Publishers and pies

Self-styled publishing industry pundit Michael Kozlowski, whose foolishness is exceeded only by his bad manners, had this nugget of conventional wisdom to offer in the comment box of an article on The Passive Voice:

Indie authors are for the most part very lazy. They spam out e-books without any regard for quality and think quantity is better. I have noticed over the years that if you mention the e-book industry declining they will always say “its [sic] because we don’t want/need an ISBN” and then they will defend the indie movement.

If indie authors really wanted to be taken seriously they would buy cheap ISBN numbers and be counted. But that takes a few hours worth of work, something they aren’t willing to do.

Indie authors for the most part are lazy, incompetent and have no regard for the self-publishing movement.

I found that I could not let this go unchallenged. My reply follows:


OK, Kozlowski. I wasn’t going to waste my time commenting on your drivel at its original location, because I have a pretty strong suspicion that disapproving comments are ‘curated’ out of existence. But you’re here, so I’ll have a bash.

We ‘indie’ authors are so God-rotted lazy that we actually start our own publishing businesses. We not only write the books; we hire editors and copyeditors, commission cover art, arrange for wholesale and retail distribution, handle our own promotion and PR, and not only that, we, unlike you, actually engage with our end customers, the readers – a section of the food chain that your part of the business is still barely aware of and never listens to. And we do all this on our own time and our own dime, without anybody paying us an advance. [Read more…]

Happy New Year

But in Gondor the New Year will always now begin upon the twenty-fifth of March when Sauron fell.

—J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Catholic tradition holds, on reasonably secure grounds, that Jesus was crucified on the twenty-fifth of March; which makes it the feast day of St. Dismas. That is the name assigned by tradition to the robber who was crucified with him, to whom he said, ‘Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.’ By a happy coincidence, I am writing this in a year when Good Friday falls on March 25: a rare event.

It is also the Feast of the Annunciation. On somewhat less secure, but still reasonable grounds, the Church calculates that Jesus was born on December 25; which means, in round numbers, that he must have been conceived somewhere around March 25, and the angel who broke the news to Mary is therefore thought to have appeared on that date. This fits in with the ancient Jewish tradition that great sages and prophets lived an exact number of years, being born (or conceived) and dying on the same day of the year.

There are more fanciful associations. For instance, some have supposed that Adam and Eve were created on March 25. I ask the skeptical among my 3.6 Loyal Readers to suspend their unbelief momentarily for the sake of a good story. Supposing that there were an Adam and Eve, and that they were created on the same day (which even Genesis does not tell us), they lived long before the invention of fixed calendars; so that even if they knew the exact time of year at which they were born, and told their children, the information could not have been passed on to the authors of the Torah. The language of the Hebrew calendar is too new, the calendar itself too recent, to convey data directly from so remote a source. You could suppose that God gave the information to the author of that passage in Genesis; but then, Genesis does not tell us any exact date either. Even the most enthusiastic and credulous believer, I am afraid, has to surrender this particular story as a pious taradiddle.

In the Middle Ages in Christendom – not everywhere, not always, but certainly in the official records of the Church – March 25 was treated as New Year’s Day in commemoration of these events, real and legendary; with the odd result that March 24, 1066 (to pick a year not quite at random), was almost a year after March 25, 1066. This peculiar system persisted until Pope Gregory XIII reformed the calendar in 1582, bringing it back in step with the seasons, and incidentally moving the New Year back to January 1, the start of the old Roman consular year.

The Protestant and Orthodox countries stuck to the Julian calendar for some time yet; England went over to the new system in 1752, which by that time meant dropping eleven days from that year, so that March 25 of the old calendar corresponded with April 5 of the new. In 1800, the old and new calendars diverged by one more day, so the British Parliament made a special enactment that the tax year would start on April 6 instead; but they did not trouble themselves to move it to April 7 in 1900. That is why, to this day, the British tax year begins on the sixth day of April, to the lasting exasperation of accountants, taxpayers, and all tidy-minded persons.

