Pixel Scroll 5/10/17 Second Cinco De Mayo

(1) THE PRIZE. Mark Lawrence came up with something incredibly logical and hilarious at the same time —  “The SPFBO now has an award!”

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off now comes with its own award. The fabulous and coveted Selfie Stick!

There are several illustrative photos with highly amusing captions at the link.

(2) SFWA HUMBLE BUNDLE. It’s a brand name, otherwise you’d probably wonder why it’s given to what might be the least humble bundle ever – Super Nebula Author Showcase – with 40 books and 31 short stories. And the works in the bundle generally are either Nebula winners or nominees, or by the authors of other Nebula-nominated work.

  • Pay $1 or more and get:

Doorways by George R.R. Martin, Venus Prime by Arthur C. Clarke, Reading the Bones by Sheila Finch, Howard Who? by Howard Waldrop (includes winner, “The Ugly Chickens”), The Healer’s War by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link (includes winner, “Louise’s Ghost”), Phoenix Without Ashes by Harlan Ellison (winning author), and Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook edited by Cat Rambo.

  • Pay $8 or more and also unlock:

Word Puppets by Mary Robinette Kowal, Shadow Show: Stories In Celebration of Ray Bradbury, Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories by Adam-Troy Castro, Robot Dreams by Isaac Asimov, Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress, The Last Temptation by Neil Gaiman, Inside Job by Connie Willis, The Baum Plan for Financial Independence by John Kessel (includes winner, “Pride and Prometheus”), Sister Emily’s Lightship by Jane Yolen, The Jagged Orbit by John Brunner, The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells, and 2013 Nebula Awards Showcase.

  • Pay $15 or more and unlock

Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee, The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth by Roger Zelazny, The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction Vol. II, Frank Herbert Unpublished Stories by Frank Herbert, Everything But the Squeal by John Scalzi, Fountain of Age by Nancy Kress, Moving Mars by Greg Bear, The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson, Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison, and Archangel #1 – #4 (4 issues included) by William Gibson.

  • Pay $20 or more to unlock

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine, Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor, The Computer Connection by Alfred Bester, Burn by James Patrick Kelly, First Person Peculiar by Mike Resnick, At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson, Report to the Men’s Club by Carol Emshwiller (includes winner, “Creature”), What I Didn’t See by Karen Joy Fowler, Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany, and Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler.

And wait, there’s more!

  • FREE: Read 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees!

Love short stories? Bonus stories for Humble Bundle buyers: 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees on the Great Jones Street app.

(3) UP A LAZY RIVER. Are we supposed to be shocked that Amazon has added a strategy for selling gently-used books? Publishers Weekly has learned some are scandalized by this one — “New Amazon Buy Button Program Draws Ire of Publishers, Authors”.

A new program from Amazon is drawing a range of reactions from those across the publishing industry, from fear to downright anger. The e-tailer has started allowing third-party book re-sellers to “win” buy buttons on book pages. The program, publishers, agents, and authors allege, is discouraging customers from buying new books, negatively affecting sales and revenue.

Up until now, the buy button on book pages automatically directed customers to new copies of titles Amazon stocked from the publishers. Now, re-sellers can win a buy button by meeting various criteria outline by Amazon which includes the price, availability, and delivery time. The program is also only open to books in new condition.

Those objecting to this policy say it is allowing Amazon to deprive publishers of sales and authors of royalties. (Because re-sellers are not buying their copies from publishers, these sales will not be counted as sales, and money derived from them will not go to publishers or authors.)

(4) DEFENDING AMAZON. New Republic also carried the ball for those with a negative viewpoint about Amazon’s policy, “Amazon Steps Up Its Battle With the Book Industry”, which inspired the wrath of Max Florschutz. He thought it was so outrageous he borrowed a page from Larry Correia’s playbook and set about “Fisking an Anti-Amazon Article From the New Republic” .

After the news that Amazon had begun allowing third-party sellers to “win” the buy button, it strongly condemned the company. “Without a fair and open publishing marketplace, publishers will soon lose the ability to invest in the books that advance our knowledge and culture,” it said in a statement.

Hogwash and claptrap. This is how a “fair and open” market works. Companies are allowed to sell a product on their shelves at as low a price as they want. If they bought a book from the publisher but sell it at a lower mark-up than the publisher does, that’s their right. To insist that the opposite, which would be establishing a fixed price that all books had to be sold at would be “fair and open” is lunacy. That’d be the opposite: It’d be price fixing, which the big publishers were already found guilty of once befo—Oh.

