I noticed this morning that the top story on Medium is basically a poor man’s version of Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture.” Thousands of people read this adaptation thinking it was a true story and a real person telling his thoughts as he acknowledged he was dying. It was just a 27 year old guy who may or may not have thought he was “being original” and who may or may not have realized he was paraphrasing a famous end of life message from a fully-realized person.
So I went out yesterday on an adventure.
It was real.
I’d rather have 5 people read my work for real than 500,000 read something I ripped off. I’d rather be me, than someone with tons of cosmetic surgery. If I am dying, I want to die at home with my family and friends.
If you are my friend, you are truly my friend. If you are my student, you are truly my student.
I wish for everyone to know who they really are, to be grateful for the immense gifts we are given each and every day of genuine life, of this beautiful world we live in, and of our true friends and those we love, and who love us.
First off, I just finished doing some work I really do not have a lot of extra time to do, but I did it anyway. Second, I doubt too many male writers would share my experience of having to slack off to go get some items for dinner. It’s cooking right now. Of course there are some: single dads and others.
So hell I sit around and way more often than I should, I feel sorry for myself. I just counted up all the Nebula Award nominated stories and authors since this award began in 1966. I wanted to make the case that “who the story is about” is more important than “who wrote the story.” I discovered that my betters, Joanna Russ, Kate Wilhelm, Nancy Kress, Connie Willis, Vonda McIntyre, Nina Kiriki Hoffmann, Carol Emshwiller, Lisa Tuttle (who has ethics – she did not want her award, the only person to so-decline to date), Esther Friesner, Ursula Le Guin, and Jane Yolen – had all written stories with female protagonists who received the award.
I only dealt with the short story category. It would drive me insane to deal with all the other categories. And then there’s the Hugos, with which there is some, not a lot, of overlap.
So here’s who these babies are about – by year:
1966 The Harlequin and the Ticktockman
1967 Geology assistant/WWII Vet (“The Secret Place”) and “dead boy’s sister”
1968 Neutered Spacers (Chip Delany)
1969 Dr. Darin (male), monkeys, mentally deficient boy (Kate Wilhelm)
1970 A man (“Passengers” by Robert Silverberg – first person narrative)
1971 – no award –
1972 A man (“Good News from the Vatican” by Robert Silverberg – first person narrative)
1973 Janet Evason – this story is “When It Changed” by Joanna Russ about an all-female planet
1974 Moggadeet – an alien who is eaten by his female mate (by “James Tiptree, Jr.” – “Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death”)
1975 Laia Asieo Odo, an elderly woman (aka Odo, in male form, in “The Dispossessed” – by Ursula Le Guin)
1976 Dolf, a man running out of time, who must catch that Zeppelin
1977 A man (“A Crowd of Shadows” by Charles L. Grant – first person narrative)
1978 Jeffty – he’s five. He is always five.
1979 Rob (a guy, a musician)
1980 “An old scientist” and “young female reporter” and giant ants.
1981 Boyd, a male archaologist who discovers his acquaintance Luis is an immortal
1982 An unnamed woman (Lisa Tuttle “The Bone Flute” the only author to refuse the award, due to problems with another author campaigning)
1983 A girl and her dog (Connie Willis)
1984 A young boy who survives a global flood
1985 An old man and a young boy (Williams and John)
1986 Sally Gourley, a truck stop waitress of indeterminate age (by Nancy Kress!)
1987 Pal Tremont, a Korean boy
1988 Gordon Sills (male), Avery Roda (male), love object “Anna” (female)
1989 Sheila, a prostitute rescued from the Biblical Flood, and mother
1990 Male physicist who discovers time travel
1991 Guy who observes that bears have discovered fire
1992 Vietnam guy, Charlie
1993 Three women discuss menstruation (Connie Willis!)
1994 Vietnam guy, first-person narrative
1995 Anli (female) and Derren (male) (Martha Soukup)
1996 The Librarian and Death (Esther Friesner!)
1997 A woman who has the day off for her virtual child’s birthday (Esther Friesner!)
1998 Sister Emily (Jane Yolen!)
1999 Vietnam guy (my dear friend Bruce Holland Rogers – but this theme is starting to look like “Never go full-retard” as stated by fake black guy Robert Downey, Jr. in Tropic Thunder)
2000 Professional (female) victim (Leslie What)
2001 Investigator of Victim Rights Closure Statements (anti-death penalty story by Terry Bisson)
2002 Maria, African albino women
2003 Mother with a creature for a child (Carol Emshwiller who is better than all)
2004 Female narrator hunting gorillas (Karen Joy Fowler “What I Didn’t See”)
2005 Daughter coming to terms with elderly dying father
2006 A succubus-type of indeterminate gender who lives with a typical middle-aged working woman
2007 An abandoned mistress
2008 17 year old, formerly youngest female resident of Always
2009 Alanna and Ylva (by Nina Kiriki Hoffmann)
2010 “Nameless female survivor” of spacewreck
2011 A man who creates a tiny man
2012 A little boy with a paper tiger
2013 Quy an “older sister”
2014 A narrator of indeterminate gender
2015 Grandma, Eva, a Jackalope wife
Now, nerds and dweebs and geeks – this is who I am. The majority of these winners are either my friends or friendly acquaintances. Some of them have been my teachers and mentors.
I started feeling unholy sorry for myself. Some of my friends, acquaintances, teachers and mentors have unbelievable Publishers Weekly reviews for their work. They have loving retrospectives, and in-depth reviews, story-by-story, of collections of their work. And I saw book after book, whether single, standalone story or collection, with one, two, or three reviews on Amazon. I saw the same b.s. (maybe not the same “quality” as me – but I am “special”) on their work — two star reviews, etc. Judging by Amazon, my dreadful crap has even outsold some of their outstanding work.
