jueves, 25 de febrero de 2016

Violence, a Writer's Guide

If you're aware of Rory Miller's book, "Violence, a Writer's Guide" it just got translated into Spanish. Just in case you know a native Spanish writer, or two.

Take care.

viernes, 11 de septiembre de 2015


I was checking my library for books bought this year, looking for books originally published also this year, and I realized something.

Most books I bought since January are one or two years old. Part of it is that I buy frequently from StoryBundle, and those books are usually not the most recent in the writer's catalogue. Not "ancient", mind you, but not "current".

Then, some of it is that I'm still discovering new writers. This is indie's world "fault". New writers, old writers gone indie, new distribution channels. I'm not sure if I'm before my time or not in my habits as a reader. Pioneer? Early adopter? As an English language reader or as a Spanish citizen? Mainstream or Science Fiction?

Kris has written on discoverability before. And about the produce model. I don't think, at this stage, that it's in question that the big ones are having trouble changing gears.

But so are we.

More so than them, considering how easily they've changed, as far as I know, their contracts to reflect this. But... Were do we look for new writers. Not books from a writer we enjoy, but a new one. We used to have certain channels for that, more or less controlled by publishers.

Now, we don't. Not really. Yes, amazon. And Goodreads. Sure. And podcasts. But, see, everyone knows the book is not going out of print. There's no hurry. No penalty if you discover a book several months later. Amazon, Kobo, CreateSpace will be happy to send you a copy.

And the qualification requirements for prizes will have lapsed. So, the same old imprints will be there.

Thoughts? Take care.

jueves, 3 de septiembre de 2015

I don't want a Hugo

This is sort of a personal recap on the Hugo kerfuffle. From someone who's only been to the States visiting friends. So, not the same starting point of either camp.

Personal background in SF

Two basic points: I grew up with the Nebula as the professional award and the Hugo as the reader's choice. And I'm Mediterranean. Spaniard. Oh, three: I consider myself a conservative, but card carrying reds (think younger Eric Flints) disagree strongly (I am the token conservative, mostly, in most of my groups). From the barricades and even when they have to carry one of their own to the ER because a trailer truck decided to run him over (I do hope the jerk gets to be a ward of the state). Anyhow, US and European left/right axis are not equivalent (#).

Then, some more personal background. I used to read books published by most of the SF imprints. DAW, Tor, Baen... I switched from those translated to Spanish to original English (mostly, paperbacks) in the mid 90s, simply because it was much cheaper, even at the costs of the dollar and S&H back then. While I did have some extra trouble finding things I liked (the main Spanish editor was good and I had to retrain my choices), I didn't think much of it for a while.

Then I discovered Webscriptions, currently Baen Ebooks. 4 bucks a book, I believe, back then, and... no S&H costs! Plus, I was already using Linux. Open formats were a must if I wanted to read it. For quite a while I bought Baen or hardcopy. Several hundred books of Baen. If I wasn't the only one (and I wasn't) it does explain things [+]. I recall I had to get a Gold credit card because, back then, standard issue didn't cover e-commerce.

Now, another personal note: I'm mostly "blind" to character descriptions. I didn't realize the love interest in Memory, Sorrow and Thorn was black haired (she was, right?) until sometime in the 4th book; I don't think I'd have realized Simon was redhaired if he wasn't on the cover. Didn't realize Tabitha Jute was black until I read an interview on book covers well after I'd read the book. I got that a tad earlier with Parable of the Sower, I think about the time she pairs up with Morgan Freeman (yes, that's my image and I'm sticking to it). This means a lot of the diversity ruckus goes way over my head: my image of the characters stems from what they DO, not their physical description. Yes, that's influenced by the local equivalent of a WASP background and a much lower immigration that the States. Much, much lower. Also, surnames don't mean much to me. I don't get that "he's called Rodriguez, so he must be Latino." Different backgrounds, and really bad name memory. Plus, single-surname standards can't be trusted. I can't tell you the name of the main character of a book I finished not 12 hours before. She was Russian, but I can't say much more (tall, short; willowy... I think, sort of... I think her hair color was reddish; and pale, but she's a vamp). I recall Murphy (Dresden series) is short; no idea of any other of the characters (although I picture Charity Carpenter as Molly Weasley). I think I've seen her painted in dark, long hair; I don't know if it's accurate... My basic template for a SF/F character is "white, American standard, one each"; last night I kept putting a black cop in that story above with the face of Sean Connery in The Untouchables; black cops are plainclothes, and usually inspectors (21st Jump Street). And the whole US (do recall I am not from the States) fascination with race is... weird. A fourth of this and an eighth of that? Really weird. Who cares?