Many publishers believe they’re being cheated by sellers in the third-party marketplace, which don’t acquire their books from official channels—instead they sell remaindered copies (books that did not sell in stores and were returned to the publisher) or “hurts” (books with minor blemishes), often for rock-bottom prices. If these books are “remainders” or “hurts” or pirated, as some publishers have claimed they are, then publishers and authors won’t see a dime.

Okay, hang on a second here. This doesn’t make sense. So the publishers are complaining that the numbers of remained or damaged books being sold are damaging their sales margin? What?

Let’s look at this reasonably. Yes, damaged copies of books exist. But if they exist in such large numbers that your own book sales are declining because of that … then you already have a problem whether they are sold or not. Because your production process is generating that many damaged copies in the first place. Which means you’re already burning a fair margin of your money on bad prints. Which means something about your printing process probably needs to be looked at. Especially if you’re generating so many damaged books that they can outsell a portion of your normal sales.

The “remainder” excuse is even worse, and yes, an excuse. Because if there were enough books not selling that remaindering copies existed … why are you printing even more and trying to sell them? You should be leaving them on shelves. If they’re “competing” with sales already existing, that means someone went and printed up new copies of a book that didn’t sell well in the first place … which is the bigger problem. If you only sold 200 copies of a 1000-print run, don’t garbage the remaining 800 and print up another 1000. Sell the 800. I’m sorry, but if “remainder” sales are damaging “new” sales, something is wrong with your business plans, not with the market.

And in either of these cases, why isn’t the author seeing any money? That sounds like a poor contract written heavily in the publishers favor, not the fault of the booksellers.

Lastly, I love how the article just casually throws “piracy” out there as if it’s part of the problem. It shouldn’t be. Amazon clamps down on pirates pretty quickly, because pirates are bad for business, and Amazon gets this. If there is piracy going on, the publishers should be working with Amazon to cut it off … not slyly insinuating that Amazon is supporting it somehow.

(5) BEAUTIFUL STORIES. Natalie Luhrs has Murderbot sounding like a companionable character, in a review of Martha Wells’ All Systems Red.

Murderbot isn’t your usual SecUnit though: they’re independent, having hacked their governor module which is supposed to keep them operating within a narrow set of parameters. Murderbot’s also really into online dramas and would much rather watch them all day than actually do their job—Murderbot, I feel you, I really, really do. They’re alternatively apathetic, annoyed, and  awkward and I found the expression of traits to be endearing.

(6) ON THE ROAD AGAIN. Jim C. Hines has an excellent post about “Traveling with Depression”.

This is such an odd post to try to write. I had a wonderful time in Buenos Aires. I’m so happy and honored that I got to go. I was also depressed about the trip, especially that first day or two. Both of these things are true.

I’m going to France next week for Les Imaginales. I’m feeling anxious. I suspect the depression will hit me in much the same way, especially that first day when I’m exhausted and have nothing scheduled. I’m mentally berating myself about feeling stressed instead of excited. I know, intellectually, that this will be another wonderful experience.

But brain weasels don’t give a shit.

  • “Now you’re depressed about going to France? You are such a disappointment.”

It’s just over five years since I got my diagnosis. Since I started taking antidepressants and talking to a therapist. It’s frustrating to be reminded that, like the diabetes, this isn’t something we’ve been able to “cure.” Instead, it’s something I try to manage. Like the diabetes, some days I do better than others, and some situations make it harder to manage.

(7) SF IN EGYPT. Black Gate’s Sean McLachlan interviews Egyptian sf author Mohammad Rabie about his novel Otared, a grim dystopian tale of Cairo in 2025.

One of the things that struck me when reading the novel was the almost total absence of religion. Since it’s such a cornerstone of so many Egyptians’ lives, this must have been deliberate on your part. Why did you make this creative decision?

I believe religion is the major reason for our current situation. We look at the president as the equivalent of God on earth, he cannot be criticized or opposed, and if one did so he must be sued and punished. So beside praying, fasting, and other religious rituals, there is a deep and strong feeling of surrender to the ruler of the country, as if we surrender to God. In Otared, and according to the logic of the novel, you will find most of the characters willing to die, and the main reason is to be transferred to a better place – in the case, heaven — it is nearly the same situation now in Egypt, people give up their own freedom just to have a better afterlife. It may be hard to understand this idea for a Westerner, to put it simply, we tend to stay under injustice, to be rewarded by God at the end. There may be no religious rituals in Otared, but the core of religion is one of motives of the characters.

