Kickstarter for Monster Kids

A Kickstarter project is raising money to make That $#%! Will Rot Your Brain!, a documentary about the Monster Kids, those horror movie fans who got their start watching 1930s movies on late-night television under the tutelage of local ghoulish hosts.

Robert Tinnell is on board — an award-winning filmmaker, comic book artist, and devoted Monster Kid  — whose credits include Surf Nazis Must Die (Producer), Frankenstein and Me (Director), and most recently Flesh and Blood (Writer).

The Kickstarter page carries a long list of other supporters out of which I recognize six names, although one belongs to someone over 100 years old so I doubt she’s taking a very active role in the project —

John Zacherle, Tom Savini, Bill Bob Thornton, Fred Dekker, David Selby, Richard Atkins, Edward Bonacore, Bob Burns, David Colton, Eric Caidin, James Clatterbaugh, Marian Owens Clatterbaugh, Frank Dietz, Dukey Flyswatter, Brittany Fontaine, Mark Frank, Jerry Gergely, Kerry Gammill, Andy Hershberger, Carla Laemmle, Todd Livingston, Ben Martin, Jonathan Maeberry, James Morrow, Steve Niles, Sam F Park, Eric Red, Mark Redfield, Ron Russo, Andrew Sands, David J. Skal, Michael Sonye, Gary Svehla, George Stover, J.C. Vaughn, Neil Vokes, Steve Vertlieb, Voltaire, and Mark Whetley.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Salem Witch in Bradbury’s Family Tree

A writer at the Huffington Post argues unconvincingly that witchcraft trials are a byproduct of exceptionally cold periods in climatic history. Read it at your intellectual peril.

Appropriate to such a cloudy subject there is a silver lining. Mr. John King Tarpinian, who sent me the link, surprised me by revealing that one of Ray Bradbury’s ancestors is a woman tried for witchcraft at Salem in 1692 — Mary Bradbury.

Transcriptions of documents from the trial of Mary Bradbury are available on a University of Virginia website. She was indicted for —

Certaine Detestable arts called Witchcraft & Sorceries Wickedly Mallitiously and felloniously hath used practiced and Exercised At and in the Township of Andivor in the County of Essex aforesaid in upon & against one Timothy Swann of Andivor In the County aforesaid Husbandman — by which said Wicked Acts the said Timothy Swann upon the 26th day of July Aforesaid and divers other days & times both before and after was and is Tortured Afflicted Consumed Pined Wasted and Tormented…

An outpouring of community support, reflected in a petition with numerous signatures, did not keep her from being convicted though it may be the reason she avoided execution. Nevertheless, she served time in jail and sources conflict over whether she died behind bars or was allowed to escape and died afterwards.

Her descendants are a diverse group – Ray Bradbury isn’t even the most famous writer among them, that claim belonging to Ralph Waldo Emerson. There is even a famous athlete — 19th-century football player, Bradbury Robinson, who threw the game’s first legal forward pass.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Baen No Longer Alone

In light of Tor Books’ announcement that it is getting rid of digital rights management (DRM) in July, the folks at Baen Books have followed-up by announcing their entire line of ebooks will also be DRM-free – just exactly as it has been ever since the late 1990s. 

Baen publisher Toni Weisskopf commented:

We expect this strategy to be a winning formula for Tor as it has been for more than a decade for Baen. We heartily welcome Tor/Forge to the DRM-free fold.

Baen Books founder Jim Baen, who died in 2006, was known to be a passionate advocate of ebooks without DRM, according to Baen editor Tony Daniel: 

We have mugs and hats from years ago still around the office with our on-going ebook slogan written on them: “Alone in the Fight Against Encryption.”

Baen Books currently offers well 1,500 DRM-free titles at, and almost every title is available in all current file formats and many legacy formats as well, including Mobi, Kindle, Palm, EPUB, Nook, Stanza, Sony LRF, Rocketbook , RTF, MS Reader, and HTML Online versions.

The full press release follows the jump.

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Jane Yolen on YA Hugo Possibility

Fans are divided over the proposal to add a Hugo category for YA books. No matter your opinion, it’s worth hearing what a leading YA author thinks about the idea.

Jane Yolen has enjoyed success in many literary categories and is renowned among YA audiences. Craig Miller had an opportunity to ask for her views. Here’s what she said about adding a YA book category to the Hugos:

All the YA and children’s book writers I know who do sf and fantasy WANT a Hugo within a designated category and don’t feel it would ghettoize the award at all. It will also make it much easier to “sell” sf/fantasy books to the teachers and librarians. They LOVE to see award stickers and lists of award winners and buy from those lists. It would make a huge difference.

[Thanks to Craig Miller for the story.]

How Rich Was Smaug?

After his first attempt was pilloried by fantasy fans and bean-counters alike, Forbes writer Michael Noer has vastly increased his estimate of the value of Smaug’s horde. See “How Much is a Dragon Worth, Revisited”

Citing errors in everything from the value of the “Arkenstone of Thrain” to the price of mithril armor, Fictional 15 fans critiqued nearly every aspect of my calculation, usually concluding that I had vastly underestimated the old flamethrower’s net worth. One reader, gvbezoff, pegged Smaug’s wealth to be $870 billion, calling it a “conservative estimate.” For context, that’s about 12.5 times richer than Carlos Slim Helu, the planet’s richest non-fictional being.

[Thanks to Janice Gelb for the story.]

