(1) AUTHORS CALL OUT DRASTIC PROBLEMS WITH KINDLE DIRECT PUBLISHING. Several indie romance authors recently found themselves banned by Kindle Direct Publishing with no real explanation, including paranormal and SF authors such as Ruby Dixon, author of Ice Planet Barbarians. She’s a successful writer who has been reviewed in mainstream media, so this was very odd. Even when Amazon reinstated the authors and their books, some say they had to fight to get their royalties restored as well.
Lexi Ostrow, another author who experienced this, blogged about it extensively. “The Story of Amazon & The Destruction of a career – USA Today Bestselling Author Lexi Ostrow” is the first of three posts.
… The last 30ish hours have been very hard for me. Somehow, I offended Amazon’s KDP system and my entire career has been taken down. This blog is my attempt to share only the facts, while leaving out any opinions and emotions. At present, 43 books have been unpublished, over $300 in advertising dollars on a new release from 12.20.21 are wasted, and over 700 reviews & ratings are now gone. All of this occurred just 24 hours after my latest release, which was the first release I’ve had since last Christmas, due to fighting a mystery illness and COVID parenting a toddler – writing took a backseat.
Please consider sharing this blog on your social media. I want to effect change within Amazon more than I want my career back. If enough of us make noise, it’s possible this can all be changed….
As I am human, my next course of action included breaking down. I have been a published author – indie house, small presses, and self – for just over 6 years. I have been included in or solo’d in 54 novels + the two preorders.
Per the email, my books were gone. My reviews were gone. My royalties would not be paid – yes, you read that correctly, Amazon was going to keep money I made on all my BACKLIST titles because the preorder raised a flag. I also cannot create another KDP account to begin again (which is fair if I’d done what I was accused of doing or anything else).
I took to social media for help, because my account was blocked so I couldn’t “contact us” beyond a form fill and I wasn’t content with that. To see the Facebook post, click here.
Susan Lyn says she suffered the same fate: “Writing and Life”.
In unrelated yet just as devastating news, I seem to have angered the gods of Amazon and all books have been purged from the behemoth. They seem to be doing a massive author purge, some pretty big names have also been affected.
Never fear, I’m in the process of sending all of my previously published titles wide (to be available everywhere but Amazon) and will update links to where they are available.
Ruby Dixon’s books have since been reinstated.
Lexi Ostrow’s Amazon author page also shows her Kindle books are back, but it was a struggle every step of the way as she explains in two follow-up posts. “Amazon & The Destruction of a Career Part 2” on December 26 contains screenshots of more emails exchanged with the Amazon Content Review Team. “Amazon & The Death of a Career – the Finale” on December 29 says that when Amazon restored her books, they initially did not restore the royalties in her account. Later, Ostrow got a call from someone from KDP’s Executive Customer Relations that her royalties also had been restored. Ostrow’s final post includes these lessons learned:
What did I learn from the call?
- The KDP content team has no phone access because “they aren’t client facing so it isn’t an issue”. I assure you, I let him know how very much it was/is an issue
- Executives have no idea why the content team does what they do – AKA NO NOTES!!
- He found me via Twitter, not via any of my emails or attempted calls.
- The KDP content team is overseas and doesn’t interact with clients. I was very verbal that this is a problem.
- I was told there would be an investigation into why I was ignored so many times and not given proper responses.
- That while nice, I will never put all my eggs in one basket. While I will remain on Amazon for the exposure, I am 100% wide.
- Our fight to fix this process is not yet done, but I’m still trying to understand what will help as a petition merely expresses a desire for something, but we all know Amazon KNOWS their policy is shit.
(2) WEBB TELESCOPE IN THE SHADE. Yahoo! reports:“NASA’s new space telescope ‘hunky-dory’ after problems fixed”.
NASA’s new space telescope is on the verge of completing the riskiest part of its mission — unfolding and tightening a huge sunshade — after ground controllers fixed a pair of problems, officials said Monday.
The tennis court-size sunshield on the James Webb Space Telescope is now fully open and in the process of being stretched tight. The operation should be complete by Wednesday.
… The sunshield is vital for keeping Webb’s infrared-sensing instruments at subzero temperatures, as they scan the universe for the first stars and galaxies, and examine the atmospheres of alien worlds for possible signs of life.
Getting the sunshield extended last Friday “was really a huge achievement for us,” said project manager Bill Ochs. All 107 release pins opened properly.
But there have been a few obstacles.
Flight controllers in Maryland had to reset Webb’s solar panel to draw more power. The observatory — considered the successor to the aging Hubble Space Telescope — was never in any danger, with a constant power flow, said Amy Lo, a lead engineer for the telescope’s prime contractor, Northrop Grumman….