‘Thinning’, as The Encyclopaedia of Fantasy calls it, does not only occur in fantasy fiction; we often find it in real life. The old Catholic New Year has thinned to a shadow, and all that remains of it now is a bizarre tax regulation in Britain, which hardly even pretends to be a Christian country. One of the few people to recall the old New Year and the old reasons for it was Tolkien, who deliberately chose that date for the defeat of Sauron and the beginning of the Fourth Age; so the reason for the date passes over into myths and old wives’ tales. But as Tolkien made Celeborn say—

Do not despise the lore that has come down from distant years; for oft it may chance that old wives keep in memory word of things that once were needful for the wise to know.

Still, I bid you all a happy and glorious New Year in the Old Style (with Gregory’s correction), and in company of the old wives of Oxenford; and I add a prayer for any of my readers who may chance to be British, and in the clutches of the Inland Revenue. God bless you all.

The deplorable redemption of bebop

Some time ago, my poppets, I instructed you in the gentle art of killing art forms in a piece entitled ‘Death by Bebop’. Those of you who read it (or clicked through just now) will recall that I made a particular corpus vile of jazz, and an especial example of ‘Take Five’, by the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

That composition very nearly upset our lovely little applecart. Fortunately, after a smashingly musical opening in 5/4 time, the soloists swiftly degenerate into the indistinguishable pabulum of vaguely rhythmic noodling that has made latter-day jazz so detestable to all right-thinking people, McStudges as well as humans.

The natural solution to this is to combine the head of ‘Take Five’ with the heads of other compositions in the same signature, and transposable into the same key; and to play the whole, not as jazz, but as a properly composed piece, scored rigorously throughout. This has often been tried, and done badly, by mashing up the Brubeck noise with the theme from Mission: Impossible. So long as it is done badly, by persons of little talent, it matters not to us.

But no art form is ever dead quite beyond resurrection. We must strive continually to keep them dead. This we do by shutting out the skilful and interesting artists, and admitting none but giftless and footling plodders. Every so often, a human of real ability stumbles into a field that we would leave barren, and makes it yield fruit in our despite.

So it is with this mashup business. A human who calls himself Jake Justice has done it well; and for this he must pay. Behold, my junior McStudges, and judge for yourselves the danger we are in even now:

This nuisance must cease forthwith.

     (signed)
     H. Smiggy McStudge
          Deputy Commissar of Music Depreciation (Pro Tem)

Day tripper

It has just been arranged that I am to take a certain Beloved Other up to Edmonton on Valentine’s Day, where she will be visiting friends and relations; from which excursion I shall, unhappily, be returning by myself. In honour of the occasion, I hark back to a post I made four years ago, describing my last trip to Edmonton:

Procol Harum and G. K. C.

It begins:

Thus, if one asked an ordinary intelligent man, on the spur of the moment, ‘Why do you prefer civilization to savagery?’ he would look wildly round at object after object, and would only be able to answer vaguely, ‘Why, there is that bookcase… and the coals in the coal-scuttle… and pianos… and policemen.’ The whole case for civilization is that the case for it is complex. It has done so many things. But that very multiplicity of proof which ought to make reply overwhelming makes reply impossible.

—G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

My Muse is actually an imp, or perhaps a pooka, and cannot read a passage such as this without taking it as a challenge. I shall accordingly give my reason for preferring civilization, in the form of an example; and I hope to show that the example I give would be utterly impossible except in a state of civilization, and indeed, inconceivable in any civilization but our own. Mr. Chesterton would doubtless be glad to hear that my example does at least include a piano.

Read the rest.

Groundhog Day

A triviality.

When I was very small, back in the Lower Silurian or thereabouts, my kindergarten teacher (a mollusc of great learning and dignity) told me about Groundhog Day. Every second of February, folk gather round the groundhog’s den to see it come out. If it does not see its shadow, spring will come early; if it does, there will be six more weeks of winter—

It was at this point that I baulked. Here in Alberta, six more weeks of winter after February 2 is an early spring; earlier, in fact, than any spring I have ever seen since I have lived here. [Read more…]

Checking in again

Carbonel mentions that it’s been a while since my last post, and inquires after my well-being. (Thanks, Carbonel!)

