Sunday, April 29, 2012
I've come across people saying what a 'terrible' writer Dostoevsky was - I presume these people are speaking of his original writing in Russian and that they know that language (like Nabokov). I always heard what a great writer Kafka was in the original German but I have no idea of that. I've always loved him, but only know him in English!
Quite a large percentage of my favorite writers have been from Argentina, but I've never been there. I can't say I know the culture. I can't even begin to guess what possible affinity I might have with that place that would lead me to admire its writers so much.
Who can say what draws us to one region or language or another? Why do I like Flannery O'Connor so much while generally not a big fan of the American South? What does it say that the writer who has most impressed me, in terms of sheer writing, is Guy de Maupassant? I wish I could say what it is that all these strands in my personal taste have in common with one another, besides the generally human.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
the ending though entails revising some earlier notions. i love when that happens. i have to go back and do some major rewriting. i always say i'm going to do that, but usually don't. this time i made it so i sort of have to, otherwise it won't really make sense.
as usual, i started with just enough to go on, and let it develop the way that it would, and it did, changing completely in the middle with the character Merry, originally a minor one who took on, suddenly, a major role. writing is fun whenever it is.
Friday, April 27, 2012
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Monday, April 23, 2012
"Erewhonians believe in pre-existence; and not only this, but they believe that it is of their own free act and deed in a previous state that they come to be born into this world at all. They hold that the unborn are perpetually plaguing and tormenting the married of both sexes, fluttering about them incessantly, and giving them no peace either of mind or body until they have consented to take them under their protection. If this were not so (this at least is what they urge), it would be a monstrous freedom for one man to take with another, to say that he should undergo the chances and changes of this mortal life without any option in the matter."
Here you have married people happily going about their business and enjoying each other, until some child from the before-life gets around to tormenting them until they have no choice but to get pregnant and bring the darn thing into the world. This is followed by a contract the poor parents force the new baby to sign, in which the child absolves the parents of all responsibility for any future unhappiness the new one may experience thereafter. Very, very funny, and very much worth reading.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Friday, April 20, 2012
She was holding a copy of her latest production, a fine looking book written by the combined process known as Melville Atwood. The novel, called The RESTful, dealt with a handful of obsoleted programs which had banded together to create a firewall resistant to moral decay. There would be no end-of-life scenario for these relics previously abandoned to maintenance mode. They had brought it upon themselves to bring to an end their seemingly inevitable death march. The critics had already proclaimed it "a triumph of mind over dark matter", but Helena was not so sure about that. It seemed a little jumbled, as if someone had gotten their centuries mixed up, and that was only one of its problems.
Helena was thinking how it had only been a little bit more than a year since she had developed a genuine passion for code, and yet she was already beginning to grasp certain subtexts in the books she'd been publishing, references that had been there the whole time but had entirely escaped her attentuin. She had only lately come around to a conclusion that suddenly seemed all too obvious. These books, ostensibly written by humans gone by for humans still extant were in reality no such thing. They were, rather, intended for a hidden audience, an android readership she hadn't even known had existed. Her customers, dispersed throughout the planet, had remained largely anonymous, so she had no idea who they actually were. The ones she met at conventions and such might only have been representatives.
"Silly creature, she chided herself, but silly for what? For believing now in some secret conspiracy, or for not believing it before?
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
it's difficult to tell the three apart, since physical contact - touching (like the game of tag at some schools even now) - was considered extremely rude and subject to harassment enforcement. Android could hurt people's feelings. Humans could detect and exploit an android's required vulnerabilities. Holograms could be either human- or android-projected, and it was against the rules to inquire, so there was a sort of rock-paper-scissors in effect.
Bysshe had a problem. Certain holograms were sabotaging the system, disobeying all the rules and wreaking havoc. She had to stop them. "Extinguish" the problem, 'put out the light', as it were. Or else she couldn't get the thing she wanted most of all. TBD
(it could be a hologram behind the wheel of that self-driving car ...)
Not a YA book but a satire of YA books. told from the point of view of the adult, the parent - what do kids know about anything, really? and, of course, because Bysshe herself is a hologram (a la Blade Runner), being the daughter that Helene had always, always wanted (but was ultimately unable to have).
We find that Bysshe was selected for this special school as part of a program called "Future Leaders of Today". There are only a limited number of students - "why" is TBD. (like the fricking Harry Potter stuff, it has to be a 'special' school. Like Hunger Games, it has to be a girl.) But this is more like Jakob Von Gunten and the school for servants. Definitely along those lines.
