Tag Archives: Kindle

Ideology (and Ideological Rot) in Science Fiction

Vox Day has an interesting dissection of the problems with “mainstream” science fiction and fantasy nowadays – The Cancer in SF/F:

One need only look at the increasingly mediocre works that have been nominated for, and in some cases even won, science fiction’s highest prizes to realize that the genre is dominated by the ideological left and is in severe decline from both the literary and revenue perspectives.  When six of the top 10-selling SF books in 2012 are either ripped off from an Xbox game or were first published more than a decade ago, it shouldn’t be difficult to observe that there is a very serious problem with the science fiction that is presently being published…

But even if one dismisses me, the problem is that I am far from the only former Asimov and Analog subscriber who no longer bothers to even pirate, let alone buy, The Year’s Best Science Fiction collections because so little of it is worth reading anymore. As an SFWA member, I have a vote for the Nebula, but at least in the case of the Best Novel category, there is simply nothing for which one can credibly vote.

It is simply impossible to call any of the novels presently up for this year’s Nebula or Hugo the best novel in SF/F with a straight face. And if one of them truly does merit the description, then the genre is in even worse shape than I have observed.  It should not be controversial to suggest that it is highly unlikely that anyone from this year’s class will one day be named a Grandmaster of Science Fiction.

I’d have to agree with him. I still look over the new releases at Barnes & Noble or Amazon every couple  of weeks, hoping in spite of experience to find something promising and worthwhile and not larded with left-leaning cliches, but almost always come away disappointed…and have for the past 15 years or so.

He follows up with a discussion of comments Sarah Hoyt made on a similar subject (part of her own ongoing exploration of the theme). And to expand it into other media, this week J. Michael Straczynski of Babylon 5 fame made some related observations on TV SF.

I do like Sarah Hoyt’s take on the problem as self-correcting – the emergence of alternative distribution channels like Kindle spells doom to those traditional channels increasingly controlled by a single exclusionary ideology, if they are unwilling to change. In other words: the free market works, and competition has benefits.

E-Book Reviews

Another thing I wish I had time for is reading and reviewing hard-SF e-books, to help promote quality work and authors who, like us, are not part of the traditional publishing industry.

Instapundit often links to new SF e-books at Amazon, such as today’s link to Robert Sapp’s Lunar Dancebut (unsurprisingly) does not review all the books to which he links. We can certainly attest to the bump in sales one gets from a single Instapundit link, but consider how much more valuable a site with frequent and honest reviews of author-published hard-SF would be to both readers and authors.

Carl and I have discussed a few times creating a “label” or virtual publishing “house”  for similar purposes: a group of self-published authors who review each others’ work for quality and (in this case) hard-SF content, and publish under a recognizable label which serves readers as a hall-mark of sorts for new-to-them writers or books. Think Manana Society with an imprint. Like so many good ideas, however, this one has languished for the same lack of time that makes it hard to simply read the new material in the first place.

Denver Area Science Fiction Association February Meeting

Now that I have a little more free time on my hands, I’ve been looking for ways to get more plugged in to the local science fiction fan and author communities. To that end I attended DASFA’s February meeting this evening.

This month’s meeting featured a panel of three local authors, discussing the topic “Salty Language is In Effect: The Outré in Genre Fiction.”  The panel consisted of Jesse Bullington (The Enterprise of Death), Jason Heller (Taft 2012) and Stephen Graham Jones (Zombie Bake-Off  and It Came From Del Rio). The three were not strictly science fiction authors (second-world and various shades of fantasy), and the primary subject material is not something I’ll recount here on a blog with young-adult readers, but there were a few interesting takeaways applicable to science fiction:

  • If you’re waiting for a completely original story that nobody’s ever done before, you’re not going to find it — originality lies more in the presentation, the setting, the characters, etc.;
  • One doesn’t have to include gore, violence, sex, or other “outré” material to tell a good story, and conversely, it’s tricky to include such things in a way that doesn’t seem gratuitous, offensive, or (worse) creepy or sleazy;
  • Having something to say, in the sense of something political, moral, or  philosophical, isn’t a bad thing and perhaps even unavoidable in all but the most anodyne writing. A writer should however be sensitive to the audience and present both sides of such matters in a fair manner (yes, yes, stop giggling — I freely admit we are a little blunt in places in In the Shadow of Ares, but there are stylistic and trilogy-arc reasons for this, as you’ll see in the second book);
  • There are more genre authors and genre events in the Denver area than I had suspected, and this may be true of a lot of small cities.

