My Thoughts Exactly

Cyberpunk Pioneer John Jurek’s nanotech-powered programmable KaeLF Skin finally arrives

Photo from Endgaget of nanotech "artificial skin"

Jurek's KaeLF Skin seen in the wild

 

I see from Engadget that some wacky scientists at a “defense”-related (quasi?)-governmental research laboratory have invented a “cyberpunky” electronic skin using nanotechnology:

Researchers working for the Department of Energy’s Berkeley Lab have figured out how to create relatively inexpensive “electronic skin” comprising carbon nanotubes enriched with semiconductors. Their process involves an enriched single walled carbon nanotube (SWNT) solution embedded in a honeycomb pattern of hexagonal holes. . .

The article goes on to say that this is a development reminiscent of the novels of William Gibson et al. But Gibson’s not the cyberpunk author that this story brought to my mind. I thought of John Jurek, whose 2000 self-published novel KaeLF Skin was about just such an artificial skin and the various fun and vicious uses it could be put to.  If I remember right, Jurek’s KaeLF Skin was invented at a quasi-governmental research lab — perhaps even Berkeley itself; I can’t seem to find my copy of the book right now to fact-check. But in any event, much of the book concerns Berkeley Laboratory-type doings. The Engadget article could have been ripped from KaeLF Skin’s prologue, that’s how close Jurek’s book is to this story.

I forget how John and I discovered each other’s books, but since we had both written and published cyberpunky thrillers based on nanotech themes, we agreed to do a book swap: he sent me an iUniverse (printed) copy of KaeLF Skin and I sent him a copy of my Acts of the Apostles.  He wrote a glowing review of my book for the Midwest Book Review,(alas, since confined to oblivion), and an abbreviated version of that glorious review for Amazon. I wrote a positive but somewhat less glowing review of his book and posted it on Amazon. After that we exchanged emails for a few months, and I remember that he was pretty down about the poor reception that his book gotten– like most self-published novels KaeLF Skin didn’t sell many copies and got few reviews.

My original review of KaeLF Skin, which I posted on Amazon, is below. Read More »

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My Thoughts Exactly

When Flounders Unite, or I’m a “well-known author”

Got this note a few days ago from a friend  — the fan of my books I mentioned in a recent post who treated me to dinner in St. Louis:

My grandfather defined “well known” as meaning that everyone who knows you, knows you well…

I was talking to a colleague in my latest venture, the other day, while we were both in Boston for a meeting.  Somehow it came up that I’d worked at the Mill.  She said “Oh!  If you’ve worked there, there’s a book you should read!”.  I said: “I’ve read it”.  She said, “Oh, no, this one is hard to find”.  I said: “… and it was written by my pal John Sundman,  late of D.G., now a fireman”.  Good fun watching the jaw drop.

Apparently she knows you too: $reader2.  Best wishes from both of us.

[signed]-$reader1

In fact, I’ve also been to dinner with $reader2 –in Menlo Park, California, six years ago. Our dinner party included Dear Wife, $reader2’s husband, and KFJC disc jockey Ann Arbor, who has read portions of my novels on her legendary radio show “Dancing in the Fast Lane.”  (I got in touch with $reader1 after she sent me a check in the mail for 9 autographed copies of Acts of the Apostles to give to her friends — that’s how much she liked it.  (Buy ten books from me, and I’ll get in touch with you, too! Maybe we can go out for dinner sometime!) I don’t recall how Ann Arbor & $reader2 became friends.  I vaguely recall that my books were the catalyst, but I’m not sure about that.)

It is nice to be “well known” as a writer, to have passionate fans who become my friends. And it’s fun when people meet & randomly discover they share an interest in my books. I kinda wish the fan club had a few more members, but hey, as Ray Davies murmurs on “Muswell Hillbillies”, the best Kinks album ever, “it’s so lovely to be wanted. . .”

