Communion Of Dreams

I know it’s not only me…
February 29, 2012, 1:28 pm
Filed under: Civil Rights, Constitution, Government, Guns, Privacy, Terrorism, Travel

…who finds the absurdity of the TSA to be grating, but every once in a while I come across something that very nicely summarizes the pointlessness and waste of the organization. A friend sent me one such item a little while ago, and I want to share it: TSA: Fail. Go read the whole thing – it’s by someone with 25 years FBI experience, who can safely be described as an expert on both terrorism and security, and who sees the utter uselessness of the security theater currently in place. Here’s one good passage:

Frankly, the professional experience I have had with TSA has frightened me. Once, when approaching screening for a flight on official FBI business, I showed my badge as I had done for decades in order to bypass screening. (You can be envious, but remember, I was one less person in line.) I was asked for my form which showed that I was armed. I was unarmed on this flight because my ultimate destination was a foreign country. I was told, “Then you have to be screened.” This logic startled me, so I asked, “If I tell you I have a high-powered weapon, you will let me bypass screening, but if I tell you I’m unarmed, then I have to be screened?” The answer? “Yes. Exactly.” Another time, I was bypassing screening (again on official FBI business) with my .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol, and a TSA officer noticed the clip of my pocket knife. “You can’t bring a knife on board,” he said. I looked at him incredulously and asked, “The semi-automatic pistol is okay, but you don’t trust me with a knife?” His response was equal parts predictable and frightening, “But knives are not allowed on the planes.”

Yeah, like I said, go read the whole thing. And try not to sob at the ridiculousness of this infringement of our privacy and civil liberties.

Jim Downey

Planning ahead.
February 28, 2012, 4:24 pm
Filed under: Amazon, Feedback, Kindle, Marketing, Press, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction

So, I just got word that the local paper, where I used to be a columnist covering the arts, is going to run some variety of story about Communion of Dreams this coming Sunday. This was the reason why I ran the interview Q&A series last week. I don’t yet know exactly what the nature is of the article – it could just be a passing mention, part of some larger column, or a full feature. We’ll just have to wait and see.

But I am going to go ahead and set up a Promotional Day for the Kindle edition of the book – meaning that anyone will be able to download the book for free on that day.

I would like your help: spread the word. Feel free to tell people about this post, or just tell them that the Kindle edition will be free this Sunday. Mention it on your blog, on Twitter, or on Facebook/G+/LJ/Whatever profile. Remember, you don’t even need to own a Kindle in order to get & read the book: there is a free Kindle emulator for almost all computers/tablets/mobile devices.

Please, particularly if you’ve already read the book, and enjoyed it, help me get the word out. It doesn’t cost you anything but a little bit of time. And your friends/readers will appreciate the news of the free book. I mean, who doesn’t appreciate something free, particularly when it is brilliant and entertaining?

Thanks. Seriously, I mean that.

Jim Downey

Good lord.
February 26, 2012, 2:37 pm
Filed under: Civil Rights, Constitution, Government, Privacy, tech, Wall Street Journal

From the Wall Street Journal:

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling overturning the warrantless use of GPS tracking devices has caused a “sea change” inside the U.S. Justice Department, according to FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann.

Mr. Weissmann, speaking at a University of San Francisco conference called “Big Brother in the 21st Century” on Friday, said that the court ruling prompted the FBI to turn off about 3,000 GPS tracking devices that were in use.

Good lord. 3,000.

And that’s how many they were *admitting* to. Do you honestly believe that was all of them? Or that there were 3,000 instances where such routine infringement of the rights of Americans was warranted (well, so to speak)?

And, of course, this is just one small aspect of our increasing surveillance society.

Good lord.

Jim Downey

And finally: it depends.
February 26, 2012, 12:54 pm
Filed under: Marketing, Press, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction, Writing stuff

Time to close out the question/answer series. Been an interesting experiment, but I’m unsure whether I’ll repeat it in the future, presuming that this won’t be the last time someone wants to ‘interview’ me this way.

Anyway, here’s the last one:

>6. What other projects do you have on deck? Do you intend to do something similar for your next book project or would you prefer to do something wholly different?

A number of people who have read CoD have asked this, and I consider that a good sign. For a couple of years now I’ve been thinking about a prequel, to explore a critical moment in the ‘backstory’ of the current novel. And of course, a lot of people are wondering what happens after the closing revelations of Communion of Dreams, and that’s fun to think about. Partly which direction I go will depend on what the response is to this book – of course, I’d love for it to be a huge success, and for folks to be demanding that I revisit that ‘universe’. If not, I’ll see where inspiration leads me. I certainly have no plans to stop writing.

Perhaps more later today.

