Filed under: Connections, Emergency, Failure, Flu, General Musings, Government, Health, Pandemic, Plague, Predictions, Preparedness, Science, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, Violence | Tags: blogging, Ebola, Elliot Hannon, fire-flu, Foreign Policy, health, influenza, jim downey, Laurie Garrett, pandemic, predictions, science, Science Fiction, Slate, society, St. Cybi's Well, writing
Sorry for my absence here — I’ve been very busy with a another big project, one which I can’t discuss publicly just yet. But soon.
Without wanting to buy-into the complete panic in some corners about Ebola, here are a couple of very sober articles to consider, which are less about the actual disease and more about what such a pandemic does to the society it hits:
Battling the deadly outbreak of Ebola in Liberia has been a mammoth task for the country’s government and international aid agencies. Over the weekend combating the virus’ spread got even harder when a quarantine center in Monrovia was attacked, and 17 patients being monitored for possible infection fled the medical facility. The Liberian government initially said all of the patients had been relocated to another facility after the West Point health center was looted on Saturday, but later admitted that 17 patients had gone “back into their communities,” the BBC reports.
And this one from last week:
Attention, World: You just don’t get it.
You think there are magic bullets in some rich country’s freezers that will instantly stop the relentless spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa? You think airport security guards in Los Angeles can look a traveler in the eyes and see infection, blocking that jet passenger’s entry into La-la-land? You believe novelist Dan Brown’s utterly absurd description of a World Health Organization that has a private C5-A military transport jet and disease SWAT team that can swoop into outbreaks, saving the world from contagion?
Wake up, fools. What’s going on in West Africa now isn’t Brown’s silly Inferno scenario — it’s Steven Soderbergh’s movie Contagion, though without a modicum of its high-tech capacity.
And from that second article, more to my point:
I myself have received emails from physicians in these countries, describing the complete collapse of all non-Ebola care, from unassisted deliveries to untended auto accident injuries. People aren’t just dying of the virus, but from every imaginable medical issue a system of care usually faces.
That’s the thing — a pandemic is bad enough in its own right, when a disease such as Ebola has a mortality of more than 50% under the best conditions. Consider how much worse the impact will be once the overall public health system collapses due to the death of doctors and nurses, when deliveries can’t be made to restock supplies, when whole cities are quarantined, when people begin to really panic.
That is the horror of a true global pandemic. Like the one in St Cybi’s Well.
Cheery thought, eh?
PS: Two other unrelated things I want to mention. The first is thanks to all who participated in Helping Cassandra – you made a real difference. And the second is just to link to a blog post about some black powder shooting I did this past weekend with some very fun historical guns.
Filed under: Amazon, Art, Bipolar, Book Conservation, Connections, Depression, Emergency, Failure, Feedback, Flu, Health, Kindle, NPR, Pandemic, Predictions, Preparedness, Publishing, Science, Science Fiction, Writing stuff | Tags: art, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, Communion of Dreams, COPD, direct publishing, Ebola, feedback, Guinea, health, jim downey, Kindle, Liberia, Nigeria, NPR, predictions, reviews, science, Science Fiction, Sierra Leone, St. Cybi's Well, WHO, writing
For one reason and another, this past week has been a little rough, hence the paucity of posts. The rejection from the agent kinda took the wind out of my sails a bit, since I thought that the prospects were good. And continued news on the Ebola front* kept reminding me just how grim St Cybi’s Well is getting, in regards to the onset of the fire-flu (though I hope that other aspects of the novel more than balance that out for the reader).
But now the winds have shifted again, and things are looking up. We’ve gotten a bunch of bids in the auction to help my friend (though you can still pick up a hand-bound limited edition hardcopy of Communion of Dreams for a song). There’s a new review of CoD up on Amazon. And this morning I got word that a major new project I’ve been involved with helping to get organized is going to be implemented — more on that when there’s an official announcement in a couple of weeks. But it’s kinda a big deal and one which I am excited to be part of. Oh, and there’s a fun little item here about a recent book conservation job I did which might be of interest.
So, those are the latest developments. Watch for more to come. Oh, and go put a bid in on something on the auction site — there are a number of great items available! Thanks!
*I do want to note that I don’t think that Ebola poses a significant risk to people in the US. We have the medical infrastructure to deal with isolated cases, which is likely all that we’ll see here. There’s no reason to get into a panic. But that doesn’t change the horror of the disease itself, nor the impact that it is having on people in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.
