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November 29, 2005

But Enough About Me...

...Let's talk about other writers and books.

* For example, did you know that today was the day that Elizabeth Bear's latest book Worldwired debuted in the stores? And if you did not, have you considered seeking professional help for this problem? This is the third in the series of "Jenny" books (and, I believe, the last of the series as well), so if you've been waiting until you can get the whole set, your wait is over. Me, I've been getting them as they come along. Also, unlike the rest of you, I've also been reading Bear's short story that she wrote for the Subterranean Magazine cliche issue; she tackles the End of the Universe, which is pretty damn ambitious of her, but she pulls it off (as of course she would -- you don't think they give out Campbell Awards to just anyone, do you?). You'll have to wait until spring to read that one, but you can get Worldwired now. That's a hint.

* Arrived in the mail yesterday: Stories of Strength, a collection of essays, the proceeds of which go to benefit disaster relief charities (Hurricane Katrina was the proximate cause of the collection). The collection features name brand writers like Orson Scott Card, Robin Lee Hatcher and Wil Wheaton, but the majority of the book comes from the writers who frequent the AbsoluteWrite.com Web site (the editor of the book is that site's editor, Jenna Glatzer). As the name implies, most of the essays in the book focus on inspirational stories of people dealing with adversity and overcoming obstacles, although that makes the book sound a bit more stuffy than it is -- most of the essays I've read through so far have the casual narrative flow of good blog entries (we leave for another time the discussion of how blog writing has changed, or at least caused to adapt, the essay form).

I haven't read through the whole thing yet, but what I've read so far is solid, and in all I'd have to say that if you're in the market for inspirational writing this holiday season, better this book than yet another iteration of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books -- if for no other reason than that all the proceeds of this book are going to relief organizations. It's good people doing good, and all that. Check it out.

As an aside, this is the first book I've gotten that has been printed up by Lulu.com, the publish-on-demand press who has been developing a reputation among writers as being a friendly sort of place to do your self-produced printing. I was wondering what Lulu's product would look and feel like, and on the basis of this I have to say it looks quite nice, nicer than the CafePress books I ran off a year or so ago for my personal use. There are little design things that give this book away as a publish-on-demand (off-the-shelf cover font; too-small margins for the inside text), but pretty much only if you're a book geek. The next time I do a personal printing job, I'll think of using Lulu and see how it works for me.

What I do like about Lulu (and other POD outfits) is how quickly they allow a project like this one to turn around; I imagine before a couple of years ago a group could have come together to make a book like this and gotten it out in the same sort of timeframe, but it wouldn't have been easy, and it probably would have been awfully expensive. This is a genuine advance in the state of things, and another reason why the 21st century is so damn fun to be in.

* Tim Pratt noted a week or so ago that his first novel, The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl, was about to be released into the wild; well, today is that day, and I will note that Amazon says it's only got five left in stock -- not a bad state of affairs on the opening day. So if you were planning to get it off of Amazon, you better pony up quick, people. I plan to get it from the local bookstore myself; I keep buying SF there to ram it into their heads that they need to stock more of it (including, oh, I don't know, my novels too), and who knows, maybe one day it'll stick. Let me take a special moment to state once again how much I luuuuurve this cover. I mean, come on, it already comes pre-weathered! That's friggin' genius, man. Although I suppose it'll make eBay book sellers irritated ("no, really, that's not actual wear!"). Can't please everyone.

* Cherie Priest talks a little about what it takes to be a writer, keying off of a series of recent Poppy Z. Brite posts, in which Brite goes to town on one of those folks who makes the snide comment that they could write a novel, too, if someone would just give them a big-ass advance. In my opinion, Brite gets a little too spun up about what was essentially ignorant jackassery on the part of a non-writer, but a salient point she makes, which the esteemed Ms. Priest amplifies, is that writers don't write because someone dropped a fat wad of cash in front of them, they write because if they didn't they'd go absolutely and completely bongo-striking insane.

Conversely, if I had a million dollars, I would slap it all down on the table in front of any jackass that said they could write a fabulous book if only they had a big fat advance, and tell them they could have every single penny if they could bang out a genuinely salable book in six months (which is about the amount of time writing a book is assumed to take by various publishers I've known). And the reason I would slap down that cash would be that it could not possibly be any more safe than if I tied it up in T-bills, because your basic loudmouth non-writer is no more capable of writing a salable book than I am of piloting a 747, and roughly for the same reason -- it's a skill you have to learn, baby, and one generally learns the writing skill by writing most days of your life (and generally -- alas -- you'll be doing that for little if any pay). The only way a non-writer is likely to produce a genuinely publishable manuscript is if he takes some of the advance money and hires a ghostwriter, but that's not really the same.

Anyway, people who say they can write a book if only they had a fat advance don't bother me; publishers don't go around offering fat advances to random passersby just for a happy chuckle. You generally have to guzzle some famous person's sexual organ first, and most people aren't good looking enough to do that on a regular basis (and those that are have other ways to get their scratch than to pester a publisher). Honestly, the best response to these would-be writers would be to say, "And if someone gave me money for no good reason, I would study the dark ninja ways" with as straight a face as one possibly can. If the non-writer has any brains at all, he'd recognize that you are mocking him and why you are doing it; if not, well, then, I guess you can talk about ninjas. Either way, one shouldn't waste too many brain cycles on it.

