Wednesday, October 6, 2010

September Links & Things

My wrap-up of September's Links & Things is tardy, as usual. If you have been checking in here awaiting said post, I thank you for your patience. With my nine days in Southern Cal last month to look in on the mom, and some lengthy line/copyediting projects -- plus catching the start of a number of the fall TV shows -- well, this blog hasn't received the attention it rightly deserves. And, unfortunately, the remainder of October doesn't look to be any less busy -- for which I am grateful, in the overall scheme of things (because "busy" pays the bills).

Consequently, there are not many links this month given my schedule; you can receive these links in real time by following me on Twitter: @martyhalpern -- but here, in addition to the links themselves, I include more detail and occasional comments. Though I do want to add that not all of my tweeted links make it into the month-end post.
  • In last month's Links & Things I encouraged you all to read Kathleen Bartholomew's blog Kathleen, Kage and the Company. To reiterate, Kathleen is Kage Baker's sister, and in between her fiction writing -- she is currently working on the sequel to Kage's The Women of Nell Gwynne's -- Kathleen tells many wonderful stories of growing up with Kage, the two of them living together in various locales, their travels, their hobbies, the food they loved, and more. Kathleen has tons of Kage's notes, and years and years of long discussions with Kage about her stories and characters. And some of the tales that Kathleen tells are simply wonderful to read, especially if you are a fan of Kage's Company stories in particular.
  • Lit agent Nathan Bransford (@NathanBransford) posted this tweet on Wednesday, September 29: "Which book would prompt you to strike up a conversation with a stranger you saw reading it?" And it reminded me of an occurrence quite a number of years ago. In my recent blog post on Philip K. Dick and Rudy Rucker, I mentioned attending my first Armadillocon in Austin, Texas -- Armadillocon 10 in October 1988 -- in which K. W. Jeter was the Author Guest of Honor, and both Tim Powers and James P. Blaylock were on the guest list as well. I flew American Airlines from San Jose to Austin, with a plane change in Dallas-Fort Worth. I boarded the plane in DFW for the last leg of the flight; as I was walking down the aisle to my seat in the rear of the plane (I always sit toward the back of planes), I noticed a woman in a seat to my left reading a copy of K. W. Jeter's Infernal Devices (St. Martin's Press, 1987). [Note: Jeter is credited with coining the term "steampunk" to describe the types of fiction he and fellow authors Powers and Blaylock were writing at the time.] I stopped in the aisle and asked her if she was going to Armadillocon, to which she responded "yes" -- and I could see from the look on her face that she just might be wondering how I would know that, so I commented on her reading Jeter's book. We later saw one another at the convention, chatted a bit and exchanged names -- hers being Spike Parsons -- and since then, for more than 20 years, we regularly see one another at Bay Area and national conventions.
  • In my mini blog post on September 30, I quoted Christopher Mims from his article "The Death of the Book Has Been Greatly Exaggerated" in MIT's Technology Review. In the article, Mims states that "Tech pundits recently moved up the date for the death of the book to sometime around 2015, inspired largely by the rapid adoption of the iPad and the success of Amazon's Kindle e-reader." He goes on to say that this prognostication is "the peak of inflated expectations" and that we need to "Get ready for the next phase of the hype cycle: the trough of disillusionment." Mims goes on to refute a lot of the book is dead hype, stating: "Finally, and most importantly, as a delivery mechanism, Ebooks are nothing like music or even movies and television, and the transitions seen in those media simply don't apply to the transition to electronic books." Excellent article with more than 25 Comments.
  • Colleen Lindsay (@ColleenLindsay), former genre literary agent and now a member of the business development team at Penguin Group (USA), has a blog post "On word counts and novel length" in which she presents a "comprehensive list of suggested word counts by genre and sub-genre." Colleen writes: "Somewhere out there a myth developed -- especially amongst science fiction and fantasy writers -- that a higher word count was better. Writers see big fat fantasies on the shelf and think that they have to write a book just as hefty to get published....And the fact of the matter is, most of those 'big fat fantasy' books you see on the shelf actually only have a word count of about 100k to 120k." Word counts are provided for middle grade and YA fiction, and all types of genre fiction. And if you doubt the importance of this blog post, check out the more than 70 Comments.
  • Science fiction author Paul McAuley, whose blog Earth and Other Unlikely Worlds, has a recent post entitled "Plumbing": "the cardinal rule of world-building: details are useful only if they have some kind of interaction or intersection with the protagonist, which is to say, something to do with the narrative....It's plumbing. You know it's there, but unless it goes wrong you don't need to worry about it." A fairly brief, but no less important piece on world-building. (via @daj42)