(8) DOCTOROW STUDIES. Crooked Timber is running a Cory Doctorow seminar, inspired by his new book, Walkaway, “a novel, an argument and a utopia, all bound up into one.” Eleven related posts are online – click the link to see the list.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

In the 1979 movie Alien, the blue laser lights that were used to light the alien ship’s egg chamber were borrowed from The Who.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 10, 1969 – John Scalzi

(11) SHADOW CLARKE JURY APPEALS THE VERDICT. We’d have been disappointed if they loved the official Clarke Award shortlist, don’t you think?

Our immediate reaction to the list was decidedly mixed. Although two of our shadow shortlist were in the mix (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Central Station by Lavie Tidhar), some of the other choices proved less palatable.  Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee and Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan had some advocates amongst us, but Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit and Emma Newman’s After Atlas were not favourites with those who had already read them.  The gulf in ambition, thematic reach and literary quality between the six shortlistees seemed significant. Paul thought the list came across ‘as two completely different shortlists stuck together. How can the Tidhar and Whitehead belong in the same universe as Chambers and Newman? Chambers, Lee and Newman have been popular successes, but hardly critical successes. This is another safe and populist list.’

Jonathan agreed, adding that he suspected ‘a tension between those who want the Clarke to be like the Hugo and those who want to retain that connection to the more literary tradition. The Clarke’s slide into hyper-commerciality continues.’  Megan shared Jonathan’s perspective. ‘What we’re getting from this list is a commercially-packaged view of science fiction. And I feel the Colson Whitehead this year is last year’s Iain Pears, just a literary toss-in to shut up people like us.’

Nina also felt the list represented ‘a split in the values of criticism’, while Vajra agreed with Megan that the Whitehead was the anomaly on this list rather than vice-versa. ‘This is a “we included Whitehead because everybody would shout at us if we didn’t” kind of shortlist’.  Maureen summarised this set of opinions most succinctly: ‘This really is a cut-and-shut shortlist. Something to offend everyone. The more I look at the shortlist the more it looks like something assembled to nod at various constituencies without satisfying any.’

And there are a few more reviews to catch up:

I entered 2016 with my affection for science fiction at a low ebb. My levels of engagement with the genre have varied quite considerably with the passage of time but I was suddenly aware that I had been writing about science fiction for over a decade and that said decade had left my tastes almost completely estranged from those catered to by the larger genre imprints.

hate all that plot description that comes with a review – read the blurb I say – but if you need some clues Tricia Sullivan’s Occupy Me has an angel, dinosaurs, a suitcase – think Pulp Fiction, think Wile E Coyote, think The Rockford Files (!) – plus a vet and a doctor. It has higher dimensions and quantum foam, trees of all kinds though especially trees of knowledge that might just be libraries spanning time and space AND it has bird gods, though actually our avian overlords may just be artistic scavengers or better, refuse ‘artistes’. It’s a novel that is helter-skelter and overabundant; in some ways it’s like (a very glorious) extended episode of Doctor Who…and I’m sure that some readers may even think, a little on the twee side. Though of course, they would be wrong. Those same readers may wonder if the parts add up to an organic whole. And to be fair I wonder myself but it really doesn’t matter. There are many, many riches here – this is a marvellous novel – full of love, kindness, empathy and extraordinary ambition – the only one that can give Central Station a run for its money in 2016’s SF best of. But that is to get ahead of myself.

(12) POLLS WITHOUT POLES. Rich Horton continues with “Hugo Ballot Reviews: Novelette”, in which Stix Hiscock did not earn a place.

My ballot, then, will look like this, tentatively, though the first three stories — actually, the first four — are real close in my mind:

1) “The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan

I wrote this in my Locus review: “”The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan, [is] a fine meditative story about Emily, who works at the hotel where the Martian astronauts are staying before they head out to space. The story isn’t about the astronauts, though, but about Emily, and about her mother, a scientist who has a sort of Alzheimer’s-like disease, perhaps because of contamination she encountered while investigating a plane crash, and about her mother’s involvement in preparation for a failed earlier Martian mission, and about Emily’s desire to learn who her father was. A good example of the effective — not just decorative — use of an SFnal background to tell a mundane story.” Allan actually had three very strong longer stories this year: also “Ten Days” from the NewCon Press anthology Now We Are Ten, and “Maggots”, a very long novella (perhaps indeed novel length) from the horror anthology Five Stories High.

(13) HOME TOWN BOY. When Spider-Man comes back to New York, comic dealers will be throwing parties in his honor.

Spider-Man returns to his friendly neighborhood in the new ongoing series PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN! From superstar writer Chip Zdarsky (Star-Lord) and legendary artist Adam Kubert (Avengers, X-Men) comes a companion to the best-selling Amazing Spider-Man series. This can’t-miss series takes Peter Parker back-to-basics and is bursting at the seams with heart, humor, and over-the-top action!

