Albert Einstein As You’ve Almost Certainly Never Seen Him Before

Physics professor and friend of Whatever Chad Orzel ran a fundraiser for science education a few weeks ago and promised if certain financial goals were met that he would re-enact the quantum physics debate between Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr using puppets. Well, the goals were met, and Chad, a man of his word, has the re-enactment up on his blog. Because Niels Bohr puppets are in tragically short supply, however, Chad improvised, substituting dog puppets for the eminent scientists. Which makes it even better.

I’ll note, incidentally, that Chad’s upcoming book How to Teach Physics to Your Dog is getting great reviews, and will be featured here in a Big Idea later in the month. Here’s the book’s Web site, in case you can’t wait.

Technorati Finally Catches Up With My “Hate Mail” Cover

Note my Technorati Authority ranking today:

I’m not trying to use my Internet presence for evil. It just happens.

Also, unrelated: This is the 5,000th Whatever post on the site, according to my WordPress backend counter. There have actually been more, since posts before March of 2002 are not on the site. But no matter how you slice it: Damn. It’s a lot.

Introducing That Was the Decade That Was

Now that we’re here in December, I thought it would be a lovely time for me to share with you some of my thoughts on the people, things and events that have made the last ten years so very decade-licious: A retrospective on the aughts, the zeros, the two thousand somethings or whatever you want to call them. So I’m creating a series of entries called That Was The Decade That Was. You’ll know them because the above graphic will be featured on each of these entries.

I was originally thinking I would feature one TWTDTW entry a day, but then I remembered that I have the organizational capacity of a squirrel. So I’ll just say that TWTDTW entries will show up through December when I feel like posting them. That said, Lord knows there is enough about the last decade to talk about, so you should expect a fair number of them in the next month. Some of the topics I expect to be fairly obvious, but I’ll probably sneak in a few unexpected ones as well. I think you’ll have fun with it.

That’s my end of the year, end of the decade project here. Prepare yourself.

In the Spirit of the Pulps, and Paying Even Less

A friend of mine drew my attention to the following link on the Locus magazine Web site sidebar:

Black Matrix Publishing seeks submissions for four new magazines “in the spirit of the pulp magazines of the last century”

So I clicked through and discovered that in addition to wanting to replicate the “spirit” of the pulp magazines, Black Matrix Publishing also wants to replicate its payment scale as well:

We pay one-fifth of a cent per word on acceptance. Payment is for First Serial Rights.

Yes, you’re reading that correctly: one fifth of a penny per word. That’s 500 words for a dollar, for those of you who don’t want to do the math, and 1/25th of the current SFWA qualifying rate of five cents a word.

For perspective on this, back in the 1920s, Hugo Gernsback, who was notorious for paying his authors poorly, was paying his science fiction writers a quarter of a penny a word. So these people at Black Matrix Publishing are paying 20% less for their fiction than an editor who famous for being cheap eighty years ago.

In the absence of knowing anything about these Black Matrix folks, I’m going to be charitable and assume that they’re not actually intending to be contemptuous of writers. But the fact is, as far as publishing goes, when it comes to paying authors badly, there’s cheap, there’s insultingly cheap, and then there’s just plain being an asshole. Black Matrix Publishing, with its one penny for five words rate, currently lies slightly beyond the “we’re assholes” frontier, in a zone of being typically reserved for tracksuited predators who park outside elementary schools, dangling lollipops from panel vans. Hopefully this will come as shock to them, and they will move forthwith to bump their payment to, say, a penny a word, which would at least point them in the right direction.

But, you may say, at least they’re paying something. Bah. A fifth of a penny a word is not something, it’s a rounding error. And more to the point, if as a publisher all you can pay writers is a fifth of a penny a word, you’re signaling to anyone who cares to look that you have no clue what you’re doing. Competent publishers would have factored the cost of reasonable compensation for writers into their business plan. They would have also researched into what rates qualify as “reasonable compensation.” Either the Black Matrix people don’t know what they’re paying sucks, which doesn’t speak particularly well of them as business people, or they do know, which doesn’t speak particularly well of them as human beings.

Either way, it’s ridiculous. If you’re a writer, avoid this market until such time as they start paying something within hailing distance of reasonable. If you’re a reader, avoid this publisher until it treats the people who are entertaining you with their words with something approaching respect.

This entry, by the way, is worth exactly one dollar to the Black Matrix folks. Oh, the irony.

The Other Way to Make One of These is to Stave My Head In, and I Don’t Recommend That

How to make a Bloody Scalzi. Yes, it’s a drink, and fittingly of the non-alcoholic variety. I’ll have to try one of these myself.

Pat Rothfuss’ Worldbuilders 2009

Some of you might remember that last year, fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss ran a little charity drive on his Web site to support Heifer International, a charity that helps the poor in developing countries by providing them livestock. Pat raised over $50,000 from donors, proving the man is, well, awesome.

This year Patrick is doing it again under the guise of “Worldbuilders” and he’s secured a sponsor: Subterranean Press. And again they’re encouraging you do donate to Heifer International, and when you do, here’s what will happen:

1. For the first $10,000 donation will be matched by 50% by Subterranean — so if you donate $10, Subterranean will kick in an additional $5. If you donate more, the amount matched will be more.

2. For every ten bucks you donate, you’ll be entered in a drawing for the proverbial fabulous prizes, including new books from Subterranean, including The God Engines, by yours truly. Pat is also kicking in here not only with some signed first editions (among other things) but also a “golden ticket” — which I’ll let you link through to find out what that means. Point is, you have a chance to win cool stuff for every $10 you donate. Donate $10, get one chance at the goodies. Donate $100, get ten chances. And so on.

In addition to this there are auctions and other ways to directly get signed stuff from Pat. In all, a fine way to do good this holiday season while also getting a crack at some excellent swag.

Here’s the page to go to for all the information on how to donate, what you might win, and everything else. Please do consider giving.

And before you ask, why, yes, I’ve donated. I donated a pig! Because, you know, bacon.