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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Energizer Guild

The Author's Guild just doesn't know when to stop, pursuing its quixotic quest against Google for scanning books.

I blogged about this over four years ago, here...

And per the letter I just sent to Paul Aiken today, which I paste below, I wish the Guild would finally get over it, and realize they're wrong.  The Author's Guild could have helped JABberwocky clients, saved them thousands of dollars and had many of them selling e-books years and years ago if they had listened to my advice.

December 30, 2013

Mr. Paul Aiken
The Author’s Guild
31 E. 32nd St. 7th fl.
New York, NY  10016

Dear Mr. Aiken:

You are colossally wrong on Google, and should stop wasting your organization’s money.

You can read my full blog post from 2009 on this subject here

But in essence, I advocated at that time that we force Google to give us a copy of our scanned books so that we could do with them as we please.  This was and is the best settlement and resolution to this, and it is in fact what the publishers ended up accepting.

If the Author’s Guild had obtained for authors what the publishers ended up obtaining for themselves, my author clients could have saved cumulatively tens of thousands of dollars that we have ended up spending to scan their works in order to publish them as e-books, and we might have been able to sell those e-book several years sooner than was otherwise the case.

You’ve ended up costing my authors far more than your “advocacy” will ever be able to gain for them in exchange, should some court end up agreeing with you on this new appeal when everyone else so far hasn’t.



Thursday, December 12, 2013

Richard T. Gallen

So I popped over to the Baen twitter feed today, and was saddened to see a little tiny tweet:

In memoriam: Richard T. Gallen, one of the original founders of Baen Books.

Which says something, but maybe not enough.

He wasn't just a founder of Baen.

He was some of the money behind Tor Books.  As mentioned in this article in the NY Times from 30+ years ago.

He was some of the money behind Carroll & Graf, which published actively in sf/fantasy/horror/mystery, including things like the Mammoth Book series, or David Pringle's 100 Best SF Novels, which C&G and other publishers used as a road map for bringing a lot of deserving books and authors back into print and to a new generation of readers.

We'd have science fiction and fantasy today without Richard T. Gallen, but it's safe to say it would be different somehow.  His being around or not being around, it's one of those things like "Hitler Wins World War II" or "Lincoln Survives" that alternate history novels are written about.

My first job was in a little aerie on W. 36th St. in Manhattan in a small crowded space where Tor and Baen and Bluejay and perhaps other companies as well were all clustered being fed start-up money by the Richard T. Gallen mother bird.  I believe it might even have been Richard T. Gallen's signature that was on my first paychecks from Baen.  A little later Baen and Richard T. Gallen decamped a few blocks down 5th Avenue to nicer bigger space.

I can't really say I knew the man.  Tom Doherty at Tor would probably be the person from sf/f that could give a good speech at a memorial service.

But essentially, any of who work in sf/fantasy or who read in sf/fantasy -- we know Richard T. Gallen. He's the guy who made the guys who made the books happen.  If we don't do what we do because of him, we do it how we do it because he was willing to make publishing fantasies become real, for people who knew how to take advantage of the opportunities he provided.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Racing Downhill

More bad news for most of us this week, with a federal judge ruling that Detroit can go into bankruptcy and cut pensions, Illinois legislators voting on a bill to cut pensions there, another judge ruling that employers can force employees to arbitrate and not have an option of class action suits.

I have a deeply ambivalent relationship to public employee unions.  While I believe very strongly in the right to form a union and collectively bargain, public employee unions have much better luck gaming the system by making contributions to the politicians who then determine how much money to give the union workers.  In the private sector, an independent labor union can't game the system, at least not this way.  In the private sector too often the interests of my representative are more aligned with the unions than the public purse.

But that said, the attack on benefits that were won in negotiations reflects a distressing tendency in public life these days, which is to solve your problems by making everyone else as miserable as you are.  Your employer's dumped your pension in favor of some 401-K?  Well, you can't get your 401-K back but you can cheer on as someone else's pension gets dumped too!  Yay!  Win!

Sorry, it's not.

If you think it is, you might enjoy reading this Rolling Stone article about how we're "saving" pensions by giving money to Wall Street.

So in Detroit, a lot of not very rich people, many of whom are still living in Detroit, are going to see their retirement income cut, which will reduce what they can spend, which will reduce the economy in Detroit, which is going to save Detroit.  For the most part, these people aren't the people who made any of the decisions on what contract terms to agree to, on how to fund pensions, they're innocent bystanders who are going to be hurt.

While states and localities across the country are cutting back pensions left and right, they are engaged in madcap competitions to give Boeing hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks and other incentives to encourage them to locate an assembly line for a new version of the 777 in their state.  Boeing makes billions of dollars, and it wasn't enough to have the State of Washington give billions of dollars in tax breaks if the unions for the skilled workers who build the planes didn't agree to share in the "sacrifice" of these billions of dollars in profits and tax breaks for the company by agreeing to givebacks.

Hunger Games: Catching Fire has taken in hundreds of millions of dollars in global box office and will make huge profits for Lionsgate.  It filmed in Georgia to take advantage of tax breaks, and again, states and localities across the country are engaged in this race to give huge film companies that are part of major media conglomerates tax breaks to entice productions from one state to another.

Can people see the problem here?  Even as we silently cheer or to too little to protest attacks on the working men and women of this country, we also cheer when our states take the money they're saving and give it to very rich companies in pursuit of a zero sum game of taking business from one state or locality to another.

I'm not even sure, at the end of the day, that these kinds of tax breaks do very much for the states and localities that give them.  Oh, they can find statistics that say that the film tax breaks are worth their weight in gold, but you know what they say about statistics.  Against that, there's this icky feeling that the only way you can get business is to bribe it to come your way.  There's this icky feeling, or at least there should be, in supporting companies that don't really support you, that feel they're entitled to take government money, screw workers as much as they can, in pursuit of the almighty buck.

And as with too many policies supported by corporations, it's kind of short-sighted.  Take Walmart.  Walmart is kind of getting creamed by a lot of government policies.  Food stamp cuts take money out of the hands of Walmart shoppers, and thus out of the hands of Walmart.  If Walmart paid its employees more, a lot of money would come right back into Walmart stores.  If this were to happen as a result of an increase in the minimum wage that would force Walmart competitors to pay more as well, it wouldn't disadvantage Walmart, because Target and even Amazon which still needs warehouse workers would face the same labor cost pressures as Walmart.  But Walmart does everything it can to keep downtrodden employees downtrodden.  It threatens to pick up its toys if cities talk about raising their minimum wage or passing living wage laws (some of those do target Walmart, but if Walmart would advocate for a global increase in the minimum wage it would face less targeted living wage legislation).  Even as it downgrades its earnings forecast because people don't have money to spend, it won't help give people more spending money.

For a competing perspective, enjoy this article somebody tweeted out to us several weeks ago from, which rails against how we are becoming dependent on government largesse.  108M+ people on means-tested government welfare programs, 101M+ people with full-time jobs.

It ignores a few basic facts.  Minimum wage is under $8.  8x35x52 -- that's under $15K for a full-time employee.  When I grew up and looked behind the counter at Burger King, I saw a lot of people my age.  That was over 30 years ago.  Now, the people at Burger King and Walmart aren't teenagers working for gas money.  They're people trying to support a family on $15K a year, unless they have two jobs or have two incomes or something like that.  How can you possibly do that?  How are you going to help these people by cutting food stamps?  And did you know that over half of personal bankruptcies are caused by medical expenses?  Most jobs that pay $8 an hour don't, pre Obama-care, come with good health insurance.  You can't buy your own when you're making $15K a year.   I'm lucky; I make enough money that I'm now seeing my take-home take a four-figure annual drop because of Affordable Care Act taxes.  Unlike most people, I don't think my income benefits by making life worse for other people.  My income benefits when people have money to buy books, when they have money to go to college and get educated because educated people buy more books, when they have time to spend with their kids talking to them and working with them on homework and reading too them rather than rushing from one bad job to another because a single minimum wage job isn't enough, not able to afford good child care and hoping the car doesn't break down and that everyone in the family stays super healthy.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Quick Cuts

I haven't done a lot of blogging recently.  To make up for it, I'm going to try and do quick capsule reviews of some movies that are in theatres now and/or not in so many theatres but in the buzz for awards season.

Thor: The Dark World
I didn't care for this at all.  The first movie with a very odd superhero movie choice in Kenneth Branagh directing was a little off the superhero movie tracks, as interested in showing Chris Hemsworth in a tight tee-shirt as in endless superhero battles.  Not this movie,  As is so often the case, I tuned out and went to sleep when we got to the last half hour, because I knew it was just going to be another long, dull, over-CGIs, boring, been-there done-that fight scene.  That said, I saw it with a client who enjoyed it quite a bit, as have most of the other people I know who saw it.  Really?

Last Vegas
If you think you might like this, you probably will like it.  It's not good by many objective critical standards, but it has amiability to excess and delivers perfectly on its promise and premise.  I rarely laughed out loud, but I certainly had a smile on my face.

