News from the Litosphere

Things are happening! And I have opinions about them!

First up is Amazon’s fight with mega publisher Hachette. Amazon wanted a better contract — what exactly that entails isn’t clear, but it doesn’t really matter. Their response to it has been reportedly pretty dramatic. Raising prices on Hachette books, suggesting books from other publishers to customers, and even, supposedly, delaying shipping when a customer actually orders a Hachette book.

What to think of all this? Well, back when Amazon was fighting with Macmillan over the high price of eBooks. I was firmly on Amazon’s side here, since they were directly acting on behalf of their customers. Here, their position is less sympathetic. One because we’re not really sure what Amazon is trying to extract from the publisher. Two because, to get what they want, they’re actively making life harder for their customers. And that’s a shitty thing to do.

I’ve heard some more serious talk, though, that this might be an antitrust violation. That Amazon’s status as the number one bookseller constitutes a monopoly, and these negotiations with Hachette are therefore illegal. Which … I don’t know if I agree with.

With the caveat that I’m not a lawyer, simply having a high market share doesn’t make you a monopoly. Do Amazon’s practices prevent others from competing fairly? Not hardly. Plenty of local, independent bookstores manage to succeed in spite of Amazon, and Barnes and Noble is much more aggressive and choosy about what they stock and carry.

Plus, it’s hard to argue that Amazon is monopolistic when they allow (and actually make it easy) eBooks from competitors on their Kindle device. If you want to sell your eBook outside of Amazon, there is literally nothing stopping you. The only thing Amazon provides is publicity and familiarity with consumers, neither of which I see them as required to provide to every single publisher and self-publisher.

That said, given that Amazon is getting into the publishing game with imprints like 47North, they’re under a lot more scrutiny now. Could it be said that their actions toward Hachette are being done as a way to promote their own published works? If so, I could easily see the government frowning on that (though, the likelihood of any big company getting dinged for anything these days is pretty low).

Next on my list is the 2014 Hugos. Normally, the publishers and authors nominated for Hugos provide the voters with the nominated works free of charge. So, you know, the voters can read them and vote. Kind of an important thing.

This year has made news for two reasons. One is that Tor is giving out the entire Wheel of Time series, which has been nominated for Best Novel (yes, the whole series, don’t get me started), in the Hugo packet. Which is awesome!

Not so awesome? Orbit, publisher of Best Novel nominees Parasite, Ancillary Justice and Neptune’s Brood, has opted to provide only excerpts. I find this incredibly problematic. Not because I demand FREE BOOKZ! That’s not the point, and anyone made because they think they’re entitled to the work is in the wrong here.

But reading the Hugo packet is a pretty big time commitment for me in general, especially given that I read fairly slowly and we don’t have a whole lot of lead time. I will probably not seek out the Orbit novels in their entirety by the voting date, and I will not vote for them if I haven’t read them.

That’s not punishing the authors or being spitefully entitled. I really like Seanan’s work, and I’ve heard great things about Ancillary Justice. It’s just the reality of the situation — including full works makes it easy and convenient for me to get them, and removing that convenience makes it a lot less likely I’m going to read everything in time.

The authors themselves have actually stepped back from the decision. They didn’t quite decry it, but they did make it clear that it the decision was entirely the publishers, and they had no input or choice in the matter. Curious, especially since Orbit’s justification is that they’re looking out for their authors.

Clearly Orbit thinks that giving out the full novels with the packet will hurt sales. Which, frankly, I find offensive. They’re viewing Hugo voters as direct income sources. Imagine if an indie film distributor got nominated for an Oscar, then refused to provide the film to Academy voters on the basis that those deadbeats should just go out and buy a ticket! It’s ridiculous.

I don’t know if they’ll change their decision. I hope they do, and if not, I hope I can get around to reading the novels anyway. But I’m not going to guarantee it.

2014 Hugos

So the nominations for the 2014 Hugos have been announced. You can see a full list here. There is some good stuff. There is also some … bad stuff. If you want to vote, you can still sign up for a supporting membership through LonCon.

Of course this is the genre fiction community and we can’t have anything without lots of controversy. This one involves a racist shitbag and literary nobody Vox Day (What? You haven’t heard of him?) asking his racist shitbag fans to vote him in,a campaign along with conservative shitbag and much more popular and better writer Larry Correia. So yeah. Vox got his nomination and people are pissed. The general response has been a promise to vote his story below “Give No Award,” which basically means you’d rather they give no award this year than give it to Vox. Which, I can’t really blame those people.

There have been a couple interesting reaction posts in the blogosphere. The first comes from Scalzi, who essentially says that, no, asking for nominations is not “rigging the vote,” and at this point, Vox’s work should be judged on its merits. I agree with the first part. And I guess I mostly agree with the second, in that I will be reading Vox’s story and basing my vote on the work itself, rather than the fact that it’s by a horrific human being who literally called a black woman a “savage” and has absolutely no shame about it.

The part that irks me about Scalzi’s post, though, is that it get uncomfortably close to the whole merit defense people use to justify a lack of diversity. “Well, if African Americans/women/gays were better at X, there would be more of them in X! You can’t complain that we don’t have enough diversity, because all these straight white men just happened to be the best candidates!” And I know Scalzi’s one of the people that gets it, and that’s not what he’s saying. But it still seems uncomfortably close. Yes, we can judge Vox’s story on its merits. But the fact that the nominations aren’t based on merit is pretty bad.

Another reaction I really like is Kameron Hurley’s. I don’t have much to say about it — you should read it — but I will comment that I totally agree that the Wheel of Time being nominated for Best Novel (that’s the ENTIRE SERIES recognized as a single serialized work) is more absurd even than Vox or Correia’s nominations.

Finally, the most HILARIOUS reaction comes from Vox Day himself. Seriously. Just check this shit out. I don’t want to respond point by point, but I do want to point out some of the more gut-busting entries.

3- [Our] purpose …  to prove that the awards are a mere popularity contest, contra the insistence of those who have repeatedly asserted they are evidence of literary quality and the intrinsic superiority of the nominated works. We have shown that it is.

Vox is straight up admitting that his work has no evidence of literary quality. That does not make me excited to read it.

Referring to someone’s criticism of his story’s theology: And anyone who is sufficiently educated will recognize that the theology is not “adolescent”, it is paraphrased Thomas Aquinas from the Summa Theologica.

Bahahahahaha …. *breath* …. BAHAHAHA. Wow. Yes, Thomas Aquinas! Basic theology written almost 1000 years ago and that most people read in high school, or as a college freshman. Yup. That’s absolutely the height of fresh and complex theology. Fuck!

The Wheel of Time is dreadful. It has always been dreadful, in sum and in part. I find it mildly amazing that people are more offended about my novelette being nominated than that gigantic insult to literature.

I … agree with Vox Day. Hm.

Anyway, I’ve got a lot of reading to do, especially when the Hugo Packet gets sent out. I won’t be reading the entire Wheel of Time series (seriously, I just won’t — I’ve gotten far enough to know it’s not for me), but I do plan to read as much of the rest as I can.