Pixel Scroll 4/10/16 Filers, Scrollers, Pixelmen, Lend Me Your Ears; I Come To Bury Hugo, Not To Praise Him

(1) HARRY AND THE PIRATES. Your average author can only wish they got this level of service. Reuters has the story — “Defense Against the Dark Arts: UK spies guarded against Harry Potter leak”.

Usually concerned with top secret matters affecting national security, Britain’s eavesdropping spy agency GCHQ was also on the lookout for leaks of a yet-to-be-published Harry Potter book, its publisher has revealed.

Shortly before the publication of one of the volumes in J.K. Rowling’s seven-part wizarding saga, with millions of fans worldwide at a fever pitch of anticipation, publisher Nigel Newton received an unexpected phone call.

“I remember the British spy eavesdropping station GCHQ rang me up and said ‘we’ve detected an early copy of this book on the Internet’,” Newton told Australia’s ABC Radio in an interview last week that gained attention in Britain on Sunday.

“I got him to read a page to our editor and she said ‘no, that’s a fake’,” said Newton, founder and chief executive of Potter publishing house Bloomsbury, describing the spies as “good guys”.

A spokesman for GCHQ said: “We do not comment on our defense against the dark arts.”

(2) MORE EAVESDROPPING. R. A. MacAvoy lets us listen in on her “Conversations with People Who Aren’t There”.

The reason I was convinced my imaginary conversations were universal to the human condition was simply my embarrassment knowing that, since I had constructed my verbal respondents, when we had a difference of opinion – a necessarily frequent happening – I always won the debate.  This, in itself, was so much a stacking of the deck, or loading of the dice of the disagreement, I would hate for anyone to know I was doing it.  It was so much like playing chess with one’s self and cheating.  And I assumed everyone else on the planet felt as I did about it, and so, from an attempt not to appear the scoundrel I was, I kept my mouth shut (for once) about the existence of this wild and crazy inner life.  I was certain any other person would do the same.  So I have continued, for approximately sixty years, to live this way, mumbling to myself or to the non-human creatures about me, or even the furniture. And thinking every other soul did also.

It was only perhaps a week ago I asked Ron whether he did not spend his hours as I did.  I expected him to answer “Of course,” or simply smile knowingly and shrug.  Instead he looked at me intently and said “No. Not so often.”

This was quite a surprise.  It was, in fact, a re-set of my expectations.  The human condition was not entirely as I had thought it was.  Not for all these years.

So I must re-evaluate my life of inner debate.  I have not just been rigging the game of internal conversation.  It seems I invented the game before I rigged it.  My ego-centricity is far more overwhelming than I thought.  I am not proud of myself.

Nonetheless, there have been some interesting conversations over the years.  If I must take the blame for doing the thing, I can at least describe how I have done it.

The most common repeated dialogue I have is with any film or television actor who pronounces words in a way I disagree with.  Of course I am arguing with the character, not the real actor, but as no one is there, it doesn’t matter.

(3) CAPCLAVE 2017. WSFA has announced that Ken Liu will be a Capclave GoH in 2017.

(4) LOVELY ROOM, SLIGHT DRAFT. Supposedly this happened — “Tim Peake Leaves TripAdvisor Review For The International Space Statuion’s New ‘Space Hotel’” — although neither Steven H Silver nor I have been able to find it on the actual TripAdvisor site.

Bigelow Aerospace is trialling a new “space hotel” this week, attaching their new inflatable hotel room to the side of the International Space Station to test the possibility of having a holiday resort in Earth’s orbit.

The inflatable “BEAM” module is made of a top secret material that may make holidaying in space a reality, but first it’s being tested aboard the ISS.

Not one to ignore a chance at giving his two cents to the people on terra firma, British astronaut Tim Peake has left a review for the “space hotel” on TripAdvisor.

(5) KEPLER IN TROUBLE? From NASA — “Mission Manager Update: Kepler Spacecraft in Emergency Mode”.

