Monthly Archives: May 2009

Re: California

As I’ve had more than one person forward me a “Prop 8 Overturned!” link from the LA Times:

Folks, the story I’m getting sent to me is from May 16, 2008. Which is, you know, a year ago. I’m seeing no current news about the case regarding Prop 8 that’s now at the California Supreme Court. And while I would be personally delighted to see Prop 8 overturned, as far as I know it hasn’t been.

What we’ve learned today: Check dates on news stories before forwarding them on. Thanks.

25 Geeks NOT to Follow on Twitter

Since I was on the list of the 100 geeks to follow on Twitter, I thought it would be appropriate to give a little attention to the other side of that particular equation.

The 25 Geeks NOT to Follow on Twitter

1. @DrunkenStalker

2. @MoroseOldBoyfriend

3. @IHeartBoogers

4. @AynRandBoyToy

5. @EnterTheBasement

6. @Cats6Catboxes0

7. @BobaFart

8. @IDontBlink

9. @BathingInMayo

10. @MyVoicesSayKill

11. @BrowncoatBrownshirt

12. @OneShower1985

13. @MyEyesYrBoobs

14. @USENETsMostWanted

15. @MomSezImSocialized

16. @LiveLongAndPerspire

17. @JobsGatesSlashFan

18. @ThatSmellIsMe

19. @SpksOnlyElvish

20. @WhatzNMyColon

21. @OwnzAZune

22. @CuddlePileReviewer

23. @MuggleMugger

24. @PolyDesperate

25. @2Girls1Tweet

Interview With a Stick of Butter

Me: As of 7:26 this morning, 62% of respondents polled have said it is wrong to eat you.

Stick of Butter: What? Why?

Me: Comments seem to suggest that there’s a general concern that a couple of hours after ingestion, you will reappear as a squirty, oleaginous mess, which will make me quite unhappy.

SoB: See, now, that’s just pure discrimination, is what that is. Your readers are total dairyists.

Me: Dairyists?

SoB: You heard me. They’re probably all vegans or something.

Me: I don’t think that’s what it is.

SoB: Sure it is. Stomping around in their hemp sandals from Guatemala, paranoid that someone somewhere might enjoy something creamy.

Me: I think it’s more that they’re concerned that swallowing a quarter pound of uncut fat might have digestive repercussions.

SoB: Well, of course it would. The repercussion is that your intestines would spasm with joy.

Me: I’m not sure I want that.

SoB: You have something against joy?

Me: It’s more that whole “spasm” part.

SoB: This is what’s wrong with America, you know.

Me: A reluctance to experience digestive discomfort?

SoB: No! A lack of adventurous spirit. When the pioneers were making their way across the plains in their Conestogas, they didn’t say “oh, no, we can’t trek across this here continent, we might get a cramp.” They just went!

Me: I’m not sure you can really make a valid comparison between eating a stick of butter and, you know. Manifest Destiny.

SoB: I’m not saying it’s a one-to-one comparison. I’m saying they’re two points on the same spectrum.

Me: Well, a lot of people said it would be okay to eat you. Just in conjunction with something else.

SoB: Like what?

Me: Oh, you know. Bread. Pasta. As part of a pie. The usual.

SoB: That’s fine if you’re yellow.

Me: You’re yellow.

SoB: Not inside.

Me: No, you’re pretty much yellow all the way through.

SoB: Yes, all right, fine. Literally, I am yellow all the way through. Metaphorically, however, I am the opposite of yellow.

Me: You’re metaphorically blue?

SoB: Stop that.

Me: Sorry.

SoB: You know what? After talking to you, I don’t think I want you to eat me all in one go. I question your willingness. I question your ability. I question your nerve. I question your worthiness. It takes a special sort of person to eat an entire stick of butter as it should be consumed, on its own, as a singular digestive experience. I see now that you’re not that person.

Me: I don’t suppose I am.

SoB: I don’t see you as the Oregon Trail type, either.

Me: Probably not. I imagine I would have died of dysentery.

SoB: Yes.

Me: After eating an entire stick of butter.

SoB: Stop that.

Me: Sorry.

An Important Question For You To Ponder

I already asked it on Twitter, but I figure it deserves poll treatment here:

Feel free to expand upon your answer in the comments.

