Category Archives: Authors

Happy Public Domain Day 2019!

Today is Public Domain Day 2019, which means (finally!) the end of copyright for works first published in the U.S. in 1923. You are now free to use, reprint, quote, remix, or create your own derivative works from 1923 works without permission from or payment to the copyright holders, who would be the descendants or estates of the long-dead creators.

Specific works from a wide range of authors entered the public domain today, including Robert Frost, Winston Churchill, Agatha Christie, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Kahlil Gibran, Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence, Edith Wharton, P.G. Wodehouse, Ernest Hemingway, Sigmund Freud, Willa Cather, Joseph Conrad, H.G. Wells, Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Rudyard Kipling, e.e. cummings, E.M. Forster, Zane Grey, Arthur Conan Doyle, and many others.

The full texts of the 1923 books that have already been scanned by the Internet Archive, Hathi Trust, and Google Books will be made publicly available on their websites, and I’m sure many more 1923 works will soon be scanned by these and other institutions. And every January 1st the public domain will gain another year’s treasures, which will be especially important to authors, scholars, artists, and researchers.

For decades, only works published in the U.S. through 1922 have been in the public domain, as Congress repeatedly and retroactively extended the length of copyright terms. Most works published between 1923 and 1977 currently have copyright protection for 95 years, so 1923 works enter the public domain on the first day of 2019, 1924 works on the first day of 2020, and so on. (So F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, first published in 1925, won’t enter the public domain for another two years.)  However, books published today don’t enter the public domain until 70 years after the death of the author. It’s all ridiculously complicated, so see this chart of Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States from Cornell University for details and exceptions.

Here are some recommended links for more information and lists of some of the 1923 works that entered the public domain today:

Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country

Today is publication day for Lovecraft Country, the new novel by my husband, Matt Ruff.

You can learn more about the book and read reviews and an excerpt here.

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If you’d like to attend one of Matt’s book events in Seattle, Portland, or Vancouver, you’ll find the details here. The launch event is tonight, February 16th, at 7pm at Elliott Bay Books, where Matt will be in conversation with Paul Constant from the Seattle Review of Books.

“But you love these stories!” Atticus said. “You love them as much as I do!”

“I do love them, George agreed. “But stories are like people, Atticus. Loving them doesn’t make them perfect. You try to cherish their virtues and overlook their flaws. The flaws are still there, though.”

“But you don’t get mad. Not like Pop does.”

“No, that’s true, I don’t get mad. Not at stories. They do disappoint me sometimes.” He looked at the shelves. “Sometimes, they stab me in the heart.”

Lying to children about the past

I reviewed A Birthday Cake for George Washington, the controversial children’s picture book about slavery, for the Seattle Review of Books— read it here: http://seattlereviewofbooks.com/reviews/the-idea-of-freedom-might-be-too-great-a-temptation-for-them-to-resist/

In my review I tell the real story of Hercules, George Washington’s slave-cook, a story far different from the happy fictional one in the book, which was promoted as “based on real events.” SPOILER ALERT: On Washington’s 65th birthday, Hercules didn’t bake a cake– he escaped.

The book was withdrawn by the publisher over the MLK holiday weekend, but the issues it raises are larger than this particular book. We should tell the complicated truths about America’s founders and founding and stop lying to our children about the past.

My new Books the Founders Read post on Blackstone

“In America the law is king.”
–Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776

My new Books the Founders Read post on the Bauman Rare Books blog is about William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, the most important and widely-read law book in 18th-century America.

Blackstone-tp

John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Dickinson, John Jay, John Marshall, and other Founders read the work and cited it frequently in their writings.

Blackstone-first-American

You can read my Blackstone post here. If you’re interested in reading my other blog posts for Bauman Rare Books, there are links in the sidebar to the right.

“In no country perhaps in the world is the law so general a study… I have been told by an eminent bookseller that in no branch of his business, after tracts of popular devotion, were so many books as those on the law exported to the plantations. The colonists have now fallen into the way of printing them for their own use. I hear that they have sold nearly as many of Blackstone’s Commentaries in America as in England… This study renders men acute, inquisitive, dexterous, prompt in attack, ready in defense, full of resources. In other countries, the people, more simple, and of a less mercurial cast, judge of an ill principle in government only by an actual grievance; here they anticipate the evil, and judge of the pressure of the grievance by the badness of the principle. They augur misgovernment at a distance; and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.”
–Edmund Burke’s 1775 speech on conciliation with the American colonies

Books the Founders Read, my new series for the Bauman Rare Books blog

I’ve started a new series, Books the Founders Read, on the Bauman Rare Books blog. I’ll be highlighting books that the Founding Fathers read, owned, wrote about, and were influenced by. My first post is about Algernon Sidney’s 1698 Discourses Concerning Government, a work that was particularly significant to Thomas Jefferson, who cited it as an important influence on the Declaration of Independence and praised it in his letters.

sidney

Sidney was executed for treason in 1683, accused of involvement in the Rye House Plot against Charles II. Two witnesses were needed to convict someone of treason, but there was only a single witness, so the prosecution used Sidney’s unpublished manuscript of Discourses as the second witness, and the judge famously ruled “scribere est agere”—to write is to act.

You can read the entire post here.

My new posts on the Bauman Rare Books blog

I haven’t been blogging here because I’ve been busy writing holiday season posts for the Bauman Rare Books blog:

Giving and Collecting Rare Books on Economics, featuring books by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, John Maynard Keynes, and Milton Friedman, as well as books on finance and the stock market.

Wealth of Nations

Giving and Collecting Rare Books by 20th-Century Leaders, featuring books and autographs by civil and human rights leaders (Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Eleanor Roosevelt), World War II leaders (Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower), and modern leaders (John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Barack Obama).

