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Introducing a new guest blogger: Sheila Williams

It's been ages since I last hosted a guest blogger here, but today I'd like to introduce you to Sheila Williams, who will be talking about her work next week.

Normally my gues bloggers are other SF/F authors, but Sheila is something different: she's the multiple Hugo-Award winning editor of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine. She is also the winner of the 2017 Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award for distinguished contributions to the science fiction and fantasy community.

Sheila started at Asimov's in June 1982 as the editorial assistant. Over the years, she was promoted to a number of different editorial positions at the magazine and she also served as the executive editor of Analog from 1998 until 2004. With Rick Wilber, she is also the co-founder of the Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy. This annual award has been bestowed on the best short story by an undergraduate student at the International Conference on the Fantastic since 1994.

In addition, Sheila is the editor or co-editor of twenty-six anthologies. Her newest anthology, Entanglements: Tomorrow's Lovers, Families, and Friends, is the 2020 volume of the Twelve Tomorrow series. The book is just out from MIT Press.

84 Comments

1:

I look forward with interest. Welcome :)

2:

Also looking forward to this. Welcome!

3:

Hello, good evening & welcome!
As the saying goes.

4:

Thanks for the welcome! I'm looking forward to the chance to blog.

5:

Welcome! And if you manage to post something combining Hastur and trails in an eternal combustion cycle, you'll make Greg's day!

6:

I for one welcome our new editor-overlord!

7:

Thanks! I'm afraid I can't help Greg out. :)

8:

ADMINISTRATIVE NOTE

Just a reminder that if you want to discuss today/yesterday's big COVID19-related news, there are two perfectly good comment threads on the immediately previous blog entries that are both past the traditional comment #300, and so free to use for whatever the hell you want to discuss.

Please keep the Crawling Chaos's COVID Catastrophe out of this thread for the time being, okay?

9:

And indeed I misspoke: I was thinking of combining the Elder Gods with Greg's other passion: locomotives. It would truly be an unholy mashup. I mean, Cthulhoid trains that splattered into vapor during collisions, then reformed afterward. Trains that came back to life after aeons, with their passengers trapped alive (okay, that's too Tube already). Trains that commuted to the Dreamlands and ran on bronze rails (well, the last is too twee for Greg). Trains that could only be engineered by Morris Dancers, for unspeakable reasons (at least I can't speak to them). Surely those stories are right up your alley...?

10:

SOME of us Morris-Dancers are actually Engineers!
Modern hardened bronze would be OK for light loading lines .... but it's equivalent is actually ABOVE the rails the "Copper-Alloy" ( i.e. "Bronze" ) OHL that carries the 25kV AC current that powers the trains ....

11:

Hi Sheila - and welcome!

Just read the description of the upcoming anthology - an interesting combination of topics - and about time too! Looking forward to reading your upcoming blog guest post even if there's no mention of trains.

12:

And indeed I misspoke: I was thinking of combining the Elder Gods with Greg's other passion: locomotives.

Oh, good; I was wondering what trails had to do with this. Trains, not trails, check.

I'm not sure about Morris Dancers, but I remember reading that some Terry Pratchett fans did the other Morris for him and he found it unsettling to witness. They probably have strange rites involving rail travel too.

13:

I'm not sure about Morris Dancers, but I remember reading that some Terry Pratchett fans did the other Morris for him and he found it unsettling to witness.

Oh, that's not to worry.

As the world is swung in the grip of gravity, the days will lengthen and warmth and light will increase, but this need not be, in the hearts of men.

The tendrils of lust and striving can flow out the land, and all folk lose the madness of hope and delight. Nothing to see, or to measure, but the birdsong grows dull and the joy falls out of faces, until life is a burden, dealings hold no kindness, and the sun of summer grows wan.

Gone on long enough, and the memory of delight becomes a pain and a mockery, the delusion of impossible things, and all the company of one's fellows sharp and bitter and sullen.