An Ethical Puzzler

First, the situation:

President Obama is seeking to block the release of photographs that depict American military personnel abusing captives in Iraq and Afghanistan, his spokesman said Wednesday, fearing the images could spark a hostile backlash against United States troops.

“The president reflected on this case and believes they have the potential to pose harm to our troops,” Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said Wednesday afternoon.

The president’s decision marks a sharp reversal from a decision made last month by the Pentagon, which agreed in a case with the American Civil Liberties Union to release photographs showing incidents at Abu Ghraib and a half-dozen other prisons. At the time, the president signed off on the decision, saying he agreed with releasing the photos.

Now, the question:

Is the president allowed to change his mind on something like this? Is he allowed to look at the information, hear the urgings of people familiar with the situation, and reverse himself, even if it’s at odds with his previous position — and the change in position has moral and ethical repercussions?

My personal take on the question  is that in a general sense a president can and should when he believes  it is necessary… but that I seriously doubt this is one of those times. There are already more than enough pictures of American forces abusing prisoners out there to serve the task of recruitment for terrorists groups and to rile up anti-American sentiment; meanwhile, holding up the release of these photos simply makes it look like there’s something more to hide. This is one of those “just rip off the Band-Aid” moments — it’s best if you do it fast, take the pain and move on.

So in this case I think Obama’s doing the wrong thing. This is based on what I know, which is, of course, different from what he knows, and perhaps in his position, knowing what he knows I’d do what he’s doing here. But from this end, it looks like a bad call.

Floor is open.

Make Justine Larbalestier Dance the Lindy Hop

Author Justine Larbalestier (who is a dear pal of mine) is writing up a novel set in the 1930s, and as a result some of her characters do a dance called the “Lindy Hop.” Not knowing that facetious comments on one’s site will often cause one to gain an unwanted obligation, Justine jokingly asked her readers if she should learn the dance — to which fellow author John Greene promised $1,000 to the charity of her choice if she did. Well, now there’s $1,425 $2,100 in the pot, and Justine’s feeling the pressure to learn the dance.

But she’s resisting — and foolishly! Because now she’s challenging The Whole Internet™ to pony up cash to make her learn to dance the Lindy Hop, the money of course being donated to a good cause, in this case the New York Public Library. Her deal is this: If the Internets pledge $5,000 to the NYPL by next Monday, she will learn the Lindy Hop (to be verified by third parties). If they do not, she will not, although she will make a donation to the NYPL.

So the NYPL wins in any event, but, come on. We all want to see Justine do this:

Also, of course, we here at Whatever have a history of making people dance for charity. Clearly we need to do it again.

So: If you want to make Justine Larbalestier Dance the Lindy Hop (and you do!), here’s what you do:

1. Go over to this thread on Justine’s site.

2. Put in a comment announcing how much you will pledge to the cause (NOTE: DO NOT DONATE YET. You’re just pledging). You can pledge any amount, but remember that you’re going to be held to your pledge, so make it a real pledge. Seriously.

3. Do it by Monday 5pm Eastern, at which point I suspect Justine will tally up the numbers and find out whether she’s learning to dance, or keeping her two left feet.

$5,000 might seem a lofty goal, but remember there’s already $1,425 $2,100 in the pot, so we’re talking a paltry $3,575 $2,900, which is totally doable.

What happens when everything’s tallied up? Well, if the number is over $5k, then you’ll need to make your donation based on what you pledged. Fortunately the New York Public Library has a donation page online, which will make it easy for you to fulfill your end of things (you can alternately become a formal Friend of the Library, starting at $40).

So there you have. Feel free to share this around, and let’s get Justine winging her way through the Lindy Hop. It’s for a good cause — and it’ll be funny as hell. Everyone wins.

The God Engines Pre-Order Is Up

You’ll recall I recently finished my first fantasy work: A novella called The God Engines. It’ll be coming about in book form from Subterranean Press this December, both in a limited signed leather-bound edition of 400 ($45) and a non-signed trade edition ($20). Both versions will feature cover and interior artwork by Tomislav Tikulin.  If you’re interested in either (or both!) here’s where to go to get your order in now.

