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A press release, or something similar

I'm very pleased to announce that my agent, Caitlin Blasdell of Liza Dawson Associates, has negotiated a new deal with Ace, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), for three books to be published in North America in 2012—2014. (This follows next year's forthcoming title, "Rule 34", which is due out in July.)

2012's novel will be "The Apocalypse Codex", Laundry Files #4.

2013's novel will be (working title): "Neptune's Brood", a space opera.

2014's novel will be (working title): "The Lambda Functionary", a near future thriller.

("Working title" means that, while that's what it says on the contract, the books may be retitled prior to publication.)

I hope to be able to announce the UK publication schedule soon. (My former editor at Orbit UK, Darren Nash, left for pastures new this autumn; his replacement, editorial director Anne Clarke, starts work there next January. Obviously this hand-over delays things, but I expect the books to be published simulaneously in the UK and Commonwealth territories.)

Some more details, before you bombard me with questions:

In "The Apocalypse Codex", Bob has been promoted to junior management and sent to ride herd on a couple of contractors. "I feel like an eight year old who's been handed a laser pointer and a jar of catnip and told to amuse the kitties in the Siberian Tiger enclosure at the zoo," he complains. But then he discovers a big game hunter is stalking his kitties ...

"Neptune's Brood" is set in the universe of "Saturn's Children", about 5000 years later on. It's going to be a — I make no apologies — mundane SF space opera. And Freya does not appear in it. I haven't perpetrated space opera in something close to five years; this is my excuse to scratch the itch and indulge in a guilty pleasure again. As we seem to be living through the golden age of exoplanetography, I expect any detailed plans I draw up between now and 2012 to change before I start writing ...

"The Lambda Functionary" is the third book in the thematic trilogy of near-future novels that start with "Halting State" and "Rule 34". And that's all I'm going to tell you about it just now, in case something makes it obsolete before I start writing (as transpired with "Rule 34" — Bernie Madoff stole my original caper plot). NB: "Halting State" examined games, reality, and augmented reality. "Rule 34" is about crime and business models. The plan for "The Lambda Functionary" is to take a look at the future of politics and diplomacy. And if you wonder why I've been thinking about utopias recently, this is the answer.

92 Comments

1:

Which "Lambda" though?
Simply the 11th letter in Greek?
Probably not.
Then there is BIG Lambda - the cosmological constant
Or the radioactive decay constant for any particular isotope [ as in At = A0 * e^(-λt) ]
or .....

2:

Contractors? Working for the Laundry? Riiight ... presumably this is the product of some demented "must-use-the-private-sector" government scheme? or maybe some hell somewhere has decided that since computational demonology is getting widespread, they might as well go corporate. No doubt it will be more twisted than that.

4:

also this. (It's got more than one significant meaning.)

5:

Nice to see a road map of what's coming, especially so because it includes another Laundry novel!

2010 was the year when I caught up on all your back catalogue, so the only thing to dislike about this list is the fact that there's only one book per year planned out. I may have to (gasp!) try some new authors to keep me busy.

6:

Colin, this isn't an exhaustive list. Next year, in addition to "Rule 34" in summer, there's a NESFA Press limited edition of my (much older) novel "Scratch Monkey". And in 2012, in addition to "The Apocalypse Codex", Tor will be publishing "The Rapture of the Nerds", my collaboration with Cory Doctorow.

7:

What, no Freya? I guess 5000 years later she is still only like halfway to her destination. 8-)

8:

Lambda Functionary? You going Ludlum, then? :)

9:

promoted to junior management

I think the word promoted needs quoting with "scare quotes" :-) Moving into management isn't a promotion for a techie!

10:

I welcome these dealings with great and satisfying relish.

11:

Ah, good. I could use some good space opera right about now.

So much of what is out there anymore is pure crap.

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
On the Outer Marches

12:

"The Lambda Functionary".

Ah, the story of Dr G. Freeman.

13:

Congratulations,

The books look really interesting. I'm looking forward to your return to far future SF. I'm sure you will keep your universe relatively hard and far future SF catches my interest.

That said your 3rd installment of the near future SF sounds really interesting as well!

14:

Awesome! I lovedddd Saturn's Children. Let's hope the publisher pulls their hands out of their pants and gives it the cover it deserves. Stross lost (tens of) thousands of sales from the pornographic cover art of Saturn's Children.

