Monday, October 10, 2011

Giant Superintelligent Triassic Squid - Please Come Back


This Giant Superintelligent Triassic Squid article raises some interesting possibilities.

I don't think that the new scientific work out there on the unexpectedly high intelligence of squid has been sufficiently exploited by genre authors.

Personally, I hope this big guy is still lurking down there in the deeps somewhere. Forget Cloverfield, I want this guy to show up on some waterfront some day.


Friday, October 7, 2011

The Literature of Deflation


The New York Times has a frightening little piece up outlining the likely consequences of a Greek departure from the Euro - an event that, to me at least, seems extraordinarily likely.

If Europe truly ends up this bad - if people are fleeing Portugal and Italy with suitcases full of Euros, hoping to hell that Germany doesn't go up in flames too - I have to imagine America's current fascination with apocalypse porn will end pretty quickly. (Sorry, fellow zombie authors.) How fun can that kind of fantasy be, when the reality starts to hit you in the face?

If socialist realism in literature makes a comeback, I for one am going to be really pissed.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Quick Thought on Steve Jobs


I won't try to cover all the big-picture stuff about the legacy of Steve Jobs, because the entire commentariat is trying to do that right now.

I just want to stop and thank the guy for one thing:


They say that Jobs was personally responsible for insisting that the early Mac word processing programs had to include multiple font choices - an innovation that Microsoft rapidly copied.

That one decision was critical in giving birth to desktop publishing.

In a very real sense, a lot of the "creative" side of the computer revolution is descended in one way or another from desktop publishing. That was the moment when computers stopped being an appliance or a computational tool and became a canvas, too.

Thanks, Steve.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Back to the Blog Thing - Work in Progress


After a lengthy layoff during which my time was dominated by non-writing projects, I'm back at work on a new series.

I'll be posting updates to this space as I proceed - and I'll also be doing some more standard blogging here as well.

What's the new series about? Well, the short answer is that it revolves around this map:

More to follow.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shylock of Venice Now Available in Paperback.


It took a couple of CreateSpace proofs to get it done, but The Most Extreme Crueltie and Revenge of Shylock of Venice is now available in paperback for $9.95.

Right now it's only up at Amazon. Barnes and Noble and 3rd party booksellers should have it in a few more weeks, when the CreateSpace Expanded Distribution clicks in.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Most Extreme Crueltie and Revenge of Shylock of Venice



Stripped of his fortune, his daughter, his religion, and even his name, Shylock of Venice (now baptized “Christoforo”, under duress) broods over his injuries alone. A mysterious traveler, dressed in black, offers him the chance to avenge himself upon those who have wronged him, and to seize back all that they have taken. When Shylock agrees, they embark on a journey that takes them across Renaissance Italy and through the history of post-Humanist philosophy – and what they find is not what either of them expects.

As some of you may have seen by now, my latest release has gone live at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

It's ebook-only for the moment; the paperback should be available in a few days.

Warning: this is a play in five acts, written in early modern English. In other words, I totally committed to the conceit that I was creating a sequel to Shakespeare's play. If you hate EME or the play form, this might not be up your alley.

In a piece for the New York Times, Kevin Kelly of Wired fame wrote of the future of ebooks:

...In the universal library, no book will be an island. Turning inked letters into electronic dots that can be read on a screen is simply the first essential step in creating this new library. The real magic will come in the second act, as each word in each book is cross-linked, clustered, cited, extracted, indexed, analyzed, annotated, remixed, reassembled and woven deeper into the culture than ever before. In the new world of books, every bit informs another; every page reads all the other pages.

I was pretty heavily influenced by this somewhat heady vision. It reminded me a great deal of the fictional "glass bead game" in Hesse's Magister Ludi. It's also reflective of the way I think in general. Those of you who read De Bello Lemures can probably see how this vision would appeal to me.

Shylock of Venice was written with this concept of the future ebook in mind. I don't get there, by any stretch of the imagination, but I take a few baby steps. The text is largely composed of repurposed text from other sources [along with original text that is itself heavy with allusion], and the selection process is itself supposed to contain information that informs the primary story. If that sounds really annoying and pretentious, I apologize. I found it fun, and I hope readers will find it fun too.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Is "Indie" Publishing Destructive to Literature in General?


Zoe Winters has a blog post up today about indie publishing where she writes:

Some readers see indie authors as immature writers who are going through a “rebellious phase”. Some have even called us “lazy narcissists.” If you can’t look at a book cover and a short sample of a work before judging it, perhaps it isn’t the indie author who is lazy.

I find this very interesting because it’s a problem inherent only in publishing. Entrepreneurs who start businesses in other industries, even other creative industries, are not thought of as acting out in rebellion. They are simply choosing to be captain of their own ship by starting a business.

Freedom is the one thing nearly every human being will seek in one way or another. Whether it’s freedom of religion, freedom from oppressive governments, or freedom from working as a wage slave in someone else’s cubicle. Why should writing be any different?

I’ve wondered about this same question. I’m going to put on my devil’s advocate hat and try, for a change, to put a good face on the anti-indie argument out there.

Most people are familiar with the concept of a "network effect" from the world of computers. There are many technology examples of products or services where a part of the value to the consumer is the fact that everyone else is using that product or service. The Windows operating system, for example, is valuable precisely because it is ubiquitous. When you buy Windows and learn how to use it, you gain access to all the products that work with that operating system. Facebook is another good example. Facebook is valuable because everyone is on it. If you were the only user of Facebook, it wouldn’t matter if it was the best product ever.

So one question we have to ask ourselves is: Are there "network effects" in literature?

Is a book a product where the only transaction is between the author and the reader? If so, then all that matters is if the individual reader enjoys the individual book that they buy. Or are there other transactions going on whenever a reader buys and reads a book?

It may be that part of the value in some literary works is the fact that everyone else has read them. There can never be another Shakespeare, for example, because even if someone came along with the same verbal and dramatic talent, Shakespeare’s works have a four hundred year head start on getting integrated into our cultural landscape. A "new Shakespeare" would not have all of his plots recycled in a million other stories and movies. He would not have the vast academic infrastructure devoted to the study of every layer of meaning in his works. You would not be able to go to his birthplace and take part in dozens of tourist attractions based on his name. Shakespeare is just more useful to us, because we’ve all read him, than he would be if he was a niche interest known only to a few specialists.

This pretty straightforward fact makes it at least possible that something will be lost if the mass-interest world of publishing is demolished and replaced with long-tail independent niche publishing. We might all still be able to find individual authors whose work we enjoy, but might not be able to participate in large-scale communities of shared literary experience, for the simple reason that those no longer exist.

Maybe the problem won’t be that indie publishers suck – but that they don’t. If indie work is all garbage, it will just be filtered out and people will still construct communities around Authors Who Matter. But if indie work is good, then the entire concept of a literary community will disintegrate, because there will be no quality mechanism by which to select Authors Who Matter. Maybe the artificial limits placed on the "supply of authors" by traditional publishing was actually beneficial, because that limit made it possible for Authors Who Matter to exist in the first place.

I’m not saying I believe this. I’m offering it, as I said, as the devil’s advocate in Zoe’s discussion. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’d keep publishing even if I was, in fact, going to be responsible for the Death of Literature. But I’m interested in the discussion anyway.