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A Welcome Outbreak of Sanity

Georgia school chief drops planned ‘evolution’ ban

Georgia’s school superintendent Thursday dropped plans to remove the word “evolution” from the state’s high school science curriculum.

“I will recommend to the teacher teams that the word ‘evolution’ be put back in the curriculum,” Kathy Cox said in a statement.

Now, if we can get Georgia to change its mind about glossing over the near-century of American history which includes the Civil War, we might be on to something.

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One Vote Majority

President’s Statement on Massachusetts’ Court Ruling
Statement by the President

February 4, 2004

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT

Today’s ruling of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is deeply troubling. Marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman. If activist judges insist on re-defining marriage by court order, the only alternative will be the constitutional process. We must do what is legally necessary to defend the sanctity of marriage.

Wouldn’t a Presidential statement against “judicial activism” be a little more resonant if it came from a President who wasn’t in the White House because of it? I mean, if anyone should appreciate the value of a “one-vote majority” judicial ruling, it should be President Bush.

Oh. I see. That’s different. Well. It’s always different with him, now, isn’t it.

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News Bits

Lots of stuff to do, not lots of time to do it, so in lieu of my usual extended rantyness, some quick takes on a fairly busy news day.

1. The Primaries: Unless Howard Dean truly rocks the house in the primaries this Saturday, he’s dead meat on a stick (I believe he’s dead meat on a stick anyway, but the question is how long he’ll be able to drag it out). I should note that this observation comes with no guarantee of having any relation to reality, as a few weeks ago, I was convinced it was going to be a two-man fight between Clark and Dean, and at this point neither of them seem to be exactly setting the world afire. I think Clark may eventually scale himself into a potential candidate for Secretary of State for whatever Democrat does become the nominee (should he win). I have no idea what Dean does next with his life. I understand, however, that he does have a trade of some sort. My current thinking on how it all ends up, by the way, is a Kerry-Edwards ticket.

In some sense this is entirely academic for me, as I am not registered to either major party (so I won’t be primary voting in Ohio), and as I’m actively not voting for Bush, I’m about 98% likely to vote for the Democratic candidate regardless of who he ends up being, provided he doesn’t strangle a baby between now and the first week of November. This is why I haven’t done all that much on the primaries up to this point. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I already know how I’m voting.

2. Gay Marriage: The Massachusetts Supreme Court has clarified its position on gay marriage, stating that nothing less than full marriage would do — no mamby-pamby civil unions for the gays and lesbians. As I figured Massachusetts would eventually go with some sort of civil union thing, I’m wrong again. But of course being a person who doesn’t see a damn thing wrong with gay marriage, I can’t say that I’m weeping bitter tears about being wrong in this case.

The salient point here is that gay marriage in Massachusetts is a done deal, since the earliest a Massachusetts constitutional amendment banning gay marriage could pass would be in 2006, by which time banning gay marriage would mean either that the state annuls the marriages of what is likely to be thousands upon thousands of gays and lesbians, which would be outrageous, or that it grandfathers in the gay marriages that already exist, which leaves open the question of if gay marriage is so terrifying, why are these folks allowed to remain married?

It also creates a problem for a national constitutional amendment barring gay marriages, as again the end result of passing such a amendment would be to explicitly deprive American citizens of a right they had previously enjoyed. And not just all Americans (as in the case of Prohibition, and we all remember how successful that was), but a specific segment of Americans. And the question to reasonably ask at that point is that if it’s okay to deprive one segment of American citizens their rights, why would it be wrong to deprive any other segment of theirs?

As I’ve said before, I understand a lot of people thing this is something that should have been resolved in the course of time, but I tend to think that if we let time handle all things, there would still be people who think it’s not quite time to let go of segregation. Sometimes people need a kick in the ass. Here’s your kick, America.

3. Bush losing his luster: About freakin’ time, don’t you think. As other people have noted, a man who wants to get credit for planning to halve a deficit his policies have substantially created is a man who neither accrues nor deserves respect, especially when that “planning” involves lots of smoke and mirrors. When even the Wall Street Journal is bashing the budget proposal of a sitting Republican president, you know things are looking bad for the man. And it’s nice to see his military bona fides, such as they are, getting a good beating upon, too.

Having said that, it’s not November, now, is it. Bush has shown that one doesn’t have to win to occupy the White House, one merely refuses to lose, and that with extreme prejudice. He’s got crafty people about him, and if you think they’re going to go down easy, you haven’t been paying attention over the last four years. This is going to be a hard, hard slog all the way until election day.