15:

Meh. Every secret organization has a little coterie of private contractors, thought I'd bet the Laundry's is weirder than most.

But what about the $64,000 question? Will Bob and Mo get back together?

16:

"the story of Dr G. Freeman."

Hmm, could you even write a book with a completely mute protagonist..? Never mind one that jumps up and down on your desk and crowbars your pc monitor when you're tryimg to give him a slab of exposition :)

DirtyWiz: The UK got a somewhat less 'Heavy Metal magazine' cover for SC, look it up and be jealous ;)

17:

Anatoly: for a last glimpse of Freya, see my novelette "Bit Rot" in the anthology Engineering Infinity, which officially comes out on the 28th of this month.

18:

The space opera I'm planning may not be exactly what you're expecting. The mundane SF thing doesn't just mean no faster than light travel -- it means no magic space drives, no readily portable fusion reactors with 99.999% thermal efficiency, no aneutronic He3 fusion, and no interstellar invasion fleets (it's a universe where about the fastest speed anyone gets to travel is 3000km/sec, with great difficulty and expense). Oh, and the human species is long-since extinct :)

19:

Spoilers for The Fuller Memorandum!

Back together? They're still together at the end of the last book- Bob just has PTSD. Other than the scare line at the opening of the book there's no indication that they're going to break up, and I don't see how he could be working back at the Laundry if he's still freaking out in the hospital-thing.

20:

Also, "Overtime" seems to be set just after TFM, and they're just fine then.

21:

>promoted to junior management

layoffs at the Laundry? say it isn't so... I thought the attrition rate from dealing with "ravenous critters from other dimensions" would be high enough to require a constant supply of new hires.

22:

Pornographic? You must not get out much. Or maybe in. One of those prepositions. A low-cut top displaying about 20% of each imaginary breast might have lost Charlie sales to Tipper Gore and a few fundamentalist Christians and Dworkinites, (but gained many more sales to the core SF demographic) but it's less skin than in much classic and not-so-classic art. And we're talking about a Heinlein (specifically _Friday_) homage with a protagonist who was designed as a sexbot. What did you think she would look like?

The UK cover art of a spaceship floating in front of a beige gas giant may be a bit less effective marketing, for all it is in "better taste". (Though the novel didn't really have much at all to do with Saturn the planet, Goya's vision of Saturn and his children, though truer to the meaning of the title, might not have sold as many books.)

23:

Personally I've found that some of my favourite sci-fi books of the last few years have been ones where there's no FTL travel, such as Alastair Reynold's Revelation Space series. An older example that I read in the last few years was Poul Anderson's Tau Zero.

My experience is that too often an FTL drive is a bit of a cop-out and results in a decidedly formulaic book, while where the speed of light is treated as a constraint the end result is very often more imaginative.

24:

Hooray for Neptune's Brood!

Saturn's Children was one of the inspirations for my novel, Heirs of Mars.

Can't wait for more mechanized intrigue. Thanks, Charlie.

25:

λ-functionary ....
Utopias.
Remember (though Charlie knows this already) that there is a gauranteed way to make sure you have a dystopia - and that is to have a "holy book" or "one true way" - and then try to enforce it on humanity ....

26:

I have to agree that anyone shocked by the US cover of Saturn's Children should not have been reading the book. It was really naughty and perverse.

Charlie, your plans make me very happy. More space opera, Laundry and (hopefully) Spartan diplomats. I couldn't have asked for better.

27:

Cough/splutter -- you think Saturn's Children was naughty and perverse?!?

Oh dearie me. I think you may have problems with "Rule 34". (Which is, admittedly, a near-future crime novel.)

28:

Congratulations! That's excellent news.

And if you wonder why I've been thinking about utopias recently, this is the answer.

Aha!

29:

Engineering Infinity is already ordered :-)

30:

I like naughty and perverse but I understand that others want it in plain covers because of their shame.

31:

Japanese bookshops always provide a plain (apart from the shop's name and logo, of course), brown cover for the books they sell. Perhaps it's a idea in need of copying.

32:

All the better.

I don't need a warp drive or a replicator. Just something crunchy with some space travel in it.

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
On the Outer Marches

33:

I'm curious, do you think torrents have much impact on your livelihood? Is there anything you are doing or can do to combat them?

34:

Good to know that the books you've been teasing us about are now officially in the pipeline, with income promised to you.

