Archive for the 'Reader/Writer Compact' Category

Giving it Away for Free

April 7th, 2009

Witch Way to the Mall

Witch Way to the Mall

This was going to be a small announcement that I’ve got a story coming out in Esther Friesner’s Witch Way to the Mall this next June, and Baen is offering five of the stories early, including mine (you have to click all the way to the end to find it, since it’s not linked in the contents), but, well, it’s sort of morphed into a rumination on copyrights and giving it away for free.

This was prompted by a short letter I got last night from Paizo, a gaming company I’ve bought from before and who has given me some very nice PDFs of their other games as free samples:

Dear Kevin,

Wizards of the Coast has notified us that we may no longer sell or distribute their PDF products. Accordingly, after April 6 at 11:59 PM Pacific time, Wizards of the Coast PDFs will no longer be available for purchase on; after noon on April 7, you will no longer be able to download Wizards of the Coast PDFs that you have already purchased, so please make sure you have downloaded all purchased PDFs by that time.

We thank you for your patronage of Please check out our other downloads at

Sincerely yours,
The Paizo Customer Service Team

This has prompted a great deal of talk on the Paizo and Wizards boards and elsewhere, with a press announcement from Wizards saying they were shocked shocked! to find that people were violating their copyrights on the internet, and they’re now suing people as far away as Poland and the Philipines — this particularly ironic since a number of years ago, they themselves violated the copyrights of a number of authors, myself included, with the publication of the Dragon Magazine compilation CD.  But the fact that my very first professional sale (if not publication credit), which was reprinted by Wizards without my permission, was then pirated around the globe without Wizards’ permission?  I suppose I could fall into a fit of apoplexy that my words my precious words! were no longer under my control.  But since I’ve been giving that article away for free on my website for years, the mental chain is more: sauce, gander, world’s tiniest violin.

This isn’t to say that I don’t think Wizards has the right to pull those works they do hold copyright to from publication, but giving customers who’ve already paid for the work less than twelve hours notice is rather bad form.  Moreover, I think it’s inane to cut off electronic reprints of out-of-print books, especially when there’s a demand for them and the fans will have to chose between pirate networks and the absurd prices of antiquarian booksellers.  And when I say absurd, I mean absurd: Last night I went on to to get a book I wanted, and while I was there, the engine (which had remembered my previous searches) told me I could get a copy of  Wild Cards Card Sharks, which has my first professional fiction publication, for only $1.37.  This seemed absurdly reasonable, and since I’d heard they were going for much more (and I only have two copies myself) I decided to snatch it up, only to find that the price had jumped to $53 once I clicked on the link and it was absurd the other way.

I’m not going to pay $53 for a paperback.  Moreover, I don’t expect any fan to.  And it’s not like I’d see any of that money from the antiquarians in any case.  I’d rather the fans download it from Polish pirates, then buy something current (such as, for example, Busted Flush or Witch Way to the Mall).

Which I suppose brings us full circle: There are free stories–regardless of how they got there–and if you like them, you can buy more stories.

Spoilers: or, The Joy of Reading and Viewing Without Preconceptions

March 4th, 2009

Some folk cannot abide spoilers–it ruins a book for them–while others read for process not goal and therefore do not mind spoilers.  Now, it makes no never mind to me whether a person hates spoilers, or doesn’t mind spoilers, or checks ahead to see who lives and who dies because the anticipation is killing them.  As I say, let a person be the reader they want to be.

As for me, I personally prefer to read or view for the first time without knowing what is going to happen;  I like to experience the plot “in real time” with all the surprises, setbacks, revelations and shocks that may entail.  I enjoy the experience of my own reactions, and if I really really like a book or film I will read/see it again, which provides yet another experience, the experience of watching the known story unfold and anticipating or recognizing the way the narrative builds and twists.

Others will approach the reading (viewing) experience differently, and that’s as it should be. Continue Reading »

How You Write and How You Read

January 30th, 2009

Elsewhere on the Internet there has been a huge dust-up which started with one reader commenting on the racism she experienced in a book, and, alas, turned into a mire of fingerpointing, raised phosphor-voices, and much hurt feelings on both sides.  Which is a shame, because the underlying discussion could have been a really useful and helpful one to the reading and writing community.

Some good things have come out of this, though: some very thoughtful, intelligent posts, many of them by bloggers whose words I would not otherwise have discovered. One of these was Mary Dell’s New Criticism vs. Post-Modernism, with a Side of Privilege. It got me thinking about the great reader/writer relationship.  Go read it: I’ll wait.

Back?  Good.  Okay, here’s the thing.

When I read, partly because I was trained this way, I can be very interested in the author’s world view, place in history, all the things that informed the writing of the book. I can be interested, or at least aware of, critical response (by critics, or just by friends who’ve discussed the same work).

When I write, I am somewhat aware of my own influences (largely because, when I’m working in an historical or fantasy milieu I’m trying to defeat some of those influences in pursuit of a sense of other.  And I try to be aware of my readers’ influences as well: I don’t use the historically accurate word “dude” in the Regency because, well, dude.  No one would believe it.

But when I’m reading (because I wasn’t raised as a post-modernist, I suppose) I am often completely unaware of my own influences, my privilege, my prejudices.  If I react negatively to a written work I tend to think it’s the work’s fault: usually because it was predictable or boring or ill written or didactic.  But now I’m wondering if I don’t put those labels on a book that might have offended me for some other reason: it was predictable because it was sexist.  It was ill-written because it was anti-semitic.  When some of these values are subtle, I might not see them at all.

So my new New Year’s Resolution (because it’s still January, I figure I can make New Year’s Resolutions) is to try to be a little more aware of what I hadn’t been seeing, and a little more aware of what I’m bringing to the table.  It’s only fair.