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Checked the crack in the windshield and it hadn’t gotten any bigger overnight — big yeah. Just hope it doesn’t do anything
awful until after we get home.

Got a late start this morning, so didn’t make a panel until noon, missing two earlier ones that I really, really, wanted to get to. Just one of those days. I’m now down to one coffee a day — and hating it, a lot.

Just lost everything below here twice as my spam software suddenly decided that my site wasn’t safe or didn’t exist — it couldn’t make up it’s mine so there was an immediate change of software and the misbehaving software is now in time out.

Noon – Constellations of Genres
Panel: John Crowley, Veronica Schanoes, James Patrick Kelly (leader), Ted Chiang, Gary K. Wolfe, and Kit Reed.
Description: On Readercon 23’s panel “Genre Transference,” James Patrick Kelly cited four genres a book can have: “The genre of the writer’s intent, the genre of reader expectation, the genre of the critical review, and the commercial genre.” Let’s dig deeper into this idea. Are there more genres than these four? How does the constellation of a book’s various genres change the reader’s experience, or the writer’s career?

As genres seem to be evaporating because the walls between genres seem to have become porous. The tropes of one genre are now showing up in others. However, often those who are not familiar with the originating genre of the tropes don’t have the same depth of understanding of why/how/where the trope is used. Then there was a lot about the conversation between the author and the text and the text and the reader and whether other genres want to talk to each other in any type of conversation.

1:00 PM – Authorial Metanarrative
Panel: Glenn Grant, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Theodora Goss (leader), Lila Garrott, Sonya Taaffe
Description: A number of authors build in subtle links between otherwise unconnected works. A link may not be something as literal as a common character or name; perhaps, instead, there’s a repeated trope or event. Leah Bobet, discussing Patricia A. McKillip’s works in a 2011 blog post, described this as writing “epic poetry, and the whole of [McKillip’s] output is the poem.” How do such links affect a reader’s interpretation of or approach to a body of work, and what motivates authors to link their works together?

Some author’s have put in links that connect their stories — these links can be a secondary character that shows up in a work where they don’t necessarily have a part, or events from one story are mentioned in another, or symbols reoccur in multiple stories. These can be either intended by the author or happy happenstance. Discussion of what does an author do when such reoccurring items are pointed out to them. Are they gifts to the readers or a frustration because to understand you have had to read all the author’s works not just a selection? Does it work between author’s or only for the one author? Can these items tell their own story across the author’s body of work?

2:00 PM – The Relationship of Reality and Fantasy
Panel: Andrea Hairston (leader), Julia Starkey, James Morrow, Scott H. Andrews, and Anil Menon.
Description: In a 2012 essay titled “PSA: Your Default Narrative Settings Are Not Apolitical,” Foz Meadows addressed the notion that “deliberately including POC, female and/or LGBTQ characters can only ever be a political action.” She demonstrated that history, the historical record, and commonly accepted historical narratives are in fact three distinct things, and pointed out the irony of fans who accept magic and dragons in their fantasy but balk at the idea of female pirates or a black Lancelot because they’re “unrealistic.” Whose reality does fantasy need to reflect in order to be believable? How can we use fantasy to shape and change our realities?

This more or less, in my opinion only (remember I’m caffeine deprived), focused on the nature of reality with a work and how it is best achieved. Also led into a discussion of Truth, truth, real, reality, and reality within context.

Visited the Book Shop (Dealers’ Room) — lots of really interesting books and I hope to get back tomorrow to buy a couple of the ones I spied today. Readercon’s Book Shop is just that all booksellers — new, used, and collectable, and sometimes all with the same bookseller. It’s a bookaholics dream come true.

7:00 PM – Woldbuilding by Worldseeing
Panel: Romie Stott, Sarah Smith, John Crowley (leader), and Harold Vedeler
Description: Kipling’s Kim, Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor, Dickens’s “sketches”… who is writing about the present day this way, and what can worldbuilders learn from these Victorian-era worldseers? All these observers were at some remove; how does observation differ when one is part of the culture one is observing?

