Tuesday, September 30, 2008

This blog, Now on Myspace, too

After much fuss and feathers, this blog is now available on my MySpace page. Kudos to SpringWidgets for making it reasonable to do. Razzies to MySpace for making it so hard to do in the first place.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Copyrights, and in case y'all were wondering.

The James R. Strickland aka Ryan Strickland listed in this article as being sued by Activision for allegedly copying and distributing Call of Duty 3 is not me. To my knowledge, he's not related to me. I don't know who he is, but his chestnuts are clearly roasting.

As someone who makes a living from the copyright system, I'm kind of mixed on this kind of story. In this case, assuming they can prove both copying and distribution, I think they are acting reasonably to protect the intellectual property they've created at (undoubtedly) great expense. And on the other hand, it annoys me deeply that almost all of our culture today is copyrighted and owned by some enormous corporation that really doesn't care about the cultural value. People have asked - and indeed complained - about the number of Shakespeare quotes in Looking Glass. I'm going to come clean here and say that many of those were originally quotes from movies and TV shows, and I changed them to 400 year old quotes for safety's sake. It gets worse when you try to write a novel that involves music written in the last century, and the prices the RIAA charges to use lyrics (after vetting your presentation - naturally you're supposed to trust THEM with copyrighted, unpublished work) are exorbitant. The only saving grace is that you can't copyright titles, so I can at least name the songs.

Eternal copyright, which we are fast approaching courtesy of Disney et al, means that cultural artifacts *never* belong to the culture they were created for, in, and ultimately from. The culture is never enriched as a culture by the ability of subsequent creatives to build on the work of their forebears. Ultimately, eternal copyright dooms a creative work to irrelevance. What happens is that eventually, nobody can remember who exactly owns a given copyright, so the work then *cannot* be used until the copyright times out. People then either take the risk and violate the copyright (there's nothing like a successful derivative work to bring the true copyright owner(s) out of the woodwork to sue) or, more likely, the culture shrugs and moves on, and whatever gem was created is ultimately lost to the world, its contributions, its inspirations, its ability to affect people and give the creator's thoughts to a new generation of people are ultimately wasted in the name of filthy lucre.

And yet, I would like to be paid for my work. Preferably for as long as possible. Worse, I would like to have some say whether my work is made into snuff porn or not. (er no. Please.) Your work - and how it's used - reflects on you, whether you like it or not, whether it should or not, whether you had any say in how it was used or not. So I understand the impulse to keep the work controlled forever. Even worse: contrary to Doctorow, I'd rather not make my living by speaking engagements and such. Not everyone is equipped to create and maintain a cult of personality. (Not to say that his fiction isn't good - it very much is - and more power to him for his successful marketing strategy.)

Somewhere, there's a balance to be struck between these two points. Somewhere, the needs of the content creators to eat and the need for the society to be enriched by the content created within it need to be balanced. The Berne Convention, unfortunately, pretty much hamstrings the ability of signatory states to set reasonable copyright time limits - they require 50 years after the death of the author - but real progress can be made in abandoned copyrights, if we implement a system by which copyrights (or the ability to collect statutory damages for them, at least, as was the law in 1988 when the U.S. joined the convention) must be maintained. If someone, at minimum, had to go to a website or similar mechanism every 10 years and assert that they own the copyright, works where the copyright holders are unknown, at least, could fall into the public domain. This would be a start. It would be something.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Another nice review, What's in a Name, Redux, and The Future(tm)

First, the reviews keep coming in on Irreconcilable Differences. Picked up this nice one this morning from another old friend who dug the book. Again, much appreciated. :)

Also, the previous topic, Cyberpunk and Post-Cyberpunk - What's in a Name?" has generated some discussion, both in the contents and in other sources not easily visible from this webpage. I've gotten some great suggestions for genre names: cyberthriller, inforage, or just plain Hard SF. Now, my editor at Flying Pen Press is convinced that if you don't have a PHD, you're hard pressed to classify your sci fi as hard sci fi. I disagree, but... he IS my editor, so I try not to fly in the face of his advice too often. Cyberthriller and inforage certainly are evocative genre titles, with the former being somewhat more descriptive than the latter. As it stands, I've begun some mumbling acceptance of post-cyberpunk, too.