Dallas Buyers Club
This movie, which is getting great reviews, was the second half of a self-made double-feature for me with Last Vegas.  I enjoyed the "worse" movie a lot more, and didn't care so much for this critical darling.  Yes, Matthew McConaughey gives an amazingly great performance in the movie, and in that sense and maybe in that sense alone, the movie is worth seeing.  He acts up a storm, captivates the screen.  But there's no dramatic structure to the movie.  If I can make a comparison that not too many people are making, this is kind of like Catch Me If You can.  It's a lovable bad guy being chased after by the feds.  But in Catch Me If You Can, the stakes heighten as the movie goes along.  Leonardo DiCaprio's character goes from doing small things to doing bigger and bigger and more outlandish things.  There's also all the studio veneer in the casting, with Tom Hanks and Christopher Walken providing star level support, and Hanks in particular investing us in the movie's Javert character.  But here, it's the same scene over and over again.  The movie doesn't heighten as it goes along.  In spite of the madcap energy of the lead performance, the movie itself sags.  So maybe I was dozing during the portion of the movie where Jared Leto is engaged in some amazing sure-to-be-an-Oscar-finalist supporting turn.  Honest!  This guy's in all the awards buzz, and I can't remember a thing about him in this movie.  The Javert character is incredibly dull and uninteresting, but Michael O'Neill made more of an impression on me for his "oh God, not this same FDA guy again" role than the guy who's going to get a Supporting Actor nomination.

Ender's Game
Saw this with two clients and two other people from the office.  Reactions were motley, from entirely satisfied (not more than that) to outright dislike.  I was entirely satisfied.  Nothing new.  It's a bootcamp/biopic movie and you get a lot of the same notes.  Training camp sequences and conflicts you can predict.  But it was well-acted, never sagged.  For some perspective, I read the original 1977 "Ender's Game" novella in 1981's Analog Anthology #2: Reader's Choice at the dawn of my sf-nal experience.  I'm not sure if I ever read the novel-length version of the story, and no I never read any of the sequels.  I don't know if my feelings about the movie would be different if I had more recent or adult memories of the underlying story.  Insofar as the novella goes, I do think the movie does, at the end, get across the knife-twisting truth of Ender's final test, as I remember if from 32 years ago.  And just to say -- I wasn't in favor of the boycott calls for the movie.  That's a double-edged sword, for how many gay advocacy organizations would be super-duper thrilled if we decided to boycott gays?  They could say correctly from our current perspective that the difference here is that Card was on the losing side of the historical trend, but nonetheless I think it's a very dangerous thing to start boycotting or ignoring artists -- and for the past 40 years Card has been an important and significant one -- on account of their political beliefs.

Monday, November 25, 2013

False Equivalencies

So how do you push back against onerous publishing clauses that will probably never be deal-breakers for an author?

I'm pondering on that question a lot as I think about the ever worsening audit clauses which publishers are offering.

The audit clause is the one that says you've got the right to hire an accountant to go and look at the publisher's records for your book to be sure the royalty reporting is accurate.

I've never done an audit in the 27 years I've been in the business.  They're expensive.  An accountant might cost hundreds of dollars an hour, a single day of looking at the publisher's records and the prep work and reporting could easily cost a few thousand dollars, and a complicated situation might bring that cost up considerably.  You have to have a lot of money to do this, and you have to be pretty convinced that it's going to be worthwhile.

There have always been some restrictions on the author's right to audit.  It has to be done during business hours.  You can't do it six times a year.  You can't audit a royalty statement from 39 years ago.

While there have always been restrictions, there's also been an understanding that if you find the publisher's screwing up, the publisher will have to pay costs of the audit, kind of like the "loser pays" for attorney fees that are found in certain types of civil court actions.

But over the years, the publishers have tried to make it more and more restrictive.

They'll start out saying a statement is binding after just one year.  This is ridiculous.  The publishers have to keep records for the IRS for a lot longer than that.  But the shorter that time period, the harder it might be to find a cumulative pattern of errors, or become aware of some sub-licensed edition the publisher never told you about.

They'll pay for the audit only if mistakes are above a certain amount.   The publishers now start out suggesting this might be 10% of the lifetime earnings on a book.  So let's say you are one of our successful clients making a lot of money. You might think it's significant if you find out the publisher's made a $25,000 error in its favor.  But if you're talking about a book like The Firm by John Grisham or a Harry Potter novel or Dead Until Dark -- well, if hypothetically that book has the 10% of lifetime language, the publisher won't pay a dime toward the cost of you discovering a $25K error if the earnings on the book are above $250,000 over its entire existence.

We try and bargain these things to our clients' betterment.  But rarely will the publisher give us as long to audit as the several years they may need to retain records to make the IRS happy.  Getting 10% of lifetime down to 5% of lifetime is better but still not good.  Let's say you find there's a particular royalty period when the publisher paid you $2500 and should have paid you $5000.  You might think that's a 100% error, but the publisher will look not at that one period but the entire lifetime earnings.

So now the new wrinkle is to say that the publisher will pay for the audit only up to the size of the error.  Let's say you spend $5250 to find that $2500 error, and that you're lucky enough that this is more than 5% of the total earnings for your book.  Well, the rich publishing conglomerate that is responsible for rendering correct royalty statements will pay only $2500 of the $5250 you spent to find out that they made a $2500 boo-boo in their favor, which means you've just spent $2750 in order to get back $2500.

This sucks!

The publisher has the responsibility to account correctly.  They shouldn't be able to layer on fine print restriction after fine print restriction that makes it very likely that there is never going to be any way to rigorously check that they are fulfilling their obligation.

But how can I recommend an author walk away from a deal over this when I've never actually done an audit in 27 years, even on older contracts that predate many of these most onerous provisions?

And if an author will never walk away from a deal because of the bad audit language, what is the ultimate leverage to keep the language from getting worse and worse and worse?

It might seem reasonable that the publisher shouldn't be responsible for all the costs of a $12,398 audit that ends up finding a $298 error in the publisher's favor.  In fact, it is unreasonable to expect the publisher to do that.  Nonetheless, it's a false equivalency.  The publisher has deeper pockets.  The publisher has a responsibility to get it right in the first place.

There's another clause where similar language is starting to show up.  It seems very reasonable to say that in the event of a lawsuit regarding the work, which could be someone suing you for libel or you suing the publisher for violating the contract, that the liability of each party will be limited to the size of your advance.  Isn't that great!  You get a $5K advance, you get sued for libel, you only have to pay $5K to the publisher if there's a settlement or you're found guilty.  But it isn't so great.  Let's say the publisher forgets to pay you royalties or has this nasty habit of selling translation rights it doesn't own or puts cover copy on the book that is libelous where your book itself is not.  They get to walk away after paying you only $5K in damages.

False equivalency.

You write one book a year.  Your livelihood depends on that one book.  You have to pay $5K, it's a very very big deal for you.

Your publisher might publish dozens of books a month, hundreds of books a year, take in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and earn tens of millions in profit.

$5K is a big deal to you.  $5K is nothing to your publisher.  This very fair-sounding language that puts this nice equal limit on everyone's obligations is a lot nicer to your publisher than it is to you.

And, again, how many authors are going to walk away from a deal over this contract language?  How many instances can I even recommend that they do so?

What's sauce for the goose isn't always sauce for the gander.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Guns & Butter

After the gun shootings at the theatre in Aurora or the school in Connecticut, those of us who favor gun control were told that the problem was, in fact, gun control.  If there had been people in the theatre or teachers/security guards in the school who had guns, then somebody would have stopped the shooter and it would have been so much better for everyone.

This week's shooting took place on a government military installation, and 12 people died.

It might have been worse.  The gunman had to "settle" for buying a handgun when Virginia state law didn't allow him to buy something more powerful.

From what I've read, the shooting spree might have been extended when the gunman was able to take a gun from one of his victims.

I'm not sure how to square this with the whole idea that gun control costs lives, and that having more people with more guns saves them.

I will certainly be told that the problem isn't with gun laws or the lack of gun laws.  The problem will be the lack of enforcement, or that this guy was a bad apple and nobody connected the dots, and he never should have had a security clearance and never should have been allowed on base.

All of these things are true.

But if all of those things had been equally true, and it had been harder for him to buy a gun...

Everything else which we consider to be a bad thing, we make it harder to do.  If we want less gun violence, we should make guns harder to have.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Ghost of WorldCon Past

As I get ready to head down to San Antonio for LoneStarCon 3, the World Science Fiction Convention, some reminiscences of LoneStarCon 2 in 1997...

First and foremost, having WorldCons in Texas is good!  Both times in the life of JABberwocky that I've gone to San Antonio for a WorldCon, I have had a Hugo nominee on the ballot.  In 1997, it was Elizabeth Moon's Remnant Population for Best Novel, and this year Brandon Sanderson's The Emperor's Soul for Best Novella.  I have to confess I wasn't expecting a win in 1997.  The competition was amazing, with Kim Stanley Robinson winning and novels by Lois McMaster Bujold and Robert J. Sawyer as well as Bruce Sterling to split the Texas vote.  (Several years later when Elizabeth was a Nebula finalist for Speed of Dark, I was rather more optimistic and told her at breakfast the morning of that I felt she has as good a chance as anyone and better have a speech ready, which was good advice!)  I'm not as up on short fiction as I used to be and can't handicap the field as easily this year, but I feel Brandon Sanderson has a good shot at winning for Emperor's Soul.

JABberwocky was very different in 1997.  It was just me.  In the early years of JABberwocky, I made just enough to get by and to have a little bit above break-even that I could afford to go to a WorldCon.  Now, there are six people at the agency, and I won't have to watch my pennies on the trip quite the same way.

