Again a Still, Small Voice A Blast From The Past From May 6 2012

*If I were writing this post today, I’d call this “Everything is Proceeding as I’ve predicted.”  From various signs, the waters of traditional publishing are getting very rough indeed.  Not for Baen authors, no, but I have no idea what a systemic collapse will do, either.  Also I found these ten probably publishable handwritten novels while unpacking, and I have others, fragmentary, partial, needing rewrite in my drive.  This to tell you there will be Indie.  Because… why not?

OTOH if I wrote this today and looked at the price of ebooks by the big publishers, I might also entitle it “The strange suicide of the book industry.”  Or perhaps “For the love of reading, someone take the razor blade from traditional publishing houses and call a psychiatrist.”

Anyway, I thought you’d be interested on how we came so far so fast.  Five years.  It feels like forever and it feels like yesterday.  Technological revolutions are weird things.

And while on this, welcome back one of our “One armed musicians” Margaret Ball, who has new books out: Insurgents (Harmony Book 1), Awakening (Harmony Book 2).  I haven’t read them yet, because I’m trying to finish Guardian.  Yeah, it’s taking longer than I expected.  I was complaining to husband about it and he said “Could be because your eyes are crossing both directions.”  I said “You might be right.  I’d better book the six month overdue MRI.”  (And he said something like “I see how it is.  You only mind the health if it affects the writing.” Which is not… wrong.)  BUT I should be done with Guardian by late tonight (Whether Larry will kill me when he reads it is something else.  Let’s say Mr. Trash Bag–  ARGH.  Snerk collar.) And Margaret Ball’s writing has never yet disappointed me.

Again a Still, Small Voice A Blast From The Past From May 6 2012


A year and a half ago I blogged about Lloyd Biggle Jr.’s novel, The Still Small Voice of Trumpets.

I’ll confess I was not perfectly straight forward with you, when I did that.  If I remember, I wrote from the perspective of a reader, and how happy I would be to see the writers who had vanished, how happy to rediscover them.  But I couldn’t close that circuit and make that connection.

I couldn’t do that because at the time I was still agented.  I was still not writing for indie.  I did not know if I could be or would be at any time.  And this imposed certain controls on my tongue.

For those of you who have never read Biggle’s The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets, some spoilers follow.  I’ll just say that despite the spoilers, despite knowing how it will turn out, you should still read it.  It’s one of the classic space operas that is near and dear to my heart.

First, to give you space if you wish to read no further because of spoilers, let me tell you that the proximate cause for this post is a comment by Robin Munn about how, due to the horrible contracts houses are now forcing many writers to sign, until publishing collapses and something else rises phoenix-like from the ashes, many writers are going to disappear for ten years or so.  (It’s in reply to this post.)

My answer said something like “yes, but writers have been disappearing randomly, strangely, for fifteen or more years now.”

I’ve talked about this elsewhere, and I won’t go into the mechanisms.  If you wish to read my old post He Beats Me But He’s My Publisher, go for it.  If you don’t – and I’m not the first person to describe this mechanism.  Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch have described at least parts of it – I’ll give you a quick summary.  At the end of the eighties, sometime, while I was laboring largely in vain to break in, the publishing landscape underwent a marked transformation.

It was mostly a revolution in retail.  I remembered reading at the time about the bright future ahead, now chains were displacing indie bookstores, and how there would be more books and cheaper for the public.

This was true to an extent.  I was very happy when a Borders opened here in town, because it had a much bigger selection than anyone else, and I could go out and buy anything, even late at night…


Except the book trade is a specialized trade.  If the people who were running, managing, distributing, etc, had been readers, true book people and/or if the publishing industry hadn’t itself gone through a convulsion of mergers and buy outs that left management quite removed from the day to day business of publishing… or had most publishers the most rudimentary understanding of economics, the chain bookstores would have been a very good thing.
If ifs an’ ans were pots and pans no one would ever go hungry.

However, the conjunction of book retail being treated as just any other retail “by the numbers” and of the publishing houses having clue zero why it would be a bad idea to control the numbers from the inside out… was a very bad thing.

Sorry, I’m so used to the situation that I just realized I might need to unpack it further, for you.  See, to some extent, publishers always had some control over how much “push” a book got.  To an extent.  The book reps – the people who went door to door, bookstore to bookstore, drugstore to drugstore, everywhere that stocked books saying “hey, you want to stock this because” – tended to be (I think, this was before I was in the industry) readers.  But they also got marching orders – of course – from the publisher.  If told “We’re pushing this book to be big” they’d go out and lean on the stores to stock a lot.  Did it work?  Eh.  Sometimes.  And sometimes, no matter how much they pushed, the retail managers, who back then were by and large readers, would read the book and go “Joe, this is a stinker.  It won’t move.”  And sometimes the reverse happened to.  You had “surprise bestsellers.”  A book that was slated to go down into obscurity would catch the fancy of retailers, and they would hand sell it.  It would reprint, and reprint, and reprint.

That was before retail became consolidated into three big chains and before Borders brought its innovation of “computer numbers” and “ordering to the net” to the business.  Ordering to the net is ordering to the last “net sold” number of books by that author…  No matter the genre, the subgenre or the author’s growth.  (And let me tell you right away that there is no writer – not even Heinlein or Pratchett (genuflect) who never wrote a stinker.  And there are few writers so bad – one or two – who never wrote a book I like.)  Or… what was on the cover.  Or…

What the “computer numbers” system was supposed to do was streamline ordering and give the retailer a real basis for re-ordering.  What it did was provide cover and allow both retailer and publisher to play the numbers.  Let me put it this way – if you had only two books on the shelves per store your chances of selling more than half were almost none.  Your chances of reprint were less than that.  And your writing name would have to be changed within three books.  The alternative was you gave up writing and retired in disgust.

BUT the publisher didn’t have to think about “did we use the right cover?” or “If we bought it, how come it didn’t sell at all” or even “Should we have pushed more.”  No.  They could say “the numbers were bad” and cut the author off.  It was ALWAYS the author’s fault.  Even when the book didn’t even make it to the shelves.

This is what made me think of The Still Small Voice Of Trumpets.  In the book – spoiler warning! – our hero finds himself in a world of people with a mad appreciation for the beautiful.  The most valued art form is music and the type of music is the harp.  The world is ruled by a mad king who periodically – for no reason anyone can divine – has an harpist mutilated by having an arm cut off.

This makes it impossible for the harpist to play again and though the harpist might have been very popular, it effectively erases them from public view and public consciousness.  They disappear into the villages of the one-armed men, where they are in fact untouchable and “dead” to their fans.

In the interest of fomenting revolution, our hero invents a trumpet that can be played with only one hand and teaches the one-armed men to play.  In one of the most moving scenes of the book, the one-armed men march into the capital, playing their music and all their former fans, suddenly, remember them and realize how unjust their condemnation was.  Which starts the revolution.

When I wrote that first post, a year and a half ago, I was thinking how much traditional publishing was like that mad king.  I know of an author who sold very well and had the door slammed on her face because… she dumped her agent – one of the big names in NYC.  I know of authors who gave up in despair after two or three series died without their being able to do anything.  I know of authors who never got started, because they saw how their “older” (in the field) friends and mentors were treated.  And I know of authors who suddenly wouldn’t be bought and never found out why.  The wrong word at a party; the wrong blog post; the wrong expression when a political joke was told…  And it all came tumbling down, and you were banished from publication and from the shelves.  And your fans forgot you.

(In here, because the commenters asked before, I should say that it’s an open secret in the business that if you’re writing for Baen “you’ll be okay” – partly because Baen is in many ways a family enterprise, and not run strictly by bean counters.  OTOH when, like me, you like to write many different genres, it’s rather a lot to ask Baen to start a mystery line just to keep you happy.  So at least one of my pen names – Sarah D’Almeida – was sent off to the village of one armed men.)