(In preparing this little post I wasted an hour trying to find a youtube clip of Rocky & Bullwinkle where Rocky finds a message in a bottle and Bullwinkle says “Fan mail from some flounder?” and Rocky says, “No, this is something really important!” before they cut to a commercial. Anyway, that’s it for me in this sketch. For something really important you’ll probably have to wait for the next post from Stearns or Harold.)

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General Exception

Did someone just find a Kali chip?

BoingBoing has the story of some guy (allegedly) finds some sort of weird chip or screen with an antenna in his vintage GameBoy. Hmm… did Monty Meekman have deals with Nintendo?

Maybe we should expand the shop and add Wetmachine-branded tinfoil hats.

 

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My Thoughts Exactly

You’re Right, Bruce Sterling: I *am* the future of printed fiction. Let’s discuss at SXSW!

A few months ago I blogged about my ten-or-so year long [career|hobby| pipe-dream|unhealthy obsession] as an itinerant peddler of my self-published nanopunky cyberpunky biopunky novel and novellas. That post was called Traveling Self-Publishing Geek Novelist Blues: the Defcon Variations.

A few weeks after I had posted this bit, the cyberpunk celebrity/novelist Bruce Sterling picked up on it, writing in an entry about me in his beyond the beyond blog entitled “The Future of Printed Fiction“. (Actually he didn’t write a blog entry about me — he copy/pasted my Wetmachine post and inserted into it a few oracular comments of his own.)

It’s all about being a make-do gypsy at the fringes of the web conference scene,” Sterling said in his prefatory remarks. “Gothic High-Tech, Favela Chic”.

I’ve been pondering that pronouncement (and others like it that he sprinkled through post by way of annotation) for a few months now (his post is dated October 14, 2010). Below the fold, I make an attempt at parsing them. I do detect a general tone of condescension in Sterling’s comments. Which, y’know, who cares. And furthermore I’m not even sure about that, that his comments are condescending. It seems like he’s making fun of me, but maybe he’s doing straight reporting or maybe he’s free-associating/scat-singing, like a jazz musician or person with Tourettes; I can’t really tell and anyway I’m not well-placed to judge, inasmuch as the subject is my life’s work. Mostly I’m grateful that Sterling blogged about me at all, because he has legions of fans & I got a nice jolt of web traffic and a mini-spike in book sales after he anointed me The Future of Printed Fiction. So thanks, Bruce.

In related news, both Sterling and I are slated to be in Austin, Texas next March for SXSW, the mega indie artist hipster conclave, at which event he will be giving a keynote talk to the multitudes and I’ll be on a panel (presumably before a much smaller and less adoring audience than Sterling’s) entitled “The Self-Publishing Novelist: Report from the Trenches

Since Bruce & I will both be at SXSW, maybe I’ll get a chance to chat with him & ask him what his comments meant. Or, maybe, just maybe, when I get to SXSW & plop myself down in a chair to listen to his opening address I’ll discover that I’m the subject of his keynote talk, which will be about nothing other than, yes THE FUTURE OF PRINTED FICTION & how I, Sundman is it! And I will find myself thereby catapulted into cyberbionanonovelist superstardom, right alongside Bruce Himself and William Gibson and what’s his face, who wrote Cryptonomicon and is now working some newfangled space-age post-fiction with my friend Nicki Galland and that other guy who wrote the book about little nanomachines taking over your mind — no, not Acts of the Apostles , the other one. Probably not, I realize that. But if you’re reading this, Bruce, and would like to join me for a cuppa whatever, please do  have your people call my people.

While I do confess to a bit of bewilderment about what Sterling is actually saying about me in his post, I think the gist is that printed (fiction) books are rapidly becoming “collector” artifacts for niche and rapidly shrinking communities of readers, like classic 35MM film cameras (Pentax, Minolta, Leica, Hasselblad. . .) that once commanded premiums in specialty stores and now go for a few bucks at flea markets.

Who knows, he may be right about that.

