Yearly Archives: 2012

Quick Numbers Note

Today, Whatever passed 24 million recorded views since October, 2008 (i.e., when it switched hosting to WordPress’ VIP service). Also, if current traffic trends hold, by Christmas the site will pass eight million recorded views for the year, which would mean recorded traffic is up nearly 50% since last year. Not bad for a site in its 14th year of existence.

(As always when I note numbers, see here for caveats and technical mumbo-jumbo)

I’ll have more details on numbers either at the very end of the year or the very beginning of next year. But early summation of what I’ll say then: I’m very happy with how the site did this year.

A Window to Winter

As I noted on Twitter this morning, at pretty close to the exact moment of the solstice, we got an automated call from my daughter’s school telling us that classes were cancelled due to snow. This means that Athena’s winter break starts a day early; she’s got until January 7th to hang about. It also means that after only one very minor dusting earlier in November, we have our first appreciable amount of snow for the season. That it happens on the first day of Winter seems perfectly appropriate. That said, I wish I hadn’t have had to drive in it to take my wife to work; the roads were a real mess, and I passed more than one car in a ditch (and one car with its front end wrapped around a telephone pole).

No apocalypse, of course. I understand some people thought it would be timed to the exact moment of the solstice, but clearly that did not pan out. I suppose there’s still time for the End of Days, but if I were you I would go ahead and make plans for the weekend. I have.

In any event: Welcome to Winter. And if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, don’t get cocky. Your time will come, my friends.

The Existential Exasperation of Being John Boehner

Original photo by Gage Skidmore

You might think I would have a little bit of schadenfreude at John Boehner doing a faceplant yesterday when his “Plan B” scheme for the fiscal cliff couldn’t even be brought to a vote, thanks to the intransigence of Boehner’s backbenchers in the House — and you’d be right! I do! But mostly what I feel is sympathy for the man. Boehner (who is incidentally my representative) isn’t my favorite politician by a long shot, but I think he’s not an entirely unreasonable man, and I think he can read the political weather better than most. In a better time, with a better House, he might be an effective Speaker.

It’s not that time. His problem is he’s saddled with a batch of stompy petulant children who are still in denial that the majority of American voters cast their ballots for Obama explicitly, and implicitly for Obama’s plan to start raising tax rates on the highest-grossing Americans. They also appear to be in denial about the fact that if some deal isn’t reached, a deal they agreed to a while back will go into effect, raising taxes anyway, and after that Obama’s position becomes even stronger, since he’ll have the tax changes he wanted. If the House then refuses to lower middle-class taxes without also cutting the taxes on the rich, Obama and the Democrats will gleefully pummel them on it from here to Timbuktu. And if they think the public won’t blame them for all of this more than they blame Obama, that’s just one more thing they’re in denial about. This is reality that John Boehner has to work with.

My pal Joe Hill has labeled Boehner the “most ineffective Speaker of the House in US History.” I wouldn’t dispute Boehner is currently probably feeling as low as a Speaker can get without having criminal charges laid against him, but then again, could anyone have herded these particular cats? I don’t feel I’m entirely going out on a limb here when I say that the 112th Congress of the United States is going to go down in history as one of the mostly rankly partisan, stupid and incompetent congresses in the history of our nation, a genuine nadir of the ignorant, selfish, short-sighted and politically blinkered. And while neither party gets off scot-free in that assessment, the large majority of the ignorance, stupidity, incompetence, selfishness and short-sightedness is on the GOP side of the aisle — and they were the party in charge of the House. Boehner is not blameless for the current state of things, to be sure. But you try corralling ignorant, stupid, selfish, short-sighted ideologues who just won’t listen. Tell me how you do with it.

