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Driving around Vermont, Thinking


photo by Tony Hisgett

Friday and Saturday, I spent a lot of time driving around Vermont. I also spent a lot of time thinking while driving. I was thinking about whether to expand on my most recent blog post and what it is safe to say. These were the most beautiful drives I have ever taken in Vermont.

The leaves were at peak and the air was still, so there were many reflections. (Unfortunatly, I didn't stop to take pictures.)

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Give Peace a Chance: My Return to Blogging

I have decided to come back to blogging. I am returning at a point of happiness and strength with a new book out which is successful in ways I had never imagined an anthology could be. I have been having an amazing time these past few weeks.

I find that I have made my decision to resume just at the moment when Kathy Sierra's blog post Why the Trolls Will Always Win, commemorating ten years of over-the-top harassment, is published in Wired

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Wall Street weighs in on Amazon, declares Borders the winner: AMZN off 5.21%; BPG up 10.47%

Apparently, Wall Street was not amused by Amazon's fight with Macmillan USA. A bunch of the financial articles attribute the Amazon fall to expectations that e-book prices would rise. But that strikes me as nonsense. If that's true, why the big rise in Borders? Perhaps because some think that Amazon is not the future of online retailing and are looking for alternatives?

From Google Finance:


AMZN, Inc. 118.87 -6.54 -5.21%    

BKS Barnes & Noble, Inc. 18.00 +0.52 2.97%

BGP Borders Group, Inc. 0.950 +0.090 10.47%

BAMM Books-A-Million, Inc. 6.51 +0.14 2.20%

AAPL Apple Inc. 194.43 +2.37 1.23%

Now that Amazon has conceded, can they please fix the damage?

I really don't like the 404-Document Not Found message where the Amazon page for the Kindle edition of our Year's Best Fantasy 9 is supposed to be

(Amazon's poorly worded concession in the Amazon-Macmillan dispute is here.)

As I said, I personally don't buy e-books. Nor do I own an e-book reader. But this particular book was intended to be published as a book where the e-book edition is primary.

John Sargent's address to authors about the Amazon situation

This ran as a paid advertisement in a special Saturday edition of Publishers Lunch:

To: All Macmillan authors/illustrators and the literary agent community
From: John Sargent

This past Thursday I met with Amazon in Seattle. I gave them our proposal for new terms of sale for e books under the agency model which will become effective in early March. In addition, I told them they could stay with their old terms of sale, but that this would involve extensive and deep windowing of titles. By the time I arrived back in New York late yesterday afternoon they informed me that they were taking all our books off the Kindle site, and off Amazon. The books will continue to be available on through third parties.

I regret that we have reached this impasse. Amazon has been a valuable customer for a long time, and it is my great hope that they will continue to be in the very near future. They have been a great innovator in our industry, and I suspect they will continue to be for decades to come.

It is those decades that concern me now, as I am sure they concern you. In the ink-on-paper world we sell books to retailers far and wide on a business model that provides a level playing field, and allows all retailers the possibility of selling books profitably. Looking to the future and to a growing digital business, we need to establish the same sort of business model, one that encourages new devices and new stores. One that encourages healthy competition. One that is stable and rational. It also needs to insure that intellectual property can be widely available digitally at a price that is both fair to the consumer and allows those who create it and publish it to be fairly compensated.

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Bye, Amazon. It's been fun.

Well, just a couple of days after I revised my site to push harder to promote online booksellers -- a change made at the request of one of my publishers -- I find that I need to remove Amazon from the list. Bye, Amazon. It's been fun.

Looking for Something? Amazon's response tp a query for the Kindle edition of my Year's Best Fantasy

They are having a stupid trade war with the company that owns one of my other publishers (Macmillan USA owns Tor), and so have delisted a bunch of my books that are still in print. They still allow for third party sales, but for that you may as well search via AddALL. (Hint: most books available for sale via 3rd parties on Amazon are also listed cheaper for the very same physical book via another book search engine.) So I can no longer recommend Amazon as a source of my books.

I don't care much about the issue of e-book pricing. I don't own a e-reader and think the devices are not an adequately developed technology. I have no plans to buy one in the next several years.