To kickoff this incredible new series, Marvel has partnered with participating retail stores to host PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN LAUNCH PARTIES. In addition to exclusive variant covers, participating retail stores will receive exciting promotional items – including Spider-Man masks!

The issue goes on sale June 21.

(14) OLD TIME IN THE HOT TOWN. Ancient Australian rocks suggest where to search for life on Mars.

Old rocks found in the Australian Outback have some weighty implications, scientists say: They hint at the environment in which life on Earth originated and suggest a location to search for life on Mars.

Scientists in Australia say they have found biological signatures of life in rocks that also show the presence of a hot spring, lending weight to a theory that the earliest life on Earth might have originated in freshwater hot springs on land rather than in deep-sea hydrothermal vents….

The fossil finding predates the previous oldest evidence for life on land by almost 600 million years, the scientists say. They described their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

NASA is currently considering where to land the rover on its 2020 Mars Exploration Mission, and one of the sites is a “hot spring-type setting,” about the same age as the early Earth, Djokic says.

“If you’re going to look for life on Mars, we know it was preserved on hot springs here on the ancient earth,” she says. “So there’s a good chance if it ever developed on Mars, then it would probably be preserved in hot springs there, too.”

(15) CLUTCH PLAY. Huge “baby dragon” oviraptor fossil found in China: “‘Baby Dragon’ Found In China Is The Newest Species Of Dinosaur”

In the 1990s, all of the known species of oviraptorosaur were small creatures. “There’s no way they were laying a 4- to 5-kilogram egg,” Zelenitsky says.

Then, in 2007, scientists in China discovered the first species of giant oviraptorosaur. “So finally, after 12 years, there is a species of oviraptorosaur that could have laid these giant oviraptorosaurlike eggs,” Zelenitsky says.

If Beibeilong nested like its smaller oviraptorosaur cousins did, it would be the largest known dinosaur to have sat protectively on its eggs.

(16) A DINOSAUR NAMED ZUUL. Long before Ghostbusters, there was Shinbuster.

In a paper for the Royal Society Open Science, Royal Ontario Museum paleontologists Victoria Arbour and David Evans describe the 75 million-year-old creature, a new species they dubbed Zuul crurivastator. Yes, its name is a reference to the demon Zuul from the original Ghostbusters movie. “Crurivastator” means “crusher of shins,” which is exactly what this creature could do with its spiked, hammer-tipped tail….

Weighing 2.5 tonnes and spanning 20 feet from its horned face to its spiny tail, Zuul was a living tank. In previous work, Arbour demonstrated using computer models that a beast like Zuul could use its tail club to break leg bones in its foes. This would have been especially effective against predator T. rex, which walked on two legs. Take out one leg, and the animal won’t survive long in the dinosaur-infested jungles of the Cretaceous.

 

(17) BRINGING THE HEAT. There’s a roundup about China’s successful sf writers at the English-language site Hot in China — “Chinese Sci-Fi Once Again Venturing Overseas”

When we look at the origin of sci-fi in China, famous scholars Liang Qichao and a young Lu Xun both translated Jules Verne’s sci-fi writing. By now, sci-fi in China has developed for half a century. While sci-fi creativity was curbed from 1902 to 1979, its progress has not stopped. Today’s Chinese sci-fi is growing rapidly after a subjective change: There is the founding of the magazine Sci-fi World, and its growth to a sci-fi magazine with the world’s largest circulation by the 1990s, and the emergence of many excellent Chinese sci-fi writers.

(Apparently File 770’s John Hertz is “Hot in China”, too – he’s part of a group photo at the end of the article featuring Hugo-winner Hao Jingfang taken at MACII.)

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Mark-kitteh, Cat Eldridge, Cat Rambo, Nick Eden, John King Tarpinian, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

84 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/10/17 Second Cinco De Mayo

  1. @ghostbird @bookworm1398 @Paul Weimer
    Is also been a while since I read Vast. Maybe a re-read soon.

    And she’s got a new book coming out? Hmm. Time to visit Amazon out the library…

  2. Eli on May 11, 2017 at 1:00 pm said:
    Apologies if someone ‘s already mentioned this, but the SyFy [sic] network is planning to do something based on George R.R. Martin’s “Nightflyers”. I’m guessing that means “very loosely based” – there isn’t really enough plot there for a series, “haunted spaceship” by itself no longer has the same novelty appeal, and the press release mentions some stuff I don’t remember being in there. But I’m always interested in Martin’s horror writing, and his baroque moody approach to SF world-building, so if there’s a chance that any of that will survive the adaptation then I’m certainly curious.

