Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Write 1 Sub 1

I didn't get the dictionary. I was too torn on whether I really needed more books, and then it was gone.

The possibility of missed opportunity seems to be a huge motivator for people in general, but most observably for me in writers. Despite accepting submissions year round, the three days before the deadline on both of the magazines I work on have more volume of submissions than any three weeks the rest of the year.

Such violent fear is easily circumvented by planning, but it's easier to plan the writing than what comes after. That's why Write 1 Sub 1 seemed like such a fantastic thing when I heard about it in January. Deadlines for magazines are less of an issue when you have personal deadlines at much more frequent intervals.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Stone-Blind -- Zymurgy

In the laundry room downstairs, calling my name, is the "New Century Dictionary." Considering it's leather-bound and the book on top of it was printed in 1929, I'm thinking the 21st is not the new century to which it refers. The title of this post is what Volume Three covers. It caught my eye because it looked at first glance like one long hyphenated word, and because I'd never heard of zymurgy (fermentation, apparently).

The idea of dictionaries has interested me recently, as the new Vice President of VWS, Michael McGovern, has an impressive collection of them. Every kind imaginable, and several languages. A hundred slightly different definitions, a thousand slightly different ideas of the central vocabulary of English.

As writers, we live immersed in language. But we also live in the particular connotations associated with our word choice. I talked about gendered language last month, and all of its attendant problems, but all word choice requires careful consideration, as the language evolves constantly.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Changing Fields

I had someone write to me the other day that they find my interest in literature rare.

It surprised me, as I live surrounded by people with literary bents, and I see numbers on a regular basis about ebooks an selfpublished books as they take off. I think interest in literature in a general way is stronger than ever, but it is less of a central culture; genre fiction is immensely popular, and indie authors tend to find more success in physically local markets.

With Oprah retired, we have no central figure telling us what to like; the New York Times bestseller list shows what people already like an buy, not what they might like in the future. This is where the proliferation of all manner of small decentralized communities comes in: if you like steampunk, you can find communities that discuss it, that can recommend and review and dissect various authors and novels in the genre.

Interest in literature has just become more specialized, more genre-based, as genres and our ability to expose ourselves to only what we want expands. It's an interesting direction for an ever-changing industry.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Copyright Tango

Copyright is still a subject I'm trying to figure out.

Not the legal side of it: that's what entertainment lawyers are for, and they can explain it to the rest of us when it's relevant.

It's how I want to use it, how it's applicable to me in particular, that I have to figure out. Creative Commons licensing is more appealing on a number of levels than traditional copyright. Creative Commons licensing is more accepting of educators using the material, explicitly allows for fan-created work, and all together embodies more of the tech-edged forward-thinking social movement that I'd like to target as readers.

On the other hand, if readers are free to redistribute digital copies wherever and however they like, I'm not always going to be getting paid.

Cory Doctorow makes his novels available online in any format a fan will translate it into, and lets his publishers just handle the print versions. This is fantastic, and I've taken advantage of it more than once.

But I think digital editions are a very future-friendly option: no dead trees (stone paper and elephant-poop paper still being too pricey to practically print books on), cheaper production costs, and easy transportation to any corner of the globe with internet access. I think that, while they will never replace print editions completely, digital editions may easily become the primary distribution method. If they do, I'm not sure I want to be giving my primary distribution method available for free.

Digital editions still have associated production costs in terms of the writer's time, the editor's time, the layout person's time, and the cover artist's time.

Machine of Death has made PDF available for free, but not any other digital edition. That was initially jarring, but seems to make sense upon examination of other factors. PDF is almost universally readable, even if it is awkward at times. Like the public library, it is available to everyone but not as convenient as buying. That seems to make sense.

But that raises the issue with the more arcane editions that fans might format it into: is the writer entitled to make money from the efforts of fans? And if not, isn't that just a lot of incentive to download the arcane edition and retranslate it into whatever format is most convenient for you?

A lot of Creative Commons licensing relies on the idea that fans who support an edition won't do that, and I like the attitude of generally not treating fans like criminals.

But the licensing I'll use for my own work (not short stories or collaborations) is still something I have to think hard about.