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[links] Link salad wishes for improbable food

[info]selfavowedgeek with a review of my short novel Death of a Starship

Deciding to fish or cut bait. Jonesing for MMORPGs. — Urban Fantasy author J.A. Pitts on why he used to game obsessively, and why he doesn’t any more. I could have written this same post, except that I quit RPGs before MMORPGs came along. As I’ve said before, if Everquest or World of Warcraft had existed in my teens or twenties, I wouldn’t have a writing career today. I’d be an umpteenth level wizard-thief or whatever instead of an author. And I continue to wonder how many voices never came to being in SF/F because they chose the rewards of a collaborative, immersive gaming environment over hours, days and years alone at the keyboard. Who knows what stories we’ll never read?

Fantasy: High, Low and…? Part Two: Saving the World Six Times before Breakfast (Or Not) — Author A.J. Luxton continues their ruminations on fantasy.

B&N and DC: Exclusivity Rears Its Ugly Head Once Again — Crap. I’ve been boycotting Amazon for the past year and a half for doing eaxctly what Barnes & Noble just did. That is, abuse its market power to punish print authors for an only tangentially related dispute in a different product line. B&N’s actions don’t affect me directly, as I’m not a DC comics author nor a reader, but god damn it, I don’t want to run out of big bookstores. (And yes, I buy independent when I can, but sometimes big is useful.)

World’s oldest running car fetches $4.6 million at auction — Now this is just awesome. (Snurched from [info]jimvanpelt.)

Electric TRON Lightcycle Outed by Parker Brothers — (Via David Goldman.)

Will the Large Hadron Collider Explain Everything?

Octopi Wall Street! — (Thanks to [info]danjite.)

Herman Cain: pizza boss, radio host, ballistics expert, minister. President?Once the butt of late-night comedians, the Tennessee-born politician has emerged as the unlikely darling of the right.

Palin pulls a PalinSarah-watchers were not surprised when she announced she wouldn’t run for president. It was never her goal. A con’s a con. Thank you John McCain for visiting this woman upon America. She will be your political legacy.

Will Romney-Perry race be Christian vs. Christian? — I will point out that claiming the Mormon church is not Christian isn’t equivalent to saying it’s a cult. Whether something is a cult is a matter of perspective. As an atheist, to my view Mormons are no more or less a cult than Southern Baptists. As for Christian, I’m not in charge of those labels, but that would seem to be a definable matter. What I do know is that conservative party is infested with Christianists, that is, people who use the trappings of Christianity as clubs to wage political and cultural war for their personal bigotry and wilful ignorance. Mormon, Southern Baptist, I could not care less; it’s the Christianists I fear and despise. It’s the Christianists who’ve been busily destroying the social fabric of our nation my entire political lifetime.

Why Not Question Romney’s Religion?Back in 2008, the only moment when the Obama campaign looked to be in some difficulty was when the GOP attacked his church and firebrand pastor Jeremiah Wright. The attack itself was dishonest in that the McCain campaign took the words of the sermon out of context. On the one hand, I’m perfectly happy to see the Republican party eating their own young for a change instead of pissing in the national pot as usual. On the other hand, even as atheist, I don’t think this is a legitimate line of attack. My own belief in freedom of religion is absolute, but I likewise believe it absolutely stops at the edge of the public square. In other words, Romney or Perry or whoever can believe what they will with my full support, but they can’t impose those beliefs on me on or anybody else. It’s in the second part of that belief that I find my lifelong quarrel with American conservatism, not the first.

?otD: Melon balls or mountain oysters?

Writing time yesterday: 3.5 hours (revisions and WRPA)
Body movement: 30 minute stationary bike ride
Hours slept: 8.0 hours (solid)
Weight: 218.0
Currently reading: The Cassini Division by Ken MacLeod

[links] Link salad awakens dreaming of small woodland creatures

Rebellious girl thrust into life of slavery and lots of sex. A review of Green, by Jay Lake — A reader reacts to Green, not so much with the liking.

