Monthly Archives: August 2008

Back Home

And very tired. That said, I had a lovely time in Atlanta and Decatur. Thanks, Georgia, for having me.

And that’s that for August, my month of Self-Promotional Travel. Now I get three straight weeks of doing nothing but staying home. Sounds good to me.

That’s Dragon*Con For You

How is my Dragon*Con going? Oh, well, you know. Pretty standard stuff.

Well, except for that incident last night involving bacon-flavored jellybeans, a conga line and a room filled with sweaty gay men.

But I’m sure you don’t want to hear about that.

I will say this, though: Man, are my knees sore.

(Walks off, whistling)

In Decatur

Just finished my panel with Cherie Priest, Tobias Buckell and Kevin J. Anderson. It went pretty well, I thought; now I’m waiting for my taxi to my hotel, which is apparently not near a damn thing. I forsee lots of taxi rides in my immediate future.

How’s your Saturday?

Obama Speechifying

Per my earlier discussion of avoiding the conventions, I didn’t watch Obama give the speech last night, but I did read it (it didn’t take the 40 minutes speaking it required), and I thought it was very good. On the GOP character attacks, it seems like he did a bit of a rope-a-dope strategy, taking hits through most of August so he could unload with effect in this speech, deflecting the various stupidities of the August campaign and correctly noting that when your opponents have nothing else to hit you with, they call you a “celebrity” and try to make the columns on your stage a genuine political issue. It was a nice bit of reframing and I’m glad he did it. The layout of various goals and policies was useful, considering how often Obama’s hammered on regarding these topics (although personally I’m not seeing McCain’s policies laid out in any more detail), although I bet in the live show that’s where things might have sagged a bit. This is why I read.

I think probably the most important thing Obama did was remind people of this: “We are better than these last eight years.” Jesus Christ amen to that. What a horrible political era it has been, nor are we out of it, since in November there may still be voters under the impression that the best way to deal with a political party that boosted a malignant cancer of the Constitution into the White House is to reward it with another four years of executive power. John McCain should lose the White House on his own merits, or lack thereof; he’s the lesser of the two candidates this year. But more than that, the Republican Party deserves punishment because of Bush, and exile until it gets its head straight again. The GOP needs to atone, people.

I understand there are people who mouth the words “but the Democrats would just be worse,” to this and may actually believe it, and the only sane reaction to this is to ask just exactly where they are buying the genuinely primo weed that they are apparently smoking. It’s good for Obama to forcefully remind people that indeed that as a nation we are not better off than we were eight years ago, economically, socially, constitutionally or morally, and more than that, there’s another and hopefully better way of doing things.

I don’t expect miracles from Obama and never have, and in fact have been awfully irritated at the wide-eyed drooliness of some of the Obamites: Dudes, he’s human and a politician. What I’ve wanted from him was a lot of what was in the speech: An idea of what he wants to do and how he wants to do it, the willingness to call the petty bullshittery that passes for GOP election tactics for what it is (and to keep doing so through November), and the reminder that the Bush administration should properly be seen as a low point to be climbed out of and away from rather than a model to be emulated moving forward. It was a good speech and worth the read.

Songs for the Forgotten Future, Vol. 2

My pal Dave Wechsler – who used to be the Rough Guides publicist who had to deal with me, the poor bastard — is also a member of the very groovy band Piñataland, which specializes in a type of music which, for lack of a better term, I would call “alternate history Americana”: Instrumentation that is old-time Nashville by way of gypsy caravan, and songs that celebrate both the heroes and misfits of American history (mostly the misfits), and point toward visions of our country that are best described as collapsed potentialities rather than where it actually went. Basically, the sound of what America might have been if it had zigged instead of zagged at some indefinite point in the past. Naturally, I think this is kind of cool.

Last Tuesday Piñataland released its most recent album, Songs for the Forgotten Future, Vol. 2, which is available for download on iTunes, eMusic, Amazon and other sites. If the idea of listening in on a secret history of the United States seems like a fun time to you (and I don’t know why it wouldn’t), I’d recommend checking it out. It’s smart and wistful and not much like anything else you’ll be listening to this year.

