Reminder: Get Your Order For Signed Copies of Lock In By 8/8

Yes, if my tour to support Lock In is not coming to your town this August and September, you can still get signed copies of that book — signed by me even! — by ordering it from Subterranean Press at this link. But you need to do it in the next couple of days (specifically, by 11:59 on Friday) so we can guarantee we can get it to you in time for the book release date. And also, we’re down to the last few dozen copies available. So if you want one — better hurry.

The link again, in case you missed it the first time and don’t like to live in the past.

OMW TV Series Announcement Followup

Because there are a few things out there that people have asked me and are worth answering. What follows are paraphrased questions and my responses:

1. So when will the show be on? Dunno. We (and by we I mean Jake Thornton and Ben Lustig) still have to write the pilot script. Then we (and this we is Scott Stuber and Wolfgang Petersen and their people) have to get it approved, shoot a pilot and then get that approved. If everything aligns perfectly, maybe you’ll see it in 2016. If everything does not align perfectly, you might not see it at all. Also, be aware that even when a series is greenlit and in production that it can still be yanked. So nothing is 100% guaranteed. You’ll see the show (indeed, any show) when it is actually on the TV screen.

With that said, this much I know: I’m excited, the producers are excited and UCP and Syfy are excited. The team putting the show together is smart and committed. I feel pretty good about the idea you’ll see this sooner than later.

2. Noooooooo Syfy is terrible and runs wrestling and Sharknado whyyyyyyy? Speaking as someone whose previous television show got cancelled in part because Syfy bumped it for wrestling, you don’t have to tell me that the channel has some fairly egregious sins in its past. However, the execs who yanked it in the direction of wrestling are gone, and the execs who are there now seem to have this crazy idea that a channel devoted to science fiction ought to have science fiction on it. This, I assume, is why it bought OMW and is taking James S.A. Corey’s Expanse books straight to series, and otherwise doing a lot of shopping for good science fiction to turn into shows. I kind of think we should encourage this shocking turn of events. Maybe that’s just me.

I got nothing for you about the Sharknado films. Hey, something like five million people watched Sharknado 2 when it debuted. Don’t blame Syfy for that. Blame society. Or at least recognize that some of Syfy’s sweet, sweet Sharknado money is being poured into the development of the OMW series.

3. Who is going to be in the series? You should totally hire [X]! And maybe [Y]! Too early for casting yet. We’ll get there. I know it frustrates people when I say this, but aside from Jane Sagan, who I clearly modeled after my wife (and who, to be clear, is unlikely to play Jane in the series), I have never thought of who I would want to play any of the OMW characters. I understand that’s a little weird, but even so. Part of that is rooted in the fact that the characters in the book are all supposed to look very young (they look like they’re all 21 or so), so unless we cast a bunch of Nickelodeon/Disney Channel stars, it’s unlikely those actors would be well known anyway.

4. How much is going to change from the books? Based on the the discussions I had with the screenwriters: some. Some things in the book will be impractical to show onscreen, some things would be very expensive, and some things that work in  novel form won’t work on TV (and vice versa). Some changes are coming.

I’ve always tried to be clear to folks that any screen version of OMW is going to be an adaptation and not the books exactly. A TV series will be no different. What we want to do is make sure the changes a) are not arbitrary, b) serve the overall story of the series. But, yeah. The books are the books and will always be the books. The TV series will be based on the books, but will not be the books. It will still be, as far as can be managed, a very good story, worth your time.

5. Are you worried the TV show will overshadow the books? I assume it will, since it will (hopefully) be seen by millions of people weekly, so, no. One, I have smart agents who have gotten me a good deal on the series, so if the TV series does well I will profit handsomely. Two, if the show does well then the books in the series will likely sell like hotcakes — see George RR Martin’s book sales recently — so the books will do just fine. Plus then my profile as an author raises and it’s easier for me to sell my newer books, too. Three, a successful show will make it easier for me to sell other work to film/TV, which is also good for me.

So, yeah: Go, show. Fly and be successful.

