I need to pay more attention


How did I miss the beginning of this?

By a roundabout route I won’t go into and bore you with, I found an amazing thread going on at Black Gate magazine, initiated by Robert Sawyer on his own blog, posing the question, “Are the days of the full-time novelist numbered?”. If you’ve not read any Sawyer, I suggest his “Calculating God.” It was the first book of his I read, and I loved it. Sawyer also gave us “Flash Forward” which was made into a tv series that only marginally resembled the book. I liked “CG” better, though.

Anyway, back to Black Gate. Robert Silverberg (yes, him) has posted his own blog response about the subject raised by Mr. Sawyer. Then, Jerry Pournelle joined the convo.

The whole thing is a who’s who of the sci-fi world, from the 1950s onwards. Wow. If you’re interested in meditations on the future of sci-fi, and the future for writers, head on over. Makes me feel a little better, actually, knowing that now-famous writers struggled with day jobs as carpenters, professors, and various other jobs, and the advice has ever been “don’t quit your day job!” Maybe it’s that misery loves company, but it somehow feels less like I’m doing anything wrong, and just need to keep plugging away.

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19 thoughts on “I need to pay more attention

  1. A friend of mine, who does not work in publishing, made a nonetheless relevant observation last summer, saying “a lot of companies are using the lousy economy to treat their employees like sh!t, even if the firm itself is turning a profit.” Every one of those shady institutions that tried to get Sawyer to work for nothing, or next to nothing, or at a loss, could have afforded to compensate him fairly, but was trying to get something fror nothing. I’m glad that he turned them down, just as I’m glad about any writer who takes a day job, whether it’s churning documents or grading papers or tending bar or – as my dad used to say – shovelling sh!t against the tide, rather than permitting people who can’t write worth a crap to tell them that their work isn’t valuable.

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  2. Oh, that is so true! And believe me, I know from first-hand experience the games Corporate America plays with the peons in the office. But that’s a whole ‘nother rant in itself 😉

    I don’t have a clue what the future holds for writers and the publishing industry, my gut tells me it’s something we have yet to imagine, but I still think digitizing books is going to someday be seen as the thing that was the undoing. People don’t value ‘ideas’, so if it’s not fixed in book form, rather a series of 1’s and 0’s being modulated for your electronic reading device (whatever form that ultimately takes) no one will have any qualms about pirating it. Just like music, it will cease to have value. Musicians don’t make much money on tours, if they do any better than break even, so suggesting that writers will make money (somehow) touring and speaking is a farce.

    There have never been more than a few writers who could actually make a living solely by writing. Now it seems everyone is expecting the writer to live on nothing, however. Somehow the public will still expect writers to supply books, but as Sawyer pointed out: “Still, lengthy, ambitious, complex works — works that take years of full-time effort to produce such as, say, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy, or, if I may be so bold, my own WWW trilogy of Wake, Watch, and Wonder — aren’t things that could have been produced in any kind of reasonable time by squeezing in an hour’s writing each day over one’s lunch break while working a nine-to-five job.”

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    1. Every dark age is succeeded by a renaissance. We might not live to see the renaissance of the written word, but I believe in my heart that it will survive. At least in the current dark ages, women are allowed to read and write if we want.

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    2. Let us hope. It’s all starting to sound rather bleak right now, though. Books have been with us for so long, it’s hard to imagine them going away completely, but the next generation may not feel the sort of veneration we have for the written word. To them, “Guitar Hero” may be considered the pinnacle of cultural achievement, or whichever video game is popular at the moment.

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      1. DD,

        I’m with Mary J on this. I do think there will be a renaissance of the written word, and despite what some predict, I doubt paper books will ever go away. There really is no reason why they can’t live side by side with e-books. Let people pick the format they prefer. Simple!

        There will always be people who love paper books, and younger generations will rediscover them. Everything comes back. Did you know that old-fashioned record albums are making a comeback? Okay, maybe it’s not huge, but the number of collectors is growing. And look at how there was a renaissance of swing music dance clubs among young adults.

        Balance is always necessary. And as more things become digital, the more people will also feel the need for more earthy, old-fashioned tangible things. Despite electricity, people love the ambiance of candles in their homes, knitting is more popular than ever, etc…

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      2. Yeah, everything is cyclical, we had the arts and crafts movement, Art Nouveau, Woodcraft, in response to industrialization at the early part of the 20th century. The 60s had the hippies, ‘back to the earth’ movement, communes, etc. None of that lasted very long, or made serious inroads into mainstream life. There is a relentless march toward technology and mechanization, and while there are pockets of hold-outs, I’m not sure it’s ever going to swing the pendulum all the way back. The fact is, people love their gadgets. They stand in line for hours waiting for the latest toys from Apple (iPhones, iPods, iPads, etc.), Wii systems, Kindles sell out. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: a few say “e-books are the future” so everyone shrugs and climbs aboard that train. I think paper books will eventually become relics of the past, like rotary phones and telephone operators. We’ll always have the ‘odd man out’ who bucks the trends and tries to hang on to the past, but they will be the minority and make no real impact on the course of events. How many people do you know who still live in communes?

        Sorry, I’m in a foul mood. A really annoying guy here at work just told me I remind him of Tonya Harding. I’m calling forth Cthulhu to deal with him, breaking kneecaps is not good enough.

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      3. As much as it pains me to say it, he’s not the first person who said I resemble her. Apparently it’s something to do with my eyes and the shape of my mouth. I’ve never looked that hard at her so I couldn’t say whether I agree or not, but this wasn’t the best thing to say to me first thing in the morning. Plus, getting from this old coot didn’t help.

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      4. Thanks, MJ, I REALLY needed that! 🙂 Yes, the douchebag cowboy who is very likely getting senile seems to take great pleasure in pestering me. I’m sure he thinks he’s just no end of charming, tries to be funny whenever I have the misfortune to run into him.

        Oh, and we had another birthday party outside my cube a little while ago, AND the nebbish is back from his mini-vacation. Quite a banner day around here.

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      5. No.
        No.
        NO GODDAMMIT NO!!! I’ve met Didge in person, went to high school with her, seen her in each decade of her life and saw a really cute recent photo of her at a punk show w/ her firstborn. There is no way you look anything like that mutt Tonya Harding – the guy must be blind as a bat, or senile, or some damn thing.

        (True confessions: somebody – a nice woman who meant no harm – once told me I resembled Toni Tenille, as in “The Captain and…” Brrrr)

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      6. And you most certainly do not look like Toni Tenille. Wow, that’s just bizarro. But, I suppose we should remember, there are people who think all Asians look alike, so even a tiny similarity is all they need I guess to pronounce us someone’s twin. I guess your hair color is sort of similar to what she had back in the 70s, that’s about all I can think of.

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      7. Somebody once studied my wedding album, and found a resemblence between me and Mary Tyler Moore, as well. I hope that at least she meant the young fresh-faced hat-in-the-air-throwing Mary and not the old craggy alcoholic spokeswoman for diabetes Mary. (Although the latter did manage to bag herself a rich young plastic surgeon…)

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      8. All I can say to that is, “Oy vey!” MTM? I can see Toni Tenille before I can see MTM. When did she take to the bottle? And how does a life-long diabetic manage to drink anyway?

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      9. I’m not sure when she started drinking, but she wrote about it in one of those mid-life memoirs that she writes every 15 years or so. Not sure if she stopped before or after she was diagnosed with diabetes, but apparently she straightened it out in time.

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