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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Publishing: the negative-sum game

It is both amusing and a little tragic to see the brave face that the File 770 wannabes put on when contemplating the state of the traditional publishing world. They keep insisting that it is not a zero-sum game, which is true in a sense, because it is actually a negative-sum game.
The most difficult problems are negative-sum situations, where the pie is shrinking. In the end, the gains and losses will all add up to less than zero. This means that the only way for a party to maintain its position is to take something from another party, and even if everyone takes his or her share of the "losses," everyone still loses in comparison to what they currently have or really need. This type of situation often sparks serious competition.

However, negative-sum disputes are not always lose-lose because if the parties know the pie is shrinking, it is possible their expectations will be low. A perfect example of a negative-sum dispute is the allocation of budget cuts within an organization. In this case, each department expects to have some funds taken away, but whether the outcome is a win or loss depends on how much money a particular branch gets in comparison to what they expected to have cut from their budget. So, if a branch was expecting to get a 30 percent cut and they only got cut 20 percent, which would be a win, even in a diminishing resource situation.
The present negative-sum situation was probably inevitable, not only due to the primary factor of men's increasing preference for electronic forms of entertainment, but there is also the secondary factor of changing ethnic demographics. In the USA, for example, Hispanics don't read as much as Anglos and they don't buy as many books.

Among all American adults, the average (mean) number of books read or listened to in the past year is 12 and the median (midpoint) number is 5. The White average is 13 and the median is 5, the Black average is 12 and the median is 4, the Hispanic average is 7 and the median is 3.

Throw in the number of non-English speakers into the mix and it should not be a surprise that prospects for the traditional publishing world were not good despite a growing population even before the SJW invasion of genre publishing is taken into account. But that doesn't mean that the advocates of Pink SF haven't made the situation worse, as the corporate masters are apparently beginning to understand. "Tor’s editorial director Julie Crisp has left Pan Macmillan following a review of the company’s science fiction and fantasy publishing."

Does that mean that Castalia has stupidly entered a declining market in the hopes of carving off a slice of a shrinking pie? Not at all. Because we have no intention whatsoever of becoming a traditional publisher, our cost structure will keep us competitive despite the higher royalties and lower prices we offer, and we know there is still a significant market for the Campbellian science fiction created by beardy, middle-aged white men in which the traditional SF publishers are aggressively disinterested.

Moreover, as the Brainstorm crowd knows, we are developing the technology to massively expand that market by reaching the young men who have, quite reasonably, abandoned the traditional SF market. I started reading Neal Stephenson's latest novel, Seveneves, and it is truly depressing. Less because nearly everyone on Earth dies than because he appears to have gone full SJW with a Gamma sauce. It's the first time I've found it necessary to force myself to keep reading one of his books, and the first time one of his books has struck me as being proper Pink SF. Female presidents, token ethnic melanges, you name it, he's got it to such an extent that were it not for Stephenson's past gamma markers, I would almost suspect an epic, master-class trolling of the current genre.

On a tangential note, as Aristotle has informed us, some people are simply incapable of learning.
Julie Crisp ‏@julieacrisp May 20
So I've had a lot of submissions in recently. And do you know how excited I am to see how many of those are SF novels written by women?!!

Julie Crisp ‏@julieacrisp May 20
The answer is VERY!! :-)
Her doubling-down on her enthusiasm for female SF authors is intriguing in light of this news report from 2011:
But with the hiring of Bella Pagan away from Orbit, Tor UK does hope to grow — and diversify — its line. Crisp explains:

With Bella joining us, we're looking to grow our list in size, direction and selection. While, as of yet - everything is still under wraps concerning the new innovations we'll be putting in place (watch this space!) I can tell you that Bella has a particular interest in urban fantasy and paranormal romances - an area that Tor UK hasn't explored to its potential previously. So that's one area we'll be looking to expand into.
It doesn't look like that strategy worked out all that well, does it. I've even seen some rumors floating around that Pan Macmillan is in the process of shutting down Tor UK altogether. Meanwhile, Tor.com is abandoning the novel in favor of the novella:
When the book wars sweep across the galaxy, and the blood of publishers runs down the gutters of every interstellar metropolis, the resource we fight for will not be paper, or ink, or even money. It will be time. For our readers, time is the precious commodity they invest in every book they decide to purchase and read. But time is being ground down into smaller and smaller units, long nights of reflection replaced with fragmentary bursts of free time. It’s just harder to make time for that thousand-page novel than it used to be, and there are more and more thousand-page novels to suffer from that temporal fragmentation.

Enter the novella, an old form with a new lease on life. We expect that the reader who has to fit their reading into their daily commute will appreciate a novella they can finish in a week, rather than a year. We’ll be releasing books that can be begun and completed on just one of those rare evenings of uninterrupted reading pleasure.
Apparently they believe Pink SF is more digestible in smaller doses.

Labels: ,

94 Comments:

Blogger Franz Lionheart May 30, 2015 7:18 AM  

Interesting analysis as usual.

But I'm actually still spending money on TOR: I've just purchased "Count to a Trillion" by one John C. Wright... :-)

Anonymous Steve May 30, 2015 7:34 AM  

This is a fascinating statistic:

Among all American adults, the average (mean) number of books read or listened to in the past year is 12 and the median (midpoint) number is 5. The White average is 13 and the median is 5, the Black average is 12 and the median is 4, the Hispanic average is 7 and the median is 3.

So blacks and whites read books at almost exactly the same rate. But what do they read?

Specifically regarding science fiction and fantasy, we're told by folks like K Tempest Bradford that it's important to promote "diverse" authors.

But "diverse" authors like K Tempest Bradford - who calls herself a writer but has never found the time to release a novel of her own - NK Jemisin, Daniel Jose Older and co. aren't attracting significant numbers of ethnic minority readers to SFF. In fact, they may be helping to drive them away. Their pitifully small sales prove that minority readers aren't interested in preachy social justice fiction.

Almost certainly Larry Correia has more black and Hispanic readers than Bradford, Jemisin, and Older do put together.

Blogger Rantor May 30, 2015 7:40 AM  

Steve, remember, it doesn't matter what people want to read, even minorities, the SJW is selling books that everyone should read 'cause it will make them better.

Blogger Rantor May 30, 2015 7:43 AM  

Forty years ago, the proto-SJWs were the ones calling Campbellian SF escapist trash. They decided to remake SFF in their own image, so it would address their issues and speak to people's true needs, blather, etc.