King Stride

Giving and Collecting Rare Children’s Books–19th Century, featuring books by Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, Carlo Collodi, and Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Huck new

Giving and Collecting Rare Children’s Books–20th Century,
featuring books by L. Frank Baum, Beatrix Potter, Kenneth Grahame, A.A. Milne, E.B. White, C.S. Lewis, Crockett Johnson, Dr. Seuss, Kay Thompson, Michael Bond, Roald Dahl, and Maurice Sendak.

charlotte's web

William Blake was a visionary– literally

My latest post for the Bauman Rare Books blog is on William Blake’s “Visionary Heads” drawing of Wat Tyler, leader of the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt.

Blake_WatTyler_h_102625

Throughout his life Blake claimed to see visions that inspired his art, as in the case of his “Visionary Heads” series. Blake biographer Alexander Gilchrist described them as portraits “of historical, nay, fabulous and even typical personages, summoned from the vast deep of time, and ‘seen in vision by Mr. Blake.’”

You can read my blog post here: http://www.baumanrarebooks.com/blog/spotlight-blakes-visionary-heads-drawing-wat-tyler-2/

“You can see what I do if you choose. Work up imagination to the state of vision, and the thing is done.” — William Blake

My Banned Books Week post for the Bauman Rare Books blog

We Read Banned Books is my latest post for the Bauman Rare Books blog, featuring the stories of six important books: Joyce’s Ulysses, Galileo’s Dialogo, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Nabokov’s Lolita.

Read it here: http://www.baumanrarebooks.com/blog/read-banned-books/

Ulysses

 

 

 

 

 

Edward de Grazia, the lawyer who fought book censorship & wrote Girls Lean Back Everywhere

In a 2008 post about Banned Books Week, I recommended an excellent 1992 book about literary censorship and obscenity prosecutions in the United States, Edward de Grazia’s Girls Lean Back Everywhere: The Law of Obscenity and the Assault on Genius. He was a lawyer who fought the censorship of books in a number of prominent cases in the 1960s.

Girls Lean Back Everywhere

This morning I learned that Edward de Grazia has died at the age of 86. Here’s his obituary from the New York Times.

Here’s an excerpt from my original post about his book:

The title is taken from a quote by Jane Heap, who (with Margaret Anderson) was prosecuted in 1920 for publishing episodes from James Joyce’s Ulysses in their magazine, The Little Review:

Mr. Joyce was not teaching early Egyptian perversions nor inventing new ones. Girls lean back everywhere, showing lace and silk stockings; wear low-cut sleeveless blouses, breathless bathing suits; men think thoughts and have emotions about these things everywhere–seldom as delicately and imaginatively as Mr. Bloom–and no one is corrupted.

This work describes in detail the publishing histories and obscenity trials of the most controversial books of the 20th century, including Joyce’s Ulysses, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, and Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, as well as later trials involving the monologues of Lenny Bruce, the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe, and the lyrics of 2 Live Crew.

What makes this work particularly entertaining are the extensive quotes from the authors and publishers involved. As de Grazia notes in his introduction:

I wanted to find out, and describe, how the persons who were most immediately affected by literary censorship–authors and publishers–responded to and felt about it, and to present their reactions as much as possible in words of their own. I also wanted to say what I could about the nature of the legal and constitutional process that has framed the struggle against censorship in our country….

The Great Gatsby was published 88 years ago today but won’t enter the public domain until 2021

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was published 88 years ago today, on April 10, 1925.

Gatsby

However, this work won’t enter the public domain in the U.S. until January 1, 2021. That’s because the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act extended the copyright term to 95 years after publication for books published between 1923 and 1962 (if published with a copyright notice and if the copyright was renewed). Copyright law is ridiculously complicated, so right now the only works you can be sure are in the public domain in the U.S. are those published before 1923. So This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned are in the public domain, but The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night are not. This 2011 Duke University Libraries post summarizes the Fitzgerald copyright situation.

Books published today enter the public domain 70 years after the death of the author. Here are some links for more information about our crazy and complicated copyright system:

Update, January 1, 2019: My new blog post about Public Domain Day 2019— works first published in the U.S. in 1923 are now free of copyright, but we still have to wait another two years for The Great Gatsby to enter the public domain.

Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, Elizabeth Hand, Samuel R. Delany, Kelly Link, Joe Hill, Karen Joy Fowler…

Two fantastic groups of writers will be teaching at the 2013 Clarion and Clarion West Writers Workshops for science fiction and fantasy.

Elizabeth Hand, Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Justina Robson, Ellen Datlow, and Samuel R. Delany will be teaching at Clarion West in Seattle from June 23 through August 2, 2013.

Andy Duncan, Nalo Hopkinson, Cory Doctorow, Robert Crais, Karen Joy Fowler, and Kelly Link will be teaching at Clarion at UC San Diego from June 23 through August 3, 2013.

The two workshops are each accepting applications through March 1, 2013. See their websites for instructions and more information.

Update, 2/5/13: Margo Lanagan will be teaching at Clarion West instead of Justina Robson.

 

Write science fiction and fantasy under the guidance of George R. R. Martin, Cassandra Clare, Chuck Palahniuk, Ted Chiang…

The 2012 Clarion and Clarion West Writers Workshops for science fiction and fantasy have each lined up an amazing group of writers as teachers.

Clarion West will be held in Seattle from June 17 through July 27, and the instructors are Mary Rosenblum, Hiromi Goto, George R. R. Martin, Connie Willis, Kelly Link & Gavin Grant, and Chuck Palahniuk.

Clarion will be held in San Diego from June 24 through August 4th, and the instructors are Jeffrey Ford, Marjorie Liu, Ted Chiang, Walter Jon Williams, Holly Black, and Cassandra Clare.

