Friday, July 4, 2014

New Story, New (Paper) Anthology, and a Controversy

First of all, I have a new story! Celebrate Independence Day with a story about a one-percenter trapped in a virtual suburban prison in "Days Like These," published at Daily Science Fiction. An excerpt:

Park's mother adjusted to life in the neighborhood the way eyes adjust to the dark. One day Park came home to find her lovingly subsumed in the subroutines, a mom.exe with no arms to hold him.
But a man of eighteen plus whatever doesn't need hugs as much as a grown man, and his father had never recovered. Dad couldn't leave Home Sweet Home now, not with his wife's ghost haunting every mailbox, gutter, and microwave oven in the cul-de-sac. Dad's refusal to leave affects Park in a very personal way. 
Because you have to be put back into a body when you leave Home Sweet Home. And Park's dad won't give up the keys.

Depressing, right? This story is inspired by my old neighborhood of Hampden, Baltimore. Every night around nine an unmarked ice cream truck would tear around the neighborhood, attracting anyone but children, distributing anything but ice cream. Even Superstorm Sandy couldn't stop this ice cream truck. It was like living in my very own episode of Breaking Bad. Enjoy!

An anthology I was published in, Whispers from the Abyss, is printing a physical copy of the book and running a Kickstarter to fund it! More info here. Also includes stories by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, A.C. Wise, Greg Van Eekhout, and the best Lovecraftian story ever, Nick Mamatas' "Hideous Interview with Brief Man." My story, "You Will Never Be the Same," is a mashup of Lovecraft and before-his-time SF writer Cordwainer Smith. Only $15 for the book, cheap!

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you're aware of the controversy between mega-corporation Amazon and mega-publisher Hachette (which owns the SF imprint Orbit Books). Right now there are two competing surveys going on, one by a famous traditionally-published writer pleading with Amazon to give Hachette what it wants because it's "holding books hostage," and the other by bestselling self-published writer Hugh Howey, which asks people... to give Amazon a hug? Okay, I'm not really sure what Howey's message is here. But I'm not signing either of them, and that's because I don't owe any loyalty to corporations.

I understand that Hachette's refusal to budge is hurting its authors. And I also understand that a widespread Amazon boycott (which is not going to happen) could potentially hurt self-published authors somewhere down the line. I'm more concerned about the fact that this is being held up as a test of allegiance. Hachette or Amazon? Coke or Pepsi? Crest or Colgate? Gosh, it's like Amazon is the only store in the whole entire world that sells books! I mean, it's practically censorship for them not to carry those books, amirite? Or if you're on the self-publishers' "side," because Amazon has been very good to a few dozen people it's clearly always the best way to publish one's book, and people who hang on to traditional publishing are just robots idiots robotic idiots who haven't seen the light. Can't you just feel the love toward authors here?

Basically I agree with John Scalzi on this: "These businesses and corporations are not your friends... If you’re treating these businesses as friends, you’re likely to get screwed." Hachette isn't an underdog here, they're a multi-billion dollar corporation that would drop a writer in a second if they thought it would buy them one more silver oyster fork. (Can you ever have enough silver oyster forks, though?) Likewise, Amazon isn't the great benefactor that self-published writers think it is, and I hate, hate, HATE that it seems to be held up as the only market for self-published books when that's not true at all*. At Amazon you're going to get a bigger piece of the revenue pie, but not all writers are meant to go self-published, either because their writing style doesn't fit what sells in that marketplace or they don't have the time and/or money to produce a good self-published book. Basically, there are pros and cons to both approaches, which is why so many writers are now becoming "hybrid" and mixing the two, selling novels through the Big Five and releasing short stories in e-form, or e-publishing their novels but placing short stories in magazines.

(I also wonder why the people all het up that Amazon is "holding books hostage OMG" aren't equally outraged that Barnes & Noble is refusing to carry paper books published by 47North and other Amazon imprints. Maybe these are the same people who look down on Walmart when half their apartment is decorated with shit they bought at Target.)

This is all kind of a long-winded way of saying "yeah, I think Hugh Howey is mostly right but not for the reasons he thinks and also can indie writers please stop co-opting a term that used to be used for actual independently-minded writers not people who want to crank out a lot of commercial fiction fast which is totally fine but not what indie used to mean?" In the meantime, here's a list of independent bookstores (all of which carry Hachette titles) that ship books right to your doorstep or e-reader if you want to put your money where your mouth is**:

Powell's Books (Portland, OR): The biggest little bookstore in the world. I've ordered from them in the past (although obviously won't be doing so anymore!) and they ship fast and well. You can also buy used books through the online store.

Atomic Books (Baltimore, MD): They have a smaller selection but they also carry zines. Excellent brick-and-mortar location. I've never ordered from them but I'm sure their mailorder is rad. John Waters' mailbox is in here.

Weightless Books (The Internet): Amazing selection of e-books in all formats. They carry subscriptions for magazines you can't subscribe to on Amazon.

Borderlands Books (San Francisco, CA): Specializing in SF/F/H, carries a lot of rare stuff, ships worldwide.

And yes, this list is America-centric but hey, that's where I live. If you have any recommendations, leave them in the comments and I'll add them to this list! You can also buy e-books and p-books directly from most small press publishers like Small Beer Press and ChiZine Publications. Really, most small press books are better than the stuff you get from the Big Five anyway.

*I'm not just talking about zines here... but seriously if you count zines I've been self-publishing for years. I admit that self-publishing genre fiction (at places that are not Amazon, but yes, also including Amazon) does hold some appeal to me, but my stuff is not the kind of thing that would do well in the current self-publishing world. I reserve the right to reconsider this in the future.

**In addition, Kobo also has a program where you can tell them your favorite independent bookstore and that bookstore will get a cut from every book you buy from Kobo. Neat, huh? Although I've never used it, because I, uh... have a Kindle.


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