Vick: At Larry McMurtry’s Bookstore

By Edd Vick: I just got back to Seattle from a three-day visit to Larry McMurtry’s bookstore, Booked Up, in Archer City, Texas, with Tom Whitmore and (the other) Karen Anderson. We had a really fine time and I found a lot of books, including volumes by John Kendrick Bangs, August Derleth, and Walter Machen. Luckily, they ship. Tom found a folio of prints signed by its curator, his grandmother!

Booked Up fills four storefronts scattered around the central square of Archer City, which Google tells me has a population of 1,791. One store is entirely filled with foreign books and their translations, and pre-1925 books. Every night we would drive to Wichita Falls, a half-hour away, to eat.

I felt like it would be vital to visit the store soon, since there had been rumblings about it closing up for years. McMurtry is getting up there in years, and the bookstore biz isn’t what it used to be. When I saw on their minimalist website that they were having a 25% off sale, I figured the sooner the better. Our trip could not have been more timely. The word is just now getting out, and I think the signs went up the day we got there: they will be auctioning off three-fourths of their books in early August. They’ll give up three of the store locations and concentrate what remains of their stock in the largest building.

We also shopped at the second-best used bookstore in Texas, Recycled Books in Denton. Soon, they’ll be in first place.

Octavia Butler Ebooks Coming

Open Road Media will publish 10 ebooks by Octavia E. Butler — including Nebula Award-winner Parable of the Talents and the Xenogensis trilogy — in electronic form for the first time.

Betsy Mitchell, Open Road’s strategic advisor for science fiction and fantasy, announced they will publish Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents, Wild Seed, Mind of My Mind, Clay’s Ark, Patternmaster, Dawn, Adulthood Rites, Imago, and the short fiction collection Bloodchild and Other Stories. The ebooks will come with an illustrated biography featuring never-before-seen photos.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Tor’s DRM-atic Announcement

Tom Doherty Associates, publishers of Tor, Forge, Orb, Starscape, and Tor Teen, will make their entire list of e-books DRM-free by July. The imprints had a combined 30 New York Times bestsellers in 2011.

Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies are designed to give the seller control over the transferability of content after it has been delivered to the consumer. E-books in the Amazon Kindle format, for example, are readable on that company’s devices, but not those of its rivals. DRM is justified as an anti-piracy measure.

“Our authors and readers have been asking for this for a long time,” said president and publisher Tom Doherty. “They’re a technically sophisticated bunch, and DRM is a constant annoyance to them. It prevents them from using legitimately-purchased e-books in perfectly legal ways, like moving them from one kind of e-reader to another.”

Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing reacted by breezily predicting –

[More] to follow, I’m sure; I’ve had contact with very highly placed execs at two more of the big six publishers…

On the other hand, Laura Hazard Owen at CNN Money questions whether Macmillan itself, the big company that owns Tor, will adopt this policy across the board  —

One should not necessarily infer, from the changes at Tor, that Macmillan is close to dropping DRM across all of its imprints. This decision could be related to competition within the genre (sci-fi/fantasy publishers Baen and Angry Robot are also DRM-free) or to Doherty’s specific role at Macmillan.

Presumably, John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan, who made the final decision to drop DRM on ebooks from Tor/Forge (according to Charles Stross) will watch how it plays out.

A move affecting only the sf/fantasy market still benefits fans wanting the freedom to store and manage their ebook collections on any device they choose.

One of Tor’s top authors, John Scalzi, is in favor of the change. He thinks DRM is an unnecessary impediment to sales. 

Does this mean it’s easier for someone to violate my copyright? It does. But most people don’t want to violate my copyright. Most people just want to own their damn books. Now they will. I support that.

Charles Stross has posted arguments he was invited to make to Macmillan brass about the decision to drop DRM. He admits DRM makes no difference to those who buy a few top bestsellers a year, however, he told execs it makes a big difference to some of the most devoted book buyers.

The voracious 20-150 books/year readers are a small but significant market segment. These people buy lots of titles. They frequently have specialized interests which they pursue in depth, and a large number of authors who, although not prominent, they will buy everything by… Previously they bought paperbacks and hardcovers from specialist genre bookstores or, failing that, from large B&N/Borders branches. They will go to whatever retailer they can find online, and they find DRM a royal pain in the ass — indeed, a deterrent to buying ebooks at all.

It’s no secret he’s talking about sf fans, since he mentions us explicitly a few lines later…

Creebs in Space

Andre Bomanis in The Space Review asks ”Does Star Trek make space travel look too easy?” His essay begins —

In an interview with a reporter from the Associated Press, Scott Pace, the current director of the Space Policy Institute at The George Washington University and a former NASA associate administrator, was asked to comment on the April 12th failure of the North Korean rocket launch. He noted that sending a vehicle into space is still a significant technical challenge, and added, “In many ways, the worst enemy of NASA is Star Trek… Captain Picard says ‘engage’ and the ship moves. And people think ‘How hard can this be?’” Filmmaker James Cameron supposedly made a similar comment about Star Trek’s depiction of space travel several years ago.

Sounds like arrant nonsense to me. Did somebody forget about those literally dozens of episodes in which “the engines canna stand the strain” or depend on a crisis exacerbated by some other technical breakdown?

And how odd it is to see this coming from someone like Andre Bomanis, who is well aware of the show’s intricacies, having been (so it says in the endnotes) “a consultant, writer, and eventually a producer for Star Trek, [who] has written or co-written some 20 produced episodes of Voyager and Enterprise.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the link.]