So as you should be glad to hear the hard, bright sounds of bells and the struck oak, you should sorrow to hear the soft, dull flop of the broke-necked corpse going into the bog with a round stone bound into its belly, to drown in the dark, dead, dragging water all glee and weal.

(From when this subject came round on Usenet during the last age. No opinions on the rail travel.)

14:

There have been performances of various sides' interpretations of the "Stick & Bucket Dance".
NOT for those of a sensitive disposition, shall we say?
[ Sticks painted pink & the buckets fur-rimmed! ]

15:

Welcome to the madness, Ms. Williams.

RE: the Dark Morris

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jL6jR0JbRA

16:

Hi, SFReader, Thanks so much. Afraid the anthology is missing trains (perhaps an idea for the next one!), but it's packed with lots of other science and tech woven into great stories.

17:

perhaps an idea for the next one!

Perhaps titled Trains, Planes, and Tentacles?

19:

Is Asimov's still sending out deliberately insulting random rejection letters?

20:

Is Asimov's still sending out deliberately insulting random rejection letters?

I hope only to people who submit manuscripts.

I've never sent them anything and they haven't sent me an insulting letter yet.

21:

Here's a link to Entanglements at MIT Press. It is available at independent book sellers. Looks like a great lineup of authors.

Question for Sheila: As an editor, what are some of the experiences you've had, either good or bad, that really stand out. As a fan, I was working on program for a Worldcon and we got a letter from Walter Jon Williams, very early on. The letter was so friendly and helpful. It was great working with him. The same Worldcon, another writer that I was good friends with, just a really great guy, wouldn't work with us because we were not going to comp him a membership like the local con. We just had to shrug our shoulders and move on.

22:

Welcome Sheila!

The sun never sets on comments threads here, so discussion often occurs as a rolling wave around the clock. The most fun is when it becomes an Indian-Whisper-Ouroboros game, with someone reacting to a response to their own words, somewhat removed, as though it is an entirely new statement. You'd think it would be easy to avoid, but actually it isn't really possible to keep up well enough to be immune all the time. The cast of commenters is especially replete with more (in my case somewhat dithering) would-be SF authors than you can shake a stick at, so I'm sure this could be quite fun indeed.

23:

Murder on the Occident Express?

24:

Probably the "Atlantic Coast Express", actually.
Start viewing this clip @ 2.45

25:

Murder on the Occident Express?

I was thinking more about the Mysterious disappearance of the Shadowlands Special, but whichever. Until the President in Orange is exorcised from the White House, I'm not in the mood for trying to write anything publishable.

26:

I suppose since I implied it, I should pose the question of whether it's worth having the bad guys use infernal combustion dieselpunk, while the good guyz use eternal combustion steampunk...

27:

Most of my experiences working with authors have been great. One of the best parts about my job really is working with the writers. Authors are generally happy to do rewrites, if there's a need. Authors are aware of our rates, which means that they have generally decided to accept them before they submit their stories. Sometimes contracts require a little negotiation, but I tend to leave that up to my contracts department. Some great experiences include getting permission from Ursula K. Le Guin to use a variation on the title of one of her stories as the title of one of my anthologies, buying any author's first story, and working closely with the very authors I grew up reading.

The rejection letter referred to in a previous comment was created by someone a couple of editors before me. I decided not to use it fairly soon after I became the editor because it wasn't specific enough to work for me and because I didn't want to inadvertently hurt someone's feelings—rejecting people certainly not a fun part of my job. Now I probably err on the side of simplicity. I do have letters that include links to proper ms. formatting that I send out when stories don't meet that criteria. I find that a lot beginning authors are happy to get the letter because they weren't aware of the issues.

28:

Sheila,
Welcome to Charlie's little corner of the blogosphere. We're a diverse and fairly entertaining lot. Let me start by saying I appreciate the fine work you and your predecessors George Scithers, Kathleen Moloney, Shawna McCarthy, and especially Gardner Dozois have done since 1977. I still have all but two (sadly including Issue 1, Vol 1) of the first five years of IASFM.

