Pixel Scroll 8/6/17 Surely You’re Scrolling, Mr. Fileman

(1) ANOTHER MASTERPIECE OF CONRUNNING. Mothership says Akiba Town, held this weekend in Singapore and which markets itself as a “Japanese culture event bringing in official anime merchandise along with fan artists and guest cosplayers” — was a mess: “S’pore-organised cosplay event riddled with multiple problems, slammed by cosplay community”. It changed venues a week before the event, allowed stolen artwork to be sold as official merchandise, oversold vendor space, and the list goes on….

(2) A STELLAR GATHERING IN SCANDINAVIA. Sff authors and editors outside The English Bookshop, Uppsala, Sweden:

Front: Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Amal el-Mohtar, Likhain, Ann Leckie, Jo Walton, Fran Wilde, Vivian Shaw, Arkady Martine (Dr. AnnaLinden Weller), Patrick Nielsen Hayden.

Back: Amanda Downum, Max Gladstone, Ada Palmer, Elizabeth Bear, Scott Lynch.

(3) CANADA’S BIRTHDAY PARTY BUGS SOME PEOPLE. It’s one thing to have bats in your belfry – quite another to have a giant spider: “Ottawa archbishop surprised by negative reaction to robotic spider on cathedral”.

The spider, named Kumo, is one of two giant robots created by a street theater company of artists, technicians and performers based in Nantes, France. The company, La Machine, was in Ottawa July 27-30 as part of celebrations marking Canada’s 150th birthday.

The spectacle of robots, music and other special effects drew tens of thousands to Ottawa’s downtown.

The show opened July 27 in the evening, with Kumo “waking up” to organ music from inside the cathedral. As the spider, suspended from cranes, climbed off its perch between the towers, “snow” fell from above as part of the event’s special effects.

“I don’t understand how allowing a mechanical spider to stand on the cathedral is anything but disturbing, disappointing and even shameful,” wrote Diane Bartlett on the archbishop’s Facebook wall.

…Archbishop Terrence Prendergast said he was surprised by the negative reaction to an artistic initiative after critics called the spider’s placement “sacrilegious,” “demonic,” and “disrespectful” of a sacred space.

“My cathedral staff and I anticipated that some … might object, but thought it would be minimal, as nothing demeaning was intended in the spider being near the church,” said the archbishop in an email interview with Canadian Catholic News.

“I regret that we had not sufficiently understood that others would see this event so differently. I say to those who were shocked that I understand that this would have been upsetting for them and that I regret that a well-intentioned effort to cooperate in a celebration was anything but that for them.”

(4) MY NAME IS…JACK. A nine-year-old “guardian of the galaxy” has applied to NASA for the Planetary Protection Officer job which was discussed here the other day.

(5) SUMMERTIME. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler says a Fritz Leiber story is the saving grace in a stinker issue of IF — “[August 6, 1962] Bookkends (September 1962 IF Worlds of Science Fiction)”.

So in this languorous time, about the only consistent pasttime I can enjoy, aside from my records, is the ever-growing pile of stf (scientifiction, natch) magazines.  One of the ones I look forward to is IF, which, if it is not always stellar, usually has a few items of interest.  This month, the September 1962 issue has a lot of lousy stories, and editor Pohl cunningly placed the best one in front so as to dull the impact of the sub-par stuff that follows.  But the last tale is a fine reprise of the first, quality-wise.  See if you agree:

A famous author and actor, Leiber’s works often approach sublimity.  This is one of them, combining both beautiful prose and cutting edge science fiction….

(6) A TO Z. When yesterday’s Scroll said a website had picked an sf author for every letter of the alphabet – all male — Karl-Johan Norén immediately set about balancing the books with his own alphabetical list of 26 influential sf authors – all women:

A Eleanor Arnason

B Leigh Brackett

C C. J. Cherryh

D Pamela Dean

E Carol Emshwiller

F C.S. Friedman

G Mary Gentle

H Nalo Hopkinson

I Jean Ingelow

J Shirley Jackson

K Katharine Kerr

L Megan Lindholm

M Judith Merrill

N Andre Norton

O Octavia Butler

P Meredith Ann Pierce

Q Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

R Joanna Russ

S Mary Shelley

T James Tiptree, jr.

