Archived entries for books

Yesterday Amazon announced that they are setting up a Kindle marketplace for fan-fiction about approved properties. Their first test partner is Warner Brothers, which has licensed Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl and Vampire Diaries to be part of the experiment. Since those are all CW shows, there is not a lot of damage to be done to them by some not-very-good fan-fiction, but there is a great potential for some decent fan-fiction to make a boatload of money. The marketplace will open with 50 or so pieces of commissioned fan-fiction from approved authors, and will open up for public submissions at the same time. Of course, there will be content restrictions to keep this whole endeavor from drifting out of fan-fiction territory into slash-fiction territory.

But, considering Fifty Shades of Grey came from Twilight slash-fiction (on Amazon, too), I don’t think it will be long until people are slipping in works that skew more toward an R than a PG.

I really have to applaud Amazon for trying a lot of different things with digital publishing. They were the first to really open up their marketplace for user-published material, and their rates have always been more than fair. They are trying to coax the serialized story model back to life with their Amazon Serials and now they are embracing the ugly duckling world of fan-fiction. Now if only they would get around to selling me a digital deluxe version of a physical book that included a one-time use Kindle code for the same title…

Psst, psst.

C’mere.

I don’t want anyone else to hear this. They’ll get mad if the secret gets out.

I’m going to tell you the truth about that whole “Hawking says there is no God.” lede you’ve been seeing everywhere. You know, the hubbub that’s spinning out of lines like this:

“Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist,” he wrote.

And this.

“It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper [fuse] and set the universe going.”

From his new book “The Grand Design”. (Out next Tuesday from Bantam Books, get your copy now! The publishers and marketers are working hard to get you to care!)

And the truth is this:

The publishers know what they are doing, and they’ve released ONLY the introduction to the book. A book which posits that M Theory is the only viable solver for a non-supernaturally created universe. An introduction which, when released like this, as the intended purpose of PISSING EVERY BELIEVER ON THE PLANET THE FUCK OFF. Which causes them to write about it, and causes the press to cover those writings.

But what I guarantee you isn’t in that introduction, but is somewhere in that book is a bit where Hawking will admit that M Theory, while not overtly active, probably does in fact meet some of the definitions of God.

After all, if M Theory really does solve out and create a unifying theory of everything, wouldn’t that, oh, I don’t know, BE GOD?

So, all of this vitriol and rhetoric that’s flying around right now? Don’t buy any of it. It’s all just hot air blowing about. It’ll die down in no time at all.

But, then again, I wouldn’t go buying the book either. Because even if you do, you’ll be justifying the publisher’s tactics to sell it.

That’s what libraries are for, after all.

I once told my girlfriend that my love for her was perfect like a book.

She scrunched up her face in a way that said without words that I’d better explain fast or expect to be kicked off the couch.

So, I’m going to explain why a book is perfect.

A book is a vessel for ideas. It holds onto those ideas so that we might transfer them into us. But because a book is perfect, you can transfer those ideas an unlimited number of times. There is no limit, no half-life, no draining battery. So long as you can see the marks on the pages, the book can give over its held treasure. A treasure that holds the greatest power in the world – the power to change a mind.

A book is unpretentious in its shape and form, but not without craft and presentation. The choice of paper and font accentuate the sensation and mood. The art on the cover catches your eye and gives you a first impression. But, as the old adage goes, you can’t judge a book by its cover. And soon enough, all of the dressings and finery are smeared away and become inconsequential to the ideas held within.

A book also changes with you. It comes to you as an unremarkable copy. But then something amazing happens: it slowly becomes yours. The pages absorb the smell of orange spice from packet of tea in your bag or the smell of clove cigarettes from the porch of your favorite coffee shop. The pages yellow from being left out in the sun from that time you fell asleep in the park. The very act of reading that book, of turning the pages and pressing the oils from your hand onto those virgin pages, makes it unique to you. It is these changes that endear it to you, and makes something that was mass produced into something to be treasured.