The discussion focused on the need for writers to write what they know and if you don’t know to find out. You should get your facts straight. If writing modern urban fantasy, you should know the city of your story and get the details and environment of that city right. If a character works in a garage, pizza parlor, or coffee shop, for example, talk to someone about what it’s like to work there — learn the details of the job. Getting the background right helps to ground the story when the fantasy elements come into play.

8:00 PM – The Gender of Reading Shame
Panel: Natalie Luhrs (leader), Jordan Hamessley, Ann Tonsor Zeddies, Julia Rios, and Trent Zelazny.
Description: In a 2012 post on Book Riot, Amanda Nelson wrote about bookstore shoppers who display signs of shame or embarrassment about their reading choices. She concluded that this behavior is highly gendered: “If men read ‘unliterary’ but stereotypically masculine genres it’s fine. If women read ‘unliterary’ but stereotypically feminine genres it’s deserving of a brown paper bag in the form of increased e-reader sales so you can read in public in peace.” Our panelists discuss their own experiences with reading shame or lack thereof, whether the gender hypothesis holds true within the speculative fiction–reading community, and why we read books we’re ashamed of or feel shame about what we read.

First ‘unliterary’ was defined to be non-genre. As you can imagine this was a panel with lots of personal accounts as well as recent research and anecdotal impressions. There was also the problem of the title and description as it implied binary gender ignoring the spectrum of gender as it is today. Everyone agreed that having an ereader so that you didn’t have to deal with a book cover giving you away has taken a lot of the stigma of reading those items that you personal feel uncomfortable about.

As always your thoughts and impressions about the topics are welcome. Leave a comment.

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We drove up from Brandywine, Maryland. It’s a 10 hour trip, or at least it was this time, we had some really good luck with traffic. However, it was a bit tense since we got a crack in our windshield. Crazy Glue on the inside and outside of the crack seems to have it stabilized and we’ll get the windshield replaced Monday when we get back home.

Got to the hotel and found a wall as soon as we came in the doors. Surprise. The hotel is being renovated. First response was a feeling of displacement because things weren’t where they should be. We’ve been coming to this convention for years. There’s a sense that things should be the same as we left them. But there’s essentially no noise and the convention people have everything under control — as they always seem to do.

The only real problem is that all the nice seating areas for relaxing with friends between panels is gone and what few seating areas that remain are just not enough.

Thursday night, I was on a panel at 8 PM. after that, exhaustion won, and I turned in for the evening.

8:00 PM – The News and the Abstract Truth
Panelists: Adrienne Martini, Robert Killheffer, James Morrow, Gayle Surrette, and David G. Shaw (Leader)
Description: The controversies surrounding Mike Daisey’s The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs and John D’Agata and Jim Fingal’s The Lifespan of a Fact arose when art and truth collided. While fiction can play fast and loose with facts in order to tell a compelling story, monologues and essays are held to a higher standard. The authors of these books were surprised by audience reactions to the discovery that their “factual” accounts were fabrications; they claimed that their work was more “beautiful” or “lyrical” than the truth. But which are more important: true words, or beautiful words? Why do some writers think it necessary to take liberties with the truth in order to create great “nonfiction”?

My personal feeling is that nonfiction sets up a contract with the reader that what they are reading is fact and you should not then make up things and present them as fact. If you are going to use non-verifiable information then you need to present it as supposition or in some other way signal to the reader that this isn’t ‘fact’.

I’m not sure but I think most, if not all, of the panelists felt the same way. Talk did touch on how much fact checking fiction required and where it was okay to let imagination take over.

My feeling is that those facts that are stated should be checked and if they can be checked they should be accurate. However, those that are not ‘checkable’ (the number of planets in habitable range because so far science hasn’t checked it out or can’t yet check it out) are given a pass for the sake of the story.

I’d be interested in hearing the thoughts of my readers — leave a comment.

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SFWA, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of American, announced the winners of the this year’s Nebula Awards at their annual Nebula Awards Weekend held in Washington, DC. You can read the full list of nominees and winners on the SFWA website.