During a scheduled contact on Thursday, April 7, mission operations engineers discovered that the Kepler spacecraft was in Emergency Mode (EM). EM is the lowest operational mode and is fuel intensive. Recovering from EM is the team’s priority at this time.

The mission has declared a spacecraft emergency, which provides priority access to ground-based communications at the agency’s Deep Space Network.

Initial indications are that Kepler entered EM approximately 36 hours ago, before mission operations began the maneuver to orient the spacecraft to point toward the center of the Milky Way for the K2 mission’s microlensing observing campaign.

The spacecraft is nearly 75 million miles from Earth, making the communication slow. Even at the speed of light, it takes 13 minutes for a signal to travel to the spacecraft and back.

The last regular contact with the spacecraft was on April. 4.  The spacecraft was in good health and operating as expected.

(6) HOW MUCH IS THAT NOVEL IN THE WINDOW? Fynbospress has an intriguing post about indie book pricing at Mad Genius Club – “Know your reader demographics: Pricing”

2. The discount crowd ($0.99 – $5.99) Believe it or not, this is a different group from the Free Crowd. There’s plenty of overlap, but it’s a different crowd. Unlike the hardcore free-only, the 99 cent crowd will buy books cheap. If they’re long-term broke, they’re likely to use some of the tools to track your sales and only buy when the price drops. These are the people who keep all the used bookstores in business. At this price point, you’re competing with used paperbacks from McKay’s Powell’s, Amazon… you are NOT competing with new books from B&N or Book a Million.

How big is this market? I don’t know if there’s a way to tell – certainly it hasn’t been measured. But it’s been large enough to support thousands of used book stores across the US alone (much less the charity shops in the UK), and to propel low-pricing indie authors into millions sold.

You can develop fans here. If you stay in this price range, they’ll buy everything you put out the moment they discover it. (Not the same thing as the moment you release it, and that’s why a mailing list / social media presence / targeted advertising is a good thing.) You can also use this range to tempt people into impulse buying your works, in conjunction with targeted advertising.

(7) TO THE FINNISH. Today’s book review on NPR: “Frodo, Bilbo, Kullervo: Tolkien’s Finnish Adventure”.

In 1913, the 21-year-old Ronald Tolkien should have been studying for his exams. He was halfway through his Classics degree — the subject all the best students did at Oxford in those days. Getting admitted to Oxford on a scholarship was a great opportunity for young Ronald, an orphan who had always struggled to stay out of poverty. A Classics degree would have set him up for almost any career he chose. But he wasn’t studying. Instead, he was trying to teach himself Finnish.

Why would a brilliant student with so much at stake let himself go astray at such a crucial time? There were two reasons: love and the Kalevala.

Tolkien’s twin obsessions at the time were his future wife, Edith Bratt, and the Kalevala, the national epic of Finland.

(8) CLASSIC ZINE BIDS FAREWELL. Steven H Silver is retiring his fanzine Argentus, a three-time Hugo nominee.

I’ve decided that Argentus is no longer being published.  I had planned on doing an issue last year (and didn’t) and then wrapping it up this year, but with chairing three conventions in 11 months, Worldcon programming, surgery, and life in general, I don’t see it happening this year either.  If I do another fanzine, it will be a different creature.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 10, 1953: Feature length, full color, 3-D movie premiered in NYC:  House of Wax starring Vincent Price.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • April 10, 1929: One of the all-time greats, Max von Sydow, is born in Sweden.
  • Born April 10, 19?? — James H. Burns, prolific File 770 columnist.
  • Born April 10, 1953 — David Langford, Ansible editor.

(12) DISTILLED WRITING ADVICE. Lit Reactor has compiled “22 of the Best Single Sentences on Writing”. The most contrarian comes from G. K. Chesterton: “I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.”

(13) FESTIVAL OF BOOKS. The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books wrapped up on Sunday.

Mercedes Lackey was on hand.

Not sf, but I’m a fan!

