Just busy. Amuse yourselves in my absence. Be back later.
I’ll be doing a rare afternoon tour appearance tomorrow in Madison because at 6pm, A Room of One’s Own welcomes the Guests of Honor at Wiscon, the (completely fantastic) science fiction and fantasy convention. So if you’re coming at 4 o’clock to Room of One’s Own to see me, stick around afterward for the GoHs, which include last year’s Nebula and Hugo Award winner, Jo Walton. And if you’re coming at 6pm to see the guests of honor, why not come out a little bit early to see me? It’ll be more speculative fiction writers than you can shake the proverbial stick at.
So remember, Madison: Tomorrow (Thursday, May 23), A Room Of One’s Own, 4pm. Don’t be late! See you there.
The Twitters are abuzz today about Amazon’s new “Kindle Worlds” program, in which people are allowed to write and then sell through Amazon their fan fiction for certain properties owned by Alloy Entertainment, including Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars, with more licenses expected soon. I’ve had a quick look at the program on Amazon’s site, and I have a couple of immediate thoughts on it. Be aware that these thoughts are very preliminary, i.e., I reserve the right to have possibly contradictory thoughts about the program later, when I think (and read) about it more. Also note that these are my personal thoughts and do not reflect the positions or policies of SFWA, of which I am (still but not for much longer) president.
1. The main knock on fan fiction from the rights-holders point of view — i.e., people are using their characters and situations in ways that probably violate copyright — is apparently not at all a problem here, since Alloy Entertainment is on board for allowing people to write what they want (within specific guidelines — more on that in a bit). Since that’s the case, there’s probably a technical argument here about whether this is precisely “fan fiction” or if it’s actually media tie-in writing done with intentionally low bars to participation (the true answer, I suspect, is that it’s both). Either way, if Alloy Entertainment’s on board, everything’s on the level, so why not.
2. So, on one hand it offers people who write fan fiction a chance to get paid for their writing in a way that doesn’t make the rightsholders angry, which is nice for the fan ficcers. On the other hand, as a writer, there are a number of things about the deal Amazon/Alloy are offering that raise red flags for me. Number one among these is this bit:
“We will also give the World Licensor a license to use your new elements and incorporate them into other works without further compensation to you.”
i.e., that really cool creative idea you put in your story, or that awesome new character you made? If Alloy Entertainment likes it, they can take it and use it for their own purposes without paying you — which is to say they make money off your idea, lots of money, even, and all you get is the knowledge they liked your idea.
Essentially, this means that all the work in the Kindle Worlds arena is a work for hire that Alloy (and whomever else signs on) can mine with impunity. This is a very good deal for Alloy, et al — they’re getting story ideas! Free! — and less of a good deal for the actual writers themselves. I mean, the official media tie-in writers and script writers are doing work for hire, too, but they get advances and\or at least WGA minimum scale for their work.
Another red flag:
“Amazon Publishing will acquire all rights to your new stories, including global publication rights, for the term of copyright.”
Which is to say, once Amazon has it, they have the right to do anything they want with it, including possibly using it in anthologies or selling it other languages, etc, without paying the author anything else for it, ever. Again, an excellent deal for Amazon; a less than excellent deal for the actual writer.
Note that on its page Amazon makes a show of saying that the writer owns the copyright on the original things that are copyrightable, but inasmuch as Amazon also acquires all rights for the length of the copyright and Alloy is given the right to exploit the new elements without further compensation, this show about you keeping your copyright appears to be just that: show.
The argument here could be, well, you know, people who were writing fan fiction weren’t getting paid or had rights to these characters and worlds anyway, so only getting paid for their work once is still better than what they would have gotten before. And that’s not an entirely bad argument on one level. But on another level, there’s a difference between writing fan fiction because you love the world and the characters on a personal level, and Amazon and Alloy actively exploiting that love for their corporate gain and throwing you a few coins for your trouble. So this should be an interesting argument for people to have in the real world.
