Amazon announced Kindle Worlds today, describing it as “the first commercial publishing platform that will enable any writer to create fan fiction based on a range of original stories and characters and earn royalties for doing so.”
I didn’t know this was coming, but I’m not surprised, exactly. Amazon has been a very successful business, and if they see a potentially profitable area they can branch out into, they’re gonna do it.
I found out about this through Chuck Wendig’s post here, wherein he talks about the press release and proceeds to fragment his own brain into tiny, shiny pieces.
I’m still digesting and processing this, and I suspect some of it will boil down to having to wait to see how it all plays out. But some of my initial reactions are…
I’m sure there will be many, many discussions and arguments about this, and I have no idea how it will all play out or whether or not it will work. But I do think it’s a fascinating step in the ongoing evolution of the industry.
I’m still waiting for someone — anyone — to present an argument against same-sex marriage that doesn’t boil down to, “My religion doesn’t approve” or “I think it’s icky.” Using the former as an excuse for discrimination is about as unAmerican as you can get, and the latter is just asinine.
While politicians and bigots continue to argue that “those people” don’t need “special rights or protections” under the law, here’s some of what’s been going on recently…
In Texas, a judge enforced a clause in Carolyn Compton’s divorce papers which states that, “someone who has a ‘dating or intimate relationship’ with the person or is not related ‘by blood or marriage’ is not allowed after 9 p.m. when the children are present.” Since Carolyn’s partner of three years is a woman and Texas has laws against same-sex marriage, the judge has essentially made it illegal for them to live together.
In New York, Elliot Morales shot Marc Carson, a gay man, in the face at point blank range, killing him. Elliot had followed Carson and his companion, and was heard yelling anti-gay slurs and asking, “You want to die tonight?”
In Chatham, Canada, an openly gay 13-year-old boy was attacked by four older teenagers, who called him “faggot” and “queer,” told him he was going to hell, and beat him. One of the boys pulled a knife and threatened to kill him.
Rep. Mark Pocan became the first member of Congress to obtain a congressional ID card identifying his same-sex partner as his spouse. However, his husband is still legally excluded from receiving health, pension, and other benefits.
In Washington state, lawmakers have proposed a bill that would provide an exception to anti-discrimination law and allow businesses to refuse service based on sexual orientation.
David and Jason married in New York in 2012, but Jason is a UK citizen. As a result, Jason is unable to stay in the country. In order to see his husband, Jason has to get a Tourist Visa, which allows them to be together for 90 days. Jason is now being warned that he’s used too many Tourist Visas, and has been advised to stay out of the U.S. for at least six months.
In New York, two gay men were pursued by a group that shouted anti-gay slurs and then beat them. Both victims were hospitalized. One required eye surgery.
So go ahead. Explain to me why we’re still denying people equal rights and protection under the law. Explain to me why any of this is okay. Explain how you sleep at night, knowing that these things are the direct result of our refusal to recognize “those people” as equal. Or even to recognize them as people.
During Penguicon, my wife noticed what looked like an elongated callus on my right hand, below the ring finger. (Spoiler: It’s not a tumor.) When it was still there two weeks later, I hopped online to do a little research, then went in to talk to the doctor. His diagnosis confirmed my guess, and the winner is…
That link goes to the Wikipedia page, which includes a post-surgical picture with incision and stitches, so don’t click if that kind of stuff gets to you.
Basically, some connective tissue in my hand is misbehaving, which starts to restrict the extension of the tendon. Right now, it’s just a little vertical speed bump on my palm. Eventually, it will restrict the movement of my ring finger, and I won’t be able to extend it beyond a curved, clawlike position.
I think of this soon-to-be claw as the first step in my very, very slow transformation into a werewolf.
The good news is that it’s not painful, and it’s fairly straightforward to correct. Basically, the doctor said to let him know when it starts to become a problem, at which point he’ll hook me up with a hand surgeon to go in and clean out the affected tissue. Six weeks of recovery and physical therapy, and I’m good to go.
Note: I’m not looking for medical advice.
Dupuytren is less common in people my age. I guess I’m just precocious. There seems to be a correlation to diabetes as well. And it sounds like there’s a decent chance of recurrence in the long run.