The two workshops are each accepting applications now through March 1st.  See their individual websites for more information and instructions.

The Mirage cover

Matt’s new novel, The Mirage, now has a publication date (February 7, 2012) and a cover:

You can read more about the book on Matt’s website, and his blog posts about the book are here.

Update, 11/11/11: The Mirage has a new cover design.

 

Breaking news: Judge Chin rejects the Google Books Settlement

James Grimmelmann has just reported that Judge Denny Chin has rejected the Google Books Settlement. (For background, see my previous posts on the Google Books case or The Public Index website.) The full opinion is here (PDF). I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but below are a couple of excerpts from the beginning and the end of the opinion:

The question presented is whether the ASA [Amended Settlement Agreement] is fair, adequate, and reasonable. I conclude that it is not.

While the digitization of books and the creation of a universal digital library would benefit many, the ASA would simply go too far. It would permit this class action– which was brought against defendant Google Inc. to challenge its scanning of books and display of “snippets” for on-line searching– to implement a forward-looking business arrangement that would grant Google significant rights to exploit entire books, without permission of the copyright owners. Indeed, the ASA would give Google a significant advantage over competitors, rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission, while releasing claims well beyond those presented in the case.

Accordingly, and for the reasons more fully discussed below, the motion for final approval of the ASA is denied….

In the end, I conclude that the ASA is not fair, adequate, and reasonable. As the United States and other objectors have noted, many of the concerns raised in the objections would be ameliorated if the ASA were converted from an “opt-out” settlement to an “opt-in” settlement…. I urge the parties to consider revising the ASA accordingly.

I recommend checking Grimmelmann’s blog (The Laboratorium) for his analysis and information about the case.

Update: Here’s the link to Grimmelmann’s new post, “Inside Judge Chin’s Opinion.” More links at The Public Index Blog and TeleRead. Publishers Weekly has an interesting article about what could happen next and the obstacles in the way of revising the settlement.

I’m still here

Sorry for the blog silence, but my attention was elsewhere.

The good news is that Matt has finished writing his new novel, The Mirage, which will likely be published in January 2012. (More details to come.) One of the perks of being married to an author is that I’m his first reader, and I can’t begin to describe the remarkable experience of reading manuscript pages and watching a master storyteller work his magic. As an added bonus, I enjoy assisting him with research, fact-checking, and editing. (But it’s not all fun– helping my obsessive and perfectionist husband get over the finish line and let go of the book is grueling.) I don’t want to tease you, but let me just say this book is his best yet– it’s mind-blowingly great and unlike anything I’ve ever read, yet still clearly a Matt Ruff book.

To help make amends for my absence, here are two photos of the ocelot kitten born in January at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo:

The Mongoliad iPad and iPhone apps are now available

The Mongoliad apps for iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch are now available in the iTunes store. (For more information about The Mongoliad, the collaborative storytelling project headed by Neal Stephenson, see my earlier post or go to The Mongoliad website.)

The apps are free, but to read the serialized novel and view the extras you’ll have to buy a subscription ($5.99 for six months or $9.99 for one year). If you’ve already subscribed through the website, you should be able to log in to the app using your existing account.

Chapters 1 through 9 of the novel have been released, and new chapters appear every Wednesday.


57 years of author interviews from The Paris Review are now online

If you liked the BBC archive of interviews with British novelists that I blogged about a couple of months ago, you’ll love this.

The New York Times reported that Lorin Stein, the new editor of The Paris Review, has posted all of the magazine’s author interviews from 1953 to 2010 on the website, where they can be read for free.

The archive contains hundreds of interviews with a remarkable assortment of authors– writers of fiction and nonfiction, poets, playwrights, and screenwriters– and you can browse by name or by decade. Here are just some of the notable authors I spotted while browsing:  Edward Albee, Woody Allen, Martin Amis, Kingsley Amis, A.R. Ammons, Maya Angelou, John Ashbery, Margaret Atwood, W.H. Auden, James Baldwin, J.G. Ballard, Saul Bellow, Harold Bloom, Ray Bradbury, Anthony Burgess, William S. Burroughs, James M. Cain, Truman Capote, Raymond Carver, Don DeLillo, Isak Dineson, T.S. Eliot, Ralph Ellison, James Ellroy, William Faulkner, Shelby Foote, E.M. Forster, John Fowles, Robert Frost, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Graves, Graham Greene, Joseph Heller, Lillian Hellman, Ernest Hemingway, Ted Hughes, Aldous Huxley, John Irving, Kazuo Ishiguro, Jack Kerouac, Ken Kesey, Stephen King, Milan Kundera, John le Carre, Doris Lessing, Jonathan Letham, Norman Mailer, Bernard Malamud, David Mamet, Ian McEwan, Henry Miller, Arthur Miller, Toni Morrison, Vladimir Nabokov, Grace Paley, Dorothy Parker, Boris Pasternak, Harold Pinter, Ezra Pound, Richard Powers, Richard Price, Jean Rhys, Philip Roth, Salman Rushdie, Budd Schulberg, Anne Sexton, Neil Simon, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Stephen Sondheim, John Steinbeck, Tom Stoppard, William Styron, Hunter S. Thompson, James Thurber, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut, Evelyn Waugh, Eudora Welty, Rebecca West, E.B. White, Elie Wiesel, Billy Wilder, Thornton Wilder, William Carlos Williams, Tennessee Williams, August Wilson, Jeanette Winterson, Tom Wolfe, and P.G. Wodehouse.

Enjoy!

Productive frustration, lost libraries, and required reading for aspiring writers

As I read  Ben Greenman’s “Lives” essay in today’s New York Times Magazine, this caught my eye:

By supplying answers to questions with such ruthless efficiency, the Internet cuts off the supply of an even more valuable commodity: productive frustration. Education, at least as I remember it, isn’t only, or even primarily, about creating children who are proficient with information. It’s about filling them with questions that ripen, via deferral, into genuine interests.

