Faith In Publishing

January 9th, 2009  |  Published in Uncategorized

I probably don’t need to tell you about the dismal state of publishing these days, so I won’t.  What I do want to tell you about is where I see hope.  Mainly that is the in electronic publishing.  First, let me tell you about what brings this up.

I recently submitted a couple of pieces of flash fiction to a new publication called Flash Scribe.  Although they do not offer vast sums of money as I would prefer, I really like flash (my favorite piece that I have written is Bob: Employee of the Future) as a format and figured, ‘what the heck?’  So a couple of days go by.  Then I get an e-mail saying that they couldn’t open one of the files that I sent them.  Two things.  One is that it only took them two days to reply.  I realize that flash is, by definition, very short, but they still have to be on the ball to have that sort of response time.  The second is that they did not automatically reject it, which would have most certainly been much easier.

This is the sort of behavior that I simply would not expect from traditional media.  Why?  Because they are traditional, and therefore, by definition, established.  To them, innovation is not an opportunity, but a threat.  It is innovation that will save the industry, but for innovation to occur, people must take risks (especially on unknown writers like myself :) .  In short, I want to say that innovation is a necessary condition for hope, as it is rarely the past that saves the present from the future (quite the opposite, but that is a different debate).  In addition, I want to wish the best of luck to the various people and groups that are making a go of doing things differently.

Disclaimer – I have yet to get word on my submissions, and I am not writing this as an attempt to flatter my way into anyone’s good graces, I just thought it needed to be said.

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Behold . . . BioPunk

December 25th, 2008  |  Published in Uncategorized

Just read an interesting article about people doing genetics work in their homes.  Imagine tattoos that, instead of injecting ink, inject genes into skin so that it changes texture or color or becomes fluorescent.  Imagine custom bony outcroppings on elbows and knuckles.  Imagine super-ramped metabolism.  The future, if not here, is certainly on its way.  Sometimes I feel that as a science fiction writer, the struggle is to keep up with the pace of progress.

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Coffee Shop

May 19th, 2008  |  Published in Fiction, News, Publishing, SciFi, Society, Stories, writing

Just posted a new segment over at Uprising, Coffee Shop.  Sorry that it has taken me so long to write, but the first few attempts were . . . boring.  One of the things that I’m trying to do with this story is to simply cut out the parts that people can easily figure out on their own.  If a character needs to get from point A to point B, and one scene ends with him leaving point A and the next starts up with him at point B, then why write about the middle part?  The trouble, then, is getting something interesting into every scene, even when the scene could be extremely short.

In other news, I introduce an eye color body modification, which I call iris doping, basically injecting a colored polymer or something into the iris.  It would be really cool looking, but also be quite difficult to reverse.  If it worked well enough, I’d probably do it.

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Now I Need to Read His Books

May 18th, 2008  |  Published in News, Publishing, SciFi, Society, writing

CNN has an interesting interview with Iain M. Banks, author of the Culture series of books.  I have personally wondered about a post-scarcity world for some time (I am a socialist, after all), and someone who associates himself with Ken MacLeod sounds like a good place to start.  In any case, go read it, its short and good, I will get back to writing.

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The Changing Face of Short Fiction

May 9th, 2008  |  Published in Fiction, Publishing, Stories, writing

So how long, really, is a short story? Common definitions define the top end of the length spectrum at anywhere between 7,500 to 20,000 words. Those numbers are for the most part, arbitrary. I mean if you define a short story as having a maximum of 10,000 words, then what is it about that 10,001th word that puts it over the edge? Silly, right? A much better definition is the functional definition famously espoused by Edgar Allen Poe in “The Philosophy of Composition”, which defines a short story as a story that is able to be read in one sitting. This may seem vague, as how much can be read in one sitting will vary from person to person, and indeed for one person from one situation to the next (reading at home vs. on a train, for example). On the other hand, it is much more reasonable than arbitrary word counts.