A good example:  in 1997, I walked to LaGuardia to catch my flight, a little over four miles.  I also stumbled in the median crossing Astoria Blvd., broke my glasses and had to spend my earliest hours in San Antonio going to get them fixed.  And then continued for many years to walk to LaGuardia, without incident.  This year, I will take a car service.  In part because I now live a mile further away, in part because I will have a heavier bag since I will be gone longer.  But in no small part, because my time is now as valuable to me as my money, and it's a lot harder to justify walking to the airport.

There are some drawbacks, however.  In 1997, I didn't have a lot of clients at the convention.  I was able to take some time to sightsee, such as the sightseeing is in San Antonio.  I absconded to the movie theatre in the RiverCenter mall to see GI Jane.  This year, anything that I do like that, I'm going to have to do on the days before or after the convention gets underway.  I've got many clients to meet.  I've got a group of 20 for the JABberwocky dinner, which is the kind of event I never could have afforded in 1997.  I have an Important Dinner with an Important Client, his Brilliant Editor & Major Publisher.  Back in 1997, I wasn't Important Enough for such things.

In 1997, I was excited that I would get to place a first-time visit to a Borders!  Now, I will reluctantly try and get to the local B&Ns, just kind of because, and am instead saving my excitement because I might be able to pay first-time visits to two Whole Foods Markets.

In 1997, Eos had a big soiree at some restaurant on the Riverwalk to celebrate the arrival of Eos.  Now, Eos is Voyager, and if they are having a party, no one told me.

In 1997, there was a Bantam Books party at a Country Club.  It was outside of town and they hired vans to take people there.  I was expecting it to be in the 18th Hole restaurant thing at a Country Club.  Instead, vanloads of New Yorkers got out of the bus and discovered to their surprise that the "Country" in this club was country music.  This year, Bantam Spectra Del Rey Ace Roc DAW are having a combined party, the first major joint event of all the newly merged sf/f imprints.

I met Adam-Troy Castro on the plane out.  We ultimately became author and agent.

Those are some of my major impressions of the 1997 trip.  It will be interesting to see in 16 years what lasting impressions and memories I have of LoneStarCon 3.

Monday, August 26, 2013


So the US Open has announced that the gates are going to open a half hour earlier.


Because, per my last post, their useless extra security procedures are almost certainly leading to much more than the "slight delays" predicted in the press release.

So much wasted money, so much wasted time, so much waste and stupidity in order to add absolutely nothing other than wasted money and wasted time to a procedure in which every bag was already opened and inspected on the way in to the tennis center.

The Never-Ending War

So New For 2013, as the main draw of the US Open tennis begins Monday, they have announced that this year everyone will get to be wanded and go through a magnetometer.


For the past ten years, you've only been able to bring in one small bag, and that one small bag has been hand-inspected as you go in.  There's no way that the Boston Marathon scenario could repeat at the US Open as it has been run, security wise, for the past decade.

Adding a magnetometer adds no additional security.




Of course, it is a nice make-work program, because now the company that provides the security forces for the US Open gets to hire more people!  Most of these people are temps of some or another sort, and I am sure the contractor that provides this service for the Open makes a nice additional profit.

Of course, it is a nice make-work program for the people who make wands and magnetometers.

Of course it makes everyone feel so much more secure.  Even though it doesn't add any actual security.

It does add nicely to the time people will spend queuing to get into the Open.  Let's be very conservative and say that it's just an extra two minutes.  That's very very conservative.  But there are 40,000 people a day going to the open, so that's 80,000 minutes, for 14 days.  That's over two years of lost time.

Just dandy.

And of course, there's no going backward on any of this.  The day will never come when the polie or anyone else will say that the world has gotten safer and we can go back and do less, spend less money and lose less time and less productivity and still be reasonably safe.  It will only get worse.  Because no matter what we do, we will never be 100% safe.  There is risk to everything we do every day, and some day some other bad thing will happen that will require us to come up with some other layer of security.

Happy happy joy joy.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Serving Out of Turn - US Open Edition

It's a really busy week, and I have started work on some detailed blog post about my annual (or as annual as I can make it) trek to the qualifying rounds for the US Open tennis tournament which begins on Monday.

However, since I'm not sure when I will finish those posts, I am going to jump the gun and offer now, before the tournament starts, some thoughts on how the 2013 Men's Qualifier crop might fare.  I'll be a little broad, looking at some players I've seen in years past as well as the ones who made it in this year.

And right at the top half of the draw, we have Ricardas Berankis from  Lithuania, who made it into the main draw this year but played disappointingly in the qualifying last year, playing Novak Djokovic, the #1 men's tennis player.  Um, if Berankis wins, that would qualify as an upset.

Donald Young had to make it through the qualifying this year.  He has had a long career that might be as interesting for things off the court as on.  It's hard to believe he's only 24 because he's been talked about in US tennis as a prodigy for close to ten years, and he had a decent year in 2012 rising to top 40, but then 2013 has been abysmal.  His relationship with the US Tennis Association over the years has been charged and awkward, with disagreements about coaching tactics.  I've been hearing about him so long that I've perhaps become a little too hard on the idea that he will ever amount to anything.  But on Friday, there were lines of people waiting to get in to the absolutely packed Court 11, one of the biggest typically used for qualifying rounds.  He has a winnable first round match, against Martin Klizan from Serbia, who is also 24 and currently in the Top 50, but nobody's idea currently of a major threat.  If he wins that, he has a potentially winnable 2nd round match.  But he could face Andy Murray in the third round.

Moving down a bit, we've got James Blake from the US playing qualifier Ivo Karlovic.  Blake was one of the top players in the US, is 33, is struggling to come back after injury and decline in the rankings, has to be playing now for real love of the game.  He'll be a clear favorite of the crowd.  But it's hard to root against Karlovic, who is 34, also struggling to come back after a lot of injuries, and has been in the top 10.  Karlovic is 6'8" and was one of the first really big tall giant types to come into the men's game. He has a huge serve.  But he's never had a truly great game outside of his ability to serve.  How do you pick this one?  

Marcos Baghdatis, whom I discovered in the qualifying many years ago when he beat Jeff Salzenstein on Court 7 in a match I wanted Salzenstein to win, goes up against a 2013 qualifier, Go Soeda.  I have to think Baghdatis will win, though the US Open has been his worst grand slam, never even into the 3rd round in spite of being a finalist, semi-finalist, and into the 4th round at the other three grand slams.

Also hanging around in the top half is Denis Kudla, whom I saw last year and believe has potential.  He has a winnable match against a Czech ranked #78.

There are only five qualifiers of 16 in the top half, though I've been going to the qualifying long enough that there are plenty of players, beginning with Andy Murray, whom I've watched in the qualifying in prior years.

Which means there are 11 qualifiers, plus a lucky loser, hanging out in the bottom half.

There is one Q/Q match, where two qualifiers are playing against one another.  The heavy-serving Albano Olivetti of France, whom I saw, certainly has a shot against fellow Frenchman Stephane Robert.  The winner will most likely face Richard Gasquet, the #8 seed and a fellow Frenchman and another player I've seen in qualifying, watching him get disqualified from a match for hitting a lines judge with his ball or racket (memory; the details fade with time!).

Phillip Petzschner has a definite chance against an up-and-coming American, Jack Sock, and most likely faces Jerzy Janowicz in the 2nd round.  Janowicz is the #14 seed, and a player I spotted in qualifying three years ago and predicted good things for.  He made his major breakthrough last fall.  So I like Janowicz, but I still don't think of him as a sure bet to win any/every given match he plays.  Should he be upset by another qualifier, Argentine Maximo Gonzalez, in the first round, then either Sock or Petzschner has quite the opportunity for advancement in this year's Open.

Nick Kyrgios, an Australian of Greek ancestry, and very highly touted, gets to face #4 seed David Ferrer.  I can't really see Ferrer losing that match.

Frank Dancevic has an opportunity.  The 26-year-old Dutchman Robin Haase is ranked in the 60s, peaked in the 30s.  Dancevic peaked in the 60s and is currently ranked in the 150s and is three years older.  I'll be pulling for Dancevic personally, just because I first spotted him in the qualifying years ago, and I have kind of a soft spot.  

Way down at the bottom half of the draw...

Ryan Harrison, whom I've seen play with guts, heart, skill, passion, in the qualifying in years past,  has shown other sides of his personality elsewhere.  Tantrums, petulance, etc.  He also has the absolute worst luck of any player I have ever followed.  He manages to draw Top 10 players as opponents in early rounds of even the most obscure tournaments way more than chance would have it.  So, of course, he gets to play Rafael Nadal in the first round.  All I can say, if Harrison pulls the upset, is that I'd say it's less unlikely than whomever it is Nadal lost to in Wimbledon.

Interestingly enough, Nadal can run through the entire section of his draw taking out players I've liked in qualifying over the years.  Harrison in the first round.  Then Canadian Vasek Pospisil, who had a breakthrough in this year's major men's tournament in Canada and will I hope prove to be "for real' outside of his home soil, and then possibly Rhyne Williams, who got a main draw wildcard this year but last year came through the qualifying, upsetting none other than Vasek Pospisil in the first round.  Won't that make for a strange year, if they have a rematch in this year's 3rd round.

So of the qualifiers I saw in 2013, I'd say that Phillip Petzschner and Alberto Olivetti have the best chance of making it to the 3rd round. 