So, what I wrote about was this:
To Kiss the Star
Mel Armstrong – 17 – wheelchair-bound, blind, spastic, chosen for spaceflight The Renascence of Memory
Carol Meyers – 80 – Alzheimer’s patient, former wife, mother, college professor This Monster
Grendel’s Dam – ageless Jenny, With the Stars in Her Hair
Jenny Julian – 35 – addicted to extreme cosmetic surgery The Color of Time
Gia – 21, Nana – 81, Faith – 31 Smiley the Robot
Miss Gia – 85 Everything I Have is Yours
Helene Bacon – 50 – famous film director, Sarah Bacon – 16 – her daughter Heart of Jade
The Lady – 30 – daughter of 20 Rabbit, the last great king of Copan Shakespeare in Hell
Emilia Bassano – 35-ish (actually died at age 74) – reputed “Dark Lady” of Shakespeare’s sonnets The Ruined Gods
Ginger – 28 – a cat woman; Rikki/Roxane/Roksana – 73 The Gods That Men Don’t See
Ginny Baumann – 33 – primatologist Digger Lady
Vi Elliott – 73 – paleontologist Incandescent
Paperwhite – a newborn Her Name is Jacqueline
Lori Johnston – 36 – attorney
The thing is, I might not write very well. I might be crude and maybe not very talented.
But I think I am honest. And I listen. So.
Disabled people really will go to the stars, once it is time. Women will continue to use extreme cosmetic surgery to get what they want, although it doesn’t work. There will be a sub-cellular level treatment for Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases – even a reversal of the aging process. People will come to understand that time and space are artifacts of our sensory perceptions. Some day, a robot will fall in love with and care for an old lady, because he knows no better. A woman will one day win the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award as a film director. Some day, a woman will write better than Shakespeare. A woman likely did co-found today’s Mayan community. Some day a woman who lives only a short time will travel faster than the speed of light and save many lives. There probably were early humans here in North America 100,000 years ago. The Mayan howler monkey god is real. Gender reassignment will become much more common and complete. People will so seriously clone for companionship and then – some – the scummy few – will use for organ donation.
There is a hot trade in Altoid mints, intergalactically-speaking.
“Don’t write about your little life,” said Toni Morrison. Open your ears, open your eyes, open your heart –
FREE YOUR MIND
I didn’t know this advice over the years. I know it now, and I’m glad I took it, instinctively. As I say to students, why should we become so upset about abortion, when medical science can and will solve this? Why should we become so angry about the death penalty, when the crimes to which it is the penalty will cease due to evolution?
You think I am wrong? I am an optimist; I am a listener.
Occasionally File 770 will feature something about Chameleon Publishing or something I might write. I have always gotten a lot out of my conversations with generous and gracious readers – I think the run-downs and countdowns of different posts and information on File 770 are extremely informative.
So there’s the crazy uproar about the World Fantasy award changing to something other than a stylized head of H.P. Lovecraft, known to those of us in the field as a “Howie.” I don’t know about most others but I can speak from personal experience that on the few occasions I’ve shared the look of a “Howie” with those who do not know what the award is, reactions have been less than enthusiastic. They’ve ranged from “WTF???” to “He’s so ugly!”
One author who is new to me, Gray Rinehart, wrote his opinions about the situation. He said he had run for political office in his local community and also been nominated for a Hugo Award. Gray’s website notes that he is “the only person to have commanded an Air Force satellite tracking station, written speeches for Presidential appointees, had music on ‘The Dr. Demento Show’ and been nominated for a major literary award.”
So, Gray wrote about the Howie situation and noted that Heinlein had written in Friday that “Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms . . . but a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.” Gray’s position was, I think, that people in SF/F fandom are being horrible to each other. Fair enough.
But if we’re talking about real cultures and societies … i.e. let’s say … well we just went to see Bridge of Spies with Tom Hanks, which is about Brooklyn attorney James Donovan’s negotiation of a Cold War spy trade — one Soviet for two Americans — one famous (U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers), and the other, less-famous (economist and then-student Frederick Pryor). So let’s say we’re talking about a culture like early to mid-20th Century Germany. Most of these folks in the film were very concerned about being polite with each other while segments of their government were plotting each others’ deaths due to global thermonuclear war. Very politely, teachers were teaching students how to duck and cover in case of nuclear attack. Donovan’s young son in the film politely showed his father a drawing of the effects of an “air burst” 10,000 feet over the Empire State Building, which would definitely cause some damage at their Brooklyn residence. I estimate the young man was about 9 or 10 years old.
So this is pretty much the time period when Heinlein wrote a lot of his work (Cold War), although I think Friday, which I know as the “busty lady” book, was published rather later (1982).
So, about this “loss of politeness means cultural death” thing —
It might mean “loss of control” but it hardly means “cultural death.”
I don’t think hardly anybody talked back in Nazi Germany. I think they mostly were very polite to each other unless they were taking part in officially sanctioned impoliteness like Kristallnacht.
I think a lot of women were pretty afraid to be impolite back in pre-19th Amendment days, before they got the right to vote. Many students today don’t believe me when I ask them to read and paraphrase Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Declaration of Sentiments (1848) which is based on Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. “What do these things mean?” they ask. What is “deliver chastisement?” they ask, among other things. I ask them to write down the list of things that Stanton and the signatories listed.
“They are so many,” they say.
Women were extremely polite in 1848 when this Declaration was written. They were pretty darned polite when I was a little girl. I remember us being quite polite when I was in college. To this day, I consider myself polite. It takes great force of will to call someone a name or mock them in public.
So I’m not going to make fun of Mr. Heinlein or call him a name when I say this statement is absurd and prima facie, false. Somebody speaking up and being perhaps in your opinion, impolite, isn’t the nicest thing in the world; neither is it a sign of cultural death worse than a riot.
This is my friend Kalev Leetaru’s GDELT Project (Global Database of Events, Language and Tone). It tracks things like riots worldwide and the “tone” of official reports in an ever-growing group of nations, media (including Twitter) and languages. It begins in 1979. It is big data, all right. It has been compared to Asimov’s “Future History.”
GDELT proves Heinlein false, in that it can accurately predict wars and uprisings based on patterns of riots, unrest, and increasingly, “language and tone” related to such things. See, it’s the riot part that’s the problem, and the accuracy part — “impolite” is cultural death? How about threats prior to violence?
Have we really come to the point where a film that’s suitable for all ages, genders, viewpoints and tastes, a simple, charming and spellbinding fable about how the earth might have gotten its start, is “too smart for the audience”?
While it wins “audience favorite” and “best visual effects” at dozens of film festivals, some experts say that The Looking Planet is “too smart for the audience.”