3. If this sort of thing takes off, I’m interested to see what effect it will have on the media tie-in market, and on the professional writers who work in it. Obviously it has the potential to greatly shift how things are done. If you are a corporate rights holder, for example, would you bother with seeking out pro writers any more, and paying them advances and royalties and all of that business? Or would you just open up the gates to paid fan fiction, which you don’t have to pay anything for and yet still have total control over the commercial exploitation thereof? Again, this is interesting stuff to consider, and if I were a pro writer who primarily worked in media tie-in markets, I would have some real concerns.
4. This won’t spell the end of unauthorized fan fic, and I’m very sure of that. For one thing, the Kindle Worlds program says it won’t accept “pornography” which means all that slash out there will still be on the outside of the program (Edit: to note not all slash is porn, although I wonder if Amazon won’t simply default it as such); likewise crossover fan fic, so those “Vampire Diaries meet Dr Who” stories will be left out in the cold. And besides that, there will be people who a) have no interest in making money and/or b) don’t write well enough to be accepted into the Kindle Worlds program (there does seem that there will be some attempt at quality control, or at least, someone has to go through the stuff to make sure there’s nothing that’s contractually forbidden). So if this was an attempt to squash fan fic through other means, it’s doomed to failure. But I don’t suspect that’s the point.
5. Speaking as a writer, I wouldn’t do something like this; I don’t generally like writing in other people’s worlds in any event (and when I do, I go public domain — see Fuzzy Nation) and I don’t like the terms that are on offer here. And of course I have my own things to write. Likewise, I would caution anyone looking at this to be aware that overall this is not anywhere close to what I would call a good deal. Finally, on a philosophical level, I suspect this is yet another attempt in a series of long-term attempts to fundamentally change the landscape for purchasing and controlling the work of writers in such a manner that ultimately limits how writers are compensated for their work, which ultimately is not to the benefit of the writer. This will have far-reaching consequences that none of us really understand yet.
The thing that can be said for it is that it’s a better deal than you would otherwise get for writing fan fiction, i.e., no deal at all and possibly having to deal with a cranky rightsholder angry that you kids are playing in their yard. Is that enough for you? That’s on you to decide.
Readers often have default expectations when it comes to their reading — default expectations that we call “tropes.” But where do you go as a writer when the tropes don’t take you where your characters need to be? It’s a question that Rhiannon Held explores today as she writes about her new novel, Tarnished.
Tarnished is the second book in my series, and if I had to articulate an over-arcing big idea for the whole series, it’s that I love to explore emotional truths tied to situations that don’t come up in typical urban fantasy tropes. In the first book, Silver, those non-trope situations were born from the religion and culture that I created for my werewolves. In Tarnished, I decided I wanted to find the emotional resonance in non-trope leadership strategies, and romantic relationships.
At the end of Silver my two main characters, Andrew and Silver, were poised to challenge for leadership of the largest werewolf pack in North America. In the typical urban fantasy trope as I’ve encountered it, usually the protagonist’s resistance to being Grand Supernatural Poobah begins as internal: she wouldn’t be any good at it! No one would accept her! Then, when she agrees, the resistance switches to being external: the rock golems won’t listen to a meat bag! The shapeshifters won’t listen to anyone banging a golem!
But once they’ve set aside their initial internal objections, would protagonists really automatically be totally committed to leading? Obviously they have to learn how to win everyone over, but would the protagonists really be completely awesome at leading once everyone’s behind them? Book 1 ended with Andrew and Silver’s decision to try to lead, and I decided that Book 2 needed to explore exactly what it would take to get there. Do they have the self-confidence to do it? Is that self-confidence strong enough to withstand everyone else’s doubt? Can they make hard decisions and keep their cool when people question those decisions? Can they admit they were wrong when they make mistakes? Can they delegate and trust others to get things done?
And can they lead, as opposed to just shouting louder than everyone else? Often werewolf alphas are portrayed as being all about physical strength, or if not physical strength, at least strength of emotional bullying. Andrew is somewhat slight in stature and slow from previous injuries; Silver can’t shift and can’t use her left arm. If they want to win the alphaship, they have do something other than shout loudest and punch hardest: they have to court allies, they have to coax people, they have to lead by example. I really wanted to showcase different leadership strategies, because while stories are often about the underdog beating the muscle-bound alpha, the underdog too often uses mystical punching powers that beat the alpha’s physical punching abilities. Why does punching have to be the measure of success?
