Randomness for 7/16

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1) Weapons confiscated by the TSA.

2) The technology to rip off your card when you use an atm is becoming advanced.

3) Turning Facebook covers and profile pics into art.

4) Casting letter shows alternate actors considered for ST:TNG. Jenny Agutter as Beverly Crusher? Wesley Snipes and Geordi? Kevin Peter Hall as Data? Yaphet Kotto as Picard? Huh.

5) Artist recreates his childhood drawing 20 years later. Wow.

6) Burned, abandoned, flooded mall has become home to koi and catfish.

7) Top 10 Most Effective Editing Moments of All Time, according to Cinefex. Video.

Is Amazon really in talks to buy Simon & Schuster?

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That would be crazy if it’s true. Of course it’s also, possibly, a misreading of this article: Amazon in talks with Simon & Schuster: Moonves

Still, I’m not sure why Amazon would want S&S. What does the publisher have that Amazon doesn’t? A bigger share of their author’s revenue? I suspect a great many S&S authors would rather jump ship than go over to Amazon, if only so their books would still be available in many different stores.

In other words, I’m really, REALLY doubtful that this story is accurate.

Great books for cheap (Humble Bundle)

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There are a bunch of (DRM-free, multi-format) sf/f ebooks available right now (for maybe another week) through the latest Humble Bundle. What’s more, as per other Humble Bundles in the past, more books will be added as the timer counts down.

This “bundle” benefits the SFWA medical emergency fund and First Book, a program that puts new books in schools full of underprivileged kids, because god forbid we should ever fund education properly.

Check it out. Even if you are only interested in half the books, you’d be getting a good deal and helping worthy causes.

Writers inspired by D&D, from the NYTimes

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Everyone’s linking to this NYTimes piece about a whole generation of writers who were influenced by playing D&D when they were young, and they offer a nice, broad cross-section of writers. It’s not just sf/f people, but literary writers and playwrights and plenty of others, too.

It’s a nice article, if a bit fluffy (which, what else would I expect, given the subject). I’ve said before that gaming had an influence over me, especially because it taught me that the characters I was so used to seeing in movies, books, and on TV did not seek advantage as ruthlessly as characters played by actual people who were invested in their success. The old standby is the spy escaping from a holding cell, knocking out a guard, and not taking anything from the guard’s body, not a weapon, communicator, key, nothing.

More interesting to me is that the authors seemed to have a much more theatrical/improvisational experience in their gaming. We spent So. Much. Time. going room to room killing things, with little more story than that. In fact, we’d play so much that it was impossible to make up an actual story, and when I tried I often found the players utterly uninterested in exploring any of it.

By the way, we played “The Fantasy Trip”, not D&D, because we though the armor class rules were incredibly stupid.

Anyway, I continue to believe that, with the right players and genre, an rpg session could be worthwhile art. Not just “I bash the orcs” sort of thing, but an actual exploration of character in a partly improvised narrative, with added random outcomes due to die rolls and an earned ending. They could even do the closeup camera thing for the die rolls, the way poker shows show the players’ hands. The two-part Tabletop episode was a good proof of concept, even if they didn’t take the narrative beyond “I swing my mace at the skeleton.”

If you watch that video (I thought it was interesting) you’ll see that the story is compelling when the players have their characters talk like themselves. When they try to talk pseudo-medieval fake fantasy stuff everything becomes stilted and awkward.

Anyway, I’m a little envious of the writers in that article, because the games I played as a kid never managed to pull together any kind of story. In college and afterwards, things were better, but not in those early formative years.

Randomness for 7/12

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1) The best one-star review ever.

2) Ingmar Bergman’s THE FLASH. Video. #lol

3) 25 Pictures Of Lesbian Sex According To Stock Photography #15, wtf?

4) A film from 1943 or 1944 with a British major demonstrating knife-fighting techniques. Dubbed into Greek but subtitled in English. Video.

5) Books with almost identical covers.

6) Baking projects that didn’t turn out like their photos.

7) Top ten pictures of pie eaters.

Randomness for 7/8

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1) How to save a rusty ruined cast iron skillet.

2) Dad photoshops young daughter into sf/f movies.

3) Insights from a real sword fight.

4) Authors dress up as their favorite characters.

5) “There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.” Frankly, I say this fossil isn’t scary enough for the name.

6) Ten ridiculous Kickstarter campaigns people actually supported

7) Conversation with Twitter bots draws in Bank of America. #lol

Regarding petitions and joining teams.

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I’ve been mostly offline this week for my birthday stuff and to prep the release of my new book, so I’ve missed most everything going on lately. I even missed the pro-Amazon petition that’s been making the rounds.