For my own new books, I would suggest you buy them from The University Bookstore in Seattle. (Just one problem: The UB seems to list them with only one author, so you'll have to look for them under my husband's name. ) For older hardcover titles, I suggest L.W.Currey. Lloyd is amply supplied with Hartwell & Cramer hardcovers at reasonable prices. 

Also, most (but not all) of my Tor titles can be purchased from, as well as a number of our other books. 

In general, I think it is up to the publisher to set their own prices, and not Amazon and that whatever the specifics are, Macmillan should not back down.

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Hartwell & Cramer Year's Best Fantasy 9 is in print!

OurYear's Best Fantasy 9 is now in print from We are their first book in a bleeding edge  experiment to publish SF in new ways. (The primary edition of the book is intended to be the digital, however I think that edition has not yet emerged from Ingram's system.)


I was at the University Bookstore in Seattle yesterday. (In case you are wondering, Duane Wilkins and I are both standing up. He is that much taller than me. Photo by my brother John G. Cramer, III.)

Oppression, Feminism, & Motherhood

I was on several excellent panels at Anticipation which I hope to write about later, and on one panel that was hopelessly ill-construed. It was a panel on which four white people were assigned the task of discussing whether ethnic and sexual minorities ought to write for the mainstream sf audience or whether they could or should write for more specialized audiences more connected to their concerns, and if they were to do that, how would they make it into the SF canon (this last point was illustrated by a quote from Joanna Russ.).

One of the designated panelists did not attend the convention, one overslept and missed the panel by accident, so it was me and this white guy who later remarked online that he has clearly been assigned to the wrong panel. 

This was not THE most socially awkward panel assignment I've ever been given. That would be the panel entitled "Politics & Bad Manners" at a Minnicon many years ago, where as I recall one of my fellow panelists was dressed in a monk's habit, and everyone but me had known in advance that this was the annual Libertarian revival panel. I  spent the panel defending things like the existence of public sidewalks. But this pannel at Anticipation was certainly up there.

Several audience members seemed to have a lot to say on the actual topic assigned, so I invited "Ide Cyan" and a woman whose name badge said "Isobel" to join me as panelists. "Isobel" declined, but made many productive comments from the audience. "Ide Cyan" joined me on the panel, but only after anxiously showing me her name badge so I would know who I was tangling with. She tried hard as a panelist, but also was extremely tense and trembling and talking very fast, as though frightened of me. (I think that is the first time I've ever been on a panel with someone who appeared physically frighten of me.)

The panel went how it went, which is as well as could be expected given both the panelist problem and an oddly constructed mandate. (Canonicty is a completely separate issue from the economic and artistic viability of subgenres with specialized audiences.) I'm told that Jo Walton had written beautiful and lucid panel descriptions that were then mercilessly pruned by a clumsy editorial hand. I think this panel description was one of the victims.

"Ide Cyan" argued that the central issue was oppression. I attempted to get her to unpack her argument, and asked interview style questions about what she meant by oppression. Another blogger has described her as becoming "tongue-tied" when presented with this line of inquiry.

After the panel, I invited her to join me for a cup of tea for further discussion, but she declined; she and a group of other audience members, who seemed to be a portion of Fail Fandom, left as a group. According to their blogs this group went off and discussed how appalling it is that I claim to be oppressed because I am a parent and because of where I live.

Before departing, "Ide Cyan" instructed me to read Joanna Russ's book What Are We Fighting For? Sex, Race, Class, and the Future of Feminism, a book which as it happened was sitting on my night table. A while back I blogged my dismay with the opening chapter. It is a book that Joanna worked long and hard on, the book in which she intended to reconcile socialism and feminism, and which was published too late to have the impact it might have had because it took her so long to write. (Our collective recollection is that she was already working on that book when I attended the Seattle Clarion in 1984; its copyright date is 1998.)

Joanna Russ was my first science fiction mentor. She was my professor at the University of Washington for two years. I spent many happy hours taking up her office hours when everyone else was scared to talk to her. A few decades ago, I knew her pretty well. She was in chronic pain. She was on heavy-duty anti-depressants that messed up her short-term memory in ways that were sometimes comical. She is also a genius, and I treasure the time I spent sitting at her feet (sometimes literally) listening to her hold forth.