A book is perfect because it is simple, and in its simplicity it holds beauty and power and ideas.

My love for her is like a book.

The second piece of advertising for today, this one comes from a DK Books sales conference, and found its way onto the web.

Give it at least to the halfway point. You’ll know when the trick happens.

I love the fact that books are getting YouTube trailers these days.

I’m gonna make this a quick summation for those that are wondering what the fuck this #amazonfail tag is on Twitter.

The short and sweet, from the WSJ

Amazon.com Inc. is facing criticism from authors of books with gay themes who say the e-commerce site deleted the sales rankings of their titles.

By midday Monday, the rankings of many books that had been missing in recent days, including titles by E. M. Forster and Gore Vidal, began to be restored.

Amazon didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. The Associated Press on Sunday quoted a company spokeswoman blaming the problem on a technical “glitch” that it was fixing. But at least one author says Amazon told him the problem stemmed from a reclassification of the books as adult.

Amazon’s canned response to a writer wondering where the fuck his books went:

In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude “adult” material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.

Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.

Best regards,

Ashlyn D
Member Services
Amazon.com Advantage

The author in question’s book was classified as “Young Adult” by Amazon until they pulled it down. (Ok, it was a gay romance novel, but one targeted at teens. It wasn’t porn.)

Which is interesting, because that writer points out:

if they are really going to try and exclude so-called “adult” material, then how come this has an Amazon ranking?

The problem here is that Amazon used a blunderbuss method to try and fix their search engine, which as Neil Gaiman points out, is unpredictable at best:

I mean, a week ago, a search for “Girl Scout Cookie” on Amazon.com produced sexy costumes, speculums, wolf urine and a Morgan Freeman biography as a result. Now the speculums and Morgan Freeman biography have vanished (although the wolf urine is still there).

Amazon has gotten so big and diverse that they can’t help but stumble over themselves, and when they went to try to clean up their content, they probably used a half-ass search filter that chunked everything that had too many “adult” incoming links or content tags. The net was so huge that it drug a lot of stuff down with it like Brokeback Mountain, for example.

Of course, it didn’t help that they immediately dropped the “glitch” line on the bloggers with torches and pitchforks. That line didn’t ring true when they used it to describe what happened to bad reviews of Spore last year. And it rings less true now. This was just sheer negligence on their part.

Which in a way, I can forgive them for. If my future accident child is searching for My Little Pony, I don’t want the little fruit coming across The Filly. I mean, the kid needs to figure that it out on their own.

Plus, it was EASTER FUCKING SUNDAY. Half this country was getting drunk trying to ignore the other half that got dressed up, went to church and made weird noises in honor of some Jewish zombie.

I think we need to worry more about a nation where our fellow people are worshiping a circumcized zombie and not crucify Amazon for what is probably just a shit coding job.

(You see what I did there, right?)

A SQUAT grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and, in a shield, the World State’s motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.

The enormous room on the ground floor faced towards the north. Cold for all the summer beyond the panes, for all the tropical heat of the room itself, a harsh thin light glared through the windows, hungrily seeking some draped lay figure, some pallid shape of academic goose-flesh, but finding only the glass and nickel and bleakly shining porcelain of a laboratory. Wintriness responded to wintriness. The overalls of the workers were white, their hands gloved with a pale corpse-coloured rubber. The light was frozen, dead, a ghost. Only from the yellow barrels of the microscopes did it borrow a certain rich and living substance, lying along the polished tubes like butter, streak after luscious streak in long recession down the work tables.

“And this,” said the Director opening the door, “is the Fertilizing Room.”

I know some of you have never read this, and now that I’ve found the whole damned thing online for free, you have no excuse not to read it.

I know that I occasionally describe myself as a writer.

Well, we all know that’s bullshit. At my best and luckiest, I’m a story teller. I’m unpublished and unknown. You have to be one of those two things before you can be pretentious enough to earn the writer epithet.

But, one of the things that writers often do is talk about other writers. Basically masturbate over how smart their observations are and talk in needless absolutes.