Tarnished also introduces a new POV: Susan. She’s human and has a child with John, the Seattle alpha. She also has her moments of going toe-to-toe in fights with stronger, faster werewolves, but with her I also wanted to explore a different kind of romantic relationship. In Book 1, Andrew and Silver were somewhat typical of urban fantasies: they met, they were attracted to each other, obstacles kept them apart, but they got together in the end. In Book 2, I show them working as a functioning, loving team, so the romantic tension switches over to Susan and John.
Whether in books, movies, or television, I’ve always wanted more opportunities to cheer a couple on to working out their problems. That’s what gets you through life, after all—not giving up after the first big fight. Work through the fight and the relationship often ends up stronger on the other side. Of course, that’s not to say that life isn’t also filled with truly irreconcilable differences or people who are assholes. Staying to try desperately to change things in those situations can make everyone miserable. The way I think of it is that you want to preserve and care for a precious connection between two people, rather than upholding some ideal of not splitting up for moral reasons even if you have no connection left at all.
The trouble is that in fiction, the relationships being “worked on” are usually only based on irreconcilable differences or assholery. In that case, of course you’re cheering for the couple to break up! That way, one can get with the other hot, passionate love interest introduced in this book who is clearly so much better for him or her. Or else you’re rolling your eyes while waiting for the couple who’s off-again every book to provide cheap romantic tension to get their laughable miscommunication straightened out so they can be on-again.
Susan and John are already together. They have a child. They love each other, but their relationship is on the rocks because John lets himself be ashamed of her and misguidedly tries to protect her by keeping her out of the werewolf world. That’s something that can be worked out—I hope it’s something the readers want to see worked out!—because why should love be sacrificed to social expectations? But reconciliation is something they both have to work hard to achieve.
Hopefully playing with non-trope situations can help knock aside a few of the most annoying tropes as well. If my characters can remind readers that natural charisma doesn’t mean you’re born knowing exactly how to lead; people who aren’t hot, single twenty-somethings fall in love; and protecting your love by keeping them in ignorance of the supernatural world is forgetting they’re a consenting adult… so much the better!
Me last night at the venue for my reading, which was the Methodist church right across the street from the University Bookstore in Seattle. Here I am looking at the patron of the establishment, hoping he would not strike me down, in my naughtiness.
He did not.
Thanks to Daniel Christensen for the photo.
Seattle was lovely. On to Portland now — or more accurately Beaverton, where I am at Powells, tonight, 7pm. If you’re in the Portland area, I hope to see you there.
Yes, Portland! I am returning on Tuesday, May 21st! To feast upon your Voodoo Donuts and other local comestibles! And to read, answer questions and sign books! Largely in that order!
You will find me at Powell’s Beaverton branch at 7pm! Please come and bring everyone you have ever met in your life. Because if I don’t get a good crowd, I’m not allowed to have any Voodoo Donuts. Voodoo Donuts are for closers, you see.
Tell me you’ll come. The donuts, they are calling.
That’s right, Seattleites — as you read this I am lurking about your town, preparing for my event tonight, May 20, at 7pm at the University Temple United Methodist Church — which, in case you don’t know, is located at 1415 NE 43rd St in Seattle.
What will I do there? Read! And talk! And sign books! And maybe play a ukulele if someone brings one! Who knows! What I do know is that it will be fun fun fun. And also, fun.
Please note: This is a ticketed event, and you can get tickets one of two ways:
1. Buy tickets for $5 at the door (cheap!)
2. Buy The Human Division from University Bookstore and get the ticket free with your purchase. Since I will be signing books at the event, this is probably the best possible way to go for this particular (I will sign your other books of course).
I always have an insanely good time in Seattle and I’m looking forward to more of the same tonight. Hope to see you there!
Anyone who reads fairy tales knows that things happen in the tales for seemingly no reason at all. But just because there’s no reason in then doesn’t mean something interesting can’t happen when reason is added to them. Just ask Madeleine Robins, who mined a classic fairy tale when imagining Sold for Endless Rue.
It started with a conversation. Or rather, an idea about a conversation.