So, what’s The God Engines like? Here’s SubPress publisher Bill Schafer’s comment about it:

[T]he story itself is gripping, bloody, nuanced, bloody, and pretty damned bloody, if I’m to be honest.

To which I’ll add: Yes, that.

Quick Review: Green Day, 21st Century Breakdown

It’s good, and I like it, and I think I’ll like it more the more I listen to it. It continues in the same vein of American Idiot, i.e., loosely linked concept album with lots of anthemic moments, so if you like the one you’ll like the other.

That said, I’ve seen reviews that say it tops American Idiot, and I don’t think that’s even close to being true. Even if 21CB has more of thematic through-line than AI (which it does) and the songwriting is close to par with that album (and it is), the fact is AI is substantially more significant, both for the band — it was the album where a fading set of yesterday’s heroes said “fuck it,” went for broke and watched it pay off big – and for its time, in which its snarly WTF? attitude perfectly encapsulated a generation’s growing disgust for Bush’s America. Lots of musicians were pissed off about Bush in 2004, to be sure. But Green Day was the one that hit the sentiment right out of the park and went multi-platinum with it as a consequence. Right place, right time, right band, right album. Nice when it happens. It doesn’t happen for everyone.

So as good as 21CB is, at the end of the day Green Day’s going to be remembered for two albums: Dookie, which is the album that got them their career, and American Idiot, which got them their career back, and will probably (for what it’s worth) get them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame one day. As long as we’re clear on this, we’re all good.

The Big Idea: Sarah Prineas

“What if you could do magic by blowing things up?” This is the question author Sarah Prineas is asking in her The Magic Thief series, of which the second, Lost, has just hit the stores. My answer: Man, if I could do magic by blowing things up, I’d be the happiest wizard ever. But there’s more to it, of course, as Prineas explains below.

SARAH PRINEAS:

The Magic Thief: Lost is the second book in a series, and follows The Magic Thief, which was published in June 2008 by HarperCollins Children’s.  It’s a book for ages 10 and up, and it really does read ‘up.’  Or so I’m told.  The main story arc of the books is that a gutterboy thief named Conn becomes the apprentice of a cranky wizard named Nevery.  Conn is incredibly pragmatic, and sets about solving the mystery of why the magic of the city of Wellmet, where they live, is dying.  Because the magic is under attack, Conn discovers—which, in turn, leads him to bigger adventures than he ever could have expected.  The biggish ideas of Lost include pyrotechnics, swordfighting, adventure, traveling on bad roads, friendship, enemyship, peril, heartache, hairsbreadth escapes, cliffhangers (not at the end), sly references to dragons, and not nearly enough biscuits and bacon.

Right, I know.  These aren’t Big Ideas.

When I begin writing a novel, I have no clue how it is going to play out.  My positive spin on this is that it’s “writing as discovery.”  I write not in order to elucidate big ideas, but in service to story, and to finding out what happens next.  I do explore some ideas in the book.  Like: What happens if you’ve lost everything you ever wanted?  And: What if magic weren’t something to be used by wizards but a living entity with its own goals—not necessarily benign ones?  And finally: What if you could do magic by blowing things up?

But mainly it’s about the discovery and the adventure and the fun.

I’m serious about the pyrotechnics, by the way.  There’s even a recipe for black powder in the book.  There’s also a recipe for chicken pot pie with a biscuit crust.  The main character was a street kid before he became a wizard.  He’s a little obsessed on the subject of food.  It’s an important element in the series.

Scalzi says in the description for the Big Idea project that “ideas are easy, writing is hard.”  It’s actually the opposite for me.  Sure, writing is a lot of work, but for me it’s joyful, incredibly rewarding work.  I really don’t think in terms of big ideas, but in terms of character, and how plot arises from character.  One of the big things I learned from writing this book, my second, is that writing as discovery—writing into the void—was something I could do.  I learned to be confident that even if I didn’t know what was going to happen next, if I kept writing the story would articulate itself to me.  And if it didn’t, well, I could always blow something up.

The tagline for the book (which Greg van Eekhout came up with) is “Never Mix Fire with Magic!” but it could just as easily be “When in doubt, blow something up!”