29:

Re the letter - ok, Well, for the first time since '06, I've submitted, so I'll see what the letter looks like this time.

Or maybe you'll buy it. [g]

30:

I look forward to reading it. I'm a little behind with my reading these days—too many distractions—but hope to catch up fairly soon.

31:

Thanks! George is the only Asimov's editor that I didn't work with. Although I was hired by Kathleen, we were only colleagues for about three weeks, but enjoyed working with her and loved my time with Shawna and Gardner.

So sorry you're missing the first issue. I remember buying it on the newsstand, but the copy I have now is one that I got from the office years ago.

32:

*sigh*

I miss George - he was an old friend, and yes, I had his home phone # in Philly.

Gardner... there was this friend around '71 who told my first wife and me we had to meet her new skinny boyfriend....

33:

So paying the rent with writing is getting harder and harder these days ... but my late father kept up with Asimov's and Analog because when he was an abused child in a small town the 1960s his sci-fi magazines were one of the few things he had to look forward to which gave him a view of the wider world. So thanks for keeping up the good fight.

34:

So paying the rent with writing is getting harder and harder these days ...

Is it?

I mean, I know it's really, really hard. But was there really a golden age when it wasn't extremely hard to become someone who earns their daily crust writing SF?

(Serious question)

35:

Or writing pretty well anything else. It's a standard theme in the biographies of writers from at least the 16th century onwards. I am not familiar with such things in the Ancient World, but Mary Beard would probably know - and whether the money-spinner was porn :-)

36:

I mean, I know it's really, really hard. But was there really a golden age when it wasn't extremely hard to become someone who earns their daily crust writing SF?

The difficulty of earning a crust writing has been food and drink for authors since probably the stone age: indeed, it arguably only became possible with the printing press and the pamphlets of te 17th century. See New Grub Street by George Gissing for a novel about the difficulty of being a hack novelist in the late 1880s (link goes to free Project Gutenberg version: there's an annotated edition here for 99 cents on Kindle).

37:

My understanding is that, before the 17th century, such writing was for recital - plays, poems, satires etc. - but, in Britain, whether anyone made a living from writing those before the last decade of the 16th century is unclear.

As you say, professional bards and similar go back to time immemorial, and at least some of those must have composed new works.

38:

I've known a couple of writers who lived off their short story sales during periods of real productivity, but their expenses were very low.

39:

From what I've heard at panels, talking to writers, etc for a long, long time, except for the folks who make it big (for varying values of "big")(hi, Charlie), overwhelmingly, the advice is "don't quit your day job".

The odds on someone hitting a best seller list as slim-to-none. In the sixties, I think, you could still read all the sf&f published every year. By the nineties, I think, if not before, they were publishing over 900 titles a year.

40:

Yes. For writers, nominal (cents not PPP) pay per word has been roughly static since the 1870s. The SFWA treats 6 US cents a word as a professional rate, in 1940 1 cent a word was a good rate but the dollar was worth 17 times more.

Anyone who reads can watch how publishers have shedded support services like copyediting and marketing over the past 40 years. This is a very well established fact, completely consistent with well accepted models of how economics work (the more people are trying to write commercially, the less leverage they have with their employers and distributors).

41:

In Canada, the current head of the company which published Farley Mowat looked at the business, asked his children if they wanted to take over, and then gave it to the University of Toronto which after a decent interval sold it for $1 to a German publishing conglomerate. The U of T is not rich like its US counterparts so the people managing their endowments must have been pretty sure that the 'gift' was not worth much.

The collapse in resources to pay for journalism this century (journalism and all the support services to turn copy into news are another kind of publishing) should not be too controversial.