Blogger Cataline Sergius May 30, 2015 7:51 AM  

Aw damn it.

Seveneves looked interesting. The moon is destroyed and humanity has three years to get ready for the ablation of all life on Earth. Then 5000 years later...

I've always liked his stuff before.

Is it really that bad? (*childish, whiny voice.*)

Blogger Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus May 30, 2015 7:56 AM  

Because we have no intention whatsoever of becoming a traditional publisher

So when can we expect to see God's Alpha: The Life and Game of St. Paul the Apostle hit the market?

Blogger Salt May 30, 2015 8:00 AM  

So, if a branch was expecting to get a 30 percent cut and they only got cut 20 percent, which would be a win, even in a diminishing resource situation.

This has such a familiar ring to it.

Anonymous Voxiversity zen0 May 30, 2015 8:02 AM  

Malinvestment.
Wrong lines of production
Mistaken reading of the real long-term needs and demands of the publishing economy.
SJW ideology interfering with understanding of needs and demands as would be expressed with the correct price signals in a free market

Blogger VD May 30, 2015 8:11 AM  

Is it really that bad? (*childish, whiny voice.*)

So far. Most of the characters are ultra high-performance women who have succeeded in everything they have done, including sports, are physically attractive, single, and yet somehow miraculously get along with everyone. The only male character of note so far is DUBOIS JEROME XAVIER HARRIS, PH.D. a half-black stand-in for Neal deGrasse Tyson whose nickname is Doob and is the first to figure out that the Earth is doomed.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the inevitable lesbianism is coming. It's an interesting plot with cartoon Pink SF characters combined with an SJW bingo game.

Blogger lubertdas May 30, 2015 8:17 AM  

Vox, please keep us posted on Seveneves, particularly in the event that it takes a turn for the better.

I run hot and cold with Neal Stephenson and I was hoping this would be a good one...

Anonymous Nathan May 30, 2015 8:19 AM  

On Seveneves, it felt like Stephenson spent an act too many on humanity's attempt at suicide in space, although the commentary on social media was worth it. I loved the third act, but it was too short and it almost needs am intermediate chapter punctuating the 5,0000 years between Act 2 and 3. The seven new races of men, with the subraces, never really felt established. Still a better read than most in the genre.

As for the idea that social media has an adverse effect on the brain, it's ideas like that and Snow Crash's metal programming via memes that make me wonder if Stephenson's onto something.

Blogger Cail Corishev May 30, 2015 8:22 AM  

I'm reminded of the scenes in Atlas Shrugged where someone asks how a company is doing, and the response is, "Oh, they're doing wonderfully! You should see the new housing project they just built for the workers, complete with a fully modern day-care, and they just got an entertainment grant from the government to cover community theater productions. Things are going great!"

Anonymous NorthernHamlet May 30, 2015 8:33 AM  

Less because nearly everyone on Earth dies

I raged at you for not having a spoiler alert.

Blogger VD May 30, 2015 8:36 AM  

It's not a spoiler. It's right in the book's description. That's very nearly the starting point. In fact, I haven't even read that far yet.

Anonymous Hope Change Hillary 2016 May 30, 2015 8:54 AM  

If only the buggy-whip industry had gone SJW...

Anonymous p-dawg May 30, 2015 9:00 AM  

Well, I'm white, male, middle-aged, and beardy. I've read sci-fi and fantasy my whole life (since age 3, technically). Maybe I should actually write the books I have in my head. I have a couple of ideas that I think are very good. Now, whether I can adequately convey those ideas, I don't know. But maybe it's time to give it a go.

Blogger Mr.MantraMan May 30, 2015 9:14 AM  

Did anyone really think that the SJW would do anything but double down?

Anonymous Maximo Macaroni May 30, 2015 9:41 AM  

So, publishers have to put out shorter books because no one has time any more to read long ones. And yet every quarter the number and proportion of Americans actively employed goes down. So what are all these people doing that makes them so busy? Playing video games?

Blogger Jim May 30, 2015 9:42 AM  

I was looking at Seveneves yesterday through an Instapundit link. I saw "moon destroyed" and thought "take my money!" Then I kept reading, learned why the book was named that way, and passed.

VD: "The only male character of note so far is DUBOIS JEROME XAVIER HARRIS, PH.D. a half-black stand-in for Neal deGrasse Tyson whose nickname is Doob and is the first to figure out that the Earth is doomed."

I have an idea for a piece of MilSciFi where the most acclaimed and decorated ship is named the Tyson. It has nice clean lines and boasts the latest and greatest upgrades, but it's crewed by administrators, has never seen battle, and its mission is public relations to convince people that war is the answer to everything.

Because looking over Tyson's celebrated career, it seems his biggest discovery was a job opening at the Hayden Planetarium; he would be to busy preening before cameras to figure out the Earth was in trouble.

Blogger Jack Ward May 30, 2015 9:45 AM  

Have purchase Seveneves a few days ago. Its on my list but the Hugo reading comes first. I hope its not as bad as you think. I was looking forward to it and paid a hansom price for that purchased [eh, rental] book from Amazon.

Am at the point in Three Body Problem where the Trisolaris scheme has been revealed. I have not changed my mind that it is best novel but, gracious, that book gives one a funny feeling. I want to go out and rummage on the net and find all the environmental disasters since the beginning of radio and all the strange deaths of scientists and maybe do some statistical analysis. Except I don't know how to do statistical analysis. Seveneves; it has one of the traditional magical numbers in its title. Wonder what that means? If anything.

Anonymous Sensei May 30, 2015 9:52 AM  

I've always liked his stuff before.

Is it really that bad? (*childish, whiny voice.*)



My review on Amazon is titled something like "a long space survival novel without pathos, then a short sci-fi novel without plausibility." Two stars. That reflects my bitterly disappointed expectations from an author of Stephenson's abilities. Or previous abilities. Like GRRMartin, I'm now forced to wonder if he's "past it."

I say this as someone who in the past eagerly devoured everything by Stephenson that came into my possession. The length of his tomes was a bonus, just more good writing. This was... really disappointing.

And I'm not even talking about the feminism, he's had strong feminist elements/characters in all his books. I forgive him that when he writes books like Reamde, but sadly he might have expended all his remaining talent into that masterwork.