Here’s the leadoff track from the album, called “Ashland,” which I’m streaming to you with permission of the band. Enjoy.

You can also sample more of their music on their MySpace page.

Books v. Blogs, Atlanta Style

Just in time for Dragon*Con and the Decatur Book Festival, Creative Loafing, Atlanta’s alternative weekly, has done a long meditation on the subject of books and blogs and how the two interact with each other, and the article features pithy quotes from Cherie Priest, Rich Tommaso and me. And yes, Bacon Cat is referenced, because I know how much all of you love that. The article is here, and there is no small irony in the fact, as I understand it, that the online version is longer and more comprehensive than the print version. Oh, Internets. You have such infinite newshole.

And for extra recursive fun, here’s a related entry about author blogs on Fresh Loaf, the Creative Loafing blog, focusing on authors who will be at the Decatur Book Festival. Enjoy.

Recurring “Nightmare”

Thursday means my movie column at AMC, and this week, on the occasion of yet another home video release of the film, I look at why Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is more popular now than it was when it was released fifteen years ago. I also tell the story of why every emo boy and goth girl I meet is insanely jealous of me (it involves the film, obviously). It’s spooktastically delicious. Remember, if you have a comment about what I’ve written, the column threads await your sage words.

Politics Blah Blah

To answer the person in e-mail who asked if I planned to say much about the Democratic convention: No, not really. As I believe I have mentioned before, right about now, politics makes me feel positively stabby, and I think it’s best for all concerned that I just avoid it all when possible. In fact, to keep my stabbiness to the bare minimum, I’ve unsubscribed to all my usual political blogs and check on the news maybe twice a day, usually skirting over the convention news if I can. I am aware of what’s going on, but I’m not doing my usual “crawl through all the news” thing. I don’t know whether this is making me happier, but I suspect it’s keeping me from being pissed off.

And yes, I plan to keep this up through the Republican convention as well. Don’t worry, I expect you can get your political updates other places.

The Book Haul 8/27/08

Yesterday’s Book Haul covered the various hardcovers that had made it into the Scalzi Compound over the last couple of weeks; today we’ve got some of the various paperbacks. Ready? Here we go:

* Wanderlust, Ann Aguirre: The second of Aguirre’s Jax books, in which the main character is has the special ability to navigate faster-than-light ships. This time she’s taken a new job in which she has to deal with various shady types in order to get paid and/or make it out alive. Which I suppose means she’s gotten a gig in publishing. This came out yesterday. Also, apparently today is Ann Aguirre’s birthday. You know what present to give her.

* Legacy, Jeanne C. Stein: The fourth book in the Anna Strong, Vampire series. Our heroine, despite being a vampire an therefore some sort of dead, nevertheless inherits a fortune — but wait! Here comes a very angry werewolf to put a claim on the inheritance! Something tells me this one won’t just be fought in court. Also out now.

* Imaginary Friends: An anthology of stories about — oh, come on, you can guess — imaginary friends. Contributors to this one include my pal Jim C. Hines, SFWA president Russell Davis, Tim Waggoner (who lives just down the road from me), and recent Sidewise award winner Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Hits September 2.

* Acacia, David Anthony Durham: Durham’s very excellent fantasy debut, now in convenient paperback form. I’m a big fan of this book, so check it out if you haven’t done so already. It came out yesterday.

* The Soldier King, Violette Malan: The second novel featuring Dhulyn and Parno, psychic former slave and exiled nobleman, respectively. Trouble occurs when the pair decide to help a captive prince they had previously captured. See, this is why I don’t bother to capture princes anymore. Just too much work. This comes out next Tuesday.

* The Age of the Conglomerates, Thomas Nevins: A very slick-looking book which more or less recasts a 1984 dytopia into a conglomerate business setting. Author Nevins has been working in the publishing world for a while in sales, so this is his debut on the other side of the shark tank. Happy swimming, Thomas! This is out now.