    OK, so… does anybody but me remember the Nightflyers movie that was made some time in the 80s? With Michael Praed and Catherine Mary Stewart? Did this actually happen, or was it some bizarre fever dream that seeped into the crevices of my brain?

    Will this new adaptation be any better? Could it be any worse? Will I ever rid myself of my debilitating addiction to rhetorical questions?

  3. @Steve Wright: I did see that movie, so it did happen. It was very, very, very bad, with occasionally interesting production design. I’m not sure I can answer your other questions…

  4. (5) So I read Murderbot last night, and liked the story. It’s really good, and the interactions between Murderbot and the humans are great. Lots of action. I agree with @Lee’s analysis. This is going on my embryonic Hugo list for next year.

    (11) Do these people like anything that others outside their little clique do? Are they ever satisfied with anything? Or are they lit’rary hipsters/punks/goths, “we hate it if it’s popular, we’re so much better than the masses”.

    @Bruce Arthurs: that was a good story!

    I’d give “Monstress” 11/10. Both the art and writing are amazing*. I got the dead-tree version for Xmas and read it all over again, looking at the astounding* artwork. I’m reading the individual issues, even, though I’m a month behind right now. I’m certain Vol. 2 will also be on my Hugo nominations next year. I haven’t read the other finalists. But I know they don’t have Nekomancers.

    @Darren Garrison: I hadn’t considered that idea! If I get hold of an old phone, I’ll pester you with questions as to how to do this. Thanks in advance.

    @Ghostbird:(3-4) Bernays: that figures, huh? People like this secretly hate libraries and used book stores, too. They’d probably be horrified that I sold “The End of All Things” to a used bookstore 4 days after it came out, whereupon it promptly went on their “NEW BOOKS” shelf. Scalzi himself didn’t mind at all that someone in my town was going to get it for half price the week it dropped. I got ALL CAPS faux-snarked at on “Whatever” and 7 bucks to spend on other things.

    Back when we still had a Soviet Union during glasnost, I used to grab remaindered SFF paperbacks from our long-gone independent bookstore (with obligatory SJW credential). Rather than having them trashed, I sent them overseas to delight the oppressed Rooskis with books from the good old USA!USA! The bookstore owner was much happier to do this than trash them, and the Russians were very happy to get the books. I had to explain why there were no covers. They thought it was a wasteful crazy capitalist idea. I agreed. I got some pretty keen translated Soviet SF in return. A number of us fen were doing that at the time, it was mentioned in the zines and APAs, and among the local groups.

    So we didn’t follow the publisher rules, so what? Publishers got to write off the losses. Bookstore cleared out the stock and got credit. Soviets got new American/British SF which was passed all over to people who were eager for it. There was cultural exchange. Everyone was happy. I felt like a tiny part of history when the USSR dissolved.

    I may have to go back to Lieber myself. His Shakespearean training (inherited from his father) certainly showed through in the work. He was fascinating to listen to, even though I only met him a few years before he died and he was in a bad way then. But gosh, I literally sat at his feet and listened.

    *I’m sure you see what I did there.

  5. @lurkertype

    Back when we still had a Soviet Union during glasnost, I used to grab remaindered SFF paperbacks from our long-gone independent bookstore (with obligatory SJW credential). Rather than having them trashed, I sent them overseas to delight the oppressed Rooskis with books from the good old USA!USA! The bookstore owner was much happier to do this than trash them, and the Russians were very happy to get the books. I had to explain why there were no covers. They thought it was a wasteful crazy capitalist idea. I agreed. I got some pretty keen translated Soviet SF in return. A number of us fen were doing that at the time, it was mentioned in the zines and APAs, and among the local groups.

    When I first started reading English language SFF as a teen in the late 1980s, I noticed the whole “If you purchase this book without a cover, it has been stolen and has been reported destroyed” blurb (because I read everything, including the copyright notice) and was very confused, because why on Earth would anybody buy a book without a cover and why would thieves not steal the whole book, but rip the cover off? I didn’t know about stripping and pulping paperbacks back then (in Germany, remaindered books wind up in bargain bins, but aren’t pulped) and the very idea would have horrified me, considering how precious and extraorbitantly expensive imported mass market paperbacks were back then. In fact, an imported mass market paperback still costs me the same as it did back in the late 1980s, in spite of almost thirty years of inflation, a currency change and the fact that US cover prices have doubled in the same period.

    Good work getting those stripped paperbacks to Soviet fans BTW. You were lucky you were able to send them, because including video cassettes, cassette taped, records, books and magazines in parcels to Eastern Europe was a huge no-no, because such materials tended to get confiscated at the border, since there might be something subversive in there.