U Ursula K Le Guin

V Joan Vinge

W Kate Wilhelm

X Xia Jia

Y Jane Yolen

Z Marion Zimmer Bradley

(7) DISABLED HAVE GRIEVANCE WITH A LONDON COMICON. The Guardian reports “Young adult literature convention under fire over disabled facilities”.

Authors who appeared at the YALC young adult literature convention over the weekend, including Alex Wheatle and Joanne Harris, have spoken out about what they feel was a lack of disabled facilities at the event. Their complaints centre on the sequestering of one of two disabled toilets for the use of celebrities attending the associated Comicon festival on a lower floor.

Organisers of the event, tied to the London Film and Comic Convention (Comicon) at Olympia in London, were accused by one visitor of “ablism” after wheelchair users ended up squeezing into busy lifts and negotiating crowds to reach accessible toilets on the Comicon floor.

Actor and playwright Athena Stevens, who has cerebral palsy, described organiser Showmasters’ decision to rope off one of the facilities for famous figures attending Comicon – including Benedict Cumberbatch – as “ablist”….

Disabled charity Scope said that defining “reasonable” provision of toilet facilities was a grey area under the Disability Discrimination Act, but it did seem that Showmasters had shown a disregard for their disabled attendees over access to them.

Showmasters, however, denied claims that accessible facilities were unavailable on the same floor as the literary festival, which attracted 40,000 visitors, but acknowledged problems on Saturday. “There were two disabled toilets on that floor, and one was behind the green room wall,” he said. Overcrowding at lunchtime on Saturday had meant that wheelchair users were forced to use facilities on another floor, a spokesman conceded, but not for the whole weekend. Showrunners will consult disabled people to ensure there was no repetition of the problem, he added.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 6, 1996 A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin is released.
  • August 6, 2003 — Asteroids renamed to honor final Shuttle Columbia crew

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born August 6, 1934 — Piers Anthony
  • Born August 6, 1970 – Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan

(10) OH, SWEET SUMMER CHILD. Where’s the prestige in writing cheap books? The Guardian listens as “Philip Pullman leads writers condemning ‘pernicious’ book discounts”.

With more than two months to go before Philip Pullman’s long-awaited new novel from the world of His Dark Materials is published, pre-orders have sent La Belle Sauvage flying up bestseller lists. But with booksellers already slashing the cover price in half, the award-winning author has spoken out about how cheap books devalue the experience of reading, and called for an end to the “pernicious” doctrine of “market fundamentalism” if literary culture is to survive.

Pullman is president of the Society of Authors, which is launching a campaign for publishers to stop damaging authors’ earnings by discounting bulk sales to book clubs and supermarkets, and has slammed the cut-price culture in his trade.

“I don’t like it when I see my books sold cheaply,” Pullman said. “But I’d like to think I’m speaking on behalf of all authors who are caught in this trap. It’s easy to think that readers gain a great deal by being able to buy books cheaply. But if a price is unrealistically cheap, it can damage the author’s reputation (or brand, as we say now), and lead to the impression that books are a cheap commodity and reading is an experience that’s not worth very much.”

(11) A MISS IS AS GOOD AS A MILE. “That’s one small step for Tallinn…”: driverless bus service gets through first three days with “no major incidents”: “‘No major incidents’ as driverless buses launch in Estonia”

A pair of vehicles are operating on a route through the city as part of the Baltic state’s presidency of the European Union, and have so far managed not to collide with any other road users, national broadcaster ERR reports.

But there have been a number of near misses since the launch on Saturday, ERR says. An eyewitness reports that one of the buses failed to give way to a police car with its lights flashing on Monday; while an ERR photographer saw a bus ignore a red light at a pedestrian crossing, ploughing on regardless of the “surprise” it had provoked.