A rather nifty review of “To Raise a Mutiny Betwixt Yourselves” — The reviewer really got what I was on about.

Four Publishers Struggle to Strike Amazon eBook Deal; Buy Buttons Threatened — Hmm.

Book Marketing Awesomeness — I’m not a big fan of ‘book trailers’, but this one is for the win. (Thanks to Scrivener’s Error.)

With Cancer, Let’s Face It: Words Are Inadequate — Interesting. Need to consider my response to this. (Thanks to .)

My old man — Rogert Ebert about his father. Read this slowly, and whem you have a moment to weep.

Black Tie: 1943Shorpy takes us down to the tie plant.

Passing Stars and Interstellar Speculations — Instellar travel, the (eltively) slow way, from Centauri Dreams.

Quotes Uncovered: The Full Monty…when you hear a quote attributed to Lincoln or Jefferson, and it sounds too modern, and it accords with some political agenda, usually a conservative one, you can take it to the bank that it’s phony. What? Wait? Does this means our friends on the Right make shit up to meet their political ends? I though they were the ethical ones, banner carriers of principled consistency and moral standards! Say it ain’t so!

America May Truly Be In Decline — Or not. Amazing how much damage the “America first”, “small government”, “fiscally prudent” party has done to our country and our future.

?otD: How much chuck could woodchuck upchuck if a woodchuck could upchuck chuck?

Writing time yesterday: 60 minutes
Body movement: 30 minutes on stationary bike
Hours slept: 8.5 (solid)
This morning’s weigh-in: 229.2
Yesterday’s chemo stress index: 4/10 (shedding day)
Currently reading: [between books]

[links] Link salad slept like a spy welded into a sidesaddle diesel tank

Karaoke Night!Scrivener’s Error with the first salvo in Amazonfail: The Musical.

Three weeks post-chemo — From a fellow cancer survivor on a similar journey to mine. A lot for me to think about here.

1961 Panhard PL17 — If I had a stupid amount of money, I’d buy this car for the sheer WTFery.

Dark Energy: Calibrating Standard CandlesCentauri Dreams with some cool space science geekery.

The Slesarev “Svyatogor”, experimental Russian aircraft, circa 1916 — If Fred Flinstone had built an airplane, it might have looked like this.

Partisanship hits California Assembly over Schwarzenegger’s lt. governor pick — Without respect to the merits of the story, that’s easily the stupidest headline since “This Just In: Sun Rises in East!”

How Christian Were the Founders? — More on textbooks in Texas and Christanist mythmaking. These people have learned Stalin’s lessons about truth. What precisely do they think they are accomplishing? American strength wasn’t built on narrow minds and closed doors. I’d prefer not to end my days in a Third World quasitheocracy, thank you very much.

Justice Clinton? — An odd little bit of political speculation regarding possible Supreme Court succession. I can’t imagine it personally, given how deeply the Right has invested in demonizing Clintons in general and Hillary in particular. If she were nominated, the country would go into absolute vapor lock while Republican nihilism ran amok.

Them there I’sLanguage Log on the ridiculous “Obama says ‘i’ too much” meme on the Right. This one’s been percolating for a while, and like most conservative talking points, doesn’t stand up to even a shred of first order analysis. Confidential to conservative America: When you guys lap this stuff up, it makes the rest of us wonder how you get out of bed in the morning without tripping over your own feet. Try fixating on something substantive. Or, you know, real.

?otD: How do you sleep? Show your work.

Writing time yesterday: 75 minutes (revisions on Endurance)
Body movement: 30 minute stationary bike ride
Hours slept: 7.25 (poorly)
This morning’s weigh-in: 225.0
Yesterday’s chemo stress index: 8/10
Currently reading: [between books]

[links] Link salad will steer for you

A page is turned — UK’s Financial Times with some actual industry analysis of the Amazon-Macmillan negotiations. (As opposed to the generally simplistic US press coverage of “Macmillan is raising ebook prices, oh well”.) There are some errors here, such as an odd comment about ebooks having no marginal costs, and a mistake in describing bookshops as working on the agency model, but this is still some pretty interesting work. (Thanks to blog commentor Stevie.)