  6. @lurkertype: (11) Do these people like anything that others outside their little clique do?
    Clearly the Sharke jurors are only pretending to like those books they claim to find award-worthy.

  7. 11) And once again the Shadow Clarke Jury proves that some anti-nostalgics can eerily sound like puppies at times, for even though they would never agree on what makes a good book, they are usually eerily united on which books they don’t like. Plus, there are comments along the lines of “well, it’s a diverse shortlist, but the diversity is only skin-deep. Where is the diversity of thought?”, “Of course, I want diverse writers and diverse books, but not those diverse writers, cause the books aren’t what I consider revolutionary.” and the classic “The commentators are all just focussing on the demographics of the author and not on the quality of the books themselves.”

    Also, I honestly wonder why Becky Chambers is so vehemently disliked in the UK genre community. It’s all right, if her novels aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, but the amount vitriol poured onto poor Becky Chambers (and many of the Shadow Clarke folks haven’t even read A Closed and Common Orbit yet) is truly astonishing.

  8. @PhilRM: No, I truly believe they like the books they plumped for and honestly consider them worthy on their merits. I’m merely wondering if they ever have liked anything popular. Even if they won’t admit it publicly.

    @Cora: I did police the books pretty heavily for content — didn’t send anything that was rabidly anti-Communist/Soviet, nor anything that was too capitalism uber alles. Nothing with explicit sex or drug use either. I wanted the books to get through and my pen pal to not get in trouble. I read them all first to make sure.

    Like I said, it was only during those few years of glasnost/perestroika when censorship had let up quite a bit. Even Soviet SF managed to be subversive back in the day, so I’m sure SFF got past the censors better than other genres might have.

    I know the books themselves got passed around; they might have been turned into samizdat as well. We didn’t ask too many questions — between the Soviet censors and the Reagan administration, we all kept our heads down!

    So there ya go. Me, the bookstore lady, and our cats helped bring down the USSR. After which I stopped sending books since my pen pal could get them.

    I can understand not caring for Becky Chambers’ books (intellectually, anyway — I don’t understand in my heart why anyone wouldn’t!), but is she so much worse than others that she deserves such attacks? She’s not advocating extreme political positions, there’s nothing offensive in the books, and she’s miles ahead of a lot of pulpy SFF. No sparkly vampires or bad BDSM. Maybe she’s just too cheerful for the Brits, not enough doom and gloom and rain and hanging on in quiet desperation?

  9. Maybe the Soviet mail censors and parcel fleecers really were less zealous than their East German counterparts in the glasnost/perestroika era, because the East Germans were absolutely horrible. Even harmless gossip mags were taboo and mix tapes (and being teens, we all had mix tapes, since none of us could afford pre-recorded tapes) were usually confiscated at the border right away, so we wouldn’t pollute young East German minds with decadent western pop music. Interestingly, those selfsame censors were utterly unable to spot subversive messages in East German pop songs, though those messages were about as subtle as a John C. Wright short story.

    Coincidentally, conversations with young East Germans at the time usually started with, “You’re from the West, aren’t you? Do you have any tapes? And do you have Coca Cola?” (No to tapes, but yes to Coke). They were really nice, though, and invited me into their youth club/disco and also told me which radio stations played good music, since my elderly aunt’s taste in music was pretty dreadful.

    About Becky Chambers, the sheer vitriol stuns me because there is really nothing offensive about her work. Though you might be on to something and the problem is that Chambers is too inherently optimistic, plus her books are about things like friendship and feelings and we can’t have that, can we?

  10. @Greg Hullender: Although as you know, Bob, people could sell new books at Amazon before now.

  11. (3) UP A LAZY RIVER. Reading PW’s update, the books must be new for real. That means it’s a first sale, in theory. But how do you know it’s really a new book, and not just so gently used you can’t tell? I bet there’ll be a not-insignificant number of not-really-new books sold as no-really-it’s-new. Many people won’t care (Amazon’s counting on that).

    I’ll pay more attention now, as I get annoyed if I order something – used or new! – in condition X and get condition X-1. My other concern is that if I pay for a new book and want/expect it to be a sale that “counts” for the author, I’d be annoyed to find out it was actually a second-hand sale. Hey, I buy some second-hand books (not a ton; more likely for older backlist of course; OOP, too, heh)! But I don’t want to expect X and get Y.

    ETA: I’ve ordered new books from 3rd party sellers; occasionally they are clearly not new, or at least, clearly in not-at-all-new-condition, which is irksome.