Read More »

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My Thoughts Exactly

Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist Geraldine Brooks talks with Wetmachine about the future of publishing

Today Wetmachine talks with Geraldine Brooks, whose novel March won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2006, about trends in publishing. She joins the roster of Wetmachine “Whither Publishing?” interviewees including Writer’s Digest impresaria Jane Friedman,  ebook pioneer Mark Coker of Smashwords.com, and book designer extraordinaire Joel Friedlander.

I met Geraldine Brooks when we were seated next to each other at a small dinner party about two months ago. (Geraldine and her husband Tony Horwitz (also a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize — his is for journalism) and I have many mutual friends, including my wife Betty, who directs the lecture series at the Vineyard Haven Public Library, where Tony has been a speaker and Geraldine is on the hook for a talk next year.)

At that dinner party Geraldine and I discovered that we had many similar interests, including a shared taste for dystopian science fiction novels — the very kind of book I write. I offered to drop off a few copies of my books at her house and she said, “Oh, please do.” So the next day I hoped on my bicycle and rode to the address she had given me, and that’s how I discovered where she lived and that I had met her young son Bizu some 9 months earlier, when the fire truck to which I’m assigned, T___ 651, was parked in front of their house during a routine “furnace backfire” call. When I got home from dropping off my books I sent Geraldine the write-up in my diary about that fire call, and she was thrilled to get it, saying “That’s fantastic.  Thank you so much for sending this. I remember that day quite vividly.  I thought, that’s a very nice man out there, letting Bizu ramble away at him..”

Since then Geraldine & I have become  pals. I think the moral of the story is, if you want to get on the good side of a famous writer and get her to answer questions for your insignificant little blog, let her observe you being nice to her child without having any idea who he is or that she’s observing you through the window.

I’ve attached that diary entry at the end of the interview. Read More »

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My Thoughts Exactly

Book designer and self-publishing guru Joel Friedlander talks with Wetmachine about the future of publishing

As part of our continuing series of interviews with movers & shakers in the rapidly changing world of publishing, Wetmachine today talks with Joel Friedlander, proprietor of Marin Bookworks and creator & curator of the fantastically helpful and interesting site The Book Designer. Joel’s a long-time self-publisher and consultant to other self-publishers. He knows a lot and he’s funny and helpful. See my questions and his answers below the fold.

Joel joins Jane Friedman, head honcho emeritus of Writer’s Digest, and Mark Coker, creator of epub publishing powerhouse Smashwords.com in Wetmachine’s “Whither Publishing” interview series. Read More »

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My Thoughts Exactly

Traveling Self-Publishing Geek Novelist Blues: the Defcon Variations

John standing in vendor room at Defcon

Me in my Defcon T-shirt glory

I write & publish fiction for hackers and geeks. I’ve written a novel and two novellas and I have another novel in the works. The baseline genre is cyberpunk/biopunk thriller, although I approach the subject matter in a kind of David Foster Wallace/Pynchonian way. So I’m actually kind of a postmodern metafictiony cyberpunky technothriller novelist. All my books concern hacking of both silicon-based and carbon-based systems.

As I discussed in Adventures in Self-Publishing, there’s no reasonable way for me to get my books into bookstores (all the tech bookstores that used to carry me have gone under). Therefor I have to use other ways to get my books in front of readers. So sometimes I go to places where hackers and geeks and congregate & there set up a table whereupon I put out copies of my books & glowing reviews from geekoid websites & start carnival barking like Billy Mays, selling my books for cash.

I’ve done this for more than ten years.

Does it make any sense to sell books this way? Am I a brilliant self-marketing original or just some crackpot who wrote some crackpot books?  I don’t know, but if you read this post I’ll think you’ll have enough info to form your own opinions. (Jane Friedman of Writers’ Digest thinks I’m doing something right, which is some consolation.)

Below, the story of my most recent such gig & biggest one ever, Defcon, Las Vegas, late July/early August 2010. This account includes a rambling disquisition on the whole “hand-selling books on the road” idea in general, with lessons learned from ten years of this idiocy.

