Author Response Speed Record

I just e-mailed a well known author and got a personal response- so not from an assistant or a bot, in under half an hour. The author is Joe Abercrombie and he is clearly not getting enough fan mail. Of course, I wasn’t precisely sending fan mail. After all, I haven’t actually finished any of his books yet. The first hundred pages or so of The Blade Itself was good though.

Here are the e-mails, for the curious. Timestamps are shifted to EST and, as I am not a public figure, my name and e-mail address are blocked out.


I’m nudging as hard as I can, man, don’t worry.

Joe Abercrombie

—–Original Message—–
From: Me [mailto: Me@mywebsite]
Sent: 14 January 2010 4:07
Subject: Kindle Publication

I picked up The Blade Itself in a bookstore the other day and read
through the first hundred pages. The person who was interviewing me at
the time was somehow still impressed which I attribute solely to the
mind numbing power of your writing.

Interview finished, I did the most mind numbingly arrogant thing it is
possible to do in a bookstore. I pulled out my Kindle to look up your
book. The sheer audacity of this action must be increased exponentially
because this was a Barnes & Noble. I later went to the Nook booth and
did a side by side comparison of the devices. Your book was available
for purchase on neither.

Now I realize that the fact I prefer to read my books in a digital
format makes me a robotic monstrosity with very little pocket change,
but is there anything you could do to try and make The First Law trilogy
available on Kindle? I understand that this is largely the publisher’s
decision, but I noticed that Best Served Cold is available for Kindle,
so perhaps they just need a little reminding.

Now, I’ve done my part. There’s a little link you can click on the
Amazon website “I’d like to read this book on Kindle” that is supposed
to notify the publisher that you would like their book to be available
digitally. Well, I clicked it for all three books. However, on the off
chance that your publisher is unaware of the fact that the satisfaction
of my every whim is vital to the future of the world at large, I thought
it best to see if you couldn’t nudge things along.

P.S. Thank you for contributing to the Worldbuilder’s Fundraiser. It’s a
great cause, and your’s was a good interview.

Worldbuilders (aka ‘Tis the Season for Giving)

Patrick Rothfuss is holding a raffle again this holiday season, this year with a snazzy new name. Worldbuilders! All proceeds (and more, 50% of donations are being met) go to Heifer International. If you either like helping people, like giving people fuzzy animals, or like SF/F books, I would highly recommend donating money to the raffle.

Once again, if anyone wants to give me a Christmas present, donate some in my name/send me the prizes.

The blog post explaining the rules and how to enter is here.

Amazon Pricing Tactics

While the whole $9.99 Kindle book boycott has yet to be satisfactorily resolved, Amazon‘s begun a new marketing tactic on the opposite side of things. Free e-books.

Nothing new, some of you say. While I don’t deny that this new phenomenon could have been occuring for a little while without my noticing, here are a few things that I don’t mean.

I don’t mean a ten cent copy of The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith which was one of my very first Kindle purchases.

I don’t mean the books (such as The Wealth of Nations) whose copyrights are long expired and were offered for free on Project Gutenberg long before Amazon caught on.

I mean relatively recently published, popular books being offered for free: His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik, for example. Go on, look. It’s actually free.

Frankly I’m not terribly fond of the Temeraire books. I read His Majesty’s Dragon at the library not long after  it came out and never bothered to read the others. Nothing wrong with the books, not by any means (except, perhaps, a weak protagonist), I just didn’t feel compelled to read further.

Amazon is hoping others will disagree. While His Majesty’s Dragon is offered for free, all the later books in the series are listed at full price ($6.39, fairly standard for a book that’s available in paperback). Every other free e-book of this type offered, at least so far as I can tell, is also the first in a series.

Needless to say, I just went on a free-book-binge. Here are a few books that I ‘bought.’

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Settling Accounts: Return Engagement by Harry Turtledove

Blood Engines by T.A. Pratt

For Love of Mother Not by Alan Dean Foster

Manifold: Time by Stephen Baxter

Elric: The Stealer of Souls by Michael Moorcock

Weapons of Choice by John Birmingham

Here are another couple that I didn’t ‘buy,’ for one reason or another.