6. Why are your books being made into TV series when better books like [X] and/or writers like [Y] are not? I don’t know. Maybe my books are better and you’re just wrong. Maybe my books are more commercially successful, which matters. Maybe my books are easier/cheaper/less confusing to adapt than [X]. Maybe the producer likes my book and not that other one. Maybe that author hates the idea of adapting her books into film/TV and won’t sell an option. Maybe the particular subject of one of my books is hot right now, and the subject of that other book is not. Maybe I have a better agent, who sells the hell out of my work. Maybe I’m more personable and/or not in a pain in the ass to work with. Maybe I’m just lucky. Maybe some combination of any or all of the above and/or some other “maybe” not explored here.

But look, in the end, it’s not complicated: What books/properties get optioned/made in film and television? The ones where a producer and studio says we can totally make money with that. Because that’s their job. Why is OMW being made into a series? Because Scott Stuber, Wolfgang Petersen, Universal Cable Productions and Syfy think they can make money off it. Aside from anything else, that’s the bottom line. We’ll find out whether they’re correct. I hope they are.

Now, this doesn’t speak to whether that other book [X] or author [Y] might not also make them (or whomever) money. But it doesn’t have to. It’s not actually important for what they’re doing with my work.

7. Yes yes yes. Just tell me when the next Old Man’s War book will be, please? I’m writing it now. It’ll be out next year. And it will be pretty good, if I can pull off all the things I’m planning. Stay tuned.

The Big Idea: Alisa Krasnostein

 

Anthology editors usually come into their projects with a firm idea of what the anthology should be — that’s how they sell the project to a publisher (or on a Kickstarter). But as Alisa Krasnostein learned as she co-edited the Kaleidoscope anthology with Julia Rios, just because you know what you want your anthology to be about, doesn’t mean you always know how the process of building the anthology will work on your point of view.

ALISA KRASNOSTEIN:

One of the most fun aspects for me about publishing is going into a project with one perspective and coming out the other side seeing the world completely differently. It can happen through the process of working with a particular writer or in working to make a project like a themed anthology.

The original idea for Kaleidoscope came to me whilst listening to Julia Rios on a episode of The Outer Alliance Podcast about the lack of QUILTBAG characters in YA dystopian novels. The idea that only straight white people would survive an apocalypse angered me. As did thinking about young adult readers with only a few stories that really spoke to them, that reflected who they were, that told their coming of age stories.

I approached Julia about producing a dystopic fiction themed anthology filled with QUILTBAG protagonists. We developed the idea to expand to include a wider variety of diverse protagonists and to include contemporary fantasy as well. We wanted this book to be specifically for young adults reading science fiction and fantasy and looking for heroes that reflected them — we wanted diverse protagonists triumphant in their stories. A book filled with all kinds of people so that everyone might find a story within to relate to.

What I didn’t really expect was quite how much the process of editing Kaleidoscope would affect me as an editor. I don’t relate to the often default characters in science fiction. I’ve spent a long time as an editor looking for and publishing material that specifically advocates for writers and characters outside that “norm”. But I still found this project confronting in terms of what true diversity actually entails; in that not all stories are for me and not all stories will connect with me in ways that they will for others. This really challenged me in assessing what is a “good story”. Working with Julia, who has a different perspective to the world to me in some ways, made the whole process fascinating, engaging and dynamic. We had many discussions about what diversity means, about how stories can still be good even if they don’t reflect your personal coming of age story.

Even now, months after we finished selecting the stories for this collection, I’m still really thinking about what is an important and meaningful story, who decides that and for whom, and what are universal ideas and messages. And why must an idea be universal at all?

We wanted to produce a book that would reach out to readers and explore diversity as beautiful and powerful. We wanted to offer a counter-narrative to a pattern we saw in contemporary young adult fiction where often only straight white characters get to have adventures.

I’m very proud of the book we have produced. This is a collection of stories for young adults about young adult journeys — be they straight, queer, of colour or disabled. Everybody gets to be the hero of their own story. In Kaleidoscope I encountered time traveling ice skaters and disabled superheroes, love spells and fate deals, transgender animal shifters and autistic animal whisperers, urban legends and the myth of true love. All of the stories are wonderful, and each one has shifted my perspective in some way.

Kaleidoscope: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|12th Planet Press

Visit the anthology’s blog. Follow Alisa Krasnostein on Twitter. Follow Julia Rios on Twitter.

In Which I Interview Myself About the Old Man’s War TV Series

Me: So, an Old Man’s War TV series?

Me: Yes, looks like, cross fingers, knock on wood.

That’s fantastic news.

I agree.

Wasn’t it supposed to be a movie?

It was.

What happened with that?