They also repointed the telescope to limit sunlight on six overheating motors. The motors cooled enough to begin securing the sunshield, a three-day process that can be halted if the problem crops up again, officials said.
“Everything is hunky-dory and doing well now,” Lo said.
(3) HARD TO SWALLOW. Cora Buhlert reviews the opening episode of the new series: “The Book of Boba Fett finds itself a ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’”. Beware spoilers.
…“Stranger in a Strange Land”, the first episode of The Book of Boba Fett continues where both The Mandalorian and Return of the Jedi left off. Because the scenes of Boba Fett establishing himself as the premiere crime lord on Tatooine are interspersed with flashbacks of Boba Fett’s past, including his escape from the Sarlaac’s digestive tract….
(4) ROUTES. In San Marino, the Huntington’s “Mapping Fiction” exhibit will open January 15: “Exhibition to Explore the Construction of Fictional Worlds through Maps and Novels”.
On the occasion of the centennial of James Joyce’s Ulysses, “Mapping Fiction” includes works by Octavia E. Butler, William Faulkner, Jack and Charmian London, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Mark Twain, among others…
…Other featured objects in this section include an Arion Press artist book edition of Edwin A. Abbott’s satirical novella Flatland, a Romance of Many Dimensions; J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy; George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones; maps from the Octavia E. Butler archive related to her Earthseed novels; and a map for The Mortmere Stories of Christopher Isherwood and Edward Upward.
(5) CINEMATIC CLI-FI. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Sonia Rao interviews directors of films that deal with climate change. Most of the films discussed, including Wall-E, The Day After Tomorrow, and Mad Max: Fury Road–are sf. Kim Stanley Robinson is briefly interviewed in the section on Mad Max: Fury Road. “Climate change is the greatest threat to humanity. Here’s how filmmakers have tried to make sense of it all.”
… Things fall apart rapidly in “The Day After Tomorrow.” Soon after climate scientist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) says at a United Nations conference that climate change could lead to an ice age, a storm system develops and threatens to destroy the Northern Hemisphere. Jack’s son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his friends seek shelter at the New York Public Library, where they burn books for warmth as snow mounts against the building’s outer walls.
Like its peers in the disaster genre, “The Day After Tomorrow” is consumed by the special effects involved in depicting calamity. Emmerich says his critics often forget that “when you make a movie, it has to be dramatic in a certain way.” People bought tickets to be stunned. This was the guy who made “Independence Day,” after all….
(6) TODD SULLIVAN. Space Cowboy Books presents an online reading and interview with Todd Sullivan author of the fantasy trilogy The Windshine Chronicles on January 25 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Free registration here.
(7) NIGHTMARES ALLEZ. Hear from the legendary director in the Maltins’ podcast: Maltin on Movies: Guillermo del Toro.
Guillermo del Toro is a sorcerer who places no limits on his imagination. His new film, Nightmare Alley, now playing in theaters, is an exquisitely rendered film noir that stands alongside his earlier work (The Devil’s Backbone, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water) with the promise of more to come—like his “take” on Pinocchio. Leonard and Jessie are longtime devotees and are thrilled to share this uniquely eloquent and passionate creator with all of you.
(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1993 — [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-nine years ago, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in syndication. The fourth spin-off of the original series (counting the animated run) was the first developed after the death of Roddenberry as created by Rick Berman and Michael Piller. It starred Avery Brooks, René Auberjonois, Terry Farrell, Cirroc Lofton, Colm Meaney, Armin Shimerman, Alexander Siddig, Nana Visitor and Michael Dorn. It would run for seven seasons and one hundred seventy-six episodes. It would be nominated for two Hugo Awards but wouldn’t win either of them.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 3, 1892 – J.R.R. Tolkien. Yes, It’s the Birthday of J.R.R. Tolkien. I thought I’d do something different, so I asked Filers and other folk I knew what their favorite works by him were.
Peter Beagle says:
‘You mean my favorite writing by Tolkien? Probably the story of Beren and Luthien, which I’ve always loved – or maybe the one now published as The Children of Hurin. One or the other.’
Cora Buhlert is one of three Filers who gave an answer:
‘The first Tolkien I actually read was The Hobbit, in an East German edition with the illustrations from the Soviet edition. I got it as a present from my Great-Aunt Metel from East Germany, who often sent me books for Christmas and my birthday. It’s still somewhere in a box on my parents’ attic.
‘I liked The Hobbit a lot, but I didn’t know there were more stories set in Middle Earth, until several years later, when I spotted The Lord of the Rings at a classmate’s place and borrowed it from him. As a teenager, I had a thing for mythology and read my way through the Nibelungenlied, the Odyssey and the Iliad, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, etc… Lord of the Rings fit right into that context and I enjoyed it even more than I had enjoyed The Hobbit.