Jim Downey

Well, that’s a first.
February 25, 2012, 6:14 pm
Filed under: Feedback, Promotion, Publishing

And a nice one, too. Someone I kinda/sorta know through a political blog ordered a signed copy of CoD a couple of weeks ago. I heard from him this week when he finally had a chance to start reading it:

I’m not able to read it as fast as I’d like, but I’m almost halfway through and you have me riveted. I am really enjoying it so far.

And then last night this:

Finished it. I enjoyed the read. I’m going to digest it and give it the night before I try to put words to pap…email.

I must say, it was a fun read.

I hadn’t heard anything from him today, but just a little while ago he ordered another signed copy, but this time to be inscribed to someone else and sent directly to them. I guess he really does like the book. And that’s the first time someone has bought a copy for someone else (that I know of). A nice compliment.

Jim Downey

February 25, 2012, 10:00 am
Filed under: Kindle, Marketing, Press, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction, Writing stuff

And in the penultimate entry of the interview Q/A series:

5. Give me a sense of both the pitfalls and encouraging moments encountered in process of publishing this book – there was a bit of a false start previously, right? You embraced several means of delivery – traditional ones but also free PDF downloads and subsequent Kindle editions. What benefits have you seen from using multiple platforms and how do you feel such an approach fits with the current state of publishing and the written word?

Twice this book was almost published in the conventional sense. The first time it made it through the submissions process for a large publishing house, to the imprint which handled some offbeat science fiction. At the very end of that process the executive editor told me she liked the book, but that they had decided to “go a different direction” in the coming year. I found out later that that meant the imprint had been shut down as part of the conglomeration which owned the publishing house consolidating the whole business in reaction to market conditions. The second time a small start-up “geek fiction” press wanted to publish the book, and just as we were wrapping up contract negotiations the publisher stopped communicating with me. Well, they went under – and the book before mine was the last one they published. In both those cases, I was elated to think that Communion of Dreams was going to be in print, and went through the whole process of preparing the manuscript and getting it ready, making changes requested by the publisher – only to have it fall through at the last moment through no fault of mine. That was hugely disappointing.

After the second instance, I just couldn’t face going through the whole process again of trying to get a conventional publisher. It’s a slog, with little or no predictability and huge delays. But we’d been through the experience of getting Her Final Year self-published, and I knew what was involved with that. I decided that since I had a manuscript ready which had been prepped for publication, that I might as well just publish it myself. I could not do any worse than the two previous near-publication experiences had been.

The free PDF downloads were a way to build a base of readers, and there were in total some 35,000 downloads of that version. Whether or not that would help or hurt sales of the Kindle edition (or the paperback one) is pure speculation. I guess we’ll see.

I don’t have a lot to add to that, but do want to note that the local paper is tentatively planning on running some kind of story related to this series of questions on March 11. It might just be a mention, or part of a larger piece, or possibly even a review or feature – we’ll just have to wait and see. When it runs, I will be offering another “promotional day” when people can download the Kindle version of Communion of Dreams for free – so keep your eyes open!

Jim Downey

Revenge of the nerds (and another prediction comes true).
February 24, 2012, 12:09 pm
Filed under: Augmented Reality, Expert systems, Google, Predictions, Science Fiction, tech

This news item is making the rounds:

What’s next? Perhaps throngs of people in thick-framed sunglasses lurching down the streets, cocking and twisting their heads like extras in a zombie movie.

That’s because later this year, Google is expected to start selling eyeglasses that will project information, entertainment and, this being a Google product, advertisements onto the lenses. The glasses are not being designed to be worn constantly — although Google engineers expect some users will wear them a lot — but will be more like smartphones, used when needed, with the lenses serving as a kind of see-through computer monitor.

Well, they aren’t contact lenses, but they are very much exactly the sort of ‘cyberwear’ tech that I stipulate as standard for the world of Communion of Dreams. And as I mentioned four years ago.

The future’s so bright, you gotta have goggles. Complete with a primitive A-series expert called “Android.”

Jim Downey

February 24, 2012, 11:09 am
Filed under: Firefly, Joss Whedon, movies, Press, Promotion, Science Fiction, Writing stuff

The title seemed an appropriate reference for how science fiction can have an impact on culture, if only a minor/temporary linguistic one. Which is the topic of today’s entry in the ongoing series of interview questions:

4. In 2012, we can easily look back at previous science fiction works and poke fun at how we’ve yet to receive our flying car or develop certain technologies we were “promised.” When crafting a world that hasn’t come into being, and may never, how have you viewed the balance between letting your imagination run wild and still trying to create a future that rings true in some form or fashion?