Best Novel: Blackout/All Clear, Connie Willis (Spectra)

Best Novella: “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window,” Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Magazine, Summer 2010)

Best Novellette: “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made,” Eric James Stone (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, 9/10)

Best Short Story (a tie):

“How Interesting: A Tiny Man,” Harlan Ellison (Realms of Fantasy, 2/10)
“Ponies,” Kij Johnson (Tor.com 1/17/10)

Also presented:

SFWA Service Award: John E. Johnston III
Solstice Awards:

Alice B. Sheldon / James Tiptree, Jr.
Michael Whelan

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation: Inception Christopher Nolan (director), Christopher Nolan (Screenplay) (Universal)

Andre Norton Award: I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett (Gollancz, Harper).

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CORRECTION AND ADDITION:

We made a typo on last night’s post that needs to be corrected.  The price for last year’s Reincarnations is $28.00 including shipping and handling, rather than the $23 which was specified in that post.  We’ve also updated the previous post to avoid any additional confusion.

But in addition to the the offerings previously listed, we have added yet one more option.  This year for $60, you can pre-order a special bundle including all three books, which will also be delivered to you at Capclave.

Last year, WSFA Press was resurrected to help celebrate Capclave 2009’s Guest of Honor Harry Turtledove. The book Reincarnations premiered at Capclave and sold well. We have very few of the signed and numbered volumes left in stock.

This year, WSFA Press is publishing two books: Fire Watch by Connie Willis and The Three Quests of the Wizard Sarnod, by Jeff VanderMeer (with an afterwards by Ann VanderMeer–our 3rd Guest of Honor). Each book will be a limited signed and numbered edition of 500 copies, chosen to match the Capclave membership, which is being capped at 500 members. The books will be released at Capclave and only available to non-attendees after the convention.

WSFA Press Special Offer on Capclave Registration:
Included this year is the ability to pre-order WSFA Press’ two newest books, The Three Quests of the Wizard Sarnod, by Jeff VanderMeer–

The Wizard Sarnod has lived in isolation on an island in the middle of a lake for centuries. But one day, the Nose of Memory arrives to destroy his calm by dredging up the past, and he must send three of his familiars to the subterranean Underhinds on a quest to find two people, long banished: his brother and a former lover. In the Underhinds, they will encounter living dirigibles, fire dragons, the Bloat Toad, unimaginable perils, and long-buried secrets . . . Based on Jack Vance’s Dying Earth series, The Three Quests of the Wizard Sarnod is a longer and very different version of a story published in the Dozois-Martin edited Songs from the Dying Earth.

The Three Quests of the Wizard Sarnod will be published by WSFA Press in 2010, and released at WSFA’s annual Capclave convention as a special 500-copy limited and signed hardcover edition, with an introduction by Jeff VanderMeer and an afterward by Ann VanderMeer.Designed by John Coulthart, a well-known British graphic artist, illustrator, author and designer, the book will be signed by Ann VanderMeer, Jeff VanderMeer, and John Coulthart. (Capclave special price: $20).

and Fire Watch by Connie Willis:

Fire Watch is a science-fiction story written in 1982 by Connie Willis, involving a time-traveling historian who goes back to The Blitz in London, to participate in the fire watch at St. Paul’s Cathedral. This story is in the same universe as Willis’ newly released novel Blackout and the upcoming October release, All Clear.

Fire Watch will be published by WSFA Press in 2010, and released at WSFA’s annual Capclave convention as a special 500-copy limited and signed hardcover edition, with an introduction by James Patrick Kelly, designed by John Coulthart, a well-known British graphic artist, illustrator, author and designer, and signed by all Willis, Kelly, and Coulthart. (Capclave special price: $20).

Both of these volumes will be premiering at Capclave, and now is your chance to reserve a copy for yourself. In addition, we are again offering a special deal on last year’s WSFA Press special book, Reincarnations, by Harry Turtledove. There are only a small number of these signed and numbered, limited-edition copies remaining. The special Capclave price includes $3.00 for shipping and handling (Total: $28), and this volume will be mailed to you now.