42:

Welcome to Sheila Williams!
I searched for something that might be of interest to a veteran science fiction editor that remembers the old days and found this example of the absurdity of past Iron Curtain literary bureaucracy and how it interfeared with cultural exchange:
https://przekroj.pl/en/literature/a-cold-wojciech-orlinski?fbclid=IwAR3s-DTTkvujZ6Mz4Lobij3wBi2RdMJ_loKECoW-SOQ4iVgtrLZ55SkIa7M
https://przekroj.pl/en/literature/the-hunt-stanislaw-lem

43:

In the sixties, I think, you could still read all the sf&f published every year.

This was true in the 1980s and into the very early 90s in the UK. Now it'd be like drinking from a firehose.

NB: I've been AFK for about 18 hours because my birthday pressie to myself arrived early -- my November 2014 iMac has now retired, and a shiny new September 2020 one has replaced it. Running my day to day app load-out leaves 104Gb of RAM free! (Never mind the SSD capacity or the ten processors!)

44:

104GB free (I presume you didn't mean Gb)?!

Wow. Deep envy. I've got 16GB total in this MacBook Pro

45:

That's a somewhat distorted perspective on what happened.

Firstly, fiction (except at book length) has always paid poorly, but other writing forms are a whole lot better: I used to write a monthly magazine column for £135/thousand words, target 3K words, and a low word rate in the newsstand magazine sector around 2000 was £0.1/word. The internet's corrosive effect on advertising revenue and the development of cheap content mills took a chainsaw to that business model though ...

Secondly, during the late 70s/early 80s most of the then-small SF publishers -- and other genre fiction publishers -- were taken over, in a wave that culminated in the creation of six big multinational publishing corps that accounted for 70-80% of all book blocks sold. (Small presses remained viable but didn't usually pay well: there were breakouts, though: "Harry Potter" initially sold a 2000 hardback print run and bloated up Bloomsbury). Those corporations were under the same pressures as any other multinational to cut overheads, so they outsourced all non-core business elements: editors these days are workflow managers, while copy editing, proofreading, and so on is all external freelancers, typesetting is done by a bureau, printing and shipping are done by dedicated print shops and distributors, and so on.

The core of the publishing business is actually supply chain contract management and accounting (of which royalty accounting is part), and that -- plus acquisitions and product management -- are the parts that can't be outsourced.

Meanwhile some of the small presses have grown quite large, because the outsourcing trend puts all the machinery the major publishers developed and rely on within reach of anyone who can justify booking that much capacity: and some of the major publishers go quite small (I've had hardcover reprint runs by a UK publisher go as low as 200 copies -- the UK does agile/low volume printing profitably enough to make that commercially viable, once an initial run sells out, rather than printing too many to begin with and then pulping/remaindering a bunch).

Finally, we have Amazon. 80% of the ebook market, and they sell books like heads of cabbage. Publishers are factory farms to Amazon: if they won't sell cheap enough, Amazon will buy elsewhere. And they run their own open slushpile in effect by letting anyone sell direct (in return for AMZN stealing 30-70% of the revenue for effectively running a download server and a search engine). One side effect is that a lot of crap that wouldn't get past the door of a real publisher gets published. A second-order side effect is that some of the crap is either too niche, too eccentric, or too brilliant to get past the door of (etc), and goes on to find a market and turn the world upside down. But most self-pub authors are minnows trying to swim in a shark tank (the shark is the Amazon megalodon).

47:

I *think* SFWA upped that to $0.08/word.

48:

Charlie, if that's a new iMac, it looks like 8G RAM, configurable to 16G, and a Core I-5.

So, not quite as hot as my newly-built system for under $600 w/ a 9997 Core I-7 and 16G....

[*ouch* I need to remember not to stick my nose up in the air that much, the ceiling hurts.]

49:

Could be, I gathered the numbers a few years ago. But the general trend is so overwhelming, and lasted so many decades, that worrying about differences of a year or three is just a distraction. I would love (love!) systematic data on word rates for different genres (journalism, electronics magazines, romance short stories) but the back-of-an-envelope version all shows the same general trend.

