Open Notes

Kayaking in cold air seems to bring on a nap after.

Entropy reduction today was 912

This was an interesting podcast to guest on – we talked about the emotional side of climate change and how to cope with it. The title of the show is Calming the Chaos.

I wrote about why novels can change things, published by Lit World Interviews and Reviews. litworldinterviews.com/2023/03 📚

Today's contribution to entropy reduction is 897.

My contribution to entropy reduction on this day is 1458

Entropy stats. I join in solidarity with other entropy reducers at 2,191 today. 82,000 toward this project. Averaging around 1,000 per day.

Today my contribution to entropy reduction is 1157.

My contribution today to entropy reduction is 1,185.

Book Marketing Log - Entry 02

Where to sell books: Libraries and Bookstores

[This is a log of my experiences marketing my novel Surrender. It’s a niche science fiction novel with a climate crisis theme.]

My book publicist told me that for every book on a public library shelf, the author sells six more. That sounded good to me, so I asked her if she would help me get my new book on public library shelves. So far, we’ve applied to the Los Angeles Public Library, which is local to me, and we will be submitting to more.

You can also get your book picked up by public libraries by listing it on Smashwords or IngramSpark. Libraries browse the Smashwords or Ingram catalog to find books to carry.

The idea of folks buying actual books appeals to me. At the moment, my book is selling best in the hardcover edition, ordered by bookstores. I always thought Amazon would be my most robust portal. It is, for audio books. But in the world of hardcovers, IngramSpark has been the winner in selling to bookstores.

This is where friends and family can help. Once a book is listed on IngramSpark, it also is listed on IndieBound. IndieBound is a website where you can send people to find your book. They look up your book, and IndieBound will show them the local bookstore where they can buy it. I was discussing this with a fellow writer the other day and we arrived at a radical plan. We each would call a local bookstore and buy the other person’s book. Several bookstores I called told me that they would start to stock a book if enough people called up to order it. So, what are friends for? Asking your friends to look up your book in IndieBound and order is what friendship is all about. Try it!

Erasing the archive: an essay about memory and erasure. universalstoryengine.com/2023/

Issue 44 Erasing the Archive

Hello!

I’ve always been a total nerd about my work setup. I have custom-made rubber stamps for my notebooks and treat pencils like cult objects. Most days I work at a standing desk for hours. And that desk is not really a desk, but a bar table that my mother made out of a tree. The desk/tree is not the only unusual thing about my workspace. I also use a keyboard that is split into two parts. So, when the company that makes that nerdy keyboard got in touch to ask if they could profile me, of course I said yes.

When preparing for the profile, I checked out the other folks they’d profiled – and you should also at the link I’m about to give you. It’s fascinating how people work, what they use to work, and where they work. Have a look at my work set up and check out some others.

A while back, I read a story by Julieta Singh called No Archive Will Restore You. Part essay, part memoir, it was a meditation on memory, self, and how we project our history onto our body. I began to wonder what would happen if the archive were erased, bit by bit. The archive is not the past. It is the instrument that determines the future. I have an essay about that for you, and here it is.

Erasing the Archive

I always assumed that publishing on the internet was a lot like owning your own printing press. You could spin up a story or any other kind of digital media, and it would last forever in electronic form.

Soon enough, I was proven wrong about that.

For example, when I commissioned the website for Future of Food, I imagined it would be an archive of food stories written by me and others. It would have the transcripts of every episode of the Future of Food Podcast and you could “click to play” to listen to and read any episode on demand.

Then one day, the site, which was built on WordPress, broke. Crucial plugins stopped working and wouldn’t update. The site designer, with whom I’d worked closely over many months, got another job and didn’t respond to my emails. He was the only one who could fix the Future of Food site, because it was custom made. Now, it, and my idea of an archival story hub, was dead.

I moved most, but not all, of the Future of Food blogs over to the new FutureX site and relinked all the podcast media there. I built FutureX myself, on Squarespace. I thought, hey, Squarespace is rock solid and I know everything about this site because I made it myself.

Then one day, the Squarespace platform changed, and the change Squarespace’s designers made left me behind. Suddenly, the FutureX site didn’t work so well. It didn’t do what I needed it to do. The decision was hard, but I decided to migrate FutureX from the old 7.0 Squarespace over to the new 7.1 Squarespace. I left some material behind, breaking the archive again.

You get the theme? I put my material out on platforms that I didn’t control and the platform owner decided to make a change and broke my archive.

Before this, I hadn’t thought very much about broken archives. Photographs last hundreds of years. You can still look at them if you hang them on your wall. But then again, I have boxes of 35mm slides but no slide projector, and I used to have a lot of records, until I got rid of my record player.

I have photos from my world travels on digital drives that don’t plug into anything, because they are FireWire 1.0 drives. I have DVDs but no DVD player. We have a big box of CDs in the closet. My wife and I had a kind of pre-marriage in India, and I put all the wedding pictures on Flickr, then lost them for ten years because Flickr was sold, and the new owners didn’t honor my password.

You’d think that I’d learn, wouldn’t you? The owners of the platform do what they want.

I’ve started to appreciate (even more!) the printed book, and formatting languages like Markdown that can store things in TXT files that are easily read. Non-proprietary formats are starting to look like gold, because when the maker of the gadget goes out of business, I can still access my media somewhere. (RSS, you are my friend.)

