A Few Things

You’d think that by now people — especially people involved with publishing — would know better than to razz on writers. We can razz back with a vengeance, and we have a significant audience to do it for, or we know people who have significant audiences.

Arlene Harris started using iUniverse’s services back when they were actually kind of reasonable. Their prices have gone up considerably, however, with no significant increase in services, so she’s decided to take her business elsewhere. She wrote to them to terminate their business relationship, and got a snarky reply from some self-righteous marketing weasel, which begins, “Hello Ms. Harris, I wish there was something I could say to pacify your hurt feelings,” and goes downhill from there.

Arlene happens to be friends with Colleen Doran, a very successful comic artist and writer. Colleen has been successful both through large publishing houses and on the self-publishing side. As she puts it herself: Unlike most of the people reading this, I have been a successful self publisher and have sold over 300,000 copies of my works via self publishing, not to mention all the books my name is on that I didn’t self publish. So Colleen knows whereof she speaks. Colleen has a huge blog audience, and decided to point out to iUniverse, line-item by line-item, exactly why any writer with a brain in his or her head would decide to forego their services. It’s great — read it here.

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From the Department of Wasn’t This SF a Few Years Ago? — a Chinese company has plans for a humongous kind of bus, two lanes wide, that runs on tracks and is hollow on the bottom so cars can run under it. It’s kind of like a big mobile tunnel with a passenger cabin on top. Check it out. Thanks to Tobias Buckell for the link.

It’s worth watching the video, even if most of it is just some guy speaking Mandarin. (Of course, if you understand Mandarin, I’m assuming it’s geometrically cooler.) There are bits in the video-within-a-video, though, showing how cars go under the bus, how the bus goes over stationary cars, how people get on and off, how they prevent trucks and cetera that are too big from running in the bus lanes, and what they’ll do to get the passengers off in case there’s some kind of wreck anyway. The last bit is almost at the end of the video. Cool stuff — definitely a good idea for adding really big busses to city streets without adding to traffic congestion. From an SF writer’s POV, though, it’s necessary to keep up with this sort of thing. It’ll let your near-future Chinese story sound a bit more realistic, and will prevent you from having your 24th century civil engineer dramatically unveil his Brand New and Original Mobile Tunnel-Bus idea. [wry smile]

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Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Freelancer’s Survival Guide is done. If anyone was waiting for the whole thing before reading, the whole thing is now there. She’s working on getting both an e-book and POD print version up and ready to go. I’m getting the paperback, myself. I’ve been reading along and there’s a ton of excellent info here — more than most publishers would be willing to stuff into one volume, so rather than let the publisher decide what to cut, she’s putting it out herself, complete and entire. This is a great resource, whether you’re a writer or any other kind of freelancer, which includes anyone who owns a business or otherwise works for themself. Highly recommended.

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One experiment has shown that snails might have a homing instinct. Ruth Brooks had snails in her garden, as many of us do, and since she’d rather not hurt them, she tried collecting them and taking them over to (waste land? sounds like a vacant lot, maybe?) and leaving them there. But they kept coming back, which was rather boggling, since scientists had thought the snails didn’t have enough brain to manage something like a homing instinct.

This was only based on Ruth’s own findings, though, which really isn’t enough data. So Ruth is organizing a larger-scale experiment. They’re in England, and they’re only looking for a particular kind of snail, but it looks interesting anyway; I hope they get a lot of participants.

Speaking for myself, back when I did a lot of gardening, there was an alley behind our back yard, and on the other side of the alley were a bunch of front yards of houses facing the alley. I’d go out at night hunting snails and slugs; I’d pick up the snails and pitch them over the back fence. Every now and then I’d pick up a snail with a crunchy shell; he apparently hadn’t learned his lesson and had come back. I’d pitch him again. The thing is, I had a decent arm, and after the snail landed, there would’ve usually been plant life (on the other side of the alley) closer than our back yard. But a lot of the snails came back anyway. Which is all completely unscientific, but I’m tending toward agreement on the whole snail-homing thing. Also, on the belief that snails are really stupid.

This is another data point for SF writers, though. You might well not need to invent a creature with a brain the size of a pigeon’s to have something that’ll find its way home.

Although I still think butterflies are the most amazing homers. I got this from a thing the spousal unit and I saw on TV (Life? Planet Earth? something like that) so I don’t have any links, but butterflies — Monarchs, IIRC — actually migrate in three generations. They start out at one end of the migration path, fly to a waypoint and reproduce, then die. The next generation is born, pupates, flies on to the next waypoint and reproduces, then dies. The third generation is born, pupates, flies back to the starting point, reproduces, then dies. The thing is, none of the butterflies who are migrating have ever been where they’re going before. Migratory yak and whales and swallows and salmon are born, then migrate somewhere else, then go back to where they were born, so they’ve been there before. Most of them will even have older members of their herd/pod/flock to show them the way. But butterflies keep flying between the same waypoints when none of them have ever been there before. That’s freaky, in a pretty neat way. :)

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The Fourth Vine over on Dreamwidth gave several Good Reasons for a Professional Fiction Writer to Fear Fan Fiction. This is an issue which pops up periodically and gets completely rehashed, with the usual griping, snarking, whining, and hystrionics. Fourth Vine summarizes the logical arguments neatly, and lets you know which arguments are not at all logical and will get you mocked. My favorite is the last one, but they’re all excellent, as is the accompanying commentary. This isn’t a brand new post, but it’ll be a fresh issue soon enough, and then again, and again after that; classics are always relevant.

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I’m up in Reno visiting my mom and my brother this week. The third was my birthday, although we’re going to dinner tonight; this is my brother’s first day off. I’m spending a lot of time on the laptop, as usual, but if I take a while to get around to various blogs, or don’t comment as often as I usually do, that’s why. [wave]

Angie

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