Keep Calm and Carry On

Please follow this useful advice.

I’ve been watching the relentless histrionics of the News outlets coverage of the stricken Fukushima reactor with a mixture of bewilderment and annoyance.  Finally, after being subjected to a news story that said, “Radiation from Fukushima reaches Britain!” followed by an almost whispered aside telling everyone not to worry because it will have no effect on us.

I thought, “What the fuck?”

Let’s recap.  Off the coast of Japan there is an earthquake, this causes some damage to the mainland but Japan is ready – so no biggie.  This earthquake is then followed by a huge Tsunami which swamps the east coast in a deluge of biblical proportions.  Japan is not as prepared for this but swings into action nonetheless.  All looks good despite the scale of the damage and casualties. Japans economy gutters and stops (though this is entirely a sideshow).

Then word gets out that a couple of Japan’s reactors are struggling.  Immediately the news outlets forget the thousands of deaths, the catastrophic damage, the efficiency of Japan’s preparedness.  Instead we get a steady stream of wildly over the top End is Nigh stories appear.  We’re told that reactors will explode, there will be another bigger Chernobyl or maybe the dreaded China Syndrome.  All the while the talking head experts trotted out are anti-nuclear and decidedly anti-science.  None of it is true and all it is the usual misinformation and scaremongering that further erodes the public’s trust in Science and rationalism.

And is it just me or is the real story the enormous loss of life caused by the awesome power of nature herself?

I’m tired of it.

Here’s a sober summary from the Register.

In the meantime do as the poster says Keep Calm and Carry On.

To Lendle… or not.


For those not in the know, Lendling is using the Lendle site to get hold of free books using the Kindle’s built in lending service. Lendling is thus one of those composite words made up of Lend and Kindle.  Is it wrong that everytime I hear the word I think of Ivan Lendl?


Well well, in hardly surprising news Amazon has shuttered the new Lendle store/place/thing.  They have revoked it’s API license on the grounds that they were not following Amazon’s dictum that

“…  Lendle was built from the ground up to ensure that it would be beneficial to authors, publishers and Amazon.”

That last clause is interesting roll it around in your head and Amazon.  Maybe you want to speak it out loud.  It has an interesting sound doesn’t it?  I can see why Amazon enabled the practice in the first place, after all it’s a common criticism that when you buy software you buy the license and not the item itself.  This is a fundamental departure from the owning a physical object.  Of course people think these are books and want the same ability so I totally understand why Amazon gave the Kindle this ability.  But I don’t know if it’s just me but the end result was  I thought the result was more than a tad  obvious?

He’s My New Best Friend

A while ago I wondered whether the Future of Films With Big Ideas Was Still Small? Now I wonder whether the same is true of those that are small.  I’ve just watched Blinky.  It’s an evil robot story (which has been  done and done and done).   The writer-director (Ruairi Robinson) clearly knew that his idea wouldn’t sustain a full length feature and kept it small and intimate.  It works.  The film is just long enough to set up the characters and  draw the world we’re in then deliver the story.  Somebody should give this guy a proper film to make.

What’s coming down the pipe…

I wrote some time ago that I didn’t think many advocates of ebooks and ereaders fully appreciated what the future may hold.  Well I might have been wrong.  People are thinking about it and I worry.

Authors demand drive to raise readers’ awareness of book piracy’s cost

There is a very clear difference between musicians and authors.  Where musicians are themselves the product and have a built-in revenue stream authors don’t and aren’t.  Except for a tiny minority.  Authors do not make money through performance (I wonder if that might change…) so the maths, as they are now, are clear.  Don’t pay… don’t get professional* authors.      It’s been pointed out to me by others that ebooks represent an opportunity.  Authors will be able to interact directly with their readers and perhaps provide evolving content.  Readers will be able to interact with each other.  The key word is interact.