You get the idea. This has a side effect: if you put an Eastern character, I won't peg him as such unless there's a lot more to it (Mongol tribes, or sharp daisho, or miles and miles of desert, or...). Said otherwise: "token diversity" is meaningless, to me; I don't even see it.

Another thing. Check this. Any Spaniard who went through high school until the mid 90s (and I'd have to check the current syllabus; might still be there) was exposed to that. Quevedo vs. Góngora. Culteranismo and Conceptismo. Quevedo, by the way, is the guy in Flint's 1632 series, in Rome.

Góngora should have been strangled at birth. Historians might disagree, but high school students won't. Insufferably florid vapor.

SF and me these last years

Now, rewind a couple of years. I was weaning myself off Tor and Scalzi, both of which I'd followed a lot. You can find why in some earlier posts. Also, Penguin, but that's not related to SF, in my case. Regarding Tor and Scalzi, I got fed up with "my way or the highway and, BTW, the way is now MUCH narrower that last week" and insults to readers who didn't agree with the topic du jour.

I think I actually landed on Correia's blog thanks to Scalzi. Unsure. And I think I got wind of the puppies just before he started with the second one. Again, not sure.

The thing is, what he was saying about SF being more and more limited rang a bell. I didn't much care about the "left wing" "conspiracy", although it matched with my Spanish experience [*]. More on that later.

But there was something I believed in.

Look, I have right in front of me a recent book. Palmatier's Shattering the Ley. Big megacorp style dictatorship government ruins the ecology overusing natural energy resources and a bunch of small fry try to rig a solution while everything collapses.

I enjoyed it. Why? The ecological message? Nope. The revolution? Neither. The female character? No. The fact it implied, here and there, that the locale was somewhere near home? Not at all (too little, too late, and I don't really care). Two reasons: worldbuilding and adventure.

Could tell you similar things about some books I got from Baen's shop, including some by Kameron Hurley (not exactly a Puppy defender; my only gripe with her trilogy is that there's not enough... call it hope).

The Hugo Awards

What I believe in, what got me to follow Correia's thread, is that fiction should be entertaining. I believe that this was in Correia's posts last year. That the publishing establishment was throttling entertaining voices because they didn't reflect their perceptions (not enough anguish, or too many whites, or... Yes, linked to "leftist staff", as if it were any better when it's done by right wingers; see my footnotes).

This seems to be troubling when Correia says it, but Eric Flint's been saying the same, with different words. Yes, he assures us it's not a conspiracy, it's only the intelligentsia publishing what it cares about and praising its own while shutting the rest out. I fail to see how that makes any difference to the reader (or to the writer who doesn't get published). Also... well, publishers have been under trial for conspiracy (yes, Apple), so I would be wary of them. Also... that would mean big publishers are missing at least about half their potential readers. Which is, of course, one of the reasons for indies (and Baen).

Mind you, it's an antiquated... establishment. We're talking publishing. Unless the Hugos start going to small presses and indies, they'll become the SF Publisher's Association Awards. Which shall make them meaningless. Sort of a crippled Nebula. Flint insists that's the normal result of literary awards. Even though the Hugo is a fan award? Maybe. The normal result of life is death, but that doesn't mean we should sterilize ourselves, much less our kids.

I also believe that the "you could have won if it wasn't for your supporters" meme is astoundingly daft. If those "no award" votes were really there to punish someone who were not those writers themselves, then the whole thing has put the fandom in the thug business. "Don't rock us or something will happen to your friends". Also, the way Voxdemort acts, he might as well start proposing, say, Wil Wheaton for the Hugos. Or Joss Whedon.

