Saturday, June 28, 2008

Computers, plumbing, and the way of the future

Update on the Great Vanishing Acrobat story: AVG Antivirus reports nada, so there's no Trojan responsible for the complete disappearance of Acrobat Reader 8 ... which is what I was a tad-bit concerned about yesterday. Not that I actually wanted to find viruses in the system, but -- it would have been nice to know what caused a program to vanish utterly. Hmmm. Interesting, no? Good one. Gremlins?

Winter is meandering toward spring, with native trees in bloom wherever you look, and the air thick with pollen. Tis the season to be seezin'. In Australia things tend to happen backwards -- which is not to say it's not beautiful down here (it is) or that tourists don't love the place (they do). But even after having lived here since I was a little kid, I'm still noticing that things happen backwards.

Sure, winter is in June, July, August; everybody knows that. But the native trees don't shed their leaves, they shed their bark. And they don't bloom in summer, they bloom in winter. The only thing that does NOT run backwards (no matter what you saw on The Simpsons) is the toilets. Sorry to disappoint, but the whirlpool effect you guys are seeing in the US is the product of the mechanism. Our loos use a different mechanism ... ain't no whirlpoor effect at all, going in any direction.

And that's a whole lot more than you needed to know about toilets, right? (Anybody used the loo in a really big international airport, and chanced a peek into some of the stalls designed to accommodate folks from Asia and the mid-east?! Man, there's some weird porcelaine out there.)

Work continues on the new website: it's in the aggravatingly slow debugging stage, where eyeballs get fried as code is taken apart line by line, and the general consensus is that the guy who invented Javascript should be taken out and strung up by some part of his anatomy ... and we'll leave which part to the person who's been taking apart the coding!

Having said which -- the site is almost done and ready to launch. My own thoughts are turning more and more to new projects, and it seems I'll be working on two, in tandem. One is obviously the haunted house story. That one should almost write itself, since I have a prior version to work from and a pile of notes and research spanning the last couple of years. The other project is something that just came my way, and it's ... interesting.

I've been asked to participate in a kind of teaching venture, though it's nothing as structured as 'course materials' and 'lesson plans.' It's more like a wide-scale information sharing, on the subject of (duh) writing. This one will be interesting to watch as it unfolds. Writing is a field that's been close to my heart since I was a little kit (to wit, the typewriter story I was telling the other day. What other six year old do you know who actually asks Santa for a typewriter?!)

The way website projects work (especially 'group builds' like this one), it's probably going to be a couple of months before I can point you at a web address, but I'll keep you posted. Turns out, a lot of readers are either already writers or would love to be; and of the writers, a good many are wondering how to make the breakthrough and 'go pro.'

There are so many options, these days. It used to be that if you couldn't scale the heights and sign with a company in New York or London, you were doomed before you began. in 2008, the whole picture has changed utterly: publishing isn't what it used to be. Some of us would say, it was time for a change! But the sheer proliferation of ebooks out there is bemusing --

We were uploading a few more to Payloadz just today, and our recently allocated numbers are up over the 470,000 mark. That's 20,000 ebooks hitting the Payloadz lists in a matter of days. Gives you pause to reflect.

Of course, I can't imagine what the quality is like; and some of those 20,000 items will be software, too. But the vast majority of titles going up are ebooks, to be privately sold through personal websites everywhere.

Speaking of ebooks, I have a URL for you: Diesel Ebooks. That's an impressive pile, and they have quite an impressive gay list. It's nice to see gay books, gay publishing, right alongside the mainstream, and Diesel is an 'equal opportunity' storefront.

Some of the best gay writing, lately, isn't going through the meat-grinder system of traditional publishing, and if you take a look at Diesel, you might glimpse the way of the future. The truth is, it's a little too soon to tell which way the industry will go in the long term, but one thing is for sure: the reading public is driving its direction, not the power-publishers. The power of choice is in the hands of writers and their readers, as never before. I have to approve, yet a part or me is on tenterhooks, waiting to see how it turns out! Five years ago, ebooks were just making their real debut, and many people (myself included) had little faith in them. Why? Because I'll always like a real book; paper. I like the feel of it in my hands, like the way it sits on the shelf -- and looking at paper doesn't fry your eyeblls.

Ebooks are just -- mind you, just -- starting to come of age, but like anything that's growing up, there's something of a mess happening too. There are conflicting formats (reminiscent of the Betamax and VHS war of yonks ago, and of the DVD v. BlueRay wars which are about to begin). And there's one hell of a lot of dross out there. People are publshing their own work before it's ready; before it's been properly proofread, much less edited. Which is fine, if these works are free; but some of these ebooks are forty bucks! One would hope that if writers are going to charge (and get) high prices for their books, they'll have the integrity to make sure they're well written and edited. Or at the very least, proofread. Don't get me started on the subject of proofreading ... yet, it's a major part of the writing process, and without a thorough proofread and a good edit to fine-tune things, most writing suffers.

And this is why I'm so interested in the 'want to write a novel' project, in which I've been asked to participate. Publishing is heading in new directions that could barely be predicted a few years ago. The key point will be to maintain quality in the published work -- and this is a writer's duty, especially in a publishing scenario where no one is breathing down your neck to edit and proofread, and where, increasingly, sloppy grammar is becoming not merely common, but accepted. Typographical errors seem to be taken for granted whereas, before computers and texting over phones, you'd get your knuckles rapped for a typo! (One idiot called typos 'spelling' mistakes, as if you didn't know how to spell c-a-t, and thought it was spelled cta. Take a deep breath Keegan. Count to ten. There's at least half a dozen born every minute ... the birth rate's faster than it used to be, you see.)

Ciao for now,

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