Back to: Tonight: Pandemonium Books, Cambridge Brewing Company | Forward to: Summer books

Normal service will be resumed eventually ...

In Boston, flying home overnight, jetlagged tomorrow. If you're wondering why I've been so quiet, the travel experience is not enhanced by succumbing to tonsilitis and a low-grade fever, then having a small shoggoth take up residence in one's nasal sinuses. (In fact, I'd have to say the experience sucks mightily, and I'm not looking forward to a long-haul overnight flight with the usual dessicated cabin air and economy-class seating. Must stock up on bottled water after I clear airport security ...)

I'll try to come up with something more pleasant to talk about when I'm home. Like, oh, the forthcoming Japanese edition of "Accelerando", or the covers of this summer's books, or the impending collapse of the US magazine and mass-market distribution chain.



Considering that you're mentioning a disaster for publishers that's pretty much equivalent to the Chicxulub incident, could you amplify that last item, please?


Hmm, that mirrors my own symptoms almost exactly: in my case, the sinus headache kicked off just a couple of hours ago. Didn't realise I'd spawned a bubbling creature of the deep in my sinus passages, however -- though that does explain a lot.

Actually, the notion that modern super-bugs like MRSA defend themselves against modern medical treatments by summoning Many-Angled ones to take up residence in my warm, mushy cells is quite terrifying..

Hopefully my own personal shoggoth will succumb to paracetamol.


Eep. "impending collapse of the US magazine..." ??

Do you mean that figuratively, or metaphorically? (If you meant that literally, then I'm suddenly very worried).

As for the shoggoth infestation: maybe you should get an Elder Sign tattooed on your chest. Or face. That would keep them out. (Wouldn't it?)


Totally off topic, but Charlie (or anyone else who cares to offer an opinion) I'm looking to get into Lovecraft. Where do you suggest I start?


Is it just Boston that infallibly gives you some unpleasant infection, or do long-haul flights in general work you over? Get well soon.

J. Reynolds -- I am not in a position of superior knowledge, but there have been danger signs since autumn. Examples:

  • Magazine distributors and publishers are feuding over a 7-cent per copy distribution charge -- this has kept a number of popular magazines out of, e.g., Wal-mart.

  • Borders -- the very large chain bookseller -- is suffering widely-reported financial difficulties and may not survive. In the US, Borders and Barnes & Noble have together a huge percentage of the retail book and magazine market, so the failure of one of them would be a blow in itself.

  • Publishers -- have recently been shedding staff, including the long-time editors of well-known authors.

  • Distributors -- would be very adversely affected by the loss of some 800 large bookstores. Publishers have also been trying pilot programs to sell direct, and with no return privilege, to the major book chains. This, of course, undercuts the distributors.

I suspect our host has fresher, more complete and accurate information to share, once he's recovered.


You know, now that you mention it I haven't bought a mass market paperback in years. Or a magazine off the shelf...


"Borders" are, of course, also a major book distributor in the UK. And "Waterstones" - now actually owned by someone else are known to be in some sort of difficulties.

So, how do you think this is going to affect the UK book market, everyone?


I think Charlie may be referring to this:

(Whipped off via John Scalzi's blog)

Although I could be wrong, or it's just a symptom.


Tom @4

If you've got abit of money to throw around - you could look into getting the Necronomicon. The special edition is lovely to own and contains some of the best tales by Lovecraft.

Via Amazon


"mass-market" has a particular meaning in the US publishing industry, including the expensive problem of returns.

One industry-wide average I've seen is for around 50% returns in mass-market distribution, and the publisher doesn't often get a physical book returned to sell somewhere else. (That claim was made in an article about ebooks.)

With that sort of overhead, you can bet publishers are looking for less wasteful distribution.

But I might be totally wrong about what Charlie means.


Eep. "impending collapse of the US magazine..." ??
Do you mean that figuratively, or metaphorically?
I don't think it's a figure of speech or an illustration. We're talking about real collapse. And not just in the US.

Anecdotal evidence here, but in Paris, I used to have 3 news & magazine outlets within walking distance of my flat. Two of them have closed completely. The last cleared half of its space to make room for tables, chairs, with snacks and sandwiches. I asked the owner, and he said that he was hoping this would work better, because he was making marginally more than minimum wage after all expenses with his magazines, shrink-wrapped DVDs and office staples he used to stock.

Right now, the only news outlets that still manage to turn a reasonable business are those chains in airports and train stations. Individuals are closing up shop left and right.


Impending collapse might be optimistic, unless the enthusiast press is simply ahead of the curve.