The last point is perhaps the most valuable – aspiring writers can benefit from involving themselves with these events and the organizations behind them, through the opportunities the latter provide for peer review, mutual feedback, motivation, and marketing. Networking is essential when you’re e-publishing — sitting at home behind your keyboard watching your Kindle sales reports and hoping for the best isn’t going to improve your writing or your royalties.

“Darkship Thieves” – Not on Kindle?

Surprising, but true. I’m trying to read more new science fiction, particular SF with a libertarian slant (since we need more of that), so imagine my disappointment when I discovered that it’s apparently only available on dead trees. I thought Baen was all hip with the e-publishing nowadays.

Of course, my complaining about this is ironic, considering how many people have complained to me that In the Shadow of Ares is only available (for now) electronically. It took me a year, but I’ve gotten to the point that I’d almost rather have a Kindle version rather than the paper version of a book — fiction books, at least. I blame Cthulhu Chick: her H.P. Lovecraft collection led me to actually read the HPL stories I’ve had in book form for several years, and to get accustomed to using an e-reader extensively.

Giving “In the Shadow of Ares” As A Gift

A friend asked me today how she could send In the Shadow of Ares as a gift.

Through Amazon, it’s very simple (as, with Amazon, you might expect it to be). Navigate to the product page using the link above or on the AresProject.com sidebar. In the upper right corner of the product page, among the other links you normally use to order merchandise through Amazon.com, there will be a button labeled “Give as a Gift” (circled here in red):

Click on "Give a Gift" on the book's product page

Clicking the button brings up a Kindle ordering page with a few extra options. Here, you can enter the email address of the person to whom you wish to send the book (even if they don’t own a Kindle or have the software installed…yet…) in the spot indicated with the red circle, and if you wish to make it a surprise for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc., you can enter the appropriate delivery date in the spot indicated with the green circle:

Enter the email of the gift recipient, and the date you want it delivered (say, December 25)

Easy. And remember that the recipient doesn’t have to have an Amazon account (and you don’t need to know what their account name is if they do), and if the recipient doesn’t already have a Kindle they can simply download the Kindle e-reader software for whatever platform they prefer (laptop, iPad, smartphone, etc.).

The process is pretty similar for Nook users, but there is no up-front way to specify delivery date. Click on the link on the Barnes & Noble product page (which page you can also get to from the link on the sidebar here), indicated with the red circle:

Click the circled link to send a Nook gift

Clicking the link brings up a floating page where you can enter the gift recipient’s info and a gift card message:

Pretty self-explanatory, but no delivery date option here

I didn’t go further with the Nook version, since I would have had to buy it (which obviously makes no sense for me to do), but in screens beyond this one a delivery date option may be available.

So, that’s all there is to it — perfectly simple, and much easier than buying a dead-tree book and wrapping it.

Finding E-Readers in Unexpected Places

The first time I ever saw an e-reader with my own eyes was in the gatehouse at O’Hare around Thanksgiving 2009. I attended a friend’s wedding a couple weeks ago, and was surprised and amused that the minister was conducting the ceremony using her Kindle DX:

Technology evolves quickly, and sometimes even the most traditional institutions evolve right along with it. You can almost imagine the minister’s grandchild someday using a (sacred?) scroll screen linked to her MA…

Kindle Million-Seller

Well, this certainly puts to rest any qualms I had about e-publishing In the Shadow of AresSelf Publishing Writer Becomes Million Seller:

John Locke, 60, who publishes and promotes his own work, enjoys sales figures close to such literary luminaries as Stieg Larsson, James Patterson and Michael Connelly.

His remarkable achievement is being hailed as a milestone of the internet age and the beginning of a revolution in the way that books are sold.

Instead the DIY novelist has relied on word of mouth and a growing army of fans of his crime and western novellas that he has built up online thanks to a website and twitter account.

But unlike these heavyweights of the writing world, he has achieved it without the help of an agent or publicist – and with virtually no marketing budget.

Interesting. We’ve got about, oh, 999,000 sales to go to catch up, so help spread the word!

On E-Publishing

Sarah Hoyt has come to the same realization that we did regarding e-publishing our novel:

But the field is opening, expanding, and offering a lot of other chances.

As for writers? Well, while there are books I’m not willing to let go small press or e-only – not yet – that is changing, too, and ask me again in three years and it could be quite different. For years now, being published anywhere but by the big boys/gals was an admission of failure. Just the lifting of that taboo is huge. As is the fact that being self-published is not the end of the world, anymore.