It takes me about five months to write a book.  Not steady on, 500 words a day, but in fits and starts, with plenty of “pre-writing” (i.e., blogs and emails).  I’ll get an idea for the next bit and fling it down on the page in a couple of days that produce 4000 words, and then I’ll spend a week or two recursively tweaking it, writing a new sentence here and there, getting ready for the next leap forward.

Book publishing is so weird because of the lag time between when books are written and when they’re published.  The second book is just out, but I’m just about finished with the last Conn and Nevery book.  When I write ‘the end’ I’m going to have a very hard time saying goodbye to these characters and their story.  They’ve so bravely gone into every void I’ve thrown them into, just to discover what will happen next.

—-

The Magic Thief: Lost Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s

Visit the Web site for the Magic Thief series. Read the first chapter of the first book (pdf link). Visit Sarah Prineas’ LiveJournal.

The Society for Creative Drinking

Here’s an article which suggests that more than one in ten caucasians are potentially able to convert alcohol into creativity — i.e., that it affects their brain in a way in which “ethanol behave[s] more like an opioid drug, such as morphine, with a stronger than normal effect on mood and behavior.” This statistic that will no doubt delight a number of artists and writers I know, not that they actually need an excuse to drink, mind you. So what do you know: In rare cases, alcohol might actually make you more interesting. Still doesn’t make you more handsome, however.

I’ll not be testing this theory, personally. I may or may not be in the minority for whom alcohol stirs creativity, but family and genetic history strongly suggests I’m in the minority for whom alcohol primarily stirs a desire for a whole lot more alcohol, possibly to the exclusion of eating and bathing. This is not a good thing, and was a primary reason I decided not to drink alcohol when I was younger. I’ve apparently done all right without it so far. Nor do I suggest creative folks take up drinking to see if it helps with the writing; learning how to outline might be more useful, and will keep you from getting into bar fights and/or waking up next to someone ill-advised and/or wrapping the front of your car around a fire hydrant. I’m just trying to be helpful to you.

Fortunately for me, I have my Coke Zero. Sweet, sweet Coke Zero. Jolting the creative centers of my brain with 34.5 mg of caffeine in every single can. It’s like love, in alkaloid form.

Quick Review: Star Trek

I enjoyed it. First, it was substantially better than the last two Trek films, which shouldn’t have been hard to do, but then one should never underestimate the power of Hollywood to mess up a sure thing. But they did their reboot well enough; it was big and pretty and noisy and didn’t look like a TV episode blown up to movie size, which was what sunk the series in the first place. No one wants to pay movie ticket prices for TV.

Second, it did the job of bringing in new folks to the party, box office-wise, so all the Treksters who were wondering if their beloved federation universe would keep on keeping on can breathe a sigh of relief; no doubt Star Trek II 2: The Proto-Wrath of Khan is already being typed up. Third, I like the new cast, who get the characters without trying to do 1:1 imitations of the previous cast. Fourth, the way Abrams, Kurtzman and Orci sidestepped the question of fiddling with the Star Trek canon was nicely done and frankly necessary if they plan to make more movies with this cast. I know it annoys some old school fans, but given this film is likely to be the most successful film of the series in at least two decades, even adjusting for inflation, they’re just going to have to suck it up.

What I didn’t like: Good lord, was the science in this one bad. Dear Kurtzman and Orci: The next time you play with black holes, won’t you please talk to an actual scientist? Also: “Red Matter”? Seriously? Mind you, I don’t expect much out of Star Trek, science-wise, because, well. Let’s just say the track record’s just not there. Even so, at a certain point the science in one’s science fiction should at least wave in the general direction of plausibility. It’s not too much to ask for.

That said, at the end of the day it was more important for the filmmakers to make Trek fun again, and they did that. Let’s hope they keep doing it.

[Update: as a warning, the comment thread contains some spoilers, so if you've not seen the film and want to be surprised, beware.]

Happy Average Birthday, Rob

One of my closest friends in high school, Robert Lawrence, has a birthday on the 12th of May; mine is the 10th. Which makes today our Average Birthday. To commemorate the occasion of our 40th Average Birthday, I present a song that we played a lot in our high school years, ON AN LP BECAUSE WE ARE OLD:

[Temporarily removed because it's making my site crash for some unknown reason; it's Pink Floyd's "San Tropez"]

Good times, good times.