Filed under: Art, Connections, Failure, Feedback, NASA, Promotion, Publishing, Science, Science Fiction, Space, tech, Writing stuff | Tags: art, blogging, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, jim downey, NASA, promotion, rejection, science, Science Fiction, space, St. Cybi's Well, technology, writing
Good news! This morning the bidding opened on the auction I mentioned the other day, and I understand that there’s already something of a bidding war on some of the “become immortal” options I offered:
Be Famous! Have your name (or the name of a loved one, pet, etc) included in my next novel! Can be a character, a named place (manor/restaurant/pub), a book title/author, et cetera. Any sort of name you wish.
You have three choices:
Passing mention. Five available.
Name and some description. Three available.
Tertiary character, who will have some dialog & interaction with other characters. One available.
Yay! Thanks for the vote of confidence, and for helping out my friend!
* * *
I’ve seen several preliminary news items on this, and it’s … intriguing.
Nasa is a major player in space science, so when a team from the agency this week presents evidence that “impossible” microwave thrusters seem to work, something strange is definitely going on. Either the results are completely wrong, or Nasa has confirmed a major breakthrough in space propulsion.
Very intriguing. Basically, this is the third test conducted on a theoretical reactionless drive, with NASA (British publications consider it stylistically appropriate to just capitalize the first letter) doing the independent testing of previous claims. It’ll be interesting to see what comes out of this.
* * *
From three months back:
…but the other is far enough along that I’ll share: there’s a literary agent who is potentially interested in representing me, something which I have been thinking about for a while.
I’ll keep you posted as to any concrete developments.
Well, I just got a very nice note back from said agent, who complimented me in several ways but said that he wasn’t going to represent me after all.
Rejection is part of the game, and any writer or artist has to come to terms with that, or you might as well just give up. As I told a friend earlier:
He’s gotta do what he thinks makes business sense – when I ran the gallery, I had to turn down hundreds of artists who wanted us to represent them. And as I told them, just because I wasn’t going to rep them didn’t in any way mean that their work wasn’t quality. So I understand the equation from both sides of the = sign …
Still … I think I might take the rest of the afternoon off.
Do something nice for my friend. Go place a bid on something which interests you.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Argentina, Ballistics, Bipolar, Book Conservation, Connections, Depression, Failure, Gardening, General Musings, Guns, Health, Italy, New Zealand, Patagonia, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, Travel, Wales, Writing stuff | Tags: Alwyn, Alzheimer's, Argentina, bipolar, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, care-giving, Communion of Dreams, depression, direct publishing, feedback, gardening, guns, Habaneros, health, Her Final Year, hospice, Italy, jim downey, John Bourke, Legacy Bookbindery, literature, New Zealand, Patagonia, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, travel, Wales, writing
This will probably come across as a little brag-y. Sorry about that. Not my intention.
The other day I got a phone call. For Legacy Art. The gallery we closed May 31, 2004. Yeah, more than ten years ago.
And after I got through abusing the telemarketer over this point, I got to thinking about the many changes in the last decade.
First thing I should say up front: I’m at a low point in my bipolar cycle, as I’ve noted recently. That means that my self-image isn’t all that great. This isn’t a debilitating depressive episode or anything — I’ve managed to continue to work steadily, as well as enjoy the usual aspects of life. So not horrid. But it is sometimes difficult to not focus on the things which haven’t gone well, and my own failings which are often a component of that. And one of those failings is a sense of not accomplishing much, of being lazy, of wasting my time and the time of others.
Anyway. I got to thinking about the changes in the last decade. And surprisingly, more positive things came to mind than negative ones. That fed on itself, and I found myself making a mental list of the accomplishments.
In no particular order or ranking: wrote two books (one of them as co-author). Most of the way done with another. Visited Wales. And Argentina. And New Zealand. And Italy. Wrote several thousand blog posts. Became something of an authority on small caliber ballistics. Wrote several hundred articles and columns for publication. Was the full-time caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s. Have done conservation work on something more than a thousand (that’s just a guess … may be closer to two thousand) books and documents. Made some great hot sauces. Raised, loved, and then said farewell to a great dog. Tried to be a good friend, and husband. Tried to help others when I could.
We all fail. We all have things we’ve done that haunt us in one way or another. Sometimes, those fears and demons overwhelm. Me, at least.
