I go chop your dollar

While reading Misha Berry's fascinating book 'McMafia' on the globalisation of crime since the early Eighties, I discovered that Nigerian 419 scammers have their very own anthem 'I go chop your dollar' about the joys of conning rich suckers out of untold quantities of cash, most spectacularly Nelson Sakaguchi of a major Brazilian bank to the tune of $245 million dollars. Naturally, I just had to google it.

Don't ask me what he's singing - I can't make out a word - but upon a further google, it becomes clear the lyrics refer to a certain exuberance on the part of some Nigerian con-artists come cheque-cashing day.


Playing around with online publishing ideas

I'm thinking of trying a small publishing experiment when I have the time. First, some background.

About twenty years ago, a fellow author, member of the Glasgow SF Writer's Circle (from whence came myself, Hal Duncan, William King and Michael Cobley amongst others) and one-time contributor to Interzone known as Fergus Bannon wrote a pretty decent sf thriller called Judgment.

He sent it off to a couple of agents or publishers, got it sent back, then shelved it forever. He hasn't written anything since. There's nothing wrong with his writing - he'd been published, as I say, in Interzone, and I think had one or two stories in a couple of other places, including a reprint of that Interzone story in the Shipbuilding paperback anthology our writer's circle put out for the Glasgow '95 worldcon.

Eventually I asked to read it some years back and really, really liked it. It turned out one reason he'd given up trying to push it was that much of the story - in his eyes - was dependent on the politics of the late Eighties. He had the bad luck to write a very near-future thriller only a year or two before the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. Then Mandela was freed from prison, and the international political climate underwent some severe shifts away from the background of his story.

After reading it sometime in the early 00's I felt that it wouldn't take much work to rejig it to get past some of the more out of date references, and with his prompting that's exactly what I did a few years back. Then I got busy with my own writing for Tor and had to put it down for a while. I was driven by the feeling that if Ferg's book never got read by anyone else, it would be a terrible shame.

Since then, however, ebooks have come up in the world in a big way and now I'm beginning to think it's time to actually do something with the damn thing. Professional publishing deals are out of the question, because it's a one-off by nature: Fergus isn't likely to do any more fiction writing. But I need to give it one more go-over edit-wise to incorporate some comments, and then I'm going to think about putting it up under his name on ebook sites like Smashwords.

The only real problem I see is that I can't see myself having much time to spend on promoting it or persuading people to read it, let alone let them know it even exists: it may be that about ten people will download it in total and that's it. And since the aim here isn't necessarily to actually make a profit, the best way to do things as I see it is a combination of a)selling it at a low, low price, based on online recommendations on various ebook-related forums: b)simultaneously give it away for free: and c) trying to persuade various other bloggers to mention it on their own sites if at all humanly possible.

At some point soon-ish, I'll post the first chapter up here. Any other thoughts on a suitable plan of attack?

New post on BSCReview.com

And this time it's a rant about DRM and ebooks and piracy. It started out as a post on a website, but a thousand words later I realised I had the solid bones of an actual article:

"There are many pro writers out there worried by piracy, who see the internet as the greatest illegal intellectual land-grab of all time. Here’s the deal: if you’re worried enough to want to stop it, you’re not only going to have to stop people’s internet connections, you’re also going to have to ban photocopiers, computer scanners, OCR software, and computers. At the least.

The vast majority of those books floating around on bittorrent sites were derived from print copies of books. You scan the pages with a scanner and run OCR software that creates an unedited, error-filled file that is then saved as a PDF – surely the most unwieldy ebook format ever created – and uploaded. No professionally edited ebook files were involved ..."



Nice place to visit, shame about the UN ranking

Interesting to see the UN's latest chart of countries according to quality of life, with Britain ranked all the way down at No. 21 with Norway, Australia and Iceland taking the top three positions. Interestingly enough, Ireland comes in at No. 5. Maybe I should go and live in Dublin instead of Glasgow. It's only a boat ride away, and they have tax breaks for writers (or did last I heard). Hmmm ... and it's not like we'd lack for people coming to visit ...

Two mildly annoying caveats about the list: it would have been nice to see Scotland in there, since I'd be interested to know how its perceived 'quality of life' ranks compared to England, but that's just for the sake of sheer curiousity. I honestly couldn't guess whether it would be ranked higher or lower, though one suspects if one wanted to make the survey even more granular, there are a couple of bits in Glasgow which might fit right in with Sierra Leone at the bottom of the chart. Somewhere in Glasgow, there's a bridge - I think it might be on the way to Easterhouse - with the words 'WELCOME TO BEIRUT' spray-painted on one side.

Genuinely taxing, however, is the omission of Taiwan, which the UN treats as being part of China, which is ridiculous, given that Taiwan is an independent democratic state with free speech, and China ... isn't and doesn't. I strongly suspect if it had been included, it would have been ranked very high up that list indeed. What a shame.


New column

I got asked a while back by Jay Tomio of BSCreview.com if I fancied writing for his website, and the first of my Burn After Reading columns is now up. Writing for your own blog is one thing, but writing for someone else's website - especially one that gets considerably more hits - is another. I'm going to try to get something up there every four or five weeks if I can. One result of this will be a lowered frequency of posting here, apart from the usual bits and pieces of news or stuff that wouldn't fit into BSC. I will, however, make a point of posting the first few paragraphs of an article so you know when it's up. Intro to the first one follows.

"It does seem like the eternal war between SF and the mainstream just goes on and on and on, doesn’t it? One minute you think it’s dead and buried, the next it’s climbing back out of its grave, spitting out mouthfuls of dirt and gnashing its teeth.

The latest round started with a recent issue of New Scientist (September 19th: they called it a ’scifi’ special, but let’s just quietly skip over that) featuring a bunch of particularly fine flash fiction by various luminaries of the British SF field. These were accompanied by a lengthy and erudite essay by Kim Stanley Robinson asking, amongst other things, why no science fiction novels had been long-listed or short-listed for this year’s Booker prize ..."

Read the rest at BSCreview.com