A Sabaa Tahir quote —

(14) AWESOME ANIMATION. Official music video for Jane Bordeaux’s ‘Ma’agalim’. In a forgotten old penny arcade, a wooden doll is stuck in place and time.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, JJ, Will R., and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

141 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 4/10/16 Filers, Scrollers, Pixelmen, Lend Me Your Ears; I Come To Bury Hugo, Not To Praise Him

  1. > “I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.”

    This is perhaps the best writing advice I have ever seen. Which unfortunately leaves me unable to figure out how to follow it without creating a universe-destroying paradox.

  2. Re 8

    Awww nuts. Argentus is the only “traditional” fanzine I’ve ever been been asked to contribute something to and subsequently published in.

    Re Discounted books.
    I accumulate books faster than I can read, but its hard for me to resist a temporary dip in price of a “full price” ebook down into the discount level. By “full price”, I mean an ebook that is typically $8-$10. I’ve picked up, as yet unread, many books at that temporary discount. The Library at Mount Char, mentioned here in some of the Filers’ readings, was grabbed at that price. Other grabs I’ve gotten in the last couple of months in that vein are Midnight Riot, Sailing to Sarantium (mainly to have it in ebook, I long since have and loved the Sarantine duology), The Tigress of Fonti (because I do love me some history), and A Crown for Cold Silver (also mentioned here by filers)

    Yeah, I buy books like popcorn.

    Speaking of e-books, Amazon is set to debut the next generation of Kindles this week.

  3. Today’s read — Pollen, by Jeff Noon

    I actually found this one disappointing. Vurt did all kinds of interesting and new and original things, and then Pollen … did them again, with a less interesting plot and characters I cared about less. It’s true that some things were examined more deeply, like where the Shadows and dogpeople came from. But the characters seemed to act according to the dictates of the plot rather than according to what I actually believed they would or wouldn’t do, the end kind of fizzled out, and by the time it had gotten there I didn’t really much care what happened anyway. Oh, well.

  4. E-pricing:

    I loathe the “$2.99 short story” phenomenon, but I understand why it’s there. Basically, Amazon created it through what I hope were unintended consequences. Set a price floor for 70% royalties at $2.99, ignore page count, and incentivize exclusivity and participation in Unlimited, and that’s what pops out: short works at $2.99.

    Serialization also becomes viable with this model, for two reasons. First, at least theoretically, you can put each segment up for sale as it’s done, while you’re still writing the rest. (“Hey, it worked for Stephen King with The Green Mile.” “Are you him?”) Second, you can then justify a higher price for the collection by counting it as a discount over the pieces.

    Checking page counts, even estimated ones, is critical for a reader who doesn’t want to get burned. If you don’t have page counts, check word counts. If your ebook store provides neither, they’re derelict in their duty… but odds are good that you can find that data at Amazon and/or Smashwords.

    Speaking personally, I’m near the end of the third book in an indie series of five (so far). I heard about the first and picked it up as a freebie. The next two were priced at four and five bucks each, but an omnibus of the first three were priced at eight… and I found that collection on sale at Kobo, so I picked it up. Pretty solid stuff, and I’ll probably get the remaining two (five bucks each) fairly soon.

    That’s how pricing ought to work. Give ’em a taste cheap or free, so there’s a low initial risk. Maybe give a break on the next book or two, but go to standard pricing for the rest. Tricking people into buying a few pages by calling it a “book” works ONCE, and then they never trust you again. If you’re in it for a quick few bucks, maybe that’s viable… but if you’re trying to build a solid reputation, that’s the surest way I can think of to fail.

    With tradpub, it occurs to me that I’ve mostly come full circle in the past couple of decades. I used to buy paperbacks and used-whatever-format because that’s what I could afford. Later I started buying hardcover when possible to have it Right Now and in a durable format… plus, getting a good discount during the first couple of weeks was a good deal. Now, I’ll buy a few premium releases when they initially come out, but more often I’ll let ’em sit in my “available” or “A-list available” lists until either the price drops with MMPB release or the Need To Read That Specific Book overwhelms me. Otherwise… hey, I’ve got over 900 books on my Kobo, a ton of books that need a few touchups, several ebook bundles that need inventoried, and loads of e-comics I could be reading. I can afford to wait for a price drop, especially when the initial price is over ten bucks. I’ve effectively become a paperback-and-bargain buyer again.