If you’re like I used to be, before entering the business, you just went “Well, I guess so and so lost interest in the series; stopped writing; retired.”  If we were still writing – in other genres/under other names – we HAD to abet the deception.  In the interest of continuing to be published – not angering the mad king – we lied to you.  We said “Oh, I hated that series.  I’m much happier with this one.”  We said “Oh, that just never went anywhere.  I didn’t know what the next book would be.”  We said “We always just wanted to be myster/fantasy/romance writers, so we crossed over.”  And what the heck could you do but believe us?

But now we have our trumpets.  Indie publishing allows us to bring back dead pen names; to start writing again; to start writing at last.  We’re no longer dead and gone, banished to the unseen villages of one-armed men.

We are, more and more, marching into the capital, playing our trumpets.  Our fans are remembering us.

In the revolution that follows, a lot of mad kings will be deposed.  I agree with Robin that what emerges will be completely different.  I’d like to believe that as at the end of a fairytale the good are rewarded and the bad punished.
It’s more likely to be like the ending of Romeo and Juliet: “All are punished.”

Rough waters are ahead.  Revolutions are always hard.  But I think in the end, the system will be a little less closed, a little less insane, and a lot fairer.

Listen.  Can you hear it?  The sound of indie publishing is the Still Small Voice of Trumpets.  And they’re ringing freedom.



207 responses to “Again a Still, Small Voice A Blast From The Past From May 6 2012

  1. I am loving this indie revolution. I am finding more and more to read. Not to mention thinking of reaching for the brass ring myself.

    • This ^
      With Kindle Unlimited I’m finding enough to keep me busy when I have time to read. There are 3 authors I’m willing to buy when they have new releases. All 3 write for Baen and one of them hosts this site 🙂

      The more the Left insists on inserting politics into things the more I’m finding myself cutting them out. I don’t need someone else to tell me what to think. I’m perfectly able to come to my own conclusions and make my own mistakes.

      • We can all do exactly the same thing and **IF** it works, everyone is set just fine. But in the more likely event that it does NOT work, everyone is scewed (and not in the the happy fun way, yes). OR… we can run millions of concurrent experiments and see what works.

    • Yet I find less and less to read at B&N that isn’t a reprint of something I missed first time around 25+ years ago.

      It also has me wondering on some things. For example, Allen Steele’s Coyote universe had a huge “human’s have used up the entire solar system’s resources” tor drive the plot in the third book (and the second to a degree off stage although socialist tyranny works just as well).

      Earth you could barely get me to swallow but the solar system is so depleted humanity will die out unless we build tons of Bussard ramjet style starships and go to one other planet we know.

      Son, the math doesn’t work that way.

      I’m pretty sure Steele knows it doesn’t, but I wonder if some ditz (and I use that word specifically) into Earth Day with an English degree whose “bredth” requirement in math was one of those made up classes because liberal arts people are self-identifying as dumber than STEM people (we take your 101s and you can’t take ours by your own admission after all) got assigned to him as editor and it was that or disappear.

      • yeah, that’s what they think

        and then they will tell you how we can get all the free energy we need from the sun

      • We used up the entire solar system?! Don’t these people believe in RECYCLING? And where DID they put all the waste…?

        • Idiots dumped all the waste into the Sun. Which, if I remember correctly, means the stuff gets vaporized, ionized, and then blown away with the solar wind. None of it actually reaches the Sun itself. But it still becomes basically unusable and unrecoverable.

        • I’m trying to imagine the order of magnitude of the ungodly number of people that would be required to use up all the solar system resources.

          Also, since I haven’t read the story, I wonder if there are any planets left, because if there are, then they haven’t used up all the resources. 🙂

      • Yeah, if humans let it get to the point of, “used up the entire solar system’s resources,” they’d have to kill off 20-30% of the population in order to BUILD those ramjets.

        • From the first chapter of Coyote Rising dated 2260 (book published 2004 so 2002 years earlier:

          Earth’s resources had been exhausted; long term effects of global warming had rendered entire countries uninhabitable, while the shorelines of others had disappeared beneath the rising oceans. It was only the development of space resources–the extraction of helium-3 from the lunar regolith, the mining of the Moon and nearby asteroids–that kept the human race from extinction, even then, just barely; the populations of the orbital colonies and the settlements on the Moon and Mars represented only a fraction of the human race, and the attempt to terraform Mars had met with diaster. Unless humankind found another home , it was doomed to a slow and miserable death

          So, 200 years from now the Solar system, at least the inner Solar system, is insufficient to support humanity.

          This in a book which did not need this as the story is pure successor government tries to take over colony that rebelled against prior government under egotistical and self-aggrandizing leader.

          The next book gets worse along these lines but even here the math just does not add up.

          • That’s a depressingly pessimistic view of the resourcefulness of humans.

            • I particularly love with the Earth devastated that they have apparently given up on terraforming Mars.

              As I said that paragraph does nothing really to advance the plot although it will show up in the next book as a driving force (I haven’t read 4 and 5 in no small part because of this). I am open to him being told that had to be why given he was accurately portraying Marxists in the main plot. The first had the GOP becoming Nazis and now he wanted to show Communists being worse when they replaced the Nazis. He probably had to add it to make up for the evil of not having the Nazis pursue the good guys.

              • I particularly love with the Earth devastated that they have apparently given up on terraforming Mars.
                Well, arguably, the paragraph above says they *screwed up* the terraforming. If screwed up adequately, “giving up” might be the only option.

                But, that quoted paragraph is all I know of these books.

                • It more or less disappears for the rest of this book although at the end some people return to Earth because life on the colony world is too hard which kind of flies in the face of this.

                  Also, Earth is still around and functioning after the sub-light round trip so there is that.

          • dated 2260 (book published 2004 so 2002 years earlier
            even here the math just does not add up
            I’ll just leave that there……. 😉

  2. In this modern age, the more one tries to silence dissent, the more one tends to actually amplify said dissent. The more silencing is attempted, the more people see what you are trying to do. Now even if our “betters” tell us the silencing is needed, those they wish to never hear the dissent, are noticing it. When you had the papers, 3 networks (or one in other nations) of tv, and radio (who tended to spawn tv when it came to be), it was easier for them, but now, even with attempts at controlling everything (youTube, Book o’ Faces etc), the controllers only seem to spotlight that which they are silencing. See the Facebook or Youtube banning of the candidate for mentioning PP selling dead baby bits. Who would ever have heard of her 20, 30 years ago? Locally sure, maybe. but nationally, or internationally?
    They go all ham-fist and it pops up in Oz or the UK, and instead of a minor blip on the radar, it’s a massive contact with worldwide attention.

    • It’s a world where the Streisand Effect is universal.

    • It’s just become more commonly known. I recall Pa translating… “‘Critically acclaimed.”…that means ‘It’s crap’.” Still holds, in general. And in reverse, often.

      More information sources are generally a good idea. I recall my shortwave listening days… network news (USA) was “local”.. BBC generally covered UK/Europe and a bit. Radio France offered a different perspective. Radio Moscow a very different take (to put it mildly!). And then Taipei, Taiwan and ABC (Australia) and wow, a whole other HEMISPHERE! or such.

      And now… well, there’s less static crash and fading than shortwave, but I’m not sure the noise floor is any lower. And it seems like Twitter/FaceBook/etc. are doing their damnedest to fade things they don’t like… but (hopefully) just a bit too late.

        • It is. And the bias is actually something that gets pulled up in parliament now and again.

          • Sounds like the CBC. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, an organization so commie that even their frigging logo is red. I haven’t watched it in 20 years. Liberals love it.

            • ABC (Oz version), CBC, and BBC.
              How the hell do they get called “Corporation” when they exist due to Taxes only? If they had to act like real Corporations, they’d be as “profitable” as WAPO and the LATimes.

        • And it was likely the case in the mid/late-1980’s when I was tuning in, but at the time it was still better than just getting ABC/CBS/NBC for news.

          • The Beeb used to be good about getting all the facts out there . . . yeah, they were commie bastages, and interpreted the facts as such, but you could at least get the facts.
            Spoking of which, I saw a CNN/HLN report on “The Big TrumpRussia D(er)Collusion” arrest, and had to shake my head at the charges.
            Get a guy dead to rights on tax evasion and go for a Subversion of the USA? Why do I feel there is a “Tack on these to make it seem like we did something, so people can forget that they got thrown out, and all we did was get a guy for something not related to what we were actually investigating.” in there? The sound was muted, and the CC was about unreadable so I didn’t get what the fool talking heads were glumly droning on about.

