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Tied-in, Not Tied Down April 28, 2013

Posted by bobv451 in awards, business, Star Trek, writing.
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I’ve done a lot of books in a lot of genres and all have their special claim to my writing pleasure. Doing tie-in books is a skill that requires more honing than is immediately obvious. Mostly, tie-in writers “can’t get no respect” as Rodney Dangerfield might have said. This is the reason the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers was formed several years ago.

Tie-ins are more of a committee effort than you might think. The property is owned by some megacorp (usually) wanting to protect not only the written word but the entire franchise, whether it be gaming or TV or movies. As such, everything has to pass through the hands and red pencils of someone charged with maintaining continuity. Even when you are a big fan, writing such novels can be an exercise in banging your head against the wall over (to you) trivial details. When I wrote the Star Trek books I used the word ”chair” and was told in no uncertain terms that there are no chairs aboard the Enterprise, only seats. How I wanted to have a meeting with the “seatperson” presiding!

Those books were tie-ins, but not the kind demanding even more research and head banging. Original novels set in someone else’s universe are one thing (think: Star Trek, Star Wars) but tie-ins also include adaptations. Pleasing everyone (or anyone!) is difficult when something like a video game becomes so popular that every nuance is etched in the players’ minds. Deviate from this in a book and trouble boils up. You have violated a tenet, but the truth is that 100% adherence to what happens in a game would give 100% boring book. They are different and need different treatments. God of War is a thrilling game to play but it is entirely about fighting, solving puzzles and moving on. This isn’t the stuff of a novel. Putting in material not in the game but *implied* to form a background is necessary to build the world, shape the characters and give new dimensions to the story. I think I have done that in both God of War 1 and the recently published God of War 2.

New characters otherwise in the shadows, political intrigue, motivations brought into the spotlight, these are the things a novel can do that a game doesn’t–and shouldn’t. They’re different beasts. Each has its strengths and both are enjoyable.

If you think tie-in writing is somehow inferior, I recommend to you any of the IAMTW Scribe nominees. This is a first rate slate of books for about every genre taste.

The 2013 field will be just as strong.

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Take Part or Be Taken Apart April 16, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in conventions, e-books, inventions, iPad, iPhone, movies & TV, sci-fi, Star Trek, VIPub, web & computers.
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The opportunity to be a part of a significant change in publishing is within each of our grasps. I am not unduly surprised after listening to a lot of writers that they want to be “taken care of,” as Kris Rusch puts it in a recent blog. Let the legacy publishers do it all I just want to write. Or so goes the way of thinking.

Would that it be that way (again). Perhaps it once was but not in the past 50 or so years. Business might have gotten in the way of nurturing an author, “bringing them along,” turning out books intended to last a lifetime and longer. You may argue among yourselves if this was ever a goal for publishers.

Making money is good. Publishers want to make money. But they shouldn’t do it by robbing the writer. VIPub lets anyone be everything from the ground floor up, and admittedly this can be intimidating. Somehow, making money off your own work is anathema in some circles. I want to make money off my words. Lots of money. At least more than I am now. And it seems that giving the legacy publishers 90% isn’t the best way to approach it anymore.

It used to be the only game in town, but then at one point there were maybe a 100 publishers who might look at your work. The Big 6 is it now, with lots of niche publishers (whose number is growing to take up the slack). A lot more if you count authors working to write, publish, market and sell their own work.

A recent “discovery” of mine was how simple it is for an author to accept credit cards for a sale. Not talking PayPal, but a company that provides for free a tiny gadget that will plug into your smartphone or iPaddy and accept credit cards if you can get a wifi or 3G connection. Movable stores. Great for cons. Another piece of the foundation of an author becoming independent of both publishers and bookstores.

I admit I wish all I had to do was write, but during my sordid past I’ve been involved in running a good-sized business and know the basics (I was also terrible at the PR and ate valium by the handful–it saved my life when the business was sold and I had to do something else. Like write.) Authors who don’t learn business, learn what it takes to be independent will be taken apart by those who do.

That leaves more space for me, but I am not a zero-sum thinker. The more the merrier. Get on with being a part of the VIPub writing revolution or be a footnote in history (if you’re lucky).

Tip of the hat to Chuck for this one posted on FB. Brent Spiner is doing visually what seems to be a good idea to do written–serial fiction. Give this a look (and especially episode 2–the plot is both funny and promises to give Dr Horrible a run for his money as a fan favorite).

Sparky’s Pink Pig March 1, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in charity, conventions, fantasy, New Mexico, science fiction, Star Trek, writing.
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…and other sights along the road to Phoenix. Yes, the big fight in Hatch, NM isn’t over “red or green” (as in chile). It’s over whacking big plastic animals. This one is at the center of the fight for some reason. I missed two others, one a glowering giant holding a semi in its hands and a plastic hotdog as big as an urban assault vehicle but hiked up 20ft in the air.