I like the term “productive frustration” because it is an apt description of part of the research process. Finding quick answers to simple questions is easy, but it shuts down the process. When you wrestle with more complex questions, try to figure out what you need to know and the different ways you might look for it, or can’t find what you’re searching for, it’s an opportunity to think more creatively, explore new paths, feed your curiosity, and make unexpected discoveries. As the Gaga librarians sang, “when it comes to search if it’s not tough it isn’t fun…”

Here are links to some other excellent pieces I read this week:

Craig Fehran’s “Lost Libraries: The strange afterlife of authors’ book collections” describes what happened to the personal libraries of David Foster Wallace, David Markson, John Updike, Mark Twain, and other authors after their deaths:

Most people might imagine that authors’ libraries matter–that scholars and readers should care what books authors read, what they thought about them, what they scribbled in the margins. But far more libraries get dispersed than saved. In fact, David Markson can now take his place in a long and distinguished line of writers whose personal libraries were quickly, casually broken down….

The issues at stake when libraries vanish are bigger than any one author and his books. An author’s library offers unique access to a mind at work, and their treatment provides a look at what exactly the literary world decides to value in an author’s life….

Charles Stross’ post “Why Wikipedia is the writer’s friend” explains why fiction writers should do at least enough research to avoid errors and prevent the collapse of suspension of disbelief. Though I certainly don’t recommend using Wikipedia as your source for research and fact-checking, I strongly agree with his larger point: 

Always do, at a minimum, a brief fact-check on everything you write in a work of fiction with a non-fantastical/far future setting. Otherwise you will be sorry….

Fiction relies upon the reader’s willing suspension of disbelief — if you’re immersed in a novel, it helps not to be jerked up short every ten seconds by the realization that the setup is nonsensical….

John Scalzi’s “Writing: Find the Time or Don’t.” This post should be required reading for all aspiring writers:

So: Do you want to write or don’t you? If your answer is “yes, but,” then here’s a small editing tip: what you’re doing is using six letters and two words to say “no.” And that’s fine. Just don’t kid yourself as to what “yes, but” means.

If your answer is “yes,” then the question is simply when and how you find the time to do it. If you spend your free time after work watching TV, turn off the TV and write. If you prefer to spend time with your family when you get home, write a bit after the kids are in bed and before you turn in yourself. If your work makes you too tired to think straight when you get home, wake up early and write a little in the morning before you head off….

And if you can’t manage that, then what you’re saying is that you were lying when you said your answer is “yes.” Because if you really wanted to write, you would find a way to make the time, and you would find a way to actually write….

But if you want to be a writer, than be a writer, for god’s sake…. Find the time or make the time. Sit down, shut up and put your words together. Work at it and keep working at it. And if you need inspiration, think of yourself on your deathbed saying “well, at least I watched a lot of TV.” If saying such a thing as your life ebbs away fills you with existential horror, well, then. I think you know what to do.

The David Foster Wallace archive

Today the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin announced that the literary archive of David Foster Wallace they acquired after his death is now open to researchers. The archive includes Wallace’s papers, manuscripts, correspondence, teaching materials, and the extensively annotated books from his library.

Here’s a photograph of the inside cover of Wallace’s annotated copy of Don DeLillo’s Players:

The Harry Ransom Center blog has a series of interesting posts about the Wallace archive:

Here are links to more information about the archive:

The Harry Ransom Center is a humanities research library and museum with many extraordinary collections, including exceptional literary archives, manuscripts, and rare books, but you do have to go in person to access them. (They also have a Gutenberg Bible and three copies of the Shakespeare First Folio, among other treasures.)

Did Tony Blair borrow dialogue from the movie The Queen?

Today’s Telegraph has an article by Tim Walker in which Peter Morgan, Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Queen, says he suspects that Tony Blair incorporated lines from the movie into his autobiography:

In A Journey, Blair claims that the Queen said to him: “You are my 10th prime minister. The first was Winston. That was before you were born.” In Morgan’s script to the 2006 film The Queen, Mirren, in the title role, tells Michael Sheen’s Blair: “You are my 10th prime minister, Mr Blair. My first was Winston Churchill.” Morgan tells me: “I wish I could pretend that I had inside knowledge, but I made up those lines. No minutes are taken of meetings between prime ministers and monarchs and the convention is that no one ever speaks about them, so I didn’t even attempt to find out what had been said.

“There are three possibilities. The first is I guessed absolutely perfectly, which is highly unlikely; the second is Blair decided to endorse what I imagined as the official line; and the third is that he had one gin and tonic too many and confused the scene in the film with what had actually happened, and this I find amusing because he always insisted he had never even seen it.”

As this is impossible to fact-check without the cooperation of Elizabeth II, we may have to give Tony Blair the benefit of the doubt and just marvel at Peter Morgan’s ability to get inside the heads of his characters. (If you haven’t seen it, it’s an excellent film– the screenplay and the performances are exceptional.)

The Mongoliad begins…

The Mongoliad launched this morning. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, see my earlier post, “The Mongoliad, a “sekrit project” from Neal Stephenson and friends,” or these articles from Fast Company or VentureBeat.

You can explore The Mongoliad website and read the free preview content, but you’ll need a subscription to read the novel, which will be published in serialized weekly chapters over the course of a year. (The first chapter of the story was released today.) Subscription rates start at $5.99 for six months or $9.99 for one year. Subscribers will also have access to the Forum and other goodies (art, video, music, etc.) as they are released.

If you’d prefer to read The Mongoliad on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch, the apps will be available soon (once they receive the Apple stamp of approval). Apps for other devices will follow in time.

