Pixel Scroll 7/26/18 What Is The Law? Not To Reuse Titles, That Is The Law

(1) GOOD THOUGHTS ON BAD PRACTICES. Kristine Kathryn Rusch comments on historic efforts to game Amazon’s algorithms. “Business Musings: Sometimes I Just React…”

…Back when I started blogging on publishing in 2010 (after writing The Freelancer’s Survival Guide on this site in 2009), I had the lovely experience of being trashed repeatedly by the Kindle Unlimited folks. Only there wasn’t Unlimited—not yet. There was just the Kindle Boards, where writers gathered to talk.

And what they talked about was what professional writers everywhere talk about—how to make money. (We don’t dare discuss craft with each other for fear that we’ll insult our peers. We all have friends who have great writing careers, whom we believe {in our heart of hearts} can’t write their way out of a paper bag. And, we know, that some of our friends think the same thing about us. It’s better to discuss quantifiable things, like money, instead of qualitative things, like craft. {See my post on “Taste” from last week.})

That “how to make money” thing took on a life of its own on the Kindle Boards. It wasn’t about how to improve your storytelling to make money. It wasn’t about those old-fashioned systems like agents or traditional publishers or contracts, although there occasionally was talk like that.

Instead, it was about which subgenres sold, and how many books you had to write and publish each month to stay ahead of the algorithms. It was about writing short so that you had more books published (in the early days) or putting the table of contents at the end so that the algorithm would think someone who clicked there had read the whole book….

(2) RUNNING DARMOK. Whew, people really took off with this meme game….

For example (the second is what I have in mind) —

JJ suggests, “Breq, outside a tavern in snow.”

(3) AT THE CORE. Scientific American tells how “Milky Way’s Black Hole Provides Long-Sought Test of Einstein’s General Relativity”.

Genzel and his colleagues have tracked the journey of this star, known as S2, since the early 1990s. Using telescopes at the European Southern Observatory in Chile, the scientists watch it as it travels in an elliptical orbit around the black hole, which lies 26,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Sagittarius. With a mass of 4 million times the Sun, the black hole generates the strongest gravitational field in the Milky Way. That makes it an ideal place to hunt for relativistic effects.

On 18 May this year, S2 passed as close as it ever does to the black hole. The researchers pointed instruments including GRAVITY, an instrument called an interferometer that combines light from four 8-meter telescopes and became operational in 2016. “With our measurements the door is wide open to black-hole physics,” says team member Frank Eisenhauer, an astronomer at the Max Planck institute.

GRAVITY measured S2’s movement across the sky; at its fastest, the star whizzed along at more than 7,600 kilometres a second, or nearly 3% the speed of light. Meanwhile, a different instrument studied how fast S2 moved towards and away from Earth as it swung past the black hole. Combining the observations allowed Genzel’s team to detect the star’s gravitational redshift—its light being stretched to longer wavelengths by the black hole’s immense gravitational pull, which is consistent with the predictions of general relativity.

“What we measured cannot be described by Newton any more,” says Odele Straub, an astrophysicist at the Paris Observatory. Future observations of S2 might confirm other Einstein predictions, such as how the spinning black hole drags space-time around with it.

(4) SFWA MENTEE PROGRAM. The deadline to apply is July 31.

(5) UNCANNY KICKSTARTER. Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas have launched a Kickstarter for Year Five of their 2016 and 2017 Hugo Award-winning professional online SF/F magazine: Uncanny Magazine. The funds will cover some of its operational and production costs for the fifth year, with an initial goal of $18,700. plus an added stretch goal of launching a new Uncanny TV video magazine. The Kickstarter runs through August 24: “Uncanny Magazine Year Five: I Want My Uncanny TV!”

For Year Five, Uncanny has solicited original short fiction from Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award-winning and nominated authors and bestselling authors including: Ursula Vernon, Mary Robinette Kowal, Kelly Robson, Maurice Broaddus, Fran Wilde, Ellen Klages, Naomi Kritzer, Greg van Eekhout, John Chu, Sarah Pinsker,  Rebecca Roanhorse, and Delilah S. Dawson.  There will also be numerous slots for unsolicited submissions.