That description of "The Apocalypse Codex" reminds me of some companies I've worked at, where contractors were hired in order to have someone to blame when the project failed. Of course having your contract terminated is a lot less painful than having your brain eaten by a Class 3 manifestation. And I think I've met some of them at places I've worked.

35:

Nice to see there will be something more in SC's universe.

You know, I had my bright, reasonably curious 58 year old ,white, with mid-west sensibilities, American mother, read _Saturn's Children_.

She was happy to get through the difficult technical bits to get back to Freya's plight. The mild tawdriness was a selling point -- and then some.

I wonder if you've a demographic there you've not fully imagined.

36:

Congratulations on the three book deals!

I'm going to have to pick up your non-Laundry novels to get my Stross-ian fix between now and 2012, and for an indeterminate time after that.

I wonder what Cubicle 7 will do once The Apocalypse Codex is published.

37:

I wasn't shocked and I doubt that's what DWH meant by lost sales. However, I simply didn't want to walk around with that cover in the coffee shops. It didn't offend, it annoyed. I deal enough with the "guys who like SF are juvenile" crap. I don't need a book cover to add to that. So I bought it electronically. But I'd bet that, yes, there were some sales lost due to people like me who didn't want to wander around with that cover and don't have an ereader.

38:

What demographic? The same boomers who grew up on Heinlein juveniles and made him a bestseller in the 1960s through 1980s? ;-)

39:

RickG: this should be a FAQ: Why did you pick such an awful cover for your new book?"

For what it's worth, the US "Saturn's Children" cover was conceived (by the art director) as an homage to the paperback cover of Heinlein's "Friday" (to which book SC is itself something of an homage). It may well have lost some sales to the easily embarrassed. It may well have picked up some sales to the 14-year-old male demographic (although the easy availability of internet porn has probably dented that sales mechanism). Overall it's an imponderable; I wish publishers would do A/B testing on cover designs, but the only book I'm aware of where they ever did something like that was "Skyfall" by Harry Harrison in 1976 (which was sold with an SF cover and a Technothriller cover).

40:

That's a loaded question.

But to answer it: (a) I don't believe unauthorized copying is seriously impacting my income at this time, and (b) the best way to deal with it is to make it more convenient for readers to buy cheap, high quality ebooks than to go hunting around bittorrent and filtering out the crap.

This seems to be working for those bits of the music industry that don't have their head so far up their ass they can see daylight past their tonsils, and it should (touch wood) work for publishing.

41:

Lambda as in lambda calculus? That makes it a seriously geeky title. What next? "The Bob Howard Isomorphism" or maybe "Functors and Unnatural transformations"

42:

Saturns Children, Neptunes Brood - what happened to Uranus? (Serious question, not to be confused with a juvenile pun - or was that the reason?)

Looking forward to all of them, although I have to admit I have to catch up on whats happening with the space lobsters since Accelerando.

43:

"... authors have little to no control over what goes on the cover of their books, because book covers are marketing tools."

"I wish publishers would do A/B testing on cover designs ..."

Authors and publishers want to deliver a quality product, but they also want to make a buck. That's totally legitimate, and if they lean toward the making a buck end of the scale, well, everyone's got to eat.

Book buyers are only interested in authors and publishers making a buck in as far as we've sympathy for our fellow human beings' need to eat, and in as far as it allows continued delivery of quality product. As the desire to shift units reduces product quality, the discerning buyer rapidly loses sympathy for the publisher and author.

A book cover may be a marketing tool, but it is part of the product, and a bad cover devalues the product. We don't seem to be living through a golden age of SF cover (and more generally book) design.

(In general, I resent being stuck with the marketing material as part of the product: "wrong" titles (e.g. "Rogue Moon"); pages of carefully chosen text from reviews in the front; puffs from the author's friends/colleagues; extracts from other works by the author in the back; in the old days, order forms in the back. Am I alone in this? If I buy a fridge, it doesn't come with a review scratched into the paintwork of the door. Surely, by the middle of next week, we should be able to swipe our smartphones across a book's barcode & get all the marketing guff we "need".)

Perhaps book buyers should be encouraged to refrain from buying hideous new books ("well, after all, it's just about the words, isn't it?"), and whenever tempted to purchase such an item--which will burn one's hands and eyes every time it is removed from the shelf--, to purchase a tastefully presented secondhand book in its stead (lovely, green, Gregg Press editions, mmm ...).