Here is the teaser:
One of the reasons I enjoyed this short film so much — in addition to its visual excellence, engaging story and characters (even though they have only eyes and mouth, no nose), and charming way of explaining how the earth is such a paradise for life, thanks to our special relationship with our moon — was that it was about life.
It features a family: an irascible father, an attentive mother, a wayward, daydreaming son named Lufo, and numerous other brothers/sisters. The Looking Planet’s story covers a pretty big engineering project: the whole galaxy. Lufo’s family was working on one tiny part: our solar system.
In my humble opinion, The Looking Planet took a huge subject and made it into playful, joyful learning. I would definitely qualify it for a “common core” lesson on cosmology. Heaven knows that students need to learn about the universe and they might as well have their spirits uplifted and imaginations engaged while doing so.
Having just watched the PBS documentary about Walt Disney, I was reminded that somebody else took that approach as well.
I tell everyone, “we can only do something about books, we know nothing about film or television.”
I am far from “normal.” Nobody should do market research off me. But I’m so, so tired of films where everyone is blown up, shot to bits, women are portrayed poorly, or what passes for a story is simply a reboot of an old TV show, old movie, or old comic book.
I think people might have gotten tired of horses and buggies too.
I really think this is where we are. When people stopped saying “Man wasn’t made to go faster than 20 miles an hour!” and “Man can’t fly!”
Why, men can’t watch movies about women unless they are sex objects. A white person can’t enjoy a movie with brown actors (as if they make a whole lot of those …). It not only has to be one of these seven stories, it’s best if the people who are dumb enough to pay $8 for a bucket of stale popcorn recognize the “brand name” from a toy or a movie their parents enjoyed.
Lufo is a speckled light gray color. He doesn’t even have a nose. His body bears resemblance to the characters in the “leaky pipe people” ad. He wears little brass wings that look like 19th century protractor parts.
This one of the seven stories! It really isn’t one of them, any more than you could shoehorn 2001: A Space Odyssey into that mold. They don’t call it “mold” for no reason.
So, since we know that posts that list reasons are far more read than others, here’s your five reasons movie audiences are smart — and ticket sales are stagnant — and the schemes like computerized script analysis and endless remakes of films made only half a decade ago are driving customers away, not bringing them in:
They are human beings who want to be entertained and uplifted
They have hearts and minds
Even though anybody can make a movie these days, not everyone desires to do so — they expect something better than they could do on their own — not worse
Just because Pew-Die-Pie is the #1 YouTube celebrity doesn’t mean people want to pay $12 to see a movie about him
Just like cheese, ideas can go beyond “aged” to stale … moldy and inedible.
That was courtesy of the Los Angeles Film Review and I agree with them. The Looking Planet is an incredible short science fiction film by USC film school grad Eric Law Anderson that is real, honest-to-goodness science fiction.
Bruce and I were part of the audience at the Laguna Film Festival yesterday and of all the short films by talented filmmakers that we saw, The Looking Planet was …
Well, ya don’t see stuff like that every day! Fantastic! Amazing! More uplifting and enjoyable than pretty much anything that I’ve subjected myself to in a theatre for a long, long time.
I’d like to say that maybe this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego would be notable for showcasing panels about things that are mind-blowingly excellent: The Looking Planet had a panel there (in addition to Is SHE Available?).
Wonderful and entertaining need not be mutually exclusive. And I find it hard to imagine anyone, of any age, not being enthralled and entertained by The Looking Planet.
I’m not going to sit around like a slug myself, but there are fewer “likes” on this unbelievable film’s Facebook page than on my piece-of-you-know-what FSFW page.
Quit gazing at your own navel, quit complaining and grow some imagination. Somebody else already did: Eric Law Anderson. I guarantee you if you ever enjoyed one minute of an actual real, good sci-fi film or liked a real sci fi short story you will adore this. If you have a heart and are breathing you will enjoy this!
Lufo! Time to go! Better luck next universe!
(The Looking Planet is in some ways a meditation on the special relationship between the earth and moon and where that may have come from).
At the signing of the American Declaration of Independence, Ben Franklin famously said, “We must all hang together, or we most assuredly will all hang separately.”
It’s like that for writers these days.
In nearly every area, people have figured out how to make money off the creativity of others. I just reviewed the education app Nearpod this morning. It is primarily aimed at K-12 teachers and classrooms. While very interesting in terms of providing a tool for interactive classroom content (especially for tablet-enabled classrooms – it is mobile oriented), I was little surprised to learn that the “App” requests teachers who have made their own Common Core-friendly lessons to apply to be “authors” who will be able to sell their lessons to other teachers at prices ranging from $2.99 for a single lesson to $40 and $50 for “bundled lessons.”
The time and effort to make a decent Nearpad interactive lesson (the app’s beauty is it allows teachers to pace the lesson and break it up with assessments – quizzes, questions, etc.) is far in excess of being paid a few dollars here and there, most certainly what the Nearpad people would offer for the “lucky” teachers “selected” to be “Nearpad Authors.” There are a few such authors featured on the service. There are many more professional “educational content” companies listed. These in turn pay the people who make their lessons as little as possible, usually piece rates for “work for hire,” while making huge amounts of money from it.
We turn to “self-publishing” where authors are encouraged to make their own money and told it’s the “new frontier” enabling them to have creative and financial freedom.
The reality is, there is less freedom than ever. As to financial freedom, the small numbers who are making good money right now … or at least purported “experts” like Jane Friedman (who make money from aspiring writers and conferences and fees) … appear blissfully unaware of the writing on the wall.
Search engines are going local. Mobile advertising and customer contact is going local and device-specific. Because retail stores aren’t going away. People will probably *never* buy everything online and after more than a decade of every algorithm known to man developed in the absence of direct human contact …
What any real salesperson will tell you is: you can guess about the customer but you won’t know until you talk to them in person.
Which authors other than James Patterson and J.K. Rowling are going to be able to afford targeted mobile ads? Everyone who was previously successful in self-publishing has gone for a traditional publishing contract if possible.
Why would that be so?
Because if we do not hang together, we will most assuredly, hang separately. They have some type of partnership with their publishers.
Yes, that is the future. It was the past – it was exploitive. It broke down. Now authors are being exploited individually.