Things change. People change. Hairstyles change. And eventually the option on the film ran out. So we got to sell it again, this time for TV.

But you’re still working with Scott Stuber and Wolfgang Petersen, who had the film rights.

Yup. We had a couple of very competitive offers from awesome folks, but Stuber/Petesen came in with what my team thought had the best slate of fundamentals to get a TV series done, including the interest of Universal Cable Productions and Syfy.

Heh. You just said “your team.” You’re so Hollywood now.

Whatever, man.

LA has changed you!

I know. I suck.

Also, why is it being called Ghost Brigades rather than Old Man’s War?

Because Ghost Brigades sounds sexier, basically. The series will pull elements from various books in the OMW universe in any event.

So what happens now?

Now we get the writers to write up the pilot script.

Who are the writers?

Jake Thornton and Ben Lustig.

Have you met them? What do you think of them?

I met them when I was in San Diego the other week. We sat around and had a nice long chat about the books and the TV series and adapting the former into the latter. They had smart things to say about the books, asked smart questions, and were generally, well, smart. I liked them. We had a good time and I think they will do a very fine job adapting the books.

Why aren’t you writing the script?

Because I have other things to write, including the sequel to The Human Division.

But you’re going to be involved in some way, yes?

Yes. I’ll be an executive producer on the show, and I will be having input on things.

So this is the second TV show you currently have under development, yes?

That’s correct. Redshirts is currently chugging along at FX.

How’s that going?

So far, very well! I saw some of the work on it recently and I am very happy to say that I’m pleased with what I’ve seen. I can’t say anything else at this point.

So now that you’re an executive producer of two TV shows under development I bet you think you’re some sort of hot shot.

Yes. Yes, I do. KNEEL BEFORE ME.

You know that’s a physical impossibility.

Damn. You’re right. Never mind.

Anything to say to those who are congratulating you?

Yes: Thank you, and I love you all.

Anything to say to those who see this as evidence of the further decline of western culture?

Yes: HA HA suck it dudes.

Do you have any other news for us, TV, film or otherwise?

Maybe.

Maybe? Maybe? You’re just being a dick now. 

I know. I suck.

Update, August 6: More questions answered.

Various and Sundry 8/5/14

Some things for you:

* The LA Times takes a look at the recent Amazon kerfuffle and wishes to inform you about What Amazon’s e-book numbers are and aren’t telling you, and quotes my recent post here about it. The article basically pokes the same holes in Amazon’s logic that I did (and that others have), which is not terribly surprising because it’s not like I had to look hard for those holes. I don’t suspect Amazon got the response out of their missive that it had hoped for.

* Meanwhile, over at Tor.com, an article explains why my novel Old Man’s War is pretty much SF/F 101, i.e., an entry-level text for the spectulative fiction genre, and offer examples of other works that would be placed higher up on the academic survey ladder. I don’t find much to disagree with here, particularly the assessment of where OMW fits in — I’ve been saying for years that I quite intentionally wrote it to be accessible to people who don’t generally read science fiction. So yeah, 101 is pretty accurate. I’m happy to have it be there, too, since the sales reflect that whole “easy to get into” idea.

* Not directly related to me but worth noting here: Wiscon has decided — after far too many fits and starts — to permanently ban Jim Frenkel from attending the convention. Those of you needing additional context for this event may find it here. I have more to say about this, which I will do at some point hopefully in the near future when I can actually organize my thoughts on it. For now, I will say that I’m glad it’s been done and wish it hadn’t required a process that demanded feeding off Wiscon’s own reputation and goodwill with its attendees to operate.

The Big Idea: Bishop O’Connell

Author Bishop O’Connell knows it’s easy to be “the hero” when you’re the Chosen One, full of magic and destiny. But what about when… you’re not? What does being a hero mean then? O’Connell thinks about it in his novel The Stolen, and today, in his Big Idea piece.

BISHOP O’CONNELL:

I’m a geek. When I was younger, I played Dungeons and Dragons, Car Wars, and various RPGs. I collected comics, and even started a roleplaying club at my high school. I spent a lot of time imagining strange and amazing worlds, and dreaming of escaping into them. I wanted to be the hero; sometimes in shining armor, sometimes shadowed and mysterious. As I matured, I began to wonder what it would be like if a supernatural reality existed just beneath the surface of our world. I didn’t outgrow my desire to be a hero, but my ideas became less whimsical and more practical. What if I discovered a real world of magic and wonder? And what if I wasn’t a skilled and powerful hero, but just me, as I am? How cool would that be?