Now, let’s say one day you turn on your Kindle, and a book you had on there is gone. This is not a what-if scenario.

In 2009, Amazon decided that some editions of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm violated copyright law, so it disappeared them from user’s Kindles. Poof, just like that, a book about centralized control and censorship was gone, removed by a centralized authority. Annalee Newitz reported this story in Gizmondo, writing that “Amazon revealed how easy censorship will be in the Kindle age.” The books were being sold on Amazon’s platform by a company that didn’t own the copyright, and when the rights owner heard about it, they asked Amazon to remove the titles.

As Newitz writes, “Amazon decided to erase them not just from the store, but from all the Kindles where they’d been downloaded.”

Could it happen again? Let’s just say that when you read on an Amazon device, you are doing so at Amazon’s pleasure.

One more scenario for you. Once a book is published, it becomes part of a moment in time, right? Can’t be changed. But a publisher of the edgy author Roald Dahl decided that since Dahl’s books were written a while ago, they needed some updating. His depictions of characters were racist, sexist, and ableist, and not the sort of prose kids should read.

Ed Cumming reported in The Telegraph:

“Remember the Cloud-Men in James and the Giant Peach? They are now the Cloud-People. The Small Foxes in Fantastic Mr Fox are now female. In Matilda, a mention of Rudyard Kipling has been cut and Jane Austen added. It’s Roald Dahl, but different.”

The modern editor of Dahl, writes Cumming, faces a dilemma: “how to retain Dahl’s compelling spikiness, which has enthralled generations of readers, while bringing it in line with the hair-trigger sensitivities of children’s publishing.”

You can draw a straight line from a modern publisher deciding that Dahl needs a clean up, to Amazon pulling Orwell from your Kindle because it doesn’t like the copyright arrangement, to my websites becoming non-archival, to me having no way to play a CD. In every case, the creator of the material is no longer in charge of their work. The distribution system is its own kind of creator, because distribution technology determines everything now. No CD player? Sorry. Want your book to stay on your Kindle? Only if Amazon says okay.

We depend on public libraries to freely distribute books. You don’t need much technology to enjoy that freedom; just a library card. But parents in Texas are demanding that their libraries remove The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, and books that deal with sex, gender, and sexuality.

You can call that censorship, but I am starting to think of it as an erasure of the archive. Those who control the archive control the future. If you want to control what will happen next, a sure way to do it is to wipe away what came before.

Thanks for reading,

Lee

Talking keyboards and apps for writing with the folks. deploy-preview-299--zsa-people

My wife and son went for a walk but I stayed behind to make this photo

Contribution to entropy reduction today was 968.

Did two podcast interviews today as a guest. Note to self: Being prepared is everything.

Entropy reduction today: 778

My contribution to reduction of empathy this day is 1778.

My contribution to entropy reduction today is 758. .

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Charmlee State Park up in Malibu. It was 2020, and it hadn’t rained for months. The wind was strong and it just about took us off our feet as we walked in the big bowl of grasses that used to hold wildflowers. It looks like the land is waiting for something, doesn’t it? Three years later, it would rain hard.

Book Marketing Log - Entry 01

“Climate change fiction” is a thing, even though many readers might not know it yet. It’s a category! Readers may discover books like The New Wilderness by Diane Cook, or The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson, or books you’ve written, and not realize they are part of the same category of climate fiction.

This is the first entry in a log of my progress to define and promote the category of climate fiction and introduce the category to more people. Welcome to Entry 01.

Climate change, as an existential problem that we all need to solve, had had trouble gaining traction in the attention economy. For a time, people (and fossil fuel companies) contested that it was even real. The problem of climate change is complex enough to inspire most people to a kind of paralysis. There are too many ways to consider the problem, too many bad guys, and we may be too far gone to do anything about it.

Mark Johnson, writing in Undark, put it well. “The central problem is that climate change lacks a human face — a vision of the people who will inhabit the world to come, and what they will endure. When we look into the faces of our children and grandchildren, we’re unable to form a mental picture of them struggling to survive in the world we’ve bequeathed to them.”

Maybe a novel can do the job of telling that story.

So that is the task before us: Writing about climate in a way that gives it a human face. That’s the first task, anyway. The second is figuring out how to create a pathway to the story you’ve written so that others can find it.

While beating the promotional drum for my book Surrender, I’ve had my best, early success by pitching myself as a guest on podcasts. The two best platforms I’ve found are matchmaker.fm and podmatch.com. You can use Matchmaker.fm for free at first; there’s a small fee to use Podmatch. They’ve both worked to match me up with podcast producers who want to hear from me as a guest to talk about my book and its themes. After just a few weeks of listing myself on both platforms, two interviews with me have been published already, and I am scheduled to record four more.

I’ve also hired a book marketer and I’m submitting my book to awards. I’ll post more about those strategies soon, in the next book marketing log entries. For now, have you heard of the “climate fiction” category? If you’ve written a book in that category, how are people finding out about it?

A photo study of a futuristic lamp that I saw in a TV show on HBO and immediately found and had to get. It's a Kovacs, I think. I have a green interior for it as well as the white one shown here. It was used in a photo series I made to illustrate a futuristic set of stories that I wrote.

Contribution to entropy-reduction this day: 1253.

My contribution to reversing entropy today was 1083. a little late to this but today was busy.

A road in Monterey, CA.