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Author Topic: EP328: Surviving the eBookalypse  (Read 4157 times)
eytanz
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« on: January 20, 2012, 05:30:28 PM »

EP328: Surviving the eBookalypse

By Randy Henderson

Read by Roberto Suarez

An Escape Pod Original!

---

I entered the City Public Library wearing my plastic replica chainmail and sword, and my suede “book jacket” with a laminated author’s license clipped to the collar.

Before me stood a fully automated checkout kiosk for scheduling author recitals. The library floor beyond that was filled with neat rows of author cubicles, each with a desk and chair. Most were occupied. The air was filled with the soft tickity-ticking of keyboards, and the smells of coffee, “New Book” scented air fresheners, and Cup o’ Soup. Heads popped up over cubicle walls in response to the clacking of the door, then disappeared again when they saw I was no customer or potential patron.

I understood their disappointed expressions too well. This was not at all where I thought I would be two years after publishing my first e-book.

A woman’s smile caught my attention. It was like cherry-haloed sunshine, floating between her neon blue hair and her black lace dress. She emerged from a cube in the Romance section, walked up to me, leaned in close and sniffed at the air. Then she said with the hint of a Mexican accent, “I smell a transfer from Bainbridge library, no? An MFA boy, if I’m not mistaken?”

“That obvious?” I asked.

“Lucky guess.” She laughed, and flicked my author’s license. “Says so right here.”


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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Randy-Henderson
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« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2012, 07:11:58 PM »

Thank you to Roberto Suarez for his podcast reading.

I wrote this story during Clarion West, partly as a response to a doom and gloom speech I heard on the future of the publishing industry. But folks like Mary Robinette Kowal and Cory Doctorow reaffirm my belief that we who create or consume the fiction, we have power to affect the course of things.  eBooks are really not so different from paperbacks if we push for the right to truly own what we purchase.  Books as objects can return to being lovingly crafted pieces of art, to be collected and displayed proudly in order to impress your date/guests.  Er, I mean, to show your love of the written word.  And in the end, all of us time-conscious readers will still want someone to filter out the good from the ocean of crap for us and will pay a little extra for that service.  Sparkly vampires aside.  So I believe the future of the written word remains bright.  And if I’m wrong, I will happily accept patronage offers.

Interesting note: the recorded pod cast is actually from an earlier version of the story, and the online text is from the updated version, which I see as a happy accident because A) I went back and forth over the beginning, and B) it is a record I think of how my writing (or at least editing) improved over the time between versions.  Although the very beginning of the story is the main difference, there are also a number of small examples of where I eliminated unneeded words and poor sentence structures, which if you happen to be a developing writer may be of some benefit to notice.  Not to say my writing is perfection, far from it, but no reason not to learn from it anyway if you are so inclined.  The story synchs up pretty quickly (once Andre enters the library) so if you listen and follow along with the text, you’ll spot the differences.

Thanks to everyone who read or listened to it.

Randy Henderson
http://www.randy-henderson.com
www.facebook.com/randyhenderson
https://twitter.com/#!/quantumage
« Last Edit: January 21, 2012, 09:55:55 PM by Randy-Henderson » Logged
Greill
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« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2012, 05:31:39 PM »

All in all, I rather liked this story. While it wasn't exactly hard SF, setting out to teach us all a lesson about the deep, dark issues in society, it held my interest and told a fun story. All in all, quite enjoyable.
Excellently read, well-written, and well-produced.
Thanks, guys.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2012, 08:52:18 AM »

I must admit that the title of this story intrigued me immensely. I figured it would be something along those lines. And in the end I wasn't disappointed and rather enjoyed the story, particularly the reading.
I also found it sadly realistic: eMafia, rampant online piracy, and the novelty of paper books. Imagine: a world where the only way to ensure that you get credit for your work is to physically read it aloud to people in the same room as you surrounded by high-tech gizmos that (should) prevent recordings. Sends chills down my spine. We might be heading that way...
Although, I do think that this story will not come to pass, mainly because of the Creative Commons. Over the weekend I had a little discussion with my librarian aunt about copyright issues, and she was quite glad to hear that I publish my own works under some variation of the CC license.
Also, the whole deal with SOPA and PIPA makes this story oddly relevant. I'm not for piracy, but I am for sharing knowledge. SOPA and PIPA will (probably) stop that, but CC aims to strengthen it.
So, who knows?
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bluetube
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« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2012, 04:40:15 AM »

I enjoyed this story, although it wasn't strong on the sci-fi.