4. Cory’s new book: Cory Doctorow’s Eastern Standard Tribe is out today, and as with Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, he’s letting people download it for free (you can also get an autographed copy). Cory’s done this with his other books as well, and seems convinced it works as a sales tool, and I imagine it does; I know that having Agent out there as a free download has let me pick up readers, and hopefully that will transfer into readers for OMW when it comes out later this year.

You may ask if I’ll release OMW as a free online book, and the answer is: Dunno. It was up, briefly, of course (it’s how it got sold), but I gave the electronic rights over to Tor in the contract (they offered to let me keep them, I should note), so it’s up to Tor to decide what to do with them. As it’s Tor who is publishing Cory’s book, they’re clearly open to doing experimental things. But we’ll have to see.

I’m inclined to follow Tor’s lead with this area of things; they’re finding out what works for them, and I want to sell a lot of copies, have the book read by tons of people and make sure my publisher is happy so they’ll buy more books from me in the future. Somewhere in there is a good balance. I don’t mind that Cory’s doing most of the heavy lifting to figure out where that balance is.

5. IndieCrit: A reminder that IndieCrit is back, and now I’m pointing to actual music tracks available online from indie bands. If you haven’t checked it out yet, really. You have no excuse. New! Free! Indie! Music! Honestly, what more do you need?

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CafePress Book

Behold — Agent to the Stars in bound form!

And no, you can’t have one. There are exactly two of these babies, one for me, and one for my wife, who has always wanted this particular story in convenient book form but was thwarted by the fact that no publisher would buy it and produce it in that media. So I decided to go over to CafePress — which now allows people to self publish books — and crank out a copy for her there. And while I was doing that, I thought I might as well get one for myself.

I have to say I’m reasonably pleased with the resulting product except in one respect, which I’ll get to in a minute. The book comes with a glossy cover and the pages appear to be securely glued; I don’t think it feels like a “real” book — i.e., it’s of ever-so-slightly lesser quality than what you’d get from a mass-market publisher — but it does feel like a high-end advance reader’s copy of an upcoming book. I used CafePress’ template to lay out the book and then send it in, so for that reason the inside looks fairly professional as well — there are a couple of “orphans” (single words or single lines on otherwise blank pages), but those are my fault rather than the fault of CafePress. Overall, a reasonably nice job for what is indeed a very small run of a book.

The one thing I don’t like: Well, what I don’t like about CafePress in a general sense, which is that the prices are high. This is due at least in part to the intensive nature of providing “one-off” stuff, so this is not an actual complaint. And here’s a funny thing: It was actually no more expensive to run a copy of the book this way than to print it on my home printer, on account that printing a novel always seems to require me changing ink cartridges (which are outrageously priced). Still and all, one of these books, in your basic mass-market paperback form, costs $18 to buy.

This is fine for me blurting out a vanity copy for myself and my wife, but it’s not something I would feel comfortable charging people (not to mention I would have to charge people more if I actually wanted to make a profit), especially as I’ve been offering it for free for years. This is why I don’t know that I would recommend the CafePress vanity publishing option to most people: you’ve have to have a really motivated buyer to shell out $18 (or more) for a mere paperback. I’ve been thinking of using CafePress publishing for a “Best Of” collection of Whatevers, and I may still do that (another reason I ran off a couple copies of Agent was to get a feel for the process), but I honestly won’t expect to sell very many copies. And just in case you’re wondering, I’ve already taken the Agent book down from my CafePress site. Sorry.

So the rest of you are still going to have to read it online. Well, let me amend that: If you want to download the Agent document, format it and use CafePress to run off your own personal copy, I have no objection, so long as you then don’t try to sell it to other people.

If you do go through all that, wow, you’re a true fan. Please don’t stalk me.

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What the Hell?

Google is down. Or was down, at least, the last time I checked. Or at the very very least, I can’t access it and I can access everything else just fine.

I can’t tell you how much this unnerves me. Having Google down seems like am ominous sign.

I actually had to do a search with… Altavista. It’s like being flung back to 1997!

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My So-Called Writing Life

Over at Making Light, Teresa Nielsen Hayden discourses on literary rejection and why writers take rejection badly (reason: The editors are rejecting our babies! Waaaaaah!). In the comment thread, Charlie Stross makes a cogent observation, excerpted here:

It’s an issue of self-identity. People who write think of themselves as being writers; thus, to have their writing rejected is to question an aspect of their identity.