He's a staunch atheist, though, and that really comes out in this book. He obviously lacks or has lost Joss Whedon's ability to put his personal views aside and write realistic characters. No one in the entire book is actually religious, and in the process of surviving the global cataclysm the human race just forgets about it (as if.. I was laughing a little unkindly at the obvious atheist wishful thinking and how foolish it makes authors even of his caliber look). That plus the pages and pages of unnecessary "telling" and technical descriptions. He really needed a courageous editor. Maybe he finally got "too big to edit" and this is the result. Either way, saddening.

Between this and William Gibson's ok but not impressive Peripheral, it looks to me like a big sci-fi tree has fallen and the sunlight is shining in for a bunch of saplings to compete for the space. Whether by acumen or by fortune, Castalia has come at the right time.

Anonymous Cash May 30, 2015 9:52 AM  

You have to make your own market,much like Vox and others have done.

It's the whole blue ocean thing. Go out there and create readers.

How many of the people that read the Halo books were hard core SF readers? I know a lot of those readers were guys that played the game and it was the first non school book they ever read.

Anonymous Nathan May 30, 2015 9:53 AM  

Considering that the Novella category is one of the ones that has the anti-Puppies completely irrational, I can't help but think Tor.com is making decisions based less on business and more on prestige. Battlefield prep for next year, just like Scalzi's contract making the NYT and that nobody's attempt to ridicule Vox's first novel.

Anonymous Stilicho #0066 May 30, 2015 9:55 AM  

Every good novella I've read has left me pissed off because it wasn't substantially longer. Apparently, SJW's cannot remember what they've already read for a sufficient time to finish a full length novel.

I look forward to the day when good works are again available (for a premium that I'm happy to pay) in quality bindings with full page color plates occasionally thrown in depicting important scenes. I miss those old classics and cherish those in my personal library.

Blogger Jack Ward May 30, 2015 9:56 AM  

So, Tor wants to go shorter do they? And, here we have some of the really true SF/F fans in the Ilk screaming for epic length works. Now, there is a disconnect for you.

Maybe, Tor thinks the genre is heading back to the days when short stories sold well. Maybe so. Of course, I will read anything by a good author regardless of length. [John Wright, Larry Correia, etc.]
Its going to be fun watching Tor take the plunge. And, very satisfying to have JCW come fully on board with Castalia.

Anonymous hightecrebel #0071 May 30, 2015 9:56 AM  

I suppose 'less vomit inducing' could be interpreted as 'more digestible'...

Anonymous anewguy May 30, 2015 9:57 AM  

yup. vox is right about the seveneves book. it hurts to read, because it's almost a parody of femgirl political correctness. i really don't get what's happening to the guy, because reamde had a pretty good section on understanding masculinity, i forget where exactly. good premise, good structure, story and character pretty much blows.

i also wonder whether too much deprogramming via this blog and others may have ruined a lot of media for me, as it's difficult to enjoy much of the critically reviewed t.v shows. sad.

halfway through now.

Anonymous Nathan May 30, 2015 9:58 AM  

Don't read this comment on Seveneves if you are spoiler adverse, even for a dumb gamma dick joke:

"No one in the entire book is actually religious, and in the process of surviving the global cataclysm the human race just forgets about it (as if.. I was laughing a little unkindly at the obvious atheist wishful thinking and how foolish it makes authors even of his caliber look)."

And, at the same time none of the pre-Event religions survived into the 5000 year future, enough of the Bible exists for the vehicle spilling seed on the earth to be named after Onan...

Blogger GK Chesterton May 30, 2015 10:01 AM  

Let's not bash the novella while bashing pink. SF is my favorite genere _for_ the shorter works. Vox's work with C. House has been shorts

Blogger Nikis-Knight May 30, 2015 10:02 AM  

And all this time I thought "Paranormal Romance" was a derogatory term.

Anonymous Stilicho #0066 May 30, 2015 10:05 AM  

Let's not bash the novella while bashing pink.

It's just that the really good ones leave you wanting more (as I suppose they should) and I wish more of those were developed into full length novels. JCW's One Bright Star is a good example: loved it and when it ended My reaction was to wonder what comes next and wonder if he's going to bother to tell us. John, if you read this, more please...and there could also be a nice prequel...

Blogger VD May 30, 2015 10:20 AM  

Considering that the Novella category is one of the ones that has the anti-Puppies completely irrational, I can't help but think Tor.com is making decisions based less on business and more on prestige.

Unlikely based on the February date of the announcement.

Blogger Dexter May 30, 2015 10:22 AM  

I thought the author's rule was that anything shorter than a novel (especially short stories but also novellas) didn't really pay enough to make them worth writing. So is Tor going to pay more for novellas now, since that's what they supposedly want and what readers want?

Anonymous Nathan May 30, 2015 10:24 AM  

"Unlikely based on the February date of the announcement."

Thanks for the correction. It's a little too easy sometimes to see demons inside what are just shadows.

Blogger Michelle *Minion #311* May 30, 2015 10:26 AM  

Faugh, I just about barfed when I got to the reason why the book was called "Seveneves". Kill it with fire.

Blogger Beefy Levinson May 30, 2015 10:43 AM  

You'd think mainstream publishers would be eager to exploit men's hunger for more traditional, blue SF/F. I always thought the 18-34 male demographic was the holy grail for the entertainment industry. Instead it appears they're going to die on the social justice hill.

Anonymous The other robot May 30, 2015 11:08 AM  

Isn't this an issue?

Among all American adults, the average (mean) number of books read or listened to in the past year is 12 and the median (midpoint) number is 5.

Listening to an audiobook is not the same as reading a book. I do not listen to books in the car, for example, I listen to language material, and on plane rides or train rides I have a Kindle or a laptop.

Of course, from the point of view of an author or publisher, money is money.

Anonymous nothern refugee May 30, 2015 11:25 AM  

The success of programs like Breaking Bad and Walking Dead (with strong, white male leads) demonstrates the demand for "blue" entertainment. But corporate america is so saturated with PC (I just had to sit through diversity training, so I know), they would rather piss money away on shows like Girls.

Anonymous The Original Hermit May 30, 2015 11:26 AM  

I can't recall if it was here or elsewhere a year or so ago where there was talk about JK Rowling crowding out other up and coming authors on the shelves. The conclusion was basically "good books bring in more customers, which expands the market so is a net gain for all authors". Obviously pink books kill the market, and ya books don't necessarily bring in blue Sci Fi readers.
My n=1 experience is that good books make me want to read more, just as good video games want me too play more (good) video games. Perhaps baen and Castalia aren't enough to save the whole pie, but if the pink portion of the pie is lost it's not really a loss except on paper. It's a net gain for civilization.