Despite no-one driving, local traffic law means that there still has to be a responsible person on board, meaning that all passengers are greeted by a host. They’ve been tasked with explaining the technology to passengers new to the world of autonomous vehicles, ERR says.

(12) AVOID BEING A STARVING ARTIST. Brad R. Torgersen’s seven items of writing advice in “Random crumbly bits of author stuff” end with —

7) So don’t quit your damned day job. Seriously. Do. Not. Quit. Your. Day. Job. It sucks trying to write full-time and work full-time. It sucks more not paying bills and being forced out of your house or your apartment. It sucks even more depending on the good will of your relatives, or your church, or government programs. If I had $10 for every embarrassed pauper author who proudly proclaimed, “I am a full-time writer, so fuck you,” and then (s)he went back to begging for lunch money, I wouldn’t have to work anymore. Starving artistry is not a holy calling. Really, it’s not. I know I am gonna get burned at the stake for saying it. But seriously, do not check out of the “mundane” work force. Not unless you’ve got a metric ton of dough in the bank, or you’ve got a spouse who eagerly volunteers to carry the mundane load — while you labor at the desk in the attic. But if you’ve got responsibilities to meet, and mouths to feed, please, meet them and feed them. As Steven Barnes said at Norwescon ’07, suffering for your art may be noble, but making your family suffer for your art, just means you’re an asshole.

(13) INHUMANS. In this“Marvel’s Inhumans” clip, Maximus and Medusa face off.

(14) YOUTUBE ARCHEOLOGY. Today I discovered there’s a whole subgenre of YouTube videos which take the musical intros to famous TV series and swap in visuals from Star Trek. I admire the effort, although they’re rarely funny. I found this one from 2008 to be somewhat amusing — it starts with the advantage that the original A-Team intro included a lot of self-referential humor.

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman. John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

51 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 8/6/17 Surely You’re Scrolling, Mr. Fileman

  1. 3) He was surprised that people objected? Really? He didn’t consult with other church leaders beforehand?

    10) The publishers are using the pricing strategy they think will make the most money. I could understand if Pullman disagrees that’s the best strategy. But he seems more concerned with prestige and wanting it to look like he has produced something valuable. Which is just ridiculous.

  2. @Cassy: yep.

    @5: a poor issue of IF is hardly surprising; Pohl said it was founded so he could buy everything from certain authors, even stuff he didn’t want to run in Galaxy, so they wouldn’t show their stuff elsewhere. I don’t remember ever seeing the Leiber story, but anthologies from that era were scattershot (and IF, unlike its sibling, didn’t rate an annual best-of); I’ve probably read the Laumer as a teenager and enjoyed it, but I don’t recognize it from the description — there are a number of stories where he ends up averting a war.

    PS: love the title. One of my regrets is that I never got to see my the reaction of my father, who was headmaster of Los Alamos Ranch School, to Feynman’s descriptions of his hijinks when the school was taken over.

  3. 3) Yeah, seems he could have talked to a few people.

    10) Just another round of handwringing about how awful it is when the logic of markets actually gives consumers the power we are promised it will. That’s supposed to be only for our betters, the corporations and the very rich.

  4. The publishers are using the pricing strategy they think will make the most money.

    Not the publishers, the booksellers. And they’re pricing hot stuff to win market share, rather than to make money on those particular sales.

    And I’m sure Pullman knows that. He doesn’t have to like it, though.

    I could understand if Pullman disagrees that’s the best strategy. But he seems more concerned with prestige and wanting it to look like he has produced something valuable. Which is just ridiculous.

    I can’t speak for him, but it may have more to do with respect than prestige. Or, in strictly market terms (which is probably not at the heart of his argument), the idea that if his work is sold at deep discounts people may start to think it isn’t worth all that much. They’re used to buying it cheap, so that’s all it’s worth.

