Tag Archives: free stuff

Links for October 16

Josh and I spent the last two weeks in London and Paris, having a splendid time and getting to hang out with an astonishing and wonderful variety of people. Now we’re back, trying desperately to get caught up. While I clean 400 emails out of my inbox (not an exaggeration), I found a handful of interesting links that had accumulated:

  • Avon just launched a Facebook app, Avon Social Reader, that will let readers preview and discuss Avon titles and buy some of them DRM-free from AllRomanceEbooks.
  • I recently signed up for Daily Science Fiction, lured in by Nicole Cipri’s wonderful “A Silly Love Story”, and have been enjoying it; it’s easy to make time to read one short story a day, and the quality’s pretty good. Newcomer SnackReads looks to be aimed at the same market, but instead of a free plain-text email to read in a few minutes, you get a $1.99 epub file to read over a lunch break or commute. They’re launching with Suzy McKee Charnas’s long-OOP story “Scorched Supper on New Niger”.
  • Want even more short fiction? Cemetery Dance is putting out a bunch of short horror e-books to lead up to Halloween.
  • A 12-year-old interviews China Miéville about Railsea.
  • I interview Jo Walton (on video) about Among Others, just before or just after it won a Nebula Award. I haven’t watched this and have no idea whether it came out well, so if you get a chance to watch it, let me know what you think!

On a Lighter Note

Some quick fun links to balance out the heavy stuff I’ve been blogging about this week:

ChiZine Publications Launches Supergod Mega-Issue of Chiaroscuro

Back about ten years ago when I was just starting out in this business, I did a bit of resume-building editing work for an obscure little online magazine called Chiaroscuro. Little did I know that this obscure little online magazine would be the seed from which sprouted ChiZine Publications, one of my favorite independent publishers of speculative fiction; the CZP/Rannu fund for writers; a superb reading series that makes me wish I lived closer to Toronto; and lots of other awesomeness.

Chiaroscuro was funded by Dorchester for a long time, but that sponsorship seems to have gone away, so the magazine is switching to a Strange Horizons–like donation model. To draw in readers (and donors), they’ve put together a “Supergod Mega-Issue” featuring a ton of fiction and poetry, all available to read online for free.

I hope this venture works out well for them. Seven cents a word might not sound like much, but it’s enough for a fiction sale to qualify toward SFWA membership, and the more paying venues there are out there, the more writers can keep writing and feeling valued for what they do.

The Secret Life of Laird Barron

J.P. Langan has masterminded a tremendous impromptu online anthology of stories involving horror writer Laird Barron. Those of you who have met Laird will be entirely willing to believe that he was kidnapped by a man intent on sacrificing him to darker powers, as Langan recounts:

Mr. Norris swept his arms around him, almost upsetting his balance. “I’m no longer alone; I haven’t been for some time, now. The Word’s attendants, its supplicants… As I’ve drawn nearer to the end of my task, I’ve had glimpses of them—not enough to say what I’ve seen with any certainty, just that they’re present, all around me.”

As if in reply, the branches of the evergreens around them clashed in a sudden breeze, and Laird thought the spaces between them darkened.

That he took a turn as a very exotic dancer, according to Lee Thomas:

The Husky threw back the beaded curtain and burst into the lantern light, stomping his mink thigh-high boots in heated rhythm to Motley Crue, who expounded the virtues and the vices of the Wild Side. He strutted to the edge of the stage and spun, slipped the jacket to the crook of his elbow to reveal a white, muscled shoulder, and the men shouted as if for blood.

That he studied carnivorous ants in Cancun with Sarah Langan:

“Well,” Barron explained, “I’m bringing a colony back with me to Alaska and training them, so probably pretty soon. The west coast, then across the continent. Their neurochemical signals are very strong—you’d be surprised. Ants make hosts of lots of animals, even humans. But don’t worry, they work fast. When your time comes, you won’t feel a thing.”