* Just One Bite, Kimberly Raye: The fourth book in a series about a dating service for supernatural and occasionally undead folks. I find this a strangely appealing concept myself. Everyone needs love, folks. Everyone needs love. Out now.

* Pandemonium, Daryl Gregory: It’s the 1950s (mostly) and people all over the US are finding themselves possessed. One of them is looking for help to get rid of the demon inside his head, and his quest will, among other things, lead him to Philip K. Dick. No, really, it says so right here on the back cover. Tell you what, I’m looking forward to reading how that will pan out. This book came out yesterday.

* Heaven’s Net is Wide, Lian Hearn: The prequel to the Otori series, now available in paperback. Or will be available, next Tuesday.

* Leaving Fortusa, John Grant: Grant is perhaps better known for his nonfiction (most recently for his tomes Discarded Science and Corrupted Science, on the subjects suggested in the titles, and both of which I recommend), and this is a “novel in ten episodes” about the future of humanity. From Norilana Books, which is run by author Vera Nazarian. This comes out in October.

* Break of Dawn, Chris Marie Green: More vampires! They’re very popular these days, aren’t they. This is the third book of the “Vampire Babylon” trilogy. It comes out September 2.

* Elric: To Rescue Tanelorn, Michael Moorcock: Yay! More Elric! Also, it’s out now. That is all.

* A Field Guide to Surreal Botany: Co-Edited by frequent Whatever commenter Jason Erik Lundberg, this excellently fanciful volume features contributions from noted surreal botanists such as Jay Lake, Ann Leckie, Jon Hansen, Lucy A. Snyder and Merrie Haskell. The perfect thing to confuse the gardener in your life. Unlike the other books in this entry, it’s not on Amazon, so let point you in the direction of the publisher, Two Cranes Press.

I crave your thoughts on this collection of books.

(Momentary) King of the Kindle

This is nice:

It won’t last — Stephenie Meyer fans, outraged that their leader was deposed even momentarily, will no doubt purchase Kindles for the sole purpose of buying electronic copies of The Host, thus putting her back on top. Also, I expect to be visited by a teenage vampire death squad any second now. But until I’m turned into a bloodless husk (or, alternately, a carrier for an alien intelligence — you get options with Meyer!), it’s still nifty.

Related to this, I’ve been made aware of the first week sales numbers for Zoe, and I’m happy to say they look very good — it’s had the best first week sales of any of my hardcovers. Which is a huge relief, I don’t mind telling you. ZT is the first book where I’ve actually been worried about how it would be received (part and parcel of trying to write from a point of view substantially different from my own, i.e., the “teenage girl” thing). So that part of my brain can start to unclench now. If you were part of the First Week Purchase Brigade, you have my thanks. You’ve helped my sanity.

Scalzi/Buckell in ’08!

Here Toby and I are announcing our intention to run for president and vice-president of these great United States, on a platform centered on, oh, let’s say, jellybeans for all, and the immediate invasion of the nearest Best Buy for all the gadgets we could possibly want. That Toby is not constitutionally able to serve either office and that I am mostly bald, thus effectively barring me from the highest office in the land (no bald or balding presidents elected since Eisenhower — check it) should matter little, especially since we have no chance of winning. But if like us you are for tasty, bite-sized sugar-coated treats, and having the Army Rangers stomp into the ground that annoying blue-shirted salesdude who keeps trying to sell you a service contract even after you said “no” six times already, you know how to vote. Scalzi/Buckell in ’08! Finally, you have a meaningless choice!

Alternately, this is us at our appearance last night at Books & Co. in Dayton, at which we read from our latest books, did a little Q&A and then signed lots of books. It was a good turnout (they ran out of chairs and people had to stand in the back, which I guess was annoying for the people who had to stand but nice for us) and seemed like folks were having fun. We certainly had fun. Now it’s onward to Lexington this Friday at 7pm (once again with Paul Melko joining us) and then the Decatur Book Festival and Dragon*Con. And then sleep. Yes, that’s correct, we’re not sleeping until Monday at the earliest! Won’t that be fun for you when you meet us.