I should fill this post with wonderful links to all of the earlier posts I've done dating back to 2008 that talk about some of these players, but I just don't have the hours in the day. 
But this here -- yes, HERE, is a link to all of my posts that have a Tennis label, and you can scroll down quickly enough to check for my insights from years past.

I've seen at least 30 of the players in this year's main draw playing in qualifying.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Securely Ranting -- For the World to See

Just to get on my high horse again about the ludicrousness of our allowing our government to waste so much money spying on us, bringing it back a little to the business of JABberwocky...

We at JABberwocky believe in information.  We rigorously spreadsheet pretty much every piece of royalty statement paperwork that comes our way, in varying detail.

Just like the NSA wants to vacuum up information because it may not know until after the fact which e-mails or which phone call metadata it may need at some future point, we can't predict exactly which information we might need at some future point.  Since modern spreadsheets allow information to flow upwards very easily, it just seems better to start out having everything in a nice spreadsheet that can flow up.  The first statement for your hardcover will flow upwards into a summary for the hardcover.  The paperback and e-book will flow upward.  They will merge with the hardcover information to give you the total sales for your book, and from there to your series, and from there to your work with a particular publisher and then a particular territory. We do that in all major territories for your work, we try and have basic information in smaller territories in spreadsheets.  If your career takes off after your fifth book, or Hollywood decides to take an option on your eighth book and some hotshot writer needs information on your sales to help get financing for the movie, we have your global sales information ready at hand.  If we need to gather that information after your eighth book is published when that call from Hollywood calls, it is a lot harder to gather all the information retrospectively.

Sounds great, doesn't it!

Who wouldn't want the government to do just that, so if in two years or four years some evildoer is involved in some terrorist plot, we've got all the data to find him, and find his co-conspirators, and save us all!!

However, we face real world constraints which apparently our government doesn't feel it needs to confront on our behalf.

Simply put, as our business grows and we have more clients selling more books in more places in more formats, the information we have to process keeps growing and growing.

We must make compromises.

We sold 200 books to Audible last year and are starting to get audio royalty statements for some of those.  Some of those books are titles that haven't been in print since ten years ago or more.  Suffice to say the spreadsheets we put together for those titles cannot and should not be as detailed as when we had only 30 books with Audible to keep track of.

As more information floods in, we have a harder time prioritizing it.  Do we do the big pile of Audible statements first because those still come in on paper and make a visible dent on the desk, while we delay processing Random House royalty statements for major agency clients like Peter Brett and Elizabeth Moon that have come in as PDFs?  Well, it is tempting to deal with the visible pile of paper first.

We also have a harder time doing all of it correctly.  Who is going to look over the person who does the basic entry work as we have more and more clients taking up more and more of our time?  Two years ago I could do that and it wasn't too big a hassle, but now it's kind of impossible for me to give the same quality time to absolutely everything.

I am running a business.  I have to justify expenses.  I can't just hire more and more and more people to deal with every last bit of data that can theoretically be processed.

Maybe you can see where this is going.

The NSA isn't worried about money.  It isn't worried about cost-benefit analysis.  Its budget is secret.  We don't debate it.  If we did, we'd be told that we should never for a moment think that our security can be valued that way.

Which is balderdash.

The NSA is no different from JABberwocky.  The more information it decides it must have, the less good it can be at dealing with all of that information, even with the ability to hire infinitely, and build office space and server farms and everything else infinitely.  And when it makes mistakes, those have serious consequences, way more than if JABberwocky screws something up.

It's not just wrong constitutionally and morally for the government to collect all of this information on us, but it's a bad investment for our country.

And just to make clear:

Yes, your information is being collected.

If you write "hey, what about Bad Guy X" in an email and the government is interested in Bad Guy X, it will start digging deeper in what you say and do just because you put the words "Bad Guy X" into your e-mail.

Oh, sure, there are procedures in place to be sure that they don't go too far, that they dig just deep enough to determine that you are a US citizen, or that you didn't actually conspire with Bad Guy X but really did just say "hey, what about Bad Guy X" in an innocent way in an e-mail.

But of course those procedures don't work perfectly.  The government admits to thousands of times when its procedures don't work.

No, thank you!  I'd rather you not be spending my money on this.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

WorldCon Schedule

I am attending LoneStarCon 3, the 71st World Science Fiction Convention in just a couple weeks, and I am putting my full schedule below followed by some comments and annotations.

One important thing to mention ahead of time:  I'm not open to query letters, but both I and my assistant Sam Morgan will be at the convention, we are always excited and interested to meet people, and often do agree to open the door a bit for submissions from people we meet.  Besides getting to hear me speak on several panels with a lot of other knowledgeable people in the field, I have a Kaffeklatsch this year which means a select group of people will get some extended quality time with me.  Opportunities like this don't come around often, and I hope you'll take advantage of this.

So here's the schedule:

How to Obtain an Agent
Thursday 14:00 - 15:00
You've written something. You're pleased with it. You're finally ready to shop it out. You think it might get published. How do you search for an agent? How do you recognize a real agent? What pitfalls do you need to avoid?
John Berlyne  , Joshua Bilmes

Self-Promotion: Everything You Know about it Is Probably Wrong
Thursday 16:00 - 17:00
Done properly, self-promotion is an important part of building a career. Poorly executed, self-promotion can do more harm than good. How is the conventional wisdom wrong? What are the more advisable but underrated neglected approaches?
Julie Barrett (M) , Gini Koch , Joshua Bilmes , Genese Davis , Teresa Nielsen Hayden

The Business Side of Writing
Thursday 19:00 - 20:00
So you've written a novel. What's next? How do you get an agent, get published, market to readers, network, avoid scams... writing was only the beginning!
Janet Harriett (M) , Mark Oshiro  , Joshua Bilmes, Genese Davis, Steven Diamond

The Role of the Agent
Friday 14:00 - 15:00
What does an agent do? Do you need an agent to get published?
Teresa Nielsen Hayden (M) , Eleanor Wood , Joshua Bilmes , John Berlyne

But Why Can't You See My Genius?
Saturday 13:00 - 14:00
Let's face it; nobody likes rejection, but every writer is going to get rejection letters at some point. Why the rejection? Why don't they love you? Your work may be wrong for the publisher, may have arrived on the wrong day, or it may simply be the 350th angsty vampire novel the poor sorry slush pile reader has seen that week. How can you turn a rejection letter into a "hell yes!"
Beth Meacham (M), Michael Underwood  , Eleanor Wood, Mary Robinette Kowal  , Joshua Bilmes

Publishing Intermediaries in the Digital Age
Saturday 14:00 - 15:00
Agents. Editors. Publishers. All obsolete in the digital age, right? We find out how useful these experts are and what services they can provide to authors and other creators.
Steve Jackson (M), Tom Doherty, Irene Gallo, Joshua Bilmes , Betsy Mitchell

Kaffeeklatsch: Joshua Bilmes, Ginjer Buchanan, William Ledbetter
Sunday 11:00 - 12:00
Ginjer Buchanan, William Ledbetter , Joshua Bilmes

And now some annotations:

On the Kaffeklatsch, I think this means there are three people doing separate, not that we're doing a joint sitting at the table.  But who knows!

Three of my panels are on Thursday when a lot of people are just arriving, getting settled and registering.  Sorry about that!  I am sure there will be some overlap between the 2pm panel on Tuesday and the panel on Friday.

Especially since my 2pm panel on Thursday is with our British partner agent, John Berlyne.  John said once that he first met/saw me, or at least I think he says this, when I was on programming at the WorldCon in Glasgow several years back.  John and I are on two panels together, and I'm also on two with Eleanor Wood.  I respect Eleanor quite a bit; we have some similar tastes and I quite envy some of the great authors she represents.

My panel on Saturday is particularly star-studded.  Many hours have been spent playing Munchkin at the games nights/days I host once a month or so, and we have Steve Jackson to blame for that.  Tom Doherty is the founder and publisher of Tor, and I know less about publishing than Tom has forgotten! To have both him and Tor art director and mastermind Irene Gallo on a single panel, I may just hide underneath the table.  Betsy Mitchell gave me my start in publishing 30 years ago, and I am super-excited that it looks like we will be doing some business together now that she is the Strategic Advisor for SF and Fantasy for Open Road Media.

If you can't make my panels, I'll be around otherwise at the convention.  Maybe you'll spot me in the dealer's room (everyone goes to the dealer's room, everyone!), or between drinks meetings at the hotel bar.  I'll be tweeting from the con, so if you aren't following us at this might be a good chance to start so you'll have some idea what's up.

WorldCon is one of my favorite conventions.  I'm dreamed of going since I was a teenager, hitting up my father for $20 to buy a supporting membership to vote for the Hugo Awards.  Who'd'a'thunk that I get to go as a professional, and be on programming, and if I'm really really lucky have clients of mine nominated for Hugo Awards.

Besides Sam and I, my VP Eddie Schneider will be at the convention.  He's not on programming, but I'm sure you'll spot him around and about.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Disappointysium -- a guest review by Tim Akers

It was so much fun doing an exchange of movie reviews with Bryce Moore last month for Pacific Rim that I thought it would be fun to do another one with my client Tim Akers for Elysium.  Tim has just started selling an e-collection Bones of Veridon which collects some of the short fiction that first attracted me to Tim's work,  and you can also enjoy two Veridon novels, Dead of Veridon and Heart of Veridon.  Also highly recommended -- Horns of Ruin, the first fully realized blend of steampunk and sword & sorcery.
The JABberwocky page for Tim Akers
Tim's Blog, main link
My review, on Tim's blog.


