Wednesday, March 2, 2011

February Links & Things

This is my monthly wrap-up of February's Links & Things; you can receive these links in real time by following me on Twitter: @martyhalpern. Note, however, that not all of my tweeted links make it into these month-end posts. Hopefully, you will find some value in what follows; and if you are new to my blog, you may want to catch up on my previous month-end posts: just look for the "Links and Things" tag in the right column of this blog.
  • I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the passing of author Melissa Mia Hall on January 28. I never met Melissa personally, but knew her from her stories in such acclaimed anthologies as Razored Saddles (Lansdale & LoBrutto), A Whisper of Blood (Datlow), and Post Mortem (Olson & Silva), to name just three. Melissa might very well be alive today had she been able to afford health insurance; sadly this is the situation for many new, midlist, and freelance writers, and editors. I've written about this previously and don't wish to dwell on it. But isn't it ironic that Melissa's tax dollars contributed to the government-sponsored healthcare for those very same individuals who are now attempting to dismantle the new healthcare law. Ironic, indeed. If you didn't know, or know of, Melissa Mia Hall, you can read PW editor Peter Cannon's heartfelt eulogy; if you have a need to know more about Missy's health and health insurance issues, please read Sarah Strohmeyer's "The Least Among Us" on The Lipstick Chronicles blog.
  • The Ooh Tray blog describes itself as "a digest of film and literary culture -- independent, investigative and satirical.... written for those [who] want more from their criticism [with] less hyperbole." The Ooh Tray has been reviewing books that it terms "Modern Classics," which includes the recently reviewed The Empire of Ice Cream, a collection of stories by Jeffrey Ford. The reviewer, Richard McCarthy, writes: "Ford has looked at the nature of story-telling and understood that its power can lie not just in evoking, informing and sharing but also in reshaping that which we consider to be already known." [Note: I acquired and edited The Empire of Ice Cream for Golden Gryphon Press. The stories contained therein have won numerous awards: "Botch Town," original to the collection, won the 2007 World Fantasy Award for best novella; title story "The Empire of Ice Cream" won the 2003 Nebula Award for best novelette (and was a finalist for the Hugo, World Fantasy, and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial awards); "The Annals of Eelin-Ok" won the Speculative Literature Foundation's 2005 Fountain Award; and the collection itself was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the best books of the year.]
  • On K. M. Weiland's (@KMWeiland) WordPlay blog, guest blogger Victoria Mixon (@VictoriaMixon) writes about "The 4 Most Common Mistakes Fiction Editors See." Victoria writes: "Before you rush your beloved manuscript off to an editor, here are the four most common mistakes fiction editors see:" 1) Unfocused structure; 2) Misplaced backstory; 3) Underdeveloped character; and 4) Unpolished prose. For the details behind these points, and to read the more than 50 comments, do click on the link to WordPlay.
  • Thanks to Robert J. Sawyer's Facebook post for this: Canada's Globe and Mail online asks: "Where have all the book editors gone?" And the answer? "With the publishing industry in turmoil, beset by competitive challenges unknown a decade ago, the long-lunching gentlefolk who once managed the mysterious process of literary midwifery are being replaced by fast-paced production workers, paid by the paragraph and often operating from home. If Jackie O were still in the game, she would likely be outsourced.... Authors, finding today’s downsized publishers increasingly unwilling to invest their own resources in the often laborious process of polishing rough diamonds into marketable gems, are now often forced to hire their own editors -- before even submitting their manuscripts for publication." Though the article focuses on specific Canadian publishers, the comments and analysis pertain to the industry as a whole. [Note: As previously noted, I am a book editor; I am available to work with authors on their manuscripts.]
  • Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig), on the TerribleMinds blog, poses this assertion -- and not for the faint of heart either, especially if you are a self-published author: "Why your self-published book may suck a bag of dicks." Straight forward enough for you? Wait until you read the content! "I (and I'm sure other capable writers) have noticed and noted that self-publishing bears a certain stigma. With the term comes the distinct aroma of flopsweat born out of the desperation of Amateur Hour -- it reeks of late night Karaoke, of meth-addled Venice Beach ukulele players, of middle-aged men who play basketball and still clutch some secret dream of 'going pro' despite having a gut that looks like they ate a basketball rather than learned to play with one.... Self-publishing just can’t get no respect.... This is in part because it's a lot harder to put an album or a film out into the world. You don't just vomit it forth. Some modicum of talent and skill must be present to even contemplate such an endeavor and to attain any kind of distribution. The self-publishing community has no such restriction. It is blissfully easy to be self-published. I could take this blog post, put it up on the Amazon Kindle store and in 24 hours you could download it for ninety-nine cents." Wendig goes on to write: "If, perchance, you don't know if I happen to be referring to you, let's see if you pass this easy test. Don't worry -- it's just a handful of questions. Relax. Take a deep breath. And begin." And those questions (with visual effects, so you'll need to read the blog post) are: 1) Does your cover look anything like this? 2) Does your book's product description read as if it were written by a child, a monkey, or a schizophrenic (or a schizophrenic monkey child)? 3) Did anyone actually edit your book? 4) Is your free downloadable sample a testament to your raging lack of talent? -- and yes, Wendig admits to being a horrible big blue meanie. Read this. (via @ColleenLindsay)