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb (I’ve read it, and recommend it for anyone seeking quality high fantasy)

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning (didn’t strike me as something I might enjoy)

Let me know if you find any others and I’ll add them to the list (and my library!). While ‘speculative fiction’ is all I’ve seen so far, I would be excited to learn of more traditional offerings as well.

P.S. I support the $9.99 boycott for mostly selfish reasons, along with the fact that when I bought my Kindle, all the e-books were $9.99 or below, and I seem to remember a pledge to that affect from Amazon.


I’ve found several more- it turns out that many of these are part of a special promotion by Random House which will last through October

AI Object Recognition

Over the holidays I found myself reading great amounts of non-fiction. Among the books I read was ‘Physics of the Impossible’ by Michio Kaku. From that book I discovered that scientists are having trouble designing a robot which can manouver around a room due to difficulties in recognizing complex shapes. This is because the computer looks at the room as a series of straight lines and has great trouble with curves, or anything complex. An example the book gave of how slow progress is would be to compare the number of neurons required for a fly to do incredible loop-the-loops around a room to the huge amount of processing it takes for a robot move around on the floor of a furnished room. Clearly, although the fly processes far fewer bits of information, it is better suited for movement.

Why is this? Here’s my reasoning: the fly recognizes far less than scientists are assuming. Let’s move up the food chain a bit for an example. Birds will avoid eating moths with eyespots on their wings.

Consider that. You or I will look at a moth and will know that it is a moth, regardless of what spots it might have on its wings. If it is camouflaged into a tree or something else, we may not see it, but that is a seperate issue. Yet a bird will see the spots and fly away, avoiding the moth entirely. Why is this? The bird sees the spots and believes that the ‘eyes’ belong to a predator. Thus they avoid the moth. This is caused by a very simple object identification system.

Back to the fly. A fly will land on almost anything, even people, unless it is moving fast. It avoids anything which is moving fast- e.i. that could squash it. They’ve even been known to land on waiting frogs. They also don’t fly straight into any object, they slow and land on them, or go around.

This should be applicable to robot AI. It would be simple enough to scan the area to determine where obstacles are. There is no need to determine what they are, or even their exact shape. From there, as needed, the AI could be programmed to recognize certain things, such as chairs or coffee mugs, and be given instructions other than ‘avoid.’

Thoughts? Hopefully this is an example of where cross-disciplinary thinking can get you, but there may be a flaw in my reasoning.

Grammar Pun = Grampun?

Has anyone out there read the book Eats Shoots and Leaves? It’s hilarious and, perhaps, informative if you haven’t.

I was recently reminded of it when I came up with the following conversation in my head. Not sure if I’ll use it in anything, or what I’ll use it in.

“Yes, but where does all the money come from?”

With the response of either:

“A number of people I imagine.”


“A number of people, I imagine.”

Consider the difference.

The Name of the Charity

Patrick Rothfuss just became my favorite currently producing author in the fantasy genre. This, fortunately, means I can currently exclude Terry Pratchett who I do not believe will be publishing any more books, sadly. Otherwise there would need to be some kind of literary throwdown between Rothfuss, Neil Gaiman, and Terry Pratchett.

But get this: Rothfuss only has two published books. Only one of them is a novel. The other is a collection his humor columns in a newspaper from his younger days, and will be heretofore ignored. The novel is The Name of the Wind, which is easily the best fantasy novel published in the last decade. Possibly even the last two decades (let’s call that through 1990). I don’t say that lightly.

How good does one book need to be to make a man my favorite currently producing author? Pretty awsome, and that’s why it’s not the only reason, despite the fact I’m now reading it for the third time. I almost never read books multiple times.

Patrick Rothfuss has risen in my esteem because he is currently offering prizes for anyone who donates to Heifer International through his page, and matching donations. I’ve been making fairly regular donations to Heifer for years, but to have the opportunity to win such prizes as signed books, early manuscripts, and other paraphenalia while doing it is beyond cool.

Unfortunately, I don’t have thousands of dollars I can donate. But if you do (or even just hundreds, or tens… everyone has ten dollars they can donate, right?), please do so. Read his blog for details, or just go to his team page to donate. And if you just want to have your donation doubled and don’t care about the prizes, feel free to give me your prizes. It’s no trouble really… That and the fact that I don’t actually own a copy of the book yet mean I would love for my first to have a signature with some cool dedication.