        • dammit. lost a reply
          I had stopped reading Tim when DT went paywall, but I see that has stopped, so I picked him up again and get my daily dosage of silly leftoids from down under.
          I like Bolt as well, but can’t get just his feed from the Herald Sun.
          Blair likes to come here to the US and visits Iowahawk Dave Burge a lot.
          That must be some hilarious conversation.

          • From some chats with folks we know, Andrew Bolt is considered ‘pretty right wing extremist’ by the left leaning here. I laughed about this because I’d probably be considered even FURTHER right wing and conservative.

            • Blair and Bolt are closest to American Conservative/Classical Liberals I see anywhere else outside the US in media.
              I have to keep reminding folks the “rightwing” in other nations would often be Dems here, or Northeast, Giuliani/Romney Republicans at best.

      • My youngest is a Film Critic. but Sturgeon’s Law applies to all of his reviews too.

    • Somebody really needs to take them aside and explain to them, gently, that when the folks you are trying to silence are, in fact, Klan members and White Supremacists, amdmit’s YOUR side that reminds people of the Greman Brownshirts, you have a devastating PR problem.

      • Well, except for the small fact that MOST of the people they are trying to silence are NEITHER. And anyone can search them up (on Duck Duck Go, anyway), read what they actually said or wrote, and realize that.

        And every time that happens, same as with every Jackie story, or racist hoax, people start getting to where they ignore the charges whether they’re true or not.

        • My point isn’t that most of the people they are ‘protesting’ against are Klan or similar. My point is that the way the Antifa nitwots are behaving makes them the obvious problem even when they ARE attacking Klan. If you are less,well behaved than White Supremacists , you need to make adjustments.

          • I think the reason they look like they are the problem when they are attacking the Klan is without pretty good proof I don’t ever believe they are attacking the Klan.

            It is like the SPLC failure to understand compound interest. At the rates they have been coming white supremacist organizations are growing for 30 years given the known number in the 80s then we’d and our kids for at least a generation unborn would be white supremacist by now.

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              Modern pop thinking on race is, objectively speaking, fairly white supremacist. If you are a population minority, and you escalate from more persuasive forms to ones that are less persuasion, like violence, you are making it more likely that the majority population will be motivated to rule you harshly. The modern approach cultivates racial thinking, and casts away moral suasion for things that make people ask if segregation was so bad. (It was.) It is hard to say how BLM et al would be any different if they were run by white supremacist agent provocateurs.

              Given everyone who has lead the culture in that direction, how do we know our children and grandchildren won’t be white supremacist in that sense?

            • They are calling anyone who doesn’t fully 101% agree with them Klan, Nazi, and Fascist to cover their fascist, national socialist tendencies, and all the folks they are attacking as such are now not going to listen to them even if they are trying to shut down an actual Klansman or Nazi. People know those are A: few in number, and B: Leftoids as well.

            • All, I saw pictures from the protest-counter protest in Charlottesville (sp?) Virginia. And I saw Klan symbols as well as Stars-and-Bars galore. But those protesters got a permit (which, strictly speaking, they weren’t legally required to) and it’s the Antifa who turned up masked and armed.

              Like I said, if your group is obviously LESS civil in your civil protest than the KKK, you seriously need to re-think your strategy. Because, so far as your cause is concerned, you are a public relations disaster.

              The Hobby-Protest Left have gotten their own way, and been lauded all out of proportion to their merits for so long that they simply don’t comprehend that they could remind people of Germany’s brownshirts.

              Which makes them goddamned idiots. That’s hardly new, but it’s still sad.

              • The only reason the Klan has a leg to stand on in that affair is they followed the law. They got a permit, and they didn’t violate VA’s “no-mask” law.

                • The irony of having to defend the Klan is not lost on me.

                  How’s that saying go?

                  “I don’t agree with what you’re saying, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.’

                  I’d be willing to bet the super majority of those Antifa ignoramuses never raised their hands to volunteer to support and defend, nor have the moral fiber to knowingly and premeditatedly actually risk their lives for such a principle as “freedom of speech.”

                  • The proper response to the Klan is treating their protests like the circus side-shows they are. Violence does not deter the Klan: If you strike them down they will only rise up stronger.

                  • Oh, the Antifa assholes were just pawns. The ones who desperately need to be charged with conspiracy and murder are the mayor of Charlottesville, and the governor of Virginia,

                    They had all the tools and legal backing to stop Antifa. They could have dfeployed enough cops to keep the two sides separate, and they could have arrested 90% of them for violating the “no masks law” the Klan didn’t. But no.

                    No, they didn’t want the march, so they coldly and callously allowed Antifa to attack the marchers so they could create an excuse to apply the “immediate violence” exception to the First Amendment. They got what they wanted, and deaths and injuries only helped. There’s videos out there that supposedly show the car being pelted with bricks before the driver took off. GoogleTube and the media have tried to keep anyone from seeing them. they’ve shown carefully edited videos so you see the marchers fighting without seeing the people attacking them with homemade blowtorches.

                    Think you’ll vote your way out of this? Fat chance. The article here is about an attempted vote fraud investigation, and the part I emphasized is why the system will be broken until the body politic is debrided and cauterized.

                    I post this one mainly to begin to adapt your mind to the idea that there are literally no rules anymore, and nobody in government can help you. Realize that, because you have been raised with expectations and assumptions about how things work in the US, and they were all wrong, or at least they are wrong today. Anyone can do anything, and what will determine if they are punished or constrained is solely how powerful they are. Even the Police are helpless, if the people breaking the law are more powerful than them. Think whoever deleted this server will ever have anything happen to them? The chances are greater of Hell freezing over. The Clintons, Fast and Furious, Benghazi, ISIS, Tea Party Targeting of conservatives, even Bradley Manning. There is a family of a Federal Agent killed by Fast and Furious guns who will never see him again, and Holder and his crew will never be held to account. Not even close.


                    • Yeah, no, you’ve got that all wrong.
                      McAuliffe is a Democrat, and, to put it bluntly, Democrats believe that cops are racists. As such, he didn’t not send in the cops because he wanted the protesters beaten by the counter-protesters; he didn’t send in the cops because he thought they’d go after the counter-protesters no matter what happened.

  3. Yeah, it’s taking longer than I expected.

    Doesn’t that apply to pretty much every book you’ve produced recently? Does that not suggest the possibility you can no longer write as fluently as you did when you were a kid? Are there other things you can no longer do as easily as when you were a kid?

    You, my dear, may be subject to Aging. While there is as yet no cure for this dreaded syndrome there are a wide variety of ameliorative therapies which may be employed. One of those is Eat Lighter Meals — which might not much affect your writing but one never knows. Another therapy which might prove more effective is Get More Sleep — Nine out of Ten cats recommend this therapy; the tenth just snarled at having his nap disturbed.

    As with any recommended therapy regimen, always engage slowly with an eye for adverse effects. In the meantime, adjust your expectations and projections for systemic changes which might alter your projections of what is a reasonable timeframe for any procedure.

    • The smaller meals are par for the course. We take the boys places that have all you can eat, but don’t order it because it’s a money loser. Our single orders seem to morph into at least three meals with take home boxes. (Weirdly no effect noted on waist. I guess that’s aging too.)
      And yes, some of it might be aging, but considering how much the eyes are bothering me in other vision intensive things, like driving and art, or even crochet, I think the MRI to figure if the meningioma over my vision center WOULDN’T be a bad idea…. Nicht Wahr?

      • Never attribute to aging alone what can be explained by aging and systemic malfunction. After all, as any owner of an old heap vintage automobile knows, aging contributes to the likelihood of systems breaking down.

        In fact, aging somewhat sorta requires m ore frequent routine checks. Learning to identify the cues of impending system failure is one of the (bitter) perks of aging.

        My comment was more directed at adjusting your expectations of how long any given novel will require, not toward eschewing needed service checks.