Thanks to everyone who showed up last night (and to Hugh Staples, for the photo above). It was tasty.

Book Haul 8/26/08

I’ve been traveling so much this month that I’ve had books come in and stack up, so instead of the usual one of these posts I do every couple of weeks or so, I’ll be doing three of them: One today, one tomorrow and one Thursday, at which point I’m sure I’ll have even more new books in, but then I’ll be on my way to Lexington and Atlanta. It never ends. In this group, however, are some recent and upcoming hardcovers. What have we got?

Pirate Sun, Karl Schroeder: Karl’s Virga series keeps getting bigger and better, and this latest book is even more hot space opera goodness. As most of you know, I had a chance to work with Karl directly recently with our upcoming Metatropolis audio anthology, and I’ll tell you what: The man can spin out ideas like the rest of us breathe. If you haven’t been reading Karl’s stuff, you need to start, and if you have read Karl’s stuff, you need to get Pirate Sun. It came out a couple of weeks ago.

The Sacred Book of the Werewolf, Victor Pelevin: What? Another book about urban werewolves? What’s this one got that the others don’t? Well, in this case, the urban area is Moscow and the werewolf in question is actually a millennia-old seductive werefox from ancient China. Which, you know, is not the usual thing. Author Pelevin is apparently a big seller in Russia (this book sold a quarter of a million copies there), so Viking’s hoping lightning strikes twice. Well, see. Superhot ancient werefoxes seems like a good way to do it. This book comes out September 4 (i.e., next week).

The Bell at Sealey Head, Patricia A. McKillip: This light fantastical mystery, aside from its own qualities as a story, also has a jacket that’s in the running for the prettiest book cover of 2008. And there’s nothing bad about that. This book arrives on September 2.

The Scourge of God, S.M. Stirling: The followup to The Sunrise Lands, one of the “Books of the Change,” in which ordinary mechanical physics was shown the door and magic brought in to take its place — damned inconvenient if you spend most of your time on the Internet, I suspect. I actually saw S.M. Stirling a couple of times at Worldcon and meant to go over and say hello, but each time someone else crossed my path before I could get to him. I will track him down eventually. And now having said that I realize how much like stalking that sounds like. Really, it’s not like that. This is also with a September 2 arrival date.

Riders of the Storm, Julie E. Czerneda: The sequel to Reap the Wild Wind, which is in itself a prequel to Czerneda’s Trade Pact Universe trilogy, which I suppose goes to show that a sequel to a prequel does not, in fact, always get you back to where you originally started. Not cracked this one open yet, but I’ve enjoyed other stuff from Czerneda that I’ve read, so I’m looking forward to this. Also comes out September 2.

Mars Life, Ben Bova: Bova returns to the world of Mars and Return to Mars (that world being, uh, well, Mars) for a story that pits the explorers of the ruins of an ancient Martian civilization against an increasingly fundamentalist US government. Fundamentalists! They never go away. I finally got the chance to meet Bova in Denver; he was going out of a panel while I was coming in for another one. We had 45 seconds of polite pleasantries. Hopefully I’ll meet him again. This time maybe for a minute and a half! This one’s already out.

Throne of Jade, Naomi Novik: This is the Subterranean Press signed limited edition of the book, complete with ginchy inside illustrations. It is very, very pretty (which it should be, because it’s a $125 book). If you’re a Temeraire fan, you can begin your lusting now — there do seem to be some copies still available.

Starlady/Fast-Friend, George RR Martin : Another SubPress offering, this one involving two 70s-era novellas from Martin, arranged “Ace Double Novel”-style. Yes, it will take you back, my friends. Available now.