    It can be easy to shrug and figure that if he’s getting his full royalty, so what? But I’ve written a comics series that was sold at a “bargain price,” and as a result many people had to be convinced to even try it because at that price they didn’t believe it could be any good.

    And a friend wrote a series that was kept at a low price when prestigious (i.e., in demand) books were seeing price increases, and he argued that the company charging more was clearly a sign to readers that these were the books that mattered — and when his book got up-priced, sales went up.

    I don’t think either of these are perfect analogies for what Pullman is saying — but to some degree he’s saying that if literary work is sold as loss-leaders, then people will start to think of it as loss-leader material. The come-on, not the real thing.

    I don’t think that’s fully true either, but I can’t say it’s not worth thinking about. We’ve seen big changes happen to book publishing in recent decades, most of them unforeseen by the publishers, so it’s a fair question where loss-leader (or close to it) bestsellers will lead.

    If literature is the prize you get for choosing Amazon for where you buy your shoes and laundry soap, what might that mean for literature?

    For now, at least, it means literature is the attraction. But nothing stays static.

    I can understand wanting what I do to be respected as worthwhile. And at the same time I’m happy to pay less for the books I want. And I don’t know what bookselling will look like in 20 years, and how either of those things will change.

  5. “That’s the duty of the old, to be anxious on behalf of the young. And the duty of the young is to scorn the anxiety of the old.”
    —Philip Pullman

  6. (5) I once owned that issue and the review does disservice to the non-Leiber stories. There was also fiction by Gordie Dickson, Keith Laumer, Kris Neville, and Joseph Green. Plus an essay by Ted Sturgeon. To me, that’s an all-star lineup.

  7. Okay, I guess that really is Teresa at the front left of that photo. Her hair is so different that I totally didn’t recognize her at first. (The angle of the photo emphasizes different features of her face than I am used to seeing, too.)

  8. (2) The UEB has always been second to only the Science Fiction-bokhandeln in knowledge and marketing of sf and fantasy here, but they’ve really stepped up their game this year.

    (6) Egoboo!

    (7) Just awful. Not that I have any interest in the commercial cons, but I can easily see the same attitudes in fan-run cons as well.

    Here’s a simple hint: if you have a person with limited mobility on the committee, when you do a walkthrough of a venue, make sure the guide knows that the most important person to guide is the person with limited mobility.

    (10) I think there is a good reasoning somewhere in Pullman’s being upset, but he sure doesn’t make it well, or have even managed to articulate it. Kurt does it much better.

  9. 2) I always visit this place when I’m in Uppsala. You feel at home as soon as you enter the door. Such nice leatherbound editions of the classic SF&F.

  10. Silja Serenade, 16:45? I’ll be on that one too. Tell me if you want to meet up.

  11. (7) reminds me – I was listening to a podcast called .future (yep, that’s dot future, with a ‘.’) and the latest episode is all about inclusive design, from curb cuts to computer/phone accessibility features. It’s a bit on the short side so I feel it never quite gets in depth enough, but it’s an interesting jumping off point into inclusive design and diverse team building (which chimes with another podcast I was listening to about hiring diversely and how it positively affects creativity and problem solving within teams – can’t remember which one it was now and a cursory search hasn’t turned up any results that ring a bell, sorry!)

  12. (3)I bought a Switch so I could play the latest Zelda (and got addicted to Splatoon 2 in the process) and I swear that thing looks like a Guardian. Must resist the urge to throw weapons at it…

  13. Ferry tomorrow. Today, I did Science Tourism. I boldly failed seeing the Mercury of the Sweden Solar System, because the courtyard it resides in seems to be under construction. Then I went by tube to Danderyd (close to the Eros of the SSS, but I opted to not see it), took a bus, then changed to another bus. Then I spent about 10-15 minutes walking and took a bunch of photos of Ytterby Gruva (the original source of yttrium, ytterbium, terbium, and erbium (only place with 4 elements named after it), as well as holmium (named after Stockholm), and gadolinium (named after a Swedish chemist).

    Yes, I am squeeeing about as much as it seems.