Boehner will never be remembered as one of the great Speakers. But the fact remains that the House remains in GOP hands for the 113th Congress, and Boehner, while not great, is almost certainly the best the House GOP can do. If Boehner is challenged for the speakership — and after last night’s faceplant, he may well be — anyone who replaces him will be more partisan, more tied to the “we’ll take the whole country down if we don’t get our way stomp stomp stompy stomp” philosophy of the right wing of the GOP. A couple more years of that and not even gerrymandering and low-turnout mid-term elections will save the GOP House majority.

So, a little — just a little — sympathy for John Boehner. He’s not spectacular at his job. But things could be so much worse if he wasn’t there plugging away. Think about what it must be like to have that be the reality of your job, every single day.

How’s Your Christmas Spirit This Year?

Because I’m curious, that’s why.

If you want to explain your answer more fully in the comments, please by all means do so.

What’s That? You Wish You Could See a Documentary On Morning Star? Here You Go

Morning Star being the video game I am working on, for those of you late to the party on that one. The embedded video takes a look at the Industrial Toys team (I show up briefly with an amusing cameo) and gives some sneak peaks at the game and its art. Enjoy, and expect to see a few more documentary segments in the future.

The Big Idea: Ramez Naam

A mind is a terrible thing to waste — but might it also be a terrible thing to improve, if those improvements came from an outside source or technology? Or would it in fact be potentially amazing? It’s an interesting question to pose, which is probably why Ramez Naam poses it in his near-future novel Nexus. And as someone who has written non-fiction books on the possibly transhuman future which awaits us, he’s got thoughts on what rights you have to expand your head, and where (and if) government has a role in telling you where and when to stop.

RAMEZ NAAM:

Who decides what you can put in your brain? Who draws the line between human and non-human? How do we choose between liberty and security?

These types of questions come up in ACLU newsletters, in fiction like the X-Men, in the writings of Benjamin Franklin and further back.  While they’re not new, they’re as relevant now as ever, and they’re a context for telling stories about both science and adventure.

My novel’s called Nexus.  The word ‘nexus’ means a connection between things, often a great many things.  In this case, ‘Nexus’ is the name of a drug. No ordinary drug, mind you.  Nexus is a collection of nanoparticles that self-assemble in the brain, latching onto neurons and transmitting what’s going on in your brain to others, and vice versa.

The science of Nexus and the ways it can be used are downright life-changing.  And, while the book is definitely fiction, the science in it is based on real work happening now. We already have cochlear implants that restore hearing to the completely deaf by sending signals to the brain via the auditory nerve. We have artificial eyes that have restored vision to blind humans via electrodes jacked into the visual cortex in the back of the head, and now retinal implants that are essentially the early version of the ‘bionic eyes’ long imagined by science fiction. We have wireless electrodes implanted in the brain that allow paralyzed men and women to move computer cursors and robot arms – even to move them from thousands of miles away, connected over the internet.  We have algorithms that can look at an fMRI scan of your brain and put together a crude image of what you’re seeing. It’s clear that we’re tapping into the brain and learning to decode it. Nexus just happens to be a much more advanced version of this technology.

But technology doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It affects society, and invariably society affects it back.

In my novel, Nexus is illegal, partly because it’s used as a recreational drug, and partly because it bears too much resemblance to other, earlier, technologies that have been abused. And by abused, I mean tremendously so. A technology that can get information in and out of the brain can, in the wrong hands, be used for mind control – to steal from people, to make slaves of them, to form cults and worse.

Frightened societies clamp down on freedoms. The world I’ve drawn in 2040 has been shaken by past terrorist attacks that have used biotechnology to kill tens of thousands, by apocalyptic cults that have tried to use biotech to build new posthuman ‘master races’, and by the earlier mind control technologies that Nexus somewhat resembles.

So, when a group of young scientists in San Francisco get caught trying to improve on Nexus – to extend its range, to increase the amount you can communicate with it, even to build software that runs on top of the nanobots in the brain – things go very badly for them.  Our protagonist, Kade, finds himself in a situation where he has no legal rights, where he’s not guaranteed a lawyer, where an agency created to fight the threats of emerging technologies has complete authority to do whatever they want with him. And the only option they give Kade – aside from a lifetime in an internment camp for him and all his friends – is to become a spy, working his way into the confidence of a famous Chinese scientist who might or might not be militarizing Nexus for the Chinese government, as a tool for political mind control and assassination.

