Look! I Am Drawing Your Attention to These Things!
Posted on July 27, 2010 Posted by John Scalzi 9 Comments
Because, you know. Why be subtle about it.
1. To celebrate the arrival of the author copies of Shades of Milk and Honey, and the book’s imminent release (as in, next Tuesday), Mary Robinette Kowal is having a caption contest to give away two signed copies of the novel. Yes! Signed! To you, even! That is, if you win. But I totally know you’re going to win. Because you’re creative like that. Remember that one time, when you said that thing, and I said “wow, that was really creative?” It’ll be just like that all over again. Only with a signed book at the end.
2. Congratulations to my fellow Viable Paradise instructors Debra Doyle and Jim Macdonald, whose new alt-history novel, Lincoln’s Sword, hits bookstores today. Fans of alternative history will be all over this, and if you’re not a fan of alternative history, you know what? Maybe in another time line, you are. And maybe that version of you is a much happier person. Think about that. And speaking of the general subject of alternate history, Debra Doyle has a great guest post on Making Light talking about alternate history, the Civil War and why people get spiky about it, and her and Jim’s new novel. Meaty food for thought.
3. You know who else is having deep thoughts today? Cat Rambo, that’s who. Specifically, she’s having smart and cogent thoughts on print and electronic publishing, how they differ and how they’re the same, and what it all means. She’s doing it on a guest post at the SFWA blog, and you should all go now to read it because I don’t know that you’ve thought about traditional versus electronic publishing enough today. Really, how you get through your day not thinking about it, I just don’t know.
4. But, John, you say. What about you? Aren’t you going to link to something about you? Because how can you call yourself a venal, grasping egotist if you don’t? Those are some excellent questions, my friend, and in response let me present you with this essay on METAtropolis, in which the author posits that the near-future anthology I edited and contributed to is, in fact, a work of “outsider anarchism.” And once you’ve read that, check out this response to the essay at Futurismic, which discusses the role of outsider anarchism in science fiction more generally. I’m not personally going to address the topic at this point, since I think it’ll be more interesting to let other people bat it around, and anyway, what does the editor/co-author know about such things? I am merely a vessel. (Note for the irony impaired: I am not merely a vessel.) I will say I do enjoy people taking the work seriously. We aimed to entertain, but quite a lot of thought went into the construction.
And there you are. Get linking.
if you’re not a fan of alternative history, you know what? Maybe in another time line, you are. And maybe that version of you is a much happier person.
As one of those crazy people who created what are, arguably, the first commercial ebooks (the Voyager Expanded Books, which debuted in 1992 on floppy disk), I find Cat Rambo’s essay fascinating, mostly because it parallels my thinking on the topic for the last two decades.
I do, however, think that Cat is optimistic about ereaders that can stand up to the rigor of a day at the beach. The paper book, even cheap paperbacks, can be quite durable in adverse environments.
Also, the paper book is wonderfully debugged technology with a very much longer shelf life than current digital standards can boast (the original Voyager ebooks are unreadable on today’s computers because the software no longer exists that can display them).
Paper books have a huge cultural inertia that will be difficult to overcome in the short (or even intermediate) run. I suspect that the future of publishing and the formats in which book publishing takes place is going to be more complicated than either she or I envision.
outsider anarchism: I always get hung up on one nagging little detail about anarchism as a political idea: It won’t work.
Sigh. When a long post begins with two, count them, two false universalisms (“no one thinks” and “we all know”) in the very first sentence, I’m inclined not to read the rest of it. I suspect MichaelC is much closer to the truth.
Oops: Correction: Two false universalisms in the first paragraph. Oh well, then, that’s fine.
While reading the article from Futurismic, I kept thinking about the novel Adiamante by L.E. Modesitt Jr. That novel was published in, oh, 1996, and I’d say it’s a good example of somewhat anarchistic ideas popping up in science fiction. I use the qualifier “somewhat” for two reasons: one, I’m not at home right now so I don’t have easy access to the book, and two, I’m not by any means an expert on anarchism so I don’t know how closely it follows said ideals/philosophy. I do know that one of the main themes of the book is that those in power are responsible to those they have power over, such that the main character racks up a debt of years of work for the brief period he is planetary director. It’s a good read. I’d recommend it, of course only after you’ve bought and read all of John’s books. :)
Oh, and what type of vessel are you John? Seagoing or spacefaring? I keep seeing you as a little snubfighter, delivering torpedoes to the Death Star.
Oh yeah? Well, maybe the alternate history version of me is a sad, fat bastard who spends his entire time on the internet pretending he has a life. Didya ever think about that?
(Looks around furtively and wipes cookie crumbs on shirt)
Sadly, I didn’t find Cat Rambo’s remarks all that smart or cogent. I’m afraid if there’s anything thats going to kill the physical book in this country, its the creeping dumbassery of our populace.
Regarding Cat Rambo’s post, from an end user perspective, there are major disadvantages to the electronic format.
How do I borrow/ lend them out? Considering that this was how I got into my original genre reading kick, & that I like lending out my books to family & friends, it’s a pretty large problem.
What about the second hand market? How do I go about getting rid of those older books that have no re-read value for me?
While I see the convenience value in e-books, I don’t see them being as easily adopted as the original writer does considering that it’s dependent on the buyer accepting less control & ownership over his purchases.
However, should there be sufficient economic incentive (ebooks that are significantly cheaper then paperbacks), that threshold might be crossed.