Um, am I insane? I’d be scared out of my mind! So what then, would it take for a normal person to be tossed into a world of magic and monsters and not be reduced to a whimpering, fetal ball? That person would need a reason to get up, something larger than the fear.

I’ve always been a storyteller, by the time I entered college and began to take my writing seriously, I’d fallen in love with faerie tales and folklore. So I decided to write a modern faerie tale. My novel, The Stolen, began as a short story based on the poem “The Stolen Child” by W.B. Yeats, but with a twist. My initial backdrop was a world where all of the monsters we knew were real, but not quite as we believed. Vampires, werewolves, demons, and zombies were, in fact, faeries. The passing of time had warped our collective human memory of them into the pantheon of urban fantasy monsters that we know today.

That idea didn’t last. I didn’t want to make another vampire book. I wanted something of my own. My short story’s plot was sound, but the child-stealing faeries needed some kind of transformation, and that was when I decided the key would be change. That was my first Big Idea.

Faeries are static in most stories, never developing or growing past their mythic origins. It made sense to me that if they lived alongside humanity, even hidden from view, they’d be impacted and shaped by our influence. For example, why use magic when technology is easier and readily accessible?  So, my faeries became urban faeries. They didn’t ride horses or carry bows. They drove sports cars; had guns, cell phones, and stock portfolios; and owned night clubs.

I found my second Big Idea in the “The Stolen Child” as well. It paints the luring away of a child by faeries as something wondrous. I love the poem, but it’s one-sided. Any parent must find the idea of his or her child being taken a nightmare that would put the darkest horror story to shame. There could be no better reason to stand and face the darkness than to save your child. So what was my second Big Idea?  To write a story about a normal person who is tossed into a terrifying world, and not only finds a reason to stand up, but becomes a hero. Not because she wants to be one, but because she doesn’t have a choice.

Caitlin is a single mother whose knowledge of faeries and magic comes from Disney movies and the stories her immigrant grandparents told her. She can’t hurl magic or wield a sword, and she isn’t “the one” mentioned in any prophecy. Her only super power is the ability to make a little girl laugh, and give that child a good life. When Fiona is kidnapped, Caitlin has a reason to face a dark and terrifying reality, but she’s lacking in the skills to survive it. That means trusting others, which seems like a simple thing, but is it really? Even parents of a child kidnapped by a human monster must bristle at the thought of trusting the authorities to rescue their baby. And those are entities we’ve been taught to rely on in desperate situations. Trusting strangers—some of whom are also faeries—and a friend who hasn’t been honest, would be a nightmare of its own.

As I wrote the story, I found was that being a hero isn’t simple, not in reality. It means living with the consequences of your choices and mistakes, even when those choices are ones that no one should ever have to make. It would’ve been easy to put my hero in shining armor on horseback. But if we reduce heroism to something as clichéd as picking up a sword at the last minute to strike down the dragon, or discovering a character had the magic to defeat the monster all along, we do a grave disservice to every hero, real or imagined.

Being a hero has costs, but a hero pays them and doesn’t begrudge it after. That’s where real heroism resides, not just in the moment of heroism, but after it’s done and the bill comes due. My heroes, all of them, became more than I ever imagined: flawed, imperfect, sometimes weak, often times in over their heads, and just as often fighting for hope as for what’s right. I know they say reading a good book changes you, but I wasn’t expecting to get the same experience from writing one. I have a deeper respect for heroes now (both literary and real), and a better understanding of what it takes to be one. I also honestly hope neither I, nor you, ever has to be one.

—-

The Stolen: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Harper Collins Direct

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.

 

Author Feuds

Because it amused me earlier today to think on them:

It’s nice to have a schedule.

And Now, The Competition

This was pointed out on Twitter earlier this morning by Kameron Hurley and I thought was worth pointing out here as well: SF Signal’s put out a list of 299 science fiction, fantasy and horror books/graphic novels coming out in the month of August, 2014. My book Lock In is in there, and so is Kameron’s. And so are 297 other books. That averages out to nearly ten books a day in the same general sphere of genres as our own — but inasmuch as most books come out on Tuesdays (as do most new albums, incidentally), it actually means that on August 26, the day my book comes out, there will be another 75 science fiction/fantasy/horror books coming out — including Kameron’s, which comes out the same day as mine.

