Thursday, November 29, 2007

Montón de Problemas

While ducking the truckloads of mud being slung around romanceland this week, I strayed over to the dark side tonight to see what the Borg are up to. I know, that's like picking at a scab, but I'm trying to be more open and optimistic and . . . just shut up and let me write the post, okay?

Problem #1: Evidently SF's best writers (aside from H.G Wells) are being neglected.

". . . I do see that a wall much like the Great Wall of China has been erected against SF — although H.G.Wells has escaped the general banishment." -- Brian Aldiss, SF writer, Why are science fiction's best writers so neglected?

Possbile Solution #1: Repackage their books and let the Sci-Fi Channel fans discover them.

"As I see it, there are currently two schools of thought – to package your SF/F novel to appeal to as wide a readership as possible, in the hope of enticing readers from other areas of the bookstore to pick it up on a whim; or to package your SF/F novel to appeal to the perceived core readership of the genre, or indeed, fans of Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who, people who want a book with a spaceship or a wizard on the front of it." -- Solaris editor, Marrying Authors to Their Market: A Genre Perspective.

My Idea: Put a nicely-built chick in white spandex on the cover. I still get avid fan mail from guys about the art for Endurance, and no, I still don't know who the model was.

Problem #2: No SF books on the NYT Notable List this year.

". . . our genre also no longer has a guaranteed five or six slots on the “Notable Books” list." -- Tor Editor, New York Times to science books: Drop dead.

Possible Solution #2: Remember that there are worse things than being stiffed by the Times.

". . . I started to wonder how I’d gotten so sidetracked in priorities over the last few years, placing higher and higher attention to the dayjob and less to things I truly loved. I felt like I’d fallen behind by three years, and lost a chunk of my life." -- Tobias Buckell, SF writer, Despair.

My Idea: Say out loud that "I accept the things that I cannot change . . . " prayer while using the Times as kitty box liner.

That takes care of romance and SF. Now if I could just get Storytellers Unplugged to dump the new format, which oddly enough is harder on my eyes than the old blue-on-blue one -- is anyone else having the same problem? Did they shrink the font, or what?

15 comments:

  1. Either that or write SF books that can be marketed as Fantasy--or so I hear!

    Me, I prefer the ostrich approach--very uncomfortable for a squirrel, and also makes it hard to breathe--while I chant "I do believe in my genre; I do believe in my genre".

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  2. Hey Lynn,

    David Niall Wilson here from Storytellers. If the new format is hard on the eyes, the fella to mention it to is Joe Nassise - I'm going to point him here. I think (possibly) it's too busy, and if it was a two column format it would read more easily. I use the same software over at The Deep Blue Journal but I think mine is easier on the eye. I might be fooling myself...and I only started using it on my own about two weeks ago.

    Interesting column. I think the problem with a modern audience and SF is mostly imbedded in the difference between yesterday and today's audience. Most of what made it magic was the "future" aspect of it, and most of the classic SF stuff either exists today, or has been proven impractical and replaced with something even newer and cooler. Philip K. Dick would have loved Iphones...

    DNW

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  3. Anonymous7:24 AM

    I talked with my webdesign husband about the Storytellers unplugged site. It strained my eyes as well.

    He even went so far as to set up an identical color scheme with text (a mock up). What we've found is this:

    Arial font doesn't read well to our eyes (remember this is just an opinion) between two dark borders. On an all white page or all black with white text (even with two light borders on either side), not so bad. So what fonts did work? Georgia and Book Antiqua look much more comfortable to the eyes in the original format. We didn't try any others.

    We also tweaked the background of our pseudo text, making it a light blue, in the same family as the border on the right. That made reading SO much easier. Maybe it's the dynamic of dark to light. Makes your eyes scream.

    Also, really long blocks of text are harder to read through on a screen. Having a wider column may make it easier for them.

    Keep in mind this is only an opinion and I look at computer screens all day so my eye strain may be larger than most. And no, we don't normally do stuff like this, but it really really bothered me that I couldn't figure out why the text on the storytellers site kept bouncing. This is the first time I'd gone to the site, and I doubt I'll be back until they fix it.

    LOL. You don't have to post the comment, of course. You'd asked, so I checked. Yep, it hurts my eyes.

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  4. You know, I've noticed some changes in the styles of the book covers. For instance, some romance books going manga, or urban fantasy going noir. It's pretty confusing.

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  5. Buffysquirrel wrote: Either that or write SF books that can be marketed as Fantasy--or so I hear!

    Never hurt Anne McCaffrey. :)

    Me, I prefer the ostrich approach--very uncomfortable for a squirrel, and also makes it hard to breathe--while I chant "I do believe in my genre; I do believe in my genre".

    I keep wishing Edmund Cooper would come back to life and kick some ass on the shelves, but he's probably happier where he is.

