Lamenting the Death of Print or Why I Don’t Have an E-book Reader

There’s been a lot of talk about the death of print and the rise of electronic books. Many say that authors need to get with the times and go electronic, and then others say they like the feel of a book in their hands, and will never buy an e-book reader, and the people like them will keep print alive, if only on a smaller scale.

I keep saying I’d love to have an e-book reader, because it would make buying books easier, and if I got the sony one, I could do copyedits on my fiction on it. Someday when the credit card is paid off, I’ll get one.

Then I read this post, from Seanan Mcguire: http://seanan-mcguire.livejournal.com/390067.html

And there it is. That’s why I don’t have an e-book reader. I can’t bloody well afford one.

The library was my place, right from an early age. My dad took me regularly – it must have been every two weeks, because that’s how long you were allowed to keep a book back then. I went through books like nobody’s business, right from the time I learned to read, which was pretty young – my dad read to my brother and I regularly, and he would point at each word as he read it, so that I started to pick up patterns pretty fast. I would read anything I could get my hands on. When I’d read all the children’s books in the house, he must have started taking me to the library when he saw me reading the backs of cereal boxes for the lack of anything to read on the table.

When I graduated from picture books to chapter books, it was to Thornton Burgess, and his books about forest animals. When I got to longer books, it was because I was in love with horses (what teenage girl isn’t? (well, except for my mother…)) and got into the Black Stallion series, and Marguerite Henry and her Chincoteague ponies. I read every book in the library that had a horse or a unicorn on the front.

When I got into science fiction, that was how it happened to. It was “A Swiftly Tilting Planet” by Madeleine L’engle, and I went back to read the first books in the trilogy first, because I’m neurotic that way. But it had a unicorn on the front, with bonus wings, and I had to read it.

So then I started cleaning out the library of their science fiction and fantasy, eventually moving over to the adult section. This would have been thousands of dollars worth of books, easily. I would go through one a week at least. Lets see, one book a week, for a year, at, say 10$ a book, we’ll be conservative, even though a lot of those we probably 30$ hardcovers, would be around 500$ a year. And I’m not even counting the non-fiction I took out. Which tends to be more expensive. I educated myself on all kinds of things, just browsing the racks to find interesting things.

It’s like a bookstore! Only free!

We do need libraries, and our libraries need funding. As the gap between the poor and the wealthy widens, opportunities disappear. Libraries have always been a haven for enlightenment, and when public schools are losing funding, and teachers are overwhelmed with class sizes, students with the desire should always have the option to initiate their own learning opportunities.

(as the concepts of intellectual property and information ownership and the rights of the poor to access them creep into the setting of my next novel….)

Banned Books Week

So banned books week is coming up, and I always go to read the list of most frequently challenged books thinking I probably haven’t read any of them, because I don’t do a lot of reading gay literature, but then I remember, oh yeah, Harry Potter is on there, and a whole ton of other books that no one who isn’t dumb can really understand why they’re on that list.

“Of Mice and Men” anyone? Yeah, that one was on the list one year. It doesn’t even have racial or homosexual angles. It’s just a sad story. On the list for being in the top ten most frequently challenged books – for being a sad story.

Oh well. At least they haven’t been very successful with suppressing this stuff. I think a book making the banned list would only give the author extra publicity and make their sales skyrocket. When I am one day published, I would live to have my book banned. It would inevitably be for content that I was unabashedly proud of.

Review: The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

The Forever War

I really expected to like this one – it’s a Hugo and Nebula award winner from back in the golden age of science fiction. Only I didn’t. Glancing at reviews, no one seems to have picked out the greatest flaws in this book.

It was interesting, had it’s moments, and I laughed a couple times as the author’s extrapolations of where we’d be fifty years from now. For example, he figured by the 90’s we’d be way past mars and have a military base on Charon, one of Pluto’s moons. On the other hand, he also anticipated that we’d have electronic money transfers by the year 2115 or something like that. I suppose back then they were hopeful that exploration and human curiosity would be the leading drivers of innovation, rather than convenience.

That wasn’t what disappointed me though. Those things – see, those are the same as H. G. Wells’ man eating orchids and anything else he wrote about that we know can’t exist now. I don’t have a problem with that.

It was the story crafting that lost me. See, the theme of the story is embedded in the setting. The extrapolation of the progress of culture is the point of the novel. The fact that the main character was going away, losing time, and coming back, fifty, a hundred, seven hundred years later, was the macguffin the author used to show the theme. The problem is the plot has almost nothing to do with the theme.

The main plot is the romance between the main character, William, and his fellow soldier, Marygay. The plot does nothing to further the point of the story. Furthermore, the main character is not in a position to affect anything to do with the state of the world, so he’s not exactly the idea candidate for a main character. The only reason William goes back to view the changes that occur in the world each time he returns from a mission is so that he can observe the state of the world now. The theme is wedged into the plot, like an after thought. I was expecting the plot to eventually have some link to the theme, and it never did. There are those that argue that, well, it does, sort of, but should a story’s plot only touch on the point obliquely?

Robert J Sawyer has a great article on how to choose and create an effective main character, here: http://www.sfwriter.com/ow02.htm. He explains that your main character should be the one in the best position to illustrate the purpose of your story. Plot, I believe is the same – you choose a plot to illustrate your point, to make your story a cohesive whole. As I learn more about the craft of writing, I notice these things more, and they annoy me more.

Did it get a Hugo and Nebula because the readers of the time were less discerning? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe it’s simply that what they considered important about the novel was different. There are people who are nuts for Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, and I didn’t care for that one either. I supposed that’s just not the time period I’m nostalgic for.

Back to H. G. Wells.

Book Review: Havemercy, by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennet

Debut novel of Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennet, and like Peter S. Beagle and many others have said, it doesn’t read like a debut novel.

Overall, I loved it. It’s the first in a series, so I can forgive them for not killing *all* the characters I would have killed, if it were me writing it, because I know two of the characters I would have killed are POV characters for the next book. And one of the major plot points that was forshadowed and not resolved is centered around one of those two characters, so I expect to see that resolved later as well and forgive that as well.

I love the setting – but then, I’m a sucker for combining technology and magic, so the dragons were right up my alley.

Favourite scene: the exploding dining room table.

My biggest beef with the story was I bought it for the dragon on the front, and the dragon was barely in the story. Her first scene, even was an excercise flight around the city, and it felt like the scene was only there to get her into the story. She was really cool when she was there, but, like I said, barely there.

My other beef would have to be the lack of female characters – strange for a book written by two female authors. All four POV characters were male – and having two of them homosexual didn’t make up for it. Not even really any significant secondary female characters.

But the ending, and the body count at the end was satisfactory. I was starting to wonder about the body count, but they were just saving it all up for the end. And then they really came through.

It’s very political, mostly about relationships, and though I figured out one major plot twist between Rook and Thom at least 100 pages before I got to it, that’s ok, it was a good plot twist. Maybe a bit cliche, but it was well executed, and the characters made it unique.

The characters are some of the most memorable characters I’ve ever read, too. Rook, especially – somehow they managed to do badass from a first person POV, without the character ending up ruined by emo. There was lots of emotion, from all the characters, but this character’s emotion was all anger, he never once let himself sit down and feel sorry for himself. He was a complete asshole, but I loved that character.