January 23rd, 2008


[links] Link salad, half awake edition

100 Books Every Child Should Read — UK edition. (Thanks to the_flea_king.)

Literacy slipping in China

Whatta Fiasco compares Carol Emshwiller to, erm, me — Or Rocket Science Powell's | Amazon ] at any rate.

Arcologists' Dreams — Future mega-cities. (Thanks to the_flea_king.)

Aussie beach foam — Eew.

Kite to pull ship across Atlantic

Growth Hormone: Fountain of Youth or Early Killer? — The story is pretty interesting, but the copy-editing on the subhead of the lede is just bizarre.

How we decide what to forget — "This is the story of how we begin to remember."

U.S. Alters Its Approach to Disasters — The Bush Administration finally responds to Hurricane Katrina.

Study: False statements preceded war — "The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period." But the majority of Fox News viewers know that Iraq had WMDs! Fox reported, they decided. More liberal lies, courtesy of that pesky, biased reality.

[process] The first book contract — a parallax view

I was talking to a writer a day or so ago about some decisions they needed to make around agents and book contracts. A point came up which I hadn't really explicitly considered before, but I think might be valuable to explore.

When one is an aspiring novelist, hitting the workshops, the con circuit, querying agents, dropping books into editorial slush piles, one tends to view the New York book contract as the end game. That's the primary goal and (often) the singular focus for years of effort and emotional investment. Consider this an analog to working toward a college degree.

The thing is, making that big score is only the very beginning of a lengthy and complex process that hopefully lasts the rest of one's life. It's not the end game, it's the first rung of an entirely new set of ladders. Being a professional novelist carries its own set of efforts, hope, fears, many of which sound ridiculous to someone yearning for their first big break, but which are just as serious and potentially overwhelming as any other set of issues. Consider this an analog to graduating and entering your professional field.

The significance of this observation is that there might be situations where a certain book offer isn't in your best interests. If you're working with an agent who's difficult and unresponsive — a mismatched work style or personality clash — and they bring in an offer just as you're parting company, for example. For someone who's spent years, possibly decades, aiming for that offer, the thought of declining it is pure agony. That's the aspiring novelist's view of that first contract.

But going to market with the wrong people on your team can result in years of headaches. Whatever was wrong before you sold will only get worse when real money, and publication schedules, are on the line. The long-term effects on your sanity and career path could be profound. That's the working novelist's view of a bad contract.

There are bad book contracts out there, especially with predatory independent presses. There are bad-fit agents out there, and even a few outright scammers. It can happen. Luckily, very few people have to deal with an issue of this sort. I haven't — I'm extremely pleased with my relationships with arcaedia, casacorona and my publishers. But it's an interesting thought-experiment for you people hunting that first big book deal.

Is there a circumstance under which you would decline an offer?

ETA: arcaedia addresses this question from an agent's perspective.

[writing] One final note

lasirenadolce asked me last night if I'd set aside working on "The Baby Killers", based on my post about it yesterday evening. No, that was poor phrasing on my part. I just meant I had other things to do right then. (Like, say, proofing typeset pages of Escapement Amazon ].)

That novella is going slowly (by my standards) because of the very dense line prose, the very strange voice, and some damned quirky plotting. But I am having Big Fun with it, and will be back on it this evening after Day Job and spending time with the_child.

[links] Link salad, hump day bonus edition

Weird Culture (Mostly thanks to danjite.)

The 'Net is a roiling cauldron of clown hatred

Area 51 designated with a new name — "Homey Airport"? Really?

Khalkhin-Gol: The Battle that shaped WW2 — Here's a cool AH seed for you WWII buffs.

Steam nomads — A nifty piece of miniature sculpture. (Thanks to the_flea_king.)

thirdworld on the myth of fannish tolerance — Specifically, Orson Scott Card, who is the sort of conservative who gives conservatives a bad name.

Weird Science (Thanks to the_flea_king.)

Prefab Root Beer Float Technology a Mystery — Mmm. Like astronaut ice cream, only better.

Mercury in color! — And here I thought it was silvery and wet.

Quality control mechanism tags defective sperm cells inside the bodyDeming was a biologist?

Ananova: Hairiest man seeks new love — Enkidu? Or Inka Dinka Doo?

New Fish Order — Money shot:
The mouth cavity is balloonable and can greatly expand its size (38x).
I can't figure out if I'd pay more money to see that or to not see that.

Virgin Galactic unveils spaceship designs — Shouldn't that be Virgin Planetary? Or possible Virgin Suborbital? Still, wicked cool. If someone wants to buy me a ticket, I shall certainly oblige with full blogging coverage.


Dr. Laura talking doll — Just what every household needs!

Surface Transportation Commission's Pro-rail Section Disappears from Report — There goes the White House, making its own reality again. Oddly, they were editing Paul Weyrich, who isn't exactly a flaming liberal. (Thanks to garyomaha.)

A discussion of the anti-contraception stance of some pro-life groups — I was recently asked for cites when I commented that I'd have more respect for the anti-choice position if it included a rational approach to sexuality. Here's one, with anti-choicers on both sides of this question cited in the article.