Of course there’s a better way. But it sure as he** is not going to come from “subject matter experts,” “book formatting experts” or “author assistants.”
I have been a professional writer since 1996. I have worked in nearly every aspect of the publishing industry, from educational to trade fiction to magazines, and every conceivable type of online “content.” I’ve also worked as an executive in the nonprofit world, with government, foundation and private funders and a huge range of projects, and as a business development professional, with over 160 businesses. And, I’m a college teacher.
Writers, by far, have the least ability to work together to benefit each other of any group I have ever worked with. They are at present, hanging on every word of gurus that promise riches and hanging separately.
Mene, Mene, Tekel, Uparshin.
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Gee whiz, shouldn’t that headline be “12 Ways Irving, TX High School Failed Ahmed Mohamed”?
Or, “Texas School Officials Apply Racial Profiling to Young Inventor.”
So, here is the Stillwater High robotics room in Minnesota.
With all the boxes, circuit boards, backpacks, power sources and without a doubt, beeping stuff in there, the mentality that handcuffed and arrested Ahmed Mohamed in Irving, Texas would be calling in the Navy SEALS for support.
Here’s the robotics and engineering room at Maui High School:
So I’ve been looking at these fantastic projects and schools . . .
And I looked up what STEAM meant:
Adding “art and design” to “science, technology, engineering and math.”
I’m so proud of these students. Not just Ahmed, who is so praiseworthy, but also all the other hard-working, gifted young students learning and building and making. My heart is filled with joy to see how creative their educational experiences are.
By the way – is it possible for them to MAKE these things in isolation? Via some sort of remote, mobile app?
I have news for Peter Diamandis and the educational “Learning Management System” providers I’ve recently been in contact with: Learning isn’t “knowledge transfer.” It occurs by doing. How this can somehow be separated from personal interaction for things we actually make and do — is beyond me. Moving little pictures around on an app or watching someone build a robot is NOT the same as building one.
In order to learn how to write anything coherent that communicates, one must first read many different things, and must also follow all the steps in the writing process. They are more than just “in the absence of anything else, just write.”
But grief: I am not sorry for Ahmed Mohamed and his family. Their troubles have turned into what must certainly be a blessing. The horrible incident in Texas is paying off in plenty of education and awareness for others. I hope many teachers see this and realize the trap of unconscious (or conscious) racism, racial profiling, bias — and just plain being behind the times. I put those pictures of our young bomb-makers to show just how out of touch anyone at that school would be to see Ahmed’s clock project as a bomb. Also to show how irresponsible his engineering teacher was, to not help him present his project to the class — instead of telling him to hide it and not show others.
No, I’m grieving because when I was in third grade, somebody gave a chemistry set to our elementary school. It didn’t have enough supplies or equipment to outfit an entire class. It was really just enough for 2-3 students to use at a time. And of all the kids at the school, they gave the chemistry set to me. They put it in an unused room next to the library, told me to go one period a day and figure out experiments. I was even put in charge of inviting kids to do experiments with me. Of course I asked my friends to come along. I’m sure I left plenty of kids out that I should have asked. I was by myself the day I almost set the school on fire.
The best thing I did out of that set was grow hydroponic vegetables that were in the school office for at least two years. The worst? Almost setting the school on fire by setting parts of my lunch on fire.
Yes, back in the day, they let a 3rd grader play unsupervised with a Bunsen burner.
So, by the time I got to high school, I failed Chemistry. I was assigned a lab partner who referred to me as “Stupid American Girl” and who didn’t get what we were supposed to be doing. He didn’t believe in lab notes. I didn’t know how to stand up to him so I went along with his cockamamie schemes. We failed together.
So it just kind of breaks my heart to see these young women making things and building things.
My option was to paint and write. I did it, and I have made a lot of things.
But for me: I wouldn’t have been able to make something like Ahmed. Not after third grade or so. That was when it became uncool for girls to be interested in things like that. Girls needed to be interested in sewing, cooking, fashion, home decorating. It was suspicious even that I liked to read — not to mention the stuff I *did* read.
Yeah well, so I’m feeling sorry for myself.
I do wish this could have been me.
So, if you are an English teacher, familiarize yourself a little with robotics and engineering courses today. Go visit the robotics club or engineering classroom. Learn to recognize circuit boards, power sources and other commonly-used components. Educate yourself on things like Arduino chips.
Look into 3-D printing. See what can be made in addition to the endlessly-shown dumba** with the 3-D printed rifle. Most recently, it’s been Hershey’s chocolate. One of the experts in it thinks the biggest long-term use will be 3-D printed food.
I think my job is to bridge the gap between the generations. Those who came before, and those who will come after.
Yesterday I got into it with a gender-biased guy who thinks there’s nothing wrong with himself. Many of my friends continue to search for valid reasons why Ahmed was treated so poorly at his Texas high school. I’m sorry to say, there are no good or valid reasons, any more than it was right for my high school chemistry teacher to partner me with a failing student because he was sure I’d fail, too and furthermore it didn’t matter. It wasn’t any more right for one of our high school counselors to tell my friend to go to our local community college and “get her Mrs. degree.”
It’s like some of my recent interchanges with the “Learning Management System” people (Canvas, Blackboard, D2L, Fedora, etc.) Just as Peter Diamandis thinks that mobile technology will somehow make people learn (like … the existence of books makes people learn?) and negate the need for classrooms and teachers, these folks think that the ability to put a handout online, include a powerpoint, and have papers turned in via computer (or mobile device – hey!) constitutes improvement in learning. Without the human connection, testing and feedback: no. It doesn’t.
That’s a woman’s opinion. Because of how school was when I grew up – even with the opportunities I was given – I didn’t get the chance to build these things. And that makes me sad.
Did you know? The Easter Island heads have giant bodies that are buried below the surface!
The end of the world came sooner for the Rapa Nui (Easter Island) people than for the rest of us.
While people remain on the island today, all the trees of this once-tropical paradise are gone, and the secrets of making the giant statues are forgotten. This rare picture shows the size of the head compared to the buried body.
There are more mysteries on earth than we can possibly imagine!
I am often inspired by one of my favorite media personalities, Giorgio Tsoukalos. Giorgio’s open mind helps us to see many possibilities that we otherwise would not consider.