Compared to some of the medical complications I’ve seen friends and family deal with, this is little more than an annoyance right now. I am a little anxious about the eventual surgery, though. I’m a writer, which is a much easier job for me to do with functional hands.
Fortunately, I should have a little while–maybe a few years?–before that becomes necessary.
The silver lining: It looks like the surgery leaves a zig-zag scar on your palm, which means after I heal, I’ll be able to tell people I stopped a Killing Curse WITH MY BARE HAND!
It’s strange to realize I’ve been a manager at Ye Olde Day Job for more than seven months now. One of the most surreal parts so far has been the process of hiring new employees, doing everything from reviewing applications to writing screening questions to conducting job interviews.
In some ways, it reminds me a little of being an editor. Some stories just aren’t that well-written. Others might not be the right fit for your project. Then there are those that are good, but are they good enough? And of course, I hate the rejection part…
Having done this a few times now, I wanted to pass along a few observations and suggestions. I hope they’re helpful!
Read the Guidelines: When you’re submitting a story, the guidelines are a test. If you submit a 10,000 word story to a market with a 4000-word upper limit, you fail. Same thing with a job application. If the application says to include a cover letter and you don’t, that’s going to cost you. If it asks for a copy of your transcript and you don’t include that, you’re much less likely to get an interview.
Learn to Write Well: I suspect I’m more critical of people’s writing skills than most, but your ability to write complete sentences and paragraphs in your cover letter, to present a clean, grammatically correct resume, these things do make a difference. And whenever possible, ask someone else to review and proofread your material before you send it in.
Research the Employer: This is advice I’ve heard for years. Having sat on the other side of the table, I finally understand why. Not only do you look more invested if you’ve taken a few minutes to study the company online before the interview, but it lets you tailor your interview answers to the company’s specific goals and needs. It really does make you stand out.
Practice: Interviews make a lot of people nervous, even when they’re fully qualified for the job. If you can do practice interviews through your school or a job training program, that will help. If not, get a friend to throw practice questions your way. You can find lots of standard interview questions online.
Make Sure You Understand the Questions: When you’re interviewing, make sure you listen to and answer the whole question. If you’re nervous, it’s easy to get tunnel vision about a particular key word and miss part or all of the question. Wait to hear the entire question, and if you’re unclear about anything, ask them to repeat or clarify.
Be Confident in Your Skills, but Don’t Lie: Don’t be afraid to talk up your strengths and accomplishments. You’re there to make yourself look good! But don’t lie. It won’t end well.
This is for my own reference as much as anything else, but yesterday afternoon I began writing the first draft of Unbound.
The very first line of the book is “WEREWOLVES VS. BIGFOOT”, and yes, it’s in all-caps.
Have I intrigued you yet?
My wife has been reading the goblin books to my eight-year-old son. Earlier this week, they finished the final book in the trilogy, Goblin War [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy]. I admit, I’m a little sad. This has been an amazing thing to watch. Toward the end, I found myself sneaking over to the couch to listen to my wife read and watch Jackson’s reactions. When I tucked him in at night, we’d talk about the latest chapter and what he thought might happen next.
But then I realized it’s not quite over! I’ve got five goblin short stories they can read, too! We started in on “Goblin Lullaby,” which has already led to some diaper-related laughter
In the meantime, here are Jackson’s thoughts on Goblin War, as transcribed by me.
What is Goblin War about?
It’s about Jig and how he and Shadowstar have to defeat Billa and her god Issa. Relka, who was stabbed in the belly by Jig in Goblin Hero, became obsessed with Jig and Shadowstar. And Darnak comes back, because Theodore got the Rod of Creation. He used it to [SPOILER]!
Who are your favorite characters, and why?
Jig, because he’s the main character. And Tymalous Shadowstar, the other main character. I like them.
What about the other characters?
Yeah, I liked them too. I really liked how you made Noc and Issa.
What was the best part of the story?
I can’t decide. It’s too good!
Okay, what were some of the best parts?
I liked when it showed about Jig as a baby.
Let’s see… Don’t type that. Daddy!
I liked when Jig, Relka, and Trok had to clean the wolf pen. Smelly (one of the wolves) rolled around in the poop!