I may or may not be at a turning point in my bipolar cycle. But I’m glad that at least I can think of things I have accomplished. That helps.
Back to work on St. Cybi’s Well.
Filed under: Amazon, Failure, Feedback, Kindle, Marketing, Music, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction, Writing stuff | Tags: Amazon, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, free, Hugh Howey, Jefferson Starship, jim downey, Kickstarter, Kindle, music, promotion, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, Wool, writing
Last week Hugh Howey, the very successful author of the Wool series, published The Report on his AuthorEarnings site which generated more than a little attention across the publishing/self-publishing world.
I’m not going to get into a real discussion of The Report here. I’m in no way qualified to criticize the data or analysis contained in Howey’s post, and others have already done so with thoroughness. If you’re interested whether or not Howey’s post holds up to scrutiny, I’d recommend reading those.
Howey has had huge success, and seems to have managed that arc of success very well. By his own admission, he has been extremely fortunate with self-publishing, and his success is very much *not* what the vast majority of self-published authors will experience. But his success has made him something of an evangelist for self-publishing, and that is reflected in The Report. Hence the title of this blog post — Howey very much advocates self-publishing for authors at every level, and in using the power which self-publishing has to force changes in the traditional publishing industry to benefit authors.
While I actually largely agree with Howey about the benefits of self-publishing, I thought I would offer my own contrasting experience as a self-published genre author who has had only moderate success.
After years of ‘close calls’ in almost getting Communion of Dreams conventionally published (including what would have been a nightmare - losing the rights to the book when a small publisher went under), in January of 2012 I self-published it. Since then, some 27,000 copies of the book have been downloaded, and about 200 paperback copies have been sold.
Looks pretty good, right?
Well, 80% or more of those downloads were promotional. Which is to say, free. And in addition to the paperback copies sold, I gave away about as many.
No complaints from me — this is using the tools available through Amazon, and I knew what I was doing. But that necessarily means that I didn’t earn any money off those books directly.
So in all of 2012, actual sales generated decent, but modest, income. Not enough to buy even an economy car new, but easily 3 or 4 times the advance that the Publisher Who Shall Not Be Named was going to give me. Then last year residual sales were less than $1000. If you add in my successful Kickstarter (after deducting expenses associated with that), all told I was able to stop doing most freelance writing last year and get to work on the next novel. Of course, while still trying to do enough book conservation work to stay afloat, and almost managing.
I consider this success. It’s not Hugh Howey level success. It’s not even ‘mid-list authors a decade ago’ level sucess. It isn’t enough to live on.
But the first novel is out there, and has been well received. And I’m well on the way to having the next one out later this year.
Which is a hell of a lot better than banging my head against the gates of traditional publishing houses.
*Reference, for those who are wondering. I’ve been considering doing a series of blog posts getting into rock music with a SF theme, looking at the development of that sub-genre over time. I still have a lot on my plate with SCW, so it’ll probably be a while, but if anyone wants to comment with suggested songs/albums/performers, feel free.
Filed under: Bipolar, Connections, Failure, Feedback, NPR, Science Fiction, Scott Simon, Writing stuff | Tags: bipolar, blogging, Communion of Dreams, feedback, jim downey, literature, Marcel Theroux, NPR, Paul Theroux, Science Fiction, Scott Simon, St. Cybi's Well, Weekend Edition, writing
A good segment on this morning’s Weekend Edition Saturday with writer Marcel Theroux (son of Paul Theroux). I recommend the whole thing, but two particular bits stood out for me. The first is included on the ‘highlights’ page for the show:
I was trying to be as free as possible. I don’t really think about genre … to be honest. I find it constraining. And I know there’s a certain embarrassment about talking about science fiction in polite company, so some people prefer to call it “speculative fiction” instead.
And the second is my transcription from the actual interview (at about the 5:00 mark):
Anyone who has written a long work of fiction just knows that your mood goes up and down and at times it seems baffling and you feel that you should be doing something that is of value to the human race, not sitting on your own in a room churning out words. Or not churning out words.
Boy, howdy. I am happily churning out words at present, but sometimes it just feels so … self indulgent. And that doesn’t include the moments of complete panic that everyone will be disappointed in the prequel to Communion of Dreams because it isn’t science-fictiony enough or the writing isn’t any good or something.
Back to work. It’s all I can do.
