Archive for August, 2014

Galactic Dangerous Razor Wars: An Auto-Generated Plot

August 20, 2014 4 comments

Whilst goofing around on the innernets, I found a page that allowed me to enter in a number of key words and generate a story outline. As such, I present you with:

Galactic Dangerous Razor Wars
– a science fiction novel

by Stephen Knight

A long, long time ago in a dangerous, dangerous galaxy…

After leaving the ravaged planet Earth, a group of people fly toward a distant speck. The speck gradually resolves into a dirty space base.

Civil war strikes the galaxy, which is ruled by The Law, a snooty fairy capable of lust and even violence.

Terrified, an idyllic pixie known as Leona Eklund flees the Empire, with her protector, Scott Mulligan.

They head for Shanghai on the planet Klendathu. When they finally arrive, a fight breaks out. Mulligan uses his dangerous razor to defend Leona.

Mulligan and Pixie Leona decide it’s time to leave Klendathu and steal a SCEV to shoot their way out.

They encounter a tribe of old folk. Mulligan is attacked and the pixie is captured by the old folk and taken back to Shanghai.

Mulligan must fight to save Pixie Leona but when he accidentally unearths a violent sandwich, the entire future of the dangerous, ravaged galaxy is at stake.

It even gives reviews!

Praise for Galactic Dangerous Razor Wars

“I really, really, really hope that Mulligan saves Pixie Leona because I love this story soooooo much!”
– The Daily Tale

“A snooty fairy, a tribe of old folk and an idyllic pixie – haven’t we seen this before somewhere?”
– Enid Kibbler

I think this could work, with some help! Well…maybe not, but the violent sandwich part has potential.

All right, back to work for me…

Categories: Writing Tags: ,

When Bias Leads to Stupidity

Just a quick hit on this one. Everyone knows the Bowe Bergdahl story is a chaotic one, but when one of the Big 5 publishers elects to pass up a potential of millions of dollars in gross revenue to protect a lame duck president, it’s not an honorable, principled response.

It’s just stupid.

“I’m not sure we can publish this book without the Right using it to their ends,” Sarah Durand, a senior editor at Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, wrote in an email to one of the soldiers’ agents.

“[T]he Conservatives are all over Bergdahl and using it against Obama,” Durand wrote, “and my concern is that this book will have to become a kind of ‘Swift Boat Veterans for Truth'” — a reference to the controversial book that raised questions about John Kerry’s Vietnam War record in the midst of his 2004 presidential campaign. (Durand did not respond to requests for comment. “We do not comment about our editorial process,” said Paul Olsewski, vice president, director of publicity, at Atria.)

Look for Amazon to step in and buy the rights, and watch our for more letters and self-serving New York Times ads from the likes of Preston, Patterson, and King.

More on Hachette v. Amazon

It’s actually not a court case, but in the end, it comes down to one of the Big Publishers of Yesteryear wanting to fix prices so they can charge more…which might eventually result in another anti-trust filing. I’m all for the latter, myself. Check out what able watchmen Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler have to say:

David Streitfeld: An Embarrassment to the New York Times. It’s worth a chuckle or two, just for the copious snark.

In the meantime, Amazon wrote to a lot of us authors and divulged the following:

Dear KDP Author,

Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.

With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.

Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.

And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read). A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures. And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.

We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.

We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.

Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch:

Copy us at:

Please consider including these points:

– We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
– Lowering e-book prices will help – not hurt – the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.
– Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle.
– Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue.

Thanks for your support.

The Amazon Books Team

P.S. You can also find this letter at

It’s true that folks like Patterson and Preston and even, disappointingly, King are One Percenters who are involved in trying to shove this stuff down readers’ throats. And it’s all about money–Hachette doesn’t need Amazon, they’re owned by a multinational. But here they are, trying to squeeze blood from stones. Go figure.

Categories: Writing