The one which was going around the Internet a few years ago was that in "Little Women" (written 1868/1869) one of the titular characters wins a USD 100 prize. Into the late 20th century, that would have been a common nominal amount to be paid for a short story.

In terms of my perspective ... I publish about four monfiction pieces a year, I have never sold fiction.

50:

I'm not sure about the first, I thought that there was a change in the economics after WW II that made long fiction in book form better paying than short fiction in magazines. The histories I have read sure look like there was a period in the 1920s and 1930s when anyone literate and free from writer's block could make a living churning out pulp fiction, and that as time went on you had to be a better and better writer to make a living and had to be luckier and luckier.

My understanding and experience is that in the last several decades, publishers tend to outsource more and more tasks (marketing, indexing, etc.) =to the author= because they don't have to pay someone to do that work. But my experience is in nonfiction, gaming, and academic publishing, I don't have direct experience of fiction publishing.

51:

Charlie, if that's a new iMac, it looks like 8G RAM, configurable to 16G, and a Core I-5.

It's a fully loaded, build-to order iMac. Came with 8Gb of RAM, upgraded by moi to 128Gb (Apple wanted about 5x as much for the DIMMs as OWC charged me). 10-core i9, Radeon Pro 5500 XT with 8Gb VRAM (I didn't max out on graphics), 2Tb SSD. Also consider the 27" 5 megapixel display with wide colour gamut and TrueTone (colour temperature/spectrum adapts to ambient lighting conditions): an equivalent display will set you back upwards of $1K on its own. (Again, I didn't go for the £500 optional upgrade to the weird nanoparticulate coating Apple are pushing at serious video tweakers).

52:

The key breakpoints were (a) in the 1930s (great depression era) it became normal to distribute cheap/disposable paperbacks through the mass market (magazine/newsprint) distribution channel, so they could be pulped rather than having to be returned to the warehouse if unsold; and (b) the collapse of the pulp magazine distribution channel circa 1948-53 (I forget the precise dates and don't have the arsedness to go look it up). So: first a new medium came into existence, and second the old medium dried up and blew away.

"Publishing" arguably doesn't exist; it's about 17 different industries that have a descriptive noun in common (and not a lot else).

53:

I think it was '54. I rememeber, back in the seventies I think it was, a speaker at PSFS (except for the election meeting, PSFS has programming every meeting) talking about it - there were two national distributors, one got bought, and the buyer decided that the parts were worth more than the whole, and broke it up and sold it off.

Dozens and dozens and dozens of pulps suddenly had no national distributor, and went under.

54:

Apple wanted about 5x as much for the DIMMs as OWC charged me

As a long time (way more than 10 years) fan of OWC I'm curious, do they market/sell into the European market or do you have to pretend to be a US customer to guy stuff from them?

Great folks.

55:

They'll take my credit card and ship internationally, using a service that quotes for and covers the import duty and tax. That's good enough for me. (Most large US retailers will do this, too. I went with OWC because I'm a repeat customer.)

56:

Came with 8Gb of RAM, upgraded by moi to 128Gb (Apple wanted about 5x as much for the DIMMs as OWC charged me)

For anyone using Apple devices, if there's an upgrade possible, OWC sells it. And they have great videos for all upgrades for devices going back 10 years or more.

I just did an upgrade similar to Charlie's. MacMini for client bought with 8GB of ram and used OWC to bump it to 64GB for less than 1/2 the price from Apple. Plus having to buy a T5 security bit and a star 5 bit. :)

Can't recommend them highly enough.

Side note.
whitroth

I think you were looking at base configurations. If you go to their web site and click the buy button and in general work off the right most options you can get up to a 3.6GHz i9 with 10 cores. And while the base memory for all of the iMacs is 8GB you can bump up the none low end units to 128GB. Apple wants $2600 for that but as Charlie noted, OWC and others sell it for more market rates.