Has Amazon Moved Your Buy Button? —The Author’s Guild is funny and practical.

Highlights from TED 2010, Wednesday: “We can eat to starve cancer” — Angiogenesis, diet, exercise and cancer. Of obvious interest to some of us. (Via both and @gralinnaea.)

The Two-Streams HypothesisArt neuropsychology guru James Gurney with a fascinating piece on how the human visual system works. As Dr. Egon Spengler said, “Don’t cross the streams.”

Saturnalian Moon Dance — Some seriously ‘wow’ photos from Cassini.

Give ’em the old razzle-dazzle — Interesting piece (with lots of photos) on disguise and camouflage of capital ships in the era of optical range finding. And yes, that’s a lot more interesting than I just made it sound. (Via Interrupting Gelastic Jew.)

Ancient Human Genome Sequenced — I think I went to high school with this guy, actually.

Dubai court annuls marriage to ‘bearded lady’ — Juan Cole with some interesting thoughts on Islamic veiling, identity and culture hacking thereby.

with a point about where the money goes — Must be nice to be on Wall Street. This stuff might drive even me to be a Socialist.

Rachel names the GOP hypocrites — This video is worth watching, especially if you somehow imagine the GOP retains any intellectual or moral consistency. Maddow names names and gives examples, over and over, of GOP congressmen and senators who slam the stimulus hard in the national media as an abject failure, then take credit for money and jobs at home. Her larger point is that the Republicans have utterly abandoned policy for politics. Not that this is news…

Pastor Wiley Drake prayed for the death of John Murtha — Ah, Christianism. That deranged, righteous intersection between conservatism and religion. Worst of both worlds, the virtues of neither. I don’t understand why the GOP ties itself to these moral monsters. (Well, votes, of course, but at such a cost to the character and credibility of the conservative movement.)

Affirmative Action and Political Hypocrisy — On both sides of the aisle in fact, but guess which major conservative party leads the league by a mile in the hypocrisy standings?

Human microchips seen by some in Virginia House as device of Antichrist — Uh, yeah. Check out this gem: “I just think you should have the right to control your own body,” [Republican] Cole said. That’s a pretty bizarre sentiment from the party that enthusiastically supports forced pregnancy and criminalization of private sexual behavior between consenting adults. I’m sure Cole will be walking this little mistake back any time now.

?otD: Do you want a driver? Climb inside.

Writing time yesterday: 60 minutes (revisions on Endurance)
Body movement: 30 minute stationary bike ride
Hours slept: 8.75 (soundly)
This morning’s weigh-in: 225.0
Yesterday’s chemo stress index: 6/10
Currently reading: [between books]

[publishing] Hello? Amazon? Is this thing on?

No new wisdom on Amazon, Macmillan or ebooks today, but I still haven’t seen any public statements from Amazon beyond the original, laughable unsigned note on the Kindle boards. The media lovefeast for them goes on of course, albeit tapering off now, with the Amazon-biased “price increase” narrative almost completely dominant.

Did I miss something? I still wonder if this round is over.

[links] Link salad is close enough, but not too far

With Thanks to John SargentThe Atlantic with an unusual pro-Macmillan view of recent publishing issues. (Thanks to blog commentor Stevie.)

Clouds 365 Project — A year-long photographic experiment shooting clouds. (Thanks to .)

Retro Future: To The Stars! – Part 3 — Or the moon, at least. Dark Roasted Blend with some awesome retro space art.

New Evidence for Water on Enceladus

?otD: Baby, what did you expect?

Writing time yesterday: 0 minutes (still stuck on chemo head)
Body movement: 30 minute stationary bike ride
Hours slept: 7.0 (soundly)
This morning’s weigh-in: 226.2
Yesterday’s chemo stress index: 6/10
Currently reading: [between books]

[links] Link salad, mostly publishing edition

I make #1 on a top ten list in Sweden — Ugliest fantasy writers, but I’ll take my honors where I find them. (And for the record, I think this is hilarious.)