Blogger thule222 May 30, 2015 11:27 AM  

"The only male character of NOTE so far is DUBOIS JEROME XAVIER HARRIS, PH.D. a half-black stand-in for Neal deGrasse Tyson whose nickname is Doob and is the first to figure out that the Earth is doomed."

Why is it that the only male character is the first the figure out the main plot point? Does he then mansplain it to the women?

And why is he half-black? They're still kind of rare. Is there some problem with writing about brilliant black scientists? Some reason he has to be half-black?

Stephenson is making some very curious writing choices here.

Anonymous nothern refugee May 30, 2015 11:30 AM  

I am an engineer, so I work with a lot of casual Sci/Fi readers. When I ask them their favorite authors, they usually reply with Heinlein or Herbert. I have a feeling that "modern" Sci/Fi has written itself into irrelevance.

Anonymous Rolf May 30, 2015 11:32 AM  

Let me get this straight - the people that want more "paranormal romance" produced, and celebrate Fifty Shades of Gray for various reasons, are the same ones complain that *guys* have a rape culture?
*scratches head*

Something isn't right, and I think it's neural connections in the logic circuits on the left.

Blogger kurt9 May 30, 2015 11:40 AM  

I started reading Neal Stephenson's latest novel, Seveneves, and it is truly depressing. Less because nearly everyone on Earth dies than because he appears to have gone full SJW with a Gamma sauce.

What a coincidence! I just started reading this novel last night. I am at the point where I discover the president is a female and that most of the people being selected for the "ark" are females. The PCism in it is unbelievable and not what I expected from this author. I too am finding that I have to push myself to continue reading it.

Anonymous Stilicho #0066 May 30, 2015 11:40 AM  

Something isn't right, and I think it's neural connections in the logic circuits on the left.

Don't be unattractive...applies to print characters as well, see, e.g. uproar over Sansa Stark's sex with husband on HBO version of GOT.

OT: there is an excellent anthropogenic global warming post by a guest author over at Sarah Hoyt's blog today.

Blogger kurt9 May 30, 2015 11:45 AM  

I'll keep reading Seveneves. I can consider it a form of satire.

Blogger darkdoc May 30, 2015 11:55 AM  

I have found authors I heve read before and trusted, are now going all SJW. It appears to be a real trend.

Recent books by Harlan Coban (a vey beta legal mystery writer) and Robert Ludlum/Lustbader writing of the Jason Bourne series (Ludlum dead since early 2000's but let's put his name prominent on the cover to sell books) have had decent plots and were at least enjoyable reads. But now we have gay and lesbian sex throughout, always always described as so tender, beautiful, loving, and understood to be so right.

So now several authors are on the "why bother to read" list and will not be purchased by me. F*** them.

It'll be interesting to see how the publishers do selling books to the small percentage of people that actually buy these books. Can they survive on only library sales and the odd SJW that actually reads?

Blogger luagha May 30, 2015 12:00 PM  

The female presidents and token ethnic melanges ARE the 'apocalyptic horror' part of the book.

Anonymous Anonymous May 30, 2015 12:02 PM  

Stephansons books have been terrible for a long time, took you all a while to wake up. Look at the average novel length from the 60 and 70 and look at the novel length now. It's absurd, half the novel is padding and could be cut without harming the story.

With high book prices publishers wanted to give the buyer value by weight, and authors were told to pad. If a novel is 500 or 1000 pages its now a waste of my time, unless it's non-fiction and extremely well written at that.

I'm sure there are exception, but not many these days. Clarity of prose, clarity of thought.

Blogger luagha May 30, 2015 12:18 PM  

To elaborate on my earlier comment in a more spoileriffic way...

It seems obvious to me that the book is written to be more mass-market acceptable than Stephenson's other books. It is written in a slightly more distant style because it is designed to hit airport store bookshelves. It ticks off Pink checkboxes for the same reason.

I can allow myself to explain the butt-kicking super-competent females by telling myself that these are clearly 6+ standard deviation units. Generally, women who have the skills to go up in space are (in a fantasy book).

Mostly, the characters are delightfully true to their situations and their personalities and that causes plenty of problems. They are also fairly true to the reality of the situation.

What they aren't true to are their nationalities or their religions. I fail to believe that the Russians didn't try to take over and that the Moslems didn't try to destroy/take over. (Same thing for them.)

Blogger Anthony May 30, 2015 12:28 PM  

Stephenson has mastered the art of leaving the readers wanting more: write bad endings. Or rather, just stop writing and send it to the publisher, instead of writing an ending. Does he do that with Seveneyes?

Tor going into novellas might actually be a good business decision. If they can make money selling a paperback for $5 or less, they might sell a lot. I'd be more likely to take a chance on a shorter book for $5 than a longer one for $12.

Blogger Jack Ward May 30, 2015 12:36 PM  

@ Anonymous May 30, 2015 12:02 PM

You must be a troll sjw, right? Neal's books HAVE NOT been bad for a long time. I've read them all. Jury is out on Seveneves until I have time to read it. So F--- off.

By the way; the blog rules do not allow you the handle of anonymous; clean it up, whatever you are.

Anonymous automatthew May 30, 2015 1:02 PM  

Vox, I think seveneves is an epic troll. It's essentially a story of how badly women fuck things up when in charge.

Anonymous Discard May 30, 2015 1:08 PM  

VD: You wrote, "…Hispanics don't read as much as Anglos…"
I suggest that you not use the word "Anglo" as a substitute for "White".

1. I and many others are White, but have not a trace of English ancestry. The word is inaccurate.
2. The word is the politically correct term for Whites, originating with literate Mexicans. It should no more be used by than "African-American" for Black.
3. If the word is simply used to describe English speakers, as is sometimes is, why are monolingual Japanese Americans not called "Anglos"?

The word has been adopted and promoted by our enemies with malicious intent, and I regard it as a slur on my race and culture We should not accept their lexicon, not Asian for Oriental, not LGBTQ for homosexual, not Native American for Indian.

Perhaps you made an error, or perhaps you've some rhetorical purpose.
But it's your blog.

Blogger automatthew May 30, 2015 1:09 PM  

"He's a staunch atheist, though, and that really comes out in this book. He obviously lacks or has lost Joss Whedon's ability to put his personal views aside and write realistic characters. No one in the entire book is actually religious, and in the process of surviving the global cataclysm the human race just forgets about it (as if.. I was laughing a little unkindly at the obvious atheist wishful thinking and how foolish it makes authors even of his caliber look). That plus the pages and pages of unnecessary "telling" and technical descriptions. He really needed a courageous editor. Maybe he finally got "too big to edit" and this is the result. Either way, saddening. "

No, he was just being sneaky in seveneves. Did you catch that the Diggers were singing hymns? The spacers lost religion, but those who stayed below didn't.