    But then, once acquired, one never really does lose the need to hunt bargains, eh? My mother still tells the story of the time I got two whole chickens for a quarter because I went to the store at the right time…

  5. FYI, Today’s birthdays (April 11th) includes Jim (James Patrick) Kelly, of Think Like a Dinosaur fame.

  6. I love the 99-2.99 sales that happen, That’s where the majority of my book purchases come from. One of the many authors I follow on Twitter will announce said sal along with a blurb of why they like the book, and I pretty much just pull the trigger. Does that mean I have a ridiculous eTBR pile? Sure, but I consider it money well spent even if I don’t ever read the thing.

    @Paul , which means that there’s about a 98% chance that I’ll be purchasing/pre-ordering a new e-reader this week. I am waiting with bated breath.

  7. @Alex
    Indeed, there IS the factor that giving the author a sale (more so than the actual dollars me thinks) is a note of support.

  8. @Paul, there are some authors whose works I buy knowing that I’m never going to read them, but just because they seem to be pretty cool in the interactions I’ve had with them, so I don’t mind throwing some money into their jars. I’ll also buy books and support causes because of assholes telling me I shouldn’t.

    Also, as I look into the New Kindle rumors, I’m not being thrilled with anticipation. I don’t really need a “more batteries” Kindle.

  9. Indeed, @Jim Henley, indeed. No harder to master than a children’s song:

    100 pixels to scroll on the blog,
    100 pixels to scroll.
    Click one now,
    Read it aloud,
    99 pixels to scroll on the blog.

    99 pixels to scroll on the blog….

    (The true earworm, like a chain letter, demands to be passed along. A rogue meme on a mission. I am not proud of my weakness. 😛 )

  10. A thousand pixels, nice and warm,
    Crack, crack, crack, a little scroll is born.
    Peep peep peep peep!
    Peep peep peep peep!

  11. Regarding theater pranking, there’s a scene in “City of Angels” where a flasher opens his raincoat and exposes himself to the lead actress. (With his back to the audience, naturally.) One performance, the actor decided to remove the boxer shorts he normally wore while “flashing” and replace them with a taped-on headshot (no, not that head; his actual head) of himself. He thought this would be funny. He thought this was funny right up until the actual scene, when, after he flashed, to his chagrin he realized that the tape had failed and his headshot was on the floor backstage somewhere; he’d ACTUALLY flashed the actress. Who, to her credit, reacted exactly as she’d done during all the other performances, albeit a little pinker around the ears….

  12. Simon Bisson
    Well I have just binge read all of The Wicked + The Divine to date. The third volume, Commercial Suicide goes in a different direction, filling in background on the pantheon with hints and clues as to what happens at the end of Fandemomium, with the main storyline being picked up in issue 18.

    Did that last night. I think I have whiplash from the plot twists. Excellent reading.

  13. Some years ago, I selfpubbed an ebook collecting one hundred and eleven short stories, with a total wordcount of 4520 words (according to Smashwords). I’ve always been curious how many sales I’ve lost because people have seen how few words there were, and thinking “That can’t be worth $2.99”.

  14. Argh, been ages since I checked in here!

    The Kepler story is a bit sadenning, as it really seems to be the little spaceship that could. I was at a talk given by a NASA astronomer the day they found their first earth-sized exoplanet (he’s Irish and happened to be in town, so the Science Gallery hit him up for a lecture, which fell on a fortuitous day), and I hadn’t realised until then exactly how far out we’re putting semi-permanent unmanned spacecraft.

    Hope they get full contact restored soon!

  15. I read the first volume of Paper Girls this weekend, and I am madly in love with it.

    I finished House of Shattered Wings recently, and, yeah, not my jam.

