Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gremlins, source code and frilly knickers

If you've been hopelessly confused when trying to order the screenreader version of APHELION ... well, you're far from alone. So was I. What, Keegan was confused?! You clicked on the button, and Payloadz asked you to confirm your purchase of (!) a guitar strumming chords manual. Oh, sure -- no question about it: big gay SF novel, guitar chords manual? Totally interchangable, you couldn't tell them apart with a flashlight and a magnifying glass. Not.

At some stage, the gremlins got into the numbers, and latched their fangs into this item. Now, the APHELION screnreader ebook is one of about 80 items in stock, so ... the little dears managed to get a-hold of less than one percent of our inventory before we caught them. Hmm.

The next 30 minutes or so was interesting. Having caught them red handed, we were honor bound to go through every piece of code and check the lot -- which is how I can tell you, the fuzz-butts only got into one of the APHELION versions before the sword of Damocles fell on them. Gone. They are now an extinct species 'round at Keegan OnLine, and with luck they won't be back for a while.

Technology is grand, isn't it? It's the only system anyone knows, short of magic, which can shapeshift a huge gay science fiction romp into a guitar chord book, by changing a single digit. Marvelous, when you think about it. Or appalling, depending on your point of view --

Which reminds me of what I thought was a hilarious story, but other people seemed to find utterly shocking -- this is a real-life tale which took place on the user forums (and in the code ... gremlins again; the way they get around, they must have bikes) at This story is a beauty -- stay with me.

Now, is the monstrous clearing house for scores of digital printshops across the world. As a publisher, you (or I, or Uncle Jim, whoever) go to and open an account, start a project and begin throwing materials into it. If it's a novel, you toss text and cover pictures at the system, and when you're done, you literally hit "print." The copy is manufactured by printing robots on the other side of the world.

On the other hand, if you're doing a picture book, you chuck dozens or hundreds of images into the project before you start shuffling them. It usually works like clockwork. Usually...

Then came the day when this Christian Books publisher checked his (her?) project just before hitting the button to print 25 and send them to a Christian Books store that was waiting for them. Apparently the project was one of those inspirational books full of smiling faces and sunsets, and puppy dogs and closeups of flowers, and dusty sunbeams and old folks turning their adoring, craggy faces to the sky, or heaven (or whatever floats their personal boat).

At least, that's what the pictures were supposed to be, and I'm sure 80% of them were. The problem was, the gremlins had tied a knot in the logon codes between this Christian Books dude, and a big, hairy trannie with a full-on biker beard and its corresponding beer gut, who liked to pose in ladies' undies. I gather he looked a lot like a tarantula tied up in pink ribbons as he reclined on a plush king-sized bed in his high heels and ... you get the picture.

The photos were intended for HIS project, either for a GLBTIQ book store or as a private project for a bunch of friends. But the gremlins had gotten the logon code so far twisted up, our biker in high heels pal had his pictures dumped right into the middle of the Christian Books project, with predictably traumatic results.

The Christian Book publisher was petrified (I mean, PETRIFIED) that this had been going on for some time without his notice ... because he'd been shipping books direct to his client stores, sight-unseen.

Imagine this: little old lady of the Christian persuasion, in her very favorite Bible store, wanting to buy a lovely inspirational picture book for her pal or hubbie or whatever ... opens up this book --!

You can imaging the scream. Now, some folks might fall down laughing at the pics ... or else flip right to the back of the book to see if this cutie-bear had thought to list his number or email there, and a quick note as per his preference between smoked salmon canapes and baked beans on toast. The world is full of surprises. And we like it that way.

But, hey, have a little compassion here, guys. There's people out there who get uptight if they don't put knickers on piano legs. Seriously.

Natutually, Lulu fell over themselves to set the situation right, and probably some actual breathing, palpitating human went through the trembling guy's files and made sure they were no hairy bikers in frilly pink undies, or folks of whatever gender bonking (or pretending to). I imagine there was hell to pay.

Me? I laughed for a week. Then again, I didn't have the gremins give me any heart attacks while I was doing any kind of picturebook. However, I'll just bet there was one question left utterly unresolved at the end of all this, because no one was about to ask it.

If our hairy biker in the frilly undies and high heels found his way (courtesy of the gremlins) into the hallowed pages of the Christian Inspiration book, did any Christian Inspirational pictures wind up in the hairy pages of the other book...? And if so, did out hairsuite friend in the frills and spikes also scream, or laugh, or write in and complain? In the interests of fair play (as well as humn compassion) did anyone even bother to ask?! And I'll just bet they didn't.


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