This doesn’t count all the self-pubbed SF/F/H books that will come out that day (or in August). It also doesn’t count every other type of book that will come out that (or in August), either.

(It also doesn’t count the books I have competing against my own self, either, namely the Old Man’s War boxed set that’s coming out the same day as Lock In.)

This, in case you weren’t already aware, is why authors are often twitchy on release dates. Because every release day is a busy one, with lots of different new books for you, the reader, to choose from. You’re not going to buy them all — so we hope that one of the ones you buy will be ours. It’s the dream, anyway.

On the other hand: The fact that so many books are released every month and every week is a positive thing — dozens of writers publishing, many of them for the first time, and all sorts of stories to choose from. A healthy number of books means a successful field — and that’s good for everyone who writes and wants to publish. So in one sense all these authors and their books are my competition, but in another very real sense I want them all to succeed. Rising tide lifting boats, etc.

Any time someone suggests to you that publishing is dying (or whatever) go ahead and pop them over to this list. Publishing is pretty active for a dead field, is what I’m saying. I suspect it will be for a while yet. Good luck to all the authors publishing in August. And before. And after.

(P.S.: I’m currently reading The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley. It’s really good. You should get it when it comes out.)

My Reading in Beavercreek

Me at my August 2, 2014 reading/signing at the Beavercreek B&N. Photo by Howye.

It went pretty well, I thought. It was nicely attended, which is always a good thing, especially when I’m doing an event that’s not on a tour or otherwise focused on a new release. Also, I got to do a test run on some material I’m thinking of using on the tour, seeing how it worked with an audience. It’s always nice to have that.

It was also a reminder that I actually do like doing readings and events. It’s fun to get up there and read stuff and answer questions and have people enjoy what you do, and be glad you’re there — or at least I think it is, which I suppose it the relevant metric here. This is important, as I’m just over three weeks away from a book tour that has me on the road for four weeks straight. If I stopped liking this particular aspect of my life, I would have a very grim month ahead of me.

I’ve made the comment before that somewhere in the recent past I stopped being a professional writer and have become a professional traveler who also, occasionally, writes; if I wanted to, I could be gone from my house for nearly every weekend of the year at some convention or event. I don’t want that (I actually like my family and want to spend time with them) and I prefer to be a writer, not a traveler. What makes the travel worthwhile is the getting to meet and be in front of people. I think when that happens, we all have fun together. And that’s not a bad thing.

Two Advertisements For Myself: Signed Lock In Copies and Tomorrow’s Appearance in Beavercreek

And they are:

1. Remember, if you are not in the path of my Lock In book tour that begins later this month, you can still get signed copies of the book from Subterranean Press — and if you get your order in by August 8, I’ll even personalize it for you if you like (for you or for someone you specify). Here are all the details.

2. Tomorrow (August 2nd) at 2pm, I will be at the Beavercreek, OH Barnes and Noble for an afternoon of hilarious hijinx! Or at least, a reading, a Q&A, and a signing. If you’re in the Dayton area please come down! I don’t want to be alone. That would be awkward.

Starred Review of Lock In at Booklist

It’s up at the magazine’s Web site now (albeit behind a paywall), so I can acknowledge it here: Lock In has received its third starred review, this time from Booklist. I won’t quote the whole thing (read it at the Web site if you have access, or in the August 2014 print edition), but here’s a bit I particularly like:

Another brilliant novel from a writer who has quickly become one of the genre’s most successful and intriguing practitioners.

I like the word “another” in that, I have to say.

I’m basically gobsmacked to have received three starred reviews for Lock In (the other two being from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus); that’s the first time I’ve had that happen. I hope you guys like it as much as the reviewers have so far.

Old Man’s War and Trans Folk

Note: This entry will have spoilers about my book Old Man’s War – which, inasmuch as the book has been published for nearly ten years now probably shouldn’t been seen as spoilers anymore but never mind that now — so if you haven’t read Old Man’s War and don’t want a relatively important aspect of it spoiled for you, here’s the takeaway: Yes, there are trans people in the OMW universe; no, it’s not a problem for the CDF/Colonial Union that they are trans. There, now you can go ahead and skip the rest of this entry.

