[x]Blackmoor Vituperative

Saturday, 2008-03-29

Peter O’Toole is cool

Filed under: Books,Movies — bblackmoor @ 00:20

Peter O’Toole is just so cool. I just found out that he has written two books (autobiographies, both), and is in the process of writing a third. I intend to read them. I will probably have to go to a library: they appear to be both out of print and expensive.

Tuesday, 2007-11-20

Recommended books for the Unix/Linux beginner

Filed under: Books,Linux — bblackmoor @ 10:01

I was browsing Amazon earlier, looking for books to recommend to a friend who may be interested in getting into Linux. I thought other people might find this handy, too, so here they are. It is a very short list. There are literally dozens of other books on specific subjects that I would also recommend (the O’Reilly Apache book, a few Perl books, and so on), but this is a start. These are more or less in order of increasing complexity.

Saturday, 2007-03-03

Life imitates art imitates sex

Filed under: Books — bblackmoor @ 16:20

In December of 2001, BBSpot published the article, Publisher Cleared in Pop-Up Book Trial, which describes a lawsuit against Random House brought by people who… well, just read it:

Publishing giant Random House was cleared of all charges in a lawsuit stemming from a fatal accident involving a pop-up book of sexual positions that they published from May 1999 to December 2000.

The class action suit was filed by Skrelnick, Callard, and Associates law firm in the Spring of 2001 when several people were injured trying to duplicate one the positions found in the book. It seems that a folding error on page 27 caused a number of couples to inadvertently snap their partners spines when attempting that position.

It took a few years for the real world to catch up, but in 2006 Melcher Media published The Pop-up Book of Sex. It appears to have received a number of positive reviews. Just be careful with the pose on page 27.

Monday, 2006-10-16

H.P. Lovecraft, the heroic nerd

Filed under: Books — bblackmoor @ 11:16

That the work of H.P. Lovecraft has been selected for the Library of America would have surprised Edmund Wilson, whose idea the Library was. In a 1945 review he dismissed Lovecraft’s stories as “hackwork,” with a sneer at the magazines for which they were written, Weird Talesand Amazing Stories, “where…they ought to have been left.”[1] Lovecraft had been dead for eight years by then, and although his memory was kept alive by a cult— there is no other word—that established a publishing house for the express purpose of collecting his work, his reputation was strictly marginal and did not seem likely to expand.

Since then, though, for a writer who depended entirely on the meager sustenance of the pulps and whose brief career brought him sometimes to the brink of actual starvation, whose work did not appear in book form during his lifetime (apart from two slender volumes, each of a single story, published by fans) and did not attract the attention of serious critics before his death in 1937, Lovecraft has had quite an afterlife. His influence has been far-reaching and, in the last thirty or forty years, continually on the increase, if often in extraliterary ways. Board games, computer games, and role-playing games have been inspired by his work; the archive at hplovecraft.com includes an apparently endless list of pop songs—not all of them death metal —that quote or refer to his tales; and there have been around fifty film and television adaptations, although hardly any of these have been more than superficially related to their sources.

(from The New York Review of Books, The Heroic Nerd)

Go read the whole article.

Sunday, 2006-10-08

Lovecraft and copyright

Filed under: Books,Intellectual Property — bblackmoor @ 15:27

Julie Harris-Hulcher has an interesting article about Lovcecraft’s work and how it thrived while eschewing the protections of conventional copyright. It is worthy of serious consideration.

The article itself is part of The Reader’s Guide To The Cthulhu Mythos.

Thursday, 2006-09-28

What I am reading

Filed under: Books — bblackmoor @ 12:43

I found a real gem today: Jack London: Writings.

Wednesday, 2006-09-27

What I am reading

Filed under: Books — bblackmoor @ 11:12

Here’s what is on my nightstand right now:

Hindu Myths
The Historian
Persian Mythology
Persian Myths
The Superhero Handbook
Wicked: The Grimmerie

Tuesday, 2006-09-19

Write a Novel

Filed under: Books — bblackmoor @ 10:24

Write a Novel is a form of open courseware: Learning materials placed online for free use by anyone who wishes to do so. At this point, it is an experiment; if it succeeds, Capilano College may create more such guides, along the lines pioneered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The guide contains 18 items, PDF documents that give you some basic information on topics related to writing fiction in general and novels in particular. Each item includes one or more assignments based on the material you’ve read.

(from Write a Novel)

Saturday, 2006-08-26

Nth Degree update

Filed under: Books — bblackmoor @ 14:48

I’m currently prepping a whole new batch of stories for daily updates. In the meantime, check out the new themed story collections on our home page! Our first collection features some of our best vampire stories!