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  6. David Niall Wilson wrote: If the new format is hard on the eyes, the fella to mention it to is Joe Nassise - I'm going to point him here.

    Thanks, and I think I will e-mail him this time (and I should note that I am an old person with very bad vision, and it's difficult for me to read a lot of blogs with tiny fonts and close-spaced lines. The letters, they jump, they dance, but they don't make themselves into words.)

    I think (possibly) it's too busy, and if it was a two column format it would read more easily.

    That would work for me, too.

    I use the same software over at The Deep Blue Journal but I think mine is easier on the eye. I might be fooling myself...and I only started using it on my own about two weeks ago.

    It looks as if my comments garbled your blog link, so let me repost it here for the other commenters: The Deep Blue Journal.

    Comparing the two, your entries are a lot easier to read versus what's currently at SU.

    I think the problem with a modern audience and SF is mostly imbedded in the difference between yesterday and today's audience. Most of what made it magic was the "future" aspect of it, and most of the classic SF stuff either exists today, or has been proven impractical and replaced with something even newer and cooler.

    Over the summer I reread my first edition of Robert Silverberg's The Masks of Time (1968), in which he predicted what he thought the future (1998-2000) would be like. It shocked me as a kid back in 1974 -- especially the Big Dark Secret Plot Twist that would have given my mother a stroke -- but now it seems sort of quaintly charming. Rather like Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth.

    Philip K. Dick would have loved Iphones...

    That and all the other neat gadgets. This is definitely the era he should have lived to see.

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  7. Anonymous wrote a lot of very cool info on web site formats, and LOL. You don't have to post the comment, of course.

    Are you kidding? This is great info. Whoever you are, I love you and your husband -- thanks :)

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  8. Tempest Knight wrote: You know, I've noticed some changes in the styles of the book covers. For instance, some romance books going manga, or urban fantasy going noir. It's pretty confusing.

    I don't get the whole manga thing, but I stopped reading comic books, excuse me, graphic novels, when I was eleven. No offense to the manga writers, but I don't want cartoons in my prose. I want just prose. :)

    But urban fantasy, now, as a genre I think it's been getting a lot more noir. Ten years ago it was all that boring Gibson knockoff stuff with the circuit boards and chip heads. Now it's gotten a lot more interesting, much darker and tougher than it ever was, with themes and conflicts all over the place: classic mythology, folklore, cult lore, informed and knowledgable Wicca, post-Apocalypse worlds, you name it. I take my hat off to these writers, they're really publishing some fascinating stuff.

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  9. Yeah, but it wouldn't be an IPhone. Or it would be under someone else's control. Or it would change into something else at an inconvenient moment. Or it would get strange messages from nowhere at all. Or....

    Excuse me. PKD overload.

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  10. Gah! You don't like our new format? Where's that damned bridge so I can jump...

    Seriously, thanks for the feedback. And thanks to Anonymous as well - feedback like that is very helpful.

    Looks like its back to the drawing board this weekend to do some more tweaking (and to fix our troublesome RSS feed as well.)

    Best,
    Joe

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  11. Mmm, I think Aldiss is frustrated that his book didn't get the attention he wanted. As far as SF in general, in my average Wal-Mart I'm seeing more books that are straight SF than I have in the previous 10 years.

    Thanks for the link :-) I'm glad to be making a living writing now, rather than getting my soul sucked dry on dayjobby stuff.

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  12. re your cover idea.
    Spandex is kind of tame. Make 'em nekkid and go for male and female and undetermined, so all sorts of persuasions pick up the book. Tentacles! Scales! Yum!

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  13. I'm in the process of judging a writing contest and just happened to get assigned a bunch of sci-fi entries. And...they're not bad! But sci-fi is a funky genre. It's all over the place. I wrote an Urban Fantasy that is sometimes grouped in with Sci Fi, which is really going to dissappoint any readers expecting cyborgs. On the other hand, it's not really a romance, either, but that's where it generally ends up.

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  14. I think we should go with your ideas, but since I don't have cats I'll use it to pick up the dog poop in my yard.

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  15. Just saw your comment about the font. I'm blind as a bat, so I use Firefox. It has much much much nicer options for us coke-bottle glasses folks. You can increase the display font size by clicking CRTL + (the plus key, no need to use shift so technically it is the = key) and reduce the font again with CTRL -

    I often click three or more times to get a font size that is restful for my eyes.

    The beautiful thing about Firefox is that it handles the underlying web coding (or whatever) better than IE ever did. You don't have to scroll to the right to finish reading sentences. I'm not saying the super duper big font is pretty. But I can read it without straining and it's so easy I can do it without thinking about it.

    IE lets you do this sometimes, but it has no shortcut key, which drives me bonkers. It also just doesn't format as well.

    Hope that's helpful!

    -Elizabeth

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