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Friday round-up

Ever wondered where books come from, from the publisher's point of view? Marty Halpern explains how The Atrocity Archives came to be, with bits of our email correspondence from, oh, 2002 or thereabouts. Marty has edited the Laundry novels, first for Golden Gryphon, and now as external copy editor for Ace; it's an unusual look into how the business works from the other side of the desk, and well worth reading.

Meanwhile, new technology has interesting side-effects. Google Wave has sometimes been described as a communications technology looking for a niche; early heavy users, for example, seem to have consisted of software developers ... and AD&D gamers. I recently got a Google Wave account, and here's some of the fallout; me, interviewed for writing blog, via Wave. Wave seems to work significantly better than the traditional email interview for Q&A dialogs; does the result read better?

Turning to a different aspect of communications technology, I'd like to pass on a note from Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) (who describe themselves as "a not for profit non-governmental organization that searches for better outcomes, including new solutions, to the management of knowledge resources, as is described in")

We are distributing a letter (in English and Spanish) to writers, journalists and authors who support the World Blind Union WIPO treaty proposal to improve access to books in formats accessible to people who are blind, visual impaired or have other disabilities.

The World Blind Union has been for years requesting a new international legal framework that will allow them to produce and share accessible formats of books and other written material.

The World Blind Union treaty proposal, formally endorsed by Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay is supported by nearly all developing countries and by disabilities and consumer organizations but the position that developed countries, like the European governments and United States, will take next week is still unclear.

Why is it urgent: Next week the treaty proposal is going to be discussed at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva. This is the website for the WIPO meeting.

A fact Sheet that explains the treaty proposal is available here (PDF).

They're looking for writers and asking them to sign the petition: interested parties should contact Judit Rius at judit.rius(at) My take on it is that this is an unequivocally good cause, and I'll be signing KEI's letter. One of the big problems with electronic media and DRM is that they tend to lock the visually handicapped out; for example, a common restriction on ebooks is to disable the "read aloud" feature offered by Kindle and other readers. Such behaviour is discriminatory and (in some jurisdictions) illegal, but it's going to be hard to prevent it spreading without something like this proposed treaty.



Reads beautifully.

I'd love to see the playback...


Regarding Scrivener (mentioned in the interview), have you tried org-mode? It's a package for emacs that seems capable (in principle) of doing all of the kinds of things that Scrivener does, and is, of course, platform-neutral. It has an extremely active user/developer community, and the author is amazing about feature requests (I suspect he has a time machine, like Guido).


Jason: emacs is evil. (Gives me RSI whenever I try using it.) Solutions based on emacs are therefore useless to me. (Add to that: emacs is unintuitive -- in contrast, I have vi wired into my fingertips, having been using it for two decades now in one form or another.)


A couple of things occurred to me when I sent the Wave request.

Wave makes every interview into a recorded performance. Did you decide in advance whether you would broadcast it?

If so, how did this affect the way the interview felt?

In theory you could also publish a mail or IM exchange , but that wouldn't have the immediacy and clear link to the final result.

Did you run it as straight Q&A, or did you go backwards and forwards editing up and clarifying the earlier comments as the interview progressed?


Charlie, what do the preorders for Fuller Memorandum look like? The Amazon page says that 74% of people who land on the page preorder it and it doesn't drop for 7 months!


theDAWG: US or UK preorders?

(My publishers don't keep me updated with a real-time feed of the preorders, but I can ask ...)


Totally OT: but of interest to many here who may not have read it elsewhere -

Dr Peter Watts, Canadian science fiction writer, beaten and arrested at US border
My friend, the wonderful sf writer Peter Watts was beaten without provocation and arrested by US border guards on Tuesday. I heard about it early Wednesday morning in London and called Cindy Cohn, the legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She worked her contacts to get in touch with civil rights lawyers in Michigan, and we mobilized with Caitlin Sweet (Peter's partner) and David Nickle (Peter's friend) and Peter was arraigned and bailed out later that day.

more at boingboing too


I was at the US site. 74% seems awful high, even if it only counts visitors who are logged in.

P.S. I'm hoping they drop the charges against Peter Watts. There's got to be tons of video cameras around there and he was charged by local police, it's possible the local prosecutor won't want to waste time if he can't win. They will probably make him twist in the wind, drive up his legal bills, then let him plead to disorderly conduct or something.


On an AA related note, what is your personal theory on what really was behind that mysterious spiral display that the Russians claim was a malfunctioning rocket? Is CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN coming in ahead of schedule?


So there will be at least five "Laundry" novels, excellent.
Can you enlighten us about the "event" associated with the fifth novel ? Thanks.


Martin @9: the Russians have coughed to a Bulava missile test gone wrong -- first two stages ran fine, third stage malfunctioned. The spiral is probably condensing vapour from a leaking tank on the third stage; postulate a single-point leak, and as the rocket rolls around its axis of flight, fuel gets sprayed out in a spiral. As it's high up, above the curve of the Earth, it's catching daylight while the ground below is in darkness.

David @10: I'm not even going to enlighten you about the event associated with the fourth novel, which I haven't written (or sold) yet!


External *copy* editor? Really? From the blog post is sounded like he's more like an editor, without the "copy" prefix.

Or am I imagining larger difference between the two jobs than there really is?


@12: There's a sliding scale between editor and copy editor. At GG, Marty bought the books and did the whole shtick, editing and copy editing both. Now I'm selling to the big guys, the editing ... it's a four way tug'o'war between me, my editor at Ace, my editor at Orbit, and my agent (who used to be a senior editor at Avon-Eos). Then Marty gets to clean up the results, on Ace's dime. Somehow this seems to work; and for TFM ... let's just say I've had many, many less rigorous "copy" edits


Charlie @10, I took a close couple of looks at that footage and there were distinctly three streams spiralling out from the center, including the fainter blue stream pointing back along its suborbital path. The second white stream was at right angles to the main one; that's why the "perfect spiral" wasn't entirely perfect.

I think we should certainly award it the most beautiful accident prize.


My Windows 98 PC was failing when I tried to post this to Marty's page.

Besides the sheer dazzle of Mr. Stross's fiction, and his prior experience in software development (which I share) and pharmacology (the legal kind)(which I appreciate from my teaching and researching Biochemistry) what grabs me by the metaphysical lapels is:

"In the world of "The Atrocity Archive," Alan Turing, the Father of Modern Computer Science, did in fact complete his theorem on 'Phase Conjugate Grammars for Extra-dimensional Summoning.' Turing's work paved the way for esoteric mathematical computations that, when carried out, had side effects that would leak through the platonic realm of pure mathematics underlying the structure of the Cosmos."

This is such a profound meditation on the foundations of Mathematics, Computer Science, and Theology/Demonology as to make it a foremost speculation in Theomathematics. Readers who don't car as much as I do are still propelled through exciting plots with fascinating people.

Thank you for your heroic efforts in bring this to us, and writing this excellent blog thread.

-- Prof. Jonathan Vos Post


Charlie, have you tried out EtherPad? It's so much better than Wave for most of the forms of collaboration that I do (that is to say, writing or editing fiction with a collaborator), as well as for "extreme coding," that it is no surprise Google ended up buying its developers' company to add them to the Wave team.

There was a big outcry when it happened as Google was going to shut them down, but they reversed themselves, open-sourced it, and now there are at least five new public-access EtherPad servers, including one hosted by the Pirate Party of Sweden.

The true brilliance of EtherPad is that you don't need any special software or even an account to use it. Just a web browser that does Javascript. All you have to do is share the URL and up to 8 people can be in the same document at the same time.



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on December 11, 2009 12:19 PM.

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