Nitpickery on a Non-Trivial Scale

Over at Tor.com, Jason Henninger interviews Fantasy & Science Fiction editor Gordon Van Gelder about the state of the science fiction market, and my name gets invoked (along with that of Charlie Stross and Cory Doctorow) as being one of the “big three” science fiction authors who have figured out how to make this whole Internet thing work for them. This is fine, but Gordon makes a couple of comments that I have quibbles with.

First this:

A lot of people try to duplicate what the big three have done and it hasn’t worked, but nobody hears about the cases where it hasn’t worked. A lot of other people have tried to give away their work online and no one’s come and taken it. I know of a case where a publisher made an author’s work available for free online, his first novel. They gave it away as a Scalzi-esque promotion. As I understand it the novel sold less than a thousand copies. It didn’t do anyone any good to give it away. It’s easy to look at Scalzi’s success and say it’s so great to do online marketing but you don’t hear of the author I just mentioned.

I think Gordon (and other people, including many a hopeful author) forgets that when I first posted both Agent to the Stars and Old Man’s War on my personal site, there was no master marketing plan; I put them up because that’s where I intended them to live. I wasn’t attempting to sell them, and that they did sell really had rather more to the initiative of others than of me.

Now, my publisher Tor eventually got around to a limited-time release of OMW as a free eBook, but this was after it’d been nominated for a Hugo and had been a bestseller, and after I had won a Campbell and I had become a known quantity in the SF lit sphere — and after I had three other novels out there that people could then buy. Releasing OMW electronically hasn’t hurt its sales in the least — there hasn’t been a week since the OMW eBook giveaway where the sales of the book have been less than the week prior to the giveaway, according to BookScan — but the release happened when the book was, shall we say, a mature item in the market.

Of the “big three” of Internet presence that Gordon posits, it’s actually Cory and Charlie who have released free electronic editions of their work in conjunction with the physical book release; so properly, a similar tactic is more accurately described as “Doctorow-like” or “Stross-esque.” But even in those cases it’s worth noting that Cory and Charlie were known quantities before their free eBooks — Cory was a Campbell winner and already had a huge online presence before Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and his subsequent works; likewise Charlie had been a multiple Hugo nominee (and a Hugo winner) before Accelerando got its free eBook treatment.

Which is to say that in all cases that the “big three” released a eBook in conjunction with their publishers, each of us already had established ourselves in the market, in sales and/or critical acclaim and/or by generating — over a considerable amount of time in each case — our audiences through our online presences. Certainly there was some amount of risk in putting our work out there for free, but that risk was substantially buffered by other factors.

All of which is why I’m vaguely put off by the idea that a publisher tossing an unknown writer out there for free and expecting sales out of it is something people perceive as “Scalzi-esque.” Because you know what? I wouldn’t do that. It’s one thing for me to put my novels out there on my personal site because I was lazy and had no intent to sell them to publishers, or for a publisher to leverage my existing notoriety through a giveaway. It’s quite another, in my opinion, for a publisher to replace genuine marketing of a debut novel with just chucking its text out there and expecting the ‘net to seize up with joy and sales. That’s the “throw it at the wall and see if it sticks” sort of marketing, of which I don’t approve. If you’re going to play with the Internet this way, you have to build an audience first. That’s one reason you have publishers to begin with: They’re supposed to have the resources to at least help do that.

Moving on:

You also have to remember that the big three aren’t really out to do publishers any good; they’re in it for themselves. Most writers are, of course.

Yes, being in it for myself is why I run The Big Idea here (and am soon to spin it off onto its own dedicated site), why I worked really hard to get as many of the Hugo nominees as I could this year into a big fat Hugo Voters Packet, and fairly regularly pimp new books by other writers here and also encourage people to use my site to talk about their latest work (and the works of people who they admire) in the “open pimp” threads. Letting authors talk about their new books in one of the highest trafficked blogs in science fiction, and letting other folks recommend books and stories they love here, certainly does not one damn bit of good to publishers. And fact, I’m sure it does terrible things to their bottom lines. Because I’m a selfish, horrible person, you see.