That having been said, I don't think What We Are Fighting For? works in the way she intended. In trying to reconcile socialism & feminism, she has for the most part left out the problem of motherhood and the relationship between the parent and the State. Her discussion of motherhood is extremely slight. The most extensive passage I was able to find, via index and skimming, is a mother-blaming section on the role of families in perpetuating oppression and sexism. (p. 347) Clearly, something had to go or this book never would have got finished, but I think it is unfortunate that the oppression of mothers by the State was omitted from discussion.

So what is oppression? Its definition is not one of Joanna's central concerns in this book; she is writing for an audience that thinks it already knows what oppression is. Oppression is depression — "a feeling of being oppressed"; persecution —"the act of subjugating by cruelty";  and subjugation — "the state of being kept down by unjust use of force or authority." In my daily life, I have experienced all three in connection with being a mother and it is not a minor thing. It is a major force in my life.

I seriously doubt that Joanna Russ I know would argue that I and other American mothers are not oppressed. And I wonder by what right self-described feminists discard out-of-hand claims by individual mothers that they suffer oppression.

Is 21st century feminism really feminism at all? If it has abandonded mothers as such, it has abandoned its task of advocating the liberation of women. 

A line from the NYT that seems to have escaped from an April fools edition: "Typically, authors earn royalties of 15 percent of profits after they have paid off their advances."

From Motoko Rich's article in today's New York Times, New HarperCollins Unit to Try to Cut Writer Advances:

Typically, authors earn royalties of 15 percent of profits after they have paid off their advances.

There are a couple of errors in this sentence, astonishing from someone who covers publishing for The New York Times.

  1. First of all, royalties paid are not a percentage of profits, but of the list price of the book.
  2. Second, the word "typically" is also incorrect: 15% royalties are typical only of million dollar writers in paperback where it is otherwise customary to cap royalties at about 10%, period the end.  And in hardcover 15% royalties occur, when they occur at all, only on a really big book only after you've sold really a lot of copies. This is unusual, not typical, much more often stated in a contract as a possibility than occurring in fact and on royalty statements.
  3. Earnout of the advance is not sufficient to trigger a immediate 15% royalty on the vast majority of books published.
UPDATE: See also Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Constance Ash.

Home Editorial Assistant Wanted

Two years ago, we advertised on my blog for a home editorial assistant and had a nice guy named Carl come and help us for a while.

It is time for us to do this again.

David Hartwell and I are looking for an editorial assistant to help us with projects that we do out of the house (mostly anthologies). The position is in Pleasantville, New York. It includes room and board and a small amount of money and also editorial instruction. Also, minor amounts of childcare are also involved, usually when I'm home. Must be legal to work in the US; must drive.

If this opportunity appeals to you, email me at [email protected].

Advanced Marketing Services in Chapter 11 Shortly After 3rd Exec Is Convicted in Fraud Case

Grinchbrand Just before the end of the year, Advanced Marketing Services (Pink Sheets: MKTS), a major book distributor (and owner of Publishers Group West), went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, taking with it a big chunk of US publishing's Christmas receipts. This household has been watching it closely, and this was something I didn't blog because I didn't want to spook anyone with half-baked info.

The New York Times finally got round to running a story on January 5th. Our Year's Best SF series is published by HarperCollins, so I pay particular attention to the line in the NYT piece:

“We’re exploring ways to keep working with them,” a spokeswoman for HarperCollins, Erin Crum, said.

Uuummm. Ooohhkaayy.

Of course everyone caught in this has one big question: Are we going to get paid?

But my bigger question, once I looked into the situation was not whether HarperCollins and a whole laundry list of publishers were going to be able to find a way to continue working with AMS, but rather why they were working with them in the first place.

The New York Times remarks, a little too tactfully:

Advanced Marketing Services’ financial difficulties were widely known in the industry, after an accounting scandal in 2003 resulted in the ouster of several senior managers.

Ouster? Ouster? Try criminal conviction! From the San Diego Union Tribune, dateline December 12, 2006: Former AMS exec sentenced to 3 years for role in fraud case

A federal judge yesterday sentenced the former vice president of advertising at Advanced Marketing Services to 36 months in prison for her role in falsifying earnings at the San Diego company.