Yeah, that’s one of the big dangers in writing about what the world will be like in just 40 years. I mean, I’m 53 – I *remember* what the world was like in 1972. So I tried to turn that around, and think back to how small changes and unexpected events have shaped the world in the last 40 years, and then tried to use those insights in looking forward. I’ve tried to anchor the world of 2052 firmly in what our world today is really like, but extending trends we have seen operate in the last 40 years. Toss in a few wildcard events, some unexpected discoveries, and then cross your fingers.

And to a certain extent, this is why I don’t really think of Communion of Dreams as a typical ‘science fiction’ book – it is solidly grounded in known science and built from the reality around us. The people in it are all real people, not unlike folks you know or would find in any mainstream novel. In this sense, it is just another work of fiction, though one which is a bit more speculative.

That said, while we can all grumble about not having jet-packs or flying cars, a lot of science fiction did help inspire and influence technological development. Arthur C. Clarke is arguably the first person to have suggested geostationary satellite communications. Our tablet computers and smartphones can be traced back to countless “electronic readers” and “communicators” described in science fiction back as far as the 1930s. And just a year ago the X-Prize Foundation announced a $10 million competition to build a Star Trek ‘tricorder’. I can’t say that there’s anything in Communion of Dreams which will have that kind of impact, but who knows?

Part of my ambivalence there at the end is just due to the unpredictability of these things, and how they can pop up long after you think whatever impact has long-since faded. I mean, look at the appeal of the Air Mags. Who would have predicted that those sneakers from a movie made in the 80s would suddenly be popular again? And with Hollywood seeming to be stuck in an endless cycle of remakes of classic science fiction movies/shows, it is entirely possible that I will live to see Joss Whedon (or someone else) get another crack at the Firefly universe, perhaps reviving interest in some small bit of his future tech/lingo. Stranger things have happened.

Jim Downey

*From here, of course.

Whoa is me.*
February 23, 2012, 12:20 pm
Filed under: Amazon, Failure, Humor, Promotion, Publishing

The horror!

The crushing blow to my ego!

I did not make the cut for the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award!

I’m not sure I’ll survive such devastating news.

But you can help. Let’s show Amazon – let’s prove to them that they were wrong not to include Communion of Dreams in their silly contest. That’s right! They can’t push us around! Just tell your friends to go buy my book! Heck, go ahead and buy the book for your friends yourself! That’ll teach ’em a lesson! Amazon, I mean, not your friends. Though I suppose your friends could learn some lessons as well. I mean, who can’t?

Er, what? Where was I? Oh, yeah: Together, we can beat this thing!

Jim Downey

*Yes, yes, I know the term is “woe”. I was playing off the homophone sense of being stopped from moving on to the next round of the contest. Sheesh, do I have to explain *everything*?

February 23, 2012, 8:39 am
Filed under: Amazon, Feedback, Press, Promotion, Religion, Science, Science Fiction, Society, Space, Writing stuff

As part of the ongoing series, here is today’s entry. The referenced review by ‘writercop’ is new, and if you’d take a moment to go rate it on Amazon, I’d appreciate it very much.

3. In writing about the book, you’ve discussed ways in which you’ve approached psychological, spiritual and religious issues within the narrative. You said you hope “Communion of Dreams” appeals to a wide variety of readers. If someone doesn’t see themselves as “the science-fiction type,” what do you feel like the book still has to offer them? How can a story divorced from our present world sometimes illumine current tensions or concerns better than something set in modern times?

Well, that’s what all fiction does, isn’t it? Through a story we get to see with the eyes of others, live their lives, maybe even learn things we may not otherwise know. That’s true whether the stories are from another culture or another time, whether it is historical fiction or Greek mythology. Science fiction does the same thing, though perhaps it gives us a little more distance for perspective. The world of Communion of Dreams is just 40 years away, putting it considerably closer than the world of Jane Austen or even F. Scott Fitzgerald. Just putting a label on a book that calls it ‘science fiction’ doesn’t necessarily mean that only those who are fans of that genre will enjoy the book. Quite the contrary, as you can see in this review by ‘writercop’ on Amazon’s page for Communion of Dreams:

As someone who hasn’t frequented the science fiction genre for some years, I would be hard-pressed to consider myself an enthusiast. Jim Downey might have single-handedly changed that; at the very least, he has re-introduced me to the possibilities of the genre away from the tropes of Geo. Lucas and company. The narrative of Downey’s “Communion of Dreams” is suffused with with a variety of concerns. At one level, it is the story of a group of explorers investigating a deep space artifact whose unknown origins carry grave implications for mankind. On another, it touches upon the ethical concerns of science – both contemporary and not; both real and imagined – and explores the sometimes unanticipated paths our knowledge takes us.

I should hear later today whether CoD made the cut for the next round of judging for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, and will post something here one way or the other.

Jim Downey