  16. New Kindle models? I’ll see what they have to offer; I’m mostly quite happy with my current Paperwhite, but I do miss the physical page-turn buttons from my older keyboard model. (I find that I’m often reading one-handed, holding the device in my left hand, and with the Paperwhite there’s no good way to turn pages without using my right hand.)

    I also tend to buy a fair number of regular-priced books when they have a temporary price-drop, this despite the fact that I could probably never buy another book for the rest of my life and still not run through my current collection. Having said that, I don’t have any (well, much) problem paying $10-$15 for the book that I want to read right now; I just tend not to buy a bunch of full-priced Kindle books in the hope/expectation that maybe I’ll read them at some point in the future.

    And yeah, having said that, I also do occasionally buy things that I don’t necessarily expect to read, just because I like the author and want to give some support.

  17. @O. Westin

    Momentary derail to say I really like @MicroSFF. Thank you for writing them!

  18. Personally, I don’t have a rule for books and prices, it all depends on the specific book and my mood. Thinking back, the first hardcover book I bought was on my first visit to my in-laws – the visit was fine, but I still badly needed a stress reliever and that made the hardcover price seem worth it. And I consistently pay more for books when I’m having a bad day than when I’m not.

  19. Re: Kepler. Spacecraft will safe themselves in case of an issue (Hubble has done it several times) but the fact that it happened during a scheduled move may not bode well: it could be a reaction wheel failure and that would likely mean the end of mission.

    I never used Kepler for my own work but I saw it fully assembled at Ball Aerospace before it launched so I have a soft spot for it. It certainly has had a successful run, regardless of what happens going forward.

  20. My thanks to everyone for the discussion of e-book pricing and other factors. As it happens, I’m about to make my first venture into indie publishing, and I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the presentation and price point. You folks have already given me several useful insights.

  21. The first problem for the Kepler craft is that it’s burning through fuel very quickly. If it runs out, it will be unable to keep its antenna pointed at Earth, and will lose contact for good.

  22. @ Jon F. Zeigler

    Yeah, what he said. I’m paying a lot of attention to (serious and considered) discussions of what e-book prices “say” to people, because I’m planning to do my first commercial self e-publication later this year. (A collection of all my skin-singer stories from the Sword and Sorceress anthologies, with a new concluding novelette.) There are a lot of advertising-semantics factors to consider. “This is material originally published by a major mainstream publisher.” “Most of this material is reprint.” “Some of this material is new.” “Yes, this is self-published, but not in a bad way.” And so forth and so on.

    I’m less concerned with “how can I maximize my income” than I am with “how can this publication help support my authorial presence as a whole”. Providing completely free material doesn’t necessarily provide that support. (I don’t have a download-counter on the current version of my website–though I’ll have one in the new improved version–but I don’t imagine that downloads of my free stories there have even topped 100 copies.) But I imagine it’s tricky to find that balance point between “what the heck, it’s cheap enough for impulse” and “what the hell, it can’t be any good at that price”.

  23. @Jon, Heather,
    I feel that the Crimson Marsupial has it about right. It does help that she has a source of distinctive cover art that stands out from the Baen inspired Self Pub crowd.

  24. That new Kindle is … um … not sure how I feel about that battery pack bulge along one side. And the Paperwhite is still serving me quite well. Still, I’ll be curious to read about the specs when it’s officially announced.

  25. @Joe H, apparently that “bulging battery pack” Is only slightly thicker than the current Paperwhite. It just looks big because the rest is so slim in comparison. I’m pretty much sold if the name Oasis means that it’s waterproof.

    Although, Kindle Oasis is a weird combination of words.

  26. I hope the name “Oasis” signifies that the new model is the ultimate thirst-quencher.

  27. HOUSE OF WAX was a remake of MYSTERY IN THE WAX MUSEUM (1933), which was done in 2 tone Techicolor, and starred Fay Wray and Lionel Atwill. It was pre code, so it has a few racy spots

    . Atwill’s character is named “Ivan Igor”.