My overall point? That there's a strong tendency by those in the publishing industry to steer the prize. A prize that's supposed to be the reader's. Of course, we've seen here and there how quite a lot of writers consider readers (Preston et al, basically, and the diatribes from some publisher's blogs; also, Kloos, for different reasons). A reader's prize under control is meaningless.

And, yes, BOTH sides are guilty of this. Your point? And do please stop that "our side won... the other side is responsible for what happens next". Yes. BOTH EFFING SIDES. If you win, you have shown power. With power comes responsibility. Own. Up. If you won, work for it.

Personally, I'm upset, in the British sense, that the WorldCon fandom can throw some people under the bus because someone else nominated them. "Without asking for their permission", that of the nominees. Sorry. What!? Do you have to ask awardees for such things? Really!? The uncritical thinking of that utterance is unbelievable.

And that it pretends to be True Fandom... Please. I know professional producers who LOVE F/SF but have never stepped into a WorldCon... Nor do I think they will, as things stand now. One of them is one of those card-carrying picketers above. So much for "right wing".

But, no. I'm going to erase anything that I can link to the puppies from the following list (no Baen works, just in case; certainly no Castaglia). I'm also going to skip "Fan-this" Still "No Award" is "better" than...

  • Jim Butcher
  • Kevin J. Anderson
  • Analog. Four times
  • Card's IGMS
  • Galaxy's Edge
  • Lou Antonelli
  • Carter Reid
  • Mike Resnick
  • Jennifer Brozek
  • Bryan Thomas Schmid
  • Sheila Gilbert
  • Anne Sowards
  • Jim Minz
  • Kirk DouPonce
  • Alan Pollack
  • Nick Greenwood
  • Carter Reid
  • Abyss & Apex
  • Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine
There are a lot of those names I've never read. Some others I don't like. Even some I have an aversion to. Doesn't matter.

"No award" is preferable to Kevin J. Anderson, Mike Resnick, Jim Butcher, Analog (no matter how hard it tries)...

With an attitude like that, Asimov would have been writing romance. Le Guin would have been told "you need to get other people to nominate you".

Take care.

(#) Which leads, for example, to the "Nazism is leftie" meme... and B/W pics of the British royals practicing the salute, 'coz they're known commie sympathizers. My ass.

(+) Basically, I've been told (by people very far from the puppies) that "if you want to sell, go Baen".

(*) Which is usually "right wing". But then, neither is what it pretends. It's more "publishing establishment, runny maroon" than red or blue. Fandom properly was maybe more in a similar L-R divide, if you squint enough. My memory is mixing things, so I'll stop here. Plus... The Spanish fandom might have been about a hundred people. Really not important.

lunes, 17 de agosto de 2015

Publishing women

There's a new batch of "women can't publish" articles. As far as I can see, this one started with a writer's experiment submitting under a pseudonym and escalated from here. Kris Rusch' project on SFalso added some "oomph" to it, in certain circles.

Now, are women promoted less? I can see that, although I have problem seeing how midlisters can be promoted any less than they are. There are few women best-sellers, anyhow.

But let's keep a modicum of rigor, please. Dropping "J K Rowling masculinized her name" needs an explanation (specially since that bit was written in a non-English language op/ed without a tradition for initialising names). Saying "women have trouble publishing"...

...is only true if you think they're technologically illiterate. KDP, from manuscript to worldwide publication in 10 minutes, if that, and a 2-day delay for wordwide distro. So what if Penguin or the rest of BPH don't publish? Youcan. And if you let corporations rob you of your agency you can't come claiming you're a feminist. Not with a shred of credibility.

Take care

sábado, 11 de julio de 2015

Virtue isn't contagious

I refuse to link to the original article, but... behold.

You need a very special kind of jerk to come to someone and say "fuck your birthday!". Yes, I know. Amazon is not a person. Tell that to the guy at Salon. The whiner at Salon.

He makes 5 points: the decline of bookstores, working conditions at amazon, killing the writing professions, the conditions of publishers, and its dominance.