Kelly McClymer is very smart about ebook inventory costs — In my comments section.

Scrivener’s Error on disintermediation, Amazon vs Macmillan and Google Books — Some dense, worthwhile thinking. Go read.

An alternative, very pro-Kindle view of Amazon vs Macmillan — A lot said here, I don’t agree with much of it, but worth the read.

On Sleekness — Pablo Defendini (of fame) on production techniques, creative destruction, and professional sleekness. Fascinating stuff.

Bookstores may have to turn page — A depressing column about bookstores. (Thanks to .)

A writing career becomes harder to scale — An essay in the Los Angeles on what I call psychotic persistence as a critical success factor in writing. In the 20 years that I’ve been publishing books, I have fared better than most. I sold my first novel while still in graduate school and published six more books, pretty much one every three years, like clockwork. I have made my living as a writer. Obviously not writing in my genre…

British airship R33 in hangar — This photo from x planes has a nicely ominous cast.

An Early Warning System for CancerAutoantibodies could alert doctors to cancer development. A little late for me, but interesting.

Revisionaries: How a group of Texas conservatives is rewriting your kids’ textbooks. — More on how conservative, Christianist nonsense enters your child’s school, no matter where you live or what the truth actually is.

?otD: Read a good book lately? What format?

Writing time yesterday: 0 minutes (still stuck on chemo head)
Body movement: 60 minute suburabn walk
Hours slept: 6.0 (poorly)
This morning’s weigh-in: 224.4
Yesterday’s chemo stress index: 5/10
Currently reading: [between books]

[publishing] Books as licenses – print and ebooks both

One thread of the ongoing ebook discussion on the Internet has been the perception of a lot of readers (including, possibly, reporters at Wired) that ebooks have no incremental cost, and therefore should tend to be free. This assumption ignores sunk costs in book acquisition and production, as well as ongoing royalties to authors. It’s also based on misperceptions about the value of physical objects versus virtual objects.

I am still chewing on notion that ebooks are a service, and print books are a product, but I’m thinking I’ve still got it wrong. Yes, ebooks under DRM behave like like a service, but even DRM-free ebooks are presented under a EULA. (Please note, this is not a defense of DRM, just an acknowlegement it exists.) Print books behave like a product in the sense that you purchase a physical object that is yours to use or dispose of largely as you see fit, much as an automobile or a frying pan or an action figure may be used or disposed of largely as you see fit.

The true, underlying product is story. Every delivery mechanism — print books, ebooks, audio — are licenses to that story. Copyright and ultimate ownership still vest with the author (or in the case of work-for-hire, the license holder).

When you purchase a print book, you purchase a single-use, transferable license to that story in the form of the author’s copyright. With limited exceptions for Fair Use, you don’t have permission to copy or reproduce the print book. You can pass it along to other readers, resell it, or otherwise dispose of the print book, but all that is in terms of the license embedded in the print book itself. License and artefact are difficult to separate, though not impossible. For example, scanning, photocopying or rekeying beyond the bounds of Fair Use would serve to sever license from artefact, and all three are illegal.

When you purchase an ebook, depending on the DRM wrappers on the book, your rights of transferability may vary. Likewise back up copying, resale and so forth can be influenced by both DRM and the EULA associated with your ebook reader and the software compilation that represents the ebook publication itself. But you still don’t own the copyright, again, you have only purchased a license to that story in the from of an author’s copyright.

Because fundamentally, that’s what the author sells to the publisher. A license to reproduce the copyright.

What I’m getting at here is that the whole question of ebooks versus print books is a bit of a red herring. You don’t own the book, any more that you own the performance of a song you buy on CD or mp3. I think this differs from purchasing visual art, where you can own the painting, but even then, the artist can reserve reproduction rights.