My 2018 MacBook Pro (laptop) has a 2.9GHz i9 with 6 cores and 32GB of ram.

57:

Withroth @53

Fred Pohl talks about this in his memoir The Way The Future Was.

According to him, the buyer had already worked it out, and planned to break it up, before making the purchase.

JHomes

58:

in the 1930s ... circa 1948-53

Radio
then
TV

Both removed reading time from the population.

59:

2Tb SSD

I'm struggling to fit on an internal 2TB SSD - I've got a bunch of external drives attached to this machine to which I shuffle stuff to try to get enough space on the main drive.

As for Time Machine - ah, no successful backup for 40 days

60:

Re the Amazon thing, my partner self-publishes manuals and tutorials for Microsoft Dynamics 365, with the tutorials tying into training courses she also runs. She's talked to a few publishers, but the market is niche enough that no-one wanted to pick it up.

She's checked prices on getting a print run from somewhere more local, but you need to be well into the hundreds and heading towards thousands to make it cheaper than Amazon print-on-demand.

By the way on that too though, she has a hobby sideline in making up journals/logbooks for particular things. She's had a few businesses wanting custom ones, and also made up a few for various hobbies/sports. Amazon can do print-on-demand for a fully-bound custom logbook with a glossy cover for not much more than the price of an A4 generic lined logbook from Office World. The Amazon prices with their economy of scale are *crazy* cheap. Round our way, printers all seem to be diversifying into logo design, embroidery and stuff like that, presumably because the 600lb gorilla that is Amazon is eating their lunch.

61:

This is going off on a tangent, but as genetic editing is becoming a staple of science fiction.....
.
-My home town has won the effing Nobel Prize!
.
Charpentier sorted out CRISPR-Cas9 when she was at Umeå University.
“Nobel Prize for chemistry awarded to Charpentier and Doudna” https://phys.org/news/2020-10-nobel-prize-chemistry-awarded-charpentier.html

62:

As for Time Machine - ah, no successful backup for 40 days

At $6/mo/machine for unlimited storage (that stays connected to the machine) I've become a Backblaze convert. And that gives you a 30 day history. You can pay more and get a 1 year or "infinite" history if you want.

63:

Does that work for external drives too?

I've hit 8TB with my photo library, stored on two external drives (plus two more for backup, done manually). It would be nice to have all that stored externally somewhere safe. (Now I'm retired the old 'keep the backup in your desk drawer at work' trick is no good to me now.)

64:

At least last I checked (earlier this year), the basic Windows backup includes only the internal drives. I should still opt for it.

I was trying to back up my NAS, and that wasn't an option. However, they offer a similar deal for bulk backups, and my NAS should have a module for backing up to the Backblaze servers. I haven't gotten it to work, however: the backup starts but stops after a few minutes. I haven't found the energy to debug that, and from the internet it seems other people are having same kind of problems.

65:

OK. Some details about Backblaze (and most online/cloud backups)

The basic backup is NOT an archive. So if something vanishes from the computer it will be purged from the backup system after some period of time. Typically 30 days or less.

Backblaze offers a more permanent option where you can say keep files for 1 year after they disappear from the computer. And an option to keep files forever. These have a higher monthly fee (but not a lot) plus some charges for the amount of data. But still not terribly expensive compared to MANAGING it yourself. Unless your time is free. :)

And all cloud backups (as far as I've seen) exclude lots of system level files and things like .dmg and .iso images by default. You can turn them on if you want but you have to make a decision on those things.

https://www.backblaze.com/business-pricing.html

Business pricing seems to match personal. You can dig deeper if you want. :)

66:

David L at 58:

I have been told that the increase in cars also had a serious effect on the magazine market (you can read on the train...), but I don't know about the timeframe.

