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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Me in Manila

Let's see... I'm in the Philippines. Lots of travelling yesterday, and the international date line erased my Tuesday. Just woke up with Mike asleep in the next room. He got here a few hours after me, around 5.00am (on a different plane), and I'm letting him sleep.

An email from Penn Jillette (subject line of email: You Whore) let me know that Amazon have released the Kindle, which was, as a few of you have guessed, the mysterious device I was playing with earlier this year.

Yes, I was sincere (and unpaid) in my enthusiasm for it. They made me send the one I was test driving back a couple of months ago and I still miss it (especially on the planes last night, when I had to grit my teeth and only bring what I could easily carry -- so I read the latest two Russell Hoban books with pleasure then I wrote, but missed having a few dozen books to choose from).

I think it's a bit overpriced at $400. It's a delivery system, after all. Interestingly, they're not yet really pushing some of the things that sold me on it (how easy it is to put your own content onto it, for example, whether Documents or PDFs or downloaded Dr Who novels). But when I was in Hungary, Maddy read a bunch of books on it as she sat in the film studio, and I watched it sell itself to whoever went by, and I watched her treating it as a library or a bookshelf (so when she had finished the Meg Cabot books I'd downloaded as we were leaving, she read Stephen King's Cell, some P.G. Wodehouse and then Dracula, because they were on there). I imagine it's going to get prettier as it goes on, much as the iPod did.

Hi Neil,I see that you're featured on Amazon's Kindle page, providing a favorable review of the technology. Criticism (regarding DRM) is popping up: http://diveintomark.org/archives/2007/11/19/the-future-of-reading and http://daringfireball.net/2007/11/dum What's your take? DRM aside, I feel the device is too expensive. They're competing with tradition, here -- and to do so, they need to offer a compelling product. (I liken digital books to screw-cap wine bottles vs. corks.) People love the feel of paper as they read, and an expensive, proprietary device isn't the answer, is it? Better to sell the device for next to nothing -- if they're going to charge for books, or build a year subscription into the price of the device and charge little or nothing for the books. I also like John Gruber's idea of giving away a Kindle digital book with every print book bought from Amazon.With the current pricing structure (and the DRM issue), I fear the device is destined to flop. There's no compelling reason (that I can see) to own a Kindle device. I'd rather just buy an actual book.

For me it's closer to CDs and iPods. If I'm at home, my iPod tends to sit, half-forgotten, in a pocket or a bag. It's easier to grab a CD and put it on, and I like looking at the packaging, the audio quality is (or feels) better, and the listening experience is different and probably closer to what the artist hoped for. The iPod is, for me, for the road, and I couldn't survive without it.

I don't see that there's a DRM problem -- there's nothing stopping you either reading books on someone else's Kindle or putting non-rights-managed stuff on your own. I don't think everyone has a right to digitally copy and distribute books they bought to others, any more than I think they have a right to, say, photocopy and distribute my books, or to print their own copies and sell or give them away. I'm all for authors giving stuff away if they want to, but authors are at least currently, allowed to decide in what way they want their books made available in the marketplace (Cory Doctorow isn't releasing the individual issues of the comics adaptations he's currently doing under Creative Commons, because the publisher feared it would upset retailers but will be releasing the graphic novel collection as Creative Commons. Fair enough).

...

Dear Mr. Gaiman,I'm the member of an online baby names group, which is rather beside the point except that someone brought up your middle name. Kindred? And then there was a lot of posting on whether people like it or think it's dumb or whatever, but I was curious whether (1) your middle name IS Kindred, and (2) there's a story behind that?

1) I'm afraid not
2) I think the story is that they were thinking of Phillip K Dick's middle name

...

I recently saw “Beowulf 3-D,” which having worked on CGI projects, I still have problems grasping what a mammoth undertaking the finished film represents. However, I had a problem with the storyline, so being a long time fan I concluded “Why not just email Neil.”

So here it is having seen the film only once, I was unclear on what we where supposed to take away from it. By which I mean: “The Hero-Beowulf” the last of the great heroes ends up being as weak and flawed as all common men are nature. “The Demon-Grendal’s Mother” the last of the pagan deities is denied and destroyed at the end. The Christian religion, which offers an alternative to pagan beliefs is championed by a cowardly murderer whose faith doesn’t protect from the power of the pagan dragon.

So is the point that “all men are weak by nature and doomed by there flaws.” The pagan gods are gone (which is good) since the Christian faith offered no man protection against them. So, in the end we are left with no heroes, no demons, no pagan gods, left only to chose between an impotent faith like Christian or the inherent flawed power of mankind. This seems different from many of your others works which seem to always offer some kind of alternative “meta-physical / supernatural” notion outside our common understanding.

That’s pretty much it. By the way thanks in advance, for taking the time to read this and I look forward to a reply if you get a chance (even if the reply is “it’s just a bloody movie not a belief system).

Thanks;

Bryce Southard


I think one of the most interesting things about creating art is that once it's out there, people are free to make their minds up about what you did, which means that your take on the plot is as valid as mine (particularly because I have all the other drafts and the cut scenes still in my head). But no, that wasn't my take on the people or the events at all, or even on the religions of the time.

Of the reviews I've been sent so far I guess that Henry Gee's over at NATURE http://network.nature.com/blogs/user/henrygee/2007/11/19/bigging-up-beowulfand Roz Kaveney's at Strange Horizons http://www.strangehorizons.com/reviews/2007/11/beowulf-comments.shtml would both be closer to my own thoughts about what Roger and I were trying to do in the script, although I don't think that either Roger or I could speak for what Bob Zemeckis intended.

...
Hey Neil, I saw "Beowulf" on Sunday and noticed a few things.1) You wrote the lyrics to "Olaf's Drinking Song", which I got a kick out of. 2) Even Lorraine's name is featured in the credits.and 3) The monster form of Grendel's mother is seen in the reflections of the water and once (wholly) on the ceiling of the underwater cave camouflaging with the gold treasure cluttered up there with it. Am I correct? Or was I just seeing things that weren't there? Thanks, Ken

You're perfectly correct.

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