Formative years, formative “places,” formative people

Over there on the right, in the “Family/Friends/Alter Egos” portion of the blogroll, you’ll see a couple names you may recognize.

The most likely such candidate would be Diana Gabaldon, creator of the hugely successful series of quote-unquote “romance” novels beginning with Outlander (original title, and title as published in the UK, Cross-stitch).

You may or may not know of Floyd Kemske, also an author — creator of a series of what he called “corporate nightmares”: fantastic (literally so) extrapolations of what the worst of business might wreak on society.

(For instance, Lifetime Employment, the first book in the series, concerns a company which — as the title suggests — guarantees lifetime employment to all its employees, managers, and so on. So then, with no real turnover or attrition, how do employees move up the career ladder? By killing their higher-ups.)

It’s been many years since I’ve talked to either Diana or Floyd — indeed, I’ve never spoken to Floyd, although I’ve known him for 17-18 years now. Occasionally, a brief flurry of email reassures me that they’re still out there. Diana, there’s little doubt of, in truth; the woman is everywhere. Floyd, well, I dunno; we last exchanged email a little over a year ago. If you follow the link to his Web site, you will find much that’s interesting, but nothing (as far as I can tell) more recent than a few years old.

My point in bringing these folks up — what I really have “in common” with them, aside from the loose association that we are all or have been writers — is where we met: on the “old” CompuServe Literary Forum.

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E-readers (and E-writers), Part I

This will be an ongoing series of posts, because it’s something I believe is about to demolish the traditional publishing industry — and who can sum up everything about an impending apocalypse within the scope of a single blog post?

Short version: Because they lend themselves more readily than books to digital form, music, movies, and television have been taking the lead in meeting the onrush of the Internet’s challenges to “old media.” All the controversy about digital rights management (DRM), purchasing vs. “renting” content, high-def vs. standard — that’s just the cowcatcher on the locomotive. But at least those industries are struggling to do something.

Publishing? Eh, not so much. “Books are different,” they say. “No one will ever read books in any form other than as printed matter. People like the feel of paper; they like the smell of it; they like the heft of the book in their hand.” And so on.

I bow to no one (as the cliché goes) in loving to read books. But I also have a clear sense of the wind rushing past the windows, and of publishing doing little to address the matter. (There are some significant exceptions, which I hope to cover later.)

For now, let me just plant the idea in your head. Don’t reject it without thought. Think about it. I’ll check in at some point over the next few days with a follow-up.

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How It Was

Objects in mirror...The year was 1990. I’d taken a leave of absence from work, and moved from New Jersey to Virginia, to a little town where no one I knew lived and only one or two people I knew had even heard of. (I’ll tell that whole story later.) I’d been in Ashland for a few months, living on savings and nothing else, while working on my first book.

Suddenly: crisis.

Oh, no: This wasn’t the sort of crisis which threatened life or even limb. Governments would not stand or fall depending on the outcome; there was no weeping or gnashing of teeth involved. (Well, perhaps a little gnashing of teeth. But all of that was highly localized.) No, it was just the late 20th-century WASP preoccupation which loomed as every calendar year rolled, inexorably, to its end: What in the hell was I going to get everybody for Christmas?

I couldn’t afford to buy anything. I had no handicraft skills. (There would be no handknit scarves, no lathe-turned lamps.) And although I’d moved several hours away from everyone in my family, I’d moved only several hours away: it wasn’t like I could count on my simple, y’know, being there to be gift enough to assuage my conscience.

When it got right down to it, in fact, unless my family wanted databases built or COBOL, Fortran, or C programs written, I had absolutely nothing to give them.

But, hmm, I could write a little…
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