Other authors stepped in though:

John Scalzi on treating publishing as a business:Amazon, Hachette, Publishing, Etc — It’s Not a Football Game, People

Chuck Wendig picks through the absurdities of the petition itself: THE PETITION TO PAINT AMAZON AS UNDERDOG

Fellow Team Caitlin author puts some numbers to the cost of publishing his books, self-published and not: The Cost of a Good Book

The petition itself is not Hugh Howey’s work, but he’s part of the group of authors who created it, and since he’s got such a high profile, people are attributing it to him.

That’s a little unfair, but the guy has made himself the public face of pro-Amazon partisanship, so it’s not exactly surprising. He turns up in the comments of Chuck’s piece, too, arguing his piece and explaining that his support of Amazon is provisional on their good behavior.

Sadly, he still hasn’t learned that publishers compete with each other. He claims they’re a cartel because they don’t compete on the royalty rates they offer writers, completely missing the fact that they compete on the advance they offer and the rights they take. This has been explained to him before, but it doesn’t do any good. If they don’t compete on royalties, he doesn’t believe their competing. It’s ridiculous, but you can’t force a person to understand.

Personally, I think Scalzi’s post comes closest to the point of the petition: It’s the creation of a team sport mentality to rally a fan base. I’m not even sure it’s something they do consciously, but there’s a positive feedback loop to crying “Revolution!” and “We have to stick together against the enemy!”

There’s no other point to urging others to support a corporation that sees you as an ATM. If boycotting Amazon means that readers will not be able to buy some authors’ work, those authors ought to be diversifying their business.

Look, I’m not against Amazon. Just yesterday I put a new book (with Twenty Palaces fiction inside) up for sale on their site! But it’s also with Barnes & Noble, and soon other places, too. I skip KDP Select because I don’t need Amazon’s basket for all my eggs.

Also, skipping Select means that Amazon takes a 65% commission on all sales, no matter what the price, in certain territories like Mexico and Japan. I don’t want to pay them so much, so I don’t let them sell in those countries. Readers there can still find my work in iBooks or on the Nook.

Have I mentioned that I worked there for a while? I did, in the warehouse “fulfillment center” way back before they opened a bunch of them all over the country. I liked (most of) the people, but didn’t stick around. There were just too many people who were GungHoOurCompanyWeMustBandTogetherToConquerAll! (One of the supervisors told us that Christmas was going to be a “war” around there, and we should be ready to put our personal lives on hold. At Christmas. For a corporation. I shit you not.)

And now I find the same attitude from people who don’t even work there.

Last week, I got into a Twitter conversation about whether Howey is “pro-writer.” The other person thought so (I’m sure Howey feels the same way) but to me he’s always pro-Amazon. The way he talks, you’d think writers’ and Amazon’s interests were so close together you couldn’t slip a piece of paper between them.

They’re not. Obviously. And I don’t mean “they might diverge at some point in the future.” They’re different right this very second, and no pro-corporate boosterism is going to change that fact. It might spread around the web like a meme and motivate fans to buy books, but it’s not healthy in the long run.

On an unrelated note, this is totally my latest earworm.

“Seriously: this is epic fantasy unlike anything I’ve ever read.”

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So, the hunt for blurbs for The Great Way is going pretty well. Author C.E. Murphy has even written a preview review (Hey, I should trademark that) that is really positive and spoiler-free. I could probably grab a couple of nice blurbs out of there. Even nicer is that she wrote this on the day after the last book in her Walker Papers series came out. Seriously, I turn into a narcissistic maniac when my books are released, so I’m incredibly grateful that she took the time.

This also makes me hopeful that these books won’t pass through the market like shit through a goose, and you know what I think about hope.

Not everyone celebrates Father’s Day, nor should they.

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C.C. Finlay talks about terrible fathers.

Let’s not make everyone celebrate. And let’s not ever talk about “all dads.” That’s a category without meaning. To everyone who doesn’t celebrate Father’s Day, to everyone who avoids it because it brings up too many painful memories, this post is for you.

Randomness for 6/12

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1) 20 Terrible Real Estate Photos. It’s hard to believe some of these are real. via Beth Pearson

2) Man Builds DIY ‘Hidden Pool’ In His Backyard That Disappears Under a Grass-Covered Top When Not in Use.

3) Man trolls Craigslist ad searching for “disguisable” weapons.

4) The Holy Taco Church. It’s funny, but I just sold a story to John Joseph Adams about a (mobile) taco church for his anthology of sff kickstarters. You think you’re being outlandish….

5) Tracking Detroit’s Decay Through Google Time Machine.

6) A review of Ancient Germanic Warriors: Warrior Styles from Trajan’s Column to Icelandic Sagas.

7) Know your double. <– Funny