It is no good complaining about a product's defects & buying it anyway: we have to provide the industry with an incentive to change.

Having gotten that off my chest(!), do you favour A/B testing of covers as a way to shift more books (in which case, I've less sympathy for "as an author, I've no control"), or because you believe it'll result in covers for your books closer to your/good/common taste, or ... ?

44:

Saturn & Neptune are Roman, but Uranus is Greek?

45:

To strike off at yet another tangent, I went into my local bookshop this morning to preorder "Engineering Infinity" (I try not to be too dependent on Am****) - local bookshop seemed to be doing a great trade, perhaps because no-one can get into Oxford - and was slightly surprised that there isn't a hardback. I see that the same is true for "Rule 34". Is this a trend - if so I find it rather dismaying...

46:

Themed short story compilations from multiple authors rarely come out in hardcover, at least in my market (US).

And Rule 34 is showing as having a US hardcover edition on Amazon, so I don't think there are any distressing changes from the status quo in store.

47:

Yes, I suppose that would be them. But in this case, I got a "Hein-who?"

;-)

48:

Charlie - Oh I know authors don't do the cover selections, etc. Sorry if I seemed peeved at you - I wasn't and am not. And yeah, I have the original Friday. But, yeah, I was young at the time. Different life stages, different reactions.

49:

I don't know what format Orbit are publishing "Rule 34" in. It may be hardcover then paperback, or it may be trade paperback then regular-size. Nobody's told me yet. (I'd normally expect hardcover, but it's a sequel to "Halting State" which came out in trade paperback initially.)

Ace, in the US, will be doing hardback then mass-market paperback.

50:

As long as you have anonymous recursive functionaries, it'll be awesome :) Curry to perversions as needed, of course.

51:

Engineering Infinity publisher Solaris seems to be owned by a games company. Another reason why paperback only?

52:

Neptune's brood will be a later generation than Saturn's children, one of whom was Neptune. Appropriate for the sequel. I always felt the title was more to do with the god than the planet.

One of Uranus' children was Saturn, in the Roman mythos. Purists called Uranus by his Latin original name, Caelus, but many went with the Greek name.

53:

Thanks for the explanation.

54:

I'd guess that Charlie didn't want to deal with jokes about "Freya orbiting Uranus wiping out Klingons."

55:

I realise it isn't definitive but Amazom UK has 'Rule 34' down to be released as a paperback with no sign of a hardback.

56:

... and Caelus' Sprogs would be a prequel.

57:

I have a batch of themed books with short stories by multiple authors in hardcover. They came from SFBC.

58:

_Still_ extinct. Ah well. I suppose building version 1.1 would be more attractive, although they might consider themselves to already be 1.1.

59:

@ 43
BAD SF book covers?

Like the ghastly Chris Foss, who used to be fashionable amongst publishers - with covers showing nothing at all to do with the story. Ever.
Nothing new to see here, folks, just pass along....

60:

A question to Charlie on the topic of hard cover vs. paperbacks: Do you get more royalties from hard cover sales?

Usually I buy hard covers because they're out way before the paperbacks; however if I have a choice between both I tend to go for the paperbacks because of the price difference.

From my gigs as an author I usually had royalties declared as a percentage of the publishers profits (which were a percentage of the books price), so going from that I'd assume yes. But I don't know how other publishers (and publishers of fiction) set up their contracts.

This would definitely be a factor in deciding between cover types in the future for books of authors I really like.

61:

Yes, I get around five times as much money from a hardcover sale as from a paperback. Not only is the royalty a percentage of the SRP, geared against the wholesale discount rate (if your contract specifies a percentage of the publishers profits then you're quite possibly being ripped off), but the royalty rate on a hardcover is significantly higher than on a paperback. I get 7-8% of the US $7-8 of a paperback, or 10-12% of the US $16-24 of a hardback.

62:

Well, I'll make a point of seeking out the US hardback "Rule 34" then. (At one stage I was tempted to write to the UK publisher of "Fuller memorandum" pointing out they'd lost a sale because no hardback... but then I bought the UK pb as well as the US hb as I liked the UK cover so much more, so that became untrue.)

63:

Note, however, that the UK trade paperback will sell for around £10-12, or US $16-18. And the royalty rate for a large format UK trade paperback is much closer to a US hardcover edition than it is to a US mass market paperback. Meaning, if "Rule 34" comes out in a UK trade paperback it'll pay me nearly as much per copy as a US hardcover -- and more, if the US hardcover is heavily discounted.

