Hachette as A Colonial Power

There’s been a lot of digital ink spilled in the Amazon vs Hachette et al spat. Twitter is in full swing. Hugh Howey has come out swinging in several blog posts analyzing Amazon’s position, Hachette’s position, and arguing with the authors that support Hachette. It’s an interesting case of industry disruption and efforts by traditional publishing to hold on to their market power.

And that’s what the battle is about. It’s about power. It’s about money too, because money is power in most situations, but really Hachette is drawing a line in the sand and asserting their power as a big publisher, as the gateway to popular authors.

Except that they aren’t a gateway anymore. In fact, you could say that they are an industry dinosaur. But that’s neither here nor there.

People are expressing surprise that the Author’s Guild and several big name authors are behind Hachette, but it makes perfect sense to me when the situation is viewed through the lens of power. Hachette is, essentially, a colonizing power. They control a territory filled with people (authors) and resources (books and potential books). Some authors have, by virtue of their access to resources, achieved a measure of their own power, and their power is intimately tied to and ultimately derived from Hachette itself. The elites of the conquered serve their conquerors because that’s where their own self-interests lie.

Big name Hachette authors have made a lot of money with Hachette. They’ve become famous with them. And, because money has voice and those authors epitomize what most authors want to be, official writer’s associations have similar motivations. Keep the money train coming.

The world will be dealing with colonial-engineered conflicts for a long time, and authors will be fighting themselves for a while now still. But the writing is on the wall. Amazon’s (admittedly self-interested) market analysis shows that lower e-book prices would benefit everyone. And markets have shown again and again that access and sharing are more powerful paths to profit than content lockdown through DRM. And the price-gouging of Hachette is not so different. $14.99 ebooks are over-priced. Even $9.99 is over-priced to me. If I’m paying $7.99 for a paper book, you had better bet I’m not going to spend more than $5 for a digital version, and I’ll be pissed that I’m paying that much.

Point is, as in all things full of talking heads, the true path to understanding is in following the money. Popular traditional authors support Hachette. Self-published and ‘indie’ authors support Amazon. C’est la vie.

On a slightly related note–I think there is a lot of potential for stories set around a protagonist that is an economist. Not the stuffy ideology-ridden economists that make a mockery of the ‘science’, but more like a shock-troop economist that is air-dropped into tense situations and resolves them through application of his understanding of the nature of human choice.

Sort of like Hari Seldon, except maybe slightly more bumbling and comical.


Writing about the Psychosis of Bess

So the book I’m writing takes place in a world in which everyone has developed some kind of psychosis (and most people have died as a result). It’s not what I intended. Originally the story started out around a question:

“What would the world look like if we didn’t have consensual reality?’

What if what I saw and what you saw weren’t ever the same? What if it was just off by a little bit, the words you say changing meaning just enough to make miscommunication likely? I still want to write a book in that kind of a world, but the current book evolved quickly into its present form: a post-apocalyptic world in which everyone struggles with some form of psychosis.

Psychosis isn’t easy to write about. One of my central characters, Bess, has a simple issue: What she says and what she intends to say aren’t always the same thing. It can make things very hard for people to understand, especially since she has also taken control of a faction and gives a lot of orders.

But her psychiatric disorder goes deeper: Her real struggle is that she is a sociopath. In lacking empathy she does a lot of horrible things, but in her desire to control the chaos of a post-apocalyptic world, she also does a lot of good.

She poses a moral quandary: How do you judge someone whose overall impact on the world is to save lives and establish order, even if she does horrible things to make it happen? Do the ends justify the means? Bess definitely isn’t altruistically motivated, but you can’t help but root for her sometimes.

It’s interesting to write the scenes with Bess in them, because she can see the hurt or pain in someone’s face, and recognize that it is hurt or pain, but her reaction isn’t a sense of remorse, it’s more of an instinctual question of “how can I use what I’ve just learned about this person?” Conveying that changes the language, and makes these scenes a lot of fun to write.

First revision is in process! I’m hoping to get it done in the next couple of months, in time to spend November completing National Novel Writing Month again.

Welcome to the new site

I spend a lot of time messing with this site. More time than I should really. But I’m fairly happy with this new format, primarily because it allows me the flexibility of complete freedom when creating some of the stories and data graphics that I really want to be working on, but also provides the framework for this blog so that I can write more generally about what’s going on.

My new writing goal is to post one data graphic and one story per month, with blog posts peppered in here and there.

So welcome, and thanks for coming!