  • Author Sarah A. Hoyt's blog post entitled "Seeing Anew" poses the question: "Revision -- should be easy, right?" Sarah goes on to write: "I didn't know how to revise. And I still don't -- or at least it's not something that comes naturally. I work at it every single time I have to do it. It's a painful process. All forms of revision." And what does Sarah mean by "all forms"? -- editing, revising, rewriting, and recasting. She goes to to explain these in detail, with examples, all of which you may find quite enlightening, along with the 20-plus Comments. (via @KristineRusch)
  • Author, editor, and coach Dean Wesley Smith (@DeanWesleySmith) has been blogging an ongoing series of posts entitled "Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing." I've shared a few of these in my Links recaps, but not all of them. I would encourage you to read his blog regularly; he will be publishing "Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing" in both book form and as an ebook when the series is complete. For now, we have the installment "Self-Publishing Is a Bad Idea." Dean discusses why self-publishing has been looked down upon, what has changed (both in self-publishing and the industry as a whole), and finally, he provides readers with some predictions on how it will all play out. Definitely worth a read if self-publishing is in your future; and you'll find more than 45 Comments, too.
  • If you are in fact considering self-publishing, then you'll certainly need to do your homework beforehand -- and a good place to start is Henry Baum's SPR: Self-Publishing Review (@selfpubreview), and specifically this post entitled "How to Get Book Distribution for a Self-Published Book." Henry writes: "The main reason that bookstores won't carry self-published books is not necessarily snobbery, but because the bookstore has the potential to take a loss on the book....Because self-published books are less likely to sell, due to less marketing muscle, most bookstores just aren't willing to take the chance. But it's not impossible." Henry then explains three ways to sell your self-published book to bookstores. Lastly, he provides links to 24 book distributors. If you can afford an actual print run (as opposed to print-on-demand, or POD) and marketing plan, then you can "contact these distributors about potentially distributing your book through normal distribution channels."
  • Many (many) years ago, I was reading about Harlan Ellison -- an article, an interview -- and he recommended the novel The Woman Between the Worlds (Dell Books, 1994) by F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre. So, being the book geek that I was (am!), I tracked down a copy of the book and read it. An early steampunk novel, the book did not disappoint. Heard very little about MacIntyre since then, that is, until this summer. To his neighbors, the "F" stood for Fergus; and to his SF internet fans, the "F" stood for Froggy. According to a lengthy report/article in the New York Times: On June 24, "he forwarded his copyrights and future royalties to one of his publishers and put out the word that he was extremely depressed and moving to Australia and might not be heard from again....In a dramatic farewell that could have come from Froggy's pen, Mr. MacIntyre, according to fire officials, methodically set ablaze the contents of the apartment in Bensonhurst [in Brooklyn] where he had lived for a quarter-century. First the flames consumed a lifetime of possessions; then they feasted on his weary flesh, ending his painful 59-year earthly existence." The NYT piece features comments by Darrell Schweitzer, Bud Webster, and Andrew Porter. There is also a link to a 3:36 vid that shows the apartment devastation after the fire, and comments from a neighbor and one of the clean-up crew. A sad ending, indeed.
  • And speaking of Harlan Ellison, I'll conclude with this sort-of interview posted on September 23 on Isthmus's The Daily Page, headlined: "At MadCon, an ailing Harlan Ellison will say goodbye." Harlan was the Guest of Honor at Madcon that weekend, at which he intended to give his Farewell to the fans, as this would be the last convention he planned to attend. In Harlan's words: "The truth of what's going on here is that I'm dying. I'm like the Wicked Witch of the West -- I'm melting. I began to sense it back in January. By that time, I had agreed to do the convention. And I said, I can make it. I can make it." There have been few con reports that I have read, but apparently HE held his own throughout; I guess one just had to be there! But back to the interview in The Daily Page. HE discusses such topics as 1) On how he knows he's dying; 2) On mortality; 3) On days gone by; 4) On current projects; 5) On discovering his destiny; 6) On conventions; 7) On being nominated for his second Grammy, for Best Spoken Word Album For Children, earlier this year; 8) On his present appearance; and lastly, 9) On his unfinished work. On this latter point, Harlan states: "My wife has instructions that the instant I die, she has to burn all the unfinished stories. And there may be a hundred unfinished stories in this house, maybe more than that. There's three-quarters of a novel. No, these things are not to be finished by other writers, no matter how good they are. It could be Paul Di Filippo, who is just about the best writer in America, as far as I'm concerned...." So, in what may be some of HE's final printed words, author Paul Di Filippo receives kudos from the man himself. I guess I'm going to have to write about working with Paul on Strange Trades (2001) -- the fifth title that I acquired and edited for Golden Gryphon Press.

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