If Stephenson is an atheist, he's extremely friendly to Christianity. One of the climactic moments in Cryptonomicon is Goto Dengo's conversion. The faith of Leibniz and Newton is very respectfully and thoroughly depicted in The Baroque Cycle, and the Puritan-turned-atheist main character, Daniel, is shown as somewhat of an intellectual coward. Enoch Root is clearly a Christian in both works.

Anonymous Difster VFM #109 May 30, 2015 1:11 PM  

Stephenson is usually a reliable read; I guess I'll just save my money and time on this one. Maybe just add to my collection of Chinese midget lesbian porn.

Blogger VD May 30, 2015 1:20 PM  

Perhaps you made an error, or perhaps you've some rhetorical purpose.

That's what my Mexican cousins call my White cousins.

Anonymous BigGaySteve May 30, 2015 1:21 PM  

The sad part is they have heard of the zero-sum being described as fallacy and have no understanding of it. It is a fallacy toward wealth because wealth can be created(although not by non Asian minorities), it is however entirely true when talking about the bank account of a publishing house. I tried to explain it in their comments but I doubt it made it past moderation.

ultra high-performance women who have succeeded in everything they have done, including sports, are physically attractive, single, and yet somehow miraculously get along with everyone.

The hardest thing to believe is that many women getting along with each other. Even lesbians can't be nice to each other in large groups. How Brigham Young managed to keep 51 women under the same roof without killing each other I will never understand.

automatthew I think seveneves is an epic troll. It's essentially a story of how badly women fuck things up when in charge.

I actually kept track of the webcomic gynostar because I thought it was and epic trolling of lesbians and feminists, until I commented on it. It has gotten to the point sarcasm/parody are indistinguishable from promotion.

Anonymous BGS May 30, 2015 1:25 PM  

We should not accept their lexicon, not Asian for Oriental, not LGBTQ for homosexual,

If you do it put the G first it will trigger lesbians & you can say you know a gay guy that spells it that way to trigger them more.

Anonymous Sensei May 30, 2015 1:32 PM  

No, he was just being sneaky in seveneves. Did you catch that the Diggers were singing hymns? The spacers lost religion, but those who stayed below didn't.

If Stephenson is an atheist, he's extremely friendly to Christianity. One of the climactic moments in Cryptonomicon is Goto Dengo's conversion. The faith of Leibniz and Newton is very respectfully and thoroughly depicted in The Baroque Cycle, and the Puritan-turned-atheist main character, Daniel, is shown as somewhat of an intellectual coward. Enoch Root is clearly a Christian in both works.


[Spoiler alert] I did catch the hymn bit, but given how the emerged Diggers are basically portrayed as unreasonable and violent squatters (taking advantage of the newly terraformed earth they had no part in creating and spinning a narrative to paint the Spacers, who did the terraforming, as deserters who should keep away) it didn't seem like he was portraying their outlook positively. I took the hymn to be more of a cultural identifier for them, which gets exploited by the Reds. [/Spoiler]

Enoch Root always seemed like a Benjamin Franklin type character to me; he does cynical lipservice to the faith and goes through the motions which fit his title but is more of a gnostic type who is smart enough to "see behind it all."

I grant you Goto Dengo, but that's what I meant by "lacks or has lost," clearly at one point he was willing to treat faith conversations as a thing that real people undergo.

And really a good chunk of my disappointment was precisely that I was judging it by the standards of the Cryptonomicon and other earlier works. He doesn't develop a single character in Seveneves as much as he did Goto Dengo, let alone work someone through a religious conversion.

Anonymous Discard May 30, 2015 1:42 PM  

VD: I see. A sort of family ideolect.

Blogger bob k. mando May 30, 2015 1:51 PM  

Jim May 30, 2015 9:42 AM
I have an idea for a piece of MilSciFi where the most acclaimed and decorated ship is named the Tyson.



does it use a vortex to suck harder and more effectively than any other ship?


kurt9 May 30, 2015 11:40 AM
and that most of the people being selected for the "ark" are females.


unless they've solved the artificial womb problem, this is an obvious answer and might even be carried out by a patriarchal society ( ... okay, almost certainly in a patriarchal society ) IF there's enough surplus carrying capacity left over after all job critical functions and expertise areas have been filled to load up with extra fertile females.


automatthew May 30, 2015 1:02 PM
Vox, I think seveneves is an epic troll. It's essentially a story of how badly women fuck things up when in charge.



... this could be a synopsis of Fury Road ...

Blogger Philip Sandifer May 30, 2015 1:56 PM  

Interesting. I didn't love Seveneves (I suspect Stephenson will never again reach the mad heights of the Baroque Cycle for me), although it was at least better than REAMDE, which I thought completely fell apart in the back half. It's certainly a self-consciously diverse book, but it's also, in it's later sections, a book that's about race in a way that would be hard to do without a strong measure of initial diversity, and I'm interested to see what you think when you get to those sections.

Anonymous Nathan May 30, 2015 2:34 PM  

Yes, spoilers. You've been warned.

Seveneves wanted to be about race, but instead it was about tribes. I never really got a clear understanding of the difference between Red and Blue or of the seven races and the subraces other than as an extension of the conflicts between the Eves. So instead of "that person over there looks weird," Stephenson created his politics on "that person's Eve made a decision my Eve didn't like." Strip away the one genetic choice each Eve got, and the conflicts would still remain.

Blogger Dexter May 30, 2015 3:31 PM  

Is there some problem with writing about brilliant black scientists?

That would be far too challenging to suspension of disbelief.

Blogger Philip Sandifer May 30, 2015 4:02 PM  

Seveneves wanted to be about race, but instead it was about tribes.

Hm. I'm unconvinced. I think it's about both. But I admit, I'm approaching it as someone who is deeply skeptical of the pragmatic significance of genetics as a component of race. All the same, it seemed to me like Stephenson goes to some length to ensure that there is a genetic component to race within the novel, even as it remains ambiguous how genetics ranks compared to other influences in terms of how human civilization pans out.