64:

"covers showing nothing at all to do with the story"

A cover showing nothing at all (i.e. non-pictorial) surely shows (depicts) nothing at all to do with the story. That might be considered a virtue, or at least a blessed relief from hideous attempts to illustrate the story. Hence my example of the Gregg Press editions.

Your objection to Foss covers (beyond their ugliness) is that they promise to illustrate the book, but they fail to do so: they show something, but not the right thing? If it is OK for covers to be pure marketing (and as buyers, we don't have to take that view), this is not necessarily an objection: whether an arbitrary skiffy image (or at least, one not tailored to the book bearing it) will shift books is an empirical question.

A Penguin reissue of A Clockwork Orange (circa 2000?) had a glass of milk on the cover. Common knowledge of the book at the end of the C20th made that a sensible choice (in terms of marketing & in terms of long-term buyer satisfaction), but it might not have shifted many units, if it had been used on first publication. Would "that's not the kind of glass Alex used" (if true) be an objection to such a cover? (I don't claim that you think so.)

65:

I would think that irrelevant or silly covers can harm the marketing, as with this version of The Princess Bride.

66:

Hmmm "The Lambda Functionary". Nothing to do with anonymous functions in Lisp then?

67:

Charlie, on a completely unrelated note, I'd like to thank you for mentioning Scrivener in previous posts. I just started using it this week end and is wonderful!

68:

Yeah, but not all covers which fail to illustrate the books contents are created equal.

(I was disappointed to discover that the Ronnies were not integral to the cover design. Shame!)

I'm guessing that for a while an ugly, lumpy, by-the-yard, Foss-painted spaceship did no harm to a book's sales. And--dare I say it?--the result was a little less hideous than many a Baen effort.

69:

It was much better with the Two Ronnies covering parts, wasn't it? Like a cross between Dali and Gilbert & George.

70:

AKA "Honor Harrington's Out Of Proportion Baby."

71:

@ 41:

Lambda as in lambda calculus? That makes it a seriously geeky title. What next? "The Bob Howard Isomorphism" or maybe "Functors and Unnatural transformations"

As a math guy, I'm used to thinking of uncommon symbols in a math context first - the Riemann Zeta function, epsilon-delta style proofs etc. Weird thing though, my first association with lambda is not math, but physics. In fact, lambda is probably the first unfamiliar symbol I encountered in my education, and that was because in our general science textbooks in the seventh (eighth?) grade lambda was used to denote wavelength. Hmmm . . . looking at my daughter's science stuff for earlier grades, I see that lambda, but not alpha or rho or omega, is introduced in middle school, and it's still being used for wavelength. That's a gap of well over thirty years. And also kinda weird, they're still using f for frequency, not nu. Why would someone want to use a greek letter for just that one characteristic, but not use any more for other characteristics - and related ones at that? Weird.

72:

Charlie, do you prefer to publish with Tor or Ace, or some other imprint or publisher?

73:

It's tradition, and there are different traditions for different engineering and scientific fields. What a mathematician would call i, an electrical engineer would call operator j. Physicists often use s for distance, where a mathematician would be likely to use d. And the fights over whether to use ẋ or dx/dt are epochal.

74:

DoctorSorceror: no comment.

C'mon. I'm a small businessman and you're asking me to publicly say which of my two main customers is the bigger asshole? I'm not going there. Especially as both Ace and Tor are large imprints with multiple editors and the experience, for an author, of doing business with a publisher depends intimately on their editor. (And I'm not going to talk about individual editors in public either, unless/until they retire or die. People in this business have long memories and a reputation for back-stabbing is not something I want to acquire.)

75:

On the general subject of book covers, I'll only "not buy a specific edition" based on cover art if I really hate a cover art, and there's a readily available (for values that include only available through local [for values of local that include local to somehere I visit a few times a year] specialist bookshops) version with better art. This has happened about twice so far.

I've never bought or not bought a book because of/for a Chris "technicolour explosion" Foss cover.

I have bought some anthologies because of wanting to get stories by specific authors (no names, no pack drill).

76:

@ 73:

It's tradition, and there are different traditions for different engineering and scientific fields. What a mathematician would call i, an electrical engineer would call operator j. Physicists often use s for distance, where a mathematician would be likely to use d. And the fights over whether to use ẋ or dx/dt are epochal.

