Monday, June 23, 2003

Superheroes of History. This thing seems to be working again.

Watched, and enjoyed, the History Channel documentary on comics. (Hadn't realised how much weight I'd lost earlier this year until I saw what I looked like last year.) Maddy put up with it patiently, asking me whether or not I knew everyone who came on and talked (apart from two people, the answer was yes) and asking whether Wonder Woman would be on soon because she was all bored of Superman and Batman.

The only thing I missed really was someone talking, or more than one someone, who wasn't male. (It was introduced for a few seconds by actress Peta Wilson, although Maddy found her a very unconvincing woman.

"Is she a girl?"


"She sounds like a boy. Are you sure she's not a boy?"

"She's a girl."

"Why's she called Peter then?")

But she bore it fairly well, especially bearing in mind that she was hoping I'd show her another episode of The Goodies from the recently released Goodies DVD. She thinks they're hilarious, and watching them for the first time in about a quarter of a century I found them much closer to Monty Python than I had expected -- more cheekily subversive than I remembered.

As your website is the only place I've really ever been to where people question copyright, discuss it to better understand the digital media at our disposal, I wanted to let you know the latest, if you haven't already heard. It's already completely changed the way I look at downloading.
As a writer, I've always felt immune to the worries; my books, when published, will be out on paper. It's a book. It's not a video, or a bit of music. It's not something that requires another device to be seen. It's paper, plain and simple, and that will never change. Sure, eBooks and such will complement what's already there, but I just started working as an assistant editor on a medical journal that's recently put all its articles online, too, and its subscription rate has held steady (it had been declining. I wish I could say, hey, went digital, subscriptions jumped), and I asked my boss whether she thought electronic text would ever supplant books.
So no worries, right?
But, no, there is.
I just logged on to MSNBC. Just read about pirated copies of the newest Harry Potter book.
And I've just downloaded not one, but several different copies. Two rich-text format, readable via basically any word-processor program, two .pdf's, and two in Microsoft Word (MSNBC mentioned only Microsoft eBook format. I guess more have 'gone to press' since the article). It sounds silly, perhaps cliched, to say I only did it as an experiment, to see if I really could, but that was really the reason; I would've picked up the fifth book Saturday had I not been on limited finances. I will be picking it up next weekend. I'm a completist, and a geek, and I've got the other four, you know.
My point is, this is the first time I've realized a writer can be affected. The first time I realized that it's a legitimate concern. I admit I've downloaded my share of music, and I have probably a gigabyte of songs (about a hundred) on my hard drive for which I didn't pay. Some I've listened to and then been compelled to buy the CD. Some are just single songs I've been looking to do. It's never been much; I have a small hard-drive, and a dial-up modem.
Would I have downloaded CDs, had I the means? Well, honestly, probably not. I've got almost a thousand of them, and I'm the kind of guy that likes the actual, tangible thing.
I'm not going to read *Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix* on my computer, I've decided.
No, I'll admit, I probably won't stop downloading songs, but you know, when the PC equivalent of iTunes comes out, well, I'll be one of the first subscribers. I'll buy the songs I download. Gladly. A buck a song, so that I don't have to spend fourteen bucks on a crappy CD? Where do I sign up? (Part of me wonders if one of the big problems is that record companies haven't given consumers a legitimate way of downloading songs that's as reliable, and intuitive, as one of the more popular shareware programs, but I think it's just a simple, perhaps naive part of me).
Anyway, I didn't mean to rant, really. I just wanted you to know. Because, well, you know from copyright, and you obviously know from being a popular, Best-Selling Author. Any thoughts?

Well, as long as it's more pleasant to read a book than a screen we who sell words have a tiny advantage. I was sort of sad to see the Gemstar e-book shut up shop and die this week but am also very aware that the day that e-books truly catch on will probably also be the day that you can download anything I've ever written from somewhere on the web, and that this probably won't prove a good thing...

Scott McCloud seems convinced that a viable and easy micropayments system will prove the saviour of creators in all this, and I sometimes hope he's right.


Apropos of not very much, an accordion thief has been caught.

And Sunil from Authors on the Web went in and fixed many of the settings that Blogger had inexplicably changed when they upgraded the Blogger software, so this thing now has a working RSS feed, we hope. (Someone wrote to say that some of the archive links are now pointing to places they shouldn't.)


I've been holding my breath somewhat over the last month as we waited -- and waited -- and waited -- for the last Bill Sienkiewicz pages to come in for the Delirium story in Endless Nights. The whole book was done, except for that.

It would be true to say that Bill took us all to the brink of terror and despair. It would also be completely true to say that the pages that were in my e-mail this evening were worth the wait, and contain some of Bill's finest and most imaginative work since Stray Toasters or Elektra:Assassin. I found myself regretting that it was only 17 pages, and wishing it had been a whole graphic novel or something, and then I reminded myself that it took him about 16 months to do those 17 pages...

So now the whole book is done, and I just have to tweak the Delirium story script to reflect what Bill actually did, and then Todd Klein will have to use every trick in his book, and make up some new ones, in order to letter it (should the Henry Dargerish bits be typed, or handwritten on bits of brown wrapping paper?).

Spent most of today being interviewed for Publishers Weekly, which was really fun, because almost none of the questions were things I'd been asked before. Jeff Zaleski from PW explained that the previous authors he'd done in this series of 7,000 word profiles were "Tom Clancy, Elmore Leonard, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, John Grisham and Michael Crichton," which left me feeling faintly like an imposter at the feast. But it was really interesting discussing everything from why I'm returning to Sandman this autumn to how I found my literary agent and why I like writing with fountain pens.