If what you want out of the book is a didactic endorsement of a genetics-first conception of race then I can see how the book would be a let-down. But I don't think Seveneves is about race in the sense of being a conscious intervention in the debate over its genetic basis. I think it's about race in the sense of being a novel whose climax takes place in a world with a more straightforwardly rigid system of racial classification than the one in which the novel begins.

Blogger VD May 30, 2015 4:16 PM  

I admit, I'm approaching it as someone who is deeply skeptical of the pragmatic significance of genetics as a component of race.

Phil, genetics is literally the ONLY component of race. Are you similarly skeptical about the pragmatic significance of genetics as a component of dog breeds?

I tend to doubt you think the brindle stripes on a boxer are a social construct or are painted on by the dog painters. There is a reason they call them "breeders", after all.

Blogger Philip Sandifer May 30, 2015 4:20 PM  

I'm skeptical that millennia-long captive breeding programs are a rigorous analogue to the history of human populations, certainly.

Anonymous Nathan May 30, 2015 4:31 PM  

I agree that Stephenson wanted it to be about race. I'd say he failed at that because with the exceptions of the Neoanders and the epi strangeness of the Moirans, I never got a firm grip on what made each race different. The identity of each race is tied up in their matriarchal origins and in the matriarchal relationships of that first generation. So instead of a red, yellow, black, brown, and white conflict, the conflict in the future is very much a English, French, Dutch, German, Lombard conflict of tribes from the same origin. Brother against brother (or perhaps sister against sister would be better), not those people aren't like us. In other words, the execution did not match the intent.

Blogger Philip Sandifer May 30, 2015 4:36 PM  

I don't think that more worldbuilding in the back third (or indeed any suggestion with the practical effect of "make the book longer") is what Seveneves needs. Yes, the plot of that section only unpacks two distinct genetic traits in detail, but there's loads about that world it leaves as an exercise for the reader.

It's also worth pointing out that the novel's embrace of epigenesis is a pretty clear "I would like to have and eat my cake" move on Stephenson's part.

Blogger epobirs May 30, 2015 4:48 PM  

To learn about the state of publishing, don't go to Barnes & Noble. Go to your local supermarket. This is a major retail channel for the Big Five.

Back in the days before the web, if I was up late with no place I had to be the next day and desperate for entertainment the supermarket was the place to go if I didn't want to go out of town. (Driving down to the big news stand at Hollywood and Cahuenga, which had a substantial book section and never closed.) The stores would annually rotate which would be open 24 hours to accommodate the night owls. The book sections in the stores were larger then and had a decent range of genres. I recall I purchased Jerry Pournelle's Jannisaries on such a late night excursion. For the most part the SFF leaned toward film novelizations and other media crossovers but it was better than nothing, which is to say it was better than trying to do something useful and productive.

It's very different today. The choices are far less diverse. A good 70% of the titles are directly target at women, the romance title being the most obviously so. There no, repeat, no adult SF or Fantasy novels. The only titles coming close are the paranormal romances and some of the YA stuff. The remainder generally is female friendly, such as the most recent Grisham in hardback and its predecessor in paperback. Books in genres not strongly read by women are either non-existent or a token presence if there is a recent movie or TV adaptation. I cannot recall the last time I saw a book in a supermarket primarily targeted at adult males.

It's a little better at Walmart and Target, two more major retail channels for the Bigs. But only a little. The sections are still at least 90% women, YA, and kids titles. Adult SFF isn't a significant presence. This is reflected in the Publisher Weekly annual reports on sales.

These are all, of course, dead tree books. If it weren't for e-books the situation would be even gloomier. If you don't have a decent book store in your vicinity, which is increasingly the case for much of the country, you could easily grow up thinking SFF was solely a movie and TV thing. This is why pushing forward the digital mediums is so important.

In the early days of personal computers, if you lived near a major urban area, owners of Radio Shack computers were oddballs. The machines were so lackluster compared to more exciting hardware from Apple, Atari, and Commodore. Yet there was a surprising amount of support for the Tandy line if you didn't mind mail order. The secret was that for a large portion of the country the only store in driving distance that sold computers was Radio Shack. Many people are wary of buying anything with no local support, so Tandy was the computer brand of sole choice for much of flyover country.

That couldn't be repeated today. The web has made both support and retail access far less a matter of how far it was to the nearest storefront carrying the product. So it is for books, especially in SFF.

Blogger VD May 30, 2015 4:51 PM  

I'm skeptical that millennia-long captive breeding programs are a rigorous analogue to the history of human populations, certainly.

You have the timescales reversed. The human races are far more separated by time as measured in generations than are most dog breeds. From Wikipedia:

Dog breeds can now be analyzed through genetics. Genetic markers (microsatellite markers and single-nucleotide polymorphisms) have been analyzed and a representative sample of 85 breeds were placed into four clusters, each cluster having shared ancestors. Cluster 1 is thought to be the oldest, including African and Asian dogs. Cluster 2 is mastiff type dogs; cluster 3 is herding dogs, and cluster 4 modern hunting type dogs (mostly developed in Europe in the 1800s.)

Anonymous Nathan May 30, 2015 4:51 PM  

With worldbuilding, there's a difference between more and better, which is also independent of length. Personally, I wanted more time in the third act world and less in the two act Fall of Man.

You say that Seveneves is a treatment on race, I say Stephenson failed at his intent, you say that much is an exercise for the reader. Illuminate me on what I might have missed.

Blogger Philip Sandifer May 30, 2015 5:03 PM  

Tracking down the original study for that sorting of dog breeds suggests that Cluster 1 is much older - the grey wolf is included in it, notably, and the study calls it the "ancient/Asian" cluster. It doesn't seem to give a precise dating of the cluster, but it would suggest that the scale of "millennia" is accurate in describing the overall totality of dog breeds, even if there exist breeds that arose on a smaller scale. (I'd also, perhaps more cheekily, point out that the 300 year history of Cluster 4 is indeed millennia in dog years.)

More interesting, however, is the study's note that dogs have 27.5% genetic variation across breeds, compared to 5.4% genetic variation among human populations. Which is to say that the observation that dog breeds and human races are not rigorously equatable does indeed seem sound.

Blogger Jim May 30, 2015 5:07 PM  

I tend to doubt you think the brindle stripes on a boxer are a social construct or are painted on by the dog painters.

Or? OR! It's the intersectionality of patriarchal society and capitalistic dog painters that is most problematic for dog identities. Attempting to separate the two just demonstrates the misoskilosy that is inherent in your human privilege.

