Looking Up

by wjw on August 25, 2015

skywardThings are looking up, so here’s a view upward, in a photo I took in York Minster some years ago.

The rest of the week is going to be very busy, and culminate in Bubonicon 47, New Mexico’s annual science fiction convention, where I shall be in attendance, and (judging by the schedule) rather occupied.

All of which means I probably won’t be posting much here for the next few days, so keep looking up!

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C’est Moi!

by wjw on August 23, 2015

Worldcon_075_Helsinki_logoI should actually use a Finnish translation of “c’est moi,” but apparently this sentiment cannot be expressed in Finnish, at least according to every Finnish online dictionary in existence.   The closest I can get is “I’m here,” and I think you already know that I’m here, so there seems little point in announcing it.

All of which is an over-rambling way of getting around to saying that I’m going to be the Guest of Honor of the 75th World Science Fiction Convention, to be held August 9-13, 2017, in Helsinki.

It’s the tradition of Worldcon that the choice of GoH is kept secret until the winning bid is announced, so I’ve been holding onto this decision for quite some time, and I’m happy finally to be in a position to tell people.  And I’m doubly pleased, because I was also Helsinki’s choice for their 2015 bid, which was defeated by Spokane, and I couldn’t even whine about it, because it’s supposed to be a secret forever, or something.  But anyway there’s no point in whining now.

I’ve very pleased and very flattered by the choice of the committee, and I hope to see you all in two years in Helsinki.  I know we’ll have a good time.

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In the Giving Vein

by wjw on August 20, 2015

Trail of lit bulbs and Red shoe

Trail of lit bulbs and Red shoe

It’s not enough that I’ve dropped the price of Angel Station to 99 cents.  No!  I’m far more generous than that!

I want you all to be happy, so I’ve now dropped the price of my Nebula-winning “Daddy’s World” to zero.  Yes, it’s free!

Download it on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, iBook, Smashwords, and/or Google Play!

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News From the Marketplace

by wjw on August 20, 2015

Okay, news from the marketplace is supposed to be both good and bad.  While the ideal of the marketplace, as Adam Smith remarked, is to increase the world’s store of happiness (by permitting deals that both buyer and seller can be pleased with), the reality is that the market also creates winners and losers.

e.g.: Amazon.

Amazon has always maintained an uncompromising Darwinian approach to its business.  It treats its market environment as a zero-sum game: they’re not interested in increasing anyone’s store of happiness, they just want to win while making everyone else lose.

Or, as Gore Vidal put it, “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.”

For authors, this was most obvious through KDP Select, in which writers who joined the program (and renounced all other online distributors) were allowed to compete for a share of a fixed pool of money.  In a deal that clearly sucks for them, KDP Select authors are currently competing to have the most pages read.

(I never joined KDP Select, first because I didn’t think it would be very profitable for me to compete with thousands of other writers trying in a mad frenzy to hack Amazon’s system, which could then change on them at a second’s notice; and second because I’d be stiffing my readers who preferred distributors like iBooks, Nook, Kobo, etc.)

In recent years Amazon achieved fame by beating up on publishers, its ostensible partners, and of course by shamefully treating its warehouse workers.

But what we now find is that Amazon treats its white-collar workers as badly as its blue-collar workers.

Hey!  That’s unAmerican!

They’ve created a zero-sum game in their own job market, in which employees are encouraged to savagely compete with one another for a shining reward . . . somewhere down the line.

At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: “I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.”)

. . . Many workers called it a river of intrigue and scheming. They described making quiet pacts with colleagues to bury the same person at once, or to praise one another lavishly. Many others, along with Ms. Willet, described feeling sabotaged by negative comments from unidentified colleagues with whom they could not argue. In some cases, the criticism was copied directly into their performance reviews — a move that Amy Michaels, the former Kindle manager, said that colleagues called “the full paste.”

Wow!  While other tech companies attract employees to “campuses” with game rooms, saunas, masseuses, cappuccino, and dry-cleaning facilities, Amazon has created a prison-house ruled by a society of snitches!  