All of this may sound terrifically far-fetched, and it is fiction, after all.  But it’s not that far off from reality today. We have ‘extraordinary rendition’ without trial for suspects accused of terrorism, even for US citizens. We have laws that govern what you can and can’t put in your body and your brain. Not that long ago we had a President’s Council on Bio-Ethics which released reports arguing that we should use ‘the power of the state’ to put a clamp on biotechnologies that might make people smarter, stronger, or longer lived.

I’m not totally unsympathetic to the urge to clamp down against threats.  Terrorism is a real thing, and we want our government to guard us against danger. Drug abuse and addiction are scourges that have a cost to society. There are real ethical questions about what happens if, at some point in the future, the very wealthy can afford to enhance their minds and bodies and the rest of us can’t. There’s more gray than either black or white here.

I try to present that ambiguity and complexity in Nexus. There are no arch-villains in this book. There are no technologies that are purely good or purely evil. There’s no one out to rule or destroy the world for fun or out of pure self-interest. Instead, there are men and women and organizations each working towards what they each think is best for the world, but coming from very different perspectives on what that means.

Nexus is fundamentally a near future thriller. It’s full of danger and suspense, spycraft and battles, and a protagonist who is in way over his head.  But underneath that thriller storyline are these foundational questions: What would happen if we could link our minds together? How would society react to so profound a change? How would we choose between choice and control, between security and liberty?

And I have to tell you – when the rubber hits the road, I come down on the side of individual liberty.

—-

Nexus: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Visit the book page, which includes an excerpt. Follow the author on Twitter.

End of the Year Office Mess

So extensive that it requires a poorly-seamed panorama shot! Get this, this is straightened up a bit from what it was (I cleared a path to my computer).

And yes, it will be cleaned at some point in the reasonably near future. All I need is to get the back hoe up the stairs.

The Results of My Fundraising Bribery Initiative + A Challenge to Jim C. Hines

As you may remember, Jim C. Hines challenged me to a pose-off last week as part of his fundraiser for the Aicardi Syndrome Foundation, wherein he and I both modeled a pose of a female character on a fantasy book cover. Having both made the pose, we then invited folks to vote on who did the post better. To cynically influence the voting make sure people understood there are consequences for their actions, I offered five cents for every vote for me, to go to the Aicardi Syndrome Foundation. Surely, I thought, this poll is in the bag!

I STILL LOST, YOU BASTARDS.

After a week and 6,459 votes, Jim C. Hines won the pose-off with 54% of the vote, to my 46%.

FINE, PEOPLE. HAVE IT YOUR WAY.

Because I’m a gracious soul, even in defeat, I thought I would still donate that money to the Aicardi Syndrome Foundation. When I pulled out my calculator, it came out to $149.15. And I thought, what? That’s not nearly enough. So I went ahead and lumped in the votes of everyone who TRAITOROUSLY VOTED FOR JIM C. HINES TOO. The new result: $322.95. Much better. Then I rounded up and gave $325 because I hate loose change.

Now.

Jim C. Hines and I have a second pose-off to come. And while he may have won the last one, I think this time around things will break my way. But to make it interesting, I will offer Jim C. Hines the following challenge:

Jim C. Hines: You choose the pose (or do a poll to choose the pose, or whatever I DON’T CARE JUST DO IT). Then you and I shall make the pose.

DRESSED IN FESTIVE CHRISTMAS ACCOUTERMENTS.

What kind?

LIKE I CARE.

Festive Elf hat, festive Santa beard, festive reindeer antlers?

WHATEVER, MAN. Just BRING IT.

Having made the poses, you will post them.

ON CHRISTMAS, I SAY.