Were there any parts you didn’t like?
What’s the best book, Goblin Quest, Goblin Hero, or Goblin War?
Who should read this book?
I always say that, because I really like them.
What do you think will happen to Jig and the goblins next?
I think that more characters will come back, either Veka or Riana.
For those of you who’ve asked how e-books work in a world of libriomancy, this chapter talks about that question. Or if you just want to read about Smudge eating a poetic raisin…
If you notice any problems with either file, please let me know.
Steven Harper (Blog, Twitter, Facebook) is another Michigan author, with a bunch of books to his name. Names, actually. His latest novel is The Havoc Machine [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], the fourth book in his Clockwork Empire series. You can read a sample chapter here.
He stopped by to talk about the creation of family…
Ah, Friends. Remember them? The quintessential show of the 90s. When Friends first aired, I was immediately drawn in. We had six (mostly) unrelated people who had formed a family. They laughed and played pranks and squabbled and dated other people, but in the end, they remained woven together like yarn into socks. They were so close that they spent Thanksgiving and other holidays together instead of going home to their birth families.
I was a faithful viewer for ten years, and I sniffled hard when the show went off the air.
This image of unrelated people coming together to form a family stayed with me. My own birth family had undergone a number of upheavals, and however necessary those upheavals were, it still left my family fractured and pulled apart. What would it be like . . . ?
Eventually I found out what it would be like. I married, we had a son, and we realized more birth children wouldn’t be an option. My then-wife and I adopted two boys from Ukraine, and our family grew. Sasha and Maksim weren’t ours by blood, but they were ours by everything that counted. Sasha defended his new brother Aran from bullies at school. Maksim clung to me whenever he felt shy or afraid. We laughed and played pranks and squabbled and ate Thanksgiving dinner together. We were a family, pulled together from bits and pieces from all over the world.
When I wrote The Havoc Machine, I set out to explore what it meant to form a family out of nothing. Thad, the main character, has lost his family, and he limps through life like a dented automaton as a result. His clockwork parrot Dante is all he has left of this former life, and their relationship is far from healthy. It’s easier for him to be alone, when he has nothing to lose. Then he meets Sofiya Ekk and they rescue a boy named Nikolai from the lair of a mad scientist, and Nikolai attaches himself to Thad with ferocious tenacity, and Sofiya comes along for reasons of her own. Thad doesn’t want attachments, but he finds himself thrust into the role of father nonetheless, and through him, I got to explore what it means to learn fatherhood all over again.
Over the past two weekends, I’ve been a Guest of Honor at Penguicon and Mo*Con. I had a great time at both, and would like to publicly thank both cons for all of their work, and for making me feel so welcome. Penguicon gave me a pocketwatch! Mo*Con wouldn’t stop feeding me! At both conventions, I got to hang out and talk to amazing people, and I’m grateful to all of the volunteers and attendees who helped me to feel welcome.
But these two cons also drove home something I’ve been noticing. Earlier this year, I was on a panel about inclusion in fandom at a different convention. One of our panelists insisted that fandom had always been welcoming to everyone, adding that she preferred the colorblind approach, welcoming everyone as individuals.
Mary Robinette Kowal beat me to the response by 0.6 seconds. Mary stood up and asked everyone in the audience who was white to raise their hands.
The entire audience raised their hands, with the sole exception of the partner of the panel’s one black panelist–a gentleman who, I believe, had been invited specifically to attend that panel.
That’s what “colorblind” looks like.
Most of the conventions I’ve attended are like this.
Data on race and ethnicity in the U.S. is a little messy, but in 2010, our population was roughly 72% white. So why do so many conventions seem to be between 95% and 99% white? And it’s not just in the midwest that I’ve seen this, either.
Mo*Con was an exception to the rule. There were times this past weekend I wish I could have been colorblind, because in the back of my mind, I kept looking around and wondering, Why can’t more conventions be like this?, and that frustration took away from my ability to just relax and enjoy myself.
We’ve had this conversation before. I don’t believe anyone is deliberately or consciously trying to limit convention participation along racial lines. Nobody’s setting a quota of at least 97% white folks. We’ve seen some conventions beginning to talk about trying to more actively look for nonwhite guests to invite, as opposed to thoughtlessly recycling the generally white status quo.