I felt the beginning was too abrupt. I didn't get enough of a sense of the environment and circumstances in which the main character found himself. A little more introduction would have helped, for me at least. (perhaps if I read the updated text of the story I would not have had this comment)

The only downside was that this is a story about authors. I have the same qualms when I hear a radio play about writers of plays. As a consumer of books, I care about the themes in this story, but some of the details around the trials and tribulations of authors came across as self indulgent.

The reading by Roberto Suarez was excellent, with some nice characterisation, and I liked the up beat ending.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2012, 04:41:47 AM by bluetube » Logged
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« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2012, 08:44:54 AM »

I enjoyed listening to this story -- and it's especially topical, not only to us podcast listeners and authors (this forum is frequented by many writers who would be in the library, I think), but to the changing state of the publishing world at large.

I especially enjoyed the concept of the Book Jacket.

One wonders what people are actually READING in this future, if you can only get books via recital. Or are books only published after they are completely recited?

The only downside was that this is a story about authors. I have the same qualms when I hear a radio play about writers of plays. As a consumer of books, I care about the themes in this story, but some of the details around the trials and tribulations of authors came across as self indulgent.

Yeah, I often have this feeling, especially seeing TV shows or films about struggling writers or screenwriters. Really, Californication is the only one I like.
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AmateurSimian
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« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2012, 11:35:05 AM »

This was by far the worst Escape Pod episode I've listened to, and it was a struggle to do that.  The reading was absolutely painful, and while that may have colored my enjoyment of the episode, it was still a story about authors that barely qualified as sci-fi.

In this world, authors are so under-appreciated, and yet so vitally important that the mega-rich will regularly gather to watch unknowns read sections of their unedited first drafts. Not only that... but bootlegged, dubbed, recordings of those performances will go viral.

The authors in the story are so clever and perceptive they're even tasked with explicitly telling us why we should dislike the antagonists.  We can't figure out the mobster is racist, we need to be told that he only acts that way with black authors.  Instead of actually developing the character of the patron, the female author needs to immediately reel off five counters to his laughably uninformed, unshared arguments.  The only thing more heavy handed was the treatment of the central theme.

With how knee-jerk and unthoughtful this reaction to digital publishing is, right as the public is in the process of learning the implications of SOPA/PIPA, it seems inappropriate to put out a story that's based on such an absurd straw man.
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DKT
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« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2012, 12:31:07 PM »

Wow, I was Very Worried for a little while that the Amazonian Faye subgenre was getting stereotyped YET AGAIN. C'mon, people. There's some AMAZING work in Amazonian Faye!

(I'm also a bit concerned that some would-be authors will think that just because it worked out for Myra and Andre in this fictional story, signing e-mob is a viable option. But such are the days we live in.)

That is to say, I enjoyed this one!
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tpi
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« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2012, 03:45:51 AM »


In this world, authors are so under-appreciated, and yet so vitally important that the mega-rich will regularly gather to watch unknowns read sections of their unedited first drafts. Not only that... but bootlegged, dubbed, recordings of those performances will go viral.

And not only that, there are NO commercial markets for them even when pirated versions are widely popular?
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kibitzer
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« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2012, 04:48:33 AM »

I'd suggest that while authors love this story, regular folks might find it... indifferent.
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Talia
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« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2012, 07:21:17 AM »

I'd suggest that while authors love this story, regular folks might find it... indifferent.

Well of course they MIGHT. People might be indifferent to ANY story. Cheesy I disagree that this one is more likely to leave people indifferent, though. I'm no author and I loved it. The world building was fascinating, especially with the parallels to the way the current publishing world is already going (yes, machines exist where you can print books on demand...). A playfully imaginative exploration of a possible future for the publishing industry.

Great reading too.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2012, 10:09:32 AM »

Talia, your aggressive optimism cracks me up Cheesy


There were a couple of times when I started to groan and think "oh no, not another lecture disguised as a story!" Luckily, the story managed to veer away from that enough that I was able to mostly sit back and enjoy the ride. However, as a few others have pointed out, there are tons of economic reasons why the world posited would not likely exist as described so I don't think that I would be able to give it a re-listen. You could even call me... indifferent to it. Tongue
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Randy-Henderson
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« Reply #12 on: January 25, 2012, 05:16:03 PM »

Thank you all for your thoughts and feedback Smiley

I certainly groan whenever Stephen King or others create yet another protagonist who is a writer.  And yeah, I agree this story is more likely to be appreciated by writers, or those who follow all the hysteria debates about the future of books, or four out of five dentists who chew gum, than by readers who are/do none of the above.  But in this case, it was kind of the whole point of the story that he was a writer -- I couldn't make him a detective, for example, and still tell the same story -- so I felt okay about that.  And given that podcast consumers of scifi tend to be pretty hip to and caring about the topics covered in my story, I feel pretty darn good about the home my story found.