    Publishers and authors know the used book market is A Thing, methinks. That doesn’t seem to be the rub. But I’m guessing some non-trivial number of customers just click the button at the top right and don’t know or care or pay attention or something; some of those may not be first sales that used to be (again, will these really be new? hahaha not all of them, come on).

    BTW I’m amused Amazon compares this to “the rest of Amazon.” For other items, depending on the item, I especially don’t want to buy a used item. And some items aren’t actually possible to buy used. 😉 So it’s not like all of Amazon worked one way except the book trade, and now it all works the same way. Also, though Amazon may wish I did, I don’t making buying decisions for different items the same way.

    Anyway – end of the world? I doubt it. Something to keep an eye on? If you’re an author or publisher, I’d think so. Nefarious ulterious motives? Well, it is Amazon, so who know. 😉 😛

    (Sorry to ramble.)

  12. @lurkertype, Cora: (Brit here) possibly I was in a bad mood when I tried to read Long Way, but yeah… it didn’t do much for me. My brother on the other hand loved it. So, I guess only 50% of Brits don’t like her books?

    Then again neither of us are part of the UK genre community, really, other than both liking SFF and technically still residing there (we both travel/live abroad most of the year these days)

    Anyway: I’ve now caught up on WtNV, Alice Isn’t Dead and Within the Wires… I think my favourite of the three right now is Alice Isn’t Dead. I found it difficult to actually concentrate on Within the Wires at first because of the format being guided meditation tapes, which basically makes me switch my brain off to get away from the woo-woo, but once I got over that it’s very good.

  13. @OGH: Hartwell used to argue that Thor had nothing to do with the disappearance of the backlist; he had inside data, but I don’t recall following his arguments in enough detail to make sense of them.

    @me: Newman so failed to stick the ending of After Atlas — and the setup was also implausible. I find myself wondering whether the Clarke judges were too taken with the anti-USianism.

  14. @lurkertype: I’m merely wondering if they ever have liked anything popular. Even if they won’t admit it publicly.
    Um, The Underground Railroad, which has undoubtedly outsold everything on the Clarke (and Sharke) lists by a large margin?

    I can understand not caring for Becky Chambers’ books (intellectually, anyway — I don’t understand in my heart why anyone wouldn’t!)
    And other people may feel just the opposite. That doesn’t make either of you wrong.

    Saying “I don’t think this book is award-worthy” is not an attack on the book or the author.

  15. Saying “I don’t think this book is award-worthy” is not an attack on the book or the author.

    However, that’s not what some of the Clarke Shadow Jury folks do. It’s okay not to like Becky Chambers or not to feel that her books are award-worthy, but some of the complaints about Becky Chambers’ presence on the Clarke shortlist last year were positively vitriolic. And quite often the complainers were the same people involved in this year’s Shadow Clarke Jury.

  16. @Chip Hitchcock: That’s too bad – I’m a little less than halfway through and I’ve been enjoying it.

    I thought Planetfall was an interesting if flawed book; she didn’t exactly stick the landing in that, either.

  17. @lurkertype
    So we didn’t follow the publisher rules, so what? Publishers got to write off the losses. Bookstore cleared out the stock and got credit. Soviets got new American/British SF which was passed all over to people who were eager for it. There was cultural exchange. Everyone was happy.

    Everyone was happy except the authors, who didn’t get royalties.

  18. Chip Hitchcock: @OGH: Hartwell used to argue that Thor had nothing to do with the disappearance of the backlist; he had inside data, but I don’t recall following his arguments in enough detail to make sense of them.

    Kevin O’Donnell in a 2005 article for the SFWA Blog, How Thor Hammered Publishing, after a lengthy effort to explain the accounting and tax machinations, concluded:

    So how have publishers adapted to Thor Power? By setting print runs closer to the level of advance orders, and by purging inventory.

    Knowing what has happened to industry in the past 20 years, with the whole “just in time” inventory acquisition model, you can see the backlist was going to be a casualty at some point, but Thor caused its demise to be earlier than it would have been.

  19. Someone else who likes Vast! I thought I was pretty much the only one.

    I love Vast. It’s a classic.

  20. Just for fun, can Filers suggest other books about the joy of learning?

    A Closed and Common Orbit
    Anathem
    Flowers for Algernon

  21. 3) I worked for a while in a wholesale textbook warehouse, then got promoted to work in one of their retail outlets. My buddy who got me in did a lot of their dirty work for them. I could tell you stories. Really, I could–they’re out of business and I never signed an NDA anyway. It was the capstone to my education in venality, and vice versa.

    Rule of thumb: Any business that wires a lot of cash is dirty in some way.

