Rare sweets from the shadows


I just finished reading A Collection of Dark Tales from Shadow spinner press

These are twelve stories well worth reading. Ghosts, lost relatives, Jinns, and other strangeness, I enjoyed them all.  Well written weird tales are sometimes hard to come by.  These are rare sweets from the shadows.  Very well done. I recommend it.   In there you will find a murderous Ghost and an old god. I especially enjoyed "Swamp Symphony" by Cheryl Owen-Wilson,  "No pattern but the sea" by  Stephen Vessels   and  A dark quick sky by Matthew Lowes   

Impressions from the Santa Barbara Writer's Conference - 2016

Last week I attended an intense five-day writers conference in Santa Barbra. The Hyatt is a beautiful old hotel on the beach. The Hyatt staff are wonderful, attentive people.  The staff at the conference were also a wonderful group of writers. I enjoyed my time under their ‘Gentle tutelage’ and learned many things. The single thing that made the most impression on me however, was an “agent’s panel” made up of 4 agents and an editor that will remain unnamed. The overwhelming impression that I had from these folks is that  Self Publishing, both On Demand Publishing Paper and the various electronic formats, are eating their collective lunch.

What does that mean to writers?  It means that the traditional publishing world is trying to stay in business. They are struggling to adapt.  Like any industry faced  with a literal sea change some of them are succeeding some times, the rest are  going down, to finish the metaphor, while the rats desert the ship in droves.  On one hand they are overwhelmed by the implications of electronic publishing. The idea of Digital Rights Management (DRM) to restrict access to a book to the person that bought it excites them to no end.  The idea that On Demand Printing means a great reduction in returns, and remaindered books also excites their bottom line focused little hearts.  

Our excitement over self publishing, our collective confidence that we can do this better, and faster than the publishing houses drives them crazy. A publisher can take months to complete a project. Their fossilized processes are slow to respond to changes in the market. It can take months for an agent, who’s only contribution is often just a list of editors that they can contact, to find that editor.  The editor, once they have accepted your work can take months to turn around edits, design covers, and decide how big your minuscule advance will be. Through the whole process the people involved can change, the house may disappear, your champions, the agent and the editor, may lose interest or move on. All of these are real world problems given of examples of the hard road you have chosen with traditional houses. The problems just get worse because the process of going from final draft to end product will take months. The publicity, that should be their venue, book tours, signings, adds in other media, and other advertising for your work have all fallen away. Unless your book is picked up by Hollywood, or your name is on the same popularity shelf with King or Childs, they expect you to do it for them; without being a self publisher while your work on your next book that they wont buy.

At the conference I heard people say over and over again, "You need three to six books to build an audience.”  Thats fine for self publishing, but for traditional publishing it just does not work. First, you don’t have time to write that many books and then wait years to see them in print.  Second it’s a chicken-egg question. If the traditional agent wont touch your work until you have an audience, how do you build an audience?  Answer, self publish. Some agents say, “Im smart enough to google you and if I find you are self published, I don’t want to see any of your work." — Working fiction agent.  It is a classic Catch 22, you have to build an audience to get an agent but you can’t publish to build an audience. 

In the traditional model, once a book is sent off to the printer and thousands of copies were made, even more time slipped by because the system moves in cycles. The publisher has a catalog of books that they sell to the bookstores.  If your book is finished too late for the current catalog, then you have to wait for the next.  Some publishers put their catalog on line but they still cling to two, three, or four cycles per year.  The online tool is not used the way it should be. The impression is that the processes in the industry processes and timelines are set in stone.  

The bottom line is that traditional publishing is suffering a crisis of change.  Until they stop fighting the changes, and embrace all it means to be able to use electronic media, they are doomed to fail.  Until they develop ways to support people like us instead of erecting filters and roadblocks they will find themselves publishing nonfiction that has been rolled over by history, and fiction that is outpaced by the current culture.  They may find prosperity in the field of memoir.  Perhaps they can keep each other alive in the good old days.

Deus Ex-NanoBots!

I write Science fiction and fantasy.  Recently I’ve had a story about a group of people in the first wave of Martian settlers. “Hell’s Deep” in Building Red ( http://www.amazon.com/Mission-Mars-Building-Janet-Cannon/dp/1940442079/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8)  This story brought me to a great book titled Packing for Mars: The curious Science of life in the Void by Mary Roach (http://www.amazon.com/Packing-Mars-Curious-Science-Life-ebook/dp/B003YJEXUM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461348190&sr=1-1&keywords=packing+for+mars)  Mary wrote an amusing and thought provoking book.  So the thing that has been bothering me is the question, “What do you pack when any hope of replacement/repair is on the other side of an uncrossable divide?”

Seriously, what do you do, as a writer of fiction, when your character has what would otherwise be a mundane problem.  If you character needs food, but the biome they are in is incompatible.  Star Trek solved the problem with the “Replicator.”  Based on transporter technology, it draws energy and turns it into any matter you like.  My mind rebels at that explanation.  If you understand Einstein’s E=MC^2 then you realize the the energy required to make a gram of sweet honey would be more than the energy released by the largest fusion bomb man ever made.  Replicators can’t work that way.  So you can’t feed the crew or replicate the broken Framastat(tm).

Nano bots:  If you stipulate nano technology then the replicator device uses some form of matter as a source and nanotech.  Little molecule sized robots re-arrange “A” matter into “B” matter.  Ok.  If you do that it’s a short step to matter is matter and to the little bots, parts is parts, what prevents them from making more of themselves or turning parts of the machine into “B” matter?  There are chemical compounds, oils, that have a tendency to “crawl” out of their containers.  If the little guys escape their machine, what prevents them from turning any matter into “B” matter.  Imagine ordering a rare roast beast steak and the next day discovering that your machine is surrounded by half completed replicas of last night’s dinner.  The fear that some scientists have today is that a self replicating nanobot would turn everything into more of itself.  It’s called the grey goo nightmare.  Google it. I think we might be in more danger from sweet honey or steaks. 

The problem with nanobots is that the technology can become the gloss over solution that is really just deus ex-machina or the author’s failure to ask “what if” one more time.   Nanobots are envisioned as a distributed computer that does magical things by doing mundane things microscopically trillions of times.  Want a glass of water?  The nano can ‘hold hands’ to create a glass or goblet or cinderella’s slipper into which other nano gather individual water molecules to slake your thirst.  As a matter of fact, you don’t need the glass, there’s no reason why the nano could’t put the water directly into your mouth or what ever passes as an intake orifice for your species.

AI“Artificial Intelligence.”  This I think is a subject to contemplate for another day.

Keep writing.