Books and parties and conventions and prizes and … Calabash!

If you’ve been keeping up with me on Twitter you’ll know that I’ve mostly been having a good week. The only real fly in my ointment at the moment has been the discovery that the Scriptopus website is down, and that the company that’s been hosting it is one of the most unprofessional organisations I’ve had the displeasure of encountering in quite some time. It’s frustrating of course, and I’m a bit surprised to find myself not more angry and upset. But while some of the content may be lost, the source code is safely backed up; and if the host can’t restore it I will relaunch it somewhere safer and saner; and I have got so many happier things to think about  

On Tuesday I received my author copies of the Binary trade (TPB) and the Gemsigns mass-market paperback (MMP) editions, both out in the UK on 3rd April. Does ripping open a cardboard box to find bound books with beautiful covers full of the words that you wrote ever get old?

2 weeks to publication!

2 weeks to publication!

 

I doubt it. There are no posted reviews of Binary yet – at least none that I know of – but it’s in the hands of reviewers,  a couple of whom have tweeted their early reactions. I am cautiously optimistic.

Tuesday evening was the Clarke Award shortlist announcement party, which was great fun; many congratulations to the shortlisted authors (and many thanks to the kind folks who tipped me to be one of them – even though I wasn’t, the fact that you thought I might have been meant a great deal).

Still on the subject of prizes: on Thursday Jo Fletcher Books posted a list of their Hugo-award-eligible publications and Campbell-award-eligible authors. To be honest I’d given very little thought to either of these; I tend to think that if your book isn’t out in America (and mine isn’t until May), you don’t have much of a shout. But Gemsigns and I are there for your consideration, along with many other wonderful books and first-time authors, and a reminder that the nomination deadline is 31st March.

I’ve also been communicating with the Satellite4 organisers about panels and readings; there’s going to be some very good stuff at this year’s Eastercon in Glasgow, and I hope to see many of you there. 

But with the Binary TPB and Gemsigns MMP publication date only a couple of weeks away, I’ve been mostly preoccupied with getting ready. That’s meant a long overdue update to this website (cover shots and purchase links in the sidebar! actual descriptions of the novels under the Novels tab!), and to bios and avatars around the web more generally. I’ve been busiest of all with guest posts and interviews: over the next few weeks I’ll be popping up in a variety of places, including Civilian Reader, Upcoming4.Me, SF Signal, Little Red Reviewer, and Tor.com.

And I’ve been waiting on an announcement. Not an award or shortlist this time, but the official launch of the Calabash International Literary Festival in Jamaica in May. It’s been in my Upcoming Events for ages, but I couldn’t pre-empt the organisers by saying more – despite knowing enough to be very excited. So the first of my series of guest posts to go live is the last one I wrote –  SF in’a Calabash, composed this morning on the back of last night’s launch. If you never follow another link from this blog please, follow that one. It’s something I am very very proud to be part of.  

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Ebooks and online writing

I’ve spent the weekend so far responding to questionnaires and compiling information for my publishers, on everything from my favourite tipple to advice for aspiring writers, in preparation for the marketing blitz that is to come. The questions have for the most part been interesting and astute, and have made me think through my responses to a number of issues. Nowhere has my answer been more long-winded than when they asked what I thought of ebooks and online writing, and whether I’d ever done any myself. Clearly there are things I want to say on the subject, so here, in my primary online writing outlet, is what I think and what I hope.

At the risk of offending the purists, I am not one of those who thinks ebooks are somehow a lesser entity to printed books. I don’t think digital publication is a passing fad, or something that will peak at 20-30% of the market while physical books continue to occupy the lion’s share for ever and ever. If you think about it, on an increasingly overcrowded and environmentally polluted and depleted planet it would be crazy if we kept on chopping down trees, in order to chemically process them into blocks of paper, which we then have to find space to store – at both ends of an energy-intensive distribution chain. In the future I’ve imagined for the ®Evolution trilogy anything printed on paper is by definition an antique, and that’s the one thing I’m pretty certain will really be true in another hundred years or so.

But we are still at the early stages of that transition, and another aspect of it is the explosion of writing which is taking place online. One of the very good things about this is that more people are writing; they are using the medium of written language to convey thoughts, feelings, experiences, ideas, interests, philosophies – and they are reaching a wider audience than would ever have been possible before the Internet era, creating new communities unbounded by geography or many of the other traditional parameters like class, race or educational attainment. We are seeing the emergence of a new form of social ecosystem based on written communication. I think this is hugely exciting.