  14. I was in the crowd for the final battle between Kumo and Long Ma–most incredible spectacle I’ve ever seen. Really worth the drive to Ottawa!
    I filmed it, but seeing this wonderful recording makes mine look really bad!

  15. Greetings:I ‘m just back from a family event in Heidelberg Germany (where –during the very 1st Worldcon held on the european continent (in 1970) (Heicon) and before my time –moves occurred to begin the establishment of a European SF Society (ESFS)). That culminated in the very 1st Eurocon in 1972 in Trieste and they continue annually to this day. Now at Worldcon 75/Helsinki there will be an attempt by moi (more venue data later) re starting an Asian SF Society. That would then parallel ESFS (above) making it the 2nd major
    regional SF body. There are already major SF players here:Japan (but of course), China (esp Shanghai) and India-but also potentials in Korea (S), Taiwan and H/Kong as well as Singapore and Thailand. The title SFSA (SF Society of Asia) will be suggested -since there is an embryonic African SF Society already: so as not to have confusing initials. And of course like Eurocons, SFSA will be the home of “Asiacons” (I already have a f/book name there). More news soon and of course at Helsinki. best wishes (from a former ESFS Chair).

  16. Karl-Johan, tried to message you. +46 73 449 72 77. Sitting and eating at El Capitano now with brother and father.

  17. I think there is a good reasoning somewhere in Pullman’s being upset, but he sure doesn’t make it well, or have even managed to articulate it. Kurt does it much better.

    I was just kind of blathering. But keep in mind that the Guardian article chose which of Pullman’s comments to print, and decided to present it as Pullman talking about himself and his books, because he mentioned them in the paragraph quoted.

    But it’s somewhat more directly covered here, in an article focusing more on the damage being done to indy bookstores rather than on what Pullman feels like when he sees his books on sale:

    http://www.thebookseller.com/news/pullman-calls-reintroduction-fixed-book-prices-603721

    Another thing for American readers to keep in mind is that for most of Pullman’s life, the UK had rules preventing the deep-discounting of books, and various European nations still do. So British authors aren’t emptily railing against the inevitable logic of commerce so much as they’re pointing out that deregulation fucked things up — an argument we’ve had cause to make in the US over other things.

    When bestsellers come along that in theory could generate profits that would keep indy bookstores in business, paying salaries, seeing money flow up the line — and instead, indy bookstores can’t even buy the books for as low a price as the deep retail discounters are offering them at (unless they buy from the discounters, resulting in no profit for themselves and their money going into the discounters’ coffers), it’s probably worth wondering if something went wrong somewhere.

  18. @Rich Lynch: the argument is that the all-stars turned in second-hand work. Do you remember the material as well as the ToC? (It’s before my time.)

    @steve davidson: ISFDB shows The First/Second World of If in 1957/58, so you’re technically correct — but after that (you’re missing another two anthologies: First/Second If Reader of Science Fiction) these seem to have been spasmodic affairs rather than ~annuals (like F&SF for ~20 years) or sort-of-annual (ISFDB shows 11 Galaxy anthologies over ~18 years)

    @Ingvar: I missed all of those 27 years ago; oh well. OTOH, as a former chemist I was pleased to find that the AmEx office we were using for home contacts was in Jons Jakob Berzelius Square.

  19. You don’t need a fileman
    To know which way pixel scrolls

    Over on Whatever, John Scalzi has withdrawn from the Dragon Awards. Does anyone know of the us vs. them mechanism he discusses? I’m assuming Rabid Puppy Home Base, it could be other forces at work.

  20. I’d guess that the Rabids and their elk are using Scalzi’s name as a rallying cry to defeat the SJWs who were conspiring to take their rightful prize away from the truly deserving, and he decided to take that narrative away from them.