And then we’ll see who is the most jolly (and contorted) of all!

BWA HA HAH A HA HAH HA.

Oh, and:

AH HA HA HAH HAH HA HA HA.

That is all.

(Except: Folks, you can still give to Jim’s fundraiser. Just follow that first link above. DO IT.)

The Whatever Geographic Default Entry

This is one of those “post now for later reference” posts.

Folks, I live in the United States and the bulk of my personal, political and economic life, including book sales, is tied into it. Also, while I am happy to see that almost 30% of my traffic to Whatever comes from other countries, over 70% of my traffic comes from within the US (the country with the next largest share: Canada, with 7.45%, which means that 80% of my traffic is North American).

Additionally, despite the Internet being an international phenomenon, actual political states still exist and as a result the economic and political world is still fragmented to a greater or lesser extent.

As a result of these factors, here are some things you should assume.

1. For the purposes of me writing on Whatever on any general topic, you may assume that unless I specifically state otherwise, I am defaulting to talking about the experience of the topic in the United States, and that I know that the experience of the thing may be different elsewhere.

2. Likewise, in the case of commerce, if I talk about the availability of a book or anything else I’ve created and have available for sale, unless specified otherwise, you should assume that I am speaking of its availability, and its sale price, in the US (and to a lesser extent Canada), not anywhere else in the world, and that I know it might not be available as noted anywhere else.

I highlight this because I have to admit I find it a little bit exasperating that every time I mention something for sale, there’s a very high chance that within the first few comments will be someone complaining that the thing is not for sale in [insert country not the United States], or is not for sale in [insert country not the United States] at the price I noted. I likewise find it exasperating because I don’t really think it’s a secret that I live in the United States and might focus on it as my home sales region; likewise I don’t really think it’s a secret that other countries aside from the United States exist and that they have different laws, territorial economies and availability windows, when it comes to my work, and the work of others.

I additionally find it exasperating because I’m not entirely sure why anyone thinks complaining to me about these things will do anything other than exasperate me. I don’t have any control over nations, their politics and their trade zones; likewise I only fractionally more control over when publishers in various countries decide to publish my work in their economic territories or how retailers make things available in their regional stores (I have discussed this before here).

I recognize that when people complain about these things, they don’t intend to exasperate me, and they do appear to think I have significant amounts of control over these things. But respectively, they do, and I don’t.

Beyond the sales issues, when I discuss issues relating to life in general, there’s often someone jumping in not to share about how things are different in [insert country here], which is fine and excellent and which I appreciate, but how because things are different in [insert country here], my observation about the subject as it relates to the United States is thus invalid, which is irritating and complete nonsense. This is particularly the case whenever I discuss poverty issues in the US, for example; there’s a certain brand of trollish grouser (not necessarily living in another country, I should be clear) who likes to suggest, for their own personal political reasons, that unless one is baking in the sun in a dirt hole in a third-world country, with a distended belly and no shoes, one cannot possibly know what real poverty is. Once again, I find these people exasperating (they’re also wrong).

Bear in mind that my noting what the geographic defaults here are is not to suggest that everything in the US is always better or more important than elsewhere on the planet. It is to say, hey, I live here, most of the things that affect my life are here, and most of my career is focused here. Naturally, this is where my gaze will lie as a default.

Thanks.

“Rip-Off!” Audio Anthology Now Available; Also: Hey! A Contest!

I told you about Rip-Off! a couple of weeks ago: It’s an audio anthology in which science fiction and fantasy writers take he first line of a classic of literature and then go off on a tangent with it, creating all new stories from that snippet of source material. Aside from me, authors in the anthology include Nancy Kress, Tad Williams, Mary Robinette Kowal, Elizabeth Bear, Lavie Tidhar and Robert Charles Wilson.