        • IMHO, ageing isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The alternative is far worse. I’m reminded of an old Blondie song; “Die young, stay pretty.”

  4. “If you’re like I used to be, before entering the business, you just went ‘Well, I guess so and so lost interest in the series; stopped writing; retired.'”

    Interesting. I do remember one series I started in college. I enjoyed the first two books, a bunch of things appeared to be being set up, I was looking forward to the third…and then it just disappeared. The date for its publication kept getting pushed back on Amazon, and then finally the Amazon page itself disappeared. And yes, at the time, I assumed that the author had just lost interest or couldn’t figure out what happened next, but now, I do wonder…

    • Occasionally it’s something else. There was a series by Jane Yolen (the one that introduced me to the author) that I thought was a book and its sequel until I was in my 30s. And the third book had been published in a reasonable period after the first two, though probably after I moved up to middle school and no longer had access to that library.

      And then my mom borrowed them, read them, and discovered a fourth book, a finishing book to the series. Written a full eighteen years after book three, with a dedication indicating that it was readers who wanted a finish that finally gave her the inspiration for it.

      Yolen’s a big enough author at a wide range of age levels, so I think in this case, it really was failure of inspiration. Which was finally resolved.

  5. I was pointed to an article, recently, that asserted that the eBook boom was over, that sales were in decline (for both readers and eBooks) and that hardback sales were up.

    OK, we know they are lying. How do we know they are lying? Their lips are moving. They are Liberal Progressives; they lie when they don’t have to. They lie when the truth would serve them better. But the question is HOW are they lying, and for what end?

    • I tempted to answer “How?” with “Poorly.” but as someone allegedly said, there’s one born every minute.

      (Dear WP: Kindly to be putting reply where sense it makes to put it.)

    • Oh, the how is easy. They are only reporting ebook sales from major publishers. Those have been in decline since Amazon lets them set their own price…
      WHY? Same as with fake polls. They think they can influence us. Also, I think they tell this to their investors to get more money. “We had a down time, but it’s over.”
      Bah. IF they’re going to continue this, they should go up the street not across the road already.

      • I suspected as much, but lack the resources to check on it. So, the next question is, who the hell do they think they are fooling?

        • Mostly themselves, their managers and their investors is who they’re fooling. They THINK they’re fooling us. Same as in politics. if they shout JUST a little harder.

      • It seems to me that they’re either delusional or trying to defraud stockholders and potential investors. Maybe they should move Upstate, to the Big House with many (barred) windows.

      • Last 4 books I bought were Kindle versions (2 of them yours.) And for the price of a single hard cover too!

        What I still can’t do well with an electronic version is mark it up with notes, page markers, and highlights as well as I can with a hard copy when trying to dissect how the story was put together.

    • The benefits of HB books (from the publisher standpoint) are many. Control over what gets published, for one. Economies of scale, for another: they’ve already invested in expensive capital assets (presses, binderies, distribution chains) which require long-term use to fully depreciate. Prestige (similar to a recent discussion I’ve heard about J-School degrees: those hiring journalists have J-School degrees and their preference for new hires having such degrees is partially predicated oon keeping their own degrees justified.)

      OTOH, there are few benefits to publishers in hawking eBooks. The value added by editor and publisher is relatively invisible, the distribution system operates largely independently of their contributions, and market power slides more to the despised components of the chain: author and reader.

      They lie because they can and because they need to; they’re like Middle-School girls stuffing their bras because they cannot admit how irrelevant cup size actually is.

      • The value that these day is all too often NOT added is far too visible. Since the,1980’s, I have gotten for too accustomed to dealing with books that have phrases chopped up, worse grammar than mine (which goes a ways), ad spelling so bad that even I notice.

      • I thought cup size was important? From what you see on the MSM. Big boobs, tiny waist, flat tummy and abs, hips just curvy enough to have a vaginal delivery.

        • *evil grin* I thought they were trying very hard to promote androgyny of late, what with their rail against ‘traditional cissexist beauty’, and ‘screw gender, it’s all about what you feel you are.’

        • Speaking as a guy: proportionality is the key thing.

        • Does a nursing babe draw more milk from a DD than an A?

          Anything other than that is a question of aesthetic preferences, not importance.

          • Yes, generally, but there’s usually enough unless something else is wrong and pretty much anything that starts as a B or higher doesn’t have a worry. (If she’s an A before nursing and there isn’t any background issues, then nursing more often fixes it just fine. Although I came close to throwing stuff at the leche league lady who tried to insist there was no correlation at all… there’s trying to keep moms from worrying (which would be a self-fulfilling prophecy) and there’s just lying.

          • When it comes to mate-seeking, aesthetics are important, else the baby never arrives

            • My observation has been that the primary aesthetic preference of most guys in regard to this topic is essentially whether they are allowed to fondle the objects in question. That, more than the size of the objects, seems critical.

              Especially as these vary in size over their owner’s lifetime, any guy making critical long-term decisions based on such is rightfully designated as a boob.

  6. I was struck by your comment on Big Publishing houses committing suicide with their prices. I recently noticed that ebook prices from these houses are the same as paperbacks and in some cases higher. My first thought was ‘are you insane’? Maybe they think I am insane and will continue to buy these books.

    As it is there are only a few writers whose books and series I continue to buy because a) I enjoyed their stories and b) I had invested time and money in the earlier books (especially series) and want to continue the experience. That said, I have continued to whittle down this subset of writers as the prices have kept going up. At some point the return on investment is not there.

    • I was looking at Terry Pratchett books last night– realized I have a few gaps in the collection– and only found one ebook that was less than ten bucks.

      Gee, pay ten bucks an ebook, or get a “like new” used for four bucks, incidentally screwing up the publisher that decided to be nasty to me? Get a library copy hardback for about four bucks? Or even get paper copy at $7, which isn’t that bad.

      Choices, choices.

    • A year or so ago, someone over at ThePassiveVoice coined the term “whale math™” to describe how the Big 5 (formerly 6) calculate book sales, revenue, and royalties. In Whale Math™, declining e-book sales have nothing to do with the artificially high price of the book and everything to do with readers’ growing lack of interest in reading on a screen. And since e-book sales are dropping faster than print book sales are, even though all are dropping, e-books are a fad and are going away and hardbacks will save the world.

      Gotta love Whale Math™.

    • see my comment to cpschoenfield

    • For a decade or more, the publishers told us – in reply to questions about book prices climbing and climbing – that paper prices were to blame. They were such a huge proportion of the cost of a book (never telling us just what %) that it drove prices sky high. (Yeah, $10 for a paperback? “Sky high” is appropriate.)

      But, when they began e-publishing, the price was … almost the same or exactly the same as the paper versions. So, paper was the driving cost? Uh huh. Now pull the other one.

  7. There are distinct advantages to BIG — economies of scale, more pay for the top spots, prestige, to name a few — but one of the downsides is separation from the core function. Applying the dinosaur metaphor, by the time the brain realizes it has eaten a poison bush the shrub is already halfway through the digestive system. In publishing, immediate gains from the bigness made the system slow to notice the dead end into which it had driven.

    The one fatal, structural flaw of the current system is that it misses one critical point: readers do not read books because they are “good” or even “well-written.” While those are desirable elements in a book, plenty of best-sellers were neither. In fact, I suspect few best-sellers were either, and if they were it was irrelevant to their success. People read books because they are entertaining. Being entertaining is not the same as being good. Often books are simply a case of hitting the shelves at the right time in our Zeitgeist, a matter of being “different” from what has been published or of being the right counter to the cultural palate, the “sour” to the “sweet” (or vice-versa) we had been getting.

    Naturally nobody involved wants to admit what a crapshoot the book biz is, and publishers (especially) want greater predictability. Going big allows a certain level of predictability, and pushing by numbers generates an illusion of mastery, but all illusions eventually fail — and the longer they last the worse the collapse when their bubble bursts.

    The only safety is in numbers — put enough stuff out that it doesn’t matter what hits, something is bound to and that’s enough. Books are not a sharpshooter competition, hitting targets at two years’ distance. This is a “mass fire” or “shotgun” matter: putting so much lead in the air that something’s bound to hit a vital spot. Sure, it requires more lead and powder but you can never know which shots are wasted, only that many must be and that’s the cost of this type hunting. You’re hunting quail, not bison, and must adapt your strategy accordingly.