Snitches will thrive in Snitchdom, of course, but you can rarely depend on them for accurate information.  Ask any cop: snitches lie all the time.  To counter this, Amazon depends on analyzing its masses of data.  Of course the data can lie, too . . . just ask Enron.

You can, of course, succeed at Amazon, so long as you inform on others, bully your underlings, and massage the data properly— and of course it’s smart to work 80-hour weeks, not take a vacation, never get pregnant or sick, or have a social life.  And of course you should never get old.

I’m not sure what exactly would make any of this worthwhile.  No amount of money, surely, when there are lots of other companies competing in the same talent pool.

“Amazon is where overachievers go to feel bad about themselves.”  I guess that must be it.

In sunnier news, creative people seem to be doing better out of the digital economy.  Steven Johnson has actually crunched the numbers on this one!

In 1999, the national economy supported 1.5 million jobs in [creative arts]; by 2014, the number had grown to nearly 1.8 million. This means the creative class modestly outperformed the rest of the economy, making up 1.2 percent of the job market in 2001 compared with 1.3 percent in 2014.

Despite the file-sharing threat that was supposed to destroy the music business, there seem to be more professional musicians now than ever.  What musicians lost on CDs, they’ve made up on live performance.  (Even studio bands like Steely Dan tour these days.)

The movie industry is doing fine, even the midlist films that were supposed to be dying.  Television is in its golden age.

People can make music and films for cheap these days, upload them, and receive instant feedback and possibly even money.  One recent art house film was shot entirely on smartphones.

The data seems a little less conclusive for authors— certainly there are more of them, thanks to Amazon and other online markets— and Johnson ties himself into knots trying to define “high-quality books,” i.e., books thought of highly by a professional critic class (in which category I’m sure I would never be found).  And even after all that, the data is contradictory— but then the digital economy is doing fine by me, so there’s your ringing endorsement.

So the news is pretty good, at least as good as it gets with the arts, unless you happen to work for Amazon, in which case best of luck with our Darwinian managers and all the snitches.

In either case, you volunteered.

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Cthulhu Cave

by wjw on August 15, 2015

cave03When I was in the Black Hills a few days ago, I paid a visit to the Jewel Caves, which is the third largest cave system in the world, with more than 177 miles of rooms, corridors, and . . . terror?

While I saw only a tiny portion of the cave, what I did see was disturbing.

cave02Not only did passing through the cave entrance resemble a journey through the epiglottis of a vast, cyclopean subterranean creature, but a great number of the cave formations suggested tentacled beings, or an acrodont with a disturbing number of teeth, or perhaps an alien life-form half-melted and frozen into place.  Some seem to be squatting, as if in gibbous satisfaction, atop a river of ancient, encrusted blood.

cave01When the stars are right, will these antediluvian creatures come again to life, and rise from their tenebrous, Stygian, immemorial crypt to prey upon doomed, terrified humanity, tear us to bits with their iridescent, nameless, nitrous tentacles, and sacrifice our soul-essence to their squamous, unutterable deities from beyond the eldritch boundaries of space and time?

 

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Reviews Too Late: The Bone Clocks

August 15, 2015

As a writer, your first success is your Fate.  You can write any damn thing you want until you actually succeed at something. If your first successful novel is science fiction, then you’re a science fiction writer pretty much forever, and that’s sort of that.  People will break your bones with baseball bats to keep […]

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Mr. Dreyfus, Your Ride is Here

August 13, 2015
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Ride the Now! (For only 99 Cents!)

August 10, 2015

For a mere 99 cents, you can now purchase my novel Angel Station at Amazon, Google Play, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble. It’ll be available at Flipkart as soon as the word gets to India, preferably soon, As always, ebooks I publish myself are DRM free.  The sale will run through the 23rd, but […]

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Bad Lands

August 10, 2015

Heading West again, by easy stages, and have viewed Badlands National Park. The geological layers are so regular that the terrain looks crosshatched. I’m currently in the Black Hills, hoping to strike gold.

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Brisk

August 7, 2015

The weather got a bit brisk this morning as I went for a sail on the good sloop Amicus, out of Knife River. Half the passengers got seasick, but I was in the other half.  The boat was bounding about so much that half my photos are of the sea, the sky, or the sails.  I couldn’t keep […]

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