Blogger Philip Sandifer May 30, 2015 5:08 PM  

You say that Seveneves is a treatment on race, I say Stephenson failed at his intent, you say that much is an exercise for the reader. Illuminate me on what I might have missed.

What I meant was more that sketching out two explicit differences among the seven groups that are clearly based on genetics seems to me to suggest that others probably exist that simply didn't come up in the plot, especially as there's clearly a lot of the world of Seveneves that we don't see. Indeed, the Neoanders' eve (I forget the name, and don't have the book handy) is explicitly said to have done similarly extreme things with her other children.

Blogger Cail Corishev May 30, 2015 5:09 PM  

You have the timescales reversed.

Yeah, I don't know that much about dog breeds, but the Jersey breed of dairy cattle, for instance, which is very distinct from the other breeds, became a separate breed over a few centuries, being isolated for 200 of those years. That's 100 generations max (the soonest a cow can have a calf is at 2 years old), but more likely less than half that. That's nothing compared to how long the human races have bred isolated from each other.

Blogger VD May 30, 2015 5:24 PM  

It doesn't seem to give a precise dating of the cluster, but it would suggest that the scale of "millennia" is accurate in describing the overall totality of dog breeds, even if there exist breeds that arose on a smaller scale. (I'd also, perhaps more cheekily, point out that the 300 year history of Cluster 4 is indeed millennia in dog years.)

None of that changes the simple fact that human races have been separated into distinct genetic populations for longer than dog breeds.

More interesting, however, is the study's note that dogs have 27.5% genetic variation across breeds, compared to 5.4% genetic variation among human populations. Which is to say that the observation that dog breeds and human races are not rigorously equatable does indeed seem sound.

You're going to have to learn to stop using weasel words here. The observation may "seem sound" but it is not sound. Given that humans don't differ in size or color to the extent that dogs do, and that humans have not been forcibly bred for various features, it should be no surprise that there is more genetic variation across canines than humans. Your problem is that you are trying to claim that the 5.4 percent is negligible, while simultaneously observing that the 21.4 percent difference between the two variations is significant.

The reality is that both variations are significant, even if the one is more significant than the other due to artificial breeding pressure. Your position is emotional, not rational.

Blogger VD May 30, 2015 5:25 PM  

Or, more accurately, your deep skepticism is based on emotion, rather than fact and reason. It's understandable that you may not want it to be true, but it observably is true.

Anonymous Nathan May 30, 2015 5:25 PM  

As the other subraces aren't in the Seven, I don't expect much about them. But there was a full Seven, so I expect a writer, when representatives of all seven races are present, to make the physical differences clear. The future world seemed colorblind (raceblind?), but obsessed with matriarchal lineage and sins of the foremothers.

Blogger VD May 30, 2015 5:37 PM  

And about that 5.4 percent... "A wide-ranging study published in 2004 found that 87.6% percent of the total modern human genetic diversity is accounted for by the differences between individuals, and only 9.2% between continents. In general, 5%–15% of genetic variation occurs between large groups living on different continents."

So we're looking at up to 55 percent of the difference between a Great Dane and a Chihuahua. Does that really strike you as necessarily insignificant? Have you at least gone from "deeply skeptical" to "skeptical"?

Blogger Philip Sandifer May 30, 2015 5:48 PM  

To try, very briefly, to sketch out my broader views on race as a classification, it appears that strictly genetic delineation of races is at best questionable and at worst definitively disproven. In any case, strict genetics (as distinct from, for instance, epigenetics) seem one of several potential hypotheses, and not one of the leading ones. Past that, the fact that I'm not a biologist starts to mean that the level of effort needed to understand the situation exceeds my sense of the practical value of the knowledge. Simply put, "what is the relationship between genetics and race" does not seem like a piece of information that is particularly useful outside of some specialist pursuits, none of which are mine.

I will note that this latter step - "to what extent is this question actually useful or interesting" - is one that I seem much more invested in than most of the people here, which probably goes a long way towards explaining our radically different views.

Blogger Philip Sandifer May 30, 2015 6:05 PM  

(Previous comment was written prior to either of Vox's most recent - replying to those now.)

None of that changes the simple fact that human races have been separated into distinct genetic populations for longer than dog breeds.

To clarify, I did not specify "millennia" when talking about dog breeding to make a contrast with the timescale of human populations; rather, I specified it because of the extreme efficiency of captive breeding programs in establishing distinct populations, such that a millennia-long program would be expected to produce profound genetic differences in a way that the unmanaged development of human populations would not necessarily. That last word brings us to

You're going to have to learn to stop using weasel words here. The observation may "seem sound" but it is not sound. Given that humans don't differ in size or color to the extent that dogs do, and that humans have not been forcibly bred for various features, it should be no surprise that there is more genetic variation across canines than humans. Your problem is that you are trying to claim that the 5.4 percent is negligible, while simultaneously observing that the 21.4 percent difference between the two variations is significant.

Ah, no, I'm very much disinclined to give up my weasel words here, simply because I'm ultimately invested in a different sort of question than you seem to be. I don't particularly value certainty about it, both because the underlying facts are both complex and outside my areas of expertise and because, as I said, it simply doesn't seem like a particularly important fact to establish in the first place. So no, I'm not claiming that 5.4% is negligible. I'm saying that I find the signal to noise ratio of the race:dog breed analogy too high for it to be a persuasive argument.

Have you at least gone from "deeply skeptical" to "skeptical"?

Not really, no; my assessment of the question "what explains differences among racial populations" is such that there are still dozens of other hypotheses for explaining racial differences that seem potentially credible such that a singular, simple explanation still does not seem likely to be the best one, especially given that I do not find the dog breed analogy rigorous enough to be informative.

Blogger Jim May 30, 2015 6:25 PM  



You are having your Chinese neighbors over for dinner. I've now told you what not to serve for dessert.

Do you think knowledge of genetic predispositions might have practical value if you live in a country that tosses around "disparate impact" when talking about social policies? Why or why not?

Blogger Philip Sandifer May 30, 2015 6:40 PM  

You are having your Chinese neighbors over for dinner. I've now told you what not to serve for dessert.

Yes, but this is a different question. "What differences exist among human populations and how ought one respond to them" is certainly a question with practical relevance. "Why do those differences exist" is less so. Which is to say, what to serve for dessert does not change based on whether the differences between Chinese people and white people are genetic, environmental, or otherwise.

Do you think knowledge of genetic predispositions might have practical value if you live in a country that tosses around "disparate impact" when talking about social policies?

