A tiny indie film called Iron Man 2 is coming out this Friday, and who knows, maybe it will show up at a theater near you. Maybe. In the meantime, over at AMC’s FilmCritic.com, I field a couple of questions about the film, on the subject of whether its lack of 3D-ness will cause the film to suffer at the box office, and whether comic book films like Iron Man 2 are crowding out “real” science fiction films in theaters. Your life will not be complete unless you read what I have to say on the matter. And comment! Over there.
William Gibson famously said “the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” This fact is evident in the world of electronic publishing: with the arrival of the iPad, Kindle and Nook, many folks believe that we’re at the start of a whole new era of reading… to which Hugo-winning editor Ellen Datlow might be forgiven for rolling her eyes; see, she was publishing science fiction electronically fifteen years ago — so long ago that Steve Jobs was still in his Apple exile, and Amazon.com’s warehouse was barely larger than Jeff Bezos’ garage. The future was already here, if not evenly distributed, and Datlow was there to get it underway.
Some of the best of the fiction she published online is part of Digital Domains, a collection that brings these stories into print — print! Of all things! — including some for the very first time. What’s more, Datlow is here now to share with you some of the history of the future of publishing, and how we got from there to here.
When I began editing the fiction for OMNI online in the mid-90s, it never occurred to me that I was at the vanguard of a new delivery system for short fiction. The actual first online fiction we published was a series of commissioned novellas sponsored by a car company–and they weren’t on the OMNI website, because at the time, we didn’t have one. They were on a section of AOL that was a content area. This was in 1995. Soon after, a real OMNI online site was created, mixing fiction with non-fiction as did the print OMNI.
Soon after Kathy Keeton, the creator of OMNI died, the corporation pulled the plug on us and my former colleagues and I formed Event Horizon: science fiction, fantasy, horror a website intended to draw attention to our budding web business, Event Horizon Web Productions. The four of us: Robert Killheffer, Pamela Weintraub, Kathleen Stein, and I ran three live, real-time online sf conventions for Eos Books and an online book tour. Event Horizon published original and classic fiction, commissioned superstrings (round robins) and provocative nonfiction commentary, and held online chats with a variety of writers.
The site wound down in July 1999, just as I was offered running SCIFICTION, a new part of the SCI FI Channel’s website that would be dedicated to publishing new fiction weekly. SCIFICTION was alive for almost six years. During that period, the Channel was sold at least three times, eventually ending up in the hands of NBC. Although attempts were made to publish a best of SCIFICTION, they never worked out.
In total, I worked for online sf/f/h websites for about ten years. During that period, the quantity and quality of online fiction improved immensely, in part to the credibility OMNI Online, EH, and SCIFICTION brought to the medium. OMNI Online was the first online market accredited by SFWA. “Thirteen Phantasms” by James P. Blaylock and published by OMNI Online, was the first online story to win the World Fantasy Award. “The Specialist’s Hat” by Kelly Link, first published by Event Horizon, also won the World Fantasy Award. Linda N. Nagata’s novella “Goddesses,” was the first online piece of fiction added to the Nebula ballot by the additions jury and was the first to actually win the Nebula Award.
Digital Domains is merely a representation of the fiction published by OMNI Online, Event Horizon, and SCIFICTION. Some of the stories are award winners or award nominees and some are favorite stories of mine, and a few have never been published in print before now. I’d like to feel that I helped pave the way to the explosion of great genre fiction currently on the web.
Of course, there’s still the crucial economic issue that hasn’t yet been resolved: How to pay the creators and editors of that fiction. Corporate sponsorships, donations, advertising, or a combination of the three still seem the most common.
Visit Ellen Datlow’s LiveJournal.
A question from the peanut gallery:
You’ve had a couple of entries over the years where you’ve talked about how much money you make as a writer. Are you still open to talking about that and breaking down what you make?
As it happens, these days I’m not as open about it. Not because I’m uncomfortable about mentioning my income, but because at this point I’m often contractually not at liberty to discuss what I’m doing — I think most of you are aware I have those seekrit projects I can’t tell you about, of which Fuzzy Nation was only one — or what my exact compensation is even for the things you know I’m doing. Absent being able to break down my income and from there discuss how it relates to being a working writer here and now, there’s no point bringing up the topic. Suffice to say that a) I’m doing just fine, thanks, and b) my long-standing strategy of having multiple revenue streams continues to work well for me, and I recommend it for any freelance writer.
To be clear, mention of seekrit projects makes my life seem rather more exciting than it is, and I don’t want to over-inflate expectations or be accused of over-dramatizing my situation. My seekrit projects are seekrit simply because I can’t discuss them in any relevant way; it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily exciting. I don’t have a sideline gig as a ninja assassin or anything, nor (and more relevantly to this entry) am I going to be buying a personal jet with my seekrit proceeds. It just means I’m not able talk about some money stuff that I was able to talk about before. When and if that changes, and I expect it will in time, I’ll be happy to have that discussion here again. But for now it will have to wait.
The author in question being Diana Gabaldon. Naturally, Fandom Wank has the most interesting wrap-up of the tizzy, with its patented snarklicious comment threads. Also of interest: Kate Nepveu’s open letter to professionally-published authors who despise fanfic of their own works.
This is a lovely excuse for me to link once more to my own personal policy on fanfic adaptations. Not that it’s much of an issue for me; aside from the occasional one-off there doesn’t seem to be much Scalzi-based fanfic. I try not to pout about that.