Helena is initially described as a Rare Book Publisher. We discover that this is because the publishing of any books is rare. The books there are are literally ghostwritten - by composite simulacra of the approved great writers of the past - two from each constituent member of the League of Nations, one male and one female.
The Future Leaders of Today is a related project - the school is in actuality being run by an android cabal which has put humanity into 'maintentance mode' on the way to end-of-life. What they are doing in the school is compiling, processing what they intend to be the last generation of living humans, turning them into composite simulacra. They believe that Bysshe is one of these. They do not know that she is a sophisticated computer program herself, the child and brainchild of her mother.
Perhaps they assign her the task of extinguishing a bothersome set of holograms, but she may discover she is on the same side as them ... we'll see
as it is, it's a high school, so there are jocks and morons and mean girls, etc ...
"Tell me about your day" is the narrative stucture as well as the key to the story - s series of reports (half-truth and half-concealed) from daughter to mother (there is no father in the picture, nor mention of one)
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Monday, April 16, 2012
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Let us be grateful to the mirror for revealing to us our appearance only
on the evening of the same day that I
baptized him he tried for the twentieth time to steal the brandy,
which made me rather unhappy as to whether I could have baptized
Samuel Butler, Erewhon
Friday, April 13, 2012
I started listening to The Odyssey, the Librivox recorded version, which is the translation by one Samuel Butler. Curious about his translation, I looked him up on wikipedia, and learned about his utopian novel Erewhon, a satire from 150 years ago, in which he predicts The Singularity, that science fiction theory which I also wrote a satire about, called Renegade Robot. He wrote this book while living in New Zealand, specifically in Christchurch, where I am also going to be living later this year. All things are connected.
I've become pretty interested in this topic since the ratings and reviews began piling up for my various books. First, a little disclaimer. I was always pretty certain that my books would never get traditionally published. My experience of nearly twenty years as a bookseller told me that much. What I write essentially has 'no commercial potential', in the immortal words of Frank Zappa. So when I first discovered Smashwords in the fall of 2009 and found I was able to just put them out there, for free, and they'd get distributed and read, I was right there. How cool! Before then my stories had been read by maybe a dozen people. Since then, due to good luck, timing, and some small effort at 'marketing', they've been downloaded an astonishing number of times (well into six figures altogether) and actually read a bunch as well.
Then there came the ratings and reviews, on various websites including Barnes and Noble, iBookstore, Sony, Kobo, Amazon and Goodreads among others. Thousands of ratings and reviews and, to be perfectly honest, more negative than positive. Their average Goodreads rating (currently around 2.7) is somewhat lower than elsewhere (Apple folks seem to be the nicest, all in all), but it's not unfair, and not unjust. The books, which I never thought would be popular, have turned out to not be popular. There are plenty of people who like them - but the majority does not. The proof is in the sample size. The market truly does speak.
Most of the time when I read about 'how to handle negative reviews', people are talking about one or two presumably unfair ones, but sample size is really everything. I think you can safely ignore ALL reviews until your book has received a decent number of them. I couldn't say what that number is, but it seems safe to say that a hundred or so might be a decent figure. After that, the individual ratings and reviews don't change the average value that much.
That being said, I've collected enough by now to notice some common trends. On some sites, such as Barnes and Noble, readers are really reckless with their ratings and reviews. They will give you five stars because something is free, or one star because they just feel like it even though they didn't even read it and will readily admit to that. And then there are the contradictions. I've gotten one star for the same book because the narrator is TOO quirky and five stars because the narrator IS quirky. One person's shortage of character development is just the right amount for someone else. There are people who hate the same ending that other people liked. They will ding you if the book is too short, or if its too long, as if they have some secret insight as to the correct length of a given story, like the King who complained in Amadeus that there were 'too many notes'.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Hermione was the youngest daughter of Helen of Troy
'A small island of no consequence', where the suitors lay in ambush of Telemachus, was named Asterisk
I've been listening to the Librivox recording of The Odyssey while commuting. Although the quality varies wildly, i enjoy supporting their great endeavor, just as I enjoy getting most of my ebooks through Project Gutenberg. The Librivox version is of the Samuel Butler translation. I'm curious as to why he used the Roman names for Ulysses and the gods, while preserving the Greek names for everyone and everywhere else. Was this just a British tradition of the time?
You always come across something new everytime you read (or listen to) The Odyssey. It's such a rich and interesting story. It occurred to me today to wonder why it took Odysseus eight years to get around to building a raft while stuck on Calypso's island, and even then he didn't do it until she gave him an axe and showed him where the good trees were. Then, when he arrives at King Alcinus palace, he's kind of whiny and complaining bitterly about everything. Though the best and wisest and bravest of men, he still comes off as pretty darn mortal at times!