 

Posted by john at November 29, 2005 11:39 AM

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Comments

Cherie Priest | November 29, 2005 02:10 PM

I knew! I knew about e.bear's book! I was a slacker and only recently finished reading Hammered, but I did very much love it and will pick up the next one as soon as I have time to breathe or something.

And "bongo-striking insane." Yea verily, I laughed.

Also, I've found that it's entertaining to end facetious commentary to goobers with the phrase, "In accordance with prophecy." I'd train to be a dark ninja in accordance with prophecy, let me tell ya.

Anne C. | November 29, 2005 03:02 PM

"(we leave for another time the discussion of how blog writing has changed, or at least caused to adapt, the essay form)"

Awww, man! >:O

elizabeth bear | November 29, 2005 03:21 PM

Your check is in the mail. ;-)

Harry Connolly | November 29, 2005 03:31 PM

Why does everyone wear spandex in the future?

When the future comes, I'm going to look Bee Aye Dee. Even if we get black spandex with slightly less black vertical stripes, I'm going to look awful in the future.

John Scalzi | November 29, 2005 03:33 PM

Elizabeth: So is yours!

Avdi | November 29, 2005 05:15 PM

The cover art of Bear's book bothers me. The woman appears to be firing some sort of blaster, but she's holding it like she's just casually gesturing at something in front of her. I mean granted, energy weapons might not have recoil, but...

...

...

OMG SPANDEX BOOBIES!!!1!!

Nevermind.

Scott | November 29, 2005 05:32 PM

Seriously... if I didn't have to work for a living, there are a lot of things I would do.

Most of them incompetantly. Studying dark ninja arts, and writing stories are likely 2 of them. I'd also try to learn how to cook (... food that strangers find palatable) and take more exercise.

Yes, it seems that when you don't have to work for a living, you can spend a lot more time with your hobbies...

Anne KG Murphy | November 29, 2005 05:52 PM

I studied the dark ninja arts once...

Avdi you might consider that the woman's arm could have started fully extended, in which case her arm could very well be in the middle of recoil. At least she's leaning into the running. The picture bugs me a little, too.

I believe I shall put off getting this book until I finish my current short story reading, or else I won't get that done. Or maybe someone will get it for my birthday next week...

elizabeth bear | November 29, 2005 08:42 PM

In my defense, there is no spandex in the novel.

There is, however, a discharged firearm. *g* (More than one, actually.) On the other hand, it's a 9 mm caseless-load handgun doesn't look overmuch like that one.

JonathanMoeller | November 29, 2005 08:47 PM

I, too, do everything in accordance with prophecy. In particular, the prophecies laid down on pages 1845-2306 of "The Necronomicon". Doing so, I plan to become vastly wealthy and dominate the world.

Unfortunately, the Necronomicon started in Early Medieval Arabic, and then was translated to Greek, and then to ecclesiastical Latin, and then to German, then to English, and then, for a brief while in the 70s, into Esperanto. Also, in 1694, a printer's apprentice spilled coffee on the only extant manuscript, which then started on fire. This has lead to, erm, textual problems.

For instance, the prophecy on page 1976 states that "when Saturn reigns in the House of Leo, and a Bush rules in the House of White, he shall be overthrown by the fearsome might of the lord called Nader."

What the hell?!?

HOW is any self-respecting megalomaniac supposed to conquer the world using ancient prophecies like that? How, I ask you?

I may be forced to open a correspondence school for dark ninjas.

Patrick | November 29, 2005 11:56 PM

I've read Tim Pratt's journal/blog since he started it, I think, and I bought Best American Short Stories because he was featured in it (I usually buy that series anyway). He is an excellent writer, and I've heard so much about Rangergirl as he was in the process of writing and editing it, I can't wait to read it.

That, Lileks' latest, and The Ghost Brigades make me feel like I rub shoulders with the literati.

RooK | November 30, 2005 01:29 AM

I figure the trick is to write the novel while nominally doing the day job thing. It worked for my ex-coworker Chuck Palahniuk.

Tim Pratt | November 30, 2005 12:44 PM

You're a good man, John. Thanks for the mention. I love the cover, too, but let me assure everyone that the fictional contents do not also come pre-weathered.

Harry Connolly | November 30, 2005 12:51 PM

In my defense, there is no spandex in the novel.

Honestly, this doesn't even need to be said.

Has any writer stuck spandex into their sf novels? Ever? Don't writers put spandex on hookers, dance students and aerobics instructors, and pretty much no one else?

I'd like to start SESSFA, the Society to End Spandex in Science Fiction Art. I volunteer to be Treasurer, since I've been trying to find a way to pay for my upcoming move to Buenos Aires.

Scott | November 30, 2005 02:59 PM

I figure the trick is to write the novel while nominally doing the day job thing.

Just... don't get caught. The results can be worse than just getting fired. You may end up in Legal Hell, (see also: Gary Gygax, work-for-hire, on-the-clock & off-the-clock activities) and may lose rights to your book.

This is especially likely if you work in a remotely publishing industry.

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