Ubik: The Screenplay, Philip K. Dick: PKD is famously the go-to guy for Hollywood science fiction, but what many people don’t know is that he tried his hand at screenplays himself. This edition puts Dick’s Ubik screenplay back into circulation after a couple of decades; the screenplay, as noted by Tim Powers in his introduction, is more than just a rearrangement of the story into the film medium — it offers some insight into the characters that only Dick would have been in a position to provide. Now what would be cool would be to have this screenplay see the light of a projection bulb one day. Also available now, from Subterranean Press.

Your thoughts on any of these?

Me Me Me (and the Cat)

Some stuff relating to me:

* First, here’s a shot of the recent Ann Arbor appearance of me, Tobias Buckell and Paul Melko, talking about science fiction today. We’re up there in the front. I think it went very well — Toby and Paul are smart, funny people to talk science fiction with, and the audience was into it as well and asked some good questions. My understanding is that at some point a video of the talk will go up; naturally when it does I’ll point you all at it. In the meantime, thanks to Anne KG Murphy for this photo here, and all her assistance in setting this up. She is awesome.

* Dayton and southwestern Ohio folks, remember that tonight Toby and I are coming to Books & Co. at the Greene tonight, from 7 to 8pm. We’ll talk about our books, do a little bit of reading and maybe do some Q&A (and of course, sign books). Please come so Toby and I aren’t just standing there, looking uncomfortably at each other for an hour.

* Hey, look! An interview with me at Blogging the Muse, in which I reveal when I decided to be a writer, whether I have any “trunk novels” and why authors spend too much time worrying about “making it.” Mmmm.. blathery.

* And because it’s been two weeks and if I don’t post a new picture I’ll get death threats, here’s Ghlaghghee, looking oh so pensive:

I think she’s reliving special memories of rodent disembowelments, but honestly. With cats, you never can tell.

The Big Idea: Lauren McLaughlin

Every teenage girl has “that time of month,” as it is so euphemistically referred to, but in Cycler, the totally inventive and fun debut novel from Lauren McLaughlin, Jill McTeague discovers that during her time, her body goes through entirely different changes than most girls — specifically, four days a month, she becomes Jack, right down to all the appropriate plumbing.

As you might expect, an idea like this is fertile ground for an examination of gender politics, particularly the teenage division, but as McLaughlin notes in this Big Idea, once she started in on the writing, the book went places she never expected it to regarding gender concepts — because of the characters themselves. Where does it go? Well, here’s the author herself to explain it all.

LAUREN McLAUGHLIN:

Gender is a prison. That was the Big Idea behind Cycler. I actually wrote it in sharpie on a piece of white paper and taped it above my desk as I worked. I wanted this story, about a girl who turns into a boy four days out of every month, to be an examination of gender as a cultural construct. I wanted to explore the ways in which gender identity constrains us, shapes us, limits is. But a strange thing happened.

Once I set my characters in motion, they immediately adapted to their bizarre circumstances and made the best of it. The girl persona, Jill, strategizes to hide her alter ego so that she can blend in with the rest of her high school peers. The male persona, Jack, who spends his four days hidden from view, develops a powerful memory so that he can scour Jill’s life and live vicariously through her.

Neither of them confronts the issue of gender directly. And why would they? They have no control over the powerful transformations that rule their lives. I think in some ways this reflects our experiences of puberty. Our bodies change, our interests change, and we begin thinking as sexual beings. We are not in control of the process; rather it feels as if the process is controlling us. We are subject to its whims and ever on the cusp of heartbreak and humiliation.

And it is in this crucible of thwarted longings and desperate fumblings that we lay the foundation for our sexual identities. No wonder, then, that a great many of us get it dreadfully wrong, our bodies hungering for one thing while our fragile egos lead us to seek conformity at all cost. The obvious example, of course, is the gay or lesbian teen rebelling against desire to begin a journey of self-denial and self-loathing.

But I think this disconnect between what we carnally desire and what we seek to conform to is more broadly applicable. Think of the popular girl who finds herself uncomfortably smitten with the class nerd or the purple-haired rebel secretly pining for the quarterback in defiance of the misfit code. In our desperate attempts to find a box to fit into, we betray our own desires. We do it to ourselves.