A bunch of those are lies and misrepresentations. I'm not any sort of a special reader, and yet I know, from Spain, a good share of those 2000 indie writers he claims are left, from a max of 4000.

Oh... indie bookshops. Sorry. You mean the ones that are resurfacing now that B&N is no longer pushing them into the gutter? Up 25% in five years? Those indies?[*] Gotcha, thanks.

The way it treats workers... Can we please check on those jobs at printers that the Big V so placidly offshore to China? Pretty please? I don't pretend Amazon's warehouses are a gift from Heaven, but do please let's apply the same standards. If you want to reference "temperatures approaching 115 degree" then let's start with foundries. At it does require a very specific kind of blindnes to complain that your work has ambulances on attendance. Do try that at the next concert tour, would you?

The way it attacks writers? My ass! My choice of writers has sky rocketed in these last few years alone. About Hachette... Well, I've written about those before.

Has amazon affected small publishers? Yes. Some for the worse? Yes. Specially those who had low margins. The reference to Europe is weird, since a godly share of it has fixed price for books. And monopsony...? Well, it isn't illegal. Compare that with cartels and price fixing. And Apple.

ONE of those five points, a SINGLE one, reflects on amazon and writers. The rest is a school of red herring. And even the way he starts with indies (bookshops) and then redirects to Hachette (pubisher) is quirky. The rest are mentioned in a sort of virtue by association. "Writers are Godly, anything that touches their industry is virtuous by association... As long as it's not Amazon or the Rebel Alliance of writers. Or annoying readers".

No, it doesn't work that way. The Big V are the ones who helped B&N kill the indies. Amazon's dominance stems in a huge part from the hurdles that Big V and friends STILL put to comfortable e-reading. Big V employees (Hachette writers, Tor designers...) have been insulting readers for a while in their pursuit of some sort of ideological dominance. Publishers are using low-maintenance interns to check on writers output (not at 115 degrees, I'd hope, but can I check the ergonomics of their workplace? The health of their A/C? Their wage and living expenses?)

And the parting shots on profit? It's called reinvesting, you moron! If we had more of that, maybe those last 8 years would have been a different fish. What's, say, Hachette budget for R&D? I can give you Penguin's. But no, let's chastise Amazon. Including how good it is for consumers. The horror, really. With press like that, is it any wonder that you need independents? In publishing, in news, in...

Take care.

[*] Google "independent bookshops america increase" and choose.

jueves, 21 de mayo de 2015

Kris against The Guardian

First, before anything else, I'm using her as an example. An example as untainted by previous SF fights against/for the Guardian as I could get. Kris has not prior knowledge of this.

Now, The Guardian tends to tire me sorely. British press has gone really downhill the last 20+ years. Possibly like any other national press, but with them I have the advantage of distance and familiarity. That decline is the only way you can seriously write about "The tyranny of the mega-novel", latch it onto GRR Martin (known, in the small circles where he was known before, for short fiction) and then "refute" said article with "Fantasy cannot build its imaginary worlds in short fiction" [*].

If the first article is bad, the second sets an illustrated standard.

"High fantasy of the George RR Martin kind hinges on world-building."

Not so long ago, this very sentence, and the ideas of the first article too, would have been used almost exactly, simply naming JRR Tolkien. That's the power of the double-R.

But, to put an example, I've only read the short novellas in the world of A song of Ice and Fire (aka. Game of Thrones), and the world came brilliantly. One of the examples in the article is Harry Potter. Who creates the whole world by chapter 7. The rest is commentary. Great commentary, but, nonetheless.

Also, those examples show several glitches. One is that the world does not need as many pages as it hosts. Lord of the Rings is 6 books, yes, but it does not need them all to worldbuild. If I wrote 20 more books in that world, it wouldn't suddenly need 26 of them to set the background.

It's called background for a reason. By the same token, you could say a novel takes so-and-so many pages because it can't describe its characters in less.

So... Kris.

I have the hardcopy version of "Broken Windchimes" right in front of me. 87 pages of fiction, in booklet form. It doesn't build its world any less than a multi-saga. It explores that world less, but it's built.

