Today’s Reality is Tomorrow’s Fiction

Science fiction has it backwards, and always has. It’s never been a forward-thinking genre despite it’s reputations and aspirations. It has merely extrapolated from the known, and just like the saying – wherever you go, there you are – so too technology and innovation always end up implementing new ways to do the same old things. Whatever can be said will be used against someone in a court of law somewhere, some time. Whatever information can be collected, will come in handy to those in power. Social media is basically breadcrumbs leading the authorities to your doorstep – ask any one who showed up at to an Arab Spring gathering in Tahrir Square, or in Turkey just this morning. Wouldn’t it be nice if people changed, but they don’t much, do they? How are we enjoying the latest recurrence of race-baiting fascism coming about just as the ‘greatest generation’ that won that last great European war are dying off?

How long do you think it’s going to take for some variation of Pokemon Go to find its way into the hands of “thought police” who will be able to “augment reality” by adding yellow stars on phone screens to AI-identified members of any designated subgroup, or before vigilantes can go around easily identifying registered sex offenders (for one example) because that data is collected and the problem with data is who has access to it. On the one hand you might think positive thoughts like ‘hey someday “they” will be able to identify and interpret the cluster-fuck of signs and signals surrounding some pigheaded moron who is about to go on a murderous rampage’, but when that day comes “they” will certainly find a way to use the algorithm to instead frame whomever the fuck they want to.

So if you want to write some science fiction, just take some new technological fad and add it to the wretched disgrace of recent human history and your job is pretty much all done.

The writer’s fortune

The Rivendale Review

man writing - gustave caillebot - 1885So, you’ve written a story. It might be a short story or a long story, or even a very long novel length story, and you’re thinking it’s the best of you, that others have only to read it in order to see the world differently, to be transformed, dazzled, blown away by this original idea, by this new talent, the talent that you are. It will be the vindication of everything you’ve ever worked for, it will be a poke in the eye for those who told you you were wasting your time, that you would never be published. But you’re also thinking it’s unfortunate, that after sending it out to magazine editors , agents, and publishers for years and years and years, it looks like the naysayers were right: you can’t get your story published anywhere.

Still on the upside, no one’s actually said you can’t write, that you…

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Recommended: More Wattpad Goodness

I’ve nearly completed half of my pledge to take a year off from writing fiction, and it’s helped that I’ve been swamped at work, putting in around 60 hours a week at the old open-floor-plan-paradise-prison that passes for the norm in Silicon Valley these days. With a partial clearing in the release schedule, though, I’ve found a bit of time to catch up and hunker down with some of my favorite writers on Wattpad.

@DawnAdrie – Rules of Escape – is a journey into the linked minds of otherwise institutionalized autistic young people. This story is quite original and succeeds very well in shifting perspective among several characters, some of whom are inside, and some of whom are outside the telepathic circle . There are abundant twists and turns and I’m genuinely excited every time a new chapter pops up in my mobile notifications because I never have any idea whose turn it’s going to be or how it’s going to advance the story.

@ShalonSims – The Dreaming: Dark Star Book Five – the next in an exciting and ambitious tale of a world where totalitarian rulers harness the power of dream walkers in a battle of unlikely factions, featuring the old and the young, the innocent and the suspect, the foolish and the wise, the human and the alien. There’s a lot to unpack in this and its related series, all well worth looking in to.

@LaraBlunte – Blame the Devil – she’s at it again. Yet another irresistible page-turner from the unstoppable @LaraBlunte, a writer of such talent and mystique that she even has me reading romance fiction, almost against my will, and enjoying it immensely, because of her great style and perspective. I always say that my favorite feature of reading is how it lets you remotely occupy the mind of another person. It’s always a treat visiting this one.

@MichaelGraeme – The Sea View Cafe – and speaking of treats, Michael is rolling out another instantly hypnotic story of individuals pulled along by their own incomprehensible inner forces. In other words, literature. Michael’s writing always reminds me of the classics, writers like Conrad and James, Thackery and Eliot. He’s a masterful stylist and quietly burrows you deep inside his characters’ souls. His The Price of Being with Sunita is still resonating, months after I finished reading it.

Highly recommended, all.

In a general note, I’ve enjoyed that past few weeks of having my last story, ‘How my Brained Ended up Inside this Box’, featured on Wattpad. It was even on the top row of the app for a few days there and got a bunch of ‘eyes’ looking at it (also thanks to the beautiful new cover someone made for me (I won’t mention their name here so they don’t get besieged with requests!). Another friend recently made some new covers for some of my other stories – what a great treat. I’m so grateful. But what I started out to say was that you have to enjoy these moments as they happen and not try to hang on to them forever. As a bookseller for many years I became accustomed to the rhythms of the business, and the cycles of sales enjoyed by books as they came and went throughout the years. You’d come across gems and want everyone to read them but their time is always limited. Whenever I think of ‘success’ in fiction I think of The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake, an excellent writer who had several stories featured famously and one book which had its shining moment in the sun. His own moment, his life, was sadly far too short, ending in suicide. I believe we ought to love our time as best we can, and let the things we do, the things we create, have their own time, detach them from our selves, and let them go. They are not us. We have our own stories to live.

Everything is Scammable, in its own way

Reading about the poor souls whose self-published online novels have been stolen and plagiarized by unscrupulous ghouls, I was reminded of the nefarious hacks who’ve attempted to profit on my own non-existent fame and notoriety by publishing fake versions of fake books using my real and profitless name. I pity the fools. But everything is scammable in this world and probably the next one as well. Witness the clownish attempt to get people to click on phishing links when they search for How My Brain Ended Up Inside This Box – a masterpiece of meaningless drivel in and of itself:

backed

the real truth is, here is a real link to a free version of the book thus described.

Featured on Wattpad: How My Brain Ended Up Inside This Box

featured_on_wattpad

I’m happy to see that my most recent sci-fi story, “How My Brain Ended Up Inside This Box”, is now a “featured” selection on Wattpad. It’s a bit of what I like to call “magical futurism”, featuring a black-market “artificially intelligent person” (or A.I.P., or “ape” in the colloquial sense, as in ‘the planet of the’), an organic being, farm-raised on genetically engineered smoothies and destined for auction to the highest bidding criminal enterprise. Gifted with the ability to communicate with foul-mouthed seagulls and ill-tempered felines, the gender-less, age-less, race-less creature has to find its way to escape from the clutches of its mother and other assorted enemies, in this fairly exciting and ultimately utterly unexpected novel.

As with all my books, this one is free on Smashwords and Feedbooks as well.

 

Art, Labor, Money and Value

A recent article implied there’s a great injustice being done because the average salary of an employee of Spotify is $168,000 a year whereas a songwriter would have to have their song played 229 million times to equal that amount, as the average take of a songwriter is something like 0.00005 cents per play. It sounds terrible. It sounds like yet another example of how the top 1% get more than the bottom whatever-large-number percent get, and it’s simply not fair.

Put it another way, the average wage of an employee at Spotify is around $84 an hour, and it takes a songwriter maybe three hours to write a song, so the songwriter should get $252 for that song. And that’s it. Why should they get more? Why should the songwriter get some amount every time the song is played somewhere? Should the Spotify software engineer get 0.00005 cents every time some internet trawler clicks on the button they designed and implemented?

Following that logic, should the grandchildren of the software engineer be accruing royalties for seventy years on button clicks, or lines of code touched in the back end services, or for every database fetch?

Some jobs are more unfortunate than others. Coal miners don’t get royalties on coal being burnt, and damn, the coal can only be burned once, whereas a song can be played for ever and ever!

But wait, art is not just labor, its value far transcends the work of mere mortals, so when we complain that artists don’t get paid fairly in comparison, we are not only talking apples and oranges, we are talking apples from the Garden of Eden to frozen Florida orange juice.

How are we to judge the relative value? By comparing a songwriter’s haul to that of a computer programmer they’re asserting an equivalence, but then they turn around and deny such a comparison is valid. I’m tempted to argue that a songwriter should have to churn out two songs every day, five days a week, forty eight weeks a year (even artists need vacations) and get paid a salary – but that is just how it used to be, back in the days of the studio monopolies. All the songwriters in America worked in the same two buildings, one in New York City and one in Los Angeles, and chances are people listened to some of those songs for years and years and years, and the songwriters got no royalties, because they were under contract and the studios owned the rights of the work, and that wasn’t right or fair either.

The reality is that under capitalism all labor is paid what “the market” determines at any given time is the monetary value of that work. The music industry, like the publishing industry, and the art industry, and the theatre industry, and the modern dance industry, and business as a whole in general, is all about the dominant companies taking in as much money as they can and giving out as little as they can. Who is surprised by this?

The dominant companies of the internet are currently paying software engineers a lot more money than they’re paying songwriters. This is the fact. Is it wrong? Is it bad? When you consider your mobile phone and how it has changed over the past decade from being simply a phone to the entire world at your fingertips, how do you think that happened? The kind of labor done by employees of Spotify is how it happened. I’d guess that the contribution of someone sitting around humming a tune in the hopes of churning out yet another catchy hit was worth just about 0.00005 cents when it comes right down to it.