But we don’t keep the damage to ourselves. We inflict it on everyone. One of the strangest things about gender conformity in our society is the way we have become addicted to the bloodsport of it all. Think of the Mommy Wars, the Hillary Wars, “Iron my shirts.” All of these are examples of people trying to enforce their version of femininity on all women. To celebrate their favored brand of femininity, they must demonize all others. What the soldiers in this pointless battle fail to realize is that gender is not binary. There is no one correct expression of femininity and no one correct expression of masculinity. Nor is gender timeless. Even the most “traditional” or “conservative” fighter in the culture wars will hold opinions on gender that his or her great grandmother would find radical. Gender changes through time, through place, and from person to person. It is a fluid and creative construct. But oh, how we love to shape it into a blunt instrument and bash at each other.

In Cycler, I represent what I call the Binary Theory of Gender through Jack and Jill’s mother, Helen. Go to your local bookstore and you will find countless books promising to decode the opposite sex by reducing them to a set of stereotyped characteristics. The Rules, Why Men Marry Bitches, and, of course, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus are just a few examples.

A Rules girl through and through, Helen encourages her daughter to nurture the most stereotypical feminine traits. Because she’s willing to try anything to achieve her twin goals of safeguarding her secret and landing the perfect prom date, Jill jumps right on board.

The problem with this approach is that it presents the opposite sex as, at worst, the enemy and, at best, a dim-witted booby prize. How can you love someone you have basically manipulated into a relationship? Anyone who’s actually been in love knows that love is a wild and lawless thing. Attempts to decode the endeavor with comforting gender stereotypes might sell a lot of self-help books, but they won’t guarantee smooth sailing. Just ask The Rules co-author, Ellen Fein. After “capturing the heart of Mr. Right” by putting her own rules into action, she wound up divorced.

But one thing I wanted to avoid in Cycler, was replacing one Theory of Gender with another. While it’s all well and good to poke fun at girlie girls and macho boys, the truth is, I’d miss them if they were gone. In fact, some of my best friends are Rules girls, bless them. While I consider myself fairly androgynous (psychologically, if not physically), I would hate to live in a world where that became the official prescribed gender identity. What I hope to accomplish with Cycler, other than telling a sexy, thrilling and hilarious story, is to poke holes into everyone’s conception of gender, including my own. I want to destabilize the notion of gender as a stable category. Because it isn’t stable. Whatever feels right to you now will seem quaint and ridiculous to your great grandchildren. And that is exactly as it should be.

—-

Cycler: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s

Visit Lauren McLaughlin’s blog here. Read an excerpt from Cycler here.

Free Fiction: The Secret History of The Last Colony

Interestingly enough, given the last post here, I have a new bit of fiction online for you: An excised chapter of an early version of The Last Colony. As I explain in the introduction to the chapter, it’s no longer a “canonical” part of the OMW universe, because it’s from an iteration of the story I chose not to use, but I kept it as a reference point for a number of characters in the story, and later strip-mined it, not only for the final version of The Last Colony, but also for scenes and characters in Zoe’s Tale as well. And I also take a couple of whacks at Fermi’s Paradox, which annoys me for various reasons. In any event, it’s a fun and informative read, and I hope you check it out.

Apropos to the last entry, in which I note that “free to the reader” does not mean “unpaid to the writer,” I will note that I originally intended to post the excerpt here on Whatever, but just about five seconds before hitting the “Publish” button I said to myself, hmmm, I wonder if I could sell this instead. So I pinged Subterranean Online about it, and as it turns out, the answer was, why, yes, I could sell it instead. So I did. And here we are.

On Writing For “Free”

The science fiction tube of the Internet is having another one of those spasms about “free writing on the Internet” and whether giving away writing actually helps or hurts one’s career: Here’s one of the latest, in which I play a prominent role as an example. And while I understand I am fated to continue to be a prime example in this particular argument (although Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross, most obviously, are other fine examples, and people should go bother them, too), I think I need to point out there’s a lot of conflation going on, between “free to the reader” and “unpaid to the writer.” And while I have quite a lot of fiction work that is the former, the amount of fiction work I do that qualifies for the latter is almost nil. I have always been paid, one way or another, for the fiction work I do.