Uncanny Magazine Year Five plans to showcase original essays by Mark Oshiro, Zoë Quinn, Alexandra Erin, Tanya DePass, Jim C. Hines, and Diana M. Pho,  plus poetry by Beth Cato, S. Qiouyi Lu, Brandon O’Brien, Cassandra Khaw, Nicasio Reed, and Leah Bobet.

Uncanny Magazine Year Five will also feature cover art by John Picacio and Galen Dara.

This year, Uncanny is back with a new mission for the ranger corps: UNCANNY TV.

Hosted and produced by Michi Trota and Matt Peters, Uncanny TV will be the launch of our community-based vid channel, featuring exclusive geeky content related to Uncanny and the Space Unicorn Ranger Corps community. Matt Peters & Michi Trota will host a short (20-30 min) variety talk show Uncanny Magazine style: highlighting creators in SF/F working in a variety of art forms and projects, focusing on people building and nurturing their communities, particularly highlighting marginalized creators. They’ll talk about topics that can be serious, but the overall tone of the show will be to celebrate the things we enjoy and the people who make our communities good places to be in SF/F.

(6) DOES THIS WORK? Beatrice Verhoeven, in The Wrap’s story “‘Star Wars’ Director Rian Johnson Deletes 20,000 Tweets After James Gunn Firing in ‘Why Not?’ Move”, says that Johnson has deleted all his tweets before January 25 of this year, explaining, “if trolls looking for ammunition is the new normal, this seems like a ‘why not’ move.”

On Tuesday, The Mary Sue tweeted a story that said, “it’s also possible that Disney has issued some sort of directive to their talent about social media post-Gunn situation, suggesting caution or deletion.” In response, Johnson tweeted, “No official directive at all, and I don’t think I’ve ever tweeted anything that bad. But it’s nine years of stuff written largely off the cuff as ephemera, if trolls scrutinizing it for ammunition is the new normal, this seems like a ‘why not?’ move.”

(7) NO BUCKS AND NO BUCK ROGERS. The Hollywood Reporter has the latest about the Buck Rogers rights litigation: “Judge Directs Government Intervention in “Buck Rogers” Bankruptcy”.

The audacious plan to use a bankruptcy court to auction off “Buck Rogers” rights despite lingering ownership challenges appears to have backfired on those ostensibly serving the interests of heirs of John Dille, who published the fictional space hero in magazines in the early-to-mid 20th century. On Wednesday, a Pennsylvania bankruptcy court issued an extraordinary decision that faulted the Dille Family Trust with a number of sins. As a result, the Office of the U.S. Trustee has been directed to appoint a Chapter 11 Trustee in what could ultimately result in a long anticipated film adaptation of Armageddon 2419 A.D., the 1929 novella by Philip Francis Nowlan that introduced the Buck Rogers character.

The background of what happened is detailed much more extensively here, but in November 2017, the Dilles declared bankruptcy in the midst of litigation with Nowlan’s heirs about trademark rights and in the middle of fighting with producer Don Murphy about whether Armageddon 2419 A.D. was in the public domain. Filing for bankruptcy meant a pause on litigation, and the Dilles wanted to liquidate their interests in Buck Rogers rights — whatever those might be — through Heritage Auctions. Since the filing of bankruptcy, Murphy and the Nowlans have pounded the table that this proceeding was all a farce.

Now, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jeffery Deller has seen enough.

In a memorandum opinion (read here), he writes that it is undisputed that the Dille Family Trust has no business operations, has no meaningful income, is liquidating as opposed to reorganizing, has incurred administrative expenses with no liquid assets available to satisfy these debts, and has invoked the automatic stay for the primary purpose of avoiding a trial regarding an alleged interest in various intellectual property.

(8) WORLDCON WOES. John Scalzi delivers “A Little More On Recent Worldcon Stuff”.

Also, while I’m on the subject of the Hugo and Worldcon, I see some various turdlings out there are gleeful about the recent dustup re: the Worldcon program. “The SJWs are eating themselves!” is the basic line of the turdlings. In fact, something entirely different happened.

Which was: When the problems cropped up (and they did) and people started to complain (and they did), the Worldcon, within a day, acknowledged that various mistakes had happened and actively moved to correct those mistakes. Not perfectly or instantly, but it still happened.

