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May 29, 2007

One of Life's Little Ironies


I just turned down this month's featured selections for the Science Fiction Book Club... which happen to be The Last Colony, and The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I turned them down because Patrick was kind enough to provide me a copy of his book, and also, you may be reasonably assured I have a copy or two of TLC tucked away somewhere. However, despite my passing on these books, I hope you will consider them if you are a member of the SFBC, particularly Patrick's book, which I quite enjoyed.

I'm very pleased to be the featured selection for June, and the only thing that would have made it even better would have been if Ellen Asher and Andrew Wheeler, SFBC's editors (and the people who chose my book to be a featured selection) had not been unceremoniously dumped by Bertelsmann, the SFBC's new owner, once that company took possession of the book club a couple of weeks ago. I'm not entirely sure what's to be gained by stripping the SFBC of their talents; from the outside this looks like one of those "penny wise, pound foolish" decisions that does not exactly raise confidence in the future of the book club. We'll have to see what becomes of the book club from here.

In the meantime, I want to make sure I say thank you to Ellen and to Andrew: Their support of all of my books so far, and the support of the SFBC under their tenure, made a real difference in how my books did out there in the world. I owe them, as do any number of authors. I'm going to miss them at the head of the Science Fiction Book Club; if you're a member, I don't doubt you're going to miss them, too.

Posted by john at May 29, 2007 04:40 PM

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CosmicDog | May 29, 2007 06:26 PM

Bummer. I really like SFBC, but I've been turning down the monthly selections lately, mostly for financial reasons. And I have a lot of reading to catch up before I buy any more books. I have, of course, already purchased and read TLC. I hope SFBC doesn't become lame. I've already fulfilled my commitment, I can drop it any time.

Dave Garrett | May 29, 2007 06:38 PM

John, I have been a member of SFBC for over 30 years, and bought hundreds of books. This treatment of Ellen and Andrew is nasty and mean, as well as stupid as all get out. It tells me that Bertelsmann does not know SF or care about SF and their employees. We shall see if the SFBC survives being run by the numbercrunching suits, instead of some of SF's best editors.
PS, after I found out about it all, I bought a Heinlein book Andrew edited--Off The Main Sequence, that I was waiting to buy anyway.

Joel Finkle | May 29, 2007 06:47 PM

That's funny, I thought all those book clubs were already owned by Bertelsmann, along with all the CD and DVD clubs (e.g. BMG Music).

"I welcome our new German Media Masters" (cough)

John Scalzi | May 29, 2007 06:49 PM

I believe Bertelsmann owned a significant share previously, but then bought out its partners.

Adam Lipkin | May 29, 2007 07:06 PM

Wait. What? Last I remember Andrew mentioning this in his blog, he'd be told that he was told that his job was not one of the ones being eliminated.

Crap. That sucks.

I've really enjoyed the SFBC over the last few years, and Ellen and Andrew have made the SBFC bulletin the only book club newsletter I've actually enjoyed reading.

Michele | May 29, 2007 10:55 PM

Speaking of copies of TLC.... I thought I won a copy from towerrecords when my question (and your answer) was included in the interview. I haven't yet received it, and it's been quite a while. Do you have a contact I can follow up with?

David Chunn | May 30, 2007 12:48 AM

Ah, thanks for the scoop on SFBC. I wondered why Andrew hadn't updated the blog.

I don't go for this sort of corporate bullshit. There are about a dozen books that I want that are only available through SFBC, books I was saving to be a reward for finishing my fourth novel. I better go ahead and get them now in case I can't later. (And I can always find a new reward. Is that a Wii in my future?)

If Andrew, whose tastes I trust immensely, is in fact axed and not "reorganized" then I'll bow out. Only way I know to protest. Well, and letting them know why my family is departing.