Aliens may very well have started the human race down the path of civilization. They may also have been a source of much ancient knowledge that has been forgotten today. From the ancient Mayans to the Easter Island Rapa Nui people to the ancient Greeks and Romans, many have predicted the end of the world or apocalypse.
Hundreds of predictions have not come to pass, but here are some of the threats coming up soon:
“There is an asteroid with our name on it,” British television astrophysicist Brian Cox told the Daily Mail. An asteroid nearly impacted the earth in 2014. We almost died in a cataclysm similar to the one that destroyed the dinosaurs.
But, we didn’t.
Now, as many as six world-shattering asteroids could be headed our way, with reported impacts predicted for the days between coming between September 21 and 28 … less than a month from now!
The “Blood Moon Prophecy” originated with Rev. Efrain Rodriguez. Additional pastors, including the Revs. Mark Blitz and John Hagee, have told their followings of tens of thousands that the fourth “Blood Moon” this year will herald the arrival of a giant asteroid. This monster-sized rock the size of a city block, is supposed to hit the earth near Puerto Rico, causing a 300-foot tsunami, vaporization of Puerto Rico and surrounding areas, and a magnitude-12 earthquake.
Asteroids “bigger than a jumbo jet” come close to earth on a monthly basis, according to NASA, which regularly updates the public on near-misses.
And guess what?
By anywhere from 1 to 2 billion years from now, the earth will for certain be burned to a cinder due to the inevitable expansion of our Sun. Some experts now predict that the end may come even sooner than that — as soon as 100 years from now. According to Reuters, children born today may live to see humanity’s end as a result of global warming above 2C.
Just in case …
You can read up on all of these doomsday scenarios and more!
For $15, you can get a bunch of classic disaster novels from StoryBundle, and donate to the Challenger Center for Science Education! Featuring FIRE by Alan Rodgers (there are some nuclear challenges in the book, but mostly a horrible virus that brings the dead back to life — including meat in freezers! — is on the rampage) and great books by Kevin J. Anderson, David Sakmyster, Laura Anne Gilman and more! If you have never heard of StoryBundle, check it out! You can get top-quality, best-selling books for a single low price, you can name your own price as well, and let them know how much of the proceeds you would like to go to the author, to StoryBundle, and to a designated charity!
I’ve gotten a lot of insight from Temple Grandin. Toward the end of the filmed version of her life, she (portrayed by Clare Danes) tells a group of all-male, highly skeptical chain-smoking slaughterhouse owners why her humane system, which one comments is “like an airport for cows,” is an improvement over previous brute-force systems. “I – I’m like Edison or Tesla,” Temple says. “I see the way it will work. I can run through it all in my head.”
Although we all eat safely today thanks to Temple’s human animal processing systems, and millions of children with autism and their families have gained inspiration and real-world skills thanks to Temple’s education and advocacy, she’s not an “American Genius” according to National Geographic. No woman or non-white person is. This show irritated me, but not enough to say anything about it until today.
There is a small Tumblr which allows safe, anonymous reports of gender-biased comments to women writers; it’s a fraction of the size of the “Shit People Say to Women Directors” film industry Tumblr which has helped to support the ACLU investigation into hiring practices in Hollywood. So, today the Tumblr about bad comments toward women writers has a 2-year old pandering post* by male internet celebrity writer Chuck Wendig, which pushed a legit Twitter meme started by Chocolat author Joanne Harris into second place. Because most of the readers of this Tumblr are female, fortunately yet more coverage provided to Wendig was *not* as heavily shared as Joanne’s project (4 notes to 19 last time I checked).
*Pandering Post: As my best friend Cathy always said, “When you live in crazyland, crazy seems normal.” So therefore the tradition of white males getting tons of attention by “sponsoring” complaints of females seemed “normal” to me, until about a year ago, I had just plain had enough. I don’t read them, I do not share them. Some exemplars of this genre include Jim Hines’ crusading for anti-sexual harassment policies and of course, Wendig’s extremely lengthy post of who knows how many reasons why women endure gender bias in publishing and how wrong guys who disagree are. Hundreds of comments, most from gushing females. There’s no links here because these “right-doers” (AKA attention whores) don’t need extra boosts. Now that I’m aware of this, I see these *everywhere*. For every legitimate statement by a female entrepreneur, woman in tech, or author, there’s at least 2-3 of these “pandering posts” or videos where a man gets attention for being “cool” and on the woman’s side. The magnitude of attention/”sharing” is always like 10:1 – 10 to the male/1 to any female. These men are nowhere to be found whenever actual work, money or real projects are under consideration.
I want to say Temple Grandin is lucky because she doesn’t care about this stuff. But Temple is acutely sensitive to injustice. Her filmed life story illustrates this over and over, as does her own autobiography. Once she figured out that people were biased against her, she persevered, using her own steady, persistent gifts and talents and plenty of creativity, to accomplish her goals.
As to me, I was born with a sense of injustice … to others. Poor treatment of others always resonated with me. It’s only taken 53 years for me to “get” poor treatment of my self.
So, back to the “American Geniuses.” I wrote about Maria Goeppert Mayer in my first appearance in Analog this past month. Maria is the second woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics. She identified the structure of the atom itself. She worked on the Manhattan Project and many other critical atomic projects, often for free. She wouldn’t have been able to do as she’d done without the support of her husband Joe Mayer, an accomplished chemist. Joe lost at least one position (University of Chicago) for his support of his wife’s research.
As far as this “American Geniuses” show is concerned, Maria holds not a candle to “real geniuses” like Colt and Smith & Wesson, the firearms competitors, or media magnates like Hearst and Pulitzer. Out of the group of “geniuses,” probably only Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (competitors, LOL) and Edison and Tesla quality as actual geniuses who accomplished something positive for others. Maybe Philo Farnsworth. The rest are like Thank You For Smoking’s “Merchants of Death”.
People say Tesla was crazy, he was a monomaniac. Edison, like Temple Grandin, had a disability that made his interactions with others more limited (he was hearing impaired). Temple, of course, has autism and yes she’s like Edison and Tesla — yes she’s a genius! So again, even though she is objectively, verifiably one of the most influential, positive people of the 20th century, there are a fraction of the articles about Temple than there are about someone like Steve Jobs or … Chuck Wendig. No joke. But this 2012 article describes how her work to change slaughterhouses and animal treatment was a “long term project.”
