15 February 2012

Popularity Contest

by  Robert Lopresti

A couple of weeks ago one hundred-plus million people watched a football game broadcast from Indianapolis.  I was not among them.  Instead I was one of about fifty watching Dick Hensold do his stuff in person.  He's the dude on the left in the video below.

The contrast between the audience for these two events got me thinking about popularity.  It seems like a good time for it, since a bunch of politicians are currently spending mult-millions to try to win one of the biggest popularity contests in the world.  On a slightly smaller scale, I also belong to the Short Mystery Fiction Society whose volunteer judges are currently trying to decide on nominees for the best stories of 2011.  Then I and the other members will get to pick the winners.  It seems like everyone wants to be popular.

Of couse we all know that fan-base is not a perfect measure of quality.  Some very bad books have sold like crazy and some very good books vanished without making a ripple.  But I suppose it is the closest thing to an objective measurement we have: people voting with their dollars, their time, their attention. 
I sometimes wonder if there is another measure besides width of the fan-base.  Depth, perhaps?  After all, there are lots of writers I like, but I'm  not equally crazy about them.  Everyone on the best seller list has tons of fans, but are they equal if you ask the desert island question (If you could only bring five books…)  But maybe that would only identify the obsessive fans, the scary folk Elizabeth wrote so well about last week..
After all, if you want attention, you can’t get much more intense than a stalker.  But I suppose most of us would prefer the same amount of attention spread out over a few hundred book-buyers.  Although it might be fun if some big corporation offered to pay a million dollars to put an ad on SleuthSayers....


  1. Hmmm. I can see it now. All 14 SleuthSayer contributors are in a crowded bus on a mountain road. The bus misses a turn -- I think Leigh is driving -- and careens off the road. We wake up later and all of us gaze up at Kathy Bates who says "I'm your biggest fan."

  2. Terrific music, thanks for sharing it--and MUCH more to my taste than Madonna at halftime, the only part of the Super Bowl I watched. We're going to hear The Chieftains at Carnegie Hall--the climax of their 50th anniversary tour--on St. Patrick's Day, which happens to be me Irish husband's birthday.

  3. Rob, should I have a story nominated I would not want you to consider our warm and companionable (albeit virtual) relationship or allow it to affect your judgement in the least. By all means remain objective; casting off all thoughts of friendship and camaraderie, or consideration for the happiness of myself, my dear wife, and wonderful children. I would not wish for you to compromise yourself in any way. No sir...no way.

  4. Now you understand why I love this madhouse.

  5. Dale, you're scaring me. Liz, the Chieftains are great. I love their collaborations with pop stars.

    David, sorry, I don't get to vote on the Edgar, old buddy.


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