Holiday time

Paul Raven @ 23-12-2010

OK, folks; for those of you who haven’t already done the same or similar, yours truly is trundling off to do the family thing for a few days, so Futurismic will be going into a short hibernation as a result. I’ll probably be popping in briefly between Xmas and New Year’s, but please don’t be surprised if content is minimal – I have some work projects to finish up, for a start, and I could do with a bit of brain-downtime. Hell, I think we all could, AMIRITEZ?

So have a great holiday, of whatever denominational flavour (or lack thereof) you prefer. But just before I go, here’s a note in my inbox from from new UK indie publisher called Fingerpress:

[We]ย  recently published Smallworld by Hugo-nominated author Dominic Green. The book’s available in paperback, and also can be downloaded under a Creative Commons license from here: http://genres.fingerpress.co.uk/smallworld.html

And the blurb from that page reads as follows:

Mount Ararat, a world the size of an asteroid yet with Earth-standard gravity, plays host to a strangely confident family whose children are protected by the Devil, a mechanical killing machine, from such passers-by as Mr von Trapp (an escapee from a penal colony), the Made (manufactured humans being hunted by the State), and the super-rich clients of a gravitational health spa established at Mount Ararat’s South Pole.

But as more and more visitors to the tiny rock are dispatched with cold efficiency by the faster-than-sight robot, the children (and their secretive parents) start to wonder who put the robot there, and who – or what – is really in need of protection.

Sounds like it has a Robert Sheckley kind of vibe to it… so if you fancy a free read, go download it, why don’t you?

Happy holidays, folks, and thanks for reading. ๐Ÿ™‚


Cory Doctorow lays down his not-actually-a-manifesto

Paul Raven @ 06-10-2010

The more famous Cory Doctorow gets, the more people try to knock him down. I’m quite fond of him myself (he’s very charming in person, if somewhat perpetually part-distracted*), but while I’m not going to argue any sort of superhero status for the guy (I’ll leave that to Randall Munroe), when it comes to puncturing the poor arguments of his most vocal critics, he’s got undeniable flair. Witness his recent retort to an article that accused him and other net notables of profiteering from their “evangelism” of “free” business models for creatives, which also acts as a pretty good summary of the state of the artistic marketplace and the ongoing copyright wars. A few snippets:

What should other artists do? Well, I’m not really bothered. The sad truth is that almost everything almost every artist tries to earn money will fail. This has nothing to do with the internet, of course. Consider the remarkable statement from Alanis Morissette’s attorney at the Future of Music Conference: 97% of the artists signed to a major label before Napster earned $600 or less a year from it. And these were the lucky lotto winners, the tiny fraction of 1% who made it to a record deal. Almost every artist who sets out to earn a living from art won’t get there (for me, it took 19 years before I could afford to quit my day job), whether or not they give away their work, sign to a label, or stick it through every letterbox in Zone 1.

If you’re an artist and you’re interested in trying to give stuff away to sell more, I’ve got some advice for you, as I wrote here โ€“ I think it won’t hurt and it could help, especially if you’ve got some other way, like a label or a publisher, to get people to care about your stuff in the first place.

But I don’t care if you want to attempt to stop people from copying your work over the internet, or if you plan on building a business around this idea. I mean, it sounds daft to me, but I’ve been surprised before.

[…]

I understand perfectly well what you’re saying in your column: people who give away some of their creative output for free in order to earn a living are the exception. Most artists will fail at this. What’s more, their dirty secret is their sky-high appearance fees โ€“ they don’t really earn a creative living at all. But authors have been on the lecture circuit forever โ€“ Dickens used to pull down $100,000 for US lecture tours, a staggering sum at the time. This isn’t new โ€“ authors have lots to say, and many of us are secret extroverts, and quite enjoy the chance to step away from our desks to talk about the things we’re passionate about.

But you think that anyone who talks up their success at giving away some work to sell other work is peddling fake hope. There may be someone out there who does this, but it sure isn’t me. As I’ve told all of my writing students, counting on earning a living from your work, no matter how you promote it or release it, is a bad idea. All artists should have a fallback plan for feeding themselves and their families. This has nothing to do with the internet โ€“ it’s been true since the days of cave paintings.

I believe the appropriate phrase is “zing”.