It all comes down to concepts of intellectual property, which are frankly a bit abstruse for most people who don’t need to spend their time worrying about such things. Even if you buy a Braun coffee maker, you don’t buy the rights to recreate it in your workshop and sell copies of the coffee maker. Except the process of copying a coffee maker is so tedious, that unless you own a Third World knockoff factory, you’re not going to bother.

Copying or scanning a print book is a possible behavior. Copying an ebook is a trivial behavior, at least technically.

But you, the reader, never take full title to the story underneath. You have taken a license to that story, a contract ultimately between you and the author, embedded in the copyright statement in the front matter of the book. And that license has value, whether it’s delivered on cellulose and ink, or via an organized compilation of electrons.

If this were more widely understood, would it shift the terms of the ebook debate?

[publishing] Amazon vs Macmillan, the $9.99 price point, and market forces

The chemo fog is mostly clearing from my brain. Some things happened in Amazon vs Macmillan while I was checked out, most notably that the buy buttons were restored on Amazon’s site for Macmillan print and Kindle titles.

I’m not convinced this is over. Amazon has still not made any sort of public statement other than the original, laughably incompetent unsigned “capitulation” note on the Kindle boards over a week ago. This compared to two formal public statements from Macmillan USA CEO John Sargent. I am very disappointed that the popular and business news cycle has focused almost exclusively on this as a “price increase” narrative, apparently single-sourcing from the Amazon note. I guess that makes better copy, but it ignores the much larger underlying story about a potentially seismic shift in the business models of publishing forced by the growth in ebooks. A shift which has benefits to consumers, as well as the exciting narrative of overturning Amazon’s $9.99 pricing model.

As for my own part, I’m finally coming around to thinking Macmillan has the right of this. ‘s explanation of the “agency model”, combined with earlier squibs from Charlie Stross, have largely convinced me. I will lay out my own thoughts on this in the next day or two as the chemo fog continues to clear my brain, but I want to make one point here.

The $9.99 ebook price point was not set by market forces. It was a fiat promise from Amazon to Kindle buyers as a driver to promote the Kindle platform. There’s nothing magical about the number (beyond the obvious buying psychology of $9.99), and it had nothing to do with either publisher costs or publisher business models. For the media to be treating this as all about a price increase from $9.99 ignores both the history of the price point and the current business reality of publishing. It may well be that $9.99 is an eventual ‘market making’ price point, but that’s not yet been proven. And for all that Amazon lost the boardroom PR war by not even showing up to the fight they picked, they’ve sure won the popular PR war so far, given the prevalence of the “price increase” narrative.

That’s probably enough out of me this morning, but I’m curious. What’s your take on the “agency model”? Am I right about the $9.99 price point? Am I right about the strong pro-Amazon bias in media coverage?

[links] Link salad sleeps the sleep of the dead

with a thought experiment for writers — Concerning motivation and unsold words.

Amazon, Macmillan Settle Price Dispute The Wall Street Journal with more lazy, single sourced pro-Amazon reporting. One of the reporters replied back to my query about their coverage by telling me they were waiting for the iPad release to see how the price increase fell out, without acknowleding my point about the lack of coverage of dynamic pricing or Macmillan’s perspective.

Galleycat with a brief round up of the quiet ending of the Amazon-Macmillan Standoff — Given a continued lack of public statements on the part of Amazon’s senior management, I’m not convinced this is over. I continue very disappointed ghat both the popular media and the general media are treating this almost exclusively as a “price increase: story, when the reality is much more nuanced.

Fritz Lang: Behind the Scenes with a Master Science Fiction Filmmaker — Wow. (Via @pablod.)

Vintage dating techniques from the 1930s — Wow. The past really is another country. (Via here.)

Sun halo over CambodiaAPOD with an alien sky right here on earth.

Scaramanga’s flying car — I was impressed as hell by this when I was 12.

Secret Caves of the Lizard PeopleStrange Maps with some downright Dero history of hidden Los Angeles.

?otD: Have you danced the Lorazepam tango?

