Archive for March, 2004

Lake Sock

Wednesday, March 31st, 2004

Keyboard of the day: the TouchStream LP (thanks to KC for the link)

I was having a lazy day, making vague plans to blog about fear and loathing at Making Light, when I decided to check the Writers of the Future deadline. According to the materials that came with my latest rejection, the deadline is today, not tomorrow. I think I have a set of rules around here somewhere that says tomorrow instead, but better safe than sorry and all that.

So at three in the afternoon I printed out a story. At least, thought I, the Clarion deadline isn’t until tomorrow. I pulled out the application just to check. Big oops - April 1st is the deadline for receipt of the application. I hate non-postmark deadlines.

So I had to fill out the application, print out two more manuscripts, get everything down to the post office by 6pm, and send the Clarion app express. Since it was raining, I wrapped everything in a plastic bag for the journey. I wore a slicker, having forgotten that the primary function of a slicker is to channel the rain from the clothing covered by the slicker to the clothing not covered by the slicker.

And that was how I discovered Lake Sock, which I named after the laundromat on the corner that Lake Sock is threatening to flood. Here in the third world we have no drainage, so the lake had spread to cover an entire corner of two major streets. Tidal activity almost got me, but I found a route overland.

So now I hear we’re cutting off rail access to half the state and closing a major highway for the Democratic National Convention. KC informs me that we’re also suspending the blue laws (including the newest one against smoking in bars and restaurants) for the duration. When our dark-robed masters come to town, they want to smoke in the bars until 4am, and damn the laws of the City of Boston! Don’t you wish you were above the law?

New Hampshire is looking better and better.

Beating the bushes

Tuesday, March 30th, 2004

No, this isn’t a political post. I’m just stopping by to apologize for not blogging. I managed to find the muse by sitting very still and waiting for her to poke her foxy nose out of my subconscious. She’s in a first-person present-tense mood at the moment. I hope she gets over it soon, because I don’t care for the first person. Present tense is no object, at least in a short story.

I suppose I should go vote for some more VOY stories.

So you’ve decided to be lazy…

Monday, March 29th, 2004

Link of the day: So You’ve Decided to be Evil

NaNoEdMo sent out a home stretch email today. There are 50 hours left in March (or so they tell me) and I have 25 hours left of my EdMo quota, and other things I need to do. Thus, I’ve added another year of not finishing to my EdMo record. But I did get the restructuring of the novel done, so it was a month well spent.

Part of my EdMo problem was that the novel gave me ideas for related stories. In my research, I discovered that the left side is the lazy half of the brain. (The right side is the creative half.) Laziness is a feature of consciousness - schizophrenics and hypnotized people are far more industrious in their non-conscious states. I suppose that explains why the muse (a non-conscious entity by definition) is so industrious, when she shows up at all.

If you see her, please remind her I have a deadline coming up.

I can’t believe I read the whole thing…

Sunday, March 28th, 2004

Writing metalink of the day: The Writer’s Desk writer’s on-line resources

And I’m only halfway through the ASC Awards. I voted in a couple of categories of interest in ENT, and did a more thorough job on TNG and TOS. So far I’m one drabble category into VOY, which has to be done by the 4th. MIS is a must-read, but I’m not voting for that many writers, so the overall author category shouldn’t be too much work.

I have 85 votes in the mailbox where I’m collecting my copies. Out of those, I messed up two and had to fix them. The on-line voting interface is much more convenient than last year’s. If you’re a fan who usually avoids ASC, I’d recommend going and reading a category or two according to your tastes and vote. It’s fun.

