Publishers Sue Google

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I heard through the Authors Guild today that a number of major publishers have sued Google, through the Association of American Publishers, following the Authors Guild in its lawsuit against Google for its Library project. This makes one wonder about the Google claim that copyrighted material was being used only with the permission of the publishers.

As I may have mentioned before, Yahoo has joined in a coalition with several other companies and libraries to begin a similar book-scanning project. However, they say they’re only scanning material for which they have copyright-holder’s permission, or which is in the public domain.

This is going to become very interesting before it’s over.

Dark Matter, Don’t Go!

A new study reported on Space.com suggests that dark matter, that mysterious stuff that astronomers believe helps hold the galaxies together, might not exist, after all. Researchers Fred Cooperstock of Northeastern University and Steven Tieu at the University of Victoria invoke general relativity to explain the cohesiveness of galaxies.

To which I say, No no no no no—don’t do it! The plot of Sunborn depends on dark matter to hold things together (so to speak), and if you pesky, upstart physicists go explaining away dark matter by other means, what does that leave me holding in the bag? Nothing, that’s what. Quantum vacuum, at best. And what good does that do me?

Maybe this will turn out to be wrong. But maybe not. I get very annoyed with the ephemeral nature of knowledge, sometimes.

Odds & Ends

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A reader asked me to provide an update on Sunborn. I oblige, with a sigh. Progress: slow. Excruciatingly slow. I see many problems in the first draft, and I think I understand the problems pretty well. What I don’t understand (yet) is how to fix them. I’m working on it. If you think you’re frustrated as a reader, imagine what it’s like to be the author who’d hoped to have this book in print five years ago!

SciFi Wire just ran a very nice piece on WriteSF.com. In the day and a half since that story appeared, there have been over a thousand hits on the main page! And I received a nice note from someone who said he managed to avoid work for an entire day by going through the course from beginning to end! All right!! 🙂

I Take That Back

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Yesterday’s post, that is. You cannot read my comments at Ragnar Anchorage without registering there. So it goes. At some point, I may get around to copying the more substantial comments here.

But right now, I have to work on Sunborn. Stop distracting me, willya?

World Wide Blogosphere

posted in: blogging 0

I have a little web meter thingy attached to this blog, and also to my regular web site and my online SF writing guide, which counts visitors. It can do other things, as well. One of the coolest things it does is show me a world map with little dots on it, telling me where people have come to visit from. I absolutely love this feature, and I check it nearly every night. (Don’t worry—it doesn’t identify you, or lead me back to your computer, or anything like that. But it does show me the city and country that someone connected from.)

Of course, the largest proportion of visitors are from the U.S. and Canada—no surprise. But outside America, I see I’m having conversations (okay, mostly one-sided conversations) with people from Singapore, Iran, Japan, India, Australia, New Zealand, Slovenia, Italy, Bulgaria, Germany, England, Ireland, Iceland, Norway, Brazil, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, France, Poland, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Lithuania, and Mauritius. Probably some others I missed. I can even click to see a map of the country, and read a little about it.

I love this connection with people from around the world. I know that some of you are from countries that are not on particularly good terms with my own—and that almost makes it more gratifying, to be able to reach across boundaries in a small way like that.

You know what would be cool? If more of you left messages to say hello. Then we could a multi-sided conversation. What do you think?

Rocket Races!

posted in: science fiction 0

Some time ago, I wrote a novel called Roger Zelazny’s Alien Speedway: Clypsis. (It was a share-crop effort, based on work by the late Roger Zelazny and put together by the late Byron Preiss.) It was about a kid named Mike Murray, who travels to a future star system, Clypsis, which is dedicated solely to the sport of spaceship racing. It was great fun to write, and from the feedback I got from readers, fun to read as well.

Well…Fast Rewind to the present. This story on Space.com reports a planned annual event under the aegis of the “Rocket Racing League,” featuring actual races of piloted “X-Racer stock rocket planes.” The first races are planned for October of 2006, in the skies of New Mexico. This is so cool, I can’t wait. Spaceman’s luck, everyone!