Ah, but that's not the tradition I am talking about. I'm talking about the tradition of adding gratuitous symbols to textbooks for high-school kids and younger.

Why would someone use lambda for wavelength but then use "f" instead of nu for frequency? And why would lambda and omega (for resistance) be the only Greek symbols used in the book?

77:

@ 75:

I've never bought or not bought a book because of/for a Chris "technicolour explosion" Foss cover.

I can't say that I've ever bought a new book because of it's cover art. But I can say that on occasion it's been intriguing enough that I've actually picked up the book, read the blurbs, read a few lines here and there, and then proceeded to buy it.

I've also read somewhere recently that the Sookie Stackhouse cover art is distinctive enough that fans can spot her books instantly among a welter of vampire pron offerings which are done up in a more "realistic" romance motif.

78:

I first started reading SF at primary school when I spied a hardback edition of Harry Harrison's Spaceship Medic on the book cart at primary school. It caught my eye because it had a picture of a free falling astronaut (with a red cross on his arm) floating in what was clearly a wrecked spaceship, done in a style that was reminiscent of that used for The Yellow Submarine. (It had tubes.)

Being a child of the Sixties, and this being after Gemini but before Apollo, I was deeply in love with space flight, and would read (or at least look at the pictures) of anything to do with space. I was already a fan of Dr Who and Thunderbirds, so I probably would have come to written SF sooner or later, but that was the book cover that did it.

I started reading the SF in the juvenile section of the library, which was mostly Andre Norton and Robert Heinlein, with some Best ofs and Nebula collections. Norton and Heinlein had somewhat representative covers, rocketships and aliens and more astronauts. The collections tended to be plain covers. When I was old enough to lie about getting books from the adult section for my parents, the SF there tended to those plain yellow Gollancz covers with red type.

When I started to buy my own paperbacks, Foss was the go-to guy for SF cover illustration, it seemed. That was my golden age of SF, so naturally I measure all book covers against Foss, so if a cover actually shows something from the story then that's a bonus, but it's no big deal if it doesn't. Foss illos might be ugly, but they're glorious in their ugliness, and beautiful because of it. Foss has said that he was inspired for his junkyard look by the Apollo Lunar Module, so I think if you can like the LM, you can like Chris Foss' flying scrapheaps.

Besides, if I started getting picky about SF covers, I might start with spaceships laid out like ocean liners, with nary a hint of rotational symmetry about the thrust axis, and end up complaining about details of uniforms and guns and Cthulhu-alone-knows-what.

79:

"Which of my customers is the biggest..."

Hey Charlie, you might want to rephrase - unless you're looking for a career with Baen writing military sci-fi - because you've got the worst case of "Open mouth, insert both-feet-up-to-midthigh" I've seen in a long time.

80:

Dude, all publishers exhibit assholish behaviour to some extent from time to time. (Ditto all authors. Assholish behaviour is ubiquitous.)

81:

Charlie didn't say they were assholes, just that he didn't want to say which was the biggest. If both have asshole indexes in the negative, then one could be the biggest without being assholish hardly at all.

Besides, Charlie's getting a new editor in the New Year at one of those publishers, so causing a discontinuity in the data. It wouldn't be fair to comment, even if it was wise.

82:

I will not use torrents to download something I can buy. The MPAA, RIAA, BSA and the rest exist so that child molesters and slave traders can feel morally superior to someone. It isn't fair to the creators whom they laughingly claim to represent or to the struggling publishing companies.

But filesharing isn't all bad. A number of music companies, notably EMI, have admitted to leaking songs to create that "illicit" viral buzz. If they give it to you it's not theft.

If material is out of copyright it's all good. I have put together a small library of old formularies, receipt (recipe) books, technical manuals and literature that way.

The tricky cases are ones where the person who owns the copyright simply will not sell. A lot of great SF&F including some of the spectacular Adult Fantasy series is still under copyright. But the publishers just won't print them or even permit an ebook edition. I'd be glad to pay for the material, but they simply won't sell. Same thing in spades for older music and films.

And then there's stuff which exists and is in print but which they won't sell TO YOU. Krabat also called The Satanic Mill is one of my favorite childhood books. It's been filmed. I would love to buy a copy of the DVD. But I can't buy a copy in North America. I can't even go to Amazon.co.uk and pay their price plus transatlantic shipping. They say "unavailable in your area".