Which is what you want to happen! In an ideal world, mistakes don’t get made, but we don’t live in an ideal world and none of us is our ideal self. The next best thing is, when mistakes are pointed out, you move to fix them and to learn from them.

The turdlings who are gleeful at the Worldcon’s temporary woes don’t care about anything other than an institution they dislike and tried (or are still trying) to sabotage having a stumble. That’s because they’re basically awful, whiny menchildren. No surprise there.

(9) TAKE ME OUT TO THE BOT GAME. Flippy the Robot, from Miso Robotics, will be “wearing” Dodger blue this summer (Food & Wine: “Flippy the Robot Is the Tater Tot-Making Boyfriend I Deserve”) and manning (robotting?) the fry basket:

In 2017, Miso Robotics introduced the world to Flippy, a jaunty new robot that can make food alongside humans, prepping fried chicken and tater tots and burgers with ease. And this summer, Flippy will be gainfully employed at Dodgers Stadium to make concessions, working the frying station. This follows a successful stint flipping burgers at a Pasadena CaliBurger earlier this year.

“Adapting Flippy into a fryer assistant … has been a great opportunity to demonstrate the scale of Miso’s platform,” Miso Robotics CEO David Zitosaid in a statement. “[T]his technology [is] a win-win — improving working conditions for stadium employees and improving the game experience for fans.” In February, Flippy raised $10 million from investors.

(10) ROBOTS OVER THE MILLENNIA. A Nature open-access PDF article, “Ancient dreams of intelligent machines: 3,000 years of robots”, in which “Stephen Cave and Kanta Dihal revisit the extraordinary history of cultural responses to automata.”

The word ‘robot’ was born in Czech writer Karel ?apek’s 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). In the very work coining the term, the robots rebel against and destroy their creators. And that narrative of rebellion has proved to be the most potent of all our AI fears, retold repeatedly as technology evolves.

During the cold war space race, the film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) gave us HAL 9000, the murderous spaceship supercomputer. With the rise of the Internet, we got Skynet — a defence network that becomes self-aware in the Terminator films (starting in 1984) — and The Matrix (1999), featuring intelligent machines that farm humans whose minds unknowingly inhabit a virtual reality. Now, with AI dominating headlines, we have sophisticated robots again overthrowing their wetware masters, from Ava in the 2015 film Ex Machina to the android amusement-park hosts in the Westworld television series.

The persistent trope of robot revolts reveals the paradox at the heart of our relationship with intelligent machines. We want to create clever tools that can do everything we can do, and more. They will be the perfect oracles, servants, soldiers, even lovers. To fulfil our hopes, they must have attributes such as intellect and agency — minds of their own, superior to ours. But, paradoxically, that is also why we fear HAL and Skynet. The tension lies in our conflicted desire to create beings superhuman in capacity, but subhuman in status.

(11) PETERSEN OBIT. Andrew Petersen, a student I met at Azusa Pacific University’s Yosemite Semester in 2001, has died. One of his ambitions was to captain a Jungle Cruise boat at Disneyland and he not only did that, he went to work at the Park, along the way running the Indiana Jones ride and the Enchanted Tiki Room. What a character he was, what a great guy.


  • Born July 26, 1894 – Aldous Huxley. Swap two numbers in the year and you have another dystopian author’s book.
  • Born July 26, 1928 – Stanley Kubrick.
  • Born July 26 – Helen Mirren, 73. Genre work includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, the classic Twilight Zone, Faerie Tale Theatre and as Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy film.
  • Born July 26 – Sandra Bullock, 54. First genre role was in, I kid you not, Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, also Demolition Man and Gravity to name but two of her other genre appearances.
  • Born July 26 – Jeremy Piven, 53. Jeffrey Tanner in the quickly and mercifully canceled Wisdom of the Crowd series, in Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde, the Hercules animated series, the Cupid series as well and a lot of voice work.
  • Born July 26 – Olivia Williams, 50. Adelle DeWitt in Dollhouse and Emily Burton Silk in Counterpart, also the Jason and the Argonauts series in a recurring role as Hera, yet another Peter Pan  film, and apparently an uncredited appearance in X-Men: The Last Stand.
  • Born July 26 – Kate Beckinsale, 45. Selene in the Underworld film franchise, also Van HelsingAlice Through the Looking Glass, Haunted and a recurring role in the Elder Scrolls Online video game franchise.
  • Born July 26 – Eve Myles, 40. Gwen Cooper in both the Doctor Who and Torchwood series, and voice performer in the Big Finish series of audiobooks including Golden Age, a splendid story involving Torchwood India.