Or I could get into the Retrieval artist world. It's built in the first novella. Sure, it keeps adding. A child's "built" in nine months; the rest is called growing.

But there's a specific blindness in those articles, still.

Readers. And off-Broadway productions. Sorry, off-Manhattan and wherever publishers are set in the UK.

These days "The tyranny of..." doesn't apply. Writers are myriad; publishers, Legion. Readers... we are like locusts. If YOU can't find anything besides mega-sagas, the only tyranny is inside your head. The rest of us are reading (writing) lots of other things. If your pet publishers don't put those things forward it's not the fault of short stories, novels, the genre or anything else that you can't see them.

Take care. [*] Search them yourself. They're crap. So not linking to that.

jueves, 23 de abril de 2015

The customer is the market

[UPDATE AT BOTTOM]I like going to market. Not "the grocer" or "the mall". Think something similar to Borough Market (London, UK). I was raised going to market, I'm raising my kid... It develops a certain sensibility of the relationship between seller and customer.

My father went from travelling salesman to co-CEO of a mid-sized business during some of the worst crises in Spanish history, current one included. I learned certain ideas of capitalism on his knees.

I've said before that bookselling seems to piss on both, customer relationships and capitalism. It's not the only one.

You see, my market experience and my awareness of small and mid-sized businesses makes me try to buy local, makes me glad every time I find a local business for something I used to call from far away. And yet, I keep doing it less and less.


Last year, about this time, several hatchet men were joining voices to raise the prices I paid for my books. Some months earlier, several bloggers at a SF imprint’s site were both insulting anything out of their experience and saying "my way or the highway"; my answer to that kind of rhetoric has been predictable since... forever.

This autumn I kept trying to tell several writers that keeping exclusivity on Amazon was not sensible. I was discarded, unimportant, a nuisance of an anecdote. My reaction was about that, yes. So was, probably, the one that scores of readers had after searching those books to no avail.

Some days ago I tried to reach a fountain pen store through email; it's maybe a third of a mile from home. I explained them I'd been a fountain pen user and I wanted to get back on the horse. Their first answer directed me to the website (which I had already told him I'd visited), their reply to my further questioning is yet to arrive...

This Christmas I was searching for some whisky rocks, at an "off-license" shop [*] maybe 200 yards from my own door. It was Christmas, so some delay was understandable. Yet, I insisted after that... and I'm still waiting. Well, no; waiting no more. Haven't bought him a beer since.

A friend had the same happen with knives. He had to buy some Spanish knives, a specific kind of knife and a grinding wheel (Spanish brand) at foreign suppliers. Two burst of shopping, about 400 bucks, for something he spent several days searching around, finding problems everywhere.

But markets dwindle. I was talking with a butcher last week, and when the refurbished market opens, there will be about a fourth of the butchers that were there when he started, about half the number that were five years ago.

Fountain pen users are not getting any younger, but, sure, please do alienate returning customers, much less new ones.

And, guys, don't think for a second this does not apply to writers. The recent Hugo ruckus made drop several writers I'd enjoyed, made me recover one (kudos to Mrs. Kowal). And yet, some writers insist on pampering their publishers, on being gross to some abstract group of readers, not realizing that readers are everywhere, that they don't often match their perception, and that... we can go somewhere else.

And people still wonder if the SF market is diminishing. That of the Big Names? Sure. But small publishers are everywhere, Kris Rusch is publishing a long novel a month... in a specific series, above and beyond her normal, and smaller similar stories are everywhere. Published from a garage, sold through amazon, while the Big Names in publishing and bookshops falter.

Don't put hurdles in your customers' path.

Don't insult your customer.

Is it eally that difficult?

Take care.

[*] It works different, here, but the idea is about that.

UPDATE: Got the pens through amazon-ES and Fontoplumo, a Netherlander site. A place that sells fountain pens a sneeze short of 7000 €, but also in the teen-range, plus inks and notebooks. A place whose caretaker sent me a personal email warning me that Monday is a national holiday for them and the post is going to be delayed. And a slight discount for future orders. I can assure you I didn't buy anything in the high price range. And, yet, I got customer service. Compare.