[ * After appearing on a panel with Cory at Eastercon 2008, to which he managed to contribute more thoughts and ideas than the rest of us put together despite busily battering away at a netbook at the same time, a friend from the audience suggested a hypothetical version of posthuman bear-baiting: the game would simply involve installing Cory within a Faraday cage that blocked all wi-fi and phone signals, and then betting on how long it would be before he spontaneously combusted from sheer frustration… ]


Not-so-new ‘zine on the block: InterNova

Paul Raven @ 29-09-2010

Via the tireless Charles Tan* at the World SF Blog comes news that international sf magazine InterNova has relaunched as a webzine for your free-to-read enjoyment. The new issue includes fiction from Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Croatia, Germany and the UK, two Italian classic reprints and a couple of non-fiction pieces. Get clickin’.

[ * Seriously, the dude’s a force of nature; he’s either the pseudonym of a team of three or more, or has had some sort of elective surgery to remove the part of his brain that tells him when to sleep. ‘Nuff respect. ]


Free ebooks every month from Phoenix Picks

Paul Raven @ 03-09-2010

I meant to mention this a few months ago, but life got in the way. Still, better late than never, so:

Like books? Like science fiction books? Like electronic editions of science fiction books? Like getting stuff for free? Sure you do! So go sign up for the Phoenix Pick monthly free ebook coupon. This month’s freebie is “Arkfall” by Carolyn Ives Gilman, which was nominated for this year’s Nebula Award for Best Novella.

Phoenix Pick also does handsome dead-tree editions of rare, reissued or just plain obscure science fiction titles… much more handsome than their rather spartan and old-school website might suggest, in fact. And they’re not spammy, either; with your download code each month, you get informed as to what else has been released, and that’s it.

No obligations, no pack drill. Free ebooks. Thought you’d wanna know.

[ Full disclosure: Phoenix Pick sent me a copy of The World Beyond The Hill by the Panshins for review (and, to my shame, I still have yet to get round to reading it), but I was in no way obliged to do the above plug. Just honestly wanted to share the freebies. ]


More awesome free fiction to read elsewhere

Paul Raven @ 02-09-2010

Have you read Lavie Tidhar’s “In Pacmandu” yet? Well, why the hell not? It was published yesterday, and it is short, sharp and awesome, not to mention packed with computer game culture references – geek crack, in other words. So go smoke a rock, right now.

If you have read Lavie’s story, then perhaps you’re hungry for more brainfood… and the fictional pickings are particularly rich right now. Not only is the latest issue of Clarkesworld waiting for your attention (complete with gorgeous cover art), but everyone’s favourite mad professor Rudy Rucker has just released another issue of peripatetic weird sci-fi zine Flurb, which includes such luminaries as Madeline Ashby, Annalee “io9” Newitz, Chairman Bruce Sterling, ubercharming eccentric Ian Watson, John Shirley and (naturellement!) Rucker himself. There’s now ten issues of Flurb, all archived up and freely available to read, so tuck in. That should keep you busy for a week or two.

Now, if you like a little non-fiction on the side (and who doesn’t, right?) then you should check out Salon Futura, Cheryl Morgan’s new webzine devoted to the discussion and dissection of speculative fiction in all its guises. We can expect some excellent critical work to emerge there in months to come, but right now you can watch video interviews with the charming China Mieville and the lovely Lauren Beukes (two very Zeitgeisty novelists, and well worth your time).

(Like Futurismic, Salon Futura and Clarkesworld are free to read, but they pay their contributors… so if you enjoy what you find there, please consider dropping ’em a donation.)

And finally, a non-free fiction offering: the Neal Stephenson-piloted Mongoliad project (which we mentioned a while back) is now up and running, waiting for you to subscribe… and even caped copyleft crusader Cory Doctorow reckons it’s an impressive offer for the price:

It’s an epic fantasy novel about the Mongol conquest, told in installment form, with lots of supplementary material (video, stills, short fiction, etc), and a strong audience participation component in the form of a Wikipedia-style concordance, fanfic, etc. You can read the free samples without registration, but you need an account to edit the “Pedia.”

For $5.99 you get a six-month subscription to the main body of fiction; $9.99 gets you a year (you retain access to the fiction after your subscription expires, but don’t get any new material until you renew, which is a major plus in my view — much fairer than most online “subscriptions” that lock you out once you let your sub lapse).

The first (paid) chapter went up yesterday, and I’ve just read it. The word here is epic, a swashbuckling swordplay novel with the sweep, charm and verve of the major Stephenson epics, such as System of the World. A very strong start and well worth the price of admission. This is a great experiment in new fiction business-models that welcome audience participation and work in a way that is native to the net.

I doubt I’ll be the only person (webzine editor or otherwise) who’ll be watching closely to see how that business model pans out.

So get yourself along and do some reading! But do pop back here for more near-future archaeology and speculative ruminations of the random kind, won’t you? ๐Ÿ™‚


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