On Wednesday, CBC had a little contest on Twitter that I took part in. The “Tweets from 2112″ contest asked for headlines from the future, and seemed like too much fun to resist. So, I didn’t.
On my way into work (relax – I commute on transit) I rattled off a few. When I peaked at the #canadawrites hashtag just before entering the office, it was slim pickings. So of course, I added some more on my lunch break. By then, my fellow creative Canucks had weighed in with their precise prognostications and brief imaginings.
For posterity, here are my contributions:
Ottawa’s first Biotect living building develops acid reflux, no survivors. #canadawrites
Prime Minister elect refuses blood test, opposition fuels speculation she is derived from Pierre Elliott Trudeau DNA sample. #CanadaWrites
AI owned and managed iSent Cloud computing bans human customers for 72 hours, states cat pictures and porn hogging bandwidth. #CanadaWrites
Alberta Tractor-only lanes blocked province wide as GMO wheat gains sentience, fights back. #CanadaWrites
Kitsilano’s last hippie dead at 76. Coroner confirms death a result of complications brought on by zero gravity yoga. #CanadaWrites
Richmond BC to remain submerged after latest tsunami, Feds withhold re-floatation funds. #CanadaWrites
Good enough to win? Who knows, that’s up to the judges. I got a much needed kick in the creative pants which is what I was after.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
For starters, the tl;dr review will not make sense if you haven’t read the Wool Omnibus and/or First Shift, which you really need to do.
I’m not feeling this one, and that’s OK. It’s on me – I’m very much a sci-fi guy, and this isn’t that kind of book. I’d be happier than stink in a barnyard if Mr Howey did nothing but expand the literary world he built in the Wool stories.
Thing is, that’s not fair to him as an author. He’s allowed to write different stories, with varying themes and different characters.
The book is well written, and Howey does a good job making his characters both credible and compelling, but the coming of age + family drama stuff just didn’t grab me. If it’s your thing, this is a well paced story with credible and compelling characters, and odds are good you will enjoy it despite the lack of silos.
So, after three years of creative hiatus (sorta), I’m going to throw in with the other literary lemmings and do NaNoWriMo.
I did NaNoWriMo in 2009. I had written around a dozen short stories, some of which were not horrible, and even got one published. I decided I needed a reason to push myself to novel length, and NaNo fit the bill. My reasoning was that the 3,000 – 5,000 words required for a decent short story would feel effortless after squeezing out 50,000 words in a month.
Well, that sort of worked. I hit 30,000 words when family stuff happened. Bottom line? I’d have been a selfish bastard to keep typing while this shit needed to be dealt with. Unfortunately, more shit happened in rapid succession. Frankly, some years being a grown- up just plain sucks, and I didn’t write much more than lame salutations in greeting cards.
Anyhow, I was talking with sj (she of the booksnobbery wit and wisdom), about her anxiety re: NaNoWriMo, and I got excited again. See, I was born a daydreamer, and I really, really like playing the ‘What if…’ game. What I learned in 2009 was that those creative moments flourished with a little organization, preparation, and discipline.
So, that’s why I’ve signed up again this year – a much needed kick in the ass. Remember waaaay back in the first sentence how said it was sort of a hiatus? Well, I may not have written any stories, but I have 3 years of notes, suggestions, clipped articles that I’m sifting through. I’ve starting roughing out an idea or three & it looks like story will involve 21st Century Nomads, mega cities, and the idea that the simultaneous trumps the sequential, making living in the moment literally the most important skill to have. Or it might be a full on ninja-monkeys in space kinda deal, ’cause sometimes that kinda thing happens.
This post is not about eBook vs paper. If you want to have that argument, go somewhere else. Quickly, because I’m tired of it and this is my house, so my rules.
What I will reference is the hue and cry about Amazon and iBooks monopolizing content and blah, blah, fucking blah…
Listen up – There have always been Goliaths and there have always been Davids. We’re going to look at some resources on the David side of things. This isn’t about pointing fingers, it’s about taking responsibility for your digital media, and the economies they support ( you HAVE to. Really. If you don’t the 21st Century will run you over and stamp someone’s logo on your forehead). If you let the corporations make all the decisions for you, the advantage always goes to the house.
It starts by getting past the easy options. Those options being, in this case, Amazon and iBooks. Same goes for Chapters Indigo (Kobo reader) and Barnes & Noble (Nook). In device purchases are optimized for the vendor ecosystem, but with a little software and time investment this can easily be augmented.
Inkmesh Is one of my favourite jumping off points. It pulls together info from multiple sites for a title or author. Just click to do some comparison shopping for best price and preferred format. Yes it often leads back to Amazon, but along the way, you do get other options.
feedbooks The site is browsable by genre, author, price and language has some of everything – public domain, top sellers, new releases, and so on. Pro tip: Damn near everything Cory Doctorow has ever scribbled is available here, a good chunk of it for free
Angry Robot Books More than handful of the word-nerds I know hold Angry Robot in high regard. It’s not just a storefront for anyone and everyone who manages to format their test docs into an eBook, but a publishing house. The books are available through the usual outlets or their very own Robot Trading Company. I am fond of the fact they make excerpts available for their books available in ePub and .mobi formats. In the real life book stores of the world, I like to flip a book open and read a page or two to test the waters. I can load up on samples and do my ‘browsing’ on a park bench.
Project Gutenberg Got a passion for the Classics? This is the place to scoop ‘em up. Huge number of Public Domain books here. Looking for Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks? They’re here. Hankering for turn of the century periodicals digitized. Yeah, they’re here. It’s not your typical online eBook source. Interesting fact: I’ve been hitting this site regularly for a couple of years, and the top downloads list has ALWAYS had The Kama Sutra and Sherlock Holmes in the top 10, proving that somebody, somewhere, is always wanting to solve one mystery or another.
So, now you want to know how you get all these damned independently sourced books on your eReader? Yeah, I got that covered, too.
Calibre to manage your collection and e-reader. Take a deep breath…now let it go. This will require some learning, but it’s not as complicated as it looks. There are demos and tutorials to ease the pain. With Calibre you can convert between formats (handy if the book you want is only available in ePub and you need .mobi) And as an added bonus, the good folks at Calibre have curated a list of DRM-free ebooks.
The marketplace for eBooks is the ultimate niche market, and this list is nowhere near everything available. Where possible, I’d encourage you to seek out author websites. Rudy Rucker is a good example. He has links to his books from all vendors as well as his own publishing enterprise, Transreal Press. Click through to the individual book pages, and you get some extras, like illustrated notes from the writing of the book, podcasted excerpts by the author, etc. (full disclosure: I’m a huge Rucker fan and this is blatant promotion on my part. I don’t want to be the only old fart in the retirement home rambling on about nanobots, & flicker cladding, so go read his stuff).
There are far more options out there . I could have spent days writing up this list list. What I’ve included are the sites that I felt provided the best results for the amount of time invested. Your mileage may vary, and I’d be disappointed if it didn’t.
Kind of a sneaky way to make reference to one of the best Peter Sellers films of all time, but also a suitable sub-title for this video that explains what all the hubbub is about. I still don’t completely understand it, but I’m definitely confused at a higher level than I was before: