You Know When You’ve Been Joplinned


OK, it’s a phrase I’ve been trying to get into circulation for years without success, but it seems even more appropriate now.

To be joplinned is to have had plans for some sort of publicity or promotion, especially something you had been looking forward to for a long time – and to have them trashed by unexpected events in the wider world. The story goes that the singer Janis Joplin joplinnedhad longed and longed to be on the cover of Time magazine, and was about to get her wish. The interview and photos had been done, and all was set for her to get that cover. And then Eisenhower died. Janis reportedly said that it was tough and all that, but ‘why did he have to pick MY week?’

It’s happened to me a time or two – once when I had a new magazine launching and some Royals decided to get divorced, once when I and my Morris team went to dance at David Blaine in his box by Tower Bridge. We had a photographer from the Evening Standard lined up, and were excited at the possible coverage. We danced, our photos were taken, we gave some quick quotes and buggered off to the pub. About an hour after we left, Paul McCartney showed up, smacked a photographer and had a tanty, therefore getting alllllllll the coverage. I haven’t listened to Mull of Kintyre since…

One of the most spectacular joplinnings I remember was that of Incendiary by Chris Cleave. It was a thriller, published in 2005, which started with a lethal terrorist attack on a football match at the Arsenal stadium. Yup, 2005. The planned publication date was July 7th – the day of a terrorist attack on the London Underground. Incendiary is a pretty good book, though it gets a bit silly towards the end, but that was a seriously unfortunate coincidence for the author.

I spent a lot of the last part of last year putting together a collection of short stories inspired by the Brexit clusterfuck, and released it at the end of January. Thought it might get some traction, you know, being fairly topical and all that – just as, perhaps, Chris Cleave thought when he wrote his book in the early Noughties, when the biggest threat seemed to be Al Quaida.joplinned

You can still buy my book, if you want to. You can still buy Chris Cleave’s. Sometimes, perhaps, reading about a completely different kind of awfulness can provide a distraction from the awfulness surrounding you.


Or you could just check out the bookshop.

2 Responses to “You Know When You’ve Been Joplinned”

  1. Graham

    When I saw the term “Joplined”, I thought it was a reference to Scott Joplin, the “King of Ragtime” who wrote the music that would eventually be used in the film The Sting.

    Apparently (I’m remembering this from a film about his life) there was a big outdoor music festival and I believe it was a big thing for a Negro musician from the Southern states to get a tent there.

    Unfortunately, in the next tent over, was John Philip Sousa and his brass band music totally drowned out Joplin’s piano Ragtime.

    There was an article in the newspapers the next day which was all about Sousa, with a line that said “Joplin played also”.

    So when I saw the term, I figured that you were referring to your “Big thing” (ie the book about Brexit) suddenly being overshadowed by the Pandemic and leaving it as an “also-ran” 🙂

    Even if it wasn’t, it still works either way!

    • Zak Jane Keir

      Oh that’s interesting. Can definitely see that it works for both examples.

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