Rip-Off! is now available for your listening pleasure. Here’s the page for it on Audible proper, and here’s the Amazon page. I’ll note that if you listen to the sample of the anthology on the Audible page, it’s from my story (“Muse of Fire”) which is read by Wil Wheaton. The other narrators, I assure you, are similarly excellent.

If you want a longer sample, and you don’t mind entering a contest on Facebook, there’s Audible’s “Rip-Off! & Win” contest. Enter your information and give a new version of the opening line to Moby Dick, and in return you’ll get Allen Steele’s story “The Big Whale,” plus you’ll be entered in the contest, the prize for which is a Kindle Fire HD. However, if you want to participate, you have to enter today, December 18. It’s the last day for the contest entry.

I don’t mind telling you this is a really fun anthology with some excellent stories, authors and narrators. If you’re an audio book fan, this is a must-have.

Old Man’s War eBook $2.99 Today Only

The SEO-like headline says it all! My first published novel — which was sold to Tor ten years ago this month, more on that on the actual day — is available for just under three bucks. If for some unfathomable reason you as a reader of this blog have not read it, now’s your chance to get it for cheap. If you have read it already, now is a fine time to give it as a stocking stuffer-like electronic gift to family and friends, or to tell friends about it.

(Also, of course: Offering OMW as a $2.99 eBook less than a month before the first episodic release of The Human Division, the new work in the series? Probably not entirely a coincidence.)

Enjoy, and here are the links to the book:

Amazon B&N Apple

Or check your favorite other online retailer (from the US).

The Hobbit at 48 Frames Per Second: A Review

As I am no longer a pro movie critic, I had to go see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey after it came out like a common troll (get it? Get — ah, never mind). My local cinema had it at the standard frame rate, but there was a movie theater in Dayton showing it at 48 frames a second, which is director Peter Jackson’s preferred frame rate for folks to see the movie in, as he believes it makes for a more immersive cinematic experience. I was curious enough about whether this was true to go ahead and go out of my way to see it that way. I have notes about the movie both as a storytelling vehicle and as a test of new-fangled technology.

The storytelling first. From my point of view the movie was perfectly agreeable, if meandering. The Hobbit is a slim volume to make three movies out of, so it’s not in the least surprising that this first third of trilogy spends a lot of time setting up events, tromping to and fro and getting itself into (and out of) set-piece action scenes — it’s padded, in other words, and quite a bit so. There’s a long set-up with an old Bilbo and a young Frodo, there’s extended scenes with elves, Radagast the Brown somehow becomes a major player in events, the scenes with goblins are like a D&D adventure crossed with a flume ride, and so on.

If I were a Tolkien purist all of this might drive me up a wall a bit, but I’m not; truth to tell I prefer Jackson’s Middle Earth over Tolkien’s, whose Middle Earth was always a bit twee for me. Yes, yes, you can throw me into the fire later. Likewise, if you’re not a Middle Earth fan of any sort, I can imagine this all gets tiring; even someone like me, with a high tolerance for Peter Jackson wandering off on his own, was wondering at points whether the man was going to get on with it already.

What saves it from being too tiresome is the fact that Peter Jackson is a little looser here than he was in the Lord of the Rings movies — a little lighter and a little goofier, and it makes the time and the digressions go by pleasantly. I would suggest the The Hobbit is probably closer in sensibility to Jackson’s earlier works (this being a relative term; The Hobbit is still safely within PG-13 territory); whether it’s because of the lighter nature of the source material or Jackson thinking screw it, I already have three Oscars, what do I have to prove or possibly both is a question I won’t go into now. But I found the similarities to that earlier, weirder work enjoyable.

The Hobbit is not as good as any of the three Lord of the Rings movies, but that’s a high bar to reach in any event and it’s probably unfair to expect it to have the same sort of impact — Tolkien’s The Hobbit is an enjoyable diversion while his Lord of the Rings, written during WWII, is stuffed with allegory and good vs. evil stuff (the movie versions have their own good vs. evil resonances coming in the wake of 9/11 and the US at least girding itself for war). The film version of The Hobbit does try to shoehorn in weightier good vs. evil stuff, as well as having Thorin Oakenshield step up to be a shorter, more hirsute version of Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, but it’s only middling effective, and all the weighty stuff is where the movie bogs down.