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
I'm happy to put it out there in the world, as happy as putting out any of my ebooks or earlier open-source projects. If one person finds it useful, that will be 'abundance'.
announcement also here on opencode
According to opencode's automated project analyzer:
Codebase 725 lines
Effort (est.) 0 person-years
Estimated Cost $ 7,847
Monday, April 09, 2012
Zombie Nights - A zombie accidentally stumbles upon the same gang that had murdered him in the first place. They murder him again. What's so hard to understand about that?
Snapdragon Alley, Dragon Town - In both of these books I practically hit you over the head with the idea that the 'thing' is both an inter-dimensional place AND a creature. It is trapped and lonely and periodically reaches out in its own way to attract and bring in the company it wants to keep (Uncle Charlie and Angus in the first book, Sapphire in the other). I don't go into tremendous detail to describe such an impossible thing. It's an idea. Think about it.
The Part Time People - The part time position attracts crazy people. Promotion to full time cures them. It's a joke, okay?
Ledman Pickup - A sentient device escapes from its creators. It's a high tech fable.
These endings are not unfinished.Yes, they do happen quickly. The books are short. Then they're over.
Sunday, April 08, 2012
Saturday, April 07, 2012
Self-publishing exists in the same reality as publishing. The mega-successful self-published authors are as rare as the successful published authors - a Stephen King or J.K. Rowling are the unusual jackpot winners in a bell curve not at all favorable to the norm. I read somewhere that the vast majority of published books sell fewer than a thousand copies. This is chump change, and most of the self-published authors (not counting porno here) are likely to do about as well, and make about as much, which is to say, very little.
Unlike with the lottery, you can target your market in self-publishing,. You can aim for the romance market, the teen paranormal craze or the incestual anal rape crowd, you thus have a better chance of hitting your mark. It helps to be a complete cynic and hustler if you choose this kind of approach. If you're trying to be literary or a poet, you might as well forget it, and that goes for any kind of publishing. Forget about the money, that is. Don't even think about it. Do what you want to do and put it out there. Let it go, like a paper boat drifting on a stream. Maybe it will come back to you like the proverbial bread cast upon the waters. Maybe it will get stuck on the first bend and end up going nowhere. Or maybe it'll have a nice little ride and see the world. Be happy for your book. Just let it go.
Friday, April 06, 2012
Wednesday, April 04, 2012
Tuesday, April 03, 2012
Monday, April 02, 2012
Inside Canopus, after The Hidden One's discovery of the antidote for immortality, some immortals are taking advantage and committing suicide. Others are thinking about it. Still others are too far gone, while some remain even more determined to escape and take revenge on mortals - Bumbarta is among these and has indoctrinated his Watchers along those lines.
I still like the idea of Soma and Squee accidentally escaping, but now my thought is that they tumble out into a laboratory/guardhouse just outside of Canopus, where they discover the scientists and soldiers assigned to investigate and protect the world from the immortals.
One or two of these scientists is on the verge of discovering the secret cellular makeup of the immortals which will allow them to not only reproduce, but also age until they choose to stop. This could lead to an immortal takeover of the world, should they ever escape and happen upon it, so he or they are keeping it secret (but Soma and Squee find out!). Other scientists want them all to die. Still others want to keep them prisoner for other purposes.
Soma and Squee have to sneak around and try and find a way to liberate Bumbarta and the other Watchers - which would lead to Book Three, along Johnny's original concept - war between the species.
Perhaps Soma and Captain Snig will renew their acquaintance and maybe he will flip to their side - he did have some vestige of humanity remaining, or at least that was hinted at in Book One
Sunday, April 01, 2012
The idea was suggested to me by a recent re-viewing of the movie Office Space, where they copy a program onto a 'floppy disk' - only twenty years later, good luck finding a computer that can take a floppy disk! and the whole problem of digital obsolescence.
The children - frozen in time at age eight - were also too young at the time of their imprisonment to know much about anything, let alone generators and computers and stuff like that. In the forest-prison there was no technology at all, and they had been in there for possibly a century or more. All such knowledge was useless and lost for the people in there. They emerge as primitives.
Will there be survivors of whatever doomed the society? What will they encounter in their travels? The usual assortment of hazards and dangers, wild animals and whatnot? Must try to avoid cliches. The last thing I need is to get stuck in the usual ruts.