Welp.

I hope you brought a towel incase this gets messy.

THE GRAPES OF WRATH is the greatest American novel ever written. Possibly the greatest novel ever written. But, oddly enough, I can’t stand Steinbeck beyond that. I find him slow, aimless and needlessly wordy.

Hemmingway, on the other hand is the master of the short, terse sentence. Which probably explains why I love his short stories so much. His books are fine, but he really feels at the top of his game when he’s staying under ten thousand words.

I love science fiction, but I can’t penetrate the last great spasm of science fiction that came before the 80s. I appreciate Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury and the rest of that generation, but I find their prose as dry as a mouth full of dead leaves. I don’t know if the vernacular has changed so much between now and then, but their writing leaves me flat. Note, I didn’t include Philip K Dick in that, because honestly the man was more of a drug and philosophy writer than a scifi writer.

I view scifi writing post-William Gibson’s NEUROMANCER as the next spasm moving the genre forward. Gibson himself is a brilliant conceptualist, but not a great character man. He’s responsible for the main-streaming of the asterisk-punk stuff, which you can either laud or damn him for.

Gene Wolfe also started his major publishing period around this time. Wolfe is problematic for me. He is a brilliant writer, and one who transcends classification. (His writing is part of the reason that the term “speculative fiction” supplanted scifi or fantasy.) But, he reminds me of Dickens. And I hate Dickens with a fiery passion. Wolfe relies a lot on small characters moving the story along a very long and winding path, in the same way Dickens did.

Neal Stephenson is also a hell of a lot of fun to read. Nothing too deep or literary about his stuff, just good abstract genre fiction. SNOW CRASH so much fun.

Douglas Adams is also fun, but in a comedic way. He was one of the first writers whose death actually saddened me.

THE NEVERENDING STORY is my favorite book. For a while there I was tempted to learn German, just so I could read Michael Ende’s original text.

HP Lovecraft was a horrible human being, but his short stories were light years ahead of their time. I think his ideas of what really frightens a human have had more influence on me than anything I’ve read in the last decade.

I may get stoned by the nerds for this, but I find Tolkien’s writing great for a history text book, but shitty for a novel. No, I don’t want to read another five pages about how lovely the Shire is, or how the Dwarves like their beer or whatever the fuck else. And, for the love of Christ, are all those songs really necessary? You know people can’t hear a damn thing through text, right?

Oddly enough, I’ve read all of Jane Austen’s novels. Me. Reading about prissy English people in the 1800s. And what’s even weirder? I enjoyed it. I’d love to read the censored bits where she leaves in the fact that people were having “relations”.

There’s more, but I think that’s enough self flagellation for one morning, yes?

Brian Dettmer’s Book Autopsies

I saw these a while ago, but forgot to post about them, Pam reminded me today. They are books that are carved out to selectively reveal illustrations and blocks of text from inside the book. More of the series is here.

War of the Worlds

A huge collection of book covers from HG Wells’ War of the Worlds can be found here. I picked one of the simpler covers, but there are some pretty outrageous interpretations of the book in cover art form. One of which makes use of the Enterprise from Star Trek for some reason.

Via i09.

Here’s what I’m planning on chewing through this summer.

Fiction
Night Watch – Sergey Lukyanenko
Day Watch – Sergey Lukyanenko
Twilight Watch – Sergey Lukyanenko
Quicksilver, Volume 1 of the Baroque Cycle – Neal Stephenson
The Confusion, Volume 2 of the Baroque Cycle – Neal Stephenson
The System of the World, Volume 3 of the Baroque Cycle – Neal Stephenson
The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco

Non-Fiction
The Memoirs of a Gnostic Dwarf - David Madsen
The Bad Popes – E. R. Chamberlin

Should be a good summer.

I’m reading the book now, so I thought I’d throw up the trailer to the movie. I own it, and it surprisingly good if anyone ever cares to watch it.

EDIT: I put up one that doesn’t auto-play.



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