Now, then, for everyone else:

I have been asked several times (and just yesterday, in fact, via e-mail), what happens to trans people who become part of the Colonial Defense Force in the Old Man’s War books. To recap, the CDF gets its soldiers by recruiting 75-year-olds from Earth and giving them new, super-awesome bodies that are based on — but not created solely out of — their own DNA. Because the creation of the bodies is only partly based on the recruit’s original genetic information, would it be possible to for transfolk to specify which gender they would like their new body to be?

This is a really interesting question. Let me try to answer it.

Let me note that with respect to Old Man’s War the book, I did not at all think about what would happen with trans people who join the CDF as I was writing it. Why? Short answer: Straight white male who didn’t know any trans people at the time, so it was not something in my consciousness. So everything from here on out is me adding commentary to the original text — but since it’s from me, the author, we can consider it canonical.

(Also, note: I am not 100% up on trans-related terms, so if I use terms incorrectly, it’s ignorance and not malice; please let me know in the comments and I’ll edit.)

1. First off, and to be clear, there would be no bar to trans people joining the CDF, because why would there be? The entrance requirements are a) you’ve signed up, b) you come from what are in the book rich, developed countries (which mostly align with the current slate of rich, developed countries). So yes, there would be trans people among the recruits.

2. By default, CDF bodies come in classically male and classically female forms. Note that thanks to genetic engineering, etc, the performance capabilities of both male and female forms are equal, so the gender presentation is strictly for the psychological comfort of the recruit, i.e., you’re (usually) used to being male or female, so you get to stay that way when you transfer into your new body.

3. Because the body sorting is a matter of psychological comfort, to the extent that the CDF knows about a trans person’s gender identity, it’ll sort them that way. So, for example, a post-op trans person will be sorted into their post-op gender identity, regardless of DNA profile, because that’s the clear preference for that person.

4. What about non-op, genderfluid, intersex or trans people who have not made their preferred gender public knowledge? The CDF initially sorts into male/female by best appoximation and then after transfer follows up for additional modification. The CDF is an organization that can grow back limbs and organs with minimal effort (for them; it’s slightly more traumatic to the person growing them back), so modifying bodies for the psychological comfort of the person inside is a relatively trivial matter. Most of this can be handled before the recruits get to basic training, although particular in the case of trans people who are not public, much would be contingent on them telling the CDF doctors and technicians.

5. And no, the CDF wouldn’t care about the gender presentation of the recruits. What it would care about is them being willing to fight. You’ll fight? Great, here’s your Empee. Go kill an alien. Thanks.

6. Would there be some other recruits who would have a problem with trans people? It’s possible; the CDF lets anyone in. The basic training drill sergeants will be happy to tell them to get over it. If they did not (indeed if they did not get over any general bigotry) the results for them would be grim.

7. Could a CDF soldier decide to change their gender identity and presentation during the term of service? Sure, why not? All CDF bodies have the same baseline capabilities and personal identity can be verfied via BrainPal, so there would be no penalty or confusion on either score. Are you following orders? Killing aliens? Great — change your presentation however you like.

8. Likewise, when a CDF soldier leaves service, they can specify the gender identity and presentation of the body they’ll be transfered into. Because, again, why wouldn’t they?

Short form: The CDF is happy to let trans people be who they are because it makes them comfortable with themselves — and that makes them better soldiers, which is ultimately what the CDF cares about.

With regard to the Old Man’s War series, I have not intentionally written about trans people in it (some of my characters may have been trans but did not tell me about it), but there’s no reason why I could not. So maybe I will at some point, if there’s a way to do so that doesn’t look like me transparently trying to gather cookies to myself. But regardless of whether I’ve written trans people into my books, there are, canonically speaking, trans people in the OMW universe. Because why wouldn’t there be.

(Update, 8:30pm: Making a few tweaks on language thanks to feedback from some trans and trans-knowledgeable readers)

The Big Idea: Joshua Roots

Reponsibility! It’s a drag, right? Not so, argues Joshua Roots, who explains how responsibility, and all the things around it, inform his latest novel, Summoned Chaos.

JOSHUA ROOTS:

Growing up, life worked pretty hard to instill in me a sense of responsibility for my actions. Don’t eat your veggies? No dessert. Forget to call Mom if you’re going to miss curfew? Enjoy staying home for the next week or so. Ask two girls out to the same dance? Good luck getting a date the rest of your 7th-grade year, pal.