To bring the point home, let me go down the list for the “Scalzi Creative Sampler,” my list of fiction (and other creative stuff) available online:

* Agent to the Stars: This is famously my first novel, which I put online as “shareware” in 1999 and for which I accepted donations through 2004. I made about $4,000 that way, which was not shabby considering I was not a known quantity in science fiction at the time. Since that time, it’s been sold to three separate publishers (one for hardcover, one for paperback, one foreign publisher), each time for thousands of dollars.

* First chapter of The Android’s Dream: Part of a novel, for which I was paid and for which I am currently earning royalties.

* “The Sagan Diary”: An interesting situation, because I wrote it as payment for a $5,000 donation to the John M. Ford Endownment Fund for the Minneapolis Public Library. However, once the hardcover version earned out that amount, Subterranean Press began paying my royalties (something it didn’t have to do, and the fact it did is one of the several reasons I do business with it), and at this point, without going into financial specifics, on a per word basis it’s been the most remunerative fiction I’ve written to date.

* “Alien Animal Encounters”: Paid a SFWA-qualifying rate (I think five cents a word) by Strange Horizons Magazine in 2001 (even though it was not considered a “pro” market at the time, which is why I was eligible for the Campbell in 2006).

* “Missives from Possible Futures #1: Alternate History Search Results”: I can’t remember exactly what I was paid for this one, but it was a multiple of the SFWA-qualifying rate, from Subterranean Online.

* “Pluto Tells All”: Paid at a SFWA-qualifying multiple by Subterranean Online.

* “How I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story”: Published as a chapbook by Subterranean as a premium for folks who bought the limited edition of the “cliche” issue of Subterranean Magazine; as editor of the issue, I paid myself what I paid everyone else, i.e., seven cents a word. When I made it available online, I offered it as “shareware” and I made about an additional $600 from that (so far).

* “After the Coup”: Published on Tor.Com, for which I was paid 25 cents a word, in a set-up similar to Baen’s Universe’s comissioned story rate, which makes it (along with Baen’s Universe, clearly) the high end of payment for SF/F-oriented outlets.

And what about Old Man’s War, which I serialized on my Web site before it was sold to Tor? Well, when I was serializing it, I offered an option for people to get the whole thing in one lump for $1.50. I made a couple hundred dollars that way before Tor made an offer on it. Tor has since offered it up on a limited basis in eBook form for no cost to the reader, but a) it was with my consent; b) it was offered after it had generated a significant amount of money in royalties; c) anecdotally, offering it free for a limited amount of time appears to have boosted sales of the paperback. It also (anecdotally) doesn’t seem to have had much of a negative impact on eBook sales, either, as the Kindle edition of Old Man’s War is currently #16 on the Amazon Kindle SF list, with the other Kindle-available books of mine currently at #2, #17 and #19.

I am quite obviously a big proponent of making some of my writing, particularly short fiction, available online for people to read at no cost to them. But I am also a big proponent of getting paid. As a consequence, I tend to sell my work to online markets whose economic model supports free viewing of the stories, and when I put fiction up on my own site, I encourage voluntary contributions. I don’t do it this way every time — I have short fiction that you have to pay to read (and in one upcoming case, to hear) — but I do it frequently enough. But the point to make, again, is that “free to the reader” is not the same as “unpaid to the writer.” I have gotten paid for the fiction I’ve put online. I do get paid for it. And, barring a sudden windfall of cash that obviates the need of me having to worry about money ever again, I will continue to make sure I get paid for it. And naturally I encourage other writers to make sure their own economic interests are served when they have stuff put online that is free for readers to view.

In any event, when we are all arguing about free fiction online, let’s remember that “free” does not have to equal “unpaid.” It hasn’t been for me; I’m not sure why it has to be assumed it will be for others.