I’m not saying nobody should ever invite white guests of honor to their conventions. But I don’t think white men should be the default, the automatic choice, when there’s such a broad range of amazing writers contributing to our field.
But that’s just a part of the picture. One of the things I noticed at Mo*Con was a sense of genuine welcomeness. I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s not that I’ve felt unwelcome at other conventions; but Mo*Con had a sense of warmth and inclusiveness and appreciation for everyone that I haven’t experienced at most cons. Some of that might have been the smaller size and the focus on people and connections, but whatever the reason, I want that at every convention.
I want everyone to have that, dammit.
And it’s not enough to just tell the concom to invite more nonwhite guests. The entire convention needs to be a part of creating that inclusiveness. I need to be a part of it, of inviting and welcoming and listening. When conventions promote, where do they focus their outreach? When we come back to the real world and talk about what a great time we had at a con, who do we talk to? Who do we try to invite along to the next one?
Lots of people will protest that they don’t discriminate, and they don’t judge based on color. They’ll argue that they welcome everyone, and they do so in a way that’s fair and non-racist and colorblind. But we’ve seen what “colorblind” tends to create. We end up recreating and reinforcing our preexisting circles, building a convention that might be welcoming to us, but isn’t necessarily welcoming to everyone.
That needs to change. Because dammit, the world is bigger than that. Our genre is bigger. We should be bigger.
Star Trek: Of Gods and Men is an interesting phenomenon. It’s a fan-made film, but one done with at least the tacit acceptance of the powers that be. I picked this up after watching and enjoying another fan0-made Trek film, World Enough and Time.
Of Gods and Men is set about twelve years after the “death” of Captain Kirk on board the Enterprise B (in Star Trek: Generations). Starfleet has built a replica of the original USS Enterprise, a kind of museum and tribute. Captains Nyota Uhura and Pavel Chekov are in attendance, along with Captain John Harriman (captain of the Enterprise B). A time disturbance leads them to the planet of the Guardian of Forever, where Charlie X (from the original episodes, now 40 years older) is seeking revenge on Kirk. He escapes into the guardian and changes history…
The result is a mirror universe-like empire, the “Galactic Order,” made up of humans, Klingons, and more. Uhura is married to Stonn on Vulcan, which has remained neutral in the face of the Galactic Order’s oppression. Chekov is now a ruthless freedom fighter. And Harriman is still captain of the Enterprise, but he now serves the Galactic Order. Thus the film’s tagline, “Legends come together one last time…to destroy each other.”
While it opened kind of slowly, and the special effects were a bit uneven, I loved seeing some of the classic actors again. Nichelle Nichols will always be awesome, and while Walter Koenig sometimes seemed a bit tired, I really liked him as Kittrick the freedom fighter. We also got Trek alumni like Tim Russ as Tuvok, Grace Lee Whitney as Janice Rand, Chase Masterson, Ethan Phillips, and many more.
I’m having a hard time trying to evaluate this thing. Some of the plot elements were familiar, particularly after the J. J. Abrams Star Trek reboot. On the other hand, Of Gods and Men came out two years before the Abrams movie, which raises a few questions in the back of my mind… But even aside from that, the broken timeline isn’t exactly a new approach in Star Trek or science fiction in general. But it worked. It gave us a plausible story, and allowed the creators to bring back a number of characters from the old series. The tension didn’t exactly have me gripping my seats, but I stayed to watch the whole thing when I should have been working.
Familiarity with the old series will help. Otherwise, there are a lot of characters and references that probably won’t make a lot of sense. But as someone who grew up on original Trek, it was fun to see everyone coming together again.
My only other two comments are that the final battle dragged on a bit, and the Uhura/Stonn thing didn’t make sense to me, particularly given Stonn’s character in the original series. That said, it was a lot of fun to revisit Star Trek, and this had more of the original Star Trek feel than the Abrams reboot.
Also recommended: Star Trek: World Enough and Time. I believe both this and Of Gods and Men can be viewed online for free, as well as ordered on DVD from their respective websites.