I want to start by saying that I kind of liked this movie, in the sense that I didn't walk out and I didn't feel like I had wasted my money and I only got blood-humming angry a couple times. But really, it was a movie of great potential that made dozens of small mistakes and one major mistake that killed it for me. I wanted to like it more, but didn't. Here's why.

Elysium felt strangely like a science fiction movie written by someone with no experience in science fiction. That's odd, because Blomkamp delivered the excellent District 9 (enjoyed it, will never see it again) and is supposed to be something of a ninja among science fiction directors. But from the very beginning there were a number of gaffes that felt like they were being made by someone who heard about this science fiction thing, and thought maybe he'd try his hand at it. Let me tell you, it's not for everyone.

Let's start with the science stuff. I'm not the kind of guy who freaks out about impractical science in my fiction, especially movies. I have a friend who hates Firefly because of the kitchen table in the space ship. It's too big, he says. You'd never waste that kind of space in a real space ship, and certainly not with a wooden table. I'm not that guy. But from the very start of the movie there were just. So. Many. Things. There's an early scene where a bunch of 'unfortunates' tries to sneak into Elysium with some stolen shuttle IDs. Three shuttles go up, two get destroyed en route by a (wait for it) shoulder launched missile system, and the third crashes into someone's lawn. Everyone is rapidly rounded up by adorable droids, except for a mother and her daughter. These two break into someone's house and, using the forged DNA-ID on the kid, use the rich people's health care to cure the girl of something debilitating.

Begin the questioning, sir.

Why are they shooting at this shuttle from earth, rather from the station itself? Wait, how are they going to land when there must be some kind of shield keeping the atmosphere in the... huh. Ok, how are they keeping the atmosphere in the... wait, they caught *everyone* in a matter of minutes? Well what's the point of trying to get up here if literally everyone gets caught? Oh, so this scene is some combination of the voter ID laws, universal health care and white privilege, I guess? Ok... but...

And that's all the stuff that came to me in one scene, and there's one thing I'm leaving out that's *huge* to the plot that, I guess, never occurred to the director. But I'll get to that later, when I'm yelling about the ending. Spoiler: fuck the ending.

This kind of bizarre, poorly thought out inconsistency in the mechanics of the world, both societal and technological, never ends. I kind of hoped it was just some convenient hand waving at the start of the movie to demonstrate the shape of the world and to foreshadow the rest of the plot, but no. No luck. I can't go through every little thing that happened because it's a lot of things, but suffice to say that there's not a scene in the movie where I wasn't questioning some bit of the technology. That bothered me mostly because I'm really, really not that guy. I'm *so* good at suspending disbelief. But for most of the movie, I just couldn't do it.

Ok, so that's the technology/science stuff. Next up, characters. Max is that type of main character who makes mistakes to move the plot forward. I don't like that kind of character. He basically keeps falling forward until everything works out (for everyone except him). Sure, the system he's stuck in is horrible, and he's just trying to make the best of a bad situation, but there simply wasn't a lot of appeal. I won't go into his girlfriend, because she was just a foil for her child. I won't talk about her child because honestly nearly every line they gave that child made me sick to the stomach.

Also, and this is important, the second you meet the kid she tells you she's sick. It's literally the first thing that she says. And you immediately flash back to that early scene I was bitching about, with the mother and the kid and they steal their way to Elysium so the kid can be cured. And now you know what's going to happen for the rest of the movie. The only person who doesn't know that this is the shape of the rest of the movie? The protagonist. And what active role does he take in this forward movement of the plot? None, at least not until the very end. The kid and her mom get up there on the same ship as our hero, but not because of anything specific that he's done. No, they're just along for the ride, and so the antagonist and his pals can constantly threaten to rape the mother. Got it.

There's other character stuff. The antagonist is just a monster. Jodie Foster's character... I don't know how best to say this. She's portrayed as one of these people who will do anything, commit any atrocity, push any boundary to accomplish her goals. She authorizes lethal force against those shuttles at the beginning. When those assets are taken away from her (without being replaced by more humane or politically acceptable systems. I really don't understand why they aren't replaced, or why there's NO APPRECIABLE DATA SECURITY anywhere in this world that apparently runs on data and algorithms) she conspires to overthrow the government by way of a system reboot (as a former helpdesk nerd, I couldn't help but say "Society not working? Have you tried turning it off and then back on?") because the programs that run Elysium apparently function in such a mechanical way that if you reboot the central computer and put your name in the data field labeled "President" you're suddenly the president. And when the homicidal rapist murderer who just got his face shot off and rebuilt does something stupid, she goes down there without any security and berates him. Because who would *dare* try to stop her? But when that same homicidal rapist murderer puts a piece of glass in her throat and throws her into a room with a nurse, and that nurse tries to bandage the wound so that they can get this woman to one of the billions of miracle-laser medbays that are just outside the door, what does this unstoppable force of nature do?

She gives up. She lets herself die. Because...?

Again, these are the most obvious things. There are more things, but I don't want to get into all of them. Suffice it to say that I doubted a lot of the character choices. But whatever.

I'm going to talk about the ending now, because up until the end I was still enjoying the movie. I know it sounds like I wasn't, but there was enough fun stuff going on that I was able to push most of this behind me. And then we got to the ending, and I was all 'Screw it!' and then there were some credits.

Here are the relevant details. Jodie Foster is going to overthrow the database. I mean government. She's going to overthrow the government with a database. To do this, she employs the assistance of Jerk #1, CEO of the company that builds all of these lovely droids that are everywhere. Jerk #1 does something in a unix shell that, when uploaded to the central computer in Elysium, will reboot the system and make Jodie Foster president.

Let's pause, because while that's ridiculous at nearly every level, I'm going to let it slide. It's the kind of big idea that science fiction sometimes depends on, and since the movie is nothing more than a clumsy metaphor for disenfranchisement, we're going to let it go. After all, in my first book there was a church that was based on strange pieces of machinery that floated down a river, and they built a god by fitting the pieces together even though they had idea which parts went where. So metaphor is a thing I enjoy. The problem, though, is one of plotting. Jodie Foster explains her plan to Jerk #1 while they're on Elysium. He then goes back to earth (with nearly no security) writes the program to carry out this mischief, encrypts it with a 'fatal' algorithm (more on that later) and then travels back to Elysium. Except, of course, he doesn't make it back. He gets hijacked by our hero, who downloads the contents of Jerk #1's brain into his own brain, to steal bank accounts or passwords or something. And instead of bank accounts, he ends up with this program to overthrow Elysium. Then Jerk #1 dies.

Let's talk about that encryption program for just a second. How is it supposed to work? I'm not going to dwell on how encryption actually works, because that's irrelevant in this world, it's just shorthand for 'protected'. So if it's supposed to protect this data with a 'fatal' algorithm, how should that work, if you really want to protect that data? Shouldn't it kill anyone who tries to download it without permission? That's how it would work if it were my head being hijacked. But no, that's not how it works. It kills the person carrying the data, but only after it's been download. Why? Because otherwise the plot wouldn't work, that's why. So Matt Damon is able to download this protected data, and then other people are able to view it, and finally he's able to run the program on Elysium (more on that later) and then tragically die. Very tidy. Almost as if someone wrote it that way.


At the end of the movie, Matt Damon runs this program on Elysium, only instead of making Jodie Foster the president (she's dead, anyway) they make all the people of earth citizens of Elysium. So now the droids can't arrest them, the medbays will heal them, and they all get matching polo shirts with the swell Elysium logo.

Actually, I want a polo shirt with the Elysium logo. I think that would be cool.

So all that happens and Matt Damon dies and the day is saved. All the world's problems have now been solved by universal health care.

Except obviously they haven't. Things are the way they are on earth because of overpopulation, environmental disasters, poor resource management and a general societal collapse. There are no jobs! Resources are scarce! Are you going to solve those things with the fifty or so medbays you just shipped down to earth? No. No you are not. You are going to cause riots, all while disabling the primary security system you've put in place (the droids, who can apparently no longer arrest people because they're citizens of Elysium) oh and now all of those people are probably going to try to fly up to the space station and live there because why not? What's to stop them?

Here's the final kicker? Remember that first scene I was bitching about, where the shuttle crash lands and the people go running out and then get apprehended and deported? Each one of those people had been given a valid Elysium ID, burned into their skin. The medbays scanned them as valid citizens. Theoretically, since it's all one big database, the droids would have too. Oh, and the droids were able to arrest those citizens, because...?

So when they reboot the system on Elysium and make everyone a citizen, those droids are not able to arrest the new citizens even though they were able to earlier. And there's no system in place for reversion of citizenship, or amending the terms of citizenship, or any kind of backdoor anything to undo this act. Because...?

Look. I actually liked the movie, kind of. But it failed on so many levels, in so many little ways. It was lazy in its metaphor, inconsistent in its application of technology, poorly paced (I didn't even get into the movie's structure. Gods, the pacing!), and the characters frustrated me. But that ending! What. The. Hell.


by Tim Akers

Friday, July 19, 2013

Guest Movie Review - Bryce Moore on Pacific Rim

I went to see Pacific Rim with JABberwocky client Bryce Moore, the author of the award-winning YA novel Vodnik, and since we both blog we decided to exchange guest reviews of the movie.

After you've read Bryce's review, but sure to check out Vodnik, check him out on his own blog, and follow along with Bryce on Twitter.  And click here for my review of Pacific Rim, over on Bryce's blog.