Sandra Miller Christie pleaded guilty in 2005 to charges that she conspired with other former employees to defraud AMS clients and inflate the profitability of the company's advertising department. The scheme occurred from 1999 through 2003. . . . Two other former AMS employees were sentenced by Burns earlier this year.

So WHY OH WHY were so many publishers caught short using a company that has just had three employees criminally convicted of cooking the books? The NYT article suggests a possible reason:

The distributor has near-exclusive access to the discount retailers known as price clubs, including Costco and Sam’s Club.

In other words, the problem here is Monopoly Capitalism: there has been so much consolidation of the once-diverse distribution system that publishers are forced to use a distributor known to have major issues with cooking the books in order to reach significant portions of the market.

Hello? Department of Justice? Can we get some anti-trust litigation going here? (Well, at least the FBI is still interested!)

AMS has been in turmoil since 2003, when agents from the FBI raided its Sorrento Mesa headquarters.

Three former AMS executives were sentenced last year to prison after pleading guilty to fraud charges. The executives defrauded publishers of funds that were intended to market books, but retained to boost company revenues, according to federal indictments.

An investigation into the company’s operations remains open, federal prosecutors said.

In addition to the criminal probe, AMS hasn’t reported financial results for more than three years, and has yet to restate its financial results dating back to its 2003 fiscal year.

Publishers Weekly reports:

Several of the largest publishers feel betrayed by AMS—just days before the Chapter 11 filing, AMS had assured the major New York houses that everything was fine.

HypnotizePublishers Weekly relays Costco's advice on the current situation:

A Costco spokesperson said that until further notice, publishers should operate "on a business as usual basis."

Pay no attention to those men behind the curtain. You are growing sleepy, very sleepy. These are not the accountants you are looking for . . .

Meanwhile, Costco's profits are up:

Costco, the nation's largest wholesale club operator, said Thursday its first-quarter profit rose 10 percent and said it would take a second-quarter charge related to stock option grants.

For the quarter ending Nov. 26, net income totaled $236.9 million, or 51 cents per share, compared with $215.8 million, or 45 cents per share, a year ago. Revenue climbed 9 percent to $14.15 billion from $12.93 billion last year. . . . In October, Costco said an internal committee and independent experts reviewing the company's stock option grant practices found no evidence of fraud, but did find "imprecisions" related to certain grants.

The distributors are much bigger businesses than the publishers and the big box club stores are in turn much bigger businesses than the distributors.

Does ANYONE at Costco or Sam's Club care that they are and have been forcing the entire publishing industry to do business with crooks? It would appear that the answer is no: that's how Costco keeps its prices down.  Business as usual is business with crooks.

Meanwhile, perhaps the best we can hope for the Christmas publishing revenues is that they are having a nice holiday in the Cayman Islands.

Collage on the State of Publishing, 1994

Collage on the State of Publishing, 1994

I came across this collage this morning. I made it in 1994, I think at the year's end, as a kind of editorial cartoon on what was wrong with the publishing industry just then. Not much has changed, it seems. (One of my favorite items, you can't read very well without going to the larger version of the image: It is the book How To Do Automatic Writing.

That, for me, summed up the crux of the problem.

ALSO, further to the subject of casual art kicking around the house, I am quite fond of one of my earliest posts, Great Minds Sink Ships, a collection of refrigerator magnet poetry created by me, David Hartwell, and mystery writer Sarah Smith during a blizzard in February of 2003, and contains such lines as Beggars should not throw stones! and Those who live in glass houses make light work.

Amazing Pix from Tim Holmen's Orbit Launch Party!


David went to the party launching the new Orbit science fiction line, which was held at the Dream Hotel on 55th Street in New York. He brought home many pictures, of which this is just the tip of the iceberg. Click HERE for more.

UPDATE: See also Media Bistro:

It seemed like nearly everyone in New York's science fiction publishing circles came to the Dream Lounge last night to celebrate the American launch of Orbit, the formerly UK-based imprint that Hachette is grooming as a global player.