Nina A | May 30, 2007 01:30 AM

Rumor has it that they were axed because Bertelsmann is folding the club into the existing fiction club,which is awful.

chang, myspacier than ever! | May 30, 2007 08:52 AM

UGh. Such bad news. I just joined up with them. I was looking forward to it. Waaaahhh! I, too, turned down the featured Sclazicce selection because I already own them. But I liked being offered the newer books and finding out what was available. Oh, dear....

Clay | May 30, 2007 09:36 AM

Just another step in the relentless stampede towards mediocrity. Excellence doesn't pay for itself anymore.

John Scalzi | May 30, 2007 09:38 AM

Sure it does. Just not consistently.

Todd Stull | May 30, 2007 09:47 AM

Every day, our German masters come closer to world domination. Seriously, that sucks. Reminds me of what Siemens has been up to in that neck of the woods - the CEOs demand that people be fired, then steal money, and finally give themselves raises.

Bitter | May 30, 2007 10:24 AM

Wow! Snazzy new background John! I like.

I wonder what new wonderous web designs will be coming next.

Ken | May 30, 2007 10:30 AM

I had previously belonged to the club, but after the third time they sent me the monthly selction after I specifically declined it, I left. I had fulfilled my commitment. I didn't mind the fact of the errors, but that they consistently denied that they made any mistakes and basically called me a liar.

I just re-joined last week to give them another try, we will see how it goes. Perhaps they will work out the bugs in the system.

Nikitta | May 30, 2007 10:35 AM

If excellence pays, then how come I keep reading about how the countless expansions for The Sims keep being in the top-ten of the best sold games while quality games such as Dreamfall, Beyond Good & Evil and Psychonauts don't even figure there and only make a fraction of the money that those Sims expansions do?

Just wondering, and maybe whining a bit. You be the judge of that.

Clay | May 30, 2007 10:49 AM

I think of the excellence not paying for itself as a voting machine in a gerrymandered district. Any given transaction, excellence may win. In the long run, mediocrity gets more of the transactions, and runs the excellent into the scrap heap. I'm thinking of local businesses like independent bookstores (almost non-existent locally) driven out of business by Borders and Books a Million, and how there are still 2 and 3 hour waits six months after Olive Garden opened locally, while at some truly excellent local Italian restaurants you can seated in 10 or 15 minutes at any time.

It's almost more demoralizing to me thinking that excellence only sometimes pays for itself than if it never pays for itself. It's like the rat that hits the square button that sometimes gives cheese, sometimes gives nothing, and sometimes gives a shock.

An Eric | May 30, 2007 12:16 PM

Sorry to be pedantic*, but I wouldn't say having your work chosen as a "featured selection" by a book club is all that ironic from where I'm sitting. Matter of fact, I would have expected it; perhaps you're too modest.

Irony would be if you forgot to respond to the featured selection and ended up with an extra copy of your book.

*It's all Alannis Morrisette's fault. She's created a world where nobody can use the word "ironic" sloppily without some jackass saying, "That's not what irony means...."

Which, if you think about it, might be a kind of ironic outcome....

Miscellaneous Steve | May 30, 2007 12:23 PM

Been following this the past couple of days. I've been a member of SFBC off and on since high school (I graduated almost 25 years ago). I've been an "on again" member for the past few years. However. If Bertelsmann rolls SFBC into a bigger bookclub, I'm gone for good. If the quality of the club goes downhill after this, I'm gone for good. And, hell, because I think the way they treated Ellen and Andrew was shitty, I may be gone for good anyway.

Laurie Mann | May 30, 2007 12:56 PM

Yeah, I can't see the point of staying a member of the SFBC after what its masters have done.

COD | May 30, 2007 01:23 PM

If you have completed the purchase requirements for SFBC you can get your status changed so that you still get the mailings - but with no obligation to opt out of the featured selections. I had to threaten to quit before they would admit that option exists though.

Stan | May 30, 2007 01:34 PM

"I had to threaten to quit before they would admit that option exists though."

All the various clubs seem to play that game. If they made that option public, everyone would want it. But they don't want to lose customers so they trot it out as a last resort.

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