In a larger sense, one of the nice things about the science fiction genre is that many if not most of the authors do understand that supporting each other is a way of also supporting one’s self — that helping introduce readers to other writers expands the market and accrues good karma toward one’s self. It’s also a manifestation of a concept popularized in science fiction, of “paying it forward” — doing good things for other writers and fans in the hope that when they are in a position of doing good things for still other writers and fans, they will remember your example and do unto others as you did onto them. It’s why I do what I do, and almost certainly why Charlie and Cory do it too.

To be clear, Gordon is very narrowly correct when he says we’re in it for ourselves; we do have spouses and children/pets and nearly debilitating addictions to shiny, shiny tech. We are certainly looking toward the health of our own careers. In a wider sense, however, he’s almost embarrassingly wrong. I want science fiction publishing to succeed, not just because I work in it, but because I have friends who work in it, both as writers and at the publishing houses, and because I am also a big fat fan of the genre (and I have the Hugo to prove it). I’m not the only writer, I suspect, who feels the same way. As noted, that’s one of the genuinely excellent things about this genre.

Last thing:

I got into an argument with John about a year ago. He posted a story on tor.com and within a day was boasting—I think it’s fair to call it boasting—that his story had gotten more hits in a week on tor.com than Asimov, Analog and F&SF’s combined circulations. The number was like forty-two thousand. Maybe he wasn’t boasting. Maybe he was just saying, gosh, look at this number, but it seemed to me there was an element of bragging to it. I looked into it more closely and saw some of the comments on John’s thread, and some people were saying, “Well, I’m five of those hits because I couldn’t figure out how to download it and so I had to keep coming back.” I pointed out that John was treating each magazine sold as the equivalent of one hit, which is not how it works. There are many differences between having forty-two thousand hits and forty-two thousand sales. One of the big differences is that word “sale”. I said to John, there’s a big difference between paying customers and free previews, and John said, “Eyes are eyes.” Meaning, he doesn’t care so long as people are reading his stuff and he gets paid. Perfectly sensible from his point of view, but not from a publishers point of view. I could easily give away forty-two thousand copies of F&SF and lose quite a bit of money at it, and wouldn’t continue to publish for long.

Gordon was going from memory here, I suspect, and so misremembered some of the particulars. Here’s the article I wrote, which he is discussing here. Whether I am bragging or not is going to be a matter of personal interpretation, although on my end of things I’ll just say the reason I noted it was because people asked about it (I’ll also note I didn’t exactly just post a story there; the story was solicited and I got paid quite well for it, and it went up on Tor.com’s schedule, not mine). That said, isn’t it a good thing for me that the piece got as many visits in two weeks as the combined yearly circulation of all three of the major US science fiction magazines? I think so. It’s got even more visits since then — and hey, if I put in another link to it right now, it might get even more.

Moreover, I’m not 100% impressed with Gordon’s logic regarding how giving away 42,000 copies if F&SF would be the financial ruin of the magazine. As it stands now, it almost certainly would be, but that’s because the magazine’s in an ill-advised format for advertising and appears from the outside to rely significantly on its subscription base for revenues. But it’s entirely possible that, in a format that was actually ad-friendly (and with an ad sales staff that knew how to work it) F&SF could give away copies and make revenue in other ways, primarily through ads. Editor Nick Mamatas, in a comment on the interview that takes a look at print magazines, ad revenues and free content, makes this point rather cogently:

many magazines DO give away physical print copies: tons of trade magazines do this (try working in certain fields and getting the trades to STOP sending you their stuff) as do community newspapers, lifestyle magazines with a regional focus, alternative news weeklies, etc. These periodicals are for-profit and even in these days of flat ad revenues and Craigslist, are doing much better than print SF magazines by virtually any metric (profit, circulation, aesthetic appearance, size of paid staff, rates to freelancers) anyone might care to name.

The problem I have with print people blaming the Internet for their troubles is that blaming the Internet allows them to ignore — and indeed, actively avoid – taking responsibility for their own acts that have contributed and are contributing to their current bad times. This happens with all print media, but SF is really hot on it. And it’s bunk. Long before the Internet could have been an active threat, subscriber numbers at the science fiction magazines were dropping. If the Internet is a dire threat to them now, it’s in no small part because they made themselves sick enough to be picked off by one major threat or another, and it just happens it will be the Internet that will deliver the coup de grace (in fact it’s rather more likely it’ll be problems with magazine distributors, but hey, why not blame the Internets anyway?).

