Archive for December, 2011

Proverb

I don’t know where this proverb came from, but it expresses very well my views concerning environmental policy.  The only thing I know about it is that it is an Ancient Indian Proverb.

Treat the Earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children.  We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

Whatever differs from this concept, to the extent of the difference, is no strategy.  Enough said.

 

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Becoming A Best-selling Author

I read an interesting article a few days ago.  It was entitled “How I Became a Best-Selling Author,” and was written by Alexandra Alter and reprinted from the Wall Street Journal on Yahoo Finance.  The article concerned a self-published author, Darcie Chan, whose debut novel, “The Mill River Recluse,” became a hit after she self-published it, and so far has sold over 400,000 copies.  (Way to go, Darcie.)  Basically, the article describes how Ms. Chan went about self-publishing her novel and the route it took to the top.  She did everything right.

She started writing the book in 2002, and finished it 2 1/2 years later.  She tried the traditional route to publication by querying over 100 agents, but no one took a chance with it because it didn’t really fit any well-honed genre.  Finally, she landed an agent who sent the manuscript to over a dozen publishers who all turned it down.  It sat around for several years, and then Ms. Chan decided to self-publish.

First she uploaded the manuscript to Kindle through Amazon’s self-publishing program, then later to Barnes and Noble’s Nook and through Smashwords, which got the book on Apple’s i-books, Sony and Kobo.  Not surprisingly, for a self-published book by an unknown author, it didn’t sell.

So, she got smart and began self-marketing.  (If there’s self-publishing, why can’t there be self-marketing?)  She bought ads and paid for reviews, especially through Kirkus, and got an ad posted on their website.  Sales began to climb, and as I understand it, they are still going up.

That’s all great, of course, but behind the ads and the paid-for reviews, is a book that people actually want to read.  I haven’t read it, but it must have hit a nerve with the American public, or the sales wouldn’t have been all that good.  There has to be an intelligent, well-written book behind all the uproar.

She got several offers from respected publishers after the book hit the best-seller lists of course, but their motives and propositions were almost laughable.  She wouldn’t get as much from the publishers as she got in royalties from self-publishing.  And, mixed in with the offers, was a comment from one person at a respectable publishing house (it wasn’t actually named in the article) that the book likely had “run its course.”

That’s the comment that really surprised me.  And frightened me.  How absolutely shortsighted and senseless can you get?  Apparently there are a lot of hard feelings in the publishing industry toward self-published novelists.  I knew that, of course, but I didn’t realize how deep it ran.  The book is popular and makes money, and yet they still find a way to disparage it.  Looking at this from the point of view of an unpublished novelist with designs on the future, I’m confused and even a little appalled.  I’m trying to get my books–I have a trilogy, actually–published the old-fashioned way, and if they aren’t picked up by a publisher, I will probably go the way Ms. Chan did and self-publish.  On the other hand, I’m not sure I want to have anything to do with an industry that is that short-sighted.  I keep wondering when the traditional publishing industry is going to wake up and start helping authors sell books instead of hindering them.  No wonder people are running to self-publish.  Realistically, I don’t expect my books to sell anywhere near the level of Ms. Chan, but her experience is a damn good model to follow.  Self-publishing will cost me more out-of-pocket in the beginning, but so be it.

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The End As We Know It

Back on March 3, 2011, I posted a blog that argued for a slightly new way to define the word “life.”  I suggested that since–given the appropriate conditions–life on any planet floating around in the cosmos is an inevitable consequence of the action of light, heat, water, simple organic and inorganic compounds stewing over a period of millions of years, then we should define life as whatever results from all that action, and not try to define it by such narrow distinctions as the ability to grow, to be aware of its environment, to metabolize extraneous compounds, to reproduce, and so forth.  That new definition seemed obvious to me.

But now I’d like to take the argument to the other end.  The end of “life.”  If life begins in the water of a protoplanet, where does it end?  As far as I know, we humans are the only ones who contemplate such questions.  We have a lot in common with our fellow living creatures, plant and animal, such as the aforementioned ability to metabolize food, grow, reproduce, and so forth.  But the human mind has developed far beyond any other creature on this planet.  I’m including such intelligent animals as chimpanzees, dolphins, and whatnot, all frequently touted to be our nearest neighbors in the intelligence department.

But do those animals contemplate their fate?  Do the higher apes understand death?  Does a pine tree contemplate the end of all pine trees?  Or are we humans the only ones who do?  I’m sure all the dogs I’ve ever had as pets didn’t understand their ultimate fate.  Perhaps in a limited way they may have, but only in their individual minds, and I doubt that they ever had any idea that the end of all dogs–ever–was a very likely possibility, although it might lie far in the distant future.  Only humans think about such things.  Like me, right now.

Yet, life arose on Earth.  It almost certainly has arisen on other planets somewhere in the Milky Way Galaxy we call home, though I can’t give you a number.  But will it ever end?

We’re just beginning to travel in space outside the Earth’s atmosphere and the gravity field that keeps us and shields us from the terrible un-life-like conditions that exist out there.  We’ve already got a space station and eventually we’ll go back to the moon and set up a permanent base.  We’ll reach Mars sometime and travel to the asteroids, to the outer planets, and then…who knows.  In short, we’ll get our collective asses off this planet sooner or later.  But will that be enough?

Will our species eventually end, or will space travel be the saving grace?  It will be a long time (I figure several centuries) before we spread through the galaxy like Star Trek using its fictional and extremely unlikely “warp drive,”  (though I could be wrong).    Perhaps we’ll learn how to open a wormhole and travel to the other side of the galaxy in no time at all.  But will that be enough to insure our permanent survival, or will we eventually, like the sun that warms us as we sit here on this little ball of water and dust, peter out and vanish in a massive nova explosion?  In short, where are we headed?  Anybody got any ideas?

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