Filed under: Civil Rights, Connections, Constitution, Failure, Government, Privacy, Society, Terrorism, Wired | Tags: blogging, civil liberties, Constitution, FBI, freedom, government, jim downey, privacy, Rahinah Ibrahim, security, terrorism, TSA, Wired
I know sometimes people think that I am anti-government or anti-authority because I rant about infringements of our civil rights and personal liberties. I’ll cop to some of that, since I do believe that trading freedom (or even privacy) for a false security is foolish.
But more importantly, I think that the whole notion of secret courts or secret laws or secret lists are dangerous because they can be abused not due to an over-enthusiastic effort to protect the country, but because of personal grudges or to cover up incompetence. Without the ability to challenge these secret acts/actions, those abuses and incompetence cannot be brought to light and corrected. This is the perfect example of that:
The government contested a former Stanford University student’s assertion that she was wrongly placed on a no-fly list for seven years in court despite knowing an FBI official put her on the list by mistake because he checked the “wrong boxes” on a form, a federal judge wrote today.
The agent, Michael Kelly, based in San Jose, misunderstood the directions on the form and “erroneously nominated” Rahinah Ibrahim to the list in 2004, the judge wrote.
“He checked the wrong boxes, filling out the form exactly the opposite way from the instructions on the form,” U.S. District Judge William Alsup wrote (.pdf) today.
* * *
Much of the federal court trial, in which the woman sought only to clear her name, was conducted in secret after U.S. officials repeatedly invoked the state secrets privilege and sought to have the case dismissed.
Doctor Ibrahim is the first person to successfully challenge in court being put on a government watch list in the US. It’s highly doubtful that she is the only one to be placed on such a list incorrectly.
National security may benefit from secret lists and hidden actions. But so does bureaucratic incompetence and hidden agendas.
Filed under: Amazon, Astronomy, Bad Astronomy, Connections, Emergency, Failure, General Musings, Government, Humor, Kindle, Marketing, movies, NASA, Nuclear weapons, Phil Plait, Predictions, Preparedness, Promotion, Publishing, Science, Science Fiction, Society, Space, tech, YouTube | Tags: Amazon, asteroid, Bad Astronomy, blogging, Chelyabinsk, Command and Control, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, Dr. Strangelove, Eric Schlosser, free, Herman Kahn., humor, jim downey, Kindle, movies, NASA, nuclear weapons, Phil Plait, predictions, promotion, science, Science Fiction, space, technology, The New Yorker, USSR, video, www youtube
Next Wednesday is the 50th anniversary of the release of the classic film “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” It’s long been one of my favorite movies, even as a kid. Yeah, I was a strange kid. Don’t act like you’re surprised.
A decade after the release of “Strangelove,” the Soviet Union began work on the Perimeter system—-a network of sensors and computers that could allow junior military officials to launch missiles without oversight from the Soviet leadership. Perhaps nobody at the Kremlin had seen the film. Completed in 1985, the system was known as the Dead Hand. Once it was activated, Perimeter would order the launch of long-range missiles at the United States if it detected nuclear detonations on Soviet soil and Soviet leaders couldn’t be reached. Like the Doomsday Machine in “Strangelove,” Perimeter was kept secret from the United States; its existence was not revealed until years after the Cold War ended.
“Detecting nuclear detonations” … hmm, where have I heard that phrase recently? Oh, yeah:
On the second day of 2014, a small asteroid blew up high in Earth’s atmosphere. It was relatively harmless—the rock was only a couple of meters across, far too small to hit the ground or do any real damage—and it disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean anyway.
What’s cool is that now we know for sure this is the case: Infrasound detectors designed to listen for nuclear bomb detonations actually heard the explosion from the impact and were able to pinpoint the location of the event to a few hundred kilometers east off the coast of Venezuela.
NASA put together a nice informative video explaining it:
Gee, it sure is a good thing nothing like that has ever hit the territory of the old USSR … er, oops.
And now that I’ve given you a nice dose of fright, let me make it up to you with a reminder that you can download Communion of Dreams (which has it all … game theory, nuclear exchanges, and more than a little of my old strangeness) for free today and tomorrow!
*The title of one of Herman Kahn‘s books about nuclear war/deterrence, and where I think I was first exposed to the concepts behind game theory. I’ve got Schlosser’s book Command and Control on my to-read list when the Kindle price comes down a bit.