Tom @4

I think I started with this:

Song of Cthulhu: Tales of Spheres Beyond Sound

Then I went here:

At the Mountains of Madness: And Other Tales of Terror

I've been looking over my shoulder for things that are not there ever since.


Tom @4

Or if you don't mind reading online, most of his stories are available from Gutenberg Australia:

Collected Stories of H P Lovecraft

Good places to start might be (IMHO):

The Call of Cthulhu The Color Out of Space The Whisperer in Darkness The Shadow Over Innsmouth At the Mountains of Madness

If you're sampling at random then it's worth knowing that there's a big gap in quality between Lovecraft's best work and his worst.


Starting Lovecraft: I myself got the Joyce Carol Oates' edited Tales of H. P. Lovecraft, then later read the Library of America Tales. The second volume is a bit on the exhaustive side of things: value for money, as much as possible taken from Lovecraft's original notes but perhaps a bit too much as a starter. The Carol Oates one is much better for that.


Aaah, the sinus cold. Mine settled in nicely after a road trip involving a couple of nice high passes over the Rockies. Hope your recovery's speedier than mine, Charlie. Except I'm back at the grindstone, since the hoarded cache of 'sick time' is greatly reduced already. Perhaps my shoggothim will be better at tech support than I am, at the moment....


Most magazines have got more expensive and are not worth reading, the computer press is so full of Microsoft zealots (windows 7 will be brilliant,vista will be be brilliant) that they have no credibility left.

The last magazine i bought was byte, some publisher bought it and closed it down. The problem is not at my end.


I used to work in publishing here in the US. One reason I left is that advertising, admittedly always an influence on editorial, took over and was driving the magazines. This has resulted in the current state of the industry: either you essentially just parrot what your advertisers want you to say in order to ensure they keep sending you money, or you might as well close up shop.

Editorial integrity is now a thing of the past in the print industry.

And who wants to read a rag that's nothing but advertising?


Tom @4: If you are still reading for recommendations, his later work tends to be better, though he was less prolific in that time period. Mountains of Madness, The Haunter of the Dark and Dreams in the Witch House stand out in my memory, as do all of the ones mentioned by Sam in 14. Also, if you have the opportunity, living on the east side of Providence for a while gives you some added appreciation for the work. There are still places there that have a distinct atmosphere lingering. (Plus there are some nearby towns, which shall remain nameless, whose inhabitants seem to have their own variation of the "Innsmouth Look.")


I wouldn't call that pro-nuclear, exactly; but he's adjusting his priorities, which is interesting, and I can't fault his list of criteria he'd want to see applied before an expansion of nuclear power. (I have a lot more time for Monbiot than for most of the ideological greens, because he's pragmatic enough to evaluate new information and adjust his beliefs accordingly.)


Re 20/21: I grew up torn between the Disney book about atomic power as a smiling purple genie, and being sent to the principal's office for refusing to "duck and cover" -- to get under my desk in bomb drills. I pointed out that we were near the Brooklyn end of the Brooklyn Bridge, less than a mile away from Wall Street and ground zero, and would not last a microsecond longer if under our desks. Studying Nuclear Physics at Caltech, I was PRO good reactors, ANTI bad reactors (and idiots as at Chernobyl). And annoyed by kneejerk opposition to the very word "nuclear" -- as in NMR being renamed in medical use to avoid the word as scary to ignorant patients.

I spent some time trying to get teamwork between Deep Green and Space Activist groups, given significant number of items in common between agendas. Less pollution on earth? Do it in space. Less fissionables on Earth? Build nuclear-powered spaceship for far beyond Earth orbit. Study rainforests, deserts, oceans from satellites and manned observations. Etcetera. But the two groups were instinctively uncongenial, suspicious of each other's metaphysics and psychology.

I've taught Ecology (Experimental College, University of Massachusetts, 1975 on or 1976), taught Physics, and find that teenagers are more amenable to open to discussion on the topic of clean nuclear power, and have not had time for their prejudices to have encrusted into rigidity.


Charlie, did you see this? Air Force to Unleash 'Gorgon Stare' on Squirting Insurgents

I think the DoD has been taking tips from the Laundryverse. On naming, if nothing else.

The headline alone reads like its was generated by a Markov chain fed on Stross short stories and a spam corpus.


Canis: Yes, I saw that. I suspect their codename generator came up trumps there ...



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on February 17, 2009 4:16 PM.

Tonight: Pandemonium Books, Cambridge Brewing Company was the previous entry in this blog.

Summer books is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Search this blog