As a kid, responsibility was a burden, something imposed on me from the outside. Things like cleaning my room, eating veggies, and monogamy were crosses I had to bear. If I goofed up, I paid the price. Someone external (usually my folks) kept me in line, ensuring I stepped up to the plate for the responsibilities assigned to me or ones I’d volunteered for.

During those formative years, I found a kindred spirit in Peter Parker. He was just a normal teenager until a radioactive spider gave him all these amazing powers. Not to mention the burdens that went along with them. As Uncle Ben drilled into him: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

I didn’t know it back then, but that was only half of the equation.

Over time, the sense of responsibility became something that I realized through my own actions. Rather than my parents holding me accountable, I was doing it myself. Missing a homework assignment in high school or college meant I had to own up to my actions alone. Same with being flippant with a girl’s heart. Some of those lessons were learned the hard way, through poor grades or tears wept. But in the end, it was my choice to attend those classes or account for another person’s feelings.

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but one day I found myself paying my mortgage, filling out a grocery list, and making my bed. Voluntarily. And you know what? That was pretty cool. More important, it was empowering. Keeping the lights on and food in the fridge may seem boring and mundane, but it was symbolic. I wasn’t merely surviving, I was building my future. Commanding my life.

Then I joined the Marines and that concept was ratcheted up to eleven. Responsibility wasn’t a burden, but a gift. Just as lives were entrusted to me, so too was mine entrusted to others. That responsibility became one of the greatest rewards because when I eventually moved on, I walked away with the strength to carve out my own future and the conviction to face whatever challenges came my way.

Becoming responsible as an adult, while not always fun, does carry a significant amount of power. We begin to control our own destinies, make choices, and learn to deal with the consequences—good or bad—of those actions. More important, the responsibilities that we take on allow us to choose which paths we want to navigate through life. No matter what, those paths are filled with challenges. Accepting those challenges and working to overcome them empowers us. It teaches us we can do better, maybe even become more than we think we can be. It gives us the confidence to move forward.

The Big Idea for Summoned Chaos, Book 2 in The Shifter Chronicles, centers on this theme. The main character, Marcus, is making the transition from being begrudgingly accountable for his actions to willingly accepting them. He’s not only dealing with the fallout of Book 1, but also realizing that there is a certain amount of power that comes from bearing the load of his family name, of serving the governing council of his magical society, and of being responsible for someone other than himself.

Rather than responsibility being a burden he must carry, Marcus, much like the rest of us, comes to realize that it is a weapon to win life’s battles. He is no longer a “lone wolf” caring for his own needs. Instead, he’s taking on the responsibilities of a team, his loved ones, and the defenseless humans he’s sworn to protect against paranormal creepy-crawlies. By doing so, he gains the strength and confidence to face the troubles ahead of him.

And trust me, there are a lot of them.

So, Uncle Ben was right: “With great power comes great responsibility”. But he forgot to mention the other side of the coin: “With great responsibility comes great power.”

Summoned Chaos: Amazon| Barnes and Noble | GooglePlay | iBooks

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Amazon’s Latest Volley

Another day, another volley in the Amazon-Hachette battle, this time from Amazon, in which it explains what it wants (all ebooks to be $9.99 or less, for starters) and lays out some math that it alleges shows that everyone wins when Amazon gets its way.

Some thoughts:

1. I think Amazon’s math checks out quite well, as long as you have the ground assumption that Amazon is the only distributor of books that publishers or authors (or consumers, for that matter) should ever have to consider. If you entertain the notion that Amazon is just 30% of the market and that publishers have other retailers to consider — and that authors have other income streams than Amazon — then the math falls apart. Amazon’s assumptions don’t include, for example, that publishers and authors might have a legitimate reason for not wanting the gulf between eBook and physical hardcover pricing to be so large that brick and mortar retailers suffer, narrowing the number of venues into which books can sell. Killing off Amazon’s competitors is good for Amazon; there’s rather less of an argument that it’s good for anyone else.

2. Amazon’s math of “you will sell 1.74 times as many books at $9.99 than at $14.99″ is also suspect, because it appears to come with the ground assumption that books are interchangable units of entertainment, each equally as salable as the next, and that pricing is the only thing consumers react to. They’re not, and it’s not. Someone who wants the latest John Ringo novel on the day of release will not likely find the latest Jodi Picoult book a satisfactory replacement, or vice versa; likewise, someone who wants a eBook now may be perfectly happy to pay $14.99 to get it now, in which case the publisher and author should be able to charge what the market will bear, and adjust the prices down (or up! But most likely down) as demand moves about.

