Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Death of a Dream and the Need for Manifest Destiny

I always knew I would see the first man on the moon.  I never dreamed I would see the last.
            Dr. Jerry Pournelle

Tomorrow, as I write these words, and earlier today, as I post them (thank you software glitches for the delay), the last Space Shuttle, Atlantis, will land for the final time.  And then, for all practical purposes, it will be over.  America’s manned space program will be gone.

Yes, I know we’ll still have an astronaut corps.  They will still fly, on other nation’s launch systems, to the International Space Station.  At least until it’s deorbited in a few years.  But we won’t have the capability to send our people into space.  We’ll simply be hitching rides on some else’s rockets.  Like other countries used to do on ours.  We will no longer be the wold's leader in manned space exploration.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pohl Blogs About Wolheim

Over at The Way the Future Blogs, Fred Pohl has started  to reminisce about Donald A. Wolheim, best remembered as the founder of DAW books.  This is the first of I'm not sure how many, but Fred has written about a number of his colleagues.  If you're interested in the early history of science fiction, you should definitely check this site out.

Borders Closing for Good

Borders, unable to find a buyer, has announced that it will liquidate and close all remaining stores.  Passive Guy at The Passive Voice has summarized announcements from a variety of sources, each with a slightly different take on the situation.  You can read PG's post here.  The comment that most disturbs me, after the fact that nearly 11,000 people will lose their jobs, is that some publishers are now planning on smaller print runs since Borders will not longer be available to stock their books.  While this makes sense from a short-term business perspective, long term that could have a detrimental effect on authors.  With smaller print runs, sales will be lower.  Currently, if sales are low, publishers drop authors.  How with the new lower print runs affect the drop numbers?  Will we see more authors being dropped by publishers, resulting in fewer selections on fewer bookstore shelves?  Will those author be able to continue series that have existing audiences by indie publishing, or will the publishers control the rights to those series?  I suspect the answers to those questions with vary among authors and publishers, but I have concerns about some of my favorite midlist authors.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Long Looks at Short Fiction: "What's It Like Out There?" by Edmond Hamilton

With the final mission of the Shuttle ending next week, I thought this would be an appropriate story to write about. 

"What's It Like Out There?" is probably Hamilton's best known story, certainly his most reprinted, and arguably his best.  It concerns an astronaut, Frank Haddon, who has returned from the second Mars expedition and his adjustment back to civilian life on Earth.

A victim of Martian sickness, Haddon had just been released from the hospital in Arizona, where the Mars program is headquartered.  Before he goes home, he has to honor some promises to visit the families of some of the men who didn't come back.  As he travels, everyone wants to know what it's like out there.  They usually don't bother to listen to the reply, or try to tell him how dry/cold/etc. it's been locally. 

The truth is that the whole experience was a living hell.  Yet he can't bring himself to hurt the grieving families and finances with the facts, so he makes things up about how they died.  Rather than pain, their passings are peaceful; rather than shot as a muntineer, one's death is described as an accident. 

A Public Service Announcement Concerning Slave Leia

Anything I had to say about this would fail to do it justice.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Amazon Overcharging for Ebooks

David Gaughran  has posted a disturbing essay on why ebooks cost more through Amazon than in the US and a select few other countries.  You should read David's post, especially if you live outside the US, UK, Germany, Canada, Ireland, and a few other countries.  In most of the world, including France, Spain, Israel, South Africa, India, and Brazil just to name a few off the top of my head, there's a $2 surcharge added in addition to any sales tax or VAT.  This surcharge goes directly to Amazon, not to a government, and certainly not to the author.  While most of my readers are American, I know there are a few in countries in which Amazon slaps this surcharge.  David is encouraging his readers to buy through Smashwords or iTunes, because there surcharge isn't added there and the author gets more money.

Some of you may have noticed that I've recently become an Amazon Associate.  You may be wondering:  Will Amazon be displeased with this post, will they revoke my Associate status, and will I lose a revenue stream in they do?  The answers to those questions are:  Almost certainly, maybe, and not at all.  If Amazon were to even notice this small blog, they would almost certainly be displeased and could very well revoke my Associate status.  But at the present time, I wouldn't lose a dime.  Because so far I haven't made any money by being an Associate.  (Considering a recent post which stated that Locus Online, which probably gets more hits in a month than both my blogs combined have ever gotten total, only generated a few hundred dollars a month from links to Amazon, I'm not exactly planning my retire on my earnings.)

I'm less concerned about ad revenue than I am fair trade practices.  What Amazon is doing is hurting authors in the long run, as David so eloquently explained.  Since I hope to begin doing some indie publishing myself within the next year, I'm taking the long term approach rather than the short term by not offending Amazon.  Plus it's just the right thing to do.

Obituary for Martin H. Greenberg by Fred Pohl

I posted a notice about the passing of Martin H. Greenberg a few weeks ago.  This morning I found this remembrance of him posted by Fred Pohl, telling how they met.  Fred has been updating his memoir, The Way the Future Was, over at his blog, The Way the Future Blogs.  If you've not checked out his posts about the people and events from over 70 years of being involved in the field of science fiction, you should.  Fred hasn't just observed much of the history of the field, he's made a great deal of it.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Amazon Piracy: A Disturbing Case of a Writer Being Ripped-Off

Passive Guy over at the Passive Voice posted this disturbing news story a little while ago.    It seems author Ruth Ann Nordin is having a problem getting a pirated copy of one of her books removed from Amazon.  They seem to be dragging their feet about removing the stolen book and giving her the runaround.  In an act of solidarity with Ms. Nordin, I'm passing this information along in hopes that enough people will raise enough of a stink that Amazon will respond quickly and do the right thing.  They did for her other two books that were stolen.  Good luck, Ms. Nordin.  As an aspiring author, you have my full support.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Why You Soon Won't be Able to Find a Good Book in a Store

I was reading one of Kris Rusch's columns over at The Business Rusch the other day, the topic being shelf space disappearing in book stores.  At that reminded me of an unpleasant experience I had the other day in Wal-Mart, one that is now repeated every time I walk into the store (which isn't nearly as often as it was a few weeks ago).  If you haven't read Kris's column, please go read it now.  I'll wait.

There, that didn't take too long, did it?  Ms. Rusch brings up some very disturbing points, and while some of them are negative, others are mixed.  For what it's worth, here's my take on things, including why I'm not going to be shopping at Wal-Mart as much in the future.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Independence Day Greetings

I'm on the road this weekend and will have limited computer access, so I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to wish everyone a safe and happy Independence Day.  If you are a citizen of a country that doesn't celebrate American Independence, please accept my wishes for a good weekend.