WaLS: The New Literary Disease

There is a certain fragment of the literary world that drives me fucking bonkers. In my mind, it is epitomized by travel writers, freelance copywriters, Neal Pollack, Poets & Writers magazine,, preditors & editors, and Nick Mamatas. This is the subculture within the literary community where the act of writing has become little more than a performative task that functions as a signifier rather than a craft that is merely a means to produce an end. In this subculture what matters is not that one has produced good writing but that one is seen to be writing productively. In this world the legitimacy of one's writing has nothing to do with its style or content or mastery, but rather that one can point to various facts that, separate from one's work, are taken to be markers of personal legitimacy in the claim to writerhood. Far from the true virtue of writing, ie the production of quality literature regardless of recognition or fiduciary recompense, this instead is a world of a different kind. Rather than the world of writing as artform, it is the world of what I have come to think of as writing as lifestyle, populated by a crowd of mental lepers suffering from Writer as Lifestyle Syndrome (WaLS). And I for one am totally sick of it.

How Not To Get Funding For Your Book

One of the funniest things I've seen in a while, author Lisa Gabriele takes the piss out of a reality television show.

My favorite part is the panelist who says "You know, I own books." Via.

FOX Wants to Kill Watchmen Movie

On the subject of bad decisions, FOX apparently wants to kill the forthcoming Watchmen movie, claiming legal rights to the material that supersede Warner Bros.

"Surprisingly, Fox said it would rather see the film killed instead of collecting a percentage of the box office."

Why? Beats me too.

Could there be Watchmen curse, placed by self-proclaimed occult magician and Watchmen scribe Alan Moore? In any case, one begins to understand why he wants nothing to do with the film industry anymore.

John Oliver's Literature Rodeo

Apparently, they could spring for John Oliver but not for a decent sound editor. Still, a good example of how to make book ads entertaining.

Fat, Gay Superman?

Some disturbing correspondence has emerged between Jerry Siegel, co-creator of Superman, and his publisher Detective Comics (DC), including this little bit of criticism:

Another alleged problem with Shuster's artwork is that it made Superman look gay--or in the period slang of Ellsworth's January 22, 1940 letter, "lah-de-dah" with a "nice fat bottom"--

Also problematic is Lois Lane being too sexy, and in general the quality of co-creator Joe Shuster's artwork.

The State of SF Magazines

In a recent blog post, comics and prose writer Warren Ellis discusses why the print SF magazines are dying. The key for me is when he says,

As was stated over and over last year, any number of things could be done to help these magazines. But, naturally enough, the magazines’ various teams appear not to consider anything to be wrong.

You all may recall that I recently did a not very flattering review of a recent issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, in which I discussed in some depth how almost all the stories within were derivative, uninteresting and for the most part crap. However, when that post was discussed on the F&SF message board, I found the editor in chief, Gordon van Gelder, not only unreceptive to my comments, but completely dismissive of them and of me.

First he wrote "I think my attitudes were a lot like yours back when I was 19 or 20. ... One thing I learned is that while I'm completely entitled to my tastes, my likes, my dislikes, it's a mistake to think that everyone else shares them." What are we, in high school? Are you really arguing that all opinions are subjective and the view that they aren't can't be true because you thought that way when you were young?

Then he says that I would be "better served by anthologies" and that it's an old joke that a "Slipstream" magazine would lose money, because he's obviously raking in a fortune as it is. Moreover, he keeps insisting that F&SF is better than ever, and if that was the case why are they loosing readership year after year? And don't say because people are watching TV and movies and playing video games instead; that's a cop out. As Ellis explains in a later post, print is not dead. Not even close. Ellis seems to think that it's too late for the existing SF magazines, for F&SF, Analog, Interzone, and Asimov's. I'm inclined to think he's right.

The best Ebook reader for the iPhone/iPod Touch

I've been getting really frustrated with Bookshelf's limitations, not the least of which is the fact that if you put your finger down somewhere without holding it long enough it JUMPS to the top or bottom of the paragraph, meaning that if you're trying to scroll down and take your finger off too quickly it jerks you away from whatever you're reading. Also the interface is ugly, the HTML book I'd imported didn't format quite right resulting in the first chunk of it being centered, and did I mention it doesn't read PDFs? This thing cost me $10?

