Fantasy Fiction

The Naked Writer Project: The Dragon Lords by Silvia Hartmann

The Naked Writer Project: The Dragon Lords by Silvia Hartmann

Apropos to my recent post on Google Docs, novelist Silvia Hartmann is embarking on a brave new experiment using Google’s office suite. She’s letting anyone and everyone watch her write a new fantasy novel in a public Google document. You can watch every word — every single character — appear on the screen as she types or just check on her progress whenever you please. It’s almost like being able to look over her shoulder as she writes the first draft.

It takes a great deal of courage to publish even a completed and edited novel. Even more to serialize a novel on your website or blog every week as you write it. How much courage does it take to let people watch your every keystroke while you write the first draft?

Established authors could sell access to this kind of inside look at how the sausage is made. But that might not be the best way to make use of this new opportunity. Even established authors, but especially new ones, could use this “naked writing” as a new way to connect with fans and gain publicity. No need to go for the direct sale. Foster a deeper connection with fans and attract more of them, then you might make more money from your writing in the long run.

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Worldcon banned by UStream for copyright infringement

If you tried to watch the livestream of the Hugo Awards event at Chicon 7 (Worldcon) last night, you were in for a rude surprise. The feed cut off, never to be restored, just as Neil Gaiman was giving his acceptance speech.  Why? i09 has the scoop, but fingers the wrong culprit.

Worldcon banned by UStream for copyright infringement

What happened was that the Hugo Awards showed clips from some Doctor Who episodes and a Community episode prior to Gaiman’s speech. UStream’s copyright enforcement robots detected this and shut down the feed, as they had been programmed to do. io9’s editor-in-chief, Annalee Newitz, lays the blame on UStream. Its copyright enforcement robots are too dumb to realize that not only did the Hugo Awards have permission to show those clips but that, even if they had not, showing them would have been fair use anyway.

Is it UStream’s fault that its copyright enforcement robots are unable to distinguish between illicit copyrighted content and copyrighted content the user has permission or a fair-use defense for airing? Should UStream spend more money on smarter robots? if it’s even possible to code smart enough robots to do this? I don’t think so.

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Assume the Physician by John Hunt

In the interest of full disclosure, here are the books we received in August. One of them is a self-published novel by John Hunt, whose serialized thriller published by Laissez Faire Books we are reviewing weekly. The others are from forward-thinking Angry Robot Books.

Angry Robot Army

I recently joined Angry Robot’s Robot Army program. It has the most reviewer-friendly system I’ve seen so far for distributing advance review copies (ARCs) of upcoming publications in multiple formats, arranging interviews with authors, and more. Reviewers are also rewarded with free copies of published books. [Update 10/01/12: Angry Robot switched to using NetGalley, which is not as convenient as the more informal proprietary system they had been using.]

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Snuff by Terry Pratchett
Snuff by Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett, the author of Snuff, our July Lightmonthly Read, has been diagnosed with an early form of Alzheimer’s. No longer able to type, he now reportedly dictates to a software program. This was the first time I had read a Pratchett novel, and in researching the author and his book, I came across a couple of interesting things. First, the novel was scoring significantly lower on sites like Amazon than other Pratchett novels, and second, many of the book’s detractors were bewildered by what they had read, some of them seriously proposing that someone other than Pratchett had written the work. I can have no opinion on that, but learning that his earlier works were of a markedly different style does make me more inclined to give them a try.

Snuff is a Discworld novel, the most recent in a long line of stories from that fictional world. It tells the story of Sam Vimes, a “copper” in the City Watch of Ankh-Morpork who has married into aristocracy. An incorrigible workaholic, he is practically forced into a vacation outside the city, at the manor that he has inherited. While there, he discovers a murder and, relieved to have something to do that is work-related, investigates.

There was more libertarianism in this work than in the other finalists for the Prometheus Award, save for one, and I appreciated that. The main thrust is an exploration of goblins as sentient beings and Vimes’s chafing at the society that so badly esteems them and so poorly treats them. While much of it is a mere libertarian-friendly argument against bigotry, the novel increasingly turns towards the question of law and rights. Though it never delves as rigorously into the question as one would expect from, say, Hans Hermann Hoppe, there are a number of comments and even a discussion or two that dance around the theme of natural law versus man’s execution of his laws.