What can you do? Take a blackjack and beat the publisher about the head and shoulders until he agrees to take your money?

83:

OM: the publishers may be legally unable to authorize an ebook edition or reprint. A book contract that doesn't include boilerplate covering electronic editions leaves a publisher open to lawsuits if they try and publish one. And in many cases, if an author dies, the folks who inherit their literary estate may be impossible to locate or have really fucked-up ideas of how much the estate is worth. If the author dies, their literary agent retires and sells their practice to another agency, and there are no immediate family (spouse or kids), it can be murderously difficult to sort out the permissions.

Older music and films are even worse -- they're group productions where the ownership may have been assigned to a holding company (long since defunct) or split several ways among members of a band who are dead or not talking to one another. Or grabbed by a manager who died of a heart attack leaving wife #4 at litigation-point against wife #3 for her cut of the estate. And so on.

84:

"f" for frequence but lambda for wavelength is what gets used in the biological sciences a lot, chemistry tends to use nu and f interchangably across the subject, depending on how physics heavy the speciality is (nu is used in chemistry for a couple of other first year undergrad concepts in chemistry).

I'm wondering now what is the most overused greek symbol in the sciences i.e. what symbol is used to represent the largest number of different and unique variables and constants. Someone email Randall Monroe when his person crisisii are over.

85:

Absolutely. Those ones are even tougher.

How do the ethics look from your perspective as a consumer and creator?

86:

Charlie @ 83
The ongoing tragedy of the non-republication of John Brunner's work comes to mind ....

87:

#77 Para 2 - I see where you're coming from, but I'm more likely to buy a "new to me author" on the strength of one or both of "good review in $magazine" and "enjoyable chance meeting with $author". (Note to authors; don't be an @$$hole to people you randomly meet at cons; Charlie wasn't, and has sold copies of his entire back and future catalogues on the strength of not shutting me out of an on-going conversation).
Para 3 - I can see how that could be, at least based on the UK "True Blood" covers, which are realistic romantic/erotic, but still tasteful.

#78 - You started in very similar places to me, except that I also got lent (by my Dad; some of those Gollancz really were for him) a copy of Galactic Patrol with a fake stereogram cover.

88:

#82 and 83 - With the note that I fully realise that Charlie has a vested interest here.

This is why I think that modern "copyright law" has become perverted by the interests of "big business" and of keeping works by a specific author (actually Austrian by birth, but best known as a dictator in Germany [does this mean we can avoid Godwin?]) in copyright. The original function of copyright was to protect the IP interests of the actual creator of a piece, and surviving dependants.

For a case study using OGH, this means that he holds copyright in his own works, and Feorag will inherit if he predeceases her. The works become public domain when the second of them dies. If they had issue that was under 18 at this time, then the rights would descend to the issue, and the works would become public domain on the last issue's 18th birthday.

89:

Re: copyright and inheritance.

There are some authors who now ascribe co-authorship to their spouses. This gets around any arguments about who owns copyrights when the writer of the work dies in that the surviving spouse is already recognised as copyright-holder-in-part by right of publication. Their names usually aren't on the cover but they will be listed in the copyright data printed in the flyleafs.

90:

I knew that cheers; my point was that this should be unnecessary, and the copyright should die on the latest of the author or their dependants' deaths, or the youngest dependant's 18th birthday, rather than some 70 years (ATM) after the author's death.

91:

So... copyright expiration with the death or majority of the author's heirs or successors? That could be far, far worse.
"So, you're not interested in our lowball movie option offer, Mr Stross? That's fine. But you should know, it's easy enough for a little accident to happen to you and yours. Could happen to anybody. Kind of sad what happened to that nice Mr Doctorow, isn't it? By the way, we start shooting that one in Spring, and we've got you pencilled in for Autumn..."

92:

@ 86:

The ongoing tragedy of the non-republication of John Brunner's work comes to mind ....

Absolutely. I read Stand on Zanzibar on the strength that it was the "first" cyberpunk novel. Well, not quite as it turned out but nonetheless superb.

Sure would be nice to get those greats back into general circulation; I can understand when a young reader (under 30) gives me a blank look if I reference, say, Stanton Koblentz or Manly Wade Wellman. Getting those same blank looks for Simak or Mack Reynolds is just painful.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on December 17, 2010 12:28 PM.

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