(14) A CAREER, JUST NOT THE ONE PRESENTED. Her history of crowdsourcing funds, promoting literary events, and tendency to not deliver made the LA Times ask “Who Is Anna March?”

…Anna March whisked in and out, a flash of pink hair in a polka-dot dress. The 2015 party at the Ace’s mezzanine bar, serving free drinks, was packed to overflowing.

March had never published a book but had been quietly working literary Los Angeles’ social media connections for months. A spunky, unapologetic, sex-positive feminist ready to raise hell, she was supportive and flattering. She was also conspicuously generous — concerned about the line of people waiting to get into the party, March asked a pair of new acquaintances if she should give $20 bills to those stuck on the sidewalk. The bill for the night would total more than $22,000.

Why is she doing this? people asked, stealing glances at March.

Some had a larger question:

Who was Anna March?

That was a harder question to answer than you might think. Anna March first appeared around 2011, when she started publishing online. Before that, she was known by different names in different cities. In researching this story, The Times found four: Anna March, Delaney Anderson, Nancy Kruse and Nancy Lott.

In three places — Los Angeles, San Diego and Rehoboth Beach, Del. — March became a part of the literary community. She won over new friends, even accomplished authors but especially writers trying to find a way into that world, with her generosity, her enthusiasm and apparent literary success — only to leave town abruptly…

(15) DOUBLE JEOPARDY. No sooner had Jon Del Arroz started an Indiegogo to fund a comic book project than somebody unveiled a bogus Kickstarter featuring an image of the same character. JDA has gotten the hoax Kickstarter taken down.

Fake fundraiser screencap

JDA knows his audience — his announcement of the real Indiegogo appeal on his blog is sandwiched between a post gloating about Worldcon 76 program travails and another post complaining that Tor Books is attacking him — and the Indiegogo appeal is closing in on its $6,000 goal.

(16) ALAN MOORE. Paste Magazine says these are “The 10 Best Alan Moore Comics of All Time”.

  1. A Small Killing
    Artist: Oscar Zarate
    Publisher: Avatar Press
    Here’s the landmark which stands nearest to Moore. Allow me to explain: I don’t think A Small Killing is the work that means the most to Moore emotionally, or that it shows some never-revealed Rosebud, or that it amounts to autobiography by code. What I mean is that A Small Killing is the work I see as somehow closest to the heart of the creator, the way the Book of Job is central to any exegesis of the Tanakh. A Small Killing is a story that unconsciously comments on Moore’s anxiety. (This is all rabid hearsay, of course, and should not be aired in a legitimate court of law.)

(17) IN UNIFORM. People.com shows how “Natalie Portman Transforms Into NASA Astronaut in Pale Blue Dot. Natalie Portman plays a NASA astronaut in Pale Blue Dot, a fictional story said to be based loosely on the Lisa Nowak -Bill Oefelein-Colleen Shipman “astronaut love triangle” of 2007.

In the early morning hours of that day, Nowak was wearing a black wig and trench coat when she approached Colleen Shipman’s car in the parking lot of Orlando International Airport. She banged on the Shipman’s window and begged for a ride. When Shipman rolled down her window, Nowak sprayed her with pepper spray and tried to get in the car.

Shipman fled the scene, shaken but unhurt. Police arrested Nowak on attempted murder and kidnapping charges.

The resulting case was dubbed the “astronaut love triangle.”


(19) ON THE BEACH. “Liquid water ‘lake’ revealed on Mars” — ESA’s Mars orbiter finds something too big (12 miles across) to be just sub-ice meltwater — probably very cold and briny, and a mile under the ice, but definitely a lake.

Marsis wasn’t able to determine how thick the layer of water might be, but the research team estimate that it is a minimum of one metre.

“This really qualifies this as a body of water. A lake, not some kind of meltwater filling some space between rock and ice, as happens in certain glaciers on Earth,” Prof Orosei added.

(20) MARSWARD BOUND. Here’s The First Teaser. The series comes to Hulu September 14.

