Audible.com works fast. My two short story collections are now on sale as audiobooks! I’ve only listened to the samples so far, but I like the sound of both of the narrators. If you enjoy audiobooks for your commute or your dog walks or whatever, why not give them a try? (You could also ask your library to consider ordering them.)
We’ve lost another giant—maybe the last of his generation of Golden Age science fiction. Frederik Pohl, along with Clarke, Heinlein, and Asimov, occupied a central position in my formative years as a lover of science fiction. More than any of the others, he kept growing in maturity and ambition as a writer—showing a burst of enormous creativity in his late 50s, with two of his finest books, Man Plus (1976) and Gateway (1977). I consider Gateway one of the top five books in all of science fiction, and I’m not sure what the other four would be.
I first encountered his work, I believe, in The Space Merchants, which he coauthored in 1953 with C.M. Kornbluth. (I didn’t read it in 1953; I was only four years old at the time. I started reading him in my teens.) I still have many old paperbacks of his earlier work on my shelf. Just scanning a list of his titles evokes all kinds of feelings of golden-age sense of wonder: Search the Sky, Gladiator-At-Law, Drunkard’s Walk (which I was especially fond of as a teenager because of the tastefully drawn naked woman on the cover), Starchild, Rogue Star, Turn Left at Thursday, Starburst, The Siege of Eternity, The Case Against Tomorrow….
And yes, the title of my own work in progress, The Reefs of Time, is a knowing echo of his The Reefs of Space.
Pohl did just about everything there was to do in the SF world. He was an editor (Galaxy magazine), an agent, a solo writer, a collaborative writer, a futurist, a columnist and blogger, a president of the Science Fiction Writers of America, and a SFWA Grandmaster. He was also a perfect gentleman, and a fascinating speaker. I only met him once or twice, but he treated me, a fresh upstart, with graciousness and warmth.
I hope he’s enjoying a perfect view of the stars from where he is right now, perhaps sitting around a table with some of the other departed greats, in the observation lounge of a heavenly starship. Godspeed, Frederik Pohl, and thank you for all of the visions.
I love this celebration of over 50 years of starships and their pilots, by bironic, to the tune of Starships Were Meant to Fly, by Nicki Minaj. For better viewing, pop it up to full screen and wear headphones. For best viewing, download it, copy to a USB thumb drive, and play it on a widescreen TV from your Blu-ray player. You’ll be glad you did. It encapsulates a lifetime of vividly realized star travel, from Forbidden Planet all the way up to the Star Trek reboot. See how many scenes you can recognize. I got most of them, but a few were from shows that escaped me.
Speaking of great causes, if you like science fiction that actually gets the science right, there’s nothing better than the annual Launchpad Astronomy Workshop, which since 2007 has been training writers in the basics, as well as some of the finer points, of astronomy. In the early years, when I attended, Launchpad was paid for by grants from NASA and NSF. Now, funding is scarce, and the workshop needs a helping hand from people who care. Science fiction, after all, provides inspiration for future generations of scientists, as well writers, artists, and readers of all kinds.
If you’d like to help, there’s just one more day left to make a donation to the crowd-funding of this important program. There are all kinds of free books available to reward donations—all donated by author or publisher-alums of the program (like me!) Check out the donations page and get a free book while helping a great cause!
A bunch of my workshop graduates have gotten together to do a very cool thing. They’ve published an anthology of some of their best short stories—and on top of that, all the earnings are going straight to a great cause: the SFWA Emergency Medical Fund.
Here’s how it happened:
The Earth formed, and the rocks cooled. Shortly afterward, Craig Gardner and I got started in our writing careers. Fast forward to a few years ago, when we ran a series of workshops called the Ultimate SF Writing Workshop. A bunch of talented new writers attended, and we all became friends, and many of them are now becoming established as published writers in their own right. We stay in touch through an online group, and get together at local conventions. At last year’s Readercon, one of them—I think it was Lisa (LJ) Cohen—said over dinner with the group, “Why don’t we get together and publish a collection of our best stories?” The crowd rumbled approval, and with that, the project was born.
Pen-Ultimate: A Speculative Fiction Anthology has just been published, a year later. The workshoppers (my workshoppers!) did all the writing, selecting, editing, cover art, book design, and ebook formatting. Craig and I wrote the intro and outro, but other than that, it’s all the work of these fine new writers.
Check it out! The stories are great, and it’s only $2.99 in ebook. It’s also available in print for $8.50. Every penny earned is going to a medical fund that helps SF/F writers who have fallen on hard times medically and financially. What could be a better cause than that?
Most days I sell between zero and a few ebooks total in the Barnes and Noble Nook store, a steady drip-drip-drip of sales. (I do better, thankfully, in the Kindle store, and even better for some reason in the Kindle UK store. Still, even there, sales have lagged in the last month or so.) But the other day, there was an abrupt spike in the Nook store: 19 sales for the day, almost all of which were The Chaos Chronicles, Books 1-3. The next day was less, but still better than usual. What’s up with that? I wondered, marveling happily. (I should note that, for many writers, these numbers would be reason for scowling, not smiling. But I was smiling.)
I still wonder what was behind it, but my best guess is that some reading club has decided to try my Chaos books, and they all ordered from the Nook store and not the Kindle store or Book View Cafe (and I wouldn’t know about the Apple/Sony/Kobo stores, because reporting is slow there). Is this true? Does somebody know? Or is it just one of those unexplainable synchronicity things?
Everyone* in my vast organization wants to know. And we hope that all the rest of you will follow suit, or encourage someone else to.
By now, most people interested in books and publishing have heard of Hugh Howey, a self-published SF writer whose eighth (I think) book Wool hit gold and became a runaway bestseller in ebook. It made a millionaire of the author, and led in the course of time to an extraordinary print contract with a major New York publisher, in which the publisher offered a large six-figure advance for print rights only, allowing the author to continue to mine his own ebook rights to the tune of six figures monthly.
[Deep breath, and expel the envy. All together, now…]
Anyway, Hugh Howey writes on Salon.com about his views of traditional versus self-publishing. It’s pretty interesting, although I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says. (For one thing, he doesn’t mention the role that traditional publishers play in helping writers, especially new writers, improve their craft and produce better books. Some say that that role is diminishing these days, but I think it really depends on the publisher and the editor.) Still, it’s hard to argue with Howey’s success.
I write this as I’m taking a break from working on my taxes, wherein I discover that I sort of seriously underestimated the effect my own improved ebook sales would have on my tax bottom line. Ow. I’m not remotely in the same universe as Howey, sales-wise. Nevertheless, last year was one of the best years I’ve had in my modest career in terms of book income, and it was all from my backlist. The paradigms, they are a-shiftin’.
In this promo for a Star Trek video game, William Shatner and his old friend the Gorn (from the Classic Trek episode “The Arena”) mix it up in Shatner’s living room. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Gorn. It’s good to see him back.