The survival struggle of the genre pulp mags

Paul Raven @ 18-11-2008

Just in case you missed this everywhere else it’s been posted, Simon “Bloggasm” Owens has an article at MediaShift about the declining fortunes of the science fiction pulps. He interviews Sheila Williams, Gordon Van Gelder and The Scalzi, and poses the question “what do the pulps need to do to survive the internet age?”

To which the standard answer seems to be “I’m not really sure.” Bruce Sterling, however, would likely have spoken more bluntly:


Striking writers look to open new internet ventures

Tomas Martin @ 21-12-2007

Whilst I’ve talked in the past about the future of online content, it appears for some writers an internet based career is rapidy becoming present, not future. The LA Times reports that a number of the writers and creators involved in the Hollywood writer strike are in talks with venture capitalists and advertisers about creating their own content sites. It may be that if this strike continues long enough, some writers may not come back at all to the studios. It’s also interesting to note that the words quoted most by the writers invovled is ‘United Artists’, the organisation that structured good deals for creators way back in Hollywood history.

On the web, there’s also a good round table discussion featuring Tobias Buckell, Pyr editor Lou Anders and David Louis Edelman at SF Signal about the use of the internet to promote writers via community, rather than advertising. Charles Stross also had a good rant about the idiocy of the Kindle earlier in the month.


Contest to design a new e-reader

Tomas Martin @ 08-12-2007

Michael DiTullo’s ‘Nubook’ designAmazon’s Kindle ereader received a rather lukewarm reception. Although some of the concerns related to the high price of both the gadget and the ebooks ($299 for the Kindle plus prices for books not much cheaper than the hard copies they replaced), a lot of vitriol was directed towards the rather clunky design, which resembled something out of the 70s version of Battlestar Galactica.

Over at ‘Industrial Design Supersite’ Core77, they are having a competition to design sketches of e-readers that might live up to the kind of design standard mp3 players have led us to expect. The competition is open to both computer and hand-drawn designs and is open until Tuesday. If you are interested in an ebook revolution, maybe you should enter your own idea. If not, you can still check out some of the interesting sketches so far.

[via Treehugger, image from the contest]


The internet is a major feature of reducing carbon emissions

Tomas Martin @ 30-11-2007

Will we all be connected and working through low power laptops like this one?A lot of the plans for sustainability try to provide the energy for what we already do using new sources of power. Whether you subscribe to the peak oil camp or you fear global warming or even if you want to prudent ahead of a possible recession caused by sub-prime mortgages, each problem has the same solution: use less. Buying less consumables, reducing food miles, rebuilding soils and producing electricity from renewables can only do so much.

Transport is a huge part of the energy (and money) we spend. A future coming to terms with the ‘Peak Century’ will need to travel much less distance for work, play and neccessity. The 50 mile commute seems illogical now at close to $100 dollar a barrel of oil. If oil gets harder to extract and prices rise, that commute won’t just be an annoying expense, it’ll mean bankruptcy. Fortunately new technology has arrived, seemingly perfect timed to coincide with reducing our carbon footprint and energy consumption.

A geologist recently said “My hopeful view is that we’ll be living like we did at the turn of the 20th century, but with computers.” I like the analogy. The internet and low-energy computers offer us a real potential of making a low carbon economy yet still providing jobs and a worldwide community. As Worldchanging puts it, the ‘High bandwidth, Low Carbon future’ could be both sustainable and more personally fulfilling. Google is investing $100Million in Green computing and the Asus EEE laptop uses 11 watts. All this talk of choose your own price music, online markets for fiction and e-readers is important because it’s a first step to creating an entertainment economy that could work in the low-energy world that’s coming, sooner or later.

[picture by jaaron]


The Future of short fiction

Tomas Martin @ 22-11-2007

A killer ebook device is surely not far away - are we ready for it?Following her great post on the future of speculative fiction magazines and discussions with the editor of Clarkesworld, Erin Hoffman has created a wiki page to accumulate ideas about a new business model. This is a key time where if things are done right we can create an online medium that benefits writers, editors and readers, unlike the horrible DRM-filled Amazon Kindle model. Sooner or later a good method of reading ebooks is going to take off, whether it’s a Sony Reader, an Iphone or something new. Thinking about a new model now means speculative fiction will be in a position of power when that time comes.

I like the idea of tipjars on stories, or using a Radiohead-style pay what you like subscription model. Magazines available bimonthly for a $2 minimum with the option to give more, for example. Having discussions about stories with the author, tuckerisation and bonus stories are all ways of making the purchase more appealing but there are more options out there.

There will be a sweet spot of pricing that makes a short story or a magazine an impulse buy, much like a 99c mp3. Making the fiction freely available in multiple formats with no DRM is vital. A Last.fm style chart or a facebook ebook application where people could display and read their favourite stories might be a success – people love to show off to their peers what they’re into.

What would you want to see in an online fiction magazine? Join in the debate at the new wiki, or in the comments.

[via Erin Hoffman’s livejournal, picture via technobob]


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