The First is created by Beau Willimon (House of Cards) and stars Sean Penn. Set in the near future (2030), this groundbreaking story explores the challenges of taking the first steps towards Mars. Viewers will get an intimate look at the dedicated characters trying to reach the unknown while dealing with the psychological and physical toll it takes to achieve the impossible.


(21) NOT ALONE. The last man on earth was alone in his room. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. – Oops, sorry, this is not the Fredric Brown story, it’s the I Think We’re Alone Now teaser trailer.

Del (Peter Dinklage) is alone in the world. After the human race is wiped out, he lives in his small, empty town, content in his solitude and the utopia he’s methodically created for himself – until he is discovered by Grace (Elle Fanning), an interloper whose history and motives are obscure. Worse yet, she wants to stay.


[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Joel Zakem, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and John  King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

62 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 7/26/18 What Is The Law? Not To Reuse Titles, That Is The Law

  1. The piece about “Anna March” was a very nice piece of cultural reporting I was happy to read.

  2. (12) Helen Mirren was in the 1985 revival of Twilight Zone, not the “classic” version.

    (17) “Natalie Portman plays a NASA in Pale Blue Dot,”
    I think you are missing a noun after “NASA”.

  3. Bill: Thanks for the correction — don’t miss out on the appertainment!

  4. 12) Eve Myles also played Gwyneth in the Doctor Who episode “The Unquiet Dead” (9th Doctor). The two characters had no family connection, but there was some pseudo-explanation of a timey-wimey connection due to the proximity of the time rift.

    18) Clever!

  5. (12) Olivia Williams was also the most prominent female character in the film adaptation of The Postman.

  6. 2) There’s rather a lot of that sort of thing in Fallen Angels by Niven and Pournelle — although instead of occurring in FTF conversation, it’s mostly references on signs, to let people in the now-outlawed fannish community know that this is a safe location. Or sometimes to warn them away from something that isn’t.

    12) Tangentially, in a time when half the movies coming out seem to be reboots of one thing or another, I would really like to see them reboot The Bionic Woman. We now have both the CGI to do realistic effects and the awareness to generate a more realistic character.

  7. People interested in the Astronaut Love Triangle should watch the video of the song Road Trip by noted Ukelele player Molly Lewis.

  8. 1) I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The Kindle has done as much to damage books and publishing as it has to help. I’m not sure we’ve hit bottom yet.

    6) Not to harp on a theme, but Twitter has done far more to damage social discourse than it has to foster it.

  9. @Mike Glyer
    Bill: Thanks for the correction — don’t miss out on the appertainment!
    In anticipation, I had pre-appertained.

    Tangentially, in a time when half the movies coming out seem to be reboots of one thing or another, I would really like to see them reboot The Bionic Woman. We now have both the CGI to do realistic effects and the awareness to generate a more realistic character.
    It was rebooted in 2007. It wasn’t all that good.

  10. (12) if Midsummer Night’s Dream counts, so should Tempest – Helen Mirren was a wonderful Prospera in the recent(ish) film version, with a great cast: Ben Wishaw and Alan Cummings to name only 2. Happy birthday, Dame Helen!

  11. @Lee, Bill:

    There has been something of a revival of the orignal bionic duo recently, as part of a larger trend of comics companies scooping up television properties. (Yes, I know that’s been going on since the Gold Key days, but it ebbs and flows. We currently seem to be experiencing a high tide.) There are now comic-book continuations of both series, as well as crossovers with each other and other franchises – some of which actually could have met on the small screen had the legalities been ironed out.

    For example, I picked Wonder Woman ’77 Meets the Bionic Woman up on sale, and I’ve got the Batman ’66 crossovers with The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Green Hornet, Wonder Woman ’77, and Steed and Mrs. Peel on a wish list. WWMBW took advantage of modern sensibilities to poke at some of both shows’ conventions, such as Jamie having a hard time believing that Diana’s co-workers really don’t realize she’s Wonder Woman.

    And those are just some of the roughly contemporary, live-action television properties which have seen recent new life in the funny pages. Let us not speak of, say, the Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey and Green Lantern/Space Ghost one-shots, hot on the heels of last year’s encounter between Batman and Elmer Fudd…

    Anyway, since I drifted off the subject: if you’re looking for new Bionic Woman content, it’s out there. The comics even use the old sound effects.