In these cases, it’s an aspect of their identity that needs to be questioned. “Being a writer” is about receiving rejection letters, shrugging, filing them, and going on. “Being a writer” is about walking a tightrope strung between the twin pillars of what-the-readers-want and what-I-want-to-say, above the abyss of obscurity. “Being a writer” is frequently a tedious, exhausting, isolating, financially insecure existence…

The whole issue of why so many people harbour romantic misconceptions about the literary lifestyle is one that needs to be examined if we’re to understand why so many people respond badly to rejection letters. And here I think other writers are partially to blame, for in all too many fictions about writers we see them presented as free, and wealthy, and fulfilled …

It’s true enough that when I tell people I’m a writer, they get the impression I spend most of my time slacking off, except for the 15 or so minutes a day where I vomit out prose in a gout. And of course it’s not true. There’s actual work involved. It’s not back-breaking work or work that’s in any way physically strenuous, but it’s work nonetheless.

I think I’m a good example of a professional freelance writer — I write a lot of stuff, I write a lot of different stuff, and it’s my day job. And I’m reasonably successful, at least financially (i.e., I don’t have to do anything else to pay my bills), although I am by no means rich. So, here’s how I live my romantic writing life:

1. Sometime usually between 7:30 and 8am, I go into my home office, pictured here:

2. Then I sit down in the above-pictured chair and look at a screen that usually looks like this:

3. And then I look like this:

as I type away until Krissy and Athena get home, which is about 6pm. I do take breaks to do other stuff, like eat and poo and talk on the phone, but most of the time, I’m all about the typing with a neutral expression on my face.

4. Unless I’m on a deadline, in which case I’m apt to look like this:

5. Repeat process Mon-Fri, and maybe a little on the weekend as well.

Isn’t that romantic?

I see two objections here. The first it the practical one: at least you work from home. Well, this is true. On the other hand, people who don’t work at home idealize the working from home scenario. To highlight one big drawback, allow me to present you my conversational partner for most of the working day:

I love my dog, and she loves me in that doggy way of hers, but let’s just say she’s not going to hold forth on a number of topics I will find fascinating. I’ve been in a home situation and I’ve been in an office situation, and while I’m in no rush to get back into an office, I absolutely do miss the stimulation of having people near you, to bounce ideas off of, or just to go and get lunch with. I mean, I just had lunch: Two microwaved burritos that I ate while I was typing this. Isolation does not always rock.

The second objection is: But at least you’re published. And again, that’s true. In four years I’ve written or contributed to these books:

And this picture doesn’t include Old Man’s War, which comes out this year just in time for the holidays (hint, hint). I should also have at least a couple other books to which I’ve contributed coming out this year as well. On the other hand, look at all these books I didn’t write:

And not only didn’t I write these, but several of these books compete directly with something I’ve written. The book market is huge, which is both a blessing and a curse, since the maw must be fed (which means I can reasonably expect to sell more books barring a catastrophic loss of ability) but it’s also incredibly easy to get lost and have your work disappear without someone noticing it was ever there. There’s nothing romantic about your book being on the remainder table.

(and all of the above neglects to mention my other non-book writing, which is available for a limited time — in the case of my magazine and newspaper work — or for which I get no authorial credit (my business writing)).

And like I said: This is the life of a successful freelance writer. I’m not even bringing up the usual utterly non-romantic writer plagues of underemployment, genteel poverty (and sometimes it’s not-so-genteel) and begging people who are supposed to pay you a pitiful pittance to actually spit up the dough, already. And then of course there is rejection of your work, which for a writer is both constant and random — constant because it happens to every writer, and random because often there’s no apparent good reason for it. Any writer who has had a piece rejected one place and accepted another knows how capricious rejection can be.

It’s nice to be able to say I’m a writer — it’s what I’ve always wanted to be and it’s what I’m good at. And yes, it has perks: People assume you’re smart (which is not always the case) and sometimes people even find it attractive — I got a girlfriend in college because she really liked my writing in the newspaper and figured I might be a worthy catch (was I? That’s another story entirely). And I wouldn’t want to do anything else.

But it’s not a romantic life. I suppose some writers do have a romantic life, but most of the writers I know worry about the same things everyone else does, have their mortgages or rent to pay, kids to raise, spouses and friends to cherish and basically a whole damn life to get through like all the rest of y’all. It’s a good life, or at least it’s been a good life for me. But it is a real life.

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