    • The problem is that the publishing industry treats its own product as fungible – one book is the same as any other. “They’re all just printed paper, why are customer so flippin’ picky about it?!”

      Sure, some percentage of people will buy whatever’s in the cardboard “Best Seller!” display at the checkout counter, but “best seller” or “prize winner” are “Do Not Buy” indicators for many readers. If I want a Lloyd Biggle novel (assuming any are still in print) it’s highly unlikely I’m going to pick up a Danielle Steele or Mary Three Names just because it’s sitting there on the shelf.

    • This is a “mass fire” or “shotgun” matter: putting so much lead in the air that something’s bound to hit a vital spot.
      The old time commercial hunters of the passenger pigeon would advise against firing into the mass of the flock, but instead pick a particular bird to shoot at, lest you miss all together.

    • More flak than SAM fire.

  8. I tempted to answer “How?” with “Poorly.” but as someone allegedly said, there’s one born every minute.

  9. William O. B'Livion

    > “For the love of reading, someone take the razor blade from
    > traditional publishing houses and call a psychiatrist.”

    Rippy the Razor says “It’s down the block, not across the street.”

    People make choices and deserve the consequences.

    Good and hard.

    • Someone who’s almost as big a misanthrope as I am! I salute you, sir. 😎

    • It made me think of “psycho razors.” Yes, these are a real thing. Back in the days when double-edged razors ruled the land, a special type of double edge razor was made that required a key inserted into the base of the handle to remove the top and the blade. Sold to prisons and mental institutions, they were dubbed “psycho razors.”

    • Tangent; major difference between standard suburban movie audiences and college movie audiences.

      Saw AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON first in suburban Maryland, and later on campus at Johns Hopkins. When the poor slob who is cursed is in the phone booth, after trying to say goodbye to his family (and failing) and holding the pocketknife blade to his wrist, the suburban audience was making sad noises.

      The campus audience? They were shouting “You’re doing it the wrong way!”

    • A big X works even better

  10. “Ordering to the net is ordering to the last “net sold” number of books by that author… No matter the genre, the subgenre or the author’s growth. =”

    They really, actually did this?…independent of the author’s previous track record, the subject matter, the opinions of their own internal reviewers?

    I’m a connoisseur of bad operational measurement and incentive systems, and this approach seems like it deserves a prominent place on the Role of Dishonor, right along with the ‘push’ inventory system at a chain store that resulted in snow blowers being shipped to south Florida.

    • They honest to frigging bob did this. And it’s completely insane, because you know, for instance Agatha Christie: her mysteries were immensely popular, her thrillers sucked. Georgette Heyer, great romances, lousy mysteries. But they didn’t care. It was the author’s name, that’s it.
      BTW the system was invented by border, and they died without realizing it killed them. It worked fine while they were a small regional bookstore. When it became industry wide, though, people started to not GO to bookstores, period. Particularly after the publishers used the system to manipulate winners and losers. Because if you had a hundred books in a store you were going to sell at least 50. If you had two, there was a good chance even people looking for them wouldn’t find them (when I went in for drive-by signings, half the time they said they had my books but couldn’t find them.)
      The publishers could insist on x number laydowns for the darlings…
      Yeah, Amazon came in that easily because the industry was already dying. As a reader, I’d retreated ALMOST exclusively to used, and I was getting pissed even then, because I’d discover a great writer/character, and I had two books, then silence.
      BUT NYC loved it. It gave them CONTROL. IT never occurred to them they were MERCHANTS. The number of times I heard editors and publishers say their job was to “educate” the public. Pfui.

      • > started to not GO to bookstores

        We had some of the big chains set up a couple of decades ago. All in Little Rock, which meant a trip into an urban pesthole. And all of the stores were megastores, either on prime “high traffic” retail properties or in malls.

        While I’m sure some New York analyst squee’d at the “traffic” numbers, what happened was, most people preferred not to spend half an hour moving through ten blocks of congestion, then hike half a mile after they got close to their destination.

        The “economies of scale” slammed up against the overhead of the megastore and prime real estate and lost. Once the new wore off, and the coffee and tchochke phase was over, every single one of those stores went away.

        Two or more smaller stores, put somewhere where they were accessible, and things might have been different. But they build grand edifices nobody wanted to go to, filled with nothing they particularly wanted to buy.

        • I would go ten block and walk half a mile. I will not drive two hours one way on the off chance of finding something I’d like to read. That’s been the situation here since around 1990.

          • That’s the situation *most* places, best as I can tell. (the “store locator” button on their web sites is handy) So they have four stores within a few miles of each other in the state capitol, and a big FU to the rest of the state.

            That’s Manhattanite thinking in a nutshell.

            • Sam Walton worked in Army Intelligence. He also had a private plane. He used aerial reconnaissance as well as maps and visits to figure out good sites for Walmarts, as long as he was alive.

            • It’s likely something more depressing: They cannot afford to operate outside of high density areas. They are reaching less customers but the cost to reach them is either greater than expenses or so close to expenses that profits are practically non-existent.

              This started with the increase of paper, fuel, and wages and subsequent rise in print. Everyone has a set point where something is prices more than perceived worth. The result was fewer buyers, which meant lower profits, which meant cutting unprofitable markets. The nasty aspect is this gets into a feed-back: Less customers mean less profits, which means more cost-cutting, which means less customers, and so on. It took a while, but the old distribution collapsed.

              It’s not New Yawk thinking; it’s a collapsing empire dwindling down to a few key outposts, and those are in danger of being overrun.

              My guess is they know this. The game now is to carve out a boutique market and be the last publishers standing. They know the ship is going down, and are fighting for seats in the life boats.

              But that’s traditional publication. Indie doesn’t have the same overhead and ebooks have much better distribution.

              • are you sure? to me it looks like they are fighting over which song the band should play.

                • I’m probably wrong, of course, but I really think they’re looking at trying to be one of the few remaining companies in a niche market than to reclaim sales. That’s the whole pandering to SJW in a nutshell: They think these are the ones who buy the most books, because cities tend to go that way. They can claim – and maybe some think – that they have a duty to influence public thought, but it looks more like they think they are appealing to their core market? The push for more women authors makes sense if they think more women buy books than men and the gender of the writer makes a difference in how they write. The latter makes as much sense as selling hot pink hammers in cute pink tool bags because they think it will appeal to women, and not realize that anyone who knows how to use a hammer isn’t going to care about the color. And yet, you really can find hot pink hammers sold in cute pink tool bags because that’s how somebody in marketing thinks.

                  In short, they’re marking to those four book stores in a state capitol because they think that’s the only ones they can sell to at a profit. Everyone else can pound sand because they don’t think they can make money off everyone else.

                  Except they’ve misjudged their market for years now. That’s why those four remaining stores in a city are becoming boutique gift shops, because they aren’t moving books. If they were moving books, they’d only have books.

                  That makes their opposition to ebooks counter intuitive, but if they don’t want to get stuck holding the bag on expenses and they don’t think their core market buys ereaders, they are going to ignore it and downplay it. Well, actually, downplaying it is putting a bow on the pig. They’re scared to innovate right now.

                  I would say “unfortunately,” but frankly, I don’t – well, you know how the rest goes.

                  • I dinna dispute yuir reasoning, lad, but it portrays the deeper, fundymental problem they suffer: they’ve bain drinkin’ thair ain ink.

                    Their reasoning ain so circular they’ve pressed their shoulders against their bums. They think, to be picking but one example, that “lads don’t read, so target our books to lassies.” The fallacy o’ that is the boys nae read girlly books; gie them some book with a slab o’ meat to it, like The Dangerous book For Boys or those series by Rick “I Steal Myths” Riordan or that Potter laddy and the boys will gobble down books faster an ye kin say “Buckle in laddies, we’re a goin’ on a ride!”