  12. 6) It does work. Trans activists and their allies have been doing it for a while now, as transphobic bigots are willing to scroll back through years of tweets looking for something that will get their account suspended. Twitter’s not keen on bulk deletion, but there are free tools that will automate the process.

  13. Soon Lee: the article Hugo Award-Winning Author N. K. Jemisin Explains Why Bigots Are Bad at Writing

    I think that’s the 4th media article I’ve seen in as many days now where the author hasn’t researched enough to get their facts quite right. <sigh>

  14. @Soon Lee: Beale will be unhappy that they did not use the pic of him as the Archangel with a flaming sword.

  15. Hampus Eckerman: I do not understand a thing of this meme game.

    Hampus, Swedish fish distributing at MidAmeriCon II. 😀

  16. “Hampus, Swedish fish distributing at MidAmeriCon II.”

    And now you confused me even more…

  17. Hampus, you were known for your endless supply of evil Swedish fish at MAC II. So when I say “Hampus, Swedish fish distributing at MidAmeriCon II”, all of the Filers who had partaken of addictive fish candy at the con nod their heads sagely and say, “Ah, yes, I know exactly what you mean.” 😀

  18. 12) Olivia Williams: How did I miss a Jason and the ARgonauts miniseries?

  19. Hampus, people are trying to talk like the aliens in the Star Trek episode Darmok, who speak entirely in memes (although it was before memes were a thing).

    So instead of saying “I was so angry I poured my drink on his head!”, they say “Jo Walton, her glass empty”.

  20. Paul Weimer asks How did I miss a Jason and the ARgonauts miniseries?

    It consisted of two ninety minute episodes when it came out eighteen years ago. No idea if it’s been picked up on any of the streaming services but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if it did.

  21. @JJ

    I think that’s the 4th media article I’ve seen in as many days now where the author hasn’t researched enough to get their facts quite right.

    To the extent of not being able to consistently spell Ms. Jemisin’s name correctly, to say nothing of getting the details of the Puppy kerfuffle right. Annoying. (As you may imagine, I’m a little sensitive to misnaming.)

    Of course, I can’t disagree with the main point of the article. Just about everyone carries some bigotry around – it’s hard-wired into the human brain, alas – but permitting it to take over your entire world-view is no better for you than it is for the people around you.

  22. the first law of file titles is, that you should not try to invent file titles.

  23. (21) Sounds a bit like the Bester story “They Don’t Make Life the Way They Used To”

    The UnPixeled Scrollfession of Jonathan Hugo

  24. The Jemisin piece’s comments are a microcosm of the entire debate: allegedly, someone in puppyland said “troll this article” and the minions did, in lockstep, while those acting independently addressed the article and are far outnumbered.

    Once again, conflation of “popularity” with “quality” on their part. Not to mention perfect illustrations of Jemisin’s quote: “The purpose of bigotry is to exalt the mediocre.”

  25. Ya, the comments on the Jemisin article are full of Beale’s bootlicks. Soooo many white folks explaining how they’re the real victims.

  26. 6) Sounds like a good policy for everyone to follow. Businesses generally have explicit retention policies, eg after two years all non-flagged emails are deleted. I’m guessing most of us do the same with physical papers like bank statements we might have, it is a good idea to do the same with online stuff.

  27. JohnFromGR says Ya, the comments on the Jemisin article are full of Beale’s bootlicks. Soooo many white folks explaining how they’re the real victims.

    Why aren’t I surprised? If they want to have an idea of what it’s like to be a minority in a majority culture, may I suggest they serve in the Peace Corps and get stationed a long way from where what they think is the proper dominant culture is nowhere to be seen?

  28. I have disagreed with Rusch on a number of the ways she talks about the business side of writing, but this article has me nodding along the whole way through.

    The long-term-success commercial writers I know who deliberately followed subgenres, trends, or shameless commercial pandering were at least one of
    a) bookstore employees who did a lot of happy handselling and talking to readers, not squinting at algorithms, to decide “Hey, let’s follow this trend”
    b) well paid by the editorial team that asked it of them.(**)

    Some people are just naturally better than others at writing to editorial demand or finding something to like in pure commercial work. Some people’s own tastes simply are commercial. And all tend to still pick works they would have *some* fun writing. (Rusch even talks about doing a stint of freelancing like this in the article).