(Since Defcon, by the way, I’ve sold the rights to my first novel, Acts of the Apostles. See here for the how and why I sold the rights.)
Read More »

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My Thoughts Exactly

Self-Publisher Sells Out! How and Why I sold the Rights to my Self-published Novel “Acts of the Apostles” to Underland Press

I recently signed deal with Underland Press, a new, indie publisher founded and led by  Victoria Blake, to give Underland the worldwide rights, electronic and print, to publish my novel Acts of the Apostles in any and all languages in basically any format (printed book, ebook, audiobook, etc).

I’ve been the publisher of this book for eleven years. It has sold pretty well as far as first novels (self- or traditionally published) go, and I have gotten a fair amount of attention for being an innovative self-publishing novelist.

I’ve written that as a self-publisher I get to keep the publisher’s cut as well as the writer’s cut, which means that any publisher would have to offer me a pretty sweet deal before I would consider giving my publisher’s cut to them. And I’ve noted (as have many other people) that in an age when more and more book sales are digital (that is, internet downloads of ebooks), the role of the publisher is less and less relevant.

In fact, over the last six weeks, sales of digital versions of my books have outnumbered sales of printed copies by about 60-1.

So why have I sold my rights to Underland?

Because I want Acts of the Apostles to become a worldwide bestseller. I want sales numbers in the millions. Failing that, it would be at least nice to make some money. I’m gambling that Underland offers the best opportunity for that to happen. Read More »

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My Thoughts Exactly

Jane Friedman, long-time publisher of Writer’s Digest, talks with Wetmachine

I first met Jane Friedman sometime around June, 2001, when she called to tell me that my novel Acts of the Apostles had won the Writer’s Digest National Self-Published Book Award for that year (in the “genre” category:  a juried competition with 324 entrants, ahem; I digress).

That call took place pretty early in Jane’s 12 year career at F+W Media (and pretty early in my self-publishing career, now that you mention it.) Her talent was obvious and she rose quickly. In 2008 she was named the publisher of Writer’s Digest, the No. 1 resource for working writers. In her varied roles at F+W, she was responsible for the management and growth of multiple book lines, annual directories, newsstand and subscriber-driven magazines, online education and services, e-commerce, print and online advertising, as well as national writing events and competitions.

Jane recently left WD to take a position as assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati, and she now teaches full-time in the e-media department of CCM. She’s a frequent speaker at writing and publishing events; her focus is on helping writers understand the transformation underway in the media and publishing industries, and how they can be successful and in control of their careers.

I recently asked Jane if she would like to be interviewed for Wetmachine and SelfPublishing Review. She said yes, and I sent her some questions; her answers appear below the fold (and will appear in SPR tomorrow). If you read my recent interview with Mark Coker of Smashwords, you’ll notice some overlap in my questions. I think it’s interesting to see where Jane agrees with Mark and where she differs. But all of her answers are thoughtful and some of them are quite intriguing.
Read More »

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My Thoughts Exactly

Defcon Leaning

Looks like I’ll be heading to the mother of all hacker conferences, Defcon 18 in sunny Las Vegas 2.5 weeks from now. I’ll be attending parties and tech sessions, trying to not get hacked, and, mainly, selling my famous geekoid hackerific novels from a table in the vendor area.

I’ve got two reasons for wanting to attend: (1) I’m writing another hackerific novel, Creation Science, and I want it to feature either some action at Defcon or at the least, some characters (white & black hat) who are Defcon types. So I’ll be doing passive research & keeping my eyes open. (2) I want to sell books and get some notice for my books. If ever there were a target market for them, I think Defcon must be it. Maybe with a little luck I’ll get some notice as the author of what may well be the ultimate hacker book.

Any of y’all as have been to Defcon or who plan to attend this one, I would appreciate your saying hello in the comments. Any advice on how I can meet my two objectives would be especially welcome. In particular, what’s the best way for me to get the word out to the Defcon crowd about my books before I get there?

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