The downside of course is that there is a lot of bad writing online – easy access and the circumvention of any editorial process means that quality has not kept pace with quantity. Digital self-publishing, for example, enables simply atrocious books to be published in overwhelming quantities. But in the long term I’m not too worried, because I think that this particular phenomenon is a fad that will run its course. I think the sheer scale and complexity of online content will throw up new models of curation, upon which we will come to rely to find the products and smaller networks – those social ecosystems – that suit us best. (And for what it’s worth, I don’t think the enduring curation mechanisms are going to be based on the ‘friend’ model which now predominates.)

So what’s my contribution been to the primordial soup of online content? I dove in a couple of years ago by inventing an interactive, collaborative, creative writing exercise facilitator called Scriptopus. It’s essentially a game, in which visitors to the site can flip through a series of stories-in-progress, of which they can see only the last short section. Once they select the one they want to continue, they have to write the next section against the clock. Prior contributors to the same ‘story’ get an email to tell them it has been added to, and the new contributor can also email it to whoever they like, as well as post on their social media networks. After ten contributions the ‘story’ ends and everyone who’s participated gets an email with a link to the finished article. The fun of course is seeing how the initial idea gets transmuted as it passes from one writer to the next.

Scriptopus generates an astonishing range of brilliant, quirky, sometimes kinky ideas, and writing that ranges from sublimely beautiful to barely comprehensible. I don’t write on it myself much anymore, but I had to create a lot of the initial content so there would be enough ‘story starters’ for visitors to choose from. I still find it very useful when I am stuck and just not feeling very creative; fortunately that doesn’t happen too often. What it has and continues to do for me though – apart from helping me develop skill, confidence and expertise as a writer-entrepreneur – is develop my thinking around this idea of curation.

If I could afford it my next step would be to create tools that could sort the snippets of contributed prose both qualitatively and thematically, enabling like-minded and similarly-skilled writers to form tighter, better matched collaborations. What stories might come out of that?

Have you decided on a name yet?

As a new blogger, I’ve run up against a quandary. What do I call the thing?

I hadn’t thought about it in advance, and the reams of instruction and advice that WordPress kindly provides does not appear to extend to the dark art of choosing the right name. And it is an important decision, as any poorly-titled adolescent will tell you. The right one will help win you friends and followers, impress them with your wit and worth, make you memorable. The wrong one – not so much. But I hadn’t considered any of this yet, so I started off using my own name, and staring blankly at the invitation to add something descriptive. What was this blog going to be about? Why was I here? A phrase drifted into my head, a line from an old song that seemed to capture it. And so I started off as Stephanie Saulter | talking back to the night.

But then, a couple of days later as I trawled through experimenting with widgets and themes, I got to thinking. I already have something of an online identity as Scriptopus, the creative writing web app I started a couple of years ago. It’s my handle on Twitter and Goodreads. Shouldn’t I be consistent? Maintain that name, the already familiar tagline? I found where you could change it and, hey presto, became Scriptopus | How many stories can you write today?

And that was okay for a couple more days, during which I was focused on something other than setting up the blog. But then I came back to it, and I thought Hang on. I’ve got this wrong. The Scriptopus website is about group writing. It’s fundamentally collaborative. This blog is supposed to be about what I write, read and think. An expression of the individual, not a report from the collective. Plus by then I’d figured out how to manipulate menus and pages. I realised I could do my duty to the website without saying anything, much less emblazoning it across the header, simply by inserting a tab with a link. So I did that, and reverted to the original title/tag combination, and loaded up a few poems and bits of prose, and went away happy.

You’ve figured out the pattern by now.

I’ve been reading blogs, you see. Other people’s. I’ve been laughing at the creativity of their nomenclature, nodding solemn agreement with their witty tags, and noticing that very few of the good ones use anything as pedestrian and unmemorable as a personal name. It seems like a point of pride almost. And I’d like to feel I belong to this club.

So back to Settings > General > Site Title > Tagline. And a growing sense of ridiculousness. I’m annoyed with myself now, and to anyone else I may have annoyed along the way, my deepest apologies. I’ve made a decision: my name in the URL and authorial credits, the former tagline as title, a simple description. That’s it. This is it, at the top of the screen. No more faffing about. Done.

Unless of course …

  • I love stories.
    My new novel, Sacred, is all about them. Publication info will be posted as soon as I have it.

    In the meantime check out Gemsigns, Binary and Regeneration, available wherever good books are sold.

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  • UK edition

    REGENERATION

    The 3rd Book of the ®Evolution

  • UK edition

    BINARY

    The 2nd Book of the ®Evolution

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    The 1st Book of the ®Evolution

  • US Edition

    REGENERATION

    The 3rd Book of the ®Evolution

  • US Edition

    BINARY

    The 2nd Book of the ®Evolution

  • US Edition

    GEMSIGNS

    The 1st Book of the ®Evolution

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