    This idea of book stuffing and algorithm games and subgenre warping would be just as anathema to them as to the most fiercely independent “I write my own art and cannot bow to the whims of the trend” snooty type*. Maybe more so, as they know how much work even the commercial stuff is.

    *I was really good friends with a guy once who seemed to think that my wanting to write fantasy that would be published by a Big Name Publisher was too commercial once, and that some of his own (really good) work was too predictable because it followed a common plotline. Really nice guy, would totally hang out again, but in those days he could not get out of the high art mentality.

    (** Let’s not get back into the discussion of people who don’t want to surrender to editorial demand, but are pressured to do so. That is a different thing and Not Okay. This is about the people editors flag to request fast commercial products from because they know that if they say they yes, they’ll do them, to decent quality, and on deadline, and probably even have fun.)

  29. 17) A movie called “Pale Blue Dot” and starring Natalie Portman??? Sounds promising!

    It’s about the astronaut love triangle? Ug, never mind. Such a sad misuse of a reference to an incredible book.

  30. (1) That’s a strong piece.

    I think Rusch has got these people’s number pretty well. The many among them who are sincere, not opportunists, are still resorting to opportunism because that’s the only way to keep from fading into utter obscurity. The treadmill keeps them focused on things that will keep them afloat for another day, but that almost can’t possibly offer them a steadier foothold. And another element is: there’s no outside input; they can’t be “let go” by anybody but themselves. For some writers, that means finally being free from gatekeepers — but for others, it means being trapped on the treadmill. Nobody can tell them it’s time to call it quits; the decision and responsibility for quitting is their own — and it’s HARD to pull the plug on your own work that way.

    I think a lot of people step into the self-publishing arena without realizing how incredibly hard it is to vie for attention in the vicious attention economy that the internet’s become. They don’t know what they’re getting into, and they don’t know how to get out. You see the same dynamic in so many other places — news venues and blogs and social platforms that find all their readers being sucked up by Facebook, and then they get to choose between losing all those readers entirely, or trying to cater to them ON Facebook, which just makes Facebook stronger and makes their off-Facebook presence weaker. And so on. I don’t know who *is* well-prepared or well-positioned in the fight for attention — but I don’t think it’s people dashing out a short book-like product every other week :-/

    I used to see more about the wonders of self-publishing; I feel like that’s lost steam somewhat, and it’s even been a while since the last glorious breakout. Or maybe it’s just me, that’s drifted elsewhere in who I’m reading on the topic… I do wonder if viewing self-publishing as a sort of gold-rush is winding itself down somewhat.

  31. @1: this is a bit strange after all of the Rusch posts I’ve read about having to be hardnosed, businesslike, etc. as a writer, even (as I read them) to not acting out of love for the creation — which is what she slams them for not doing. From recent discussion here I get that these people are doing bizarre things for money, but I’m not sure they’re qualitatively different — more like they don’t get how unstable their castles-in-the-air are.


    This follows a successful stint flipping burgers at a Pasadena CaliBurger earlier this year.

    The story is rewriting history. The test was shut down after a day; as NPR reported (and I posted) the machine couldn’t work nearly as well as a human — it could flip burgers really fast, but couldn’t do any of the setups and followons (couldn’t even drop on a slice of cheese as needed) and was outrunning the humans that had to do all the steps around it. (Modern Times, anyone?) My guess is that moving things into and out of a fryolator requires little enough assistance that they think it will be useful (not to mention possibly safer — there’s always that uncertain moment when the cold moist food hits the hot fat…).

    @10: I’m not sure of some of their older facts (not just the usual argument about whether “robot” is the right term ?apek’s creations), but the paper reaches half of an interesting conclusion.

    @11: condolences; it sounds like he would have been interesting to know. The only other Jungle Boat captain name I know is Ron Zeigler, but I suspect Andrew didn’t take the spiel seriously; I would like to have heard his comments on the experience.

    @12: looks like yesterday was a special day.

    @14: if it were just one or two episodes I’d think this person needs help; we’ve seen a lot of stories of people who just have no idea how much they don’t know about connecting ideas to money. But there are so many broken promises that this looks willful (or perhaps Puppy-esque — does she really believe all the failures are other people’s faults?). In any case, a trashfire to stay a long way away from.