The Loyal 3.6 may be relieved to hear that I am well enough in myself, though I’ve been plagued by unusual fatigue this past week. I am trying to get through a shortish (~25,000 word) writing project, but have not been able to concentrate very well. I can do odd little world-building jobs and that kind of thing, but when I actually sit down to write copy, I find that my brain has turned to tapioca pudding.

As soon as I get some decent headway on the current project, I hope to post a sample. It’s a novella with the working title The Stone Sword, a sort of prequel to The Eye of the Maker, which I am writing partly to work out some backstory that I will need to continue the said Octopus; and partly because it will make a good cheap (or free) ebook to scatter far and wide as a promotional gewgaw.

Smoke signals for experts

Mary Catelli inquires:

So working on the world and how do you send letters magically?

Without involving owls, thank you.  I send the kids to a magical school already.  So no owls.  Or doves or eagles or . . . .

I could have them sent by mailman.  Still, a magical means to send them would add to the world-building.  But eliminate winged messengers, and what other form of magic would be metaphorically suitable to transport them?

Something to brainstorm, I think.

Your Humble Correspondent replies:

The enchantment for this requires matched pairs of amulets: rings for choice, since they are so compact and convenient and easy to carry about. Each pair of rings is imprinted with the essence of both parties to the correspondence. You place your ring in a hearth or brazier, prepared to receive enchantment in the usual way, and the recipient (who is expecting your letter at any moment) does the same with his. You then build the smallest fire that will sustain itself, and burn the letter in it; whereupon the vibrations of essential fire in the matched rings will call each to each, and the other party can read your letter in the flames of his own fire, or in the ashes.

N.B. If, like any civilized person, you are carrying on epistolary friendships with many other people, you will want to get a specially constructed hearth with rows of brass pegs in the firebox, so that you can receive letters from whichever of your acquaintance wishes to write to you. When sending a letter, of course, you must remove all the rings except the one intended. It is considered good manners to kindle a fire in the sunset hour and keep it alight for some two to four hours thereafter, so that all correspondence may be conducted in the evenings.

Mumblety-mumble

By the way, a disturbing development: Today is my Getting Older Day. For my trouble, I got the free birthday breakfast at Denny’s (at 4 p.m.), and wrought away on the post for Mrs. Wright, so that now I have a lot more of it than I can use. Tomorrow I shall have to trim it gently with an axe.

How much older, you ask? I admit to Eleventy-Six; but that is a ruse to make people pet me and flatter me, and tell me that I don’t look a day over Eleventy.

Sarah D: Mobile apps are not a web solution!

That paragon of outdated thinking, the Calgary Public Hobo Mausoleum Library, has drawn down the wrath of Sarah Dimento. She speaks wisely, as is her wont, and without profanity, which is unusual for Sarah in a wrath.

Key bit:

A single-purpose mobile app is about as useful as a unicycle. Sure, you might be able to ride it down the street, but it was never designed to get you much further.…

Back in 2011, every clueless CEO wanted a mobile app (that does nothing a website can’t already do) because they heard it was the latest, hottest thing and wanted to jump on the bandwagon. It was a terrible fad that had its day because it was a terrible idea. Yet here you are, in 2015, telling people, “Please use our unicycle instead of the bicycle we can’t be bothered to fix. Unicycles are still hip, right? Pleeease try out our unicycle. We lost our bicycle building budget over this!”

Read the rest.

Delay ended (I hope)

Tuesday afternoon to the optometrist for a new glasses prescription, the old one having expired. (Steven Wright has a one-liner about that.) From there to Mall-Wart, as I affectionately call it, to buy two pairs of cheap eyeglasses, so that if I am clumsy again I can still make a spectacle of myself. Brooke, the optician, is at least a minor genius, and managed to patch up the wreckage of my old glasses (which I brought along in case the optometrist wanted to take measurements off them) so that they would at least sit on my face and the lenses would not spontaneously pop out of the frames. Both these desirable qualities were lacking before.

So it is now just shy of 1 a.m., Frozen North Daylight Time, and I am just sitting down to resume work. Sound the All Clear.