Kukla, Fran and Ollie, I don't think, since its heyday was WELL before my time. I think my mom and aunt had lingering fondness for it, so I knew about the show through them. More, it stuck with me because something about it profoundly disturbed me.
I mean, it's weird, isn't it? A person puts a sock on their hand, makes a pretend mouth move, and talks to it. And makes it talk back. I don't care if the sock is decorated in a cute way or is as elaborate as a ventriloquist's dummy. The basic premise is the same: a person attempts to create the illusion of two or more voices talking but, no matter how cleverly done, it's still only one person, talking to themselves. It's almost a little insane.
So it amuses me that "sock puppets" is the term commonly being applied these days to authors who assume alternate identities to talk about their own books. Here's a notable new incident. Or who lever other people into talking about their books - either through reciprocation, the "army" mentality or by paying for reviews.
I'm rarely a black and white girl, but I'm coming down on this one as just plain wrong.
More, I find the practice profoundly disturbing. And a little insane.
The thing is, as writers we have control over what we write. It's a solitary, insular process. Once the book goes out into the world, the book is in the hands of the readers. And the readers get to think whatever they want to about it. The writer is no longer in control of that and this is how it should be. That's how art and communication work. Action and reaction.
A writer does not get to control how readers react. Much as they might like to.
To me, it's a violation of the purpose of the story. If I tell you a story, I don't get to grab you by the shoulders and demand that you cry on cue. If my story didn't communicate what I wanted it to, this is my freaking problem, not the reader's.
So to me, it doesn't matter what form of sock-puppeting an author uses - it's all an attempt to circumvent the cold, hard truth that how our work is received depends entirely on the work itself.
No, don't tell me about luck, or who gets more publicity dollars, or how x, y or z is not fair, or how some books don't deserve the attention they get. None of that matters. Only how readers receive the work matters.
Now, I do rate and review friends' books from time to time. And this is my grey area. I keep this clear for myself by a) openly acknowledging that I have warm, fuzzy feelings for this person to begin with, b) only saying what is absolutely true about my reaction to the book, and c) only reviewing those books I feel like I can genuinely praise. I know this is the "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" school, which many reviewers say is wrong. But I'm not a reviewer. I'm a writer and a reader. I get to gush a little when I love a friend's book.
And I do think this is a big HOWEVER.
I never ask my friends to review my books. And I don't reference those reviews when they, out of the goodness of their hearts (and hopefully some gushiness of their own sometimes) do write up something.
I should caveat that blurbs don't count. Those little one line bits where one author praises another, that get stuck on book covers? Those are a realm unto themselves, and everyone should understand that those are largely friendly and professional courtesy. They're not reviews. Every author I know who's asked to do a blurb struggles to make it true, but it not an biased review of any sort and should never be represented as such. So, if you ask your friends to blurb your book? Don't put it as a review on Amazon. Please. Put it on your website or whatever, but be honest about the provenance.
If you pay someone to review the book? You've tainted how they receive
If you're part of a team, where you all agree to review each other's
books as part of pimping them? You are a compromised reader.
you're doing a bit of reciprocation - I'll review yours if you review
mine - it's a biased review.
If you're donning a secret identity to
discuss your own books? Then you're only talking to yourself.