If I may speak for myself, I have never cared about “being famous” or “attention.” I shy from it. I was thrilled to be able to operate the laptop at Comic-Con Thursday. If cameras come around, I will run.
But I know what we are doing is important. Temple would say “nature is cruel, but we don’t have to be” to explain why it was important to design human animal slaughter facilities. She explained her autism to others by saying she “thought in pictures.” She spoke simply and straightforwardly at all times.
Everybody who’s rotating around the current publishing industry is smack dab in the middle of the 20 percent and that is the way they like it. Everything they say is devoted to supporting themselves: the same as Edison and J.P. Morgan were stone-committed to direct current before Morgan threw Edison under the bus. Neither saw a problem with DC being able to serve only wealthy urban dwellers, whereas crazed Tesla’s AC could serve everybody.
When I thought about people who exclusively read certain authors, or who only read certain types of books, and are very reluctant to deviate, I would picture Temple in her aunt’s house or college cafeteria, announcing, “I only eat jello and yogurt! I – I only eat jello and yogurt!” Well, these are “Temple-Type Readers,” I would think.
So, there are all those folks who didn’t get to attend a wonderful country boarding school like Temple did. Whose wonderful, humane, brave mothers did not have the privilege of graduating from Harvard. There’s all those folks who don’t have internet platforms, who are not James Altucher, who could write fifty fantastic articles and get less than 5 views on “Medium.” There’s all the people who don’t “know anybody.” There’s people serving time for crimes they didn’t do, or for crimes that should not be crimes at all. There’s people working jobs they hate just to put food on the table, and people who work 2-3 jobs for minimum wage who can’t put food on the table at all.
There are people who’ll never get a vacation. There are people who will never leave their home state. There are people who will quietly work and serve their whole lives long.
I think an awful lot of those people are “American Geniuses” too.
And they deserve books made for them. Books that affirm, instead of deny. Books that uplift, instead of downgrade.
I found my 45+ heroine in a bestseller/not a romance this morning: “Jack” Daniels. She’s a 48-year old pregnant detective trapped by a serial killer. The book opens with a “popular” serial killer who’s been featured in prior books murdering an innocent young woman with impunity and cruelty. He tells her he’ll “make her famous.” Instant best seller.
And people think more of this is the answer. It never crosses their minds that it’s not just like it would never cross Chuck Wendig’s mind that he’s actually being a giant douchebag by writing another of his long “splaining” articles. It’s like the cattle in Temple Grandin’s dip system. You can’t hang things on the walls. They will walk smoothly down the steps into the water. No chains or shadows to alarm them.
Everyone is familiar with the “Industrial Revolution.” In the past 500 years there have been five official “revolutions” that have changed the way people live.
(1600–1740) Financial-agricultural revolution
(1780–1840) Industrial revolution
(1880–1920) Technical revolution (or Second Industrial Revolution)
(1940–1970) Scientific-technical revolution
(1985–2000) Information and telecommunications revolution
We’re going to propose #6 and we are in the middle of it:
(2015-????) Creative revolution
Each of these revolutions was made possible by its predecessor.
This is what our current system defines as the “Value of Books.”
So, the result is clearly seen in the revenue earned by writers for their work.
The Chameleon Writer Market Survey is still open. But as of last week, among the 122 respondents, the pattern of earnings distribution is clear. The survey in fact, is weighted heavily toward working writers who’ve published a number of books.
Within this group, the earnings do correlate. The writers who had published more books all fell in the top four earning categories of $24,999 and above. The respondent who made more than $200,000 was individually recruited to complete the survey, as were a number of indy-published or self-published writers.
These results are a bit “better” than the data collected by the UK Authors Licensing and Collecting Society in 2014, or information on the collapse of writer earnings identified by the Authors Guild and currently being used in support of advocacy for fair writer contracts. The Authors Guild is actively advocating for major trade publishers to offer 50% e-book royalties, instead of the industry-standard 25%. As a number of independent publishers including Zumaya Publications‘ Elizabeth Burton, have pointed out over the course of these articles, independent publishers have been offering similar terms to writers for years (Zumaya was founded in 2001 and has a number of successful imprints and authors). The Book View Cafe “split” as an author cooperative is 95/5 – 95% to the author, 5% to the cooperative, retained as reserve and operations funds.
“Why Don’t More People Read?” was about who really reads and buys books currently — as much as can be determined. We’ve previously made the point using observable data (again, as much as can be determined) that the present systems are not reliably serving the current market of approximately 20 percent of North American adults who regularly buy and read books (some 70 million people). As other advisers have pointed out, we initially looked at rapidly rising college graduation rates, particularly among women and diverse populations, and predicted that some 140 million Americans, Mexicans and Canadians were potential book-buyers and readers. But the truth is: nearly 100 percent of adults are literate in the U.S. and Canada. Mexico’s literacy rate was 93% in 2013. Among young Mexicans (15-24), the rate is 98.5%. So, the potential market for books in North America really is just about everybody who is literate, i.e. the entire adult population, in North America. In addition, the book as a creative format is, as we’ve previously pointed out, foundational to other forms of communication. The delivery format does matter, as is shown in Pew’s ongoing research: younger readers not only read more, and more often, than older age groups, they prefer paper books. Here is a new link, regarding younger Americans and library use. While e-books are an important new publication platform, it is unlikely that they will ever replace paper books in their present form.
Yes, we are talking among ourselves about a different way of combining tech and the paper book. But we are crazy.
So, the current system of publishing, which includes self-publishing which is dependent on retailers (Amazon) which have brilliantly devised a system to acquire limitless content at no upfront cost, solving one of the problems of bringing products to market at scale, but offering no ability to control quality or expand markets (as seen in the leveling-off of e-book sales) – and let me explain this in plain English:
Unless Amazon fixes its approach, it will be stuck with its current Kindle customer base and ongoing declines in paper book sales since those customers are falling away. The independent booksellers that survived the seismic changes in the industry in the past 20 years are strong and new bookstores are beginning to open. Amazon is not the only e-book seller and their competitors are offering books on devices that have legs, are continuously upgraded, and really are good for more than one thing. And the traditional bookstore is not the only way to sell books.
