Linkspam, 4/19/13 Edition

Underwater Invasion - Snake Eel, by Jason Isley

Underwater Invasion – Snake Eel, by Jason Isley

Here’s a couple of excellent things to help you get your weekend started:

Starships! from bironic on Vimeo.

(comes at us by way of Liz Bourke)

And this is the pure distilled essence of the internet. I don’t know about anyone else, but my life is now complete.


Human Division #1: The B-Team, John Scalzi

The Human Division #1: The B-Team, John Scalzi

The Human Division #1: The B-Team, John Scalzi

The first part of John Scalzi’s serial novel, The Human Division came out yesterday. It’s called “The B-Team” and comes in at about 22,000 words–a short novella. There are a total of thirteen parts and they’ll be out every week between now and mid-April. It’s an interesting experiment and one, I think, that is well-suited to Scalzi’s strengths as a writer (specifically his ability to tell fast paced and episodic stories in a way that’s engaging and entertaining). The episodes are priced at 99-cents each and will be compiled into one digital volume (and paper volume) in mid-May for what I assume will be the usual price for Tor hardbacks–so buying the episodes individually will probably cost about the same as the ebook.

Normally I write up my own summaries, but the day job has been a bit stressful and I’ve been sick so I’m totally going to steal this week’s from the publisher because it really says everything that I would in a way that’s about a million times more concise than I’d manage. Or something.

Colonial Union Ambassador Ode Abumwe and her team are used to life on the lower end of the diplomatic ladder. But when a high-profile diplomat goes missing, Abumwe and her team are last minute replacements on a mission critical to the Colonial Union’s future. As the team works to pull off their task, CDF Lieutenant Harry Wilson discovers there’s more to the story of the missing diplomats than anyone expected…a secret that could spell war for humanity.

So anyhow. This is a lot of fun–it is definitely self-contained, but it’s also doing two other things: setting up the other 12 episodes as well as inclue-ing readers into what exactly is going on here. It’s been several years since I’ve read anything set in the Old Man’s War universe and while I enjoyed them tremendously I have generally had other things to reread when I’ve been in the mood for re-reading. So the amount of exposition was just about perfect–got me back up to speed on what had happened in The Last Colony and helped lay the land (space) for what happens next.

Well, practically first up is an extended bodily excretion joke because it wouldn’t be a book by John Scalzi without at least one of those, but after that the smart-assery is mostly limited to Harry Wilson, the Scalzilogue in this particular story (each Scalzi book seems to have it’s own Scalzi stand-in–a Scalzilogue! you heard it here first!). I feel it’s important to mention this because it’s a stylistic quirk that either works for the reader or doesn’t.

Then we get into the nitty-gritty of the story and it is delightfully twisty-turny in a way that I suspect long-time fans of space opera will see coming a mile away but which goes a long way to setting up the conflict in this serial and which will, I think provide lots of plot for Scalzi to mine. There’s quite a bit of handwavium around faster-than-light travel as well as materials engineering of the future, but it more or less holds together and I didn’t find it very distracting, even though a big chunk of the plot totally hinges on futuristic materials engineering. And a completely insane spacewalk.

I’m really looking forward to seeing where this goes, both in terms of the episodic structure as well as the overall structure of the story. This was a lot of fun to read and, I expect, it was a lot of fun to write as well.

Linkspam, 11/16/12 Edition

Best. Leeloo. Costume. EVER.

Best. Leeloo. Costume. EVER.
Okay, yes, this is problematic because it’s turning a woman into a dog but it also makes a totally ridiculous costume look even more ridiculous.

Linkspam, 11/2/12 Edition

Wishbone and the Illustrated Classics series have gotten me through every conversation I've ever had about Dickens, Treasure Island, The Anarchist's Cookbook, and Our Bodies, Ourselves.

Fifty Shades

Linkspam is a bit light this week due to me getting distracted by Hurricane Sandy and spending way too much time looking at weather websites and not as much time trawling for links.

And if you can, a monetary donation to the American Red Cross is money well-spent–they are one of the few charities with the know-how and supply chain in place to provide relief in situations such as Hurricane Sandy.

Ebooks: Why I Love Them

Juliet E. McKenna, a fantasy author, had a lot of really smart things to say about converting her backlist to ebooks back in June. I thought this was a really excellent series of posts that really highlights the challenges authors face around ebooks.

One of my favorite things about ebooks is that it lets me read backlist titles. A lot of bookstores simply don’t have them in stock and I am, after eight years of book reviewing, reluctant to buy a lot of physical books. Because, see, this is what my front entryway has looked like for the last few years:

Natalie's Entryway

Natalie’s Entryway

That’s about four months of accumulation from July of last year and I didn’t buy any of those books. People have told me many times about how awesome it must be to get free books and, well, when you have this happen over and over and over again (my entry way still looks like this), the bloom is OFF that rose. So ebooks are awesome because it means I can read (and buy!) new books and not have to deal with the physical objects. It is actually really challenging to get rid of a lot of books–I generally resort to my local Freecycle because then I can get some poor suckersomeone to come and take them away. Since I left RT, the volume of books has dropped off considerably, but it hasn’t stopped.

So anyways–when I discover a new author whose work I might like, I generally want to read their backlist. So the first thing I do is look for ebook editions. If I can’t find ebook editions, then I have to stop and think about how much I actually want to read the backlist. If it’s a romance author, the answer to that question is generally that I’m not going to bother. If it’s another genre, it’s going to depend on how much I feel my enjoyment will depend on whether or not I’ve read everything else they’ve written–this is important for SF/F books because there are, so often, series with lots of book in them. And then I have to think about whether or not I want to buy the books new or used–for my planned Heinlein reread, I decided to buy used because I didn’t feel like the ebook edition prices were particularly fair and I didn’t want to buy new because I knew that it was likely that I wouldn’t be keeping them after I reread them.

So prices. It’s a contentious subject, I know. My idea of a fair ebook price is actually pretty straightforward: It shouldn’t be more than the list price for the cheapest available paper edition and, ideally, should be a little bit lower (i.e., $6.99 for an ebook versus $7.99 for a mass market paperback). I don’t ever want to pay more for an ebook than I would for a paper book, but I also recognize that 99 cents is not the right price for every single ebook. I would be willing to pay more for ebooks that don’t lock me into one particular device and that don’t have DRM on them.

I’m also much more of an impulse shopper when it comes to ebooks. If the price is right and it looks interesting, chances are good that I’ll buy it. I’ve read a lot of stuff on my Kindle that I would never have bought in paper (Sarah McCarty’s Conception is a prime example of that–I read a brief  excerpt online, it looked completely cracktastic, the price was right, I bought it, and it was totally insane and hilarious to read–my friends were less thrilled because I insisted on doing dramatic readings–there were HEALING BLOWJOBS, people–I had a DUTY to share).

And finally, there’s just something wonderful about being able to have so many books available to me on so many different devices–on my phone, my Kindle, my iPad, my computer… It really is a kind of magic to think, “Self, it’s time to reread Mr. Impossible,” and be able to do so almost immediately no matter where I am. It might seriously be the very best thing about living in the future.* Even if we don’t have flying cars.

*Obviously, there is the issue of the digital divide here–not everyone has access to this kind of technology for a lot of different reasons and it is something I do think about a lot and something that does need to be resolved. This kind of access is so important and I hope that someday most people will be able to access it. My post here is not intended in any way to minimize or sideline those concerns.