Nov 13

Moving Away From the Computer

There's going to be a resistance movement against computers. I sense it. Anti-computer articles will appear. Computerization will be weighed and described as a phenomenon instead of a fact, and its many failings enumerated. People will become suspicious of the instantaneous, and suspicious of images and thoughts and opinions instantly formulated or memed, in the way people now are suspicious of fast food; and they will again weigh their language, and the words in books, and the many forms of human commmunication and experience lived before or outside of the Internet.

It will be understood that not everyone has a computer or Internet access, and those who have never had them will be considered true and unspoiled humanity, like Samoans as portrayed by Margaret Mead. While the computer is a handy tool, we will say it is not the necessity that business and educational institutions believe it is, and business need not be done at the speed of light. The computer will be depopularized and its use subsumed back into the sciences. Emailing will be tacky, Internet information doubtful, and we will be horrified by the commodification of the self and others via the fad we called social media. For the moments when instant communication seems necessary, a premium form of it, classy and acceptable, will be devised for those who read the NYT and listen to NPR.

The effects of the computer, cellphone, and advertising on human health and development will be studied and decried: stress, brain tumors, back problems, low-level radiation. The Internet's peculiar insanities -- spam, phishing, spyware, carpal tunnel syndrome, NaNoWriMo, GoogleMaps photos of every street and dwelling on the planet, addiction to games and Internet porn -- and frustrations (dammit! Why can't I make that spreadsheet work?!) will be called insanities. Specialized therapy will help wean users from the Internet. Private schools will teach restraint, courtesy, and the art of conversation. Privacy will be reclaimed as a value and personal meetings and appearances rationed and romanticized. Giving a third-grader an iPad will be a crime, because it will stunt him socially and intellectually and perhaps turn him criminal; expect to see established a legal age for possession and ownership. Children will be tracked and tied to their guardians by means other than handsets, which only the lowest sectors of society will prize.

The writer's part in all this? Just keep doing what you're doing. Your reward will arrive.
Oct 29

Random House and Penguin Merge

The other news from NYC today, besides Hurricane Sandy, is that Random House and Penguin, two of the "Big Six" publishers, are merging, and the NYT article adds that the remaining Big Four are considering mergers, too.

I predict that within a few years the two publishers remaining will issue and aggressively market 6 to 12 books per season. These and any other books they issue, whether electronic or paper, will contain ads or product placements and will be bundled with a related video game. This will allow the prices to be doubled. Ebooks and video games will collect the reader's personal information, and his or her reading and game habits. To read a book you will have to sign a privacy-policy agreement. Reader and gamer information then goes into artificial intelligence which will generate new books and games based on buyer preferences. Ultimately a novel will be a video game only, and the buyer will have the option of inserting himself as a character. People will dress and act like their favorite characters and many of them, given a fiction-writing template, will ultimately write spinoff books giving themselves further adventures.

Until the day that books are written entirely by computers, most writers will work really hard to copy this year's bestseller or prizewinner formula. Ultimately they self-publish, or publish with tiny independent presses, and rather than sell the book they mostly trade books with their self-published friends. These books become a form of business card or greeting card and almost nobody reads them, especially the fiction. Your true friends will be those who have read your book. Writers who still think stranger-readers are important will pay professionals or famous people to read and mention their books.

Then, regardless of quality, education, sales figures or status, everyone will become his own favorite writer, reading his own stuff wherever he goes, and writing more. I think everyone already is his or her own favorite writer. I hear lots of moaning about the death of the industry and the writing profession and quality going down the tubes, mostly from people who want to be other people's favorite writer. The time for that is just about up.
Jun 27

Publish-on-Demand Wins a Round

File this under Publishing's a Business: A publisher with a new and favorable book about Barack Obama is offering it first through Publish-On-Demand (P.O.D.), exclusively through This is because it can -- and it wants the book available to readers before next week's Democratic convention. Now, so far, that's just good business -- for the publisher, for the readers, and for Amazon. Barnes & Noble, among other bookstores, is P.O.'d because brick-and-mortar stores wouldn't get Obama's Challenge for another two weeks, when it's yesterday's news and sales will be limp. So it'll be selling the book online, but not in stores. Read the story with all its juicy numbers and quotes in The Wall Street Journal.

The B&N spokeswoman says that by pre-releasing the book through Amazon, the publisher did not allow "an even playing field -- which is common practice in book publishing." (Authors, if that statement leaves you speechless, place here an emoticon of your choice.)

But unless the publisher made a contractual agreement regarding the book's availability, it's just business.
Jan 22

How I Asked for the Going Rate

I was surfing on the web one day-- in the merry merry month of June-- and came across this website, based in the UK:

Here one can download, for a 30-day trial, a subliminal messages software program. It flashes messages on the computer screen for two milliseconds -- and these messages are positive, and you can select from pre-loaded messages, or create your own.

Subliminal messages, although you can't really read them, are supposed to be a painless way to imprint the mind, to change thought patterns and behavior. I said, I will try it.

The pre-loaded categories include losing weight, quitting smoking, winning athletic contests, making friends, and so on. I loaded the messages for Self-Esteem, Prosperity, and Success, and also made up my own category, Writing. Each of these categories is stocked with affirmations, which are nothing but wishes put into words. Some affirmations I put in my Writing category are "People tell me my writing is wonderful," "I am well paid for what I write," "I write poems easily and abundantly." Then I started the program. This was five days ago. Honestly, I think it's working.

For example, I was asked to quote a price on an editing job. I asked for the amount I wanted, the going rate: $75 an hour. Normally I lowball it, because it seems like a great deal of money to me, I certainly couldn't afford it, and because one person acted shocked when I had the nerve to ask for that much on a previous occasion. Where did I learn that writers and money don't mix? And what's more, why did I believe that?

I haven't heard the answer yet, but I have this odd sensation of "I'm going to stand firm on this." It's a good sensation!

I do notice when the affirmations flash on the screen -- but can't read them, except very occasionally and from my peripheral vision.

If you stare at your computer screen a lot, and think you could benefit, try it free for 30 days. I have noticed no harmful effects. And if I don't get the editing job -- I can use that time for my own writing. Win-win!