Nameless Pairing Meme

Friday, March 26th, 2004

I gather from various responses I’ve seen, such as Rocky’s, that the point is to list all the pairings you’ve written. Here goes:

Xander/Anya (just hanging around canonically)
Willow/Tara (unfinished)

Sam/Jack~, Sam~/Jack~, Sam/Jack~~ (the things you can do with a quantum mirror…)
Sam/Narim (just a drabble, but they were so cute together!)
Sam/Pete (unfinished)

Janeway/Chakotay (don’t blame me - everybody does it)
Chakotay/Seven (thank you, PTB!)
Chakotay/Derryn (OC)
Kim/Megan Delaney
Kim/Tazise (alien babe)
Ken Dalby/Jenny Delaney
Magnus Hansen/Erin Hansen (Honey, I stalked the Borg!)
Inna/Talbid (aliens)
Thivil/Tilme (aliens)
Anardil/Anarde (legendary aliens)
Emnil/Ymne (legendary aliens)

Pairings only mentioned in passing:
Janeway/Mark (if filk counts)
Janeway/Michael Sullivan
Chakotay/Torres (if mind control counts)
Kim/Celes Tal
Neelix/Kes (if parody counts)
Tuvok/Mary Sue (implied, same parody)
Billy Tefler/Celes Tal
Chell/Jenny Delaney
Noah Lessing/Dorothy Chang
Agril/Perde (aliens)

Brick and Mortar

Thursday, March 25th, 2004

The perils of the midlist continue. While I was reading this midlist report [PDF ] from the Author’s Guild, TNH was reporting the closing of Avenue Victor Hugo Books.

TNH and her readers were put off by the whining. I was more confused than bothered - it’s not clear to me that publishers or chains have any effect on the used-book market. I don’t know how a used bookstore survived in the high-rent, high-price atmosphere of Newbury Street for as long as it did. As others have pointed out, the selection hasn’t been what it once was for few years now. I certainly haven’t had much luck in the sf section lately.

But like the bottom feeder of the publishing food chain that I am, I’ll be there on April 1st for the 50% off sale.


Wednesday, March 24th, 2004

Quote of the day: “At all times and in all circumstances, all over the globe, there exists a conspiracy, framed by nature herself, of all the mediocre, inferior, and dull minds against intellect and understanding.” –Arthur Schopenhauer

As long as I’m complaining about books, I should mention that I hate hardcovers. I want a nice little book I can read in bed, not something big enough to brain burglers. I don’t want to risk a hernia every time I visit the library. I have plenty of lovely old hardcovers that are barely larger than paperbacks, so why are all the new ones so big? So the publisher can charge three times as much for them?

I’ve seen some small hardcovers lately - The Girl Who Played Go was so short that it couldn’t have filled the standard super-sized hardcover, but Ombria in Shadow was just the right size. Unfortunately the hulking masses are still the vast majority. Someday there will be a nice e-book format (sans glowing screens), and all those cement-block-sized books will be recycled into…cement blocks.

Mid-list Readers

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2004

Link of the day: How to Make a Complete Map of Every Thought you Think (or see the luvly interview)

I was feeling sorry for the mid-list authors in my last entry, but since then I’ve realized that I never buy their books anyway. My primary source of reading material is the Boston Public Library at Copley Square. I find them more than adequate for non-fiction, though their sci-fi collection leaves something to be desired.

To supplement my sci-fi diet, I buy used books at local independent bookstores. My third source is Buck-a-Book, a local chain that sells remaindered books. Sometimes I’ll experiment with an unfamiliar mid-list type there, but authors don’t get royalties on either used or remaindered books so I’m not helping them any.

Only in unusual cases will I buy a book new, because even the paperbacks are insanely expensive compared to free books from the library or cut-rate ones from my other sources. When I do shell out the big bucks, it’s either to give away a book I think is amazing or to read something I feel is a significant lacuna in my sf knowledge. In both cases, the author is likely to be someone famous and Nebula-winning, not mid-list.

When I say “insanely expensive,” I mean it. There’s no excuse for the price of books today. The technology hasn’t changed in decades, if not centuries, so why has the price of paperbacks increased 333% in the last 20 years? Consider, for example, A Princess of Mars, first published in All-Story in 1912 and now out of copyright and freely available from Project Gutenberg. The tan Ballantine paperback edition cost $1.25 in 1973. A later printing with the Michael Whelan cover cost me $1.95 new circa 1982. That same book now lists for $6.50 at Amazon.

There are eleven books in the Mars series alone. When I was a kid with, obviously, no income, I begged or bought the Mars books, the Venus series (5 books ranging in price from $1.95 to $2.50, depending on the size and the year obtained) and assorted other ERB books, mostly new though even at that tender age I kept an eye out for used copies. So, say, 25 books averaging $2 a pop, for a total of $50. Today the 11 Mars books alone would cost me about $75, and the others are available only in “commemorative” editions averaging $15 a pop. The total is now pushing $300.

The industry will have to pardon me if I believe that $300 is too much to pay for pulps in the public domain. And no matter how promising your mid-list novel is, you’re probably not worth $25 hardcover or $8 paperback to me, either. The library is free. Project Gutenberg is free. Fanfic is free. Even television is free.

Most readers probably aren’t as cheap as I am, but I figure that if you have a heavy reading habit like I do then you have to find cheaper sources, and you’re likely to use those non-royalty sources for mid-list books. If, on the other hand, you’re not a heavy reader then you can spring for the occasional $10, $15 or $25 book. But what sort of book is that likely to be - something obscure in the mid-list, or a bestseller being heavily marketed by the publisher?

The Middle of the List

Monday, March 22nd, 2004

There’s this article on Salon at the moment about the trials and tribulations of being a mid-list author. Since you have to register or watch an interminable ad to read it, let me summarize: Jane Austen Doe got a $150,000 advance on her first novel, but now she’s suffering the slings and arrows of mid-listing. I’m playing a tiny violin…

The mid-list is either everything not on the best-seller lists, or anything the publisher chooses not to promote. Katherine Sutcliffe has some advice for getting from mid-list to best-seller list - to summarize, author, promote thyself. Jane Austen Doe has tried that, too, but rightly believes that promotion is the publisher’s job.

The trouble in the mid-list seems to be that the publishing industry is undergoing a shift from producing to gambling. Publishers want new authors who just might be the next J. K. Rowling, not a mid-list full of break-even propositions. It’s a shame, but it’s no surprise - plenty of other industries have gone down this road. For example, the WB cancels a mid-list show like Angel, and Fox doesn’t even have the decency to cancel Boston Public before breaking the set, even though there are no solid prospects on the horizon to replace them. The networks are after a sudden windfall, not a good lineup, and why should the publishers be any different? It’s about the stock value rather than pulping it out to all comers like in the good old days before television.

To be fair to my genre, I don’t get the impression that this gambling impulse is the norm for sci-fi, perhaps because the chance of any sf novel becoming a blockbuster is negligible. Maybe a fantasy writer will strike it rich once every couple of decades or so, but not sf.

Sometimes bloggers are after the big windfall, too, and when they find they’re not going to be the next Instapundit, they stop blogging. I found that link on dive into mark, who also has some interesting things to say about writers not improving and a nice passage from Tom Stoppard about putting the right words in the right order.

As a mid-list blogger, I try to avoid politics and personal stuff unless I can make it especially amusing. For me, the primary purpose of communication is amusement - political indignation is as boring as the state of your digestive tract. Like Brent Simmons and Daniel Green, I wish literary bloggers would talk about literature more and politics less, but this problem is by no means limited to lit blogs. I wish geek bloggers would stick to the geeking and fan bloggers would get back to the meta.

Just today I had to unsubscribe from Aaron Swartz because I couldn’t take the politics anymore. I vaguely recall his having something to say of geeky interest, but that was so long ago now that I’ve given up on him. Maybe he’ll recover after the election. And I have to say, Electrolite’s days in the “Writing” folder of my RSS reader are numbered. If it were funny [warning: offensive humor] that would be one thing, but it’s just politics.

I don’t necessarily mean that a blog should have only one topic - mine has 20 or so - but whenever you’re trying to communicate, you should have your audience in mind. If they came to your blog because you’re the big web standards guru, you can assume that they feel the same way you do about CSS, but not about Bush. People are interested in you for what sets you apart from the other 100,000 bloggers, and that’s probably not your political opinions.



Sunday, March 21st, 2004

Since my Dvorak typing is only slowly improving, I thought I’d get more practice by importing a nicer lesson set into gtypist. Dan Wood of ABCD fame let me use his lessons, and once I found the gtypist manual and especially the emacs mode, making a new .typ file was easy.

I’m not sure how to handle distribution yet, but feel free to email me at webmaster [at] if you want a copy.