And yes, Matt and I are minor members of The Cabal, but you won’t get any spoilers out of us.

Update: New chapters of the serialized novel will be posted every Wednesday. (The first chapter was posted on September 1st, and the second chapter will be posted on September 8th.)

New Update, 10/31/10: The Mongoliad apps for iPad and iPhone are now available. See my new post for more information.

The BBC radio and television archive website

Thanks to Jay Lake, I discovered that the BBC Archive website contains some fantastic collections of old radio and television content. Here are just a few of the collections that caught my eye:

The full list of collections is here, and the home page has links to some other web resources.

E-books and the future of publishing, with puppets

This video, “Opposing Voices in Digital Publishing,” was created by the digital publishing team at Tyndale House Publishers, and I found it through this TeleRead post.

The Mongoliad, a “sekrit project” from Neal Stephenson and friends

Here’s a preview of The Mongoliad, a new collaborative storytelling project headed by Neal Stephenson:

The Mongoliad is a rip-roaring adventure tale set in 1241, a pivotal year in history, when Europe thought that the Mongol Horde was about to completely destroy their world. The Mongoliad is also the beginning of an experiment in storytelling, technology, and community-driven creativity.

Our story begins with a serial novel of sorts, which we will release over the course of about a year. Neal Stephenson created the world in which The Mongoliad is set, and presides benevolently over it. Our first set of stories is being written by Neal, Greg Bear, Nicole Galland, Mark Teppo, and a number of other authors; we’re also working closely with artists, fight choreographers & other martial artists, programmers, film-makers, game designers, and a bunch of other folks to produce an ongoing stream of nontextual, para-narrative, and extra-narrative stuff which we think brings the story to life in ways that are pleasingly unique, and which can’t be done in any single medium.

Very shortly, once The Mongoliad has developed some mass and momentum, we will be asking fans to join us in creating the rest of the world and telling new stories in it. That’s where the real experiment part comes in. We are building some pretty cool tech to make that easy and fun, and we hope lots of you will use it.

People will be able to get The Mongoliad over the web and via custom clients for mobile devices – we’re going to start out with iPad, iPhone, Android, and Kindle apps, and will probably do more in the not too distant future.

Stay tuned. Fun stuff coming!

On May 25th there will be a sneak peak of the alpha version at the SF App Show. Here are links to The Mongoliad’s website and Facebook page, and you can sign up for e-mail updates here.

Update, 9/1/10: The Mongoliad has launched. See my new post for more information.

Interview about my “Creative Research for Writers” class

Kate Lebo’s interview with me about my May 16th “Creative Research for Writers” class has been posted on the Richard Hugo House blog. Here’s a preview:

Kate Lebo: When I think “research,” I think “Google” or (anachronistically) “card catalog.” Is that what you mean by creative research for writers? Or will your class teach students how to go beyond the card catalog?

Lisa Gold: What I call “creative research” is figuring out what you need to know, why you need to know it, where to find it and how to use it in your writing. It’s also about seeking out a variety of sources to gain knowledge and understand context instead of just searching for discrete facts. The number of soldiers killed in the Battle of Gettysburg is a fact, but understanding what it was like to be a Confederate soldier fighting in that battle is knowledge. That is what you need to write about it in a believable way, bring the events and characters to life and transport your reader to that time and place.

If you only use Google and Wikipedia for your research, you’ll not only have to dig through mountains of junk, you’ll never find all the really great stuff that’s hidden beneath the surface or may not be on the Web at all. I’ll be talking in detail about a wide range of sources and where to find them, as well as how to evaluate sources so you can figure out what’s credible, accurate and useful and take into account their strengths and weaknesses. Though my focus will be on different types of digital and print sources, we’ll also explore other valuable but underused sources—like people, for example….

You can read the entire interview here.

You can still register for the class, which will be held on Sunday, May 16th from 10am to 5pm. See my previous post for details, or follow the link within the interview to register.

Update, 2/19/2014: Hugo House has redesigned their website, so the original page I linked to is gone. I’ve replaced the link with an archived version of the page from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. I’ve also copied the full text of the interview below.

May 12, 2010 Hugo House interview with Lisa Gold

Kate Lebo: When I think “research,” I think “Google” or (anachronistically) “card catalog.” Is that what you mean by creative research for writers? Or will your class teach students how to go beyond the card catalog?

Lisa Gold: What I call “creative research” is figuring out what you need to know, why you need to know it, where to find it and how to use it in your writing. It’s also about seeking out a variety of sources to gain knowledge and understand context instead of just searching for discrete facts. The number of soldiers killed in the Battle of Gettysburg is a fact, but understanding what it was like to be a Confederate soldier fighting in that battle is knowledge. That is what you need to write about it in a believable way, bring the events and characters to life and transport your reader to that time and place.

If you only use Google and Wikipedia for your research, you’ll not only have to dig through mountains of junk, you’ll never find all the really great stuff that’s hidden beneath the surface or may not be on the Web at all. I’ll be talking in detail about a wide range of sources and where to find them, as well as how to evaluate sources so you can figure out what’s credible, accurate and useful and take into account their strengths and weaknesses. Though my focus will be on different types of digital and print sources, we’ll also explore other valuable but underused sources—like people, for example. I’ve also put together an annotated list of selected references and resources to help students with their own research.

KL: How does research lead to better writing?

LG: Creative research can help writers with inspiration, world-building, storytelling and character development. It doesn’t matter whether you are writing about real people or fictional characters, or about living in the past, present, future or an imaginary world—the more you know (or decide) about their day-to-day lives, their worldview and their world, the more real and understandable they will be to you and your readers. John Crowley wrote that these “small details of common life… give actuality, aliveness and thickness” to a story. The point of doing research is to help you tell a great story and breathe life into your characters, not to show off all the cool stuff you’ve found. Kelley Eskridge told me that she tries to “learn enough in research to create a culture in the story that feels real to people who know it, and is accessible to people who don’t… Every ‘research detail’ that makes it into the final story needs to serve a dual purpose—to establish/ground the world of the story and to either serve as an emotional backdrop or reveal an aspect of character.”