(This is where many people decide to opine that the cost of eBooks should reflect the cost of production in some way that allows them to say that whatever price point they prefer is the naturally correct one. This is where I say: You know what, if you’ve ever paid more than twenty cents for a soda at a fast food restaurant, or have ever bought bottled water at a store, then I feel perfectly justified in considering your cost of production position vis a vis publishing as entirely hypocritical. Please stop making the cost of production argument for books and apparently nothing else in your daily consumer life. I think less of you when you do.)

Bear in mind it’s entirely possible that Amazon sells 1.74 times as many books at $9.99 than at $14.99, but then Amazon deals with gross numbers of product, while publishers deal with somewhat smaller numbers, and the author, of course, deals with only her own list of books. As the focus tightens, the general rules stop being as applicable. What’s good for Amazon isn’t necessarily good for publishers, or authors.

3. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I think it’s very likely that if $9.99 becomes the upper bound for pricing on eBooks, then you are going to find $9.99 becomes the standard price for eBooks, period, because publishers who lose money up at the top of the pricing scale will need to recoup that money somewhere else, and the bottom of the pricing scale is a fine place to do it. Yes, the mass of self-published authors out there will create a tier of value-priced books (this has already been done), and I’m sure in a couple of years Amazon will release another spate of numbers that will show how much more profitable $6.99 eBooks are as compared to $9.99 eBooks, and so on. But at the end of the day there will be authors and publishers who can charge $9.99, forever, and they will. If you destroy the top end of the market, the chances you destroy the bottom end go up, fast.

4. I think Amazon taking a moment to opine that authors should get 35% of revenues for their eBooks is a nice bit of trying to rally authors to their point of view by drawing their attention away from Amazon’s attempt to standardize all eBook pricing at a price point that benefits Amazon’s business goals first and authors secondarily, if at all. The translation here is “Look, if only your publisher would do this thing that we have absolutely no control over, then your own income wouldn’t suffer in the slightest!” Which again, is not necessarily true in the long run.

To be clear, I think authors should get more of the revenue of each electronic sale, although I’m not necessarily sanguine about letting Amazon also attempt to set what that percentage should be. Increasing authors’ percentages of revenue on electronic sales is an exciting new frontier in contract negotiations, he said, having walked to that frontier himself several times now. That said, I also think I should be able to get more of the revenue of each sale and have the ability to have my work priced at whatever the market will bear, without a multibillion-dollar company artifically capping the price I or my publisher can set on my work for its own business goals, which may or may not be in line with my own.

5. While this is not going to happen because this is not the way PR works, I really really really wish Amazon would stop pretending that anything it does it does for the benefit of authors. It does not. It does it for the benefit of Amazon, and then finds a way to spin it to authors, with the help of a coterie of supporters to carry that message forward, more or less uncritically.

Look: As Walter Jon Williams recently pointed out, if Amazon is on the side of authors, why does their Kindle Direct boilerplate have language in it that says that Amazon may unilaterally change the parameters of their agreement with authors? I don’t consider my publishers “on my side” any more than I consider Amazon “on my side” — they’re both entities I do business with — but at least my publisher cannot change my deal without my consent. Which is to say that between my publisher and Amazon, one of them gets to utter the immortal Darth Vader line “I am altering the deal. Pray I do not alter it further” to authors doing business with it and one does not.

(I notice in the WJW comment thread someone opines along the lines of “Oh, that’s like EULA boilerplate and it would probably not be enforceable in court,” which I think is a really charming example of naivete, not in the least because, as I suspected, the boilerplate also specifies (in section 10.1) that disputes between Kindle Direct users and Amazon will be settled through arbitration rather than the courts.)

Authors: Amazon is not your friend. Neither is any other publisher or retailer. They are all business entities with their own goals, only some of which may benefit you. When any of them starts invoking your own interest, while promoting their own, look to your wallet.

Update, 8/9/14: Amazon tries a new tactic, addressing readers (and authors who use Kindle Direct Publishing). I comment on it. Spoiler: Still not especially impressed with the logic; Amazon still not your friend.