When my kids were small we read a picture book of Rapunzel, gorgeously illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. You know: pregnant wife craves rampion, sends husband out to get it; he steals it from the garden of a witch, who catches him and demands his unborn child in return. The witch locks the child in a tower, where the girl grows her hair long enough for a passing prince to climb up. Merriment ensues.
Zelinsky’s art sets the story in an early Renaissance could-be-Italy, and the central spread, chock full of drama, is of the witch taking the baby. There’s a rumpled bed with the mother, post-partum, lying exhausted among the sheets. There’s the young husband, sitting with his head in his hands, horrified at what he’s given away. And there’s the black clad sorceress, a classic old hag, stealing from the room with the newborn babe in her arms.
Well, that musta been a hell of a conversation. Imagine the husband coming home: Honey, I got you your vegetables, but there’s a catch: the witch gets the kid. What would his wife say to him? And why does the witch want the baby? In fairy tales motivations don’t matter: the witch wants the baby because she’s a witch. But I am contrary and difficult and I want a real motive for taking that child. Sold for Endless Rue is, among other things, my attempt to do that.
As happens with these sorts of bolt-from-the blue notions, it sat around gathering dust-bunnies and stray factoids while I wrote other things. I began cursorily reading up on daily life in the Renaissance, thinking of ways to rehabilitate the witch. Maybe she’s a midwife? At least that would give her a reason to be in the room when the baby was born. But why take the kid?
I had nuthin.
And then I stumbled across a factoid that rewrote my whole idea of the middle ages and, by the way, this story. The first medical school in Europe, the Scuola Medicina Salernitana, not only had women as students, but women instructors. One of the most famous, Trotula di Ruggiero (immortalized in the Jack and Jill rhyme as “old Dame Trot”), specialized in women’s medicine–what we’d call OB/GYN. Her texts on the subject were in use for centuries. Dame Trot was not a damsel or a peasant. She was a professional woman. How cool is that?
One of my secret vices: I love medical history, medical mysteries, medical technology. Now I had an excuse to research the Scuola and dig deeper into medical theory of the time. Boy, did they have theories. Most of them are scary-laughable, but some of them were solidly sensible (for instance, the Scuola recommended a moderate diet, clean living, and lots of sleep). Pretty quickly it was clear to me my witch wasn’t a witch but a doctor, and that her reason for taking the baby was rooted somehow in her ambition.
I hate the sort of historical fiction where the heroine is a 21st century soul in a 13th century houppelande. Unless you show me why that character is an outlier from her own culture, you lose me. How would a peasant girl even think of becoming a physician, a profession overwhelmingly male, occupied by those wealthy enough to have the education required to enter the Scuola? Where would she get, for lack of a better word, the balls?
Then, among the dust-bunnies and factoids I’d been collecting, I got this image of a child running up a hill, trying to escape someone very scary who is as determined to catch her and beat her to death as she is to escape. She reaches the top of the hill and is stopped cold by her first sight of the sea, stretching out from the bay of Salerno. It overwhelms her with its vastness and strangeness, the sight of the city spilling down into the harbor, the newness of things she’d never imagined. And then she hears the sound of her pursuer and runs again.
That’s where Laura’s story begins. Everything she is comes from one moment when even terror can’t stop her curiosity, and when determination is all that keeps her alive. That’s how she can go against the grain of her time and place.
There are things Laura loses in gaining what she wants. There are people she loses. Just like now, devoting yourself to your profession can have very personal cost. Taking that baby, in Laura’s mind, evens old scores.
But of course, taking the baby is only half the story. Babies, even babies raised in the towers of academe, grow up, and make plans of their own…
One is near the end of his term! One’s term has yet to begin! Can you guess which is which?
Photo by Catherine Shaffer.
The winners are in bold. Also noted: The Norton and Bradbury awards, as well as the Solstice and the Kevin J. O’Donnell Service to SFWA Award.