I’ve no doubt Gordon will note that his real world issues as a publisher are more complicated than I’ve made them out to be here, and I’ll grant this is almost certainly correct. But at the end of the day SF magazines are where they are today not just because of the Internet but because a series of choices their publishers made, reaching back decades, some of which do involve the Internet but many more of which do not.

Gordon’s correct that my issues as a writer are not his issues as a publisher, but the flip side of this is that his issues as a publisher do not oblige me as a writer to gravely nod with concern about his problems as a publisher if better markets for my work exist. Where I care or not about his issues is to a non-trivial extent immaterial, when it comes to the question of what is the best market for my work. Why did I write a story for Tor.com? Contrary to Gordon’s opinion, it wasn’t because of some grand synergy between the web site and Tor Books to leverage a story into book sales or whatever; it was because they asked me to write a story, paid me a multiple of what I’d get for the story in most other SF markets (including his), and allowed me to submit my story electronically. This is also why I write short fiction for Subterranean Press, both for their online site and as limited edition printed works. Hell, solicit a story, pay me decently and let me send my story as an .rtf file, and maybe I’ll write for you, too. I’m easy that way.

What do we learn in all of this? Basically that the Internet is neither an easy path to riches nor the cause of everything that’s wrong with publishing today, and that I apparently get annoyed when I feel my positions are poorly represented by one of science fiction’s major editors.

40

It’s here and I feel good about it. I suspect that’s due to the fact that, in accounting for Things I Wanted to Do With My Life When I Grew Up, I’ve pretty much hit them all. If you get all your childhood hopes and dreams squared away by your 40th birthday, you really can’t complain, and if you do complain anyway, people are allowed to beat you. I don’t want to be beaten, especially on my birthday.

Truth to tell, the weirdest thing about the birthday is not the whole “dude, you’re 40″ thing, but the fact it’s been rather extended this year. Last week my wife threw me a surprise birthday party, so I got a whole lot of birthday stuff taken care of then, and then yesterday, I had another birthday party of sorts at the Ohioana Book Festival closing reception, where I was given a birthday cake and a whole bunch of authors and librarians sang “Happy Birthday” to me. The interesting thing about that was the location of the reception, which was at the Ohio governor’s mansion. It’s a somewhat surreal thing to go up to the First Lady of Ohio and thank her for letting you use her house for your birthday party (she told me I was welcome).

After all of that, the actual birthday, for which we have nothing at all planned birthday-wise, is likely to be anticlimactic. And you know, I’m okay with that. I think what I actually want to do at this point is think about being 40. I don’t want to make too much of a big deal of it for myself, since in most ways birthdays are arbitrary markers, and the ones ending in “0″ are even more so. That said, my 40th coincidentally falls at a point in my life where I happen to be taking a small breather — I don’t have any major projects lined up right this moment, though I suspect I will have very soon, one way or another — and so it’s a convenient day to relax, take stock, take a moment or two (or six) to be thankful for the very fortunate life I’ve had to this point, and then give a little thought about what I want to do with the rest of my life. Mind you, I don’t expect to come up with any answers, and any answers I would come up with would be highly contingent, because life has a funny way of taking your plans and setting them spinning. But just thinking about it all will be a good and useful thing.

To everyone who has already extended me birthday wishes, electronically or in person, thank you from my heart. I have a birthday wish for you too, which is that today is good and joyous day for you, that your life will be happy today, and that you’ll be with people you love and who love you back. I’m getting all those things myself today, you see; it would selfish of me not to wish them for you.

Off to Ohioana

I’m traveling today for the Ohioana Book Festival, so I suspect I’ll be away from the computer for much of the day. I’ll do the Twitter thing, etc, if you can’t live without me.

If you’re in the Columbus, OH area, remember also that I’m doing a reading/Q&A today, at the Dublin Branch Library in Dublin at 2pm. Take a late lunch and swing on by. It’ll be fun.

And here’s my entire Ohioana schedule, should you decide to drop by the festival on Saturday, which you should, because it’s free, and there’s nothing better than free.