                    Similar, they don’t think conservatives read so they publish books which any sainsible conservative will toss agin the wall halfway through the first page. “The solar system had been strip-mined” me furry sporran! Few enough conservatives respond to such gibberish by asking, “Please sair, may eye have anuther?” that its nae wondair they don’t “read” books nae muir! Give ’em some monstair hunters or starship troopers kicking alien butt and they willna stop shoving money at ye.

                    But it is clair the one thing such toad-swallowers cannae do is ask themselves if maybe the dogs just donna like the food. That would require them to change their envisionment of the cosmic all, which would mean extracting their heads from their safe spaces, and that they willnae do.

                  • I got my wife one of those flowered hammers that has various screwdrivers in its handle, like a matrioska doll. She thought it was awesome.

                    • There is a type of multi-screwdriver out now that I like really well. The handle is solid, and the shaft is removable. At both ends of the shaft is a removable sleeve. At both ends of each sleeve are reversible screw driver bits. This means each end of the shaft contains two reversible bits for a total of four bits and eight different ends. The best part is that the shaft ends and the sleeves are different sizes, and can be used on small hex headed screws/taps/bolts.

                      They are sold under various names, but the set-up is all the same.

                    • My mom usually does a Lady’s Tool Kit as a wedding gift because then the tools are more likely to be put back– but who the heck is buying above household-use quality pink power drills?

                  • There’s always going to be a market for hard copy books. There’s probably some kind of hereditary atavism that we derive pleasure out of holding that birch bark, scraped skin, clay tablet, papyrus scroll, precious metal engraved sheet, etc. What surprises me is that I haven’t seen a walk-in,B&M convert to a print-on-demand store; preferably with any book ever published.

                    • Have you ever had to move a significant dead tree collection. The superior tactile feel of paper books is not enough for me to keep purchasing them. Not to mention my aging eye sight appreciates adjustable font sizes. A few comments were made earlier in this thread about lower e-reader sales. Big publishing must be really desperate to think that that is not due to the rise of smartphones. A paper white e-ink display may be superior but a phone you already have in your pocket that is good enough is quite convenient e-reader.

                    • Precisely. And the aging eyesight is a HUGE point.

                    • In the event of nuclear holocaust having your walls lined with books is an excellent counter-measure to fallout. Let’s see your e-reader or smart phone offer some comparable counter measure!

                    • Did I say I got rid of all my books? I have a fifteen foot, by nine foot wall filled with books, and when we have the money we’re going to do two more walls. That’s just for books we must keep in paper.
                      The other wall of the room is dirt backed (It’s the basement) so I think we’ll be all right.

                    • Yes, i just had to. And i kept having to explain to someone that i can’t get a 30 year old book on space colony design as an ebook.

        • it was also poor decisions in inventory and a real silly move on Borders part.
          Metarie had a big two story Borders, and when opened, I could go in and hunt books for hours, and then spend hours in the Music section. Then spend almost as long hunting in the DVD section. If I wanted something they didn’t have on hand, I could got to and order it and get it from the store not long after.
          About the same time they started having more kitch objects, and less books, music, and video, then killed making a pact with Amazon. So more often you were on Amazon getting music or books as they were more and more not in the store, and instead of shipping to the store, just send it to my house, thankyouverymuch.
          Then they parted with Amazon, and tried to go again with their own online store, but it was almost as bare as the stores, and gee, I already had an Amazon account because of them . . .
          BN and Big Publishing are running themselves much the same way. I am amazed they are still in business at all.

          • I worked at a Borders for a short while before the real stupid hit, so I had friends there *when* the stupid hit. The restocking thing was a symptom of the overall idiocy, not the principle cause of the death. Short version: The management was treating bookstores like grocery stores, and worse, like communist grocery stores.

            • My best Borders worker story was the Flaming gay worker who admitted he has a Class III FFL because he inherited a massive collection from his step-dad (a front runner in Step-dad of the century?) and votes strictly Republican.
              Seeing the look on his co-workers face was priceless.

              • Major kudos to him on either being brave as heck, or taking the “freak the norms” to a modern level.

                (…yes, I’m totally a normal target for the “Freak the norms” thing, but I can still see the appeal.)

                • My dear, we’re not ‘normal’ – we’re those awful cishet misogynist racist Mormon white male ‘scum’ remember? That guy in particular, regardless of his sexual orientation. /tongue in cheek

                  • I am not now and never have been normal. Anybody arguing otherwise is lookist, stereotypically projecting my expected behaviour and opinions based on how they interpret my appearance. Said appearance being a carefully cultivated ruse to minimize interaction with annoying norms by passing among them unnoticed.

                • The Co-worker might have been gay as well, but I’m sure this guy liked shocking the occasional comfortable person.
                  I had a history book of weapons and he pointed out an AK and said something like “I got one of those! They’re really fun.” and co-worker was flabbergasted: “You own a gun?!” and he said he owned a lot of guns including an AK that was a real full auto, etc and was a lifetime member of the NRA, as well as a registered Republican. He then told about his (implied leftoid) dad had left his mother after learning he was gay (at 11 or so he admitted it). The man she then married was about as conservative as it gets, but took him as he was, and had been a gun collector, so took his stepson out shooting, to shows, and taught him well, then left him his full collection when he passed away.
                  As I said, the guy was Flaming and when he said anything you knew he was gay, so co-worker was worried: “What do the rednecks at the gun range say when you show up?!”
                  “Oh, they are really nice to me.” then while describing various folks at the range, he was considering the fop’s shocked look, ” I might be gay, but I am well armed and they know it. Besides, if they’re really nice, I might let them play with my guns too.”
                  I shot in with “An armed society is a polite society” then had to head out as someone was now behind me at the checkout, and I did have somewhere to be.
                  I ran into the guy a few more times there after that but we never got the time to chat more than exchanging pleasantries.
                  I’m betting he is part of Pink Guns wherever he is now.

      • About a decade ago, while watching “Haruhi Suzumiya”, there was a pretty blatant endorsement of Dan Simmon’s “Hyperion”.
        On a whim, I stopped by the big chain store to pick up a copy- and they didn’t have it. I did find it at another store that was about an hour away- I was heading that way for other reason, and decided to check.
        Now? I can check Amazon on the kindle and have it in a couple of minutes.
        During the days of my yooth, I’d hit the library before the family vacation and fill a couple of bags full of books. Which takes up a lot of room.
        Now, I have a small e-thingy that fits in a pocket.

        Do these publisher people not grok the whole “convenient” aspect?

        • Actually the reason that I picked up my first Kindle was that I was going to be traveling overseas. I realized that I would be doing a lot of traveling and would require some entertainment. So I bought it and loaded it with books. By doing that I managed to save myself bags of volume that was used for other things I needed to bring with me. haven’t looked back since.

          • I was the reverse: I lugged eight novels across Russia and swore “never again”.

          • Same here. I went to web based libraries like InformIT because otherwise I couldn’t carry all the tech books I might need long before Kindle appeared. Add in search capabilities and dead tree made NO sense any more.

        • Do these publisher people not grok the whole “convenient” aspect?

          No, because they aren’t readers. They have a copy of the latest “it” book to be seen carrying around and they’ve skimmed it enough that they can talk over the watercooler about it, but that’s it.

        • Thing is, they sort of *do* get the whole convenience aspect–that’s how they justify charging so much for eBooks to themselves and their stockholders.

          • I know we all know this here, even if we haven’t really put it into words right, but….
            Charging more for convenience only works if one or more factor is involved:
            *offering it raises the per unit production cost
            *you’re the only reasonable source

            In this case, it actually lowers the per-unit cost, and while they’re mostly the only source for, oh, the new Dan Brown novel, they’re not the only source for books….

        • Do these publisher people not grok the whole “convenient” aspect?

          Of course they do, which is why they manage their distribution chain in such way as to assure publishers will be only minimally inconvenienced.

          Convenience for customers? What’s the benefit of that? Make them work to get our books, that way they’ll appreciate us more!

      • I forget who said it, but it sums up the problem well: The big problem isn’t simply Garbage In – Garbage Out, but Garbage In – Gospel Out.