Then along comes Stanza. Stanza has a beautiful interface, a huge library of public domain books easily available, and the book formats it supports? "Stanza contains built-in reading support for Amazon Kindle, Mobipocket, Microsoft LIT, PalmDoc, Microsoft Word, Rich Text Format, HTML, and PDF." [Emphasis mine.] And even better: It's FREE!

The only catch? The program to transfer books from your computer to your device only works with Macintosh. Apparently, they're working on a Windows version (and maybe even a Linux version, which would make me happy to no end). For now, though, I found the works of HP Lovecraft that I was reading on Bookshelf in Stanza's free library, so I'm good for the time being. Once they get the software working on other platforms, this will be the only eBook reader anyone should even consider using on their device.

iTunes App Store Opens

Apple has opened the App store for business, though the firmware updates for the iPhone and the iPod Touch are still a day away. (iPhones but not Touches can actually get the 2.0 update through a direct link.)

Naturally, after downloading the iTunes update with the App store, my first course of action was to try and find the PDF eBook reader I've been waiting for. A search for "PDF" came up with bubkis, but I did stumble on this App (which has "PDF" in the description -- Apple, time to work on your search functionality). It allows you to copy files, including PDFs, to your device and read them. The only thing missing is the ability to bookmark pages.

I'm not buying the app until I know it can bookmark, but I've sent them an email asking about it. I'll keep you all posted.

Update: I also just found this app, which doesn't read PDFs, but does read HTML and text. If FileMagnet doesn't do the job, this is what I'll probably be using until a proper PDF reader comes along.

Update 2: The makers of FileMagnet replied to my email:

Hi Eric:

Thanks for your interest in FileMagnet. FileMagnet's PDF viewing is identical to the way Safari on the iPhone shows PDFs. There's not currently a way to bookmark pages as far as I know. We will absolutely be looking into providing more powerful PDF viewing in a future update!


So no dice there. Sigh. If only the iPhone SDK were available for Linux, I could really build something (or at least try to)...

What We Need From an Ebook Reader for the iPhone

There was some buzz in the lit-bloggy-verse a little bit ago about eReader coming out with an ebook reader for the iPhone/iPod Touch. Let me tell you why this is not a big deal.

eReader's software only reads one ebook format, Palm Doc or "pdb", which was originally developed for the Palm Pilot. As an aside, the help section on the site unhelpfully calls this the "Doc" format, which is confusing since for most people "doc" refers to files with the ".doc" extension, that is, Microsoft Word files. I suppose eReader didn't want to confuse people who might think that the format only works with Palm Pilot, but I think it would have been a much better idea to simply explain that the format originated on the Palm Pilot. As it is it might confuse people into thinking their eReader software can read Microsoft Word documents.

Anyway, the eReader store only offers eBooks with DRM, which is typical for Palm Doc files. (Typically the only way to get a Palm Doc file without DRM is to make it yourself.) I once bought two ebooks like this to read on my Palm Pilot. One was an essay collection, the other a long novel I never finished. Now they are useless to me, because to read them I have to input my old credit card number as an "unlock code". I haven't had this credit card in years. No matter that I paid real money for these books, no matter how much I want to reference that essay collection or finish reading that novel, I can't. The books I bought are useless to me, in striking contrast to, say, physical books, which when paid for can be reread and reread to one's hearts content. (And if I didn't want to be able to reread the books, I would have just gotten them from the library in the first place.)

I will never buy another book in the Palm Doc format, or any other format crippled with DRM.

This shouldn't be a problem. More and more eBooks are being offered in non-DRM'd format, specifically, as reliable, old PDFs. What we need is a proper PDF reader for the iPhone/iPod Touch.

Of course, the iPhone/iPod Touch can already read PDFs. There are, however, two major problems with the way it does so. One, it can only read PDFs that are emailed to the device or that are on a web page, and it can't move those PDFs into the file system for easy access, meaning in the case of web page PDFs one has to be online to read them at all. Two, even more critically for eBooks, the PDF reader can't bookmark pages.

So this is what we need: the ability to transfer a PDF from the computer to the device's file system and the ability to bookmark pages. Solve those two problems and you will have (finally) turned the iPhone/iPod Touch into the ebook reader we've all been waiting for.

And if nobody makes an ebook reader like this in July, when the iPhone/iPod Touch App Store is unveiled, I may just make it myself.