- 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
- Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed (DAW; Gollancz ’13)
- Ironskin, Tina Connolly (Tor)
- The Killing Moon, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
- The Drowning Girl, Caitlín R. Kiernan (Roc)
- Glamour in Glass, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
- After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
- On a Red Station, Drifting, Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
- “The Stars Do Not Lie,” Jay Lake (Asimov’s 10-11/12)
- “All the Flavors,” Ken Liu (GigaNotoSaurus 2/1/12)
- “Katabasis,” Robert Reed (F&SF 11-12/12)
- “Barry’s Tale,” Lawrence M. Schoen (Buffalito Buffet)
- “Close Encounters,” Andy Duncan (The Pottawatomie Giant & Other Stories)
- “The Pyre of New Day,” Catherine Asaro (The Mammoth Books of SF Wars)
- “The Waves,” Ken Liu (Asimov’s 12/12)
- “The Finite Canvas,” Brit Mandelo (Tor.com 12/5/12)
- “Swift, Brutal Retaliation,” Meghan McCarron (Tor.com 1/4/12)
- “Portrait of Lisane da Patagnia,” Rachel Swirsky (Tor.com 8/22/12)
- “Fade to White,” Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld 8/12)
- “Immersion,” Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld 6/12)
- “Robot,” Helena Bell (Clarkesworld 9/12)
- “Fragmentation, or Ten Thousand Goodbyes,” Tom Crosshill (Clarkesworld 4/12)
- “Nanny’s Day,” Leah Cypess (Asimov’s 3/12)
- “Give Her Honey When You Hear Her Scream,” Maria Dahvana Headley (Lightspeed 7/12)
- “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species,” Ken Liu (Lightspeed8/12)
- “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain,” Cat Rambo (Near + Far)
Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation
- Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin (director), Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Abilar (writers), (Journeyman/Cinereach/Court 13/Fox Searchlight)
- The Avengers, Joss Whedon (director) and Joss Whedon and Zak Penn (writers), (Marvel/Disney)
- The Cabin in the Woods, Drew Goddard (director), Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (writers) (Mutant Enemy/Lionsgate)
- The Hunger Games, Gary Ross (director), Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, and Billy Ray (writers), (Lionsgate)
- John Carter, Andrew Stanton (director), Michael Chabon, Mark Andrews, and Andrew Stanton (writers), (Disney)
- Looper, Rian Johnson (director), Rian Johnson (writer), (FilmDistrict/TriStar)
Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book
- Fair Coin, E.C. Myers (Pyr)
- Iron Hearted Violet, Kelly Barnhill (Little, Brown)
- Black Heart, Holly Black (McElderry; Gollancz)
- Above, Leah Bobet (Levine)
- The Diviners, Libba Bray (Little, Brown; Atom)
- Vessel, Sarah Beth Durst (S&S/McElderry)
- Seraphina, Rachel Hartman (Random House; Doubleday UK)
- Enchanted, Alethea Kontis (Harcourt)
- Every Day, David Levithan (Knopf)
- Summer of the Mariposas, Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Tu Books)
- Railsea, China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan)
- Above World, Jenn Reese (Candlewick)
Solstice Awards were awarded to editor Ginjer Buchanan and astronomer and entertainer Carl Sagan, the latter of which was accepted by his son Nick Sagan.
The Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Service Award was awarded to Michael Payne.
Also, of course, we formally invested Gene Wolfe with the title of Grand Master. He was gracious and touching in his speech, which is of course no surprise at all.
I am delighted to say that my final Nebula Award ceremony as president went along swimmingly, with Robert Silverberg as our emcee. I got to introduced Bob and give him some good-natured ribbing; he got up and dropped a house on me, which may go down as one of the highlights of my time as SFWA President. If you ever get a chance to get zinged by Grand Master Silverberg, I highly recommend it.
Congratulations to the winners, commiserations to the other most worthy nominees, and many thanks to the volunteers and other who made the Nebula Ceremony, and indeed the entire Nebula Weekend, possible. It was a great time. As a fan, I was thrilled. As the President of SFWA, I was relieved.
Me and Jay Lake at the Nebula Mass Signing yesterday. I taste of executive power. For another few weeks, anyway.
Picture borrowed from jay’s site, here.
Welcome to Saturday.
First: Look! A video interview with me from RT Book Reviews, taken during the Booklover’s Convention a couple of weeks ago in Kansas City. I talk about The Human Division, the RT convention and some SFWA matters:
Second: Jamie Todd Rubin reviews The Human Division in Intergalactic Medicine Show, and has nice things to say about the book. For example:
The Human Division is not just John Scalzi at its best, it is science fiction at its best.