‘I didn’t read the essay “On Fairy Stories” until university, when I cited it in a paper I wrote for a class. Now I had been educated in an environment which considered the traditional Grimm’s fairy tales too brutal and unsuitable for children (luckily, my parents ignored that and told/read them to me anyway) and which viewed fantasy and science fiction or any kind of genre fiction as escapist trash and potentially harmful. I got regurgitated version of this from my teachers at school and in university I was exposed to the 1970s leftwing pop culture criticism where those ideas had originated. However, I didn’t believe that fairy tales were bad and that SFF was escapist trash, so I was thrilled to read “On Fairy Stories” and find that Tolkien, who surely was considered beyond reproach, agreeing with me.’
Lis Carey was our next Filer:
‘I think I have to say that The Hobbit is my favorite Tolkien. I really do identify with Bilbo’s desire to stay home, and enjoy his cozy hobbit hole and its comforts, in his comfortable, familiar neighborhood. Yet, against his better judgment, he is lured into going on an adventure (always a bad idea, adventures) with the dwarves, and finds out just how resilient he is, his unexpected bravery, his ingenuity when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges (“…he was chased by wolves, lost in the forest, escaped in a barrel from the elf-king’s hall…”) (yes, I love The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins, too.) He finds resources in himself that he never suspected–and at the end, he still goes home, to deal with his annoying relatives and enjoy his home. None of this “and now I will abandon everything I ever cared about, to be a completely different person in a different life.”‘
It’s been a long time for Ellen Datlow: since she read his nibs. so she says:
‘I haven’t read him in so long I don’t remember–I loved all three of the LOTR trilogy and The Hobbit but don’t remember exactly why.’
Pamela Dean says she “unreservedly loves The Lord of the Rings, the translation of ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,’ and ‘On Fairy-Stories’.”
Once again, The Hobbit proves popular as Jasper Fforde says it’s:
‘The Hobbit, because it’s the only one I’ve read – I liked it a great deal but was never really into spells, wizards and trolls, so never took it any further.’
Elizabeth Hand gave a lengthy reply:
‘I’d probably have to say The Lord of the Rings, which I’ve read it countless times over the last forty years. It imprinted on me at such an early age — I had the good luck to read it as a kid in the 1960s, when it was still a cult novel, and you had a real sense that you were in some secret, marvelous group of insiders who had visited a place not everyone knew about. Maybe kids discovering it today still have that feeling, in spite of the success of the movies (which I love). I hope so. But I also find that, as I’ve gotten older, I’m far more drawn to reread other works, especially in The Complete History of Middle Earth and The Silmarillion (we have very long Tolkien shelves here).
‘I love the Beren & Luthien material, and also the various accounts of Turin, which recently were republished as The Children of Hurin. The dark tone of all of it, the tragic cast and also the recurring motifs involving elves and mortal lovers — great stuff. It doesn’t serve the function of comfort reading that LOTR does, and because I’m not so familiar with the stories I can still read them with something like my original sense of discovery.
‘The breadth and depth of Tolkien’s achievement really becomes apparent when one reads The Complete History — 13 volumes, including an Index. Every time I go back to them I think, I could be learning Greek, or Ancient Egyptian, something that has to do with the real world. But then, I’m continually so amazed by what this one man came up with, the intensity and single mindedness of his obsession. And I get sucked into it all over again.’
Gwyneth Jones says her favorite work is The Lord Of The Rings:
‘Why — Because I read it when I was a child, in bed with bronchitis. My mother brought me the three big volumes, successively, from the library, I’d never met anything like it, and it was just wonderful entertainment for a sick child. I grew out of LOTR, but will never forget that thrill. More why: I’ve never felt the slightest temptation to open the massive prequels and spin-offs of Middle Earth fantasy, I just don’t have that gene, and I feel the Tolkien industry doesn’t need my money. And the other works are either too scholarly, or everything about them is represented in LOTR anyway. I admired ‘Tree and Leaf’ when I read it, long ago, but I’m not sure if I still would.’
OR Melling says:
‘As a child, I loved reading fantasy – CS Lewis, E Nesbit, JM Barrie and so on – but when the librarian offered me The Hobbit and said “it’s about little men with hairy feet” I recall giving her one of those withering looks only children can give. Why on earth would I want to read a book about men with hairy feet? I did finally read The Hobbit when I was 12, after I had read The Lord of the Rings, and discovered that my initial suspicion was correct. I did not like the book at all, particularly its depiction of the elves. This was a great surprise, of course, considering that I had absolutely fallen in love with The Lord of the Rings. It is still one of my favourite books to this day. Aside from The Silmarillion – which I endured like all faithful fans – I have not read any other of Tolkien’s works.’