A perhaps more fair comparison would be to put The Hobbit up to the first installment over another hotly anticipated first movie in a prequel trilogy, i.e., The Phantom Menace. Compared to that movie, The Hobbit is an absolute joy; it makes sense, it doesn’t crap all over the films which preceded it, storywise, and it doesn’t merely rely on special effects to drag the audience through. Jackson doesn’t reach the heights he hit with Fellowship of the Ring or the other movies in Lord of the Rings, but he doesn’t embarrass himself or have to excuse his choices. And when I left the theater, I was genuinely looking forward to the next installment instead of desperately hoping it would redeem the first movie, which is what I felt with Phantom.

Also: Martin Freeman: Born to play Bilbo. And there you have it.

So as a storytelling experience, I’d give The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey a “B.” Like its literary predecessor, it’s a minor work, but an enjoyable one, and as an entertainment it’s solid if not life-changing. There’s nothing wrong with that.

On the technology side I thought the 48 frames worked as advertised: The images were clearer and sharper, the movement and action more fluid and engaging, and the 3D far smoother and rather less headache inducing. I understand a number of film critics (and some audiences) don’t like the higher frame rate because it looks less “film-like,” and the adjectives they use to describe the 48fps experience reflect that — I’ve seen it compared to television, video games, thrill rides and so forth.

I agree that at 48 frames per second, The Hobbit doesn’t look like film… but then, inasmuch as The Hobbit wasn’t shot, processed, edited or (in most places now) presented on actual film, why should it look like film? If the only reason it should look like film is because that just what we’re used to, then eh. If this is the argument you’re going to make, you’ll equally need to defend the use of sound, of color and of any other technological advancement to the cinematic experience. You can’t even argue that 24 frames per second is the true film experience, as films prior to the sound era were shot at other frame rates (which is why old silent films look “sped up” to us; they were shot at lower frame rates). I think this is an argument of received aesthetics rather than a discussion of whether the technology genuinely serves the story and the movie in a general sense.

To that discussion, I think the 48fps tech serves The Hobbit well. Because this is the first major movie production to use a higher frame rate, there are some places where it’s not perfect, notably in the beginning of the movie where a) the audience is acclimating to the look and b) there are a lot of talky, ploddy scenes. I suspect there will be fewer of these in the second Hobbit movie and almost none at all in the third. And when the Hobbit movies wind down, the next set of Avatar movies will pop into the theaters — and James Cameron has already noted he plans to shoot those movies as 60 frames a second. I don’t expect James Cameron to present technology that is anything less than as perfect as he can make it, because he’s a tweaky perfectionist that way.

Do I think every movie in the future needs or will benefit from high frame rates? No, any more than I think every movie now would benefit from 3D. I do think high frame rate movies are probably the wave of the future for epic scale or action-oriented movies, however, as the technology both to shoot them and to screen them is already here (or is just a software fix away on digital projectors). People who enjoy the “film aesthetic” will increasingly be like the people yelling at the tide, or the clouds. It’s not to say they might not have an argument, just that it won’t matter. Especially when The Hobbit claws in something in the area of $300 million domestically by the end of its run, as it is likely to do. If there’s any aesthetic argument Hollywood understands, it’s the aesthetic of a box office success.

By the way, the hardest thing about writing this review? Not using the word “film” to refer to The Hobbit. It’s a movie, yes. A film? Nope.

Writer or Spambot?

Got spammed by a writer this morning on Twitter. The fellow isn’t someone I follow, so he made sure it popped up into my queue by putting “@scalzi” at the front, followed by a generic plug for his book and a link to the page he made for the book. Given that the vast majority of the “@” messages to me on Twitter are by people who follow me and/or are clearly responding to me or at least talking about me, this generic spammy message stood out, not in a good way. I went back to visit this fellow’s page; every comment from him that wasn’t a retweet was a generic spam message about his book.