Movie Review: Pacific Rim -- by Bryce Moore

While I was at ConnectiCon, I had the chance to catch a viewing of Pacific Rim (as you already know, if you read my response to some of the robot names in the film). Setting aside my response to the name choices, what did I think of the actual movie?

Honestly? I loved it.

This is what I'd wanted Michael Bay's Transformers to be like. It's a movie about giant robots fighting giant lizards. If that sounds like something you'd be excited to see, you'll love this film, too. It is, hands down, the best robot vs. lizard movie you could think of. I guarantee it.

Yes, there's a premise. Yes, there are huge gaping plot holes throughout the movie. But if that upsets you, let me remind you what you paid to see: a movie about giant robots fighting giant lizards. Did you really expect Chariots of Fire? (Maybe if it were "Chariots ON Fire", right? Someone make that movie. Please.)

Before I saw the film, I had some reservations about Del Toro. He makes some truly stunning visuals, but sometimes I feel like his visuals take center stage, leaving the plot behind. It's one of the reasons I was relieved somewhat when he left The Hobbit. Would this be another example of that?

Pacific Rim makes me wonder what we would have gotten if Del Toro had been able to stick with The Hobbit.

The visuals are wonderful eye candy. The plot has some issues, but because the tone is so darned light and fun, you just don't mind. Yes, there are cliches left and right. But it doesn't matter. This is a movie about giant robots fighting giant lizards.

There was plenty of humor, and Ron Perlman has an outstanding cameo. None of the acting jobs were really noteworthy. They didn't need to be. This isn't a movie about closeups and lingering shots. It's about action. Destruction. Fighting. Where Man of Steel was the same fight scene over and over, this one kept you constantly on your toes, with new awesome coming down the pike every five seconds. See it big if you can. I saw it in 2D, and I kind of wish I'd been able to see it 3D, instead.

It's also pretty much completely clean--so much that I'm considering taking my 9 year old son to see it. There's fighting and action, but no swearing or sex. This is the sort of movie I was have adored as a 9 year old. (And still adore today) It's the realization of every awesome Saturday morning cartoon you've ever watched.

Oh---and a note for all you people who just leave as soon as it fades to black: stay at least halfway through the credits, people. There's more.

What do I give a movie like this on a star rating? Can a movie about giant robots fighting giant lizards really be worthy of 4 stars?

Yes my friends, it can. It didn't change my life. It didn't make me cry or think about things in a new light. It just did what it came to do, and it did it perfectly.

Four stars.

See it.

--Bryce Moore

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Longest Established Permanent Floating Thing I Do

We change, you know.

We think the things we're doing will always be the things we're doing, but we change.

Sometimes even the things that don't seem to be changing, change.  As an example, I've been a literary agent for over 25 years, but the job description within the job has changed multiple times.  I've had the same job, two employers (one of them being myself), and probably close to half a dozen job descriptions.

But for me, there's one thing that hasn't, and that's going to the movies.

And the earliest movie that I can place seeing at a particular theatre dates back to when I was five.  We saw Airport at Radio City Music Hall.  Would my younger brother had been with a baby sitter?  It's hard even to think about.

And since my parents didn't believe in film ratings and took us to everything...  Deliverance at the Plaza Cinema, or stopping for Godfather, which I think we might have done as a side trip returning from visiting family in upstate New York.

Sleeper in Manhattan the next year.  One show was sold out, we walked across town to another show that was sold out, and then back again to the original theatre.

I can remember the drive that seemed to last forever to see Earthquake in Sensurround at the Cinema 46 in Totowa, NJ.

Montclair, NJ over the holidays, to see Network, and then stopping by actual non-Jewish family friends to hang out around their Christmas tree afterwards.

Drives up to Monticello in 1977 to see The Spy Who Loved Me at the theatre downtown, or to see Star Wars at the theatre by the dying mall on the outskirts of town.

The Brinks Job at the Sack Cheri in 1979, which we would have seen the same weekend that I got those free samples of Omni from the Boskone dealer's room, setting me on my current path.  So the thing to remember here is that I have movie-going memories that date back almost seven years further than the career path.

No, I can't remember every single movie I saw, and I couldn't tell you which theatre I went to for every single movie I can remember seeing.

But think about your own life, and ask yourself what are the things you can still remember from when you were in kindergarten, and the things that you can remember from 40 years ago.

That's the movies, for me.  The thing I've been doing, memorably and enjoyably doing, for longer than anything.

And hey, take a screen shot, print out the blog, in a few decades when I'm closing in on 90, let's see if I can remember the first batch of movies for this weekend, Filling the Void and 20 Feet From Stardom at the Kew Gardens Cinema.  And bonus credit if I can remember that Filling the Void was on Screen 3, which is the big one at this cinema.

Pauline Kael I'm not.  I haven't lost it at the movies, not yet at least.  But I promise to keep trying.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Surveillance State

A week back, Thomas Friedman, the distinguished author and columnist for the New York Times, wrote a column approving of the NSA's surveillance and monitoring of metadata of email and phone calls for pretty much everyone.

His argument:  I like civil liberties, civil liberties will take it on the chin even more than they are now if we have another 9-11 style attack.  So the government should do all that is can to prevent another such attack, and if that's what the surveillance is doing, I'm in favor of it.  Also, that this has been going on for two American presidencies now.

What an idiot!

OK, I mean, Thomas Friedman isn't an idiot, and there's a certain soothing logic to his column which reflects an opinion that's apparently shared by a lot of my fellow Americans.

But it's wrong, it's misguided, and quite obviously so.

It took me several days of mulling over Thomas Friedman's soothing article to zone in on the basic fallacy, but once you do, it's really quite simple.

And that fallacy is this:  There is no guarantee that any of the NSA programs will stop another 9-11 type attack.  The fact that the Boston Marathon bombings could take place is kind of proof positive that we cannot be 100% protected from terrorist activity.  Since neither Thomas Friedman nor President Obama nor the head of the CIA or NSA or Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) or Speaker John Bonier (R-OH) or any of the other many people defending this surveillance cannot guarantee that their efforts will not protect us 100% from another 9-11, I would respectfully ask that my 4th Amendment rights be protected and that the government not go vacuuming up information on every single phone call I make. And that the government not go vacuuming up information on pretty much every e-mail I send.

Of course, the head of the NSA has come out and said how these wonderful surveillance efforts have lead to the stopping of 50 plots against us.  Of course, he won't give much detailed information about any of these because it's a secret.  I have no secrets, he gets to keep all of his?  That's not the way to have a debate or discussion.

If we could look at the details, we would probably discover that many of these plots could have been discovered in ways other than vacuuming up metadata on every phone call and e-mail.  We might discover that there would have been plenty of time to get warrants for the specific individuals vs. invading the privacy of all of us.  But we won't get a lot of these details.

Several editorial cartoonists have been quite succinct in pointing out the ludicrousness of many of the same Senators who filibustered reasonable background check legislation for gun sales now turning around to say it's perfectly fine for the government to get the metadata for every single phone call I make.  I guess it could be argued that I am inconsistent for wanting my metadata to be protected while thinking background checks for guns are a good idea, but isn't there a common sense difference between placing a phone call and buying a weapon used to kill people?

I don't buy the idea that my e-mails aren't being looked at because that program is limited to getting data for people overseas.  I happen to email people overseas almost all the time, and I have this hunch that the computer that vacuums up the emails of those people will vacuum mine up along with it.  Have you ever sent an e-mail where the chain includes ten other e-mails?  Even, on occasion, the computer might fold in some e-mail from a completely different conversation because you started a new conversation in a reply or had the same subject line.

My blog is supposed to be about publishing, so I want to make this conversation a little bit relevant.

Government power:  A lot of us think the Department of Justice had a pretty weak case against Apple and the major publishers on e-book price fixing.  The publishers changed to a model that reduced the power of Amazon, which had 90% of the e-book business and was selling e-books as loss leaders.  Amazon provided a lot of the information and a lot of the impetus behind the lawsuit.  Yet the publishers all ended up settling.  Why?  Well, it's pretty simple.  The government has a lot of power and a lot of tools and a lot of resources, and when it decides to use those against you, it's awfully hard to resist. Why do you want to give the government such benefit of the doubt that it will vacuum up all of this information and never use it foolishly or bullyingly or in a bad way?

Asymmetric information:  The next time you are negotiating a new contract with a publisher, ask the publisher to show you their P&L (profit & loss) statement for the proposed acquisition.  See how far you'll get!  For all the increased amounts of information some publishers are providing, like real-time information to hard sales numbers, they are never going to negotiate where you have equal access to information with them.  They will never tell you what their actual excess of revenue over expenses is, and let you see exactly how much of that money they are willing to give to you and how much they intend to keep for themselves.  And if I come up with my own best guesses... you can trust me on this, that the publisher will always say I'm wrong but never come up with a specific beyond that.  It's similar here.  The government isn't engaged in an open exchange with any of us.  The information we need to know is a secret, and all of our information is there for them to look at.  And you don't have an agent in this negotiation.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Every Move You Make I'll Be Watching You

The British newspaper The Guardian found out that the US has very likely been receiving details  of every phone call most of us make -- who we called, when we called them, how long we spoke.

Where are all of those constitution lovers who are so fond of my 2nd amendment rights to start using those guns to fight against this colossal infringement of our 4th amendment rights?