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Anarchist Bee

“The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” is a delightful fable,1 not only on account of the political themes it explores but also some very fine writing. The short story was first published in Clarkesworld Magazine (Issue 55, April 2011) and then republished by Escape Pod (Episode 343, March 2012). If you’re partial to audio fiction, you can spend a pleasant half hour listening to the story being narrated by Kate Baker (Clarkesworld) or Mur Lafferty (Escape Pod).2 Yu’s tale has been nominated for a 2011 Nebula Award and a 2012 Hugo and is a finalist for a Locus Award and the Million Writers Award, and it is deserving of all of these honors. Yu, a student at Princeton, is a new author to watch.

Yu’s tale warns of the transitive and cyclical nature of violence — from thoughtless destruction to calculated imperialism. It begins with a boy attacking a wasp nest and ending the uneasy truce between the wasps and his village. The villagers make an amazing discovery: the wasps had inked beautiful maps of the land (China) into the walls of their nest. Soon the wasps were hunted to near extinction and a group of survivors manages to escape.

The leader of the surviving wasps has learned well the hard lessons of realpolitick. Once the new nest has been established, she orders her wasps to expand aggressively. A nearby bee hive is enslaved and forced to pay tribute. The victim of violence has resolved to avoid being the victim ever again by becoming the oppressor.

But the subjugation of the bees has unintended consequences. Some of the bees are educated and trained in philosophy, science, and cartography. One day a bee with an inclination to anarchism is born and so educated and trained, and she produces a brood of anarchist sons…

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  1. Yu believes (see the comments over at Clarkesworld) her story is hard science fiction for some reason to do with studies of bees, but since wasps and bees aren’t capable of cartography, philosophy, science, and the like, the story simply cannot be classified as hard science fiction; it’s fantasy. What do you think? 

  2. If you have to choose, I’d go with Baker. To me at least, she is by far the better narrator. 

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The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman
The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman

The Libertarian Futurist Society issued a press release on Friday, July 13th, announcing the winners (plural) of the 2012 Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian Novel.

The winners and finalists, with links to our reviews:

The Winners

The Finalists

The 2012 Prometheus Hall of Fame Award winner is “The Machine Stops” by E.M. Forster.

Our Take

We’re not sure we would have recommended any of the finalists for the Prometheus Award this year.

We haven’t read The Freedom Maze yet, so we can’t question its selection as a co-winner. Maybe it is worthy and we’ll discover this if and when we get around to reading it. Clearly it meets the criteria of the LFS voting membership.

While we enjoyed Ready Player One we do not think it was libertarian enough to qualify for the Prometheus Award. The same goes for The Children of the Sky and The Restoration Game.

While In the Shadow of Ares was libertarian enough, and apparently written by actual libertarians (unlike many Prometheus Award winners), and we enjoyed it, we do think the writing quality was not quite there. The authors are ones to keep an eye on, however.

We’re currently reading Snuff and, as one would expect from Terry Pratchett, it is well written. Whether we think it is unambiguously libertarian enough remains to be seen. We’ll publish a review in early August.

We’d love to publish a review of Delia Sherman’s The Freedom Maze, if anyone is interested in submitting one.

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Snuff by Terry Pratchett
Snuff by Terry Pratchett

For the month of July we are reading and discussing another Prometheus Award finalist,

Snuff — A Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett (winner of a Prometheus Award for Night Watch, also set in Discworld), Snuff blends comedy, drama, satire, suspense, and mystery as a police chief investigates the murder of a goblin and finds himself battling discrimination. The mystery broadens into a powerful drama to extend the world’s recognition of rights to include these long-oppressed and disdained people with a sophisticated culture of their own.

It’s currently available on Amazon in hardcover and Kindle ebook and Audible audiobook formats. Buy your copy today, via the affiliate links above, and help support our work here at Prometheus Unbound.

Join us as we read and discuss Snuff.

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