Bound to Happen
It really was bound to happen, I realized this past weekend at the Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference. We told attendees, “Chameleon is the only company of its kind right now, but five years from now, there will be a lot more.” We said, “If established publishers want to make it, they’ll adopt more of our methodology.” There isn’t much chance of business growth and success if a business is trying to make a product using flawed methodology and is siloed from its market customers all along the supply chain — a market it knows little about, and which is self-limited based in false assumptions (“Books compete with movies, TV and games,” and “Nobody reads any longer.”) Even when successes are noted, they are evaluated based in superficialities: i.e. the success of the Twilight books led to other books that were superficially similar, and even the later success of 50 Shades of Gray, based on the more “wholesome” Twilight books — like people don’t get what the underlying basic elements were (entertainment, absorbtion and a heroic fantasy for YOUNG FEMALE READERS – told actively and at a fast pace).
Metrics and Bookscan
The only metric used in the trade publishing industry outside of Amazon’s own internal metrics, used within its customer base, is Nielsen Bookscan. When we first started Chameleon and I explained to some of our initial founding group (including Silicon Valley pioneers) that established publishers were very slow in determining how many books they’d sold, and that they didn’t have very strong control over the pipeline; i.e. they pretty much had no idea who was buying any given title, how, why and where, they thought I was making stuff up. “Authors sure don’t know,” I said, “they receive their royalty statements very late and they’re hardly reliable.” At the same time, I explained, authors are also now being asked to take the lion’s share of marketing their books, when they don’t even know who’s buying them until months later and even then, they just see an aggregate number, not ‘who’s buying what, where or when’.”
“That’s not possible,” one person said.
I explained that publishers greatly relied upon a third-party service, Nielsen Bookscan, in making purchasing decisions. Right now, AC Nielsen is stating they cover 80 percent of paper book sales. Any US-based author with an Amazon Author Central account can track their Bookscan sales on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. There are probably 1,000 internet articles and posts, most denigrating Bookscan, and a few extolling its virtues — this is a post of ONE right now that’s going to contextualize it in the larger scale of industry and commerce.
AC Nielsen is a good company and produces incredible market research in general, and fantastic insight in retail market trends and potentials. Bookscan could not be characterized as a good, future or long-term sustainable BI product. Launched in 2001, it’s a POS system (business acronyms are funny, huh? In this context it means “Point of Sale”) that offers little insight beyond the basic purchase and sales volume among the current customer base.
In contrast, Nielsen offers rich data and insights for general retail, and to a lesser extent, manufacturing and services industries.
This is just one of their insights.
Most of the growth in retail spending over the next decade will be from multicultural consumers. Books are a retail product.
Why Using Bookscan is a Recipe for Failure
We’ve used cookies, organic/natural foods and Uber to try to communicate what needs to happen. Now: bicycles.
After an historical record high of 15.2 million bicycles sold in the U.S. in 1973, bicycles suffered a long decline in the 80s and 90s. Everybody was driving, and even kids started skateboarding more and riding bicycles less. Sales started to rebound during the early 2000s, but the industry slumped during the recession.
Now, bicycles are making a comeback, with almost 2 million more bicycles sold in 2014 than the previous year. The National Bicycle Dealers Association reported that 18 million bicycles were sold in the U.S. in 2014. The growth rate is found in cool, new (“retro”) bicycles, bicycles for specific enthusiasts, and basic meat-and-potatoes bicycles used for fitness and transportation.
If bicycle manufacturers and dealers were only looking at partial records covering the numbers of bicycles sold during any given period, including “down” periods like the recession, and determining their future purchases by doing more similar models, then … they would not be at that 18 million bicycles sold figure.
“Nobody rides bicycles any longer.”
“Young people don’t ride bikes.”
HELLO. If you assume this, no — of course you’re not going to make money designing, manufacturing and selling new bicycles to new riders.
Detroit, Japan, Munich and Seoul have “noticed” that millennials are not buying new cars at the rate of prior generations. I’ve heard lots of reasons or rationales for this; let’s just say the major auto manufacturers are not deciding what types of new cars to make or how to handle their brand development and customer relations based on who bought how many of a certain model and make last year. A reasonable percentage of the new bicycle sales are to people, mostly young, under 30 and urban dwellers, who do not own a car.
That is a megatrend. We have near 100 percent literacy in North America and in Canada, more than 50 percent of young people attend and graduate from college, and the U.S. will achieve that rate within the next decade. More young women than men already attend and graduate with college degrees. These are megatrends.
58 percent of current regular book-buyers and readers are women — and the current system can’t even serve them very well, much less other, more diverse, younger groups of potential book buyers and readers.
What Would a World Look Like That Valued Creativity as Much as Tech?
As we tell people, we can only “fix books.” We can’t do anything about other related industries. We can’t fix the art world, the music world, or film or TV. GoldieBlox is already doing engineering from the ground-up based in toys (and books). It’s books we know about and we want to work with books and readers.
Back to the money. An analysis of the 2013 and 2014 annual reports of the major trade publishers shows they are investing as little as 2.7 percent of revenue to a maximum of 7 percent of revenue on the people who make the basic product that is sold: the writer. Combine this with other barriers to a successful, reliable way to deliver value to the market customer (readers) and it isn’t a growth industry (as is presently seen – flatline projected by every industry analyst out there).
Are people still watching videos? (Yes, online and via numerous other channels). Are people still using digital copying technology? (Yes – eventually they’ll even be using 3-D printers). Are people still using smartphones? (Uh, yes … with touchscreens). Are people still using social media? (Uh …). Are people still taking photos? (Yes). Are people still using a dizzying array of office and business technology? (Yes). Are people still buying tires, appliances and clothing? (Yes).
“Nobody reads any longer.”
“Young people don’t read.”
“Minorities don’t read.”
“Boys won’t read books about girls.”
“Books with green covers don’t sell.”
“Books with minorities on the cover don’t sell.”