    • The Pointy Haired Boss doesn’t just live in the Dilbert comics. And why not send snow blowers to Miami? The PHB is the well-rounded graduate of a liberal arts college who has an MBA from an Ivy League school. The manager of the Miami store is just some dumb hick with an associate’s degree from South Florida Community College who’s worked at this same location for 20 years. Which one of these guys do you think knows more about what customers want, huh????

      (Poe’s law says I need to note that the above is in fact sarcasm.)

      • “And why not send snow blowers to Miami? The PHB is the well-rounded graduate of a liberal arts college who has an MBA from an Ivy League school. The manager of the Miami store is just some dumb hick with an associate’s degree from South Florida Community College”…with the current ‘Big Data’ fetish, we can expect a lot more of this kind of thing.

        There’s a video on the dangers of automation dependency in aviation – ‘Children of the Magenta Line’ – recorded from a talk at an American Airlines training program. These points also apply plenty of places other than aviation.

      • You just reminded me of something a friend posted a few weeks ago—they went to the store and looked for shorts. Couldn’t find any. The store helper said it was because it was no longer “shorts season”, so they weren’t in stock anymore.

        This was in L.A.

  11. “Here is nothing new nor aught unproven,” say the Trumpets,
    “Many feet have worn it and the road is old indeed.
    “It is the King–the King we schooled aforetime! ”
    (Trumpets in the marshes-in the eyot at Runnymede!)

    “Here is neither haste, nor hate, nor anger,” peal the Trumpets,
    “Pardon for his penitence or pity for his fall.
    “It is the King!”–inexorable Trumpets–
    (Trumpets round the scaffold at the dawning by Whitehall!)”

  12. It has been my firm conviction for many years that ‘big companies’ in any field tend to begin failing when accountants and lawyers are promoted to executive offices that aren’t connected to their specific fields. And that the kiss of death is unavoidable if MBAs are preferred to practical experience.

    • “We’re professional managers! Our expertise is such that we can manage anything. Watch us manage things we don’t understand, right into bankruptcy!”

  13. Now if we could only get Barry Hugheart and Robert Frezza to start self-publishing…

    Any ideas?

    • “The books! Write the books! Or we play the scratchy Whitesnake record one… more… time!”

    • Barry Hughart, aye.

      Robert Frezza was an interesting writer. Grim military stories, hilarious sf adventures.

      Andrea Alton only put out one book, Demon of Undoing, and then she had some kind of weather magic romance/fantasy that came out from a small press.

      Lloyd Biggle himself, obviously; may he rest in peace. Wildside Press has a Megapack out of his sf stories. I am proud to say that I fangirled his work to his face at a convention, although I’m afraid I wasn’t able to cheer him up much by doing so. His regular mysteries were pretty good too.

      • There’s a Robert Andrea Frezza of about the right age who lives in Stamford CT, but he seems to be a stocks and bonds trader. No evidence of Army lawyering. Still, it amuses me to think that the writer could now be making SO MUCH FILTHY MONEY that he can’t take time to write.

        On the positive side, there aren’t any dead Robert Frezzas on the US Army side of, which tends to make me believe that he’s still alive.

        There are seriously a huge number of Americans named Robert or Bob Frezza, with various initials. Roberto has got to be some kind of family name or previous-locality patron saint.

        • Oh, and “Frezza” means “arrow,” an Italian occupation name for an arrowmaker.

        • I traded emails – once – with a Robert Frezza who was teaching somewhere in Maryland. He said he was the author I was looking for, and was working on an alternate reality novel about the American Revolution. Tried to contact him again through that email and/or web site and got no replies. That was sever computers, one move, and a re-flooring (which is like a move, but you and the boxes stay in the same house, you just spend a week in a hotel).

          If anyone has better contact with him, I’d love to hear of it.

          • If one of the Huns hangs with 4Chan, maybe they’d help find him… I’ve looked for him online a time or two himself. There are few people who have such a small footprint.

      • I found Frezza’s military SF full of mordant dark humor.

        “They got three meters lift out of the roof. I gave them a fifteen second lecture on the sin of ostentatious display”

        “Satan may be the father of lies, but he neglected to patent the idea.”

      • Biggle got unpersoned during some kind of SFWA altercation. I note he moved from SF to mysteries after a long SF career.

    • Barry Hughart died, so thta would be difficult.

    • They’re still alive?

    • So, I go looking for these authors, and….
      Biggle has a “megapack” in Kindle for <$1. Woot! (Downloaded!)
      Hughart has a bunch of e-books… for $9.99 to $12.99?!? Guess it'll be a while before I read those.
      And, no Frezza, in e-books, at all. 😦

  14. Sigh. So many good authors lost. I didn’t forget them; I just can’t find new stuff by them. Maybe I need to start a feature on my blog, looking for lost authors.

    On the bright side, SFDB is usually good for finding pseudonyms you didn’t know.

    • One of the good things about the eBook tidal change is that some old books that people love are being revived. On of my childhood favorites WHERE DID YOU GO? OUT. WHAT DID YOU DO? NOTHING. has been issued in Ebook form. I keep hoping that someone will eBook the published-only-once Eric Frank Russell book THE RABBLE ROUSERS. I got a company called Blue Leaf Book Scanning to get me an eCopy, but I can hardly publish the thing. Did the same for THE BUTTERFLY KID, which I would think somebody would be interested in.

      • I have been grinding through the old SF magazines on Lots of Eric Frank Russell I’d never seen before, some more by Keith Laumer (and I thought I had it all!) and so forth. Some of which don’t show up on isfdb, either.

        The serial version of Heinlein’s “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress” is maybe 20% longer than the novel, believe it or not. Most of the serialized novels are notably shorter than the books… but a few are longer. And a couple of short stories that I’ve known most of my life, the magazine versions were recognizeably different from the anthology versions I had grown up with. Sometimes just name changes, sometimes another paragraph or two at the end, and I’m sure more, should I compare them both side-by-side.

        I used to wonder why some audiophiles collected multiple versions of the same song. Now I’m beginning to understand…

        My handbook for child-raising: I knew what they were up to.

  15. Anybody else here receiving comments by email in sporadic fashion? I notice that none of the comments posted in the 1:5X period were received in my email, a fact not in evidence until reactions to those comments arrived.

    WP Delenda Est.
    Posnerus moronus est.
    This space for rent.

    • Sometimes. The other thing I’ve been noticing is that the e-mails come in two different formats: one which has the quote section across the full width of the e-mail, followed by the reply at full width, and one where the quoted part is formatted with the left margin pushed across the page so the wrap pushes the reply down the e-mail, and the reply remains at normal width.

      ……………………………………………………………………………..This is where the
      ……………………………………………………………………………. quoted portion lines
      ……………………………………………………………………………. up

      And this is where the reply lines up…..

      WordPress is what Dr Pournelle referred to as “user-hostile”.

  16. Indie publishing allows us to bring back dead pen names; to start writing again; to start writing at last.

    I had heard the point of pen names was to avoid marketing confusion so if Sarah wrote SF she didn’t alienate her SF readers who accidentally bought a mystery or a romance by her.

    At this point I’m not sure this was ever that valid.

    I think it was more about indentured servitude. If you let one author write multiple genres under the same name they might think they could have more than one book a year, multiple publishers, and get all uppity.

    I love that indie has fixed that so writers who tell stories I like can show me their stories, period, and let me decide if I’m not interested in their fantasy stories wanting to stay with their mystery stories alone.

    I got reinforced in how great that is when late last night looking for something to read I cracked open one of the Megapack eBook bundles. It was Andre Norton and had 15-16 SFF stories, 3-4 historical stories (I don’t have it in front of me for exactly counts), and one, count it, one mystery.

    She isn’t known, to me at least, for mystery but I’m about a quarter of the way through it. It is an interesting sort of cozy and I won’t say I’m enamored of it but I’m glad I’m getting the chance to give it a spin.

    • What mystery? Is it one of her Gothic romances? (looks it up)

      Holy crud! _Murders for Sale_ is in there! I’ve never even seen a copy of that! It’s not in my Norton world timeline!
      Must… buy… now….

      • And all for $0.99. After new indie authors the ability of companies to buy up old rights that aren’t worth enough for paper publishing or find lapsed rights is the best thing about the eBook revolution.