That he fled an angry volcano spirit as described by Jack Haringa (himself recently the victim of a similar literary roast):

A hot wind chased him up the side of the cinder cone. He didn’t know if it was natural, but he knew it smelled wrong. It could have been the trade winds or the breath of whatever dragged itself across the beach. He knew it was behind him and that was enough.

At the top he wanted to rest but the ground shook again and he could smell burning and something else, something rotten, and the wind spun dust into his eye and heard a sound like the inhalation of the very sea itself. His senses wanted to shut down, to deny these things, but he wouldn’t let them. He did not want to hear what voice or roar or cry would follow that great gulping of atmosphere nor to see what could make such a sound. But he had to hear and see if he wanted to live.

That he ate himself to death at a book signing with Jeff Ford:

When his lunch was revealed, I did a double take. Between two circular slices of rye bread the size of coffee saucers was stacked about four inches of what looked like bad chicken. The chunks of it were emerald green, like something you’d find at the back of the fridge before moving from a place you’d lived in for 8 years. Dripping from within onto the table top was a pale yellow sauce. I instinctively pushed my chair back a few inches and said, “What the fuck is that?”

He turned his head and stared at me with his good eye—a look devoid of emotion. “Lunch,” he said.

And many more sordid tales that J.P. Langan has collected links to here. Read them all–and wonder what secrets from your past might be revealed by your own writerly friends should they take it upon themselves to “celebrate” you in such a fashion.

Is the Free the Enemy of the Paid?

When I posted my list of places to get legally free fiction online, commenter T Moore replied: “As a struggling writer and publisher you just put a nail in my coffin.”

I’d like to open this up for wider discussion.

People have more options for ways to spend their sitting-and-looking-at-something time than ever before. Books used to compete with newspapers and magazines, and then with films and television; now they also compete with video games and the entirety of the internet. So I’m not surprised that Moore feels threatened by a blog post that promotes cut-throat competitors who can’t be undercut because they’ve already dropped the access price to zero. Obviously, all things being equal, people will choose free entertainment over entertainment they have to pay for.

My question is whether all things are in fact equal.

There are lots of reasons that people spend money. Some people pay $30 for exquisite hardcover reprints of novellas while others read the same novellas online. They’re paying for a sensual experience that cannot be had for free. I get lots of books for free from work, but I still buy books written by my favorite authors, or published by my favorite publishers; I see those purchases almost like charitable donations, a way of saying that these people make my world better and I want them to be able to keep doing that. I’m paying for the feeling of contributing to my community. People also happily pay for scarcity (limited editions), personalization (author inscriptions), and convenience (faster shipping).

Most pertinent to this conversation is that people pay for the expectation of quality. I would suggest that those legal free fiction venues introduce readers to new authors, help readers build up an expectation of quality work from those authors, and thereby encourage them to later pay for those authors’ new works.* In addition, the readers get lots of information and entertainment for very little investment of time and no investment of funds. As someone who’s in favor of reading and encouraging readers, I think this is a pretty valuable service to provide to the reading community.

* It’s no coincidence that many people, most recently and famously Neil Gaiman, say the same thing about pirated books. That conversation has been had many times in many other places and I don’t feel a need to recapitulate it here, but I figure someone else will bring it up if I don’t head it off. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s focus solely on legal entertainment.

So who loses out, in this world? As far as I can tell, only authors who haven’t earned that readerly expectation of quality (because their work is poor or because they haven’t gotten a lot of exposure), and publishers that don’t provide an unusual and valuable service or experience. And in both cases, I don’t think the existence of free entertainment options is really the problem.

Bring on the discussion; just keep it reasonably civil, please.

Legally Free SF/F E-books, Short Stories, and Podcasts

While discussing book piracy with a friend, I started coming up with a list of places to find legal free speculative fiction online. A few other folks kindly suggested some links. Here’s what I have, but I’m sure there’s more. Please suggest your favorites in the comments!



Short stories: