Saturday, July 27, 2013

Review of K.A. Bedford's Paradox Resolution

Paradox Resolution is K.A Bedford's eagerly awaited sequel to his 2008 Aurealis winning novel Time Machines Repaired While U Wait. The novel continues the adventures of time machine repairer Spider Webb in a near future where time machines are the new luxury car.

Spider is an ex-policeman, a man who quit the force after blowing the whistle on police corruption. He lives in a cheap motel while his wife Molly waits for him to sign divorce papers. He still hopes they will get back together, while she continues to use him as a cheap handyman. 

Spider’s mundane existence changes one day when he opens the fridge at work and discovers a head. A head that asks to be saved. Spider is then reunited with a loyal police colleague, Iris, as they investigate the murder. 

Life becomes more complicated for Spider when his new boss asks him to investigate the disappearance of his young son and friend in the employer’s supped-up time machine. And thus an adventure begins that takes Spider millions of years into the future. 

Like the previous novel, readers will be struck by the Australian-ness of Paradox Resolutions. Anyone who was not aware of the Australian vernacular before reading the novel will be afterwards. This is such a change from the pseudo American English that seems to be the universal language of science fiction. 

The novel is written with underlying amusement as its reluctant hero fails to see the truth behind many of his relationships. The story flows between action sequences and a physically and emotionally bruised Spider trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

Paradox Resolutions is for readers who like time-travel novels where a character’s ethics and motives change with each future version of themselves. The sequel is every bit as enjoyable as the original.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

An Image Problem.

Last week I wrote a blog post which concluded that many self-publishers would probably burn out from the estimated twelve hour days needed to write and successfully promote their books. To illustrate the blog post I used a picture of a crazed Jack Nicholson from The Shining. For those who have not seen it, in that movie Jack plays a writer looking after a near empty haunted hotel. He is suffering a minor dose of writer’s block and ends up typing up a manuscript with “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” repeated over and over again.

I used the image of Jack as a subtle illustration of an overworked writer going crazy.

But when I placed a link to the post on Google+ I received a comment asking me if I knew that the image was probably copyrighted. I had not thought of that. I resisted telling the guy who mentioned it to get the stick out of his bum. But after a bit of research, I am glad he pointed it out. 

Copyright Laws

According to the Arts Law Centre of Australia, you can only use someone else’s images in your blog if: 
  • The copyright duration has expired and the work is in the "public domain";  
  •  you have the copyright owner's permission; 
  •   there is sufficient acknowledgement and using the image would be a "fair dealing" for the purpose of criticism and review, parody and satire, or reporting news; or 
  •  the image is "clip art" – sometimes referred to as royalty free work, copyright-free work, shareware or freeware (e.g. Creative Commons resources such as OpenPhoto). 
In the US there is a fair use exception, but not in Australia. “In Australia, the Copyright Act provides "fair dealing" exceptions for the purpose of research or study, criticism or review, parody or satire, and reporting news. When considering whether use of copyright material is fair dealing you need to carefully consider: the purpose and character of the use; nature of the copyrighted work; amount and substantiality of the portion; the effect on the potential market; and whether or not there is an absence of intent to plagiarise.  If you are unsure whether your use of someone else's work constitutes "fair dealing", you should seek legal advice.” 

I do consider the post one of “reporting the news”, where the news is the success and writing habits of writers who self-publish. But the article does not refer directly to the movie The Shining, so if I go back and add a comment to the blog that “we don’t want to end up like Jack in The Shining (pictured above)” does that bring the use of the image under the provisions of the fair dealing exception? I have no idea as there seems to be a distinct lack of legal precedent to go by in Australia and the US. Has any blogger ever been sued by a movie studio for inappropriately using an image from their film? Or do the movie’s producers consider it free publicity?

I have only used one image from an entire movie, sort of like copying a sentence from a novel. .Although I believe it is highly unlikely I would be sued for using the image, I do want to do the right thing. As a writer, I am adamant that a writer’s copyright should be respected, so I should show the same respect for other copyright owners. So from now on, unless I am commenting on a particular film or book, I will refrain from using images from them to pretty up my blog.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Chronic Self-Publishing Syndrome.

My post this week relies on a year-old article in the Guardian about self-publishing authors. The article refers to a survey that was conducted by the Taleist website. One thousand self-published authors responded to an invitation to fill in the survey. So it is not a random survey of self-publishers, and therefore, its validity is open to question.   

I suspect a lot of those who responded would have been enthusiastic about self-publishing because of some success, while people who were not so successful, and had given up, would not have bothered. 

Still the survey has some interesting things to say what committed self-publishers earn. 

Money Earned By Self-published Authors in 2011. 

The average money earned by authors who responded to the survey in 2011 was, $10,000 dollars, a nice round number. Now before you say, that’s better than the dole and rush to start your mega-seller, that average figure is distorted by the sales of the top selling respondents. Ten per cent of authors who replied to the survey made 75% of the reported revenue from self-publishing. About half of the respondents made less than $500. A quarter lost money because their sales did not cover their publishing costs. 

Best Genres for Earning from Self-publishing. 

As expected, romance was the best genre for self-publishing. Romance writers who responded to the survey earned on average $17,000. Science fiction writers averaged $3,800, fantasy $3,200, and literary fiction $2,000.

Best Gender for Self-Publishing.

Sixty-eight per cent of those who said they could live off their self-publishing earnings were female. Part of the reason for this, I suspect, is that romance writers tend to be female. 

Editors and Cover Designers Help. 

Authors who engaged editors earned 13% more on average. Those who sought help with the cover design earned 34% more on average.

Writing Habits of Best Performed Self-Publishers. 

High earning self-publishers wrote on average 2047 words a day. The rest averaged 1557 words a day, which is only 25% less. I average about 360 words a day, last time I checked, so I have some work to do. Writing 2047 words would take me about six hours, and that is without doing much editing along the way. When I am redrafting the world count is very likely to be negative.

After writing their 2047 words, those high earners would then have to spending hours on social media marketing their books.

As a science fiction writer I also spend a lot of time keeping up with trends in the world so I can think about what the world will be like in the future. And then there is time spent reading fiction.

So to replicate the habits of a self-publishing high earner, I would have to spend an estimated 12 hours a day, every day of the week writing, editing, redrafting, marketing, reading and keep abreast of the field.

So if I was going to emulate the writing habits of these self-published writers, I would have no time for anything except writing and promoting my writing, too bad about my health. I wonder how many of the writers who responded to the survey were extremely unfit and unhealthy. I bet a few of them have since burnt out. Even Jack (pictured at the start) in The Shining knows that "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." After many authors are found slumped dead over their keyboards, doctors might have to deal with a new medical condition: Chronic Self-Publishing Syndrome.

I would love to hear the average daily word counts of readers of this blog.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Aliens have not visited Earth.

To my knowledge, I have not been abducted by aliens, although if I had, that might explain a few things. For example, maybe one of their alien probes caused my Ulcerative Colitis. I have seen many UFO’s, but I quickly realised those unidentified flying objects were hot air balloons or shooting stars, and not alien space ships. Not that I ever thought they were. Unlike one of my workmates at the time, I also never thought the first episode of the X-files was a documentary.

I read and watch a lot of science fiction, so you would think that I would be more open to the possibility that aliens have visited Earth. To the contrary, I have always been totally sceptical. Aliens have not even entered my dreams.

My primary reason for believing aliens have not visited is that any intelligent space faring race would live too far away to travel here. Tau Ceti e, the nearest possibly habitable planet that astronomers think they have discovered outside our solar system, is 11.9 light years away. And habitable does not mean there are intelligent aliens living there. If there are, they are very quiet as we have not picked up any radio signals from them.

But say there are intelligent aliens on Tau Ceti e who have some sort of mass communications system that we can’t detect. Those aliens would have to travel at the speed of light for 11.9 years to get here. To accelerate a space ship to the speed of light would, according to Einstein’s theory of special relativity, require an infinite amount of energy. Unless the aliens have invented infinity fuel to power an infinity energy generator, they probably would take a lot longer than 11.9 years to get here, centuries perhaps.

But say the Tau Cetians are really longed lived, very curious, and like playing card games, then they might decide to take a few centuries to travel to earth. What would they do when they arrived? According to popular culture, the first thing they would would do is land in a corn field in the US (where else?). When they land they might spot a few cows. Attempts to decipher the cows’ moos might frustrate the aliens so much that they decide to teach the cows a lesson by dissecting them.

The alien’s comm systems would pick up our television and radio broadcasts. These broadcasts might trick them into believing that the most likely place to find other aliens would be Los Angeles as it has been attacked a number of times by aliens. So the Cetians decide to travel there. On the way they buzz a few planes.

When they arrive in Los Angles, they stop at the Hollywood sign to take a few souvenir snaps and come across a suicidal wannabe science fiction author. He looks so unhappy they decide he wouldn’t mind a rest on their ship while they probe his bum and put a chip in his neck.

Finding nothing but shit inside the science fiction writer, the Cetians turn to the main purpose of their visit: making contact with the cabal that controls earth. They know there is such a cabal because they have watched a Youtube video of Canadian Defense Minister Paul Hellyer testifying before a committee that aliens lead a cabal that controls the earth. The cabal contains four different alien races and the leaders of a persecuted religious minority, as well as wealthy bankers, OPEC oil producers, various intelligence agencies, members of the stone cutters, and many fast food restaurants.

But try as they might, the aliens can’t find the cabal. So they abduct Paul Hellyer and find out that he never actually saw an alien, he just talked to other people who knew someone who say they saw an alien. Hellyer can’t tell them how these other alien’s managed to breathe the noxious Earth atmosphere or what they ate or drank. Hellyer then confesses that he is not the current Canadian defense minister, he held that position back in the 60’s, after which he had a very chequered political career. The aliens decide he is a very dubious source and most of what is on Youtube and the web is bullshit.

They Cetians also find it curious that no mention of alien visitations is made on Wikileaks, so they head to London and abduct Julian Assange. He tells them Private Manning never found any intelligence about aliens. So the Cetians are probably the first aliens to visit Earth. The aliens agree as they have not heard from or seen any other aliens, besides humans, in their travels. Thankful for Assange’s truthfulness, the aliens offer him asylum on Tau Ceti e, but he tells them he would die before they got there. So they aliens take him to Ecuador and then continue their search for intelligent life.

I mention Wikileaks because they have to be part of the global conspiracy to keep alien visitations secret as there have been no Wikileaks released about alien visitations.

And those guys who came forward a few decades ago and admitted to making the first crop circles must have been paid off by the alien lead cabal.

I wonder how many of the over million people who have watched the video of ex- defense minister Paul Hellyer telling the world that four different alien races have visited Earth, did any research into his background. How many thought, like me, that Hellyer was just repeating what he has been told by other people who unless proven otherwise, are dubious sources. Hellyer’s entire testimony was just hearsay.

I remember watching a documentary that questioned a lot of UFO mythology. In that documentary they mentioned the science fiction show the Outer Limits. In an episode that aired in the sixties, the Outer Limits showed an alien that has now become the classic form of aliens that people claim they have seen, a Grey. Immediately after that episode reports of alien sitings sky-rocketed. I wonder if Paul Hellyer saw that episode.

Ian, who I had a lengthy debate about aliens with on LinkedIn, probably would not bother to research Hellyer. After all, his main evidence for alien visitations was a book he read that had been endorsed by Tom Clancy. For Ian, Tom Clancy’s endorsement meant the book had to be fair-dinkum.

The fact that I don’t believe aliens have ever visited Earth, won’t stop me including them in the science fiction I write. In fact the novel I am writing at the moment is full of aliens. But none of them are into anal probing or crop circles.