February 6th, 2010

observations on Preston's _Impact_

Which I have not read and don't anticipate I ever will, not for any particular reason other than that it isn't in any way the kind of book I would typically read.

However, it is listed at Macmillan's website as a recent/top seller, so off I went to Amazon to see: is it being fulfilled by Amazon new? Yes. Available on the kindle currently? No. I can't speak to before because I was not paying attention. Then to Barnes & Noble's online site. For sale? Obviously. In ebook format for the Nook? Yup -- priced at $8.87.

I'm going to boycott both Barnes & Noble and Macmillan (new, only -- I'll buy used) until I can't readily find instances of this kind of garbage. Unfortunately, as a post I'm about to unlock will demonstrate in detail, this will be a complete no-op. I don't usually shop at Barnes & Noble, and I buy fewer books from Macmillan than any of the other big 6 firms.

Questions I'd love to ask Macmillan

If you go to Macmillan's Website, Tor-Forge imprint, select Science Fiction and Fantasy, and then General Science Fiction, you'll land here:

http://us.macmillan.com/torforge/categories/General/ScienceFictionandFantasy/GeneralScienceFiction

The list of books is default sorted to Topsellers. The first book on the list is _Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang_, by Kate Wilhelm. Originally partially serialized in a magazine in the mid 1970s, it was first _published_ in 1976, and the listed publication date when you click through on Macmillin is 1998.

This isn't some weird fluke. _Trouble and Her Friends_ is in the top 20, as is a title from Van Vogt.

None of these are bad books, and one of the things we all love and respect about Tor is that they maintain a substantial backlist of titles in print -- classics that readers of science fiction should not lose access to. But it is very odd to see them land in the top 20 when something is sorted by Topsellers. It suggests that the new releases aren't able to compete --- with stuff written decades ago, possibly by someone who is now deceased (I'm referring to Van Vogt, not Wilhelm or Scott).

I'm also curious about the origins of this:

http://us.macmillan.com/strangebrew

An anthology featuring authors like Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Faith Hunter, Pat Elrod -- none of whom are Macmillan authors. Oh, and Caitlin Kittredge and and Jenna Maclaine, who are. And amazingly, of the entire list of authors, two of the three I was completely unfamiliar with. [ETA: Before someone else catches me on this, Harris _is_ a Macmillan author. But Macmillan has her mysteries, not the Sookie Stackhouse/urban fantasy/supernatural stuff. That's over at Ace/Penguin.]

I'm guessing some Bright Young Thing over at St. Martin's knew perfectly well their urban fantasy/supernatural/hot sex trash wasn't moving, and figured they'd convince the people who were buying other authors in that realm to try some bite size pieces of their own stock. That's a reasonable strategy, altho it definitely smacks of desperation, especially when your in-house talent names don't make it to the front cover, to judge by the cover art displayed on the Macmillan site.

I did do some digging around in an effort to find out whether any authors I have read in the past are currently producing for Macmillan -- I've read a lot of series over the decades. It turns out Macmillan owns the output of a lot of people I've tried and decided I didn't much care for.

This limits my capacity to meaningfully boycott them. But it might go a little ways to explain this gem from the front page at Macmillan's website:

"A word about Amazon. This has been a very difficult time. Many of you are wondering what has taken so long for Amazon and Macmillan to reach a conclusion. I want to assure you that Amazon has been working very, very hard and always in good faith to find a way forward with us. Though we do not always agree, I remain full of admiration and respect for them. Both of us look forward to being back in business as usual."

This paragraph of Sargent's letter to Macmillan's authors and illustrators has not been heavily quoted or commented upon in the media at large, which has hastened to explain that Macmillan is winning this battle with Amazon, and Amazon looks silly, and the kindle is going to be dead in 18 months. It does not fit the narrative.

Which is why I'd like to ask Macmillan some questions about all this. Because I know for damn sure we won't hear anything out of Amazon.

mumble mumble railroad mumble

Hey, did you know Plessy v. Ferguson was mostly about railroads? And that they were hoping that'd be a test case that would get them out from under the requirement of supplying separate facilities. That didn't turn out so good for them. Or, really, anyone else, even the bigots who wanted what they got. I mean, they'll just look bad for all eternity.

Except, of course, for the minor detail that apparently R. didn't recognize Plessy v. Ferguson. Maybe everyone has just forgotten and it doesn't matter anyway.

I'm halfway through _Railroads and American Law_. Whee!