Anything to keep the trip to the Arizona Renaissance Faire exciting, since it went through a lot of flat land with “zero visibility during dust storm” signs.

The Ren Faire itself was spent sitting and signing. Not as many books as I might have liked, more than I expected since neither Mike Stackpole nor I were in costume. Mike pointed out we might have attracted more attention since we *weren’t* in costume. Anything to not blend in, right? But next year (March 10–mark it on your calendar now) will be once more in costume.

Big sellers for me this year were God of War and the chapbook with the story “A Time for Steel” set at the Ren Faire. Met lots of enthusiastic people and the weather cooperated wonderfully (especially nice since I had gone the southern route past Sparky’s Pink Pig to avoid snow in Flagstaff).

Lynn Hardy autographed at the next table over. One of her novels was donated to charity (picture of her and her assistant Alicia with, sorry for my poor photography, washed out placard detailing the charity).

After the signing, had “tea” with Don Juan, who was celebrating a birthday, Miguel and a passel of others from the faire. Most delightful was Sarah Mullen Rua, a harpist, with marvelous stories of UC Berkeley as well as sf and comics trivia. Ronn of the Tortuga Twins who is a devoted TOS fan, and his wife is a fan of Erin Gray.

And, much to my surprise, 30 yr old tequila doesn’t taste bad at all (I think most tequila tastes like lighter fluid). Thanks for sharing, Don Juan and Miguel.

More on the trip later. Mike and I spent a great deal of time brainstorming, barnstorming and bs’ing. Some of the chunks blown from that will show up here, I am certain.

Can 7.5 Millions Users Be Wrong? January 7, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in iPad, science, science fiction, space, Star Trek, web & computers, writing.
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Some people watch cartoons in the morning, others tune in to the interminable talking head news shows. I sorta do that going to CNBC. Their take on 7.5 million iPads being sold is that paper consumption in the US is down, hence paper pulp stocks are declining (e-book sales are up 170% in one year and newspaper readership is 50% what it was in 1960)

Along with this was the news that at CES there are no fewer than 100 other tablet computers being debuted. One (from Dell?) is called the Flash. Good thing they aren’t followers of Smallville or they might have called it the Blur. Mostly, the talking CNBC heads weren’t too kind to the flood of tablet computers, saying those with Android were especially slow and unworthy.

Apple eschews CES, preferring to have their own gala later in the month. Steve Jobs is likely to announce the next generation iPad then, with camera and who knows what else. As long as they don’t go with a butt wiper app, all will be good. Maybe a TSA app that will turn your clothes transparent once you get within 50 ft of a TSA agent? The app I am still waiting for is the “beam me up, Scotty” app.

Which reminds me that 400 people have already forked over earnest money to Virgin Galactic for their $200k trip to outer space, starting sometime this year. Five minutes, maybe 7, of weightlessness. But it’s space.

Space … where the Viking Lander found organics on Mars 30+ years ago and NASA only now is figuring that out.

As much as I’d like to go into orbit/space, there’s not enough money in the world to get me on that last Shuttle flight with NASA in charge of making sure the tanks don’t leak.

Join the twitter chat at #scifichat today 2-4PM EST Loads of fun, ask questions, tell everyone who your favorite starship captain is (or your least favorite!)

Vulcan, Then and Now January 2, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in ideas, movies, sci-fi, science, science fiction, sense of wonder, Star Trek, web & computers, writing.
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1860. The edge of real astronomy was beginning. The math had been developed and applied to orbital motion to understand perturbation and if any glitch showed up, there might, just might, be a reason: another planet. Vulcan was predicted inside the orbit of Mercury based on the wobble in Mercury’s orbit.

The only problem was that Vulcan didn’t exist and it wasn’t until the theory of relativity came along that the collywobbles in Mercury could be explained. When I was working on my BS, one grad student’s dissertation was explaining away another 8 seconds of slowness in Mercury using relativity. A second here, a second there, pretty soon it adds up to explain everything.

The more recognizable Vulcan in modern times, of course, is Spock’s home planet. 2011 looks like a good year for hunting for *that* Vulcan, too. Gliese 581g is a good contender for something more than a big hot rock or one covered with choking Jupiter-like gases.

We can only hope.

And the new year offers a lot more in the way of science. A satellite giving free internet might happen. The guy doing this was an engineer on the SpaceX project.

Maybe not so good are more transgenic foods. Eat them before they eat us? (What movie was that the tagline? Not the Blob. The remake of the Blob? Something about animated tapioca?)

Let’s soar from the mythical Vulcan to the real one this year!

artist conception of Gliese 581g