But in the meantime, they’re planning an exhibition of X-Prize competitors in Las Cruces, New Mexico for this weekend, Oct. 9. (Wish I could go.) And the X-Prize winner, Spaceship One, is about to go on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Wish I had my own private rocket plane to go to all these events!

My Career in the Movies

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(Pops hits the streets.)

Well, I had my debut screen-acting job this morning, playing the part of “Pops the bum” in the short indie film, Children of the Streets, currently in production. It was great fun. (Though perhaps not quite as much fun as the part of “Joey,” who got to have two cute young hookers cozying up to him repeatedly as they did takes from different angles.)

I had about five lines, and I only blew them once. The producer called for an Academy Award for me, and I would be a fool to disagree. Especially since I’ll never hear those words again.

I thought this was going to be it, but they asked me to appear in one more scene, where a street kid gets shot. There was some talk that I might get shot, too, in a bit of collateral damage. But I think they were joking. (I think.)

Guess I need to let my beard continue to grow out scruffily.

More on Authors Guild and Google

posted in: writing 0

The Authors Guild sent out a more detailed explanation of their reasons for suing Google for putting copyrighted works online. I have to say they were pretty convincing. I’m just going to quote them:

  1. Google is a commercial, not a charitable, enterprise. Google is worth roughly $90 billion, making staggering profits through its online advertising programs. Its investment in Google Library is intended to bring even more visitors and profits to its website and ancillary services. The Guild is all for profit, but when the profit comes from the works of authors, the authors should be properly compensated.
  2. Google is scanning entire books, not just “fair use snippets.” Google is digitizing countless texts, your books, in their entirety — every sentence, every carefully chosen word — without your permission. That Google presents browsers with small selections of your work doesn’t change that.
  3. It’s not just public domain books. The Guild has no objection, of course, to the digitization of public domain works. The Google Library project goes far beyond that, encompassing works that are still protected by copyright, including in print and out of print works.
  4. Out of print doesn’t mean public domain. Out of print works are valuable. Out of print works are republished every day, bringing welcome new advances to authors and the prospect of new royalty income. That Google is willing to sink so much money into digitizing these works is further proof of their ongoing value.
  5. Authors (and the Guild) aren’t opposed to making their works searchable online with a proper license. With a proper license, in fact, far more than “snippets” could be made available to users. The opportunities are boundless, but it all starts with a valid license. This is no big deal, really; businesses large and small sign license agreements every day.

Tsmacro, in a comment below, remarked that most authors probably will gain rather than lose from this enterprise. He may well be right. But that, in the end, is not really the point. The point is that copyright means that the creators of works are reserved the right to control how their works are copied and distributed. Most writers, if asked, would probably grant permission. But some wouldn’t. And that’s their right. (Caveat: the situation may be complicated by what permissions authors have granted their publishers for e-publishing, and whether the publishers granted the rights to Google.)

The part about Google doing this for profit is really the clincher. Even if many authors might benefit—they don’t have the right to make a profit from reproducing work without permission.

Note that the music industry, in the end, woke up and realized the need to license music downloading—and everyone is now benefiting from it.

WriteSF.com Is Live!

I think I forgot to mention that my online guide to SF and fantasy writing, oddly enough called Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy, is now available online for anyone to peruse and use. It’s not what you’d called finished, exactly. It’s proving to be a much bigger job than I realized to fix all the funky formatting from the earlier html, and get all the navigation links in place. But the first handful of lessons are in good shape, and you can get around the whole course using the contents page.

The guide covers the fundamentals of story writing, including getting from idea to story, world building, creating human and alien characters, plot and conflict, language and style, finishing what you start, workshopping, submitting to publishers, and more. It’s geared to the younger aspiring writer, but I hope could be useful for anyone looking for a little jump start.

It grew out of a course I created for MathSoft’s StudyWorks Science some years ago, and now I’m putting it up for free as a public service. And SFF.Net is hosting it as a public service, as well.

If you know of any young aspiring writers, send ’em over. And please spread the word.

It’s at writesf.com.

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