Tartarus is on sale for $0.99 through March. I was intending to do it as a promo and release Horror Movie in April, but at the rate I’m going War Show will be out first. Still, I’ll be interested to see what effect that has on sales.

I’m a Best-Seller

Actually, it’s even better than I thought. That single sale of Final Contact took it to #42 in some German SF short story category that I can’t adequately translate:

Amazon best seller page

Can I now say that I’m a best-selling author 🙂 ?

Character names

Character names are one of the hardest things to get right in a story. In the past, I’ve agonised for hours trying to pick the right character name before even starting the story… and then changed them again after the story was finished.

Lately though, I’ve been trying something else. Instead of picking a name, I name them for their role in the story or their personality and pick a name to replace it at the end. This has the additional benefit that I don’t forget what they are supposed to be doing in the story, since their name tells me.

With War Show, for example, I have Cool, Beer, Nerd, Nazi, Girl and Granny as some of the main characters. Their roles are reasonably self-explanatory and I’m sure I’ll come up with some good names later.

Why Age of Conan sucks, part 2

A few weeks back the Age of Conan people sent me an email offering extra goodies if I resubscribed for three months. I’d been waiting until I’d have some time to actually make use of those three months as there wasn’t any point resubscribing if I didn’t log on, and today I logged in and selected that offer and… it won’t let me pay for it.

Spent ten minutes talking to a customer service person and it appears that the only way I can get the special offer is by paying another $15 for a subscription for the time I didn’t play. Money that would simply be thrown away, in other words.

So they’ve achieved two things:

1. Annoyed a customer. If they hadn’t sent me the email I’d never have known about it and never cared. But by sending it to me, letting me select it when I logged in and then refusing to let me have it, they’ve annoyed me enough that I will probably never resubscribe again.

2. Lost $35 for the sake of that extra $15. Instead of getting the $35, they’ll get nothing.

Good game, shame about the administration.

Starship crews

I originally posted this on the Aboslute Write forum, but I think it’s worth preserving for posterity. So here it is again:

One of the things that bugs me the most about modern SF stories are starships which have hundreds or thousands of crew members with very ill-defined roles. I can accept it in older SF written when computers were less powerful but I have a hard time suspending disbelief when confronted with a culture that can fly around the galaxy faster than light, yet can’t automate away most of those jobs.

In the Navy one reason you have lots of people on ships for damage control; if someone shoots a big hole in the hull you want a lot of bodies to plug it up before the ship sinks. In space, if someone shoots a big hole in the hull you either seal off that section of the ship or you’ll probably be dead in a few minutes. More likely, if you have a sufficiently advanced technology level, if it’s small enough to survive you seal it off and wait for the automatic systems to repair it for you.

This is particularly true if you have AIs, because you can probably fit a lot more AI systems into a ship than human crew. If the AI is good enough, you can eliminate the entire crew and the ship can fly itself.

Shift work may be necessary on a military ship, but probably not civilian. Anything urgent enough that you can’t wake up to fix it is probably urgent enough that you’re all going to die anyway. NASA tried shift operations on the Apollo missions, but soon decided that the whole crew should sleep and they’d wake someone if they had to deal with a problem. I believe shuttle crews did the same.

I have five crew members on the freighter in my SF novels and I’m not still quite sure what they all do; I keep removing someone because I can’t think of a good use for them in the crew, then bringing them back because I need them for the story. Which kind of works, one of them just gets very defensive if anyone asks him what he actually does.

Blurb and structure

Some interesting posts on book blurbs and story structure that were linked to on the Kindle boards:

This probably helps to explain why I’ve been going around in circles on Horror Movie for so long, as I started from a simple idea to see where it would go. Normally I write outlines, but I wanted to see how well that worked; I’m not sure that it did. I just trimmed out a few scenes that definitely won’t go into the final version, so the word count should now be approximately correct.

The Internet as aberration

The Internet is a temporary aberration in the history of the human race. For the first time any human can communicate with any other in real time regardless of where they may be; with satellite and wireless you can access the Internet anywhere on the planet. This wasn’t possible before the 21st century and it won’t be possible in the 22nd.

The problem is the speed of light. A message on a fibre-optic cable can travel around the world in little more than a tenth of a second, but even the round-trip time to the Moon is three seconds, making real-time communication difficult. Certainly it’s a long delay for interaction with a web site, which will take at least that time to respond to clicking a link.

Beyond the Moon the problem only grows worse. Mars is minutes away at best and half an hour at worst. Pluto is nearly six hours each way. The Oort cloud is around a year, equivalent to sending a message to Australia and back in Captain Cook’s era. The nearest star… send an email and you can expect a reply in the next decade.

This is a special time. Make the most of it.