67:

Prediction: internet downloads galvanized the audiobook market because drivers can "read" them at the wheel. But COVID19 work-from-home patterns are going to chew into the commuter market, which in turn is going to hit audiobook sales if the trend gets bedded in (as I expect it to).

68:

Thanks. Ran the test, and it says I would get about 100 GB a day backed up. So for 8 TB photo library that's about three months to get it uploaded.

Will have to think about it.

69:

Sign up for the free 15 day trial. Most of the time it gets faster after a while. One person local to me signed up recently. He expected it to take 2 weeks but it finished in 3 or 4 days.

Free to check it out. :)

70:

Charlie Stross @ 36:

I mean, I know it's really, really hard. But was there really a golden age when it wasn't extremely hard to become someone who earns their daily crust writing SF?

The difficulty of earning a crust writing has been food and drink for authors since probably the stone age: indeed, it arguably only became possible with the printing press and the pamphlets of te 17th century. See New Grub Street by George Gissing for a novel about the difficulty of being a hack novelist in the late 1880s (link goes to free Project Gutenberg version: there's an annotated edition here for 99 cents on Kindle).

I know it's hard to earn a living as a writer, but is it harder than just being a good writer is? I know it takes a lot more than being a good writer to get published, and you gotta' get published to earn anything ... but I mean just being a good writer is really hard all by itself.

71:

Mikko Parviainen @ 64: At least last I checked (earlier this year), the basic Windows backup includes only the internal drives. I should still opt for it.

I was trying to back up my NAS, and that wasn't an option. However, they offer a similar deal for bulk backups, and my NAS should have a module for backing up to the Backblaze servers. I haven't gotten it to work, however: the backup starts but stops after a few minutes. I haven't found the energy to debug that, and from the internet it seems other people are having same kind of problems.

After my experience trying to upgrade to Windoze 101, I wouldn't trust Windows Backup for anything. But for my photo library, I haven't had any problem copying the contents of the NAS to an external USB drive using Windoze drag & drop copy. Then run Windiff just to make sure everything copied successfully.

1 Absolute failure on 3 different machines & Windows Backup failed restoring Windows 7 on my Photoshop computer. Fortunately I didn't have my data drives connected so Windoze10 couldn't trash them.

72:

*shrug*

I do what I did for 10 years at work: once a month, I back up my home directories (and /etc) to another drive, in a dated directory (I love rsync). Then, after that's done, I drop a 4TB drive into the external eSATA drive bay, mount it, and back the new backup to that. Under 500G, takes well under an hour - maybe half an hour. Then I unmount the external drive, and pop it out, and turn off the external bay.

Now, I don't have the half-tone fire safe we had at work... but it's as safe as I can manage within reason.

And, or course, when we had a tornado warning, we went to the basement... and I had my external backup drive with me. I can rebuilt the computer.

When I get to the point of hitting over 1TB in /home, I'll buy a then-cheap 10TB drive....

73:

Imagine a dark-dystopia, where the only men brave enough to chance the chtonian denizens of the rock strata are the Morris men.
The only men shielded by ritual from the horrors of the dark ..
the Morris miners...

74:

The problem is the series of hurdles ... when you need a combination of skill and business sense and life circumstances and luck to make a living writing, you have to pass each of those hurdles, and the first, second, and fourth have got higher and higher in many kinds of writing. The traits which make someone's writing valuable are not the same traits which let them find a paying audience or promote their work or give them that room of their own, so as the number of hurdles increases, the percentage of potential authors who stumble on one increases.

I am in a field like that, and its demoralizing to see the expected standards to have any chance of a career get higher and higher and the chance of getting a career if you meet them get lower and lower. And its exhausting to be asked to be excellent at more and more things on the off chance that one of them is the one this job is looking for.

75:

Ah, sorry for being unclear! I was talking about BackBlazes Windows backups, not the WIndows internal ones.

