Ghost Writer / Discussion

Sub-page of GhostWriter

See Errata in Books, where this discussion originally appeared.

We can probably distinguish between three kinds of books:

  • Those written by a (team of) strong amateur player(s), but which have the name of a famous professional attached for promotion purposes.
  • Those written by a (team of) strong amateur player(s), but which a famous professional player has actively contributed to, by commenting games, review and correct, etc.
  • Those entirely written by a famous professional player.

While I can understand that a book "written by Cho Chikun" sells better than one written by a noble unknown, and while I do not expect that a professional player is better at explaining the rules and basic life and death or tesuji than a six dan amateur, I think it would only be fair when the category a book belongs to becomes common knowledge. It should even in some way be noted in the book itself. Publishers have no right to deceive their readers.

-- Dieter

Bill Spight: "Deception" puts it a bit strongly, I think. Even when the ghost-writer is not acknowledged, the named author is responsible for the contents, and, almost surely has at least checked them out. Often, I am sure, there have been discussions previous to and during the writing.

There has been a trend (which I welcome) around the world to acknowledge ghostwriters. E. g., "as told to" books. I think that has extended to go books, as well. Recently I have seen go books with both authors acknowledged. :-)

Bob McGuigan: As far as I know the ghost writer of a Japanese go book is always acknowledged someplace inside, though it may be hard to find unless you know what to look for. For example, the ghost writer is often listed after the author's preface, usually under the heading henshuu meaning "editor" or "compiler". Since that term can have other meanings than ghost writer it is still difficult to know how the book was produced. Even when the "assisting" writer is acknowledged on the cover of the book, as is often the case now with Nakayama Noriyuki, he may be described as henshuu or kijutsu (description or account).

John Fairbairn: I agree that deception is the wrong word, and also that acknowledgement of contributions by others is often given if you know where to look. But I'd go further and say (again) that far too many western players grossly underestimate how much work the pros themselves do on books. In two of the shogi books I translated I had to work from the author's handwritten manuscript, with all the crossings out - I knew his handwriting so I know he did it all. I am also aware of cases where a pro has been very annoyed to see his work translated into English without permission - proof of a sort that they are familiar with their works and keep a proprietorial eye on them. There are cases, such as the NHK series, where it can be shown that even a pro of title-match level at the very least gave public lectures on his work, and if he didn't actually convert them to paper, he's surely done 90% of the intellectual effort. It's true that some pot boilers like a collection of problems can appear with the name of the latest Meijin stuck on almost randomly, but few of these books appear in English, so I'd say that the average western reader, who does not read books in Japanese, has little justification or even right to complain about the authorship of the works that constitute the English-language library. There may be a case for complaining about quality because pros are too involved. There has been such a marked increase in the quality of Japanese go books lately, many written by or greatly involving amateurs, that I'm inclined to say good riddance to the practice of pros writing books. The most famous examples of go writings from the past are also nearly all by amateurs.

Charles: On the question of quality, the expectation should be that a pro name on the cover ought at least to say the material is better than what is posted here on SL (for free, by unpaid amateurs who are in no sense on the 'inside' of the go world). I think you do get that whenever there are genuine pro comments on pro games. Where SL (or I as an author) might score is on other fronts: organisation, completeness of coverage, consistency of approach and comprehensibility for amateurs. And also sometimes better research, now that we have the databases.

How many of these errors are simply someone messing up with the translation (for Japanese, Chinese, and other books being translated into English)? I'm sure even a fluent speaker in these languages can mess up, or someone who is a native speaker in that tongue translating into English. -- TimBrent

John F.: There are many errors, some extremely gross, by all translators, but we are clannish about it and mostly keep them between ourselves. There are, however, many, many more errors on SL. The rate of pay in the go translation world and on SL is more or less the same.

Dieter: I'm sure most readers and contributors here are very grateful to the translators who put their knowledge and skill to the benefit of the Western Go world. Taking your talents for a walk in the Big Mean World always incurs the risk of criticism, sometimes cheap, sometimes well intended.

Robert Pauli: Why only those in books? Why just books written by professionals? Just ran across following error in Charles' [ext] ''On Your Side'' (great, by the way):

Takemiya Masaki-Awaji Shuzo in the 1988 Oza final, game 2 should be . . .round 2.

No big deal, of course, but where would I put it?

Charles I'm grateful for the correction. Not a book, though.

RobertJasiek 2003-11-03:

We can distinguish between at least five kinds of books:

  1. Those written by one or several not so strong amateur players and typically aimed at beginners or weaker kyu players or being fundamental research.
  2. Those written by one or several strong amateur players.
  3. Those written by a (team of) strong amateur player(s), but which have the name of a famous professional attached for promotion purposes.
  4. Those written by a (team of) strong amateur player(s), but which a famous professional player has actively contributed to, by commenting games, review and correct, etc.
  5. Those entirely written by a famous professional player.

Often professional coauthorship would be counter-productive for a book of type 1 or 2. Mathematical Go Endgames or Bruce Wilcox' book would suffer from it. Someone suggested to me that I should use a professional coauthor for books I will write, however, I would consider that a sign of decreased quality of my books. See old articles for details.

ilan: By the way, I had a book translated into Japanese, and my name didn't appear on the cover, it was the translator! He told me this was common practice in Japan.e.

Ghost Writer / Discussion last edited by OscarBear on May 18, 2015 - 08:13
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