    But I did get to watch a game in Nolan Richardson’s first season from not that far behind the bench. So there’s that.

  22. NIGHTFLYERS is to G.R.R.Martin as DAMNATION ALLEY is to Roger Zelazny.

    And someone wants to do an Amber series, too.

    “Make it more like Harry Potter,” will be that useless cry.

  23. About Becky Chambers, the sheer vitriol stuns me because there is really nothing offensive about her work.

    Could be people more favorable to harder SF while Chambers writes very, very, very, very soft SF without the remotest understanding of science.

  24. @Robert Whitaker Sirignano: (learning SF novels)

    Your list reminds me of The Adolescence of P-1 and Valentina: Soul in Sapphire, both of which I got around the same time as the revised edition of When H.A.R.L.I.E. Was One.

  25. I’m reminded of Rogue Moon, which I mentioned before. It’s a learning curve. Also, The Fun They Had by Asimov.

  26. I know that Wild Cards is being looked at for TV, but I wonder why Martin’s Haviland Tuf stories hasn’t been mentioned yet? The “have seedship, will travel” plot would be great for a TV series, and it would allow them to hang arcs and new characters with ease. They wouldn’t have to go with the Biblical themes from the original stories (though it wouldn’t hurt).

  27. George R.R. Martin’s reputation is a bit bigger than needs be to sell stories. But if people associate anything with his name is violent bloody stories and creepy doses of incest.

    Well, to me, anyway.

  28. As far as publishers, inventory, and the back-list goes, there’s an obvious solution: print-on-demand. Chaosium, which has (or had) an extensive line of Lovecraftian fiction as well as their better-known games, would often do print runs as small as twenty! (Through a third-party–they didn’t print the books themselves.) It’s not as profitable as the huge print runs the big pubs want to do, but it’s generally pure profit, since all the hard work of editing and marketing was over.

    The big publishers really aren’t set up for this, though. And if they wanted to give it a shot, it would probably require some expensive up-front investment. So I understand why they aren’t doing it yet. But in the long run, I think they’re going to want to start doing it, because all those back-list books which aren’t being sold are just money sitting on the table. Once the costs of on-demand publishing drop a little more–which will happen because it’s technology-dependent–I think things will start to change.

    (The other issue that may be keeping the big pubs away from doing tiny “on-demand” print runs is the warehousing issue. But if they send their stock directly to Amazon, who has the whole thing computerized….)

  29. Chip Hitchcock: Newman so failed to stick the ending of After Atlas — and the setup was also implausible. I find myself wondering whether the Clarke judges were too taken with the anti-USianism.

    PhilRM: I thought Planetfall was an interesting if flawed book; she didn’t exactly stick the landing in that, either.

    I really enjoyed both books, but agree that the endings in both felt rushed and somewhat unsatisfying compared to the rest of the book.

  30. @Chip Hitchcock, @PhilRM and @JJ:

    I haven’t read After Atlas, but I so disliked the ending of Planetfall that I probably won’t. That ending was a copout, in my opinion, and cheated everything the author had built up throughout the story. (I didn’t even keep the book after I bought it–I donated it to the library–and I almost never do that. Get rid of books I buy new, I mean.)

  31. @JJ: I just finished After Atlas, which I thought was very good until it went spectacularly off the rails at the end.

    V whfg qvqa’g ohl gur ybtvp haqreylvat gur svavfu: fvapr gur HF tbi-pbec unf orra dhvrgyl pbzzvggvat fnobgntr naq zheqre sbe qrpnqrf va beqre gb uvaqre nal bgure nggrzcgf gb sbyybj gur Cngusvaqre, jul jbhyqa’g gurl fvzcyl unir xvyyrq Tnobe lrnef rneyvre? Naq tvira gung gurl qba’g frrz gb unir nal eryvtvbhf zbgvingvba – rira gur zrzoref bs gur Pvepyr frrz ragveryl ynpxvat va oryvrs, rkprcg sbe n srj bs gur byq-gvzref yvxr Pneybf’f sngure – jul rknpgyl ner gurl fb uryy-orag ba sbyybjvat ure naljnl?

    Gb zr gur svavfu whfg frrzrq yvxr gur nhgube fjrrcvat gur obneq pyrna gb envfr gur fgnxrf sbe gur arkg abiry.(Nyfb, jr’er fhccbfrq gb oryvrir gung ab bar nzbat gur cnffratref orfvqrf Pneybf, Qrr naq Genivf abgvprq gung gur Rnegu jnf whfg qrfgeblrq va n znffvir ahpyrne rkpunatr?)

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