Michael D. Pederson
Nth Degree

Thursday, 2006-06-29

Jim Baen, 1943 – 2006

Filed under: Books — bblackmoor @ 16:18

From: David Drake
To: DrakeNews@david-drake.com
Sent: Thursday, June 29, 2006 5:06 AM
Subject: [DrakeNews] Jim Baen

My friend Jim Baen passed away peacefully and with dignity at 5 pm
yesterday, June 28, 2006.

Dave Drake


Jim Baen called me on the afternoon of June 11. He generally phoned on
weekends, and we’d usually talk a couple more times in the course of a
week; but this was the last time.

In the course of the conversation he said, “You’ve got to write my
obituary, you know.” I laughed (I’ll get to that) and said, “Sure, if
I’m around–but remember, I’m the one who rides the motorcycle.”

So I’m writing this. Part of it’s adapted from the profile I did in
2000 for the program book of the Chicago Worldcon at which Jim was
Editor Guest of Honor. They cut my original title, which Jim loved:
The God of Baendom. I guess they thought it was undignified and

The title was undignified and whimsical. So was Jim.

James Patrick Baen was born October 22, 1943, on the Pennsylvania-New
York border, a long way by road or in culture from New York City. He
was introduced to SF early through the magazines in a step-uncle’s
attic, including the November, 1957, issue of Astounding with The
Gentle Earth by Christopher Anvil.

The two books Jim most remembered as formative influences were
Fire-Hunter by Jim Kjelgaard and Against the Fall of Night by Arthur C
Clarke. The theme of both short novels is that a youth from a decaying
culture escapes the trap of accepted wisdom and saves his people
despite themselves. This is a fair description of Jim’s life in SF: he
was always his own man, always a maverick, and very often brilliantly
successful because he didn’t listen to what other people thought.

For example, the traditional model of electronic publishing required
that the works be encrypted. Jim thought that just made it hard for
people to read books, the worst mistake a publisher could make. His
e-texts were clear and in a variety of common formats.

While e-publishing has been a costly waste of effort for others, Baen
Books quickly began earning more from electronic sales than it did
from Canada. By the time of Jim’s death, the figure had risen to ten
times that.

Jim didn’t forget his friends. In later years he arranged for the
expansion of Fire-Hunter so that he could republish it (as The Hunter
Returns, originally the title of the Charles R Knight painting Jim put
on the cover).

Though Clarke didn’t need help to keep his books in print the way
Kjelgaard did, Jim didn’t forget him either. Jim called me for help a
week before his stroke, because Amazon.com had asked him to list the
ten SF novels that everyone needed to read to understand the field.
Against the Fall of Night was one of the titles that we settled on.

Jim’s father died at age fifty; he and his stepfather didn’t warm to
one another. Jim left home at 17 and lived on the streets for several
months, losing weight that he couldn’t at the time afford. He enlisted
in the army as the only available alternative to starving to death.

Jim spent his military career in Bavaria where he worked for the Army
Security Agency as a Morse Code Intercept Operator, monitoring
transmissions from a Soviet callsign that was probably a armored
corps. One night he determined that ‘his’ Soviet formation was moving
swiftly toward the border. This turned out to be an unannounced
training exercise–but if World War III had broken out in 1960, Jim
would’ve been the person who announced it.

Jim entered CCNY on the GI Bill and became a Hippie. Among other jobs
he managed a Greenwich Village coffee house, sometimes acting as
barker as well: ‘Come in and see tomorrow’s stars today!’ None of the
entertainers became tomorrow’s stars, but that experience of unabashed
huckstering is part of the reason that Jim himself did.

Jim’s first job in publishing was as an assistant in the Complaints
Department of Ace Books. He was good at it–so good that management
tried to promote him to running the department. He turned the offer
down, however, because he really wanted to be an SF editor.

In 1973 Jim was hired at Galaxy and If magazines when Judy-Lynn
Benjamin left. He became assistant to Ejler Jakobson, who with Bernie
Williams taught Jim the elements of slash and burn editing.

Unfortunately, this was a necessary skill for an editor in Jim’s
position. The publisher wasn’t in a hurry to pay authors, so
established writers who could sell elsewhere preferred to do so.
Galaxy and If published a lot of first stories and not a few rejects
by major names. Material like that had to be edited for
intelligibility and the printer’s deadline, not nuances of prose

Apart from basic technique Jim had very little to learn from his
senior, who shortly thereafter left to pursue other opportunities.
Jim’s first act as editor was to recall stories that his predecessor
had rejected over Jim’s recommendation. When in later years I thanked
him for retrieving the first two Hammer stories, Jim responded, ”Oh,
David–Jake rejected much better stories than yours!” (Among them was
Ursula K LeGuin’s Nebula winner, The Day Before the Revolution.)

