restaurant reviews in the Indian press — nobody writes a bad review, because the editors are worried about advertising revenue. So one needs to read between the lines…

  2. I think Christopher Paolini will resonate in history as a textbook example of what good marketing can achieve. His books aren’t great, not by any decent standards, but they’re not bad either, (and a lot of criticism shot at them, especially from Amazon.com reviewers, was false – “Search your feelings, you know it to be true” was never said in the series). They were derivative, though, way too derivative (although I enjoyed them), and yet they sold a lot, a result of Sir Marketing working his magic.The whole “child prodigy” thing is getting old, though, and sadly for Nancy Yi Fan, people know it. But what kind of person lambasts an 11-year-old? Well, you can’t tell a kid what they’ve written is “a Tolkien knock-off” (I haven’t read Swordbird, so I don’t know if it is a knock-off of anything), but you can say that what she’s written is good, “But this [criticism] would make it even better!” Besides, it’s enough an eleven-year-old got past page one, right?It’s like breaking-up with your girlfriend/boyfriend; you’ve just got to choose the right words.Kroms/Crumbs.- http://kroms.blogspot.com/

  3. When I heard that Swordbird was written by a twelve-year-old, I was anxious to read it. I have been a fan of Redwall, Watership Down, and other animal stories, so I thought this would be worth reading. By the reviews, Swordbird was stellar. However, I was let down. I found it to be very much like Redwall in many respects, such as, young heroes, a large feast, and even the mystical Swordbird himself. Much of the text is horribly clichéd, with phrases like, “to make matters worse”. The story itself was very predictable, and it irritated me how the author skimped on details, making it too simple for Redwall fans, let alone fans of great works such as Watership Down. To add to this, Turnatt, (the antagonist), was a very typical villain. He’s evil with almost no explanation, and is otherwise shallow and two dimensional. To wrap things up, the outcome of the story was very predictable, the story was simple, and all of the characters were shallow. Not worth your money, or your time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s