  21. Niemeier instantly started pushing the SJW/CHORF/Devil Scalzi narrative as soon as the shortlists were announced.

  22. @Jack Lint,
    At least one. Brian Niemeier(sp?) has already said that the sjws/chorfs (or whatever name they are using these days to name those they think are trying to prevent them getting the recognition they rightfully deserve) have tried to take over the Dragon in the same way they took over the Hugos (a laughable idea). But *they* managed to game only Scalzi onto the best sf ballott. (Easy enough to find the link if you Google Niemeier, dragon, Scalzi)

    I guess Scalzi has decided that it’s not his circus, or his monkeys for this one.

    ETA: Ninja’ed!

  23. Is that two withdrawals so far by popular writers? I guess that’s what happens when you outsource the marketing of your award to a bunch of wannabe writers who evidently can’t play nicely.

  24. At least one. Brian Niemeier(sp?) has already said that the sjws/chorfs (or whatever name they are using these days to name those they think are trying to prevent them getting the recognition they rightfully deserve) have tried to take over the Dragon in the same way they took over the Hugos (a laughable idea).

    I considered for about two seconds jumping through the hoops and trying to vote/nominate for the Dragon awards, but I decided it a) wasn’t made for fans like me and b) was too much effort for too little reward and c) it doesn’t seem right to jump into someone else’s playpen and mess around with them.

    I mean, if they are determined to have their own awards, why would I take that away from them? It would make me no better than the brainless twits who slated the Hugo Awards. Nah. Not worth it on any level. Instead, I wish them well and hope the awards go to people who deserve them.

  25. 10) The publishers are using the pricing strategy they think will make the most money. I could understand if Pullman disagrees that’s the best strategy. But he seems more concerned with prestige and wanting it to look like he has produced something valuable. Which is just ridiculous.

    Not really. He’s concerned with not starving, personally, and with other writers being able to make a living with writing, which they currently can’t. It’s not a matter of prestige, believe you me, and I speak as somebody who can’t afford to write.

  26. And now JdA is accusing Scalzi’s withdrawal as “intended to diminish the Dragon Awards”. Haha, too funny. The awards have already been diminished by two years of being freeped by Puppies and unknown self-pubbed authors.
    And Niemeier is claiming that the File 770 SJWs tried to get his book disqualified last year “after the fact”. If only he had put that much imagination
    into his novel. 🙄

    I really, really hope that DragonCon decides to get the Dragon Awards trainwreck under control next year. They could have been something meaningful if they’d actually been promoted. What a shame.

  27. Not the publishers, the booksellers. And they’re pricing hot stuff to win market share, rather than to make money on those particular sales.

    And I’m sure Pullman knows that. He doesn’t have to like it, though.

    Juliet McKenna reposted this on her Facebook with the comment: “Read this and you won’t need to wonder why I, and many other authors, won’t to be at Nineworlds or Worldcon this month. We can’t afford it.”

    It’s not prestige and it’s not respect. It’s being able to live by writing or not. Plenty of people manage to write as a hobby and keep the day job. Those that don’t manage to write while doing another job, me for example, don’t write.

  28. I’m wondering: Was the red/blue/black English Bookshop group photo deliberately color-coordinated, or just turned out that way?

    – – – – –

    Odd Meredith Moment: Yesterday’s Early Bird Books offerings included Leiber’s THE BIG TIME for $1.99. I didn’t get a chance to peruse yesterday’s emails until this morning (at work til 6:30 AM, the rest of the morning spent with my son trying to get a new battery for his truck, then collapsed into bed and slept for 10 hours to catch up on a bigger-than-usual sleep-debt), but I had a mild hankering to re-read TBT, so checked the current price… which is $0.99. Huh.

  29. but I had a mild hankering to re-read TBT, so checked the current price… which is $0.99.

    It’s out of copyright in the US, I think (either not renewed or never properly registered), so cheap or free ebook copies are around.

  30. @Kurt Busiek: well said, in all posts.

    edit: Oh hey, this got away from me a bit. Sorry!