KL: What’s the most common hurdle people encounter when doing research for their writing? What’s the best/easiest way to overcome it?

LG: I think the most common mistakes people make are using research as an excuse not to write and not knowing when to stop. You shouldn’t wait until you finish your research to begin writing, and you don’t need to know everything about a subject in order to write about it. Writing and research are interconnected, and each should fuel the other. Don’t let anything stop the writing—if you are missing details, mark the spot with a quick note of what you need, keep writing and fill in the blanks later. Knowing when to stop researching is harder, but you should think carefully and make conscious decisions about what you actually need to know and what you can just make up.

KL: What’s the most creative method you’ve used to find information?

LG: I’m a strong believer in browsing and serendipity, which can lead to amazing discoveries. I spend a lot of time browsing bookstores and the Web, and I like to feed my curiosity and see where it leads. Whenever I’m looking for something in a bookstore or library, I always browse the surrounding books and nearby shelves. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve found books much better than the one I was looking for or spotted something that I didn’t need at the time but later proved indispensable. Sometimes you don’t really know what you need until you stumble across it. Talking to people is another great way to uncover information—chances are you know someone or have a family member with unusual interests or expertise or who has done extraordinary things or lived through important historical events or periods.

KL: What kind of research do you do?

LG: I do whatever kind of research my clients need. Because I work with writers of fiction and nonfiction, I’ve researched a really wide range of subjects—life in Victorian London, the rich and their servants in 1930s New York City, cultural and historical trends throughout 20th-century America, American Revolutionary pamphlets and broadsides, as well as an odd miscellany of subjects for my husband (Matt Ruff), to name a few. I like working on unusual creative projects, such as when I encrypted messages into John Wilkins’ 17th-century “Real Character” symbolic language for the promotional campaign for Neal Stephenson’s historical novel “Quicksilver.” My own research is also eclectic, as I have a lot of interests and like to learn stuff, and some of it ends up in my blog.

Register for my May 16th “Creative Research for Writers” class

A reminder that registration is still open for my May 16th all-day “Creative Research for Writers” class at Richard Hugo House in Seattle. Here’s the class description:

Creative Research for Writers

Learn how creative research can help writers of fiction and nonfiction, get practical tips and advice on doing research and incorporating it into your writing, and discover how and where to find useful and unusual sources of information on the Web, in books, and in unexpected places.

The class is on Sunday, May 16th from 10am to 5pm and costs $142.00 ($127.80 for Hugo House members). Registration information is here and the Spring 2010 Hugo House course catalog is here.

Amazon threatens publishers again

This morning brings news (from an article in the New York Times and a blog post in MobyLives) that Amazon “has threatened to stop directly selling the books of some publishers online unless they agree to a detailed list of concessions regarding the sale of electronic books” (NYT).

Amazon is trying to prevent publishers from making deals with Apple to sell their ebooks on the iPad using the agency model. Amazon is apparently refusing to negotiate an agency model with any publishers other than the five majors who’ve already made deals with Apple. According to the MobyLives post, independent publishers are being told that “if they switched to an agency model for ebooks, Amazon would stop selling their entire list, in print and digital form.”

Amazon and Apple are each requiring publishers to agree to restrictive terms, which may in effect force publishers to choose between Amazon and Apple. From the Times article:

Five of the country’s six largest publishers — Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, HarperCollins and Penguin — have already reached deals with Apple to sell their books through its iBookstore, which will be featured on the iPad. (The holdout is Random House.)

Under those agreements, the publishers will set consumer prices for each book, and Apple will serve as an agent and take a 30 percent commission. E-book editions of most newly released adult general fiction and nonfiction will cost $12.99 to $14.99.

Amazon has agreed in principle that the major publishers would be able to set prices in its Kindle store as well. But it is also demanding that they lock into three-year contracts and guarantee that no other competitor will get lower prices or better terms.

Apple, for its part, is requiring that publishers not permit other retailers to sell any e-books for less than what is listed in the iBookstore. So the publishers have sought to renegotiate agreements they have with Amazon under which they sold books to it at wholesale, allowing Amazon to set the consumer price….

According to three people briefed on the discussions, publishers are reluctant to sign three-year contracts because the digital book world is changing so rapidly and they want room to adjust as it takes shape.

Amazon has also begun talking with smaller publishers that have not yet signed contracts with Apple. In those conversations, according to one person briefed on the discussions, Amazon has said it prefers to retain its wholesale pricing model, as opposed to Apple’s so-called agency model.

But some of these smaller publishers have begun talking with Apple, which has effectively said that any publisher that wishes to sell its books on the iPad must offer the same terms to all booksellers. In other words, to do business with Apple, publishers must export Apple’s business model to all retailers. Amazon, by contrast, has not promised to adopt the agency approach for any but the largest publishers.

Amazon appears to be responding to the Apple threat by waging a publisher-by-publisher battle, trying to keep as many books as possible out of Apple’s hands, while preserving as much flexibility as it can to set its own prices.

But if Amazon tries to enforce its demands by removing “buy” buttons from some pages again, some believe it could harm its reputation in the eyes of customers and the publishing industry….

Amazon may have more leverage with smaller publishers, which typically sell their books in fewer outlets and thus tend to rely more on Amazon for sales. Amazon may believe that if it can keep those publishers from moving to an agency model, Apple will choose not to sell their e-books, and Amazon will be seen as having a broader selection.