    It is a bit shorter, but it is in many ways a bit better than the 3D version.
    The director of HOUSE OF WAX had only one eye, so it might have been difficult for him to set up scenes.

    I’ve seen the 3D version, and one scene were someone runs into the picture from the left part of the screen was effective.

  28. There used to be (perhaps still are) ads for Stella Artois beer which said “Reassuringly Expensive”. There can be an element of that to ebook pricing – there is a lot of very very cheap stuff out there which I haven’t even time to vet for basic quality and a low price on Amazon sometimes just says to me “slush”.

    Recently I bought a couple of 2.99 fantasies by Morgan Smith from Smashwords – I can’t remember how I came across them first, probably saw her commenting somewhere, but I read a sample and liked it.

    I am fond of Smashwords for its simple layout, easy to manage on my phone, the usually large-ish samples and the usually DRM free epub options. Sadly it seems to be becoming less used. Over the years I have bought from there a bunch of (flips through library) Melissa Scott, Barbara Hambly, Michelle West, Walter Jon Williams, Elizabeth McCoy (hang on, there’s a couple of books I bought and haven’t read yet) … see you later

  29. How is it possible that the 4GW warriors of VD’s blog were taken in by a troll faking someone else’s name? John C. Wright* I can believe. I don’t think there’s a lie transparent enough that he’d catch it, so long as that lie contributes to his blighted vision of the world.

    * who comes along later and makes some snide comments about Stover before wondering aloud, some time after that, whether this is perhaps a troll pretending to be Stover.

  30. @Heather

    Yeah, I agree. Putting something out on (e.g.) Kindle Direct isn’t about making money – that market is so thoroughly saturated that I don’t know how anyone manages to make a decent income from it. It’s more about incrementally building an audience.

  31. Late to the party on this, but I was catching up on the Falcon 9’s successful ocean landing Friday.

    Some enterprising scamp set the video to the rather NSFW I’m on a Boat song.

  32. I have no idea what language #14 is in, or the meaning of what she’s singing, but the animation is cool.

    I’ve often found that, when you like a foreign language song, it is better to not understand the lyrics. The songs often turn out to be insipid, shallow pop. I have lots of MP3s and music videos that not only do I not know what the lyrics mean, I don’t even know the title of the song (and have to give it a generic labels.)

    Or you could make up your own lyrics, turning it into the Best Thing Ever.

  33. Standback

    I hope the name “Oasis” signifies that the new model is the ultimate thirst-quencher.

    I believe it means that it’s going to get you into an awful lot of fights and then break up on you well before you expect.

  34. “I’ve often found that, when you like a foreign language song, it is better to not understand the lyrics.”

    Now, now. Moskau has great lyrics. No need to make something up there.

  35. Pricing:

    I had been thinking of reading KJ Parker’s The Two of Swords, until I discovered that we are up to Part 20, to be published next year, with apparently no end in sight. At 99p per chapter this is turning into an expensive novel, and I’m not going to commit sight unseen to that.

    His Devil You Know, on the other hand, is more reasonably priced, and I will give it a whirl.

    @Ghostbird

    Thank you for the link: it’s really helpful in understanding where we are, and where we go from here.

  36. @Stevie: (Two of Swords)

    It’s apparently supposed to be something bigger than a single novel. From the horse’s mouth:

    It’s a sequence of novels—I’m writing it in novel-length chunks of around 150,000 words—and at the same time a pearl necklace of consecutive novellas; I can indulge my taste for really big canvasses and at the same time zoom in close on individuals; there’s scope for suspense and complexity, but I hope I can avoid the risk of confused and tangled plotting by having just the one unified story.

    So I suppose the value may depend on whether you see each chunk as a novella or a chapter. Either way, 99 cents is the floor for non-free short work; transaction fees make lower prices impractical.

  37. Well, rats. I posted a long comment that was meant for this thread, but it ended up in the previous one. link

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