Yup, that’s a jacket blurb right there.
Third: Nebula Weekend fabulous so far. Wish you were here.
And to answer the age-old question, no, I don’t know the way to San Jose, on account that for the last two days I was driven around by other people and have no idea, navigationally, how I got here. Thank God for GPS.
Nevertheless I am here, in San Jose, and about to formally embark on my last ever Nebula Weekend as president of SFWA. It’ll be fun. Those of you who are in or near San Jose, remember that there is the mass signing today at 5:30, with me and dozens of your favorite science fiction and fantasy writers; here are the details. See you there!
Want to see literally dozens of SF/F writers in one place at one time? Who are there to sign books? For you?
Then come on down to the San Jose Hilton (300 Almaden Blvd), from 5:30 to 7:30pm tomorrow (Friday, May 17) for the SFWA Mass Signing. It’s free and open to the public. Come see me! Not just me: Here are the some of the others signing books:
John Joseph Adams
Sonja A. Bock
Jason V Brock
Aliette de Bodard
William C. Dietz
Sarah Beth Durst
Karen Haber Silverberg
Joe W. Haldeman
Maria Dahvana Headley
Howard V. Hendrix
Mary Robinette Kowal
Joseph E. Lake, Jr.
Edward M. Lerner
Michael J. Martinez
Diana L. Paxson
Michael H. Payne
Kim Stanley Robinson
Deborah J. Ross
Lawrence M. Schoen
Honestly, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to show up. It’s science fiction/fantasy Nirvana. Borderlands Books will be on hand with books to buy, or you can bring your own. We’ll be happy to scrawl in them.
See you there!
Oh, yes. My “just woke up” hairdo brings all the girls to the yard. And yes, of course, I am seriously considering this for my next author photo. Because, obviously, why wouldn’t I.
My Thursday will be spent in SFWA board meetings, followed by my appearance tonight at Books, Inc., in Mountain View, Ca at 7pm. If you are in the vicinity of Mountain View, come on by. I promise what little remains of my hair will be under control at that point.
The headline says it all, but in case you need more information, here are all the details, including the address of the store.
This will also be useful for those of you who are in San Francisco but for some reason can’t make it to see me tonight. Yes, it’s an extra jaunt for you, but that will make the appearance all the sweeter, I think. Right? Maybe? Hmmmmm?
Come on by. We’ll see you there.
And it’s a very good read (and also a positive review — the two are not always related), looking at THD in the context of the military science fiction genre, and giving readers a useful overview of that storied sub-genre. Here’s the takeaway, which hearkens back to the overview:
Entertainingly exemplifying the maxim that “All diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means,” The Human Division is the type of intelligently crafted and inventive military-political science fiction that reminds us that though we might be able to pinpoint a genre’s takeoff point, nobody can predict how far it it will fly.
I’ll take that. Check it out.
It is: I am almost always able to wake up within five minutes of when I need to wake up.
Today is a perfect example. I wanted to be at the airport in time for my flight, which is at 10:20 am. This being LA and me needing to travel on the 405 and return a rental car with a full tank of gas, and me generally preferring to be early than late, I decided that I needed to be up at 6 am.
I woke up, wide awake, at 5:56.
This is a very useful unearned talent.
It impresses my wife, who does not have a similar talent, and who in the morning hits the snooze button enough that the poor thing probably had PTSD at this point. There have been at least a couple of times where she has not wanted to be woken up my the alarm and has just asked me to take her up at a specific time. I think this shows maybe a little too much faith in my innate abilities to wake up in a timely fashion, but on the other hand I haven’t yet failed to get her up at the requested time, so you tell me (note: when I do this, Krissy does not hit me repeatedly, in snooze button fashion).
Please note that this talent is not infallible: about five percent of the time I manage to sleep until my own alarm goes off. This is why, I will note, I actually do set an alarm. It’s nice to have backup (and not to miss important things). I’m confident in this brain quirk of mine, but I also have a healthy respect for the fact that human brains are less than perfect machines. What it ultimately means is that nineteen times out of twenty I don’t have to wake up to a harsh buzzing in my ear, and that is its own reward.
