Marvel fires Star Wars writer over colourful tweets; publishing tips from e-book masterclass; Tommie Smith talks about his Fist Of Defiance; Royal Baby book promotion. Well, it’s been a lively Week In Book News.

NUJ masterclass: publishing for e-book

The publishing masterclass that we attended last week, Profit From eBook Journalism, was lively and enjoyable compared with the drama masterclass we went to a fortnight before.

The tutor for the drama masterclass was really engaging, but the Q&A session that followed was dominated by one or two lengthy talkers who didn’t really ask questions but rather, delivered soliloquys about their trials and tribulations in TV and radio production (note: this was a drama writing class).

The masterclass is part of a series of workshops organised by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), aimed at its members and non-NUJ media practitioners. Image source: The National Union of Journalists

But the publishing masterclass, attended mainly by editors, journalists and publishers, wasn’t like that. Students asked questions when necessary, took turns to do so and contributed to the class with insights and humorous anecdotes. The tutor, author Tim Dawson, was brilliant as well. The comic timing was perfect and the masterclass was informative.

Vanity publishing

There were a wide range of subjects discussed under self-publishing, and one was on credibility. An attendee, a book editor, told us that the e-book “is sneered at” by book publishers as they are considered “vanity publishing”.

Dawson commented that the paperbacks were sneered at when they first came out. It isn’t unusual for a newer publishing medium to be dismissed by supporters of the medium that precedes it. He brought our attention to the success of Killing Eve, the BBC America drama that was based on Luke Jenning’s e-book novellas, Codename Villanelle.

Next in the discussion was the sociality of the physical book. “You can’t sign on an e-book, can you?” Someone commented. “All the relationship with the book is gone, isn’t it?”.

That is true, but Dawson said that when the printing press was first created, there were probably cynics who went: “Who’d want to look at that, Mr Gutenberg?”.

The importance of editing

Editing can be a luxury for the self-published author but is highly recommended in e-book publishing. Dawson said there are many badly edited self-published books out there. Most readers won’t complain because these works are often sold at £1.99 per download but Dawson advised us to maintain a good standard by getting our works properly edited.

One attendee remarked that he was asked to edit a friend’s book – a first time for him – and the so-called “aggressive editing” designed to improve the work didn’t go down well with the author.

To which our book editor remarked: “Inexperienced or first-time author tends to take editing personally.”


Fist Of Defiance: Tommie Smith at the British Library

We had to rush from that engaging e-book masterclass to the British Library to catch Tommie Smith, the track athlete who shook the world with his black gloved-fist at the 1968 Olympics, deliver a talk called Fist of Defiance.

Held in conjunction with the Black History Month, the talk was hosted by Clive Myrie, and also featured the British Olympian Christine Ohuruogu and comedian Reginald D Hunter.

Tommie Smith (pictured right) tells Myrie Clive about his experience that led to the silent gesture on the podium at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Photo: © Story Of Books

Smith touched on the “civil rights tension” between Martin Luther King and Malcom X, the latter favouring the “fire against fire” approach. But both, he maintained, “went to the same direction and was killed because they went to the same direction”.

Naturally, the audience was interested in the mechanics of the 1968 protest: the fist and the black gloves. Tommie said the fist at the Olympics medal ceremony “was an opportunity of a lifetime”. Smith didn’t come from a background that could afford him any significant platform for dissent. His family moved from Texas to California to work on farms. He saw his 42-year old father having to bow to a white eight-year old kid, a landowner’s child, and Smith was perturbed by that display of subjugation and the inequality it demonstrated.

The Olympics stipulated that each athlete carries himself the way he believes his country should be perceived. So Tommie Smith, his team mate John Carlos and their Australian counterpart Peter Norman did just that.


“I just want to show a point, not prove a point,” he said of the podium protest. The Olympics stipulated that each athlete carries himself the way he believes his country should be perceived. So Tommie Smith, his team mate John Carlos and their Australian counterpart Peter Norman did just that. Smith and Carlos didn’t feel recognised as human beings. Norman reminded the world about the Aboriginals rights and equality movement back home.