  • Recently featured this no-nonsense headline: "HarperCollins to libraries: we will nuke your ebooks after 26 checkouts." Evidently HC is changing its ebook distribution contract to allow only 26 checkouts per ebook, after which libraries will have to repurchase the ebook. The article has a link to the full details on Library Journal. This restriction, of course, has outraged librarians and library supporters who have begun a boycott of HarperCollins. A very simple, straight-forward website has been created if you wish to participate: Boycott HarperCollins.
  • If the subject "Mind vs. Machine" interests you, then you'll want to read this lengthy article (5 pages) in The Atlantic, which concerns the Turing Test, first proposed in 1950. "In the race to build computers that can think like humans, the proving ground is the Turing Test -- an annual battle between the world's most advanced artificial-intelligence programs and ordinary people. The objective? To find out whether a computer can act 'more human' than a person. In his own quest to beat the machines, the author [Brian Christian] discovers that the march of technology isn't just changing how we live, it's raising new questions about what it means to be human." The article traces the history of the Turing Test including some of the dialog over the years between judges and computers; Christian also discusses the concept of humans as computers, the Eliza program, and more. An excellent work on the subject, and the more than 90 comments add to the article as well. (via @LeviMontgomery)
  • My friend, PR guy/reviewer/interviewer Matt Staggs (@mattstaggs) had this tasty little item on his Facebook page: Doom Survival Guide: A Handbook to Survival in a Post-Apocalyptic World. The book is based on the famous SAS survival manual (U.S. Army Survival Manual FM 21-76, written by Lofty Wiseman), which contains invaluable information on how to survive with little to nothing in many harsh environments. It has been condensed to remove useless information...[and] redundant topics, more have been added and existing ones expanded. Here's one such new topic: "Field surgery -- wound debridement and field amputations." One never knows.... The Doom Survival Guide and its supporting files are available as a free download, or you can purchase the book form, which is available via The FM21-76 US Army Manual is also available on the site as a free download. In my opinion, you really need to obtain a hardcopy of Doom Survival Guide: when the apocalypse comes, you can say goodbye to electricity and the internet and PCs and the like (especially if the US is hit with an electomagnetic pulse). You'll be roughing it in the bush and you'll be glad you have this book on hand.
  • From's GalleyCat (@GalleyCat): "In 1999, Russian scientist Kirill Yeskov wrote The Last Ring-Bearer, a 139,000-word novel that re-wrote The Lord of the Rings trilogy -- re-imagining J. R. R. Tolkien's heroic epic as a bloody war with unrecorded consequences. Now Yisroel Markov has released a translation of the novel (with Yeskov's help).... In the 15-year-old book, Yeskov re-wrote Tolkien's masterpiece from the point of view of Mordor, a region defeated in the war to control Middle Earth.... It focused on a single question: 'What was that war really about?'" On his LiveJournal, the translator, Yisroel Markov, posts details on the translation, including a downloadable essay from the author explaining his motivation and methods. But best of all, The Last Ring-Bearer is available as a free download, in PDF, mobi, and epub formats. The YMarkov LJ post has nearly 200 comments, many containing errata, etc.; the post also links to another site with the various ebook formats (read the comments).
  • I've previously posted about my earlier involvement in the Philip K. Dick Society (check out tags "Philip K. Dick" and "PKD Society"), so I was intrigued by a post by Jason Erik Lundberg on Facebook, which pointed me to this Washington Post article entitled "Philip K. Dick, the sci-fi writer who fires Hollywood's imagination in film after film." This Friday, the movie The Adjustment Bureau will be released, based on the PKD story "Adjustment Team," and a remake of Total Recall is in the works, along with a series adaptation of PKD's Hugo Award-winning novel The Man in the High Castle. This article is quite entertaining, and has brief quotes by noted SF author John Kessel, editor Gordon Van Gelder, and one of PKD's many ex-wives, Anne R. Dick (whose recent biography The Search for Philip K. Dick was published by Tachyon Publications). When I posted this link on Twitter, I received a tweet response from @rfamovie: "I adapted Radio Free Albemuth for film--indie so not on radar of Washington Post article." Radio Free Albemuth's cast includes Shea Whigham (Boardwalk Empire), Katheryn Winnick (Bones), and singer Alanis Morissette. Director John Alan Simon is currently seeking US distribution.
  • Lastly, some GMail users logged onto their email this past week only to discover that their mail and contacts were not there -- gone, missing. For some, it was a temporary matter; for others, I understand Google is still attempting to recover their files. I use a free backup service called, funnily enough, Backupify. I simply selected my Twitter account, and all my tweets, DMs, mentions, followers, and friends are automatically backed up. I receive a weekly email from Backupify informing me that the backup has been made. With this recent GMail fiasco, I am now backing up my email account as well. You can increase your backup storage by upgrading to a paid account; the smallest paid account being $4.99 per month.

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