So what happens when we bring technology into the mix? Reading on a computer is a much different experience than reading a physical book, and the comparison is not necessarily negative. I won’t go into the details of how the two mediums differ, but I will say that electronic text lends itself to shorter reading times. On the computer, for example, there are a million other things going on which conspire to prevent the reader from sinking large amounts of time into something like reading, and this trend will only continue as we get more multi-purpose mobile devices that also act as e-book readers. Second, dedicated readers will also have a tendency towards shorter works, albeit to a lesser degree and for different reasons. The reason I say this is that they are more convenient than paper books (or at least this is where they are heading, currently the point is debatable), and so they lend themselves to the reading in the short periods of time between other things.

As a result, the average time a person spends reading without interruption (a sitting) will shorten. This means that stories broken into smaller and smaller chunks (flash fiction) will become the normal medium of fiction. This is not to say that long-form fiction will go away, because it won’t, just that more of it will be distributed serially. Personally, I think that this is a good thing. As a writer, it forces me to look at scenes as individual stories that contribute as a whole.

I would like to give one example of how this could work (beyond my own project, Uprising, of course). I have just finished reading Word War Z, by Max Brooks, which was fantastic, and for those of you who are not familiar with it, it consists of nothing but fictional interviews with survivors of a global zombie war. Part of the appeal of the book was that most of the interviews were short, and so it was easy to pick up and put down. On the other hand it was written in such a way that it was nearly impossible to put down (partially as a result of knowing that I could at just about any time, I’m sure).

If they were available, I would gladly read other stories that were written in this format, but there aren’t. Instead, its something that we’re going to have to do for ourselves. Which is a topic for another day (a day that will probably be sometime next week, in case you were wondering)

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New Uprising Segment

May 7th, 2008  |  Published in announcement, Fiction, News, Publishing, SciFi, Stories, writing

I just posted a new segment over at Uprising.  Having introduced Linden as a POV character, we start to learn about some of the fundamental differences between her and Ethan.  Enjoy, and don’t forget to tell me what you think.

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More New Media

May 6th, 2008  |  Published in Fiction, News, Publishing, Reviews

I should also mention that Cory Doctorow released his new novel, Little Brother, recently.  I had the good fortune to read an early draft, and it was simply fantastic.  I won’t go into too much detail, but basically the plot revolves around a hacker kid who is treated poorly (read: realistically) by Homeland Security after a terrorist attack on San Francisco.  Everything is based on current tech (like a nearer-future Doktor Sleepless), lending it a feel of future history.  If that isn’t enough, its available under a Creative Commons license, which means that you can download it in its entirety (the site also has instructions on how to do a bunch of the stuff in the book).  So go on and give it a read, you won’t regret it.

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Cognitive Enhancement

May 4th, 2008  |  Published in commentary

Yesterday, I wrote a brief post about an exercise that might increase certain types of intelligence.  When I looked at the related links that WordPress generated, I found a post from last year about the effect of exercise on the brain.  To sum it up, it helps.  This makes perfect sense, as human beings are essentially just very complex systems, and so anything that affects one part will inevitably affect the system as a whole.  As our bodies evolved to suit a lifestyle vastly different from ours, it is no surprise that we need to take extra steps to ensure that they function properly.  If we have any hope of ever becoming posthuman, we must first realize the full potential of being “merely” human.

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Moore’s Law to Continue Until Further Notice

May 1st, 2008  |  Published in Misc, News, SciFi, Society

EETimes has reported that Hewlett Packard Senior Fellow R. Stanley Williams has invented a memristor (which is sort of like a transistor, but . . . not, more info in the article).  As a result, it appears that Moore’s Law will continue unabated into the foreseeable future.  Excellent news for those of us who want to have computers installed in our heads.

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Catching Up With the Present

April 30th, 2008  |  Published in Fiction, Publishing, SciFi, technology, writing

I posted a new segment over at Uprising yesterday, and one of the things that I mention is the concept of a homeDrive, which basically the natural progression of flash drives and wireless networking.  Right now you can have an entire Linux distribution on a flash drive.  Although this is cool, the idea would probably make more sense if you just had a home directory and your applications on a wireless flash drive that any computer could use it.  A device like this would probably be first adopted by the security conscious, as it would be easy to encrypt the entire thing.  In short, ultimate, secure portability.  Of course, this morning I find out that we’re almost there.  I realize that, as I’m writing a near-future story, I will run the risk of this sort of thing, I guess that I was just planning on being oblivious to it.

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