And the story itself was meant as a satire, of course, taking people's most doomalicious predictions of how ebooks are going to destroy fiction (or at least the incentive to create quality fiction), and pushing that to the extreme.  It was certainly fun to write.  I fully admit the whole economic model of it is a bit shaky (I mean, who really believes that public arts funding for writers would EVER get past the GOP?), heck, maybe even shakier than expecting to make real money selling your ebook on Amazon for .99 cents, but again, I'm not being a true hard scifi futurist predicting that the eMob may really take over publishing and the patronage system will actually return.  Everyone knows that in the future we will be slaves to our alien overlords and have no time for creating or consuming fiction.  So we might as well have fun while we can.  And I can only hope in the future (before The Great Conquering) to improve as a writer and tell stories that appeal to everyone (like Stephenie Meyer does!), and don't leave so many unsatisfied readers.  And, of course, that my eMob rep will promote it.  Grin

Thanks again to everyone for listening to it or reading it.  It is quite an honor, truly.

Randy
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Gamercow
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« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2012, 10:09:07 AM »

I personally loved this one, definitely my favorite of 2012 so far!  It was good to listen to a humorous, Douglas Adams-ian story, and I found the characters to be very real, with the exception of Joey, who seemed more like a caricature.  I'm not sure how much of that falseness came from the reading or the text, but I found myself cringing with some of his dialog and actions.  I know I was supposed to cringe, but he seemed a bit...cartoony, for lack of a better word. 
I'm not sure why Myra decided to collaborate with Sir Sleazealot, but I guess desperate times call for desperate measures. 

As for feasibility of the economic models in the story, I shrugged them off much like I shrug off similar "issues" in Douglas Adams books.  They just don't matter to me. 
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #14 on: January 26, 2012, 11:17:28 PM »

I'm one of those who found the story a bit whiny and self-pitying, and that this would appeal more to other authors than most readers. I appreciate the author's feedback, but I think if he was aiming for satire on the point of economics, I don't quite think he quite hit it (I suspect those who are actually unemployed wouldn't think that authors have only prostitution and Mob-slavery as a choice).

Though I really did like Myra and Amazonian Faye.
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SF.Fangirl
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« Reply #15 on: January 28, 2012, 07:56:50 PM »

I'm middle of the road on this one.  I thought it author porn in the beginning and braced myself for a painful slog through the episode.  I'm a reader and book lover so I am not indifferent to the future of books and their creators, but there was too much whining and self-pity.  It got better.  I'm not sure when exactly, but by the end I liked the story and was happy with the solution to their individual problems by drawing publicity.  Doesn't at all solve the system, though.

And, hey, this was definitely a story a a completely developed and resolved plot! Props for that.
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4WheelDrive
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« Reply #16 on: January 29, 2012, 07:02:02 PM »

I liked the story, not my all time favorite, but I still enjoyed it.  I do not agree with AmateurSimian that it is the worst podcast I have listened to.  That "honor" belongs to another podcast that shall remain nameless.

The story was believable in the sense where piracy is prevalent, but books/stories/SF will never stop being recorded/read/listened to.  Even if Steve said, and I quote “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore. 40% percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.” Read the article at NYT Bits, The Passion of Steve Jobs, January 15, 2008, 7:37 pm

I guess I am a simpleton when the goon gets his comeuppance, the hero gets the girl/guy, and all that sappy stuff. Grin
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Gary
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« Reply #17 on: February 02, 2012, 02:02:37 PM »

What I had to say about this one was remarkably similar to what SF.Fangirl posted about it.
I disliked it, then somehow grew to like it by the end.
Aww. She said it a lot better. Go read her post again. Smiley

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CryptoMe
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« Reply #18 on: February 03, 2012, 10:22:01 PM »

I found this story very abrupt and rushed at the end. So much so that it felt kind of unresolved. Then I went back, re-listened to the ending and saw that it was resolved... the author effectively sold out, switching to writing stuff he felt was schlocky and overly commercialized, and being happy about it.  I'm not sure I can like a story that ends this way...
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Dem
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« Reply #19 on: February 05, 2012, 01:19:01 PM »

I'm afraid I couldn't get involved enough in the story to have too much interest in what it was all about. I found the writing clunky, the characters rather stereotypical, and the story linear and thin. But I suspect I'm no judge of what engages people; this one clearly does and others that I have liked, have not. Looks like nothing of mine is going to be on a best sellers list any time soon!  Grin
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Science is what you do when the funding panel thinks you know what you're doing. Fiction is the same only without the funding.
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