That whole “wall of words, beautiful and wise” thing — it doesn’t work so well when the words are in e-book form.
Not that I have anything against e-books, especially when some of what I’ve read in the last several months would have been a criminal waste of tree-flesh to actually put in print. And I’ve read some damn fine works of fiction in digital form, too, plus it’s a hell of a lot easier to carry around a half-dozen novels all on a Kindle — and no worries about being seen in public reading sci-fi in places where reading such can get a person hurt. (For the record, I have never been threatened — or even talked rudely to — for reading science fiction since moving here. The people here are, if anything, a bit proud of their science-fiction connections — Jack Williamson lived in Portales most of his life — and that’s just… awesome. In contrast, back East I heard things like “Science fiction? You mean like witchcraft?!?” and a couple of death threats for reading the stuff. Yes, kids, death threats for reading a novel about a guy who travels around in a spaceship that he found.) Nevertheless, I do still worry, because I haven’t been in this more-civilized little town for long, and the habits of thirty-something years take time to overcome.
I discovered just yesterday, though, that cats don’t like to sit on a Kindle. My cat Calliope actually asked me to move mine because it was in her spot on the side table. *shakes head*
Anyway, a little while ago, I downloaded not one but eight e-books to read and review. I don’t know why I do this to myself…
Less than a mile from my house are several ‘walls of words,’ and yet I’ve only read a few dozen novels from that collection in the past two years. (I’m suddenly realizing that, yes, it has been two years exactly since we moved here… You’ll have to forgive me if I recall this date primarily for something else.) Earlier today, I blathered a bit on a Goodreads group thread about how I suspect it’s partly having too many options that keeps me from reading more of the books in the library’s special collection. (And they don’t have more of that poetry, damnit! Or if they do, it’s not on the shelf where anyone can see it and, y’know, sit there in the library and read it, since of course such things cannot be taken out of the special collection — some dragons have been known to do bad things like steal
books treasure from others’ hoards, and it’s best not to take chances with the rare stuff.) But the other thing that keeps me from reading more is having less willingness to risk reading something that turns out to be utter crap. I used to read any science fiction or fantasy I could get my hands on, back when I was a youngster risking the wrath of the pseudo-parents (long story, don’t ask) just by reading anything SF/F, especially the kind I liked to read back then. (There’s a pun in that, kids — see if you can spot it.) These days, I am less inclined to put up with nonsense simply because there’s a spaceship or a dragon (or both) on the cover. “Nonsense,” in this usage, meaning “writing that is so bad that even my cat, asleep on the other side of the room, can hear the clunk.” Or “a story written by an author who clearly slept through fifth-grade science class and never bothered to remedy his/her resulting lack of basic scientific knowledge.” (No, really, Earth is not “the only planet in the galaxy.” Also, for the record, if you have a starship traveling at four times the speed of light — through normal space, no less, so that interstellar dust can ‘strike the hull with a sound like falling rain’ — you will not get to the opposite side of the galaxy in just over twelve years. Also, interstellar dust striking the hull of a ship going that fast = bad for the ship. Anyone with a lick of sense would have found some way to shield the thing: ablative ice shielding, magnetic fields to shove the dust out of the way before it even gets that close, whatever… because even at “merely” eighty-eight percent of the speed of light, matter striking something else hits as if it’s anti-matter in terms of damage. You won’t get the radiation burst of an actual matter/anti-matter reaction, but a thousand holes in your hull is still a bad thing.) Or perhaps “nonsense” means “exhibiting toward some segments of the population attitudes/beliefs that I, as a reader, find abhorrent.” (These are not necessarily the attitudes you may think of first. For example, if I read a story with an autistic character who is depicted as mentally retarded because ‘it’s all the same thing’ according to the author, I’m going to throw the book across the room. If it’s a library book, I’ll throw it carefully out of respect for others’ property, but nevertheless, that shit is going airborne.)
(Hmm. If the parenthetical rants are longer than the rest of the paragraph, perhaps there’s a problem with choice of topic, yes?)
Anyway. Lots of e-books today. And I will read each and every one of them. For better or for worse, I am willing to help out with that whole word-of-mouth thing that authors — especially indie authors — need in order to attract readers. On the other hand (as anyone who read my last blog post knows), I do not approve of authors just throwing stuff up on the Internet for sale (you ask me to pay for it, you damn well better have something that at least doesn’t waste my time) without having enough respect for their craft, their audience, and themselves to make it readable first. If I read something that I think is good, I will say so. If I read something that isn’t to my personal taste but is nevertheless a decent read that I can see will appeal to others, I will say so. If it’s a piece of utter crap that was a waste of electrons to make into an e-book, I’ll say so (and have) — and I’ll say in a fair amount of detail why I think it’s crap, because any review that tends to one extreme or the other should not be trusted without the reviewer giving their reasons for having that opinion. (Maybe you don’t think that end punctuation on sentences is necessary and that an author ought to be free to ignore subject-verb agreement without being judged for it… in which case, “Why are you reading my blog?” asks Mercenary Proofreader. *grin*)
This latest haul of e-books looks fairly promising, though. There are a few that, in my opinion, probably suffer only from having poorly written blurbs on Amazon. (I know from personal experience that writing a good blurb is harder than writing a good novel.) There are also a few that, if their blurbs are at all accurate, are going to be very enjoyable to read.
And somewhere in all of this, I need to read the rest of that anthology that LR’s short story is in… And write a review for Bless Your Mechanical Heart, which was quite good.