I'm bothered not just by the blatant violation of privacy rights but by the idiocy of this and of everyone who defends this.

Let's take a specific scenario, where the government knows that some particular person is a terrorist.  Well, the government has always had the ability to go to a judge and get a warrant and find out who is calling this person and who this person calls, and even to listen in on the phone calls. Some of these abilities are impaired by the switch from land lines to cell phones.  The calls no longer go through particular switching stations for particular phone lines in particular places where the government can attach a tap.  However, solving that problem doesn't require getting detailed reporting on who every person in the country speaks to for how long.  So the government isn't, in this instance, adding anything helpful for people whom we know are terrorists.

Let's say the government doesn't know someone is a terrorist until they do something bad.  In such an instance, yes, the government might be able to review records retrospectively and find out who called this phone number.  Emphasis on retrospectively.  This is closing the barn door after cows left, after bad guy does his bad thing.

If you want to say that this is a good thing because we can catch this bad person and keep him from doing another bad thing -- well, I can't argue with that.  But what I can say is that this isn't what the United States is all about, or at least not that the US is supposed to be about.  We're not East Germany in the 1970s, where everyone was spying on everyone else.  We don't keep everyone in prison because we suspect all of us might commit a crime someday.  Or at least we're not supposed to do these things.

And once you start saying that all these little things are perfectly fine because we can't risk anything bad ever happening to us -- again, that's an argument we had 230 years ago which led to our having a Bill of Rights, and those rights are supposed to protect us from exactly this kind of thing.

So again, where are all the second amendment defenders now, when the fourth amendment is once again under attack?

There's also a practical problem here.  For all the computers in the world that make our lives easier, there are real costs to our government to collect all of this data, to organize all of this data, and then the government is either just putting the data off in some dark corner just in case or it's taking time to have people look at all of those phone records for everyone.  That's a lot of infrastructure, a lot of people, a lot of lots of things, all to go looking at data which is 99.9999% useless, records of calls that don't mean anything.  But which are there.

So if you don't want the government collecting gun records for newspapers to find so that everyone knows where the guns are, do you want the government to have all this information on all the people you've called, how long you spoke to them, information which could somehow get out into the world and into the newspapers?

It gets worse.  The government's also been collecting gobs of data from everyone who surfs the web from outside the US, around $20M worth a year for that expense according to The Guardian.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Your Opinion is Important to Us

Since I still have a land line it is susceptible to getting calls from polling companies.

I kind of like this.  It is occasionally interesting because you can tell who's paying for the poll by the kinds of questions being asked and the way they are being phrased.  And who doesn't want to be asked their opinion.

But I've got to take a few minutes to complain in public about a call I got yesterday.

I was sitting around watching tennis from Roland Garros, so I figured I could watch tennis and be polled at the same time.  And the person taking the poll assures me it's just a few questions and won't go on for very long at all.

It turns out to be a poll on the NYC mayor's race.  I'm asked multiple times to choose whom I would vote for today, which I refuse to do.  There are two or three candidates I am strongly considering and a few I am strongly not, and I don't want to pick a side now when there haven't been any debates and the contest not yet fully in swing.  I'm read biographical descriptions of each candidate, all of them very much like what the candidates themselves would write.  Then there are questionable actions about each candidate that are read off, and I'm asked to say if these things give me super strong doubts or tiny doubts or no doubts.

I admire the even-handedness of the poll.  The biographies aren't suspiciously shady, and the doubt raising questions are all legitimate.  This one did block paid sick leave legislation, that one did have shady fund-raisers, another did travel through the revolving door.

However, the poll just goes on and on and on and on.  It takes a long time to read several candidate biographies and several more critical statements, and to repeat every time the "doubt" scale.   And I admit, I took up a few minutes pointing out that the quick poll was at ten minutes, and soon approaching twenty.  And then at around 18 minutes I explained that while I was sorry to have wasted everyone's time, I was hanging up.  Because I sure as heck wasn't giving more than twenty minutes of my life to participating in this poll.

And that's the thing I don't get.  How do you expect anyone to participate in a poll that's going to take a half hour out of their lives?  Anyone?  How can you have an accurate poll when the only people you'll get to take it are people with nothing better to do for an entire half hour.

Can Nate Silver explain this to me?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Do The Right Thing

I feel good today, as Skyhorse and Start have announced better terms to facilitate their purchase of certain assets of Night Shade Books, hopefully avoiding a bankruptcy for Night Shade, allowing the two companies to invest themselves in the market for new science fiction and fantasy, and giving certainty to upwards of 150 authors who had been published by Night Shade.

Credit for this goes first and foremost to Tony Lyons of Skyhorse and Jarred Weisfeld of Start.  We don't know how many authors they needed to get on board for the program or how many they had or seemed likely to have.  We do know that their introduction to the world of full-blown involvement in sf/fantasy was overwhelming.  They may have been lacking in forewarning or preparation; Tony was prepared to hear more from 20 or 30 authors about the deal than some 200 or more from all corners.  But ultimately, they did the right thing.  They reached out, spoke to people, and came to the plate with a considerably improved set of terms.  They didn't have to.  They could have gotten the minimum number of authors or titles or billings to make the deal happen.  They could have washed their hands of the idea of being involved with the community.  Instead, they decided to come in with an improved deal that makes it many times easier to get to yes.

I will give myself a little credit.  I've had my blog going for more years than I can quite believe.  Most of the year, more years than not, I find I don't have the time to blog as much on as many things as I'd really like to.  Quite honestly, I didn't have the time now; it's our busiest season, London Book Fair is around the corner, and I had one title caught up in the Night Shade imbroglio with only a modest royalty due or likely at stake in the process.  But I feel like this is why I've had the blog all these years, and it was Brillig's moment.  Thanks to linking from io9 and Tobias Buckell and others, my original Night Shade post had more page views than any other post in the blog's history.  And it's a post I'm proud of.  Like a lot of things I do, even that one post was a team effort, with input and suggestions from everyone on the JABberwocky staff.

But that said, the post didn't operate or exist in a vacuum.  Michael Stackpole looked a lot more closely at the ramifications of specific contract clauses than I did.  Another agent, Andrew Zack, did a series of posts, spent a lot of time on the phone with Tony Lyons, said some things that I might have said, chose not to, but which probably did need to be put into the conversation by someone.  Justin Landon at Staffers Musings filled in some blanks as well.  Charlie Jane Anders was like the Lois Lane of io9 on this one!  There were a lot of other people, many of them with modest direct interest, who took the time to talk about this.

Anyone who wants can quibble still with aspects of the revised Skyhorse offer, and I don't want to hear from those people!  The royalty rate is low, but I've done a lot of deals with lower royalties than this, especially with small press.  And this reasonably low royalty rate considering is on top of promised full payment of current arrears with a publisher that has a an awfully big arrear end.  I'm not thrilled with the revised audio language, and I don't want to hear from myself on that; this isn't one of those times I get to be thrilled with everyone.  The revised language on assignments -- well, it seems a lot like something I had in my own suggestions to Tony Lyons, which is sweet!

Under all the extant circumstances, this is a deal that's about making it easy to say Yes.

We can't let up.  I'm still not sure who the arbiter is supposed to be to decide which of at least three possible figures for how much of a royalty is owed on Elizabeth Moon's MOON FLIGHTS is the correct one.  Concerns have been expressed about the mechanism for paying people.  I don't know who it is who communicates with my clients and I about the revised terms in a formal way, and provides the formal document for signing.  Stuff like that.

And I'm going to dump a little more on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.  I've heard a gazillion excuses for why, even after this whole kerfuffle became public, they were still hiding off in a back room communicating in secret private ways like they were guarding access to a speakeasy, and I'm not convinced of any of them.  Just at the level of the lowest hanging fruit, how could they have signed off on indicating to members that they were cool with the assignment language in the original agreement?  That kind of broad assignment language is one of the most basic things I as an agent would negotiate away in any contract negotiation.  And now, after e-mails to me that had a "go away, stop bothering us, and go give your clients whatever damnfool advice you want on the deal" kind of tone to them, and hiding off in a dark corner, and having some responsibility for not forewarning and preparing Tony Lyons (I don't know, maybe they did and he didn't listen, but it doesn't sound that way to me), they come out with some happy smug little statement about the new terms like it was all their idea and all their hard work.  "After continuing talks with Skyhorse/Start, SFWA is pleased that the companies have decided to adjust the royalty terms in their author agreement to be more in line with industry standards for Science Fiction and Fantasy. We see this as a positive sign that they are listening to authors and are responsive to their concerns, and we hope that continues. SFWA has remained in close communication with our members who are directly affected by the sale of Night Shade Books assets and will continue to provide them with information and support."  Just to say, I've been a dues-paying affiliate member of SFWA for pretty much as long as I've had JABberwocky, and their close communication never included me, as an agent, with clients who had interests in this and were affected by it.  I've been a staunch supporter of SFWA, I've encouraged all my clients to join the organization as active members when eligible, and this is the and continues to be the darkest moment I can remember in my 27 years in this field.  I don't know the extent to which SFWA has been involved behind the scene in talking to people over the past week, and I will happily change this tune if there's some different sheet music put in front of me.  But they can't even be bothered to stick in a "listening to authors and their agents" to acknowledge the work of an Andrew Zack on a deal that SFWA had blessed?

The best way to close is to reiterate my heartfelt thanks to Tony Lyons and to Jarred Weisfeld for listing and revising and improving, and to thank all of those who took their time to get things to "go."