I'm still wrestling with this question on the side, because after I get the current space-opera-y noir-ish novel done, I've got more cyberpunkishness planned, possibly in a different cyberpunkish world. I don't know yet, and I probably won't know until the top of December is done, and the November NaNoWriMo madness fades and I can actually look at what comes out. I missed doing NaNo last year, and I've got material lined up in my head (and my notes) for this year. I'm also looking forward to meeting the Denver NaNo crowd. :)



Monday, September 15, 2008


Two great reviews for Irreconcilable Differences!

In chronological order, first, Jeff Duntemann summarized his review with "In short, highly recommended.". Much appreciated. I'm a fan of Jeff's work as well, as you may see from my review of his Souls in Silicon. I honestly thought I'd mentioned that review before now in this weblog.

Most recently, Michael S. Sargent called Irreconcilable Differences A First-Rate Story & A Glimpse Into The Future Of A Genre Yow. High praise indeed. :) Mike's an old and dear friend, and the review is much appreciated. :)


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Video Interview from Pacific Fen Spotlight

Pacific Fen Spotlight did a neat little interview with me as well as one with David Boop, one of my fellow Flying Pen Press authors at WorldCon. They videotaped it, and the edited version just hit youtube. Without further ado, here's me, on my fifth day of WorldCon, only partially caffeinated, being interviewed for the first two minutes and twenty-four seconds of this video, and David Boop right after me.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Cyberpunk and Post Cyberpunk - What's in a Name?

I've always had some ambivalence about catagoriizing my work. I call Looking Glass and Irreconcilable Differences cyberpunk for my own convenience more than anything else. It saves me explaining to absolutely everyone what kind of books I have written so far. In fairness, however, I've had to explain to more people than not what cyberpunk IS. Lo, how the mighty have been subsumed in popular culture. :) I usually wind up saying something like, "You know The Matrix? That's cyberpunk. Which The Matrix is, though it's vaguely turned inside out - the focus being on the fabric of the virtual life emulating the real world in the current era - rather than on the fabric of the technological future.

But on reflection, particularly after reading this article, it probably would be much more accurate to describe my work as post-cyberpunk. Certainly the "punk" aspect is largely missing from my work. Punks, as they existed in the mid 1970s, and as they inspired Gibson et al, were - to grossly oversimplify - a bunch of alienated, black leather clad kids trying to find their way in a society that largely didn't give a crap about them, and which they considered corrupt and unsalvageable. Without them, post-cyberpunk probably is closest to the mark. But it's not a label I'm fond of, frankly. Not many people know what it is, the post-(fill in major category here) construction looks really, really stupid when the next big thing rolls along.

For example, post-modernism is a bastard construction on top of a poor choice of names in the first place. "Modernism" was a movement rejecting the traditions and embracing the change and modernizations occurring in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It fell out of fashion after world war 2, and what came after was post-modernism. All well and good, except that the word "modern" is intrinsically linked to the present. So post-modernism was the rejection of the whole idea, as I understand it, having skimmed the wikipedia articles on modernism and postmodernism, that progress is intrinsically good. The problem is, the literal construction of the term means "whatever happens after what's happening today. Modernism and post-modernism are interesting cultural movements, but for pete's sake, they needed better names.

Likewise post-cyberpunk. Yes. As a cultural movement in science fiction, it's undeniable that the alienated criminals of classic cyberpunk usually wind up on a slab early in the story, and the protagonists are frequently the ones forced to put them there. Yes, post-cyberpunk protagonists usually are part of their societies, and their societies are far less bleak and diseased than their classic cyberpunk counterparts. Yes, in fact, what I write would best be called post-cyberpunk. But calling it "whatever comes after cyberpunk" still seems dumb to me.

So what to call it?

A friend of mine, Jeff Duntemann jokingly called it "cyberbilly". I kind of like that. It describes what I do. (see my previous rant about cyberpunk in wide open spaces and big square states). Richard K. Morgan calls his work, which is in a somewhat similar vein, generally, "future noir." I like that too, although Morgan's work tends to be a lot darker and, well, more noir-ish than mine does. Chris Moriarty writes a very interesting essay on what cyberpunk is, and from that perspective, my published output thus far certainly fits. I don't know. Cyberlife? Ugh. If Apple, Inc doesn't own that term as a trademark, they undoubtedly soon will.

For now, for the sake of marketing, I guess I'll stick with cyberpunk. You know and I know that it's not, quite, but it's convenient.

Anyway, the next book I'm working on is space opera.
Except that it's not quite.
Oh bother.


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