Less than you might think.

Why or why not?

Because the decision I personally get to make about those social policies is "which of the two political parties that will plausibly shape those social policies will I pull the lever for despite the fact that neither one comes even close to approximating my views and desired policies," which is not a decision where knowing the causes of racial differences would actually help me very much.

Blogger Jim May 30, 2015 7:10 PM  

Which is to say, what to serve for dessert does not change based on whether the differences between Chinese people and white people are genetic, environmental, or otherwise.
This is absurd. If the difference is environmental, a change of the environment changes the answer (e.g. you aren't serving hot apple pie because it's 105 degrees F, but you are if it's 40, or if you have air conditioning). If the difference is cultural, then my telling you that they're Chinese doesn't actually tell you anything, because there are numerous cultures and most are doctrinally fine with chocolate covered bacon. If, however, it's genetic, you aren't going to serve ice cream unless you've prepared their gut by serving yogurt during the meal.

Because the decision I personally get to make about those social policies is...
By this logic, all knowledge about policy (such as political theory on democracy, freedom of speech, economics, environmental impact, etc) is impractical. Debating it is impractical. Voting is impractical. Having an opinion on it is impractical. Might as well weld your own shackles.

Anonymous someone May 30, 2015 8:02 PM  

"Every good novella I've read has left me pissed off because it wasn't substantially longer."

Have you read "The Last of All Suns"? It's sort of cheating, because the rest of the stories give you background, but the story itself is just the right length.

Blogger Philip Sandifer May 30, 2015 9:02 PM  

If, however, it's genetic, you aren't going to serve ice cream unless you've prepared their gut by serving yogurt during the meal.

Yes, but you are overstating the importance of knowing the cause to applying the consequence. Put another way, I can simply know as a fact that there are certain unusual rules to follow with regards to Chinese people and the consumption of dairy products and either learn those rules or know how to go about looking them up in the event of serving food to Chinese people.

Perhaps more to the point, and I say this as someone for whom cooking is a major hobby, this is generally how it works. Even in something that is a specialist topic for me the frequency with which my decision-making process relies on knowing details of food science is fairly rare. I don't need to know the chemical composition of compounds formed by the Mallard reaction to know when my steak is seared either.

By this logic, all knowledge about policy (such as political theory on democracy, freedom of speech, economics, environmental impact, etc) is impractical. Debating it is impractical. Voting is impractical. Having an opinion on it is impractical. Might as well weld your own shackles.

A fair reducto ad absurdum, although ultimately not representative of my thought. However, the expanded version of my glib initial answer is essentially a more complicated version of my thoughts on Chinese people and dairy products.

Blogger pbuxton May 30, 2015 10:28 PM  

@Rantor May 30, 2015 7:43 AM
Forty years ago, the proto-SJWs were the ones calling Campbellian SF escapist trash.

All that and more. SJWs are just varietal Marxists and 60 years ago, folk music (aka, modern, politicized stuff like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and the Weavers) was positioned against rock'n'roll, the "escapist, corporate fluff" of the '50s. 50 years ago, they were booing Bob Dylan for going electric and "betraying the cause." (NB: that cause was never the MLK-era Civil Rights movement, but the radical New Left.

Blogger Jim May 30, 2015 11:20 PM  

Yes, but you are overstating the importance of knowing the cause to applying the consequence.

Knowing the cause allows me to know if it's something I can change or something I have to adapt to. If it's environment, I can build structures to change that. If it's culture, I can change that over time through assimilation. If it's genetic, I can only change that through breeding. Some of these solutions are within my reach. Some are within the reach of my society. And some require adaptation, either through isolation or evolution.

As for cooking, ignorance of the "why" leads to cutting ends off roasts and putting dish racks over turkeys. Besides: somebody did improve cooking by discovering the principles behind the Maillard reaction (a better example would be food preservation, sanitation, and germ theory; the wonderful things that prevent your cooking from killing your guests). You're just cheating by peeking over the shoulders of others who did the work to answer the question of "Why?" Then you pretend that the question has no practical value, when its practicality has probably filled the space beneath your sink with bottles that you paid good money for.

Anonymous tiredofitall May 31, 2015 1:03 AM  

"So, if a branch was expecting to get a 30 percent cut and they only got cut 20 percent, which would be a win, even in a diminishing resource situation.

This has such a familiar ring to it." - Salt

"If you expect a kick in the balls and you get a slap in the face, it's a victory." - Ardal O'Hanlon

Anonymous kjj May 31, 2015 2:54 AM  

The other robot, at May 30, 2015 11:08 AM said:

> Listening to an audiobook is not the same as reading a book. I do not listen to books in the car, for example, I listen to language material, and on plane rides or train rides I have a Kindle or a laptop.

This seems to be a personal thing. My brother has listened to more audio books probably than I've read in paper, and I've got two walls of my office covered from floor to ceiling with books I've read. It works for him, but I find them pretty much completely worthless. One example: I had The Iliad on an endless loop in my car for something like a year, and don't remember a damn thing about it. My brother can go for a walk with an audiobook, then at home flip to the right page and continue.

Blogger epobirs May 31, 2015 7:55 AM  

Audiobooks are a big portion of my consumption these days. My old retired (as a phone) Blackberry with a 32 GB microSD card gives me a pretty good library in the car and other times I need a distraction while walking or doing some lengthy task that requires little focus. Of the 75-ish novels I've consumed to date this year, probably two-thirds were in audio form. Right now I'm on #8 of the Serge Storms series (America's most lovable serial killer) since starting in April.

One thing I've found is that listening to a book I already know in text often makes me aware of details I previously overlooked. It's kind of like the proofreading trick of varying the display elements to force your brain to treat the material as unfamiliar.

Blogger Cail Corishev May 31, 2015 8:16 AM  

One thing I've found is that listening to a book I already know in text often makes me aware of details I previously overlooked.

Same here; I've found that re-reading via audiobook works much better for me than listening to something new. They seem like a great way to save time, by listening to books while driving or working outside; but if it's a new book, it's easy to miss a few sentences because I got focused on the task at hand for a bit, and then I might be lost. They work better for refreshing my memory of a work without needing to devote the sit-down time to it.

Blogger ScuzzaMan May 31, 2015 4:39 PM  

If you can't read a thousand page novel in a year, you can't read.

I WROTE a 96,000 word novel in less than 3 months, on my daily commute. Granted, (A) my daily commute is 90 minutes by train, and (B) it is shite, but still ...

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