Onward and upward with the arts.  And:


Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Tachyon's Soul

As a tonic to all of the Night Shade discussions this week, let's talk about something that involves another distinguished sf/fantasy press in the San Francisco Bay area, Jacob Weisman's Tachyon Publications, which is the publisher of the Hugo-nominated novella THE EMPEROR'S SOUL by Brandon Sanderson.

It's an interesting story, to me at least, on many levels.

For one, I'm old enough to have grown up in an era when we didn't have all of these internet magazines like Lightspeed and Clarkesworld and Daily SF and etc.  So just for that reason alone, it's hard to believe that it took a little over a year for Brandon Sanderson's THE EMPEROR'S SOUL to go from non-existence to Hugo finalist.  Unless you really hit the jackpot, writing a story in January and submitting it to the magazines that were pretty much the only places to go for this sort of thing in 1980, having a quick try on the first sale and having the story sneak in to the November of December issue -- it just couldn't happen.  Magazine lead times are so long.

And if anything, THE EMPEROR'S SOUL was compressed even further than that.

Brandon was touring Taiwan in Winter 2012.  He was inspired to write something by some stamps he saw at a museum.  During a break between drafts of A Memory of Light in February 2012, he wrote a few small things that could be fit into the available time.  According to a forthcoming review for one of Brandon's books, he is "inhumanly prolific" so he managed to write this 30,000 word novella in a relatively short amount of time, finishing toward the end of February.  He sent it off to Moshe Feder, the Tor editor who discovered and purchased Brandon's debut novel Elantris, for a look-see, and Moshe e-mailed on March 8, 2012 to say "What can I say? I love it!"

I was jealous Moshe had gotten first crack at it, so I got a copy myself.  As that upcoming review says, Brandon is "inhumanly prolific," so I was able to load up my iPad with an epub file of the new novella, another new novella, and a new draft of his YA debut The Rithmatist, and with a free afternoon on the weekend of March 10/11 2012, I headed off to the New York Sports Clubs on Park Ave. and 23rd St. in Manhattan and spent a few hours on the elliptical reading new Brandon Sanderson.

I didn't just love THE EMPEROR'S SOUL.  I thought it was something special.  It made me feel the way I'd felt a few months before when I'd had a break in my reading pile and read an issue of Asimov's with Kij Johnson's "The Man Who Bridged the Mist," a great novella that was on all the award ballots and winning many during 2012 (that was read on the bike in my building's gym, there's nothing like having good reading to burn the calories).

But what were we going to do with something that I was convinced was an award-caliber novella?

This made for some interesting conversations with Brandon in the next day or two.

Brandon wanted the novella out in 2012.  This is the opposite of the ideal approach for being on award ballots.  Too early in the year, maybe people forget.  Too late, maybe not enough time for people to read and word to spread.  But Brandon was worried that he didn't have a book-length work of his own to come out in 2012.  Alloy of Law had come out Fall 2011, Memory of Light was due January 2013, Brandon wasn't buying my "oh, the paperback of Alloy of Law will be out in 2012, that's a book!" arguments.

That made it very hard to consider the magazine route.

As or more important in deciding against the magazine route, Brandon was itching to be doing some e-books of his own.  Even if a magazine purchased the story ASAP and could have it out, it wasn't going to pay a lot of money, maybe $1500 or $2000, and it wasn't going to allow a separate e-book.

Nor, in all likelihood, would Brandon's regular publisher, Tor.  The big publishers will occasionally pick up something first published in e-book, and maybe be persuaded to leave the e-book rights behind, but as a rule they won't buy books where they don't have e-book rights.

We were waiting on publication that summer of Brandon's novella LEGION from Subterranean, but we didn't like that option here, of trying to have two Subterranean novellas in such quick succession.

And that was when I pushed back a little, and decreed that the novella was simply too good just to be done as an e-book by Brandon himself.  Maybe none of the familiar things we were doing was the right thing for THE EMPEROR'S SOUL.  Maybe, this was going to be my first Tachyon Publications book.

I confess, I was being a little selfish here.

I wanted a Tachyon Publications book so very very badly.

And I never had one.

I'd chatted with Jacob Weisman at the Tachyon table at WorldCon or World Fantasy for years and years.  I'd watched the quantity and quality of books at his table grow.  Not the literary quality, but the physical quality.  The gorgeousness of the covers, the attractiveness of the design, every year he was in business a trip to the Tachyon table had become more and more of a visual feast.

The problem for me was that "literary quality" thing.

For all the success JABberwocky has had over the years, it was somewhat reflective of its owner's tastes.  This is changing, because Eddie Schneider has a more literary bent in his reading tastes than I do in mine, and since adding Eddie to the staff in 2008, he's building a roster of authors with a very different profile.  But I've always been a bit more of a plot person.  I'm the kind of person who usually reads two lines of the fiction in The New Yorker and then starts flipping pages to look at cartoons en route to the "critics" section of the magazine that follows the fiction.  My own tastes have intersected only occasionally with the Nebula Award ballot, and never with the World Fantasy Award ballot.

Which wasn't Jacob Weisman's thing with Tachyon.  The sad fact was, I'd spend years looking longingly at this beautiful array of Tachyon books from all the best authors in sf/fantasy, and then I'd go thinking about the JABberwocky catalog which is usually in my bag just in case there's someone to give to at these conventions, and it was like the Mars and Venus thing.

So, heck no, Brandon Sanderson was not going to take an award caliber novella and put it out himself and deprive me of the one chance I'd had to actually give something to Jacob Weisman that I could suggest he buy -- well, let's not say "with a straight face," let's say "with a sincere and firm belief that he would and should want to buy it."

So on March 14, I e-mailed Jacob, and I told him I had an award caliber novella by Brandon Sanderson, it gave me the same feeling I had when I was reading the Kij Johnson story, and would he maybe want to take a look.  And oh, by the way, Brandon really wants to keep the e-book rights, and he really wants to have this out before the end of the year.

The rest, as they say, is  history.

Jacob asked me to send it along and promised me he'd read it quickly.  He did.  This was very important to me; it was one thing for me to know and feel in my heart of hearts that this was an award-caliber piece of fiction.  Having Jacob Weisman agree to publish it -- that was the guy with the table full of beautiful books by all the authors who kept getting nominated for all the awards telling me it was.

We agreed that it was kind of late to absolutely promise 100% for sure that it could be out in 2012, but we'd all do our darnedest that it would be available by World Fantasy,  Which made things a little more complex, since World Fantasy was in Canada, which meant longer shipping time and tighter deadlines.

He agreed that Brandon could do his own e-book. Not without some concessions at our end; the size of the advance or giving some UK rights to Tachyon were particular areas where I had to fight less zealously.

And by March 23, 2012, we were looking at the artwork that Jacob and his managing editor Jill Roberts were thinking to use.

I'm still a bit amazed by it all, that something so good that hadn't even been a thought in January 2012 had become a brilliant piece of fiction by the end of February, sold to the perfect publisher -- as if fate itself were guiding our hands -- by the end of March, and was sitting at the banquet tables at the World Fantasy Awards banquet on November 4.

And most amazing of all, that on March 30, 2013, around 13 months after it was finished, it was being announced as a finalist for this year's Hugo Award.

Is it the best novella on the Hugo ballot this year?  I'll let you tell me that, and we'll find out together alongside the Riverwalk in San Antonio on Labor Day Sunday.

I will tell you that it is and always will be an award-caliber piece of fiction, and one that deserves reading.

Am I biased?  Well, not as much as you think.  There's nothing that can kill a book faster than bad word of mouth, and if you find me trying to sell you something, I'm going to try and sell you something I think you'll love.  Something you'll tell all your friends you love, not something you'll tell them to avoid.  Because what would have happened if I'd spent the past ten years trying to sell Jacob Weisman things that weren't really right for Tachyon?  I could have, easily.  But I respected the integrity of Jacob and the Tachyon Publications list way too much to do that.  When I finally stopped chatting across the table in some hotel function space or convention center hanger that I sure hoped I'd have something for him someday and finally said "I have something," I think that counted for something.

Which, to digress -- some people say of agents, and rightly so, that we are the people who won't submit your book to all the places you'd send it yourself, that we are standing in the way and working for ourselves when we ought to be working for you.  Well, yes!  Because someday, you may want to be the author who benefits when I put my reputation on the line and say that this is something you should want, and want badly.

So when I write this blog post today, when I spend 1900 words telling you about THE EMPEROR'S SOUL, you'll know how much this novella means to me.

You can check out review quotes for the book on our website.  Many of those quotes have live links to the original review.

You can order the novella directly from Tachyon.

Or you can order it from some big book retailer.

If you buy the print edition from anywhere, Brandon has this thing, he talks about it on this blog post, where he will send you a free e-book edition!

Or, you can just buy the e-book from some different big book retailer.

Hey, listen!  Audio here.

For our friends in the British Commonwealth of Nations:  Kindle (click link to find reasonably priced marketplace used copies, omnibus edition with Legion due this summer), and WH Smiths/Kobo.

There are arrangements made or in process for translated editions of the novella in Taiwan, Spain, Germany and other markets.

Obviously, we owe a lot of thanks to all the people at Tachyon, not just Jacob but Jill and everyone else there, for their work on this novella.  And to Moshe Feder, who so often provides edits for Brandon beyond what he has to do in his role as an editor for Tor.