    @Soon Lee: the article may be weak, but I’ve never seen a photo of our own Teddy boy before; it will be useful if I cross the Atlantic again.

    @Niall McAuley: thanks for the explanation; I saw the opening show of TNG, and nothing since. (Not a specific judgment; I got pushed out of the TV habit half a century ago and never reacquired it.)

    @Andrew: clever!

  32. 11) I’m reminded of a Weird Al song from a few years ago, “Skipper Dan”:

  33. Niall McAuley: Thank you for the explanation!

    JJ: I think I had every type of candy except swedish fish a MAC2. 😉

  34. @Standback

    I can offer one piece of anecdotal data. I recently got into self-publishing a few things through KDP, after a few years of selling one or two short pieces in traditional markets but not really getting anywhere.

    It’s a step I only took after being as objectively realistic as I could about the probable payoff – that is, mathematically indistinguishable from zero. I knew I could do things like play the algorithms, write whatever crap I could come up with quickly and push it out the door, beg for reviews, spend more on ad campaigns than I could ever hope to make in sales, and so on. But then, what would be the point? I took a good look at what thousands of other people in my position were doing, and decided it was more important to just write what I wanted to write and let it find whatever audience it could without me trying to game the system.

    So far, I think I’ve made enough to buy one meal at a not-very-swanky restaurant. Even my very limited success in traditional print markets has been orders of magnitude more lucrative. Still, for certain stories that just aren’t ever going to go anywhere along the traditional route, it’s workable. The secret is to set aside that desperate need for attention and validation, the one that drives so many self-published writers to follow every fad and scam that comes along.

  35. The secret is to set aside that desperate need for attention and validation, the one that drives so many self-published writers to follow every fad and scam that comes along.

    Harsh, but AFAICT fair. Writing per se is lonely work (I once asked ML whether there was any profession as isolated, and the only response was “theoretical mathematics”); the drive to do it seems not to leave room for balance in many people.

    reminder: tonight is the night Mars is in opposition — although I’ve seen a report that because of orbital shapes it will actually be brighter (to instruments — the human eye won’t notice) on the 30th.

  36. @chip – also Lunar Eclipse time, but looks more like a lunar eclipse obscured by solid cloud cover hereabouts.

  37. @Chip, @Hampus – if you have watched no TNG, Darmok is a pretty good sample. Dramatic, interesting idea, makes no sense at all when you think about it.

  38. Once again, conflation of “popularity” with “quality” on their part. Not to mention perfect illustrations of Jemisin’s quote: “The purpose of bigotry is to exalt the mediocre.”

    Not just the mediocre, but the repetitious and thoughtless – note how many times the Puppy-defenders bring up Larry Correia’s buying a mountain (a whole mountain? Is it a big, named one or just a hill? Where is said mountain? I need details, people!) as proof that he’s a better writer than – well, someone who doesn’t have a mountain.

    Maybe it’s time for a new award – The Mountain – to honor this long-overlooked criterion of literary goodness. I’m envisioning the actual award as a mound of dog-eared, creased-spine, door-stopping-thick paperbacks. Maybe with a mole peeking out of the top.

  39. Lin McAllister on July 27, 2018 at 10:34 am said:
    Once again, conflation of “popularity” with “quality” on their part. Not to mention perfect illustrations of Jemisin’s quote: “The purpose of bigotry is to exalt the mediocre.”

    Not just the mediocre, but the repetitious and thoughtless – note how many times the Puppy-defenders bring up Larry Correia’s buying a mountain (a whole mountain? Is it a big, named one or just a hill? Where is said mountain? I need details, people!) as proof that he’s a better writer than – well, someone who doesn’t have a mountain.

    Yeah the first time I read that I went “Wha?” and it took me a bit to grok that they meant “he is rich enough to buy a whole mountain!” To which I thought eh, that don’t impress me much. Mountains in rural US are a dime a dozen. Come back to me with a detached house in Belgravia and then we’re talking.

  40. @Anna Feruglio Dal Dan

    Come back to me with a detached house in Belgravia and then we’re talking.

    Or a one-bedroom home in Seattle.

    My uncle is not a wealthy man, but he owns a couple of mountains (after selling one a few years back).

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