For those of you who want a reminder of the Amazon/Macmillan boycott battle and the ebook agency vs. wholesale sales model controversy, here are links to a two of my blog posts about it from late January and early February:

How cutting and pasting can lead to plagiarism

In today’s New York Times, Public Editor Clark Hoyt’s column, titled “Journalistic Shoplifting,” is about the recent plagiarism scandal surrounding Times business reporter Zachery Kouwe.

I wanted to point out this particular passage, in which Hoyt notes that both Zachery Kouwe and Gerald Posner claim that their plagiarism was unintentional, caused by cutting and pasting material from other sources and mixing it up with their own writing:

Kouwe told [John Koblin of the New York Observer] that the plagiarism happened with minor news reported elsewhere that needed to be matched on DealBook. He said he would copy stories from wires, paste them into a file in the editing system, verify the information and then put the material in his own words. At least, he said, that is what he intended to do. When I asked him how he could fail to notice that he was copying someone else’s work, he added further explanation: He said the raw material in the computer files in which he assembled his stories included not only reports from other sources but also context and background from previous articles that he had written himself. When putting it all together, he said, he must have thought the words he copied were his own, earlier ones. “It was just my carelessness in trying to get it up quickly,” he said.

The explanation was similar to one offered only days earlier by Gerald Posner, a reporter for The Daily Beast, who was caught by Jack Shafer of Slate cribbing sentences from The Miami Herald. Posner, who resigned after even more plagiarism was found, also said that he did not do it intentionally. He said he had poured all his research — interviews, public documents, published articles — into a master electronic file and then boiled it into an article under tight Web deadlines, a process that led to disaster.

We’ve seen before how cutting and pasting material written by others can lead to plagiarism, as in the Chris Anderson Free/Wikipedia scandal.

Writers can protect themselves from this kind of  “unintentional plagiarism” by incorporating some simple and practical tips into their research and writing process. In a July 2009 blog post on avoiding plagiarism, I recommended Harvard University’s excellent PDF publication Writing with Internet Sources. The chapter on “Incorporating Electronic Sources into Your Writing” contains a section called “Strategies for Avoiding Internet Plagiarism” (pages 42-44), with important advice for writers:

Internet plagiarism most often occurs when writers cut and paste from the Internet or paraphrase carelessly… The following tips will help you research and write with honesty and integrity.

  • Plan ahead
    … Budget enough time to search for sources, take notes on them, and think about how to use them… Moments of carelessness are more common when you leave your [writing] until the last minute and are tired or stressed. Honest mistakes can lead to charges of plagiarism just as dishonesty can; be careful when note-taking and in the incorporation of ideas and language from electronic sources so you don’t “borrow”—i.e., unintentionally plagiarize—the work of another writer.
  • Print your sources
    Print the relevant pages from any websites you use, making sure that you note the complete URL….
  • File and label your sources
    Never cut and paste information from an electronic source straight into your own [writing]. Instead, open a separate document on your computer for each electronic source so you can file research information. When you cut and paste into that document, make sure to include the full URL….
  • Keep your own writing and your sources separate
    Work with either the printed copy of your source(s) or the copy you pasted into a separate document—not the online version—as you [write]….
  • Keep your notes and your draft separate
    Be careful to keep your research notes separate from your actual draft; this will ensure you don’t cut language from a source and paste it directly into your draft without proper attribution. You can open your notes and your draft next to each other on your computer screen and work back and forth.
  • Acknowledge your sources explicitly when paraphrasing
    In your research notes, use some form of notation to indicate what you’ve paraphrased (e.g., put brace brackets around the paraphrase), and mention the author’s name within the material you paraphrase. Once you start writing and revising, make sure you avoid gradually rewording the paraphrased material until you lose sight of the fact that it is still a paraphrase of someone else’s ideas….
  • Quote your sources properly
    Always use quotation marks for directly quoted material, even for short phrases and key terms….
  • Keep a source trail
    As you write and revise…, keep a source trail of notes and of each successive draft…. You ought to be able to reconstruct the path you took from your sources, to your notes, to your drafts, to your revision….

I also recommend that you read Craig Silverman’s recent column for the Columbia Journalism Review, “The Counter-Plagiarism Handbook: Tips for writers and editors on how to avoid or detect journalistic plagiarism.” Here are two of his useful tips for writers:

  • Use a different font and text color for your research files. This will help you instantly recognize other people’s words when you paste them into your story.
  • Add in the proper attribution as soon as you paste any research into your draft.

My next “Creative Research for Writers” class will be May 16th

On Sunday, May 16th, I’ll be teaching an all-day “Creative Research for Writers” class at Richard Hugo House in Seattle. Here’s the class description:

Creative Research for Writers
Learn how creative research can help writers of fiction and nonfiction, get practical tips and advice on doing research and incorporating it into your writing, and discover how and where to find useful and unusual sources of information on the Web, in books, and in unexpected places.

The class will be from 10 am to 5 pm. The cost is $142.00 ($127.80 for Hugo House members), and enrollment is limited to 15.

Registration is now open for Hugo House members by phone (206-322-7030) or in person. Beginning March 2nd, registration will be open to everyone and you can register online or by phone, mail, or fax. Here are links to the registration information and the Spring 2010 course catalog.

Please e-mail me if you have any questions.

Update, 3/3/10: Online registration is now open to all.

More breaking news: Amazon is selling Macmillan print books again

It looks like Amazon has begun to restore Macmillan print books–but not Kindle ebooks– to their website. All week I’ve been spot-checking various titles throughout the day, and when I last checked at 3:45pm PST, these print books were finally available for sale again:

Update:  The New York Times Bits blog has confirmed it in their post, “Macmillan Books Return to Amazon After Dispute“:

Electronic and paper books from the publisher Macmillan were returning to Amazon.com Friday evening, ending a week-long public conflict as the parties negotiated over the future price of e-books.