For those now registering to attend Capclave, the option to pre-order the two new WSFA Press books or a copy of last year’s book is listed on the registration form.

If you have already registered for Capclave 2010 and wish to pre-order a book, send email to webmaster@capclave.org to receive information on how to pre-order.

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I got a link to this video today from a friend.  It’s on “The Future of Publishing”.    If you’ve been seeing the recent bru-ha-ha about ebooks and their various readers and the pricing of ebooks for consumers, it’s possible to get the impression that books and reading are a thing of the past.  Roll this belief in with the belief that young people  don’t read, have short attention spans and don’t know anything about the world around them .  This set of ideas and beliefs are what seem to be driving much of today’s marketing.

I enjoyed the video.  Using the  same message to express two totally opposite points of view is amazingly well done.  It feed into the widely held beliefs and then turns them on their head.

Publishing isn’t dead.  I’ve got a Kindle and I love it.  I’ve  also got tons of  traditional books. I say tons because in the last move we had more books in boxes to move than the total of all other items we moved from our apartment to our house.  I love reading and can’t imagine a time when I won’t read.  If my eyes fail me — I’ll get the Kindle to read to me with its Hawking’s voice (imagine having a great physicist read to you).

What is most likely to kill publishing is the unwillingness of the industry to move forward.  The world has changed.  They way people live their lives has changed and they need to change with it.  I’ll still read books on paper but the Kindle is what I take when I travel.  As a computer programmer/software analyst who has helped put together a book or two to be published — I know that an electronic books should not be priced more than a paperback.  There’s a big difference between making a paper-book only and then using the same file to create an electronic version and not having storage and distribution issues.

I had several books on my electronic wish list at Amazon until the pricing thing happened.  Now those books are too expensive.  I’ll buy them at a library sale or in a used books store.  Electronic would have been nice but I’m not paying nearly hardcover sale prices for an electronic book.  It’s the same reason I don’t buy DVD until they hit the below $10 sales (they should never cost more than $10 anyway). Corporations should make a profit off their work but since the creative artists aren’t the ones reaping the benefits of these too-high prices — it’s the must-make-even-more-profit that’s driving the bus.  People will buy your product but only when it’s useful, usable, and priced appropriately.  Otherwise most of us can find other ways to spend our money.

Companies should learn to listen to their customers.  You know the people who actually buy or are expected to buy the products you produce.  Listen and learn.

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A friend pointed me to this YouTube Video about the sameness of urban fantasy book covers and the poses of the female protagonists. Go ahead take a look.

The problem is that often, if not nearly always, authors have no control over their book covers. That’s why a red-headed heroine might be on the cover as a blonde or brunette. Mythical creatures that never show up in the book might be featured prominently on the cover.

It’s not the artist’s fault either as some discussion with cover artists have informed me, it’s seldom within their deadlines that they are actually given a copy of the book to read before they begin the project. Often an artist gets an overview of those items that should be on the cover to make it stand out on the shelves.

The problem is that when a great urban fantasy comes along and sells well, the marketing types forget that people are buying a book with a compelling story and figure if that type of cover sells, then our cover with the same elements should sell our book. Many times the writing and author combine to sell the book, reinforcing the move toward a “look” for the newly emerging sub-genre.

I remember years ago when Fabio was on practically every cover of a romance novel in the bookstore. Some friends and I were in a bookstore, came around a corner and faced a wall of outward facing romance covers. We began to look at them. We figured there were probably about 10 poses which included: girl clutched to man’s leg, girl clutched to man’s back/side/chest, girl draped over man’s arm and so on. The only difference in these poses were the costumes that indicated the period of the romance.

This video certainly makes it seem that things haven’t really changed. That as hard as publishers/artists/authors/art directors try to be different, with the lead times they have for publications, there are bound to be a whole lot of covers that look like fraternal clones.

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