He has a reasonably large number of followers, so I clicked through to look to see who they were: words used at lot in the descriptions include “SEO,” “brand consultant,” “social media marketing,” “business coach” and so on. This suggests rather strongly that this fellow has amassed his followers by signing up for one of those circlejerk services in which you get a whole bunch of followers by allowing the service access to your account so they can make you follow a bunch of people as well, and then you (or the service) retweet their tweets.

Not that this guy follows me (or that I use one of those circlejerk services, for that matter). No, what it looks like is that this fellow figured out that I was a writer, and thus a fine person to spam regarding his book. So off the tweet went, into my queue.

All of which makes him indistinguishable from a spambot. And also makes him an asshole.

Here’s the result: He’s blocked, he’s reported for spam, and I will neither ever read his work nor promote him or his work in any way. Which is a shame for him, because, you know, I do a lot of promoting of other writers, including on Twitter. But I don’t like being spammed, and I don’t like writers who spam. So to hell with this dude.

Dear writers: Don’t be an asshole spammer on Twitter. Talking about your work on Twitter? It’s cool. Occasionally promoting your work to your followers on Twitter, as part of a larger stream of tweets about everything else, including life, writing, pets and food? Perfectly good. Asking for a retweet every now and again? Generally not a problem.

Making every tweet an unsolicited ad for your work? You’re an asshole spammer.

And also: You’re a boring asshole spammer. Spending your day cranking out the same damn tweet to random people and retweeting a bunch of people because your fake followers service told you to is no way to go through your social media life, son. It stinks of desperate.  It also marks you as the sort of person who doesn’t actually know how to be interesting. Which in itself doesn’t speak well about your ability to entertain someone with your actual writing work.

If you’re a writer on Twitter and you want me to be interested in your work, be interesting on Twitter. Use Twitter like an actual human being would, rather than approximating a virus program controlling a PC. And see other people on Twitter as actual human beings, not blobs to be marketed to.

In short: don’t be an asshole spammer. Life’s too short for you to be that. Certainly my life’s too short to tolerate you being that.

Tobias Buckell Goes Deep and Comes Back With Data

Toby Buckell did a Kickstarter for his novel The Apocalypse Ocean, and being Toby Buckell, now that he’s done with it, he’s written up an extensive (i.e., 5,000 word) post-mortem on the project, which includes context for the Kickstarter, the choices he made before, during and after the Kickstarter, and the lessons he’s learned from the project (and whether he’d do it again).

Toby’s write-up is very interesting to me, and I think will be for a whole bunch of writers who are considering doing their own Kickstarter projects. As with anything, we hear a lot about the exceptional Kickstarter projects — the ones like Amanda Palmer’s, which generated over a million dollars in funding — but not so much about the more modest-yet-successful efforts. Toby aimed for $10k with his Kickstarter and ended up with $11K and change when he was done… and yet still had to deal with all the back end issues of completion, fulfillment and so on that every successful project, modest or extreme, has to handle.

None of the rest of us are Toby, with his own specific set of conditions and challenges. That said, Toby is a good example of a mid-career novelist looking for new ways to get his words to people who want to read them, so the data and observations he’s got here is going to be useful for a bunch of folks. Again, if you’re a writer and thinking of using Kickstarter or some other manner of indie funding for your work, you’re going to want to read his write-up. This is good stuff.

And Now a Thought From Justice Scalia

From the 2008 DC v. Heller ruling, written by Scalia, and one of the very few Supreme Court cases to touch on the Second Amendment at all:

Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

Remember: Written by Scalia, i.e., not one of those liberal judicial activists you hear so much about.

There is no constitutional bar to some limitation and regulation of firearms. The real question — the only real question, to my mind — is whether there is the political will for it.