As she and several of her commenters point out, one risk in e-publishing is that a solid editorial influence is not necessarily present. An author can side-step the seemingly closed circle of the traditional agent-publisher route, but they then bear the responsibility of thoroughly editing their own writing (which for most of us is a risky proposition) or finding and paying out of pocket a suitable freelance editor to do it for them.

What convinced me that e-publishing was not the kiss of death to our book’s prospects, or a mark of failure (ie: “your book’s so terrible you can’t get it published for real“), was actually seeing a Kindle. Before that, I figured it was a gimmick that would be resisted by established authors and publishers in the same way that studios and record labels resisted digital media to one degree or another. But after trying one out, I started paying more attention to e-publishing. Soon, I was seeing news items about this or that author publishing their books directly to Kindle, getting urged by friends to go straight to Kindle ourselves, and seeing people using readers in airports and other public places.

By August, it had occurred to me that what happened to the music industry with the emergence of iTunes was happening in similar fashion to the publishing industry with digital readers. The technology was right, the public had accepted it, and now serious content was becoming available.

The post above briefly discusses how – far from being a threat – e-publishing could actually expand business opportunities for the traditional publishing industry if they are wise enough to embrace them. As an outsider, that makes a lot of sense to me…with the cost of “printing” books reduced almost to nothing, and the demand for new material always increasing, publishers who embrace e-books as (if nothing else) a farm team for their more traditional publishing business will be well rewarded. The cost to a publisher of editing and marketing an e-book may be little different, but with the overhead associated with preparing, printing, and distributing a paper book eliminated the overall investment in a new book is reduced, and taking a chance on a new author or an innovative story is therefore less risky to the bottom line.

Another opportunity that might emerge (and I would be very surprised if it did not, given precedents) is for e-book “small label publishers”. These would be akin to indie film houses and small/personal record labels, bringing to market unknown or niche titles and authors who would otherwise go overlooked or ignored by the mainstream publishing industry. The benefits these small labels could provide might include streamlined versions of the editing, preparation, and marketing functions provided by traditional publishers, but more importantly, they could confer a degree of respectability to overcome the stigma of “vanity publishing”. The label would serve as a secondary brand-name, helping inform potential readers that the book they are considering downloading has been through some sort of selection process and (as their familiarity with the label grows) serving as an indicator of the quality they can expect even from an unknown new author. One of the commenters on the linked post indicates this is already happening with Baen Books, so it would not surprise me to see it happen soon with new, start-up labels as well.

In short, our perceptions of “self-publishing” have completely changed in the past year, thanks to Kindle and other e-readers. E-books no longer seem to be a flash-in-the-pan fad, and the traditional agent-publisher model may as a result be forced to change to something a bit more open.

Mining Mars

“Hispanically Speaking News” ran this story yesterday:  Scientists Will Simulate a Space Colony in Chile to Study Life In Mars:

Chilean scientists along with scientists from several other countries will construct a base in the most-arid desert in the world, Chile’s Atacama (where the 33 miners got trapped) aiming to simulate life in a space colony on the planet Mars, which shares a lot of characteristics with Atacama.

While the tie-in to the Chilean mine rescue is interesting, it is not clear if mining will play a significant role in any simulations.  It would certainly seem to be relevant.  As we portray in “In the Shadow of Ares”, mining will certainly be a crucial part of the economic development of any off-Earth settlements. 

At least the Chinese seem to think so:

In March 2011, a delegation from the Chinese space agency will visit the Chilean desert project.  The Chinese are projecting that by 2020 they will have below-ground bases on the Moon to extract minerals and are eager to research and test their cutting edge space technology.

Where can we expect the United States to be in 2020?  Will the recent shift to private enterprise see the economic and regulatory incentives necessary for this fledgling industry to survive and thrive?

Kindle and Nook

The Kindle version of In the Shadow of Ares is now available at Amazon.com. Thank you to everyone who has already purchased the book — plus the helpful feedback from  sharp-eyed Ari, who discovered an editorial comment left behind like a bad surgeon’s forgotten scalpel. The mistake has been corrected and the text republished, but it may take 24 hours to propagate to the product page.

We’ve had multiple requests to publish to the Nook platform, which I just so happen to be doing. It is a little bit more involved than publishing to Kindle — Kindle merely involved entering payment information, a cover image and description, and uploading the .doc file. Smashwords (the site used for Nook and many other e-reader platforms) is a little more particular about formatting and metadata, but in return it includes assignment of an ISBN number and listing in major book catalogs. This means publishing through Smashwords will not only get us onto multiple additional readers but into libraries and other outlets.