Writing time yesterday: 0 minutes (infusion day)
Body movement: 30 stationary bike ride
Hours slept: 9.25 (soundly)
This morning’s weigh-in: 225.6
Yesterday’s chemo stress index: 6/10
Currently reading: [between books]

[links] Link salad has been sitting here since Wednesday morning

Amazon and the pipeline — Anna Tambour is wise about the Amazon issues, specifically from the international perspective.

Hey, 1997 – Macmillan called, they want the Net Book Agreement backWaPo with a contrarian view of Macmillan’s moves against Amazon.

As I start to write my latest book, I fear for the future of publishingThe Guardian with views on disintermediation. I submit that the role of publishers in the story telling cycle is not intermediation in the usual sense of distribution, as the publisher provides significant value add.

Kulula Air with a rather novel paint job — (Via x planes.)

Iowa Pride Network: House Republicans seek to bully gay studentsDes Moines, IA – February 4 – House Representatives Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig and Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, co-sponsored legislation introduced today which seeks to exclude LGBT students from the 2007 Iowa Safe Schools Law. Stay classy, conservative America, that’s why we love you. And can anyone tell me the alleged logic behind this?

AP photo shows Palin cheated, read notes off her hand at Teabagger conference — I’m not sure why that’s cheating, but it’s very seventh grade. Which fits with the entire ethos of the Tea Party movement. More here. Note that Palin has mockd Obama for using a teleprompter. Using your hand is an improvement?

Saying ‘Constitution’ while meaning ‘Lawlessness’: Palin attacks Obama — “Constitutional” is one of those conservative code words that means whatever the speaker wants it to mean. Much like “original intent”, which winks at the 9th amendment, disregards the 1st and worships the second. Intellectual consistency was never a conservative strong point, but Palin transcends the absurd.

?otD: Can you tell me why the bells are ringing? Nothing’s happened in a million years.

Writing time yesterday: 0 minutes (infusion day)
Body movement: 40 minute suburban walk
Hours slept: 10.5 (soundly)
This morning’s weigh-in: 227.0
Yesterday’s chemo stress index: 8/10
Currently reading: [between books]

[publishing] Amazon, Gillette, cross-subsidies and supply chain integration

Reuters continues with the lazy reporting about the actuality of Macmillan’s pricing proposal.

at Making Light with a very cogent analysis of the agency model, and why it’s critical to the continued health of publishing. As usual, that woman makes a hell of a lot of sense.

I asked on Twitter this morning, “Trying to figure out why the price of ebook readers (sold by tech cos) should be linked to the price of ebooks (sold by publishing cos.)” @philipbrewer responded, “Cross-subsidies are an old trick, as in “give away the razor sell the blades.”

He’s got a great point, but I think he’s wrong. Gillette owned the razors and the blades, controlled the whole supply chain. Likewise HP with printers and ink, another example of this. That integration allows them to set the dial on profit and loss in different lines to maximize overall profit.

[ ETA: @philipbrewer responds thoughtfully to my point and counterpoint here. ]

Amazon with the Kindle does not control the supply of content. As explains (and has been explained elsewhere), they’ve been inserting themselves as a publisher with the rights play embedded in the up-til-now Kindle contract. That’s still not supply chain integration. So where Gillette can take a loss on razors to sell blades within one larger profit-and-loss calculation, Amazon has been pushing publishers into a position of taking a loss on hardcover sales to elevate Amazon’s Kindle profits. They’re killing their own supply chain, unless they plan to go into originating content on Kindle in a big way. Which would be an unsurprising next step for Amazon, but still provides the publishers with no incentive to continue down Amazon’s path.

I probably have a lot more to say next week, when I’m out from under this chemo infusion session. Currently on the 5FU pump, and rather hard of thinking. I do suspect the razors-and-blades issue also ties into my recent observation that ebooks (at least the DRM variety) are a service and not a product. More to come, when I have brainpower to pursue it. In the mean time, feel free to be intelligent about these question in comments.