Catherynne M. Valente picked The Silmarillion:
‘I love The Lord of the Rings. I was once a hardcore Sindarin-speaking LoTR geek, in the days of my misbegotten youth. It is a vast and important book. But I have to say that I feel the book is incomplete without The Silmarillion, which provides a depth and mythology, an understanding of the forces at work, a breadth and beauty that LoTR does not have on its own. I am one of the few who loves The Silmarillion for itself, devoured it in one sitting, had no trouble with the archaic language. It should get more love than it does.’
Our final Filer is Paul Weimer who states:
‘I am going to go with a sidewise choice. While LOTR and the Hobbit are some of my earliest and most beloved of all SFF that I have ever read, the piece by Tolkien that comes back to my mind again and again is the story of Beren and Luthien. We get the story in a number of ways and forms :the small fragments we see in Lord of the Rings (or the tiny bit in the movie), the longer tale told in the Silmarillion, and the alternate and evolving versions seen in the extended histories of Middle Earth and his letters, In the end this love story between man and elf, mortal and immortal, is in many ways THE story of Tolkien, more than the story of a Hobbit, or of the One Ring. It is very telling that Tolkien and his wife’s gravestone name check themselves as Beren and Luthien. It moved me the first time I read the full story, and it moves me still.’
For Jane Yolen, it’s The Hobbit:
‘While it’s true that The Lord of the Rings is his masterwork and The Hobbit his first attempt at writing (and that, some say witheringly, for children) I have to admit I adore The Hobbit. It has adventure, wonderful characters, fine pacing and spacing, some really scary bits (my daughter ran screaming from the room when the trolls grabbed the ponies, and she refused to hear the rest of it.) And if I could ever write a chapter as good as the Riddles in the Dark chapter I would never have to write again.’
(10) COMIC SECTION.
- Bizarro stretches the truth in a comic way.
(11) FLIPPED SCRIPTS. “Premee Mohamed on turning science fiction tropes on their head” is one of the segments on the January 2 edition of CBC’s The Sunday Magazine with Piya Chattopadhyay. Listen to the profile at the link.
(12) THE TIME OF HIS LIFE. People always want to know how a successful writer does things. John Scalzi obliges with an account of how he budgets his time: “In Theory, My Work Day” at Whatever.
Now that the holidays have been packed away and we are back into the swing of things, I know that some of you have had an interest in how I manage my work days. The answer to this varies, largely depending on whether I’m working on a novel or not. However, as it happens, I am working on a novel again, and also, I’ve decided to put a bit more structure into my day. So in theory, here’s how my work days should go in 2022….
(13) THE AMAZON PRIME DIRECTIVE. Jeff Foust reviews an Amazon Prime documentary about Shat’s space trip for The Space Review: “Shatner in Space”.
… There is not a lot of drama in the show itself. When winds force a one-day delay in the flight, Shatner briefly ponders if the universe is trying to tell him that he shouldn’t go, but the moment passes. There’s a brief hold in the countdown because of a software issue that threatens a scrub (“You’ve got to be [bleeping] kidding,” Shatner says in the capsule) but that, too, quickly passes. There’s some footage inside the capsule during the flight itself, although not much more than what was shown during and immediately after the flight….
(14) MALLEUS MALEFICARUM. “How do you spot a witch? This notorious 15th-century book gave instructions – and helped execute thousands of women” – The Conversation has the story.
Books have always had the power to cast a spell over their readers – figuratively.
But one book that was quite popular from the 15th to 17th centuries, and infamously so, is literally about spells: what witches do, how do identify them, how to get them to confess, and how to bring them to swift punishment.
As fear of witches reached a fever pitch in Europe, witch hunters turned to the “Malleus Maleficarum,” or “Hammer of Witches,” for guidance. The book’s instructions helped convict some of the tens of thousands of people – almost all women – who were executed during the period. Its bloody legacy stretched to North America, with 25 supposed “witches” killed in Salem, Massachusetts, in the late 1600s.
(15) FUSION EXPERIMENT SETS RECORD. “China switches on ‘artificial sun’ that is five times hotter than the real thing” reports MSN.com.
A nuclear fusion reactor in China has set a new record for sustained high temperatures after running five times hotter than the sun for more than 17 minutes, according to state media.
The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), known as an “artificial sun”, reached temperatures of 70,000,000C during the experiments, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
The ultimate aim of developing the artificial sun device is to deliver near-limitless clean energy by mimicking the natural reactions occurring within stars.
“The recent operation lays a solid scientific and experimental foundation towards the running of a fusion reactor,” said Gong Xianzu, a researcher at the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who led the latest experiment.
The EAST project, which has already cost China more than £700bn, will run the experiment until June….
(16) TRUTH. Via RedWombat.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Chris Barkley, Anne Marble, Olav Rokne, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]