The gloves, Smith said, were of a German brand. An irony given that the history of African American athletes at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, and the dismay they generated there because of their dominance in track and athletics. Interesting to note that the shoes he brought to the podium were Puma, also a German brand.

“I don’t look at people’s hate to make me grow,” Smith said. “When I was on that stage, I wasn’t black. I was human.”

From left: Peter Norman (silver medallist), Tommie Smith (gold medallist) and John Carloas (bronze medallist). Smith won the 200m final in 19.83 seconds. His achievement was dismissed by the US team because of the Black Power salute. Image source: Wikipedia

Smith didn’t want Norman to wear the Olympics Project For Human Rights (OPHR) badge but it was given to the Australian by Paul Hoffman, who coxed for Harvard and also for the US rowing in team in 1968.

Smith pointed out that the OPHR, set up to advocate equality in sports, by that time had a strong support not only from people of colour but also from female athletes across a wide range of ethnicities.

The three men paid dearly for it. John Carlos, Tommie Smith and Peter Norman got booted out of their national squads. Carlos and Smith got frozen out of jobs for years afterwards.

The fist vs taking the knee

Christine Ohuruogu (second from left) expresses her admiration for Smith and his peers, who paved the way for the other athletes with his tireless works on civil rights and sports equality. Photo: © Story Of Books

Predictably, Colin Kaepernick and the “taking the knee” controversy came into the conversation. He was asked: why can’t some members of the US establishment understand what Smith and Kaepernick were trying to do?

Smith took us back to the point he made earlier in the talk: the love of money leads to slavery. Slavery and capitalism were intertwined in the decades before the American Civil War. Colonialism, which emerged later around the Industrial Revolution, was the most ‘convenient’ alternative to the older labour model. Smith emphasised that the love of money, compounded by racism, got to the point where “we got sold out”. He said: “There’s a sickness in American where money is a derivative of happiness. But living together is much more than living rich.”

Would you do it all over again? Myrie asked.

Smith reflected for a moment. “I don’t know. It had to be done,” he said. “I would go back to doing something again. To reactively do it would be difficult”.

Do you think America has forgiven you for what you did?

“It’s not gonna trouble me. It’s already been done. But yes, it (the attitude) has changed.”

Hope for the future?

“I hope change is still magical as it was then. They (the opponents) are not the ones to hate,” he advised. “Hate takes energy. Don’t waste that energy. If you’re not doing anything, you’re the problem.”

Story Of Books left the hall as Smith was mobbed by fans who wanted to shake his hands and have his book, Silent Gesture, autographed. We thanked his wife on the way out. She said politely: “I am sorry I fell asleep. I was still jet-lagged”. We didn’t realise it but thank you. Thank you very much.

About Tommie Smith


Star Wars writer fired over anti-Trump tweets

Marvel Comics reportedly fired the writer of its latest Star Wars comics because of his “social media presence”.

Chuck Wendig announced the sacking on Twitter and explained that he was let go for responding to people who trolled him in social media. The harassment, he said, intensified when he included LGBT elements in the book Star Wars: Aftermath.

Other sources claimed that it was actually to do with Wendig’s colourful figures of speech in describing the Trump administration on social media.

Last week, Wendig shed some light on the controversy on his blog, Terribleminds.

Wendig said he wouldn’t mind taking a step back rather than hurt the image of Star Wars comic books with his online comments, but highlighted that the sacking “does set a troubling precedent… folks fired because they riled up the wasp’s nest of asterisk-gate”.

Wendig alleges the harrassment from trolls began after Star Wars: Aftermath was published. Image source: Wikipedia

He stated: “It seems odd to be mad that I’m mad about politics when – well, look around. Climate change, kids in cages, sexual harassers at the topmost tiers of power, and so on. A call for civility as the PA GOP candidate threatens Tom Wolf with a golf cleat stomping. I dunno, man”.

Wendig also urged his US fans to “vote in November like your life depends on it”.

Saladin Ahmed, the current writer for Spider-Man series, has asked his fans to support Wendig by purchasing his books.

More on Chuck Wendig


Royal Baby promotion

And now, a bit of good news.

Did you see the Mills and Boon’s campaign to celebrate the royal baby of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, due to arrive next spring?

Here it is.

Royal announcements: Duke and Duchess of Sussex