Details of the resolution have not been made public, but the restoration of Macmillan books to Amazon’s site indicates a peaceful settlement was reached. “I am delighted to be back in business with Amazon,” John Sargent, chief executive of Macmillan, said in an e-mail message…

So what did Amazon hold out for? The company would not comment, but it is likely that Amazon demanded that no other e-book vendors, such as Apple, get preferential access to new titles, or any kind of pricing advantages. Amazon may also have negotiated terms into its agreement with the publisher that would allow users of Kindles or Kindle software to lend e-books to each other.

Breaking news: Hachette joins Macmillan, Justice Dept. still doesn’t like the Google Book Settlement

Two pieces of breaking news tonight:

Hachette joins Macmillan

David Young, the CEO of Hachette Book Group, announced that Hachette is adopting the agency model for ebook pricing. Here’s the GalleyCat article, which includes the text of Young’s letter.

For those keeping score, there are six major U.S. publishers: Macmillan, Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, and Random House. Five of the six (all except Random House) made a deal with Apple to sell their ebooks on the iPad using the agency model. So now that Macmillan and Hachette have publicly committed to adopting the agency model for all of their ebooks (and with HarperCollins likely to as well, based on statements Rupert Murdoch made yesterday), it’s probably only a matter of time before the rest join in. But when will Amazon stop boycotting Macmillan books?

The Justice Department doesn’t like the amended Google Book Settlement, says “class certification, copyright and antitrust issues remain”

The Department of Justice submitted its views to the court on the amended Google Book Settlement. (The fairness hearing is on February 18th.)

James Grimmelmann summarizes:

The United States has filed a new Statement of Interest. The tone is balanced, but the conclusion is clear: the Department of Justice thinks the settlement is beyond the court’s authority and still problematic on antitrust grounds. It’s a careful, detailed brief, that raises fundamental objections to the settlement. These issues will not be resolved with quick patches, even if the parties were in the mood to revise and resubmit a second time.

The battle has been truly joined.

Here’s an excerpt from the press release issued by the Department of Justice:

The Department of Justice today advised the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that despite the substantial progress reflected in the proposed amended settlement agreement in The Authors Guild Inc. et al. v. Google Inc., class certification, copyright and antitrust issues remain. The department also said that the United States remains committed to working with the parties on issues concerning the scope and content of the settlement…

In its statement of interest filed with the court today, the department stated, “Although the United States believes the parties have approached this effort in good faith and the amended settlement agreement is more circumscribed in its sweep than the original proposed settlement, the amended settlement agreement suffers from the same core problem as the original agreement: it is an attempt to use the class action mechanism to implement forward-looking business arrangements that go far beyond the dispute before the court in this litigation.”

Here’s the link to the Justice Department’s full “Statement of Interest of the United States of America.”

Here’s the New York Times article about it, noting: “While the Justice Department did not explicitly urge the court to reject the deal, as it had the previous version, its opposition on copyright, class action and antitrust grounds represented a further setback for Google and the other parties to the deal.”

For more on the Google Book Settlement, see my earlier posts.

And now for something completely different…

Today is day 7 of Amazon’s boycott of Macmillan print books and ebooks. John Scalzi summarizes the current state of affairs in a very entertaining way in his new blog post, “A Quick Interview of Me, By Me, To Catch Up With Everything Amazon.” And Matt and I spotted this today in a full-page ad in the New York Times for Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto:  “Available at booksellers everywhere except Amazon.”

I realize that not all of my readers are as obsessed with this subject as I am, so I will give you a break and blog about some other things today:

Google Book Settlement

The Google Book Settlement fairness hearing will finally be held on February 18th, and the deadline to opt out or object passed on January 28th. James Grimmelmann has been posting lots of great links about the GBS on his Laboratorium blog:

Clarion and Clarion West Writers Workshop deadlines approaching

Applications are due by March 1st for the 2010 Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle, “an intensive six-week workshop for writers preparing for professional careers in science fiction and fantasy.” The 2010 workshop will run from June 20th to July 30th, and the instructors are Michael Bishop, Maureen McHugh, Nnedi Okorafor, Graham Joyce, Ellen Datlow, and Ian McDonald. See the Clarion West website for more information.

Also due by March 1st are applications for the 2010 Clarion Writers’ Workshop at UC San Diego, which runs from June 27th to August 7th. The 2010 instructors are Delia Sherman, George R.R. Martin, Dale Bailey, Samuel R. Delany, Jeff VanderMeer, and Ann VanderMeer.

Library budget cuts

Small Beer Press

Kelly Link and Gavin Grant’s Small Beer Press will bring back into print two books by writers Matt and I really like– Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life in October 2010, and Kelley Eskridge’s Solitaire in January 2011. They are joining a fine group of other writers published by Small Beer Press, including John Crowley, Elizabeth Hand, Geoff Ryman, Sean Stewart, and Kelly Link, among others.

And finally…

Introducing the iCodex:

Today, St. Stephen of Jobs announced the newest creation from the monks at Abbey Apple: the iCodex, which he believes will revolutionize the way people work and play…

With the iCodex, people can now store multiple items in one, easy-to-use package. A user could, for example, enjoy both cooking recipes and psalms, or mappa mundi and instructions on marital relations. Since the iCodex’s pages are bound together in an easy-to-turn format, things stored at the end of an iCodex are as easy to access as the beginning…

Excitement for the product could be felt all over the literate world. At the Library of Google, scribes were busy transferring hundreds of years of scrolls onto codices. “We hope to copy the entire history of human writing into codex form within the next few decades,” said Larry the Page, Google’s founder….

Go read the whole thing on Tom Elrod’s Wordism blog.