76:

*shrug*

My advice to anyone about technology is to not buy/do what the wizards says is best. Especially when they are giving out general advice.

My advice is do/buy what makes you happy.

To each their own.

77:

I know it's hard to earn a living as a writer, but is it harder than just being a good writer is?

Yes.

Being a good writer requires persistence, practice, dedication to the craft, and just enough imagination to widen the envelope of the possible.

But being a commercial writer requires you to run a small business supplying fresh produce to a fickle market dominated by huge gatekeeping wholesalers, whose buyers you have to convince to stock your product before the public get to see it. It requires marketing, communication, bookkeeping (the financial kind), competitive analysis, and sales skills. Also knowing when to outsource and being able to manage relationships with your subcontractors (e.g. your literary agent -- who is indispensable -- and any editorial/book doctor services you use).

78:

As always, excellent luck can substitute for a great deal of that - but anyone who can create luck to order doesn't need to write to make a living. And, of course, being a commercial success does not actually require the author to be a good writer. You know who I mean - one example lives quite close to me, and has a legally fragrant wife ....

I have met people who made a living writing for Mills and Boon and similar publishers - they needed to be competent wordsmiths and have at least some imagination, but otherwise it was just the usual grind.

79:

You can apply exactly the same techniques (just, with different plot tropes in the mix) to writing SF as to writing genre romance: and you'll be similarly successful at making a living, i.e. it entirely depends on how good a businessperson you are. (And similarly there are some romance writers working in that genre who totally transcend the usual accusations of formula and come out with strikingly original work that nevertheless sells to romance readers because it pushes their buttons.)

80:

Yes. It's no different when writing software.

81:

For those of us who write, but don't have any interest in making publishing our business, what's your opinion of simply putting a book up on Amazon or some other e-publishing venue? Is that a decent alternative that might make a little money on the side?

82:

You can do that, but unless you REALLY turn your attention to SEO and marketing and sponsored placements/ads you will see sweet FA in terms of revenue. Self-publishing has a huge bundle of specialized lore associated with it, and the game is rigged against the unwary and inexperienced. Having said that, some self-pubbed authors are making serious bank on it, and quite a lot of high profile authors (bestseller list names) have gone hybrid -- that is, self-pubbing some of their work while maintaining sales via the trad publishers as well, keeping a foot on each steed so to speak.

83:

@OGH:

Prediction: internet downloads galvanized the audiobook market because drivers can "read" them at the wheel. But COVID19 work-from-home patterns are going to chew into the commuter market, which in turn is going to hit audiobook sales if the trend gets bedded in (as I expect it to).

Maybe, maybe not. I've been listening to a lot of audiobooks lately, because after working from home for 8 months, I find it difficult to focus on a book for long periods of time.

84:

Whitroth @ 72, on backups.

We have a number of desktops and laptops in our house, so I do something a bit more sophisticated. Bacula is open source and included in Linux distributions. It also has Windows clients. So I use that to back up the house network to a 3TB USB hard drive. Every week every computer gets a full backup, and on top of that I run a differential for everything on the other nights.

It mostly works well. Bacula is a pig to configure, but once you've done that it runs pretty much hands-off. The only headache is when the USB drive gets full. There is a rotation and expiry system in Bacula, but its designed for tapes. Bacula sees the USB drive as a tape drive with a bunch of 100GB tapes that can be auto-mounted. When it runs out of "tapes" it stops and complains, and I have to manually go and tag some older backups as "expired" before their normal expiry date.

Once a month I swap the USB drive for another one kept elsewhere. Hence if anything disastrous happens to the computer with the USB drive I can recover from the disk that was off-line at the time.

The only other challenge is recovery from backup. On Linux its straightforward, but Windows won't let you overwrite a binary if the program is running, or a bunch of other stuff. So its a matter of reinstalling Windows and then recovering files ad-hoc. Not good. Fortunately modern SSDs make it much rarer.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on October 2, 2020 11:58 AM.

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