When You Make Things Using a System That Disconnects the People Who Make the Product From the Customer Whenever and Wherever Possible …
When You Seldom if Ever Talk to Your Market Customer About Their Needs
When Your Product Development and Selection is Ceded to Outside Entities Whose Interests are Not Your Own (Agents)
When Your Core Means of Product Manufacture and Development (Writer) is Siloed and Isolated from Every Conceivable Part of the Pipeline
When You Are At War With Your Vendors
When You Can’t Even Price Known Products Reliably in Response to Current Customer Needs
When You Cannot Identify Basic Product Elements Desired by Customers
When You Think You Can Get Your Raw Materials For Free or Close To It
When You Do Not Value Your People, Without Whom Nothing May Be Made or Sold Successfully
When You Think It’s an Accident That a Book is Successful and Do Not Learn From Your Failures
When You Do Not Love, Respect and Value All Business Partners
When the Engine of Manufacture (Writers) are Asked to Work for Years on a Volunteer or Part-time Basis in the Hope of Someday, Making Some Money
When There is Little to No Connection Between Formal Education and Industry Work or Performance
“Nobody reads any longer.”
“Young people do not read books.”
Yes, they do. And they deserve products made for a world in which just about everybody can read and will have some need and desire to do so, not a world in which only a few could read, and fewer still had access, means, time and motive.
Chameleon isn’t offering the “deal” that the Authors Guild is advocating for — 50% e-book royalties. Chameleon will be splitting all earnings 50-50 with authors, all platforms, all editions. It is the company’s responsibility to make this work. It is not the author’s responsibility to undertake all corporate operations (i.e. “self-publishing”).
Famously, Hillary Clinton’s book took the title of an African proverb, “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child.”
Everyone who’s ever worked in a successful enterprise, who’s ever launched a new product, who has ever innovated, knows it takes a team to do this. We can watch old videos of how Nikola Tesla had the right idea about alternating current, but Thomas Edison didn’t see things that way, and the two warred until finally, alternating current successfully won out. As an individual, Tesla tore up his agreements with Westinghouse in order to see his idea become reality. Tesla sacrificed his own financial future and ended up dying penniless … but I’m typing on the internet today because of what he did, not because of what my theoretical 6th cousin (Edison) did.
It Was Bound to Happen
I have given up my so-called “writing career” to do this. It was bound to happen, that someone who declared “creative writing” as a major and “creative writing” as a minor upon going to college for the first time, and ended up with bachelors’ degrees in art and literature, would then work for a nonprofit organization and change everyone’s minds about what was best to do to improve the lives of homeless and very low-income families. It was bound to happen that I would then become a college teacher and writer and be on the front lines facing classes of students forced to take English in order to transfer or graduate for 18 years. It was bound to happen that those classes would be diverse, full of all types of students, ages, backgrounds and interests. It was bound to happen that I would “market test” books with these students and see what engaged them and what did not. It was bound to happen that I’d be part of a dialog with fellow writers, of course, far behind them in ability, skill and talent, but even so, able to listen and be part of the group — and hear the same refrains over and over again of their barriers in just being able to do their work.
Publisher XXX dropped the last book of my series but I’m still hearing from readers who want to read it.
Publisher ZZZ was going to publish Book Y, which is so cool because ____________ , and they said they didn’t want it because ______________ (spurious reason).
“Why are we sitting around taking this when there’s something we can do about it?” I said. Book View Cafe. No, I’m not responsible; I’m just the one who said that.
It was bound to happen that I’d be involved in Wildside Press and Alan Rodgers Books, that my first collection and novel would be among the very first print on demand books, and that I’d also be in on the ground floor with the first Kindle books, and other early e-book services like Fictionwise. It was bound to happen that I’d do 3 years in the barrel writing for McGraw-Hill.
It was bound to happen that I’d be working for Beyond Shelter and be the person who would have to a) raise all the funds; and b) make sure the actual projects worked and delivered the promised results. It was bound to happen that I’d be the “fixer” who helped women get businesses off the ground in South and Central Los Angeles. That I would work to get employment, business development, housing development and social services projects off the ground with hundreds of families.
It was bound to happen that I would decide “All the social services in the world won’t be beneficial if families don’t have decent jobs and economic opportunity” and leave the nonprofit world to try to make that a reality by using the same process I did to make all these projects in the inner city work by doing business consulting and development.
It was bound to happen that I’d get a strong picture of how successful, new businesses worked in a huge range of sectors, the kind of operations structures worked, the kind of business ethics that were successful, and the kind of revenue, cash flow, R & D and other structures were workable on a broad scale.
It was bound to happen that I would get the gumption to write the book of my life, to finally put it all together, and to finally realized, “I’ve done it. After all these years, I really wrote a good book – my way, the only and best way I can.”
I know people will like it, I thought.
It was bound to happen that the agent to whom I had been faithful for over a decade, but who’d never done too much (in fairness – she didn’t exactly have the hardworking, fully-producing writer seeking to meet the needs of her customers … acquiring editors) would blow me off and I’d then seek to activate my carefully nurtured and stewarded list of top agents, each of whom had indicated, “Anything you write, Amy, just send it — we will always look at your work!”
It was bound to happen that this would start the engine. That I would then do the type of competitor analysis I’d developed at Beyond Shelter, which enabled the organization to go from under $500,000 raised in corporate and foundation support to over $2 million, and much more, counting government partners. I would then do the type of comps I’d done for over 100 different businesses, in numerous sectors. I would know what BI software was and how it was used, what CRM software was, and how it was used. I would know how any number of new, innovative and successful products were developed and launched. For example, I would know that in 2000, there were only 6 free-range beef operations in the US and Canada, and now – there are more than 2,000. I would know that five years ago, natural and organic products had only 2-3 percent of the shelf space in grocery stores, and now, they have more than 20 percent.
We’re not going to “share” what our comps have told us in depth, but we can share that what we’ve learned is the way that we have developed our business plan, and helped us to set our initial goals, because we are approaching the end of “Proof of Concept” and getting toward launch.
This business is based in the following benchmarks:
Average 10,000 copies per frontlist title sold – by whatever means – to the market customers for whom the book has value
Basic pricing, consistent throughout editions and formats
Long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with author-partners (this is why it’s like “job interview” not single-title purchase).
Creative and production teams: editors, designers, authors, artists, marketing and sales professionals
Now – by all means continue reading the “Author Earnings Report” for your facts considering it may possibly cover 15% of the current book-buying and reading market and is always at least a quarter behind. It’s kind of like an in-depth study of who’s buying bikes at Sears.