      • Okay, the 1953 Murders for Sale is the same book as the 1992 Tor reprinting under the title Sneeze on Sunday (which I’ve never seen either). Good book so far.

        Norton’s collaborator, Grace Allen Hogarth, was a kid’s book editor who also wrote novels under her own name and several pseudonyms.

        The main character is researching some Victorian female authors, including one called Mary J. Holmes. This lady was a bestselling author second only to Harriet Beecher Stowe in her own lifetime. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard of her, even in those tomes about women writers.

        One of her obituaries had an apposite comment:

        “It is an eternal paradox of our world of letters that the books which enjoy the largest sale are barely recognized as existing by the guardians of literary tradition. Mrs. Mary Jane Holmes…. wrote thirty-nine novels with aggregate sales, it is said, of more than two million copies, and yet she had not even a paragraph devoted to her life and works in the histories of American Literature.”

        So yeah, at least Norton went into her career with her eyes open.

    • It could be worse … there is another writer Celia Hayes, who just began writing and publishing a couple of years ago. She has two books out there at present … and who obviously didn’t do a google search on her own name, first, or she would have considered using a pen name, or at least a middle initial. Goodreads has us mixed up, of course. Fortunately Amazon hasn’t, although I did hear from a fan who liked her first book went looking for more, and stumbled across my books.
      I understand the writer Elizabeth Taylor had something of the same problem, with this actress person having the same name…

      • There are *four* reasonably prominent writers using my name, with different middle initials. And an astronaut, and a singer, and half a dozen sports entertainers. And the four others in my little town, three of whom are felons…

        When the “web” thing came up, and those newfangled search engines, I could type my name into Altavista or Excite and the first two or three pages were all me, mostly hits on my voluminous usenet presence and my web site.

        • I share a name with a Doctor Who actress who also writes mysteries. Unfortunately, she didn’t share her face, body, or acting skills. 🙂

          But yes, there are at least four American women writing as Maureen O’Brien, and one of them once worked for Publishers Weekly and played field hockey. (Hopefully the field hockey skills helped with the whole “liberal-controlled fields are full of sexual harassment” thing.)

          Thus my use of initials. Same thing with my brother Kevin, who has his own flock of Irish-American name clones. We like our names, honest!

        • Heh, yes. Peter Grant is also the name of Led Zepplin’s Manager, and now also a character in a London-based urban fantasy mystery series. Fortunately, there wasn’t another Peter Grant author when he first started publishing, so it’s fairly easy to differentiate. Though we did get an angry review that Peter is trying to riff on the Rivers of London series’ popularity! (Never noticing Peter’d been published a few years prior. Where did my beloved hide that time machine?)

      • I did that, but caught it in time. Since the other author was there first, I added a middle initial to better differentiate between us.

      • This is one place where having the name Bernadette is a strong advantage. (And for those wondering, one of the reasons that I comment as B. is because in the days when you had to type your name every time, the thought of typo-ing my own name was pretty horrifying.)

  17. I’ve definitely got to get back to work on my indie publishing biz. I pretty much lost the main part of this year, although the final illness and death of a close family member had a lot to do with things falling apart so badly compared to last year.

    My biggest problem is that I don’t have a huge box of novels that are finished and just need a little polishing to be ready to go. I’ve got a huge box or two of novels that are in two general states: 1. finished, but so old that they need so much revision to be presentable that it’s effectively like writing them afresh from first principles, and 2. have a fairly good start (3-10 chapters of solid writing) and then are Swiss cheese the rest of the way because I was writing the scenes I could see clearly, but got to a point where I looked at what was shaping up and figured there just wasn’t a place for them in the traditional publishing market of the time and moved on to something else.

    So I’ve got a lot of work to do to pull them into publishable shape, and my biggest problem is having so many that my attention is being pulled a dozen ways at once. So while I was busy writing the whole time, I got nothing done and up because I’d move from one piece to another, making notes and trying to sort them out, but never actually turning any of them into finished prose.

    I’ve got some bill-paying to do tonight, and then I need to dig in with a focus to getting things done and ready to go up.

  18. On a different “Fulfilling expectations” vein, there’s this.

    • Not especially shocking. It seems like those who most violently denounce various practices are the most likely to engage in them.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        That seems to focus on the projection angle more.

        I’ve long held that being able to analyze things from a predator’s perspective is important to being able to formulate a truly comprehensive set of countermeasures to predation.

        What’s the best branding for a predator? “Hey, all of you once and future victims. I’m not a predator, and I’m totally someone you should seek if you want help or are in trouble.” The thing about ‘oppressor and victim’ ideology is that it implies that other ‘victims’ and ‘non-oppressors’ are always trustworthy. Modern feminism also condemns the encouragement of caution as victim blaming. (I’m much more in favor of limited, measured trust, and habitual caution.) So the expected number of predators in feminism is?

        That said, I don’t see data on statistical significance. So to the best of my knowledge, the twitter thread is anecdotal rather than evidence of a trend.

    • I think its pretty much a given that any male who calls himself a “feminist” is first and foremost in it to get laid, and most likely to him that means getting a large pink-haired sea mammal to walk on him wearing golf shoes.

      Think of the “males” who hang out at Vile666. That’s some major mental malfunctionation on display there. I wouldn’t trust any of them alone with a goat. Ew.

    • *Sigh* Who didn’t see that “plot twist” coming? The Great Author is getting a little predictable, which I suppose means we are due for the REAL plot twist here shortly.

      • Gamergate, the gift that keeps on giving.

        Andrew Klavan recently interviewed Candace Owens of “Red Pill Black” and it was Gamergate that made her realize she’s conservative and had long been so.


        • Fair notice:

          Red Pill Black may not be what Ms Owens claims; your evaluation of contrary evidence is recommended.

  19. This blast from the past is most timely. The New Republic today announced that not only their big editor dude Leon Wieseltier but also their publisher Hamilton Fish have both been sent to the penalty box for bothering the girls.

    This is what’s really going on in American publishing. Scumbags build up these little fiefdoms, and they rule over them. It doesn’t matter what happens to the company, they’re busy planning their next bit of skirt chasing.

    We always watch the Big Five, and the big Lefty companies like the New York Times make these astonishingly STUPID decisions, waste millions, etc. and we wonder how that could happen.

    Leon Wieseltier. Hamilton Fish. That’s how.

    Also, in case you’re ever wondering why everything in print and movies is so amazingly perverted all the time, and even little kids cartoons have sex, swearing and drugs in them (latest Batman animated movies, don’t show it to your kids!) this is why. Same reason. The guys calling the shots are disgusting perverts.

    • It’s worth noting that absolutely everyone said “Hey, don’t show this to your kids just because it’s an animated Batman movie. Seriously. Don’t.”

      • The question remains, what kind of numbskull makes a fricking Batman cartoon that you can’t show to kids? I also did not see a big warning “NOT FOR CHILDREN” at the start of the movie, or on the packaging.

    • I guess they must now tear down the bridges that bear the Hamilton Fish name. Sorry, I-84 drivers, no crossing the Hudson for you.

  20. What? There’s moah?

    Why Get Off This Rock (Part Two)
    By Sarah Hoyt
    [This is the second part of my interview with Jeff Greason, fellow Heinlein child™ and space advocate. The first part (which gives his credentials) is here.]

    I will note in passing that like me, Jeff is a “child of the lunar age.” His date of birth is not on any public sites, but I remember we’ve talked about it and he’s some years younger than I, so he might have been born after the moon landing (or as Rep. Sheila Jackson, in a parallel universe all of her own would have us believe, the Mars landing.) I remember watching the moon landing on TV at my aunt’s house (one of two privately owned TVs in the village) and thinking that living in space was just around the corner. My six-year-old self, locked somewhere inside of me, still can’t believe I haven’t managed to even visit another planet by now. Come on, I was supposed to be able to take my honeymoon on the moon.

    On the serious side, I have a list of reasons why I believe we should go to space and stay this time. …

  21. Biggle is at the top of my list of writers with imagination and execution to match. It is good to learn he is still being read.
    However, the commentary about publishing is rather frightening.