04 November 2010

Post-Election Migraine Attack

But, on the other hand, I don't need elections to give me a migraine.

  • It's NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). That leads to two short pieces of homework: Evil Overlord's List, which applies to everyone (yes, there are lots and lots of evil overlords in even the most literary of fiction — it's just that their evil is often of the banal kind), and the Fantasy Novelist's Exam (which, again, applies to a lot more than just fantasy).

    Don't say I didn't warn you, especially about Question 33 of the Fantasy Novelist's Exam. But while you're at it, remember that calling it a "novel" doesn't insulate it from being "libel" — that's just one factor.

  • There's some interesting pricing news from the electronic publishing world, all adding up to the same thing: Publishers have no clue how much their wares are worth. You may recall that MordorCorp established a paywall for The Times (a newspaper that it had steadily made less relevant over the years anyway) earlier this year; now the first circulation figures are in, and 0.25% of Times readers pre-paywall are paying for a subscription. Meanwhile, Amazon readers are giving negative reviews based solely upon price (and the correct term is not "agency model", but "resale price maintenance agreement" — something that was unlawful until a couple of years ago when the Supreme Court reversed a century-old precedent), and another piece concerning the timing of editions that essentially gives away the whole show:

    The publishing industry prices on container —
    not on content.

    Interestingly enough, the industry doesn't even do a very good job of that. Compare the price differentials in commercial fiction among casebound, trade paperback, and mass-market paperback editions of the same book to the author's sales records; to the actual manufacturing cost per copy based on anticipated print run; to returns rates; to fixed costs for the work (primarily the author's advance payment, cover and typesetting cost, and the bare minimum of editorial attention, as all other costs are variable and not fixed); to any other way that any other industry sets prices... and you'll see the same problem that the music industry had with CD pricing in the 1990s. And, as implied by The Times's experience, that's not restricted to commercial fiction, either.

  • A scientific deconstruction (if that isn't too much of an oxymoron for anyone who has actually read Derrida) of the underlying premise of torture: that it works doesn't go nearly far enough. The bottom line on torture — even under the so-called "ticking time bomb" scenario — is that the interrogator already knows enough to know what questions to ask. If so, however, we're now into a somewhat more disturbing possibility — that the subject, since he/she allegedly knows the information sought by the interrogator, also knows when that information will become stale. That is, the subject has a finite resistance goal. Hmm. That reminds me of SEERS training more than a little bit... and demonstrates pretty conclusively that the "ticking time bomb" scenario is reflexively self-defeating.
  • Authors should find an alternative to Cook's Source due to its disdain for authors' rights and copyright. At least, though, we're not still dealing with Jammie Thomas-Rasset, who refuses to accept that "file-sharing" others' copyrighted material has consequences... to the tune of $1.5 million at the third trial.