There’s a built-in problem with that notion.  As a reader I do not want to interact with other readers while I am in the act of reading. That’s not what reading is about.  And surely one of the things we as authors do is provide a story.  An idiom I’ve heard is that poetry is always unfinished.  Poets do revise their work but this seems less common for authors.  After all, if you’ve spent a year working on a book do you really want to go back and revise it… again?  I am not even convinced that it’s desirable.  Many reworking of songs or films are just dire.  It occurs to me that these interactive stories are not books and have been around for years.  They’re called computer games.

* Amateurism is bad.

Author Declares War on Beeb

We had World Book Day here in the UK recently.  There was a lot of coverage on the Beeb*.  I don’t have a telly so only caught up later.  Something that slipped past me was that the Beeb didn’t give any serious coverage to genre fiction. “Enough!” declares the author Stephen Hunt after watching Books We Really Read.  It seems we really read anything other than Horror/SF/Fantasy.  His rant on the obvious snobbery is worth reading and he seems keen on starting a campaign for equal rights for equal books.  I agree with his sentiment even if I don’t agree with his use of Coronation Street as a metaphor.

Read Hunt’s entertaining rant here.

I should add that I got this from the Guardian article – thanks Guardian you may have redeemed yourselves after printing Mr Docx’s tedious complaints.

Interesting side note.  According to Wiki World Book Day is actually World Book and Copyright day.  I fully ‘fess up to being ignorant of that fact until today.  Wonder why no one mentioned it?

*  I did watch an excellent series on the history of books that I found on iPlayer.

Del Toro doesn’t get to do AtMoM… meh

The interwebs are abuzz with the news that Guillermo Del Toro isn’t getting to do his version of At the Mountains of Madness.  I say meh.  There are two reasons.

  • Tom Cruise had signed on.
  • Del Toro was going to do it in 3D

Of the to 3D was the deal breaker and I just wouldn’t have gone to see it if there was no 2D option.  I hate 3D films that much.

I think having Cruise onboard would have run the risk of his presence turning the film into a “Cruise” film though I think that if anyone could manage it, it would be Del Toro.

Which is a pity because I think that Del Toro has the ability to make the sort of eery horror that Lovecraft wrote.

But not in 3D.  Can this 3D phase please come to an end.

Ebooks and the library of the future

Harper Collins has determined that 26 loans is the average lifespan of a library book before they are replaced.  They have also decided that, in order to protect this revenue stream, ebooks be crippled so that they disappear after that amount of loans – forcing libraries to buy more “stock”.

Am I the only person that sees the inherent flaw in this argument?  No.  Librarians are up in arms over it.  Quite right too.  But there’s a more insidious concept creeping into the discussion – the software license.

Software has always been sold with a license.  This tells you what you can and can’t do with it and is, in effect,  a rental agreement.  There’s always been a grey market in used software (even though some court cases have ruled that licenses can’t be resold) but these are reliant on physical media.  It has also been proposed that some DVDs be sold with a limited lifespan – as far as I am aware, this never took off  (phew – think of the waste!).   I can’t think of a time when this concept has been applied to books … until now.

Books last  and I like having books around.  I like going back whenever I can to dip into my favourite ones whether it’s for research or  pleasure.  I think it’s fair enough to charge for replacing something physical when that needs to be replaced – but electronic files with a built in shelf life?  Really?  Is this something that the big publishing houses think is a truly good idea?

Two flipsides have occurred to me – and I don’t know if proponents of ebooks have really thought about this.

If you can get an ebook from a library for free – why pay?

If you can store a LOT of ebooks on digital media – and you can – why would you go to the library?

If both of those points come true – who is going to pay the authors?

Writers want to write stories that will be read, but should they be expected to be happy amateurs?  Is it fair to inflict crappy DRM and software derived licensing (ugh – the book EULA) on readers?  I don’t think so either.  There’s a happy medium somewhere even if I don’t know where it is.  I suspect the cloud option (a la Steam*) will be the end result.

That’s the world we live in.  As it is written so it shall be, “… you live in interesting times…”

*  but I still want physical books!