Ace Books, in many ways the standard bearer of SF paperback publishing
in the Fifties, had fallen on hard times in the Seventies. Charter
Communications bought the company and installed Tom Doherty as
publisher. Tom hired Jim to run the SF line. The first thing the new
team did was to pay Ace’s back (and in some cases, way back)
royalties. By the time the famous SFWA audit of Ace Books was
complete, the money had already been paid to the authors; a matter of
some embarrassment to the SFWA officers who were aware of the facts.

Ace regained its position as an SF line where readers could depend on
getting a good story. (To Homer, that was the essence of art; not all
writers and editors of more recent times would have agreed.) As well
as pleasing readers, the Ace SF line made money for the company;
unfortunately (due to decisions from far above the level of publisher)
SF came to be the only part of the company that did make money. Tom
left Ace in 1980, founded Tor Books, and hired Jim to set up the Tor
SF line.

Which Jim did, following the same pattern that had revived Ace: a
focus on story and a mix of established authors with first-timers whom
Jim thought just might have what it took. It worked again.

In fact it worked so well that when Simon and Schuster went through a
series of upheavals in its Pocket Books line in 1983, management
decided to hire Jim as their new SF editor. Jim thought about the
offer, then made a counter-offer: with the backing of two friends, he
would form a separate company which would provide S&S with an SF line
to distribute. S&S agreed and Baen Books was born.

Jim used the same formulas with his new line as he had at Ace and Tor,
and again he succeeded. If that were easy, then past decades wouldn’t
be littered with the detritus of so many other people’s attempts to do
the same thing.

Even more than had been the case at Ace and Tor, Jim was his own art
director at Baen Books–and he really directed rather than viewing his
job as one of coddling artists. Baen Books gained a distinct look.
Like the book contents, the covers weren’t to everyone’s taste–but
they worked.

Jim had the advantage over some editors in that he knew what a story
is. He had the advantage over most editors in being able to spot
talent before somebody else had published it. (Lois Bujold, Eric
Flint, John Ringo and Dave Weber were all Baen discoveries whom Jim
promoted to stardom.)

Furthermore, he never stopped developing new writers. The week before
his stroke, Jim bought a first novel from a writer whom Baen Books had
been grooming through short stories over the past year.

The most important thing of all which Jim brought to his company was a
personal vision. Baen Books didn’t try to be for everybody, but it was
always true to itself. In that as in so many other ways, the company
mirrored Jim himself.

When Jim called me on June 11, he told me he was dying. I thought he
was simply having a bad interaction among prescription drugs. Though
the stroke that killed him occurred the next day in hospital, Jim was
right and I was wrong–again.

After that opening, Jim said, “I’m just going to say it: we’ve known
each other all these years and you seem to like me. Why?”

That’s a hell of a thing to be hit with out of the blue. Jim had
always known that he was socially awkward and that he not infrequently
rubbed people the wrong way, but it wasn’t something we discussed.
(And it’s obviously not a subject on which I could be of much help.)

If I’d been a different person, I’d have started out by listing the
things he did right: for example, that I’d never met a more loving
father than Jim was to his children (Jessica Baen, 29, Jim’s daughter
with Madeline Gleich, and Katherine Baen, 14, Jim’s daughter with Toni
Weisskopf). Being me, I instead answered the question a number of us
ask ourselves: “How can you like like a person who’s behaved the way
you know I have?” I said that his flaws were childish ones, tantrums
and sulking; not, never in my experience, studied cruelty. He agreed
with that.

And then I thought further and said that when I was sure my career was

“You thought that? When was that?”

In the mid ’90s, I explained, when Military SF was going down the
tubes with the downsizing of the military. But when I was at my lowest
point, which was very low, I thought, “I can write two books a year.
And Jim will pay me $20K apiece for them–”

“I’d have paid a lot more than that!”

And I explained that this wasn’t about reality: this was me in the
irrational depths of real depression. And even when I was most
depressed and most irrational, I knew in my heart that Jim Baen would
pay me enough to keep me alive, because he was that sort of person.
He’d done that for Keith Laumer whom he disliked, because Laumer had
been an author Jim looked for when he was starting to read SF.

I could not get so crazy and depressed that I didn’t trust Jim Baen to
stand by me if I needed him. I don’t know a better statement than that
to sum up what was important about Jim, as a man and as a friend.

–Dave Drake


Newsletters are archived at http://david-drake.com/newsletters.html

Among his other many accomplishments, Jim Baen is the “Baen” behind the Baen Free Library.

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