    I find myself conflicted on the issue of book pricing, and it’s a contentious thing here in Canada for a bunch of reasons. We have federal sales tax on books here, which I understand most developed nations do not, and we also have at least one province that also charges their own sales tax on them. Additionally, we are usually lumped in with the United States (or sometimes with the rest of the Commonwealth) in terms of sales territories, and in that case what happens is the US price is set, and then a Canadian price is set based on the relative strength of the two currencies. In theory, anyway. In practice books in Canada are given a 30% markup from the American price and it stays that way through thick and thin. Even when our two dollars are within a few pennies of par, Canadians are paying 30% more for the same book.

    So on the one hand, I’m very firmly in the “books are too damn expensive” camp, especially given that I believe they have greater cultural value than other items that can be subjected to market forces, and that we derive considerable benefit as a society from protecting authors, publishers, and (indie) booksellers from the wildest swings of the market.

    On the other hand, I give publishers a fair amount of credit for holding the line on prices. A few years back I went spelunking through the Canadian consumer price index to see how book prices in the past fared compared to today. I used pocketbooks as analogs of mass market paperbacks, Everyman’s Library editions as analogs of TPBs (because they were literally priced to give the poor access to books that would be cheaper than standard hardbacks but more durable than pocketbooks), and hardcovers required no substitution. What I found was that that book prices (here, anyway) have increased in lockstep with inflation, and no more. Adjusted for inflation, books today cost exactly the same as they did a hundred years ago. Publishers have significantly increased overhead and margins have gone through the floor, but the response has never, ever been to raise prices for readers. Ever. They’ve paid authors less than they used to (which sucks), but they also pay themselves less than they used to. Considerably less, in many cases.

    There’s a great book by Roy MacSkimming on the history of Canada’s publishing industry that recounts the story of how Chapters, once our largest big box bookseller, took over the industry through deep discounting as part of a scheme (literally; the players are all identified by name) to destabilize a vulnerable industry by some ex-military hedge fund jackass through hyperinflating the stock price of a major player and then cashing out just before the inevitable crash. When the crash came, most of our distribution channels vanished overnight. Publishers had their stock confiscated from warehouses to pay distributors’ creditors, or pulped outright to make room for more profitable wares (lawnmowers or whatever). Half the indie booksellers went under, and almost as many of the small presses went with them. The industry was decimated and almost collapsed completely. It would have made sense to raise prices for readers beyond inflationary levels, even just a little, to keep the lights on while they figured something else out. But they didn’t. Not by so much as a penny. And they earn some slack from me for that. Amazon moved into Canada about six months after that…

    Training readers to expect a new, lower baseline price is what discount retailers do, and it works. There are a ton of case studies of companies like WalMart and now Amazon using their price point advantage to squash independent competition, and then using the subsequent only-game-in-town advantage to turn former powerhouse companies into barely-functional shells that can’t pay their employees living wages and can barely even cover their own manufacturing costs after their margins have been stripped so low. We’ve been watching it happen with books in slow motion over the last few decades, and while publishers do some shady shit at times, I find myself unwilling to throw them to the discount wolves when they’ve actually shown some spine when it comes to pricing.

  31. (1) Shoddy scams in cons now worldwide instead of just the US! Yay, globalization! 🙄

    (3) He didn’t think people would be upset by seeing a giant bug that many people are afraid of and which is traditionally associated with evil in the cathedral? I’m sure it did get people saying “Oh my GOD!” and “Jesus Christ!” but not in the good way.

    (7) Still all too common, even in civilized places. VIPs do not need their own toilet to the exclusion of people who actually need that one to do their business. I’m sure Benny Cummerbund wouldn’t have minded letting someone in a wheelchair go ahead of him, or have minded walking a little farther to a VIP non-accessible loo.
    (Are the Holiday Inn, convention center, and transit in Helsinki okay?)

    (13) I could possibly be less interested in this, but I don’t see how.

    @David G: I wouldn’t have recognized TNH in that photo either.

    @clif: I think he did, yes! Jealousy among Pups?

    @Rich H: Yes to Sarah Zettel instead.

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