This is actually my second superpower; the first one was that when the phone rang, I could pick up the phone and tell the person on the other end who they were. This was not because I was psychic (I’m guessing) but because I was good at making educated guesses as to who would be calling me at any particular point in time. I was rarely wrong. However, these days, announcing to people on the phone who they are does not mean you have a superpower, it means you have Caller ID. Thank you so much, march of progress.
And I’m very excited about it, because Borderlands is one of my favorite bookstores in all the land, and it’s always so much fun to be there. Will you be there? You should be! That is, if you’re in the San Francisco area. If you’re, like, in Idaho, it’s okay if you sit this one out. One day I will come to Idaho, I’m sure. But if you’re in or near San Francisco, Borderlands is going to be the place to be.
The details are on Borderlands Books events page; scroll down a little bit.
See you there!
First thing’s first: If you wanted to get a signed copy of The Human Division and are not able to get to one of my tour dates, here’s what you do:
1. If you want it signed and personalized, order the book from one of the stores on my tour I have yet to visit and they’ll be happy to set aside a copy, which I will be happy to personalize to you (or whomever you wish to have it personalized to).
2. If you just want it signed, the better to sell it on eBay when I am smothered in a tragic kitten avalanche, then check with the stores I’ve already been to, they probably will still have signed books in stock. For example, Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego has tons of signed Human Divisions, and after tonight, so will their Redondo Beach store, and so on. Alternately, my hometown bookstore, Jay & Mary’s Book Center in Troy, Ohio, has signed stock on hand and would be delighted to send one along to you.
Of course, if you can come to the signings, please do come to the signings. They’re fun. And I don’t want to be alone.
Second thing’s second: A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by a journalist who was doing a story about authors who have a book coming out on the same day as Dan Brown’s new book Inferno, presumably because it will be amusing to hear us wail and gnash our teeth about that particular juggernaut crushing our books. I wasn’t home when he called and he never got back to me about it, so I will not be in that article. But if I had been, what I would have said is this:
I am in fact entirely unconcerned. I have no doubt that Inferno will sell rather more copies than The Human Division, but I doubt seriously that it will take away any sales from my book; which is to say I doubt that someone is going to walk into a book store, see Brown’s book and mine, and have a great existential crisis about only being able to choose one or the other. There may be overlap between our audiences, but I suspect that the overlap we have would choose to get both.
This would be the place to say something snarky about Brown, but I have nothing snarky to say about the dude. I read one of his books; it was entertaining and I was entertained and if there was anything about the book that was supposed to be deeper than that it went right past me. Being cranky about a Dan Brown book not being high literature is like yelling at a cupcake for not being a salad; it’s really missing the point. You don’t want the cupcake? Don’t eat the cupcake. Apparently lots of people like cupcakes. They don’t care that you want them to eat salad. You eat salad, if it’s so important to you.
But beyond this, I suspect that the article this journalist fellow was writing might have been predicated on a zero-sum thinking, which is that the money spent on Dan Brown today takes money from other writers. It doesn’t actually work that way. There are a certain number of Dan Brown readers who read one book a year, and the book they read this year is his. Bluntly put, that’s not money taken from me or other writers because we were never in contention for that cash. There is the another category of Dan Brown reader, which are the sort of people who love to read books, and also read Dan Brown. Someone in that category is going to cruise through Inferno in a couple of days and be on to the next book — perhaps mine, perhaps someone else’s. The point is in this scenario Dan Brown doesn’t take money away from any other writer in any significant way, because people who love reading read a lot of books.
And then there’s a third scenario in which people who didn’t know they like to read, read a Dan Brown book, enjoy it and then say “what else is out there?” In which case Dan Brown just did me and every other author a favor, because now there’s a new reader to shop our wares to. This is one reason why you won’t hear me gripe about Dan Brown, or E.L. James, or Stephenie Meyer or [insert frequently maligned author here]. They don’t hurt my career, and have the potential to benefit it.
So good luck to Dan Brown on his sales today, not that I think he will need it. And good luck to me, too. I suspect when the day is over, both of us will be perfectly happy with how it’s turned out.