The Consuming Book Title

Tor Books have revealed the cover of the third book in John Scalzi’s ‘Interdependency’ series. It’s very nice: big bold text over gorgeous space-art. For reasons far too complex to recap, I have ended up being something of a student of the covers of these books and I’m kind of disappointed that there isn’t going to be a book four in this series because there are some definite trends in these covers.

The title text has got progressively bigger with each one and almost systematically so.

With apologies to Sparth (cover artist) and Tor Books

The ‘the’* has been wandering leftwards** as well, so that a hypothetical book four would have the ‘the’ falling off one side or perhaps appearing on the right hand side like your spaceship in a game of Asteroids.

I’m in two minds as to whether this is a really effective use of text elements on a cover or whether it is annoyingly obscuring the great artwork underneath. With the author name as another text element, there’s only a small window in which the artwork details can be glimpsed.

Is there method in commissioning amazing artwork and covering it in text? I don’t know the actual reasoning but the window the text creates in the bottom third quarter is enough to show the main focus of the picture. The text occludes the rest of the image but it is a kind of tease, a suggestion that more can be seen. You won’t literally see more of the picture inside the book but I can see how that teasing element encourages you to look inside.

*[Not to be confused with https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_The ]

**[ I should make a joke about John Scalzi wandering leftwards before one of his detractors do.]

Poster colour schemes

Paul Weimer retweeted an interesting picture:

The article he links to is really interesting. It looks how digital colour effects in film have led to the dominance of a “teal and orange” colour scheme that is visually appealing and yet unnatural.

The accompanying Tweet shows how that same colour pairing keeps appearing on movie posters. It’s not universal, for example the Avengers: Endgame uses a lot more purple than teal/blue even though it is of a similar “all the characters at different sizes” style of image. Even so, the visual similarity between the three posters in the tweet is remarkable once you see it — particularly given they are quite different films. A more extreme example, with slightly different tones:

Orange tends to be a bit bigger and the blues a bit smaller. The style usually has orange to the left and blue to the right. I think the basic template is like this:

The colours don’t quite look right as they average between bright highlights and very dark shadows. Also the figures give more shape. Changing all that to some coloured blurry blobs gives me this poster:

The most ambitious crossover event of the century

Note quite right but closer to the general effect. I’ll keep trying so I can get the style right.

Amazon crackdown?

Has Amazon taken down books from the far-right Castalia House publishing outfit aka Vox Day’s vanity publisher? Vox Day is claiming that they have:

“You may have noticed that you can’t find any Castalia House ebooks on Amazon right now. That’s because Amazon shut down our KDP account on the basis of a wildly spurious claim of publishing material to which we do not have the necessary rights. “

[archive link]

The work that seems to have caught Amazon’s attention is Corrosion (The Corroding Empire Book 1) which Day published (and probably wrote) as a kind of spoiler for the release of John Scalzi’s Collapsing Empire (which I read here).

The book in question already had a checkered history. Back in March 2017 Mike Glyer covered the various ins-and-outs of its availability: http://file770.com/amazon-keeps-freeze-on-sales-of-castalias-corrosion/comment-page-1/

Checking Amazon right now, I can see a variety of Castalia House books being listed. I can also see the audio-book version of Corrosion (The Corroding Empire Book 1)  but not the ebook. It’s possible that Amazon had a more sweeping in its takedown of Castalia House earlier but we only have Day’s word for it and he’s not a reliable source.

Day is, of course, presenting this as some kind of authoritarian crackdown etc. etc. but the whole “joke” of his book was that it was meant to have a cover and title and author name intended to look like a more popular book. The rationale given was that it was a parody but the book itself isn’t a parody of John Scalzi’s book aside from its cover.

In short, the self-own keeps owning. A poorly thought-out attempt by Vox Day to strike another blow in his long-running “gamma” grievance against John Scalzi continues to disrupt his own business and its main source of income. A borderline case of deceptive marketing will continue to be a borderline case of deceptive marketing and will keep on biting him on his metaphorical bottom. The master strategist strikes again…

[eta: and apparently Castalia has been re-instated http://voxday.blogspot.com/2019/01/reinstated.html?m=1 ]

The Concerning Fine by Tim Catzi: Part 2 of the Colluding Umpire

Chapter 1
The Countess Moggymotheaten of the House of Moggymotheaten surveyed her surroundings on her palatial spaceship.
“F-ck, f-ck, f-ck,” she said using her customary choice of vocabulary.
“Would…” asked her lawyer and occasional ex-lover Buggles Tinternabbeygiftshop, “…you like to me to…take care of this unfortunate incident for you?”
“Of course I want you to f_cking, f-ck take f_cking, f-ck, f-ck care of f_cking it. F_ck” said the Countess.
Then for good measure she repeated the word “F_ck” sixty seven more times at varying distances from Buggles Tinternabbeygiftshop’s face.

Chapter 2
Across the Interminabledependnecy a thousand human habitations drifted through a pithy and not wholly irrelevant info dump that, with a few asides, discussed much of both the history and the underlying physics of the setting of this novel.

True, most of the population of the Interminabledependnecy already knew this, having sat through (as a largely un-talkative population) the first novel of this series and beside which they had all presumably gone to school or something, although the exact details of how these people lived is beside the point as we’ll largely be looking at the lives of particularly sweary aristocrats for several more chapters.

Chapter 3
The Emperatrix Betty Niceperson considered her options which despite the massive power of her position was highly limited. Not naturally being a sweary aristocrat left Betty Niceperson at a distinct disadvantage when negotiating with the powerful families of Interminabledependnecy. She simply did not know how to say “F_ck” with sufficient vehemence to make herself understood. She had experimented with saying “gosh darn it” but it hadn’t had the same effect.
Just then Buggles Tinternabbeygiftshop arrived with his customary vague threat from the Countess Moggymotheaten.
“I’m sorry,” explained the Emperatrix, “I’ve completely lost track of which person was my half-brother and which person was the Moggymotheaten scion I was supposed to marry and which one was trying to murder me.”
“The simple answer,” explained Buggles, “Is they are in fact all exactly the same person with different names. It’s a technical term we call SRAMP.”
“SRAMP” said Brunomars Nicechap, the Emperatrix’s pet physicist from the first book.
“Some rich arsehole merchant prince,” explained Buggles acronymically.
“I see,” said Betty,” but how does that help with the imminent collapse of the Empire?”
“It doesn’t,” explained Buggles, “I just accidentally wandered in from the earlier chapter.

Chapter 4
“F_cccckkkkkk” continued the Countess Moggymotheaten for at least another few paragraphs.

Chapter 5
Brunomars Nicechap stood in front of the crowd of angry looking space geologists.
“Please,” he pleaded, “you have to believe me that the whole Interminabledependnecy is going to collapse!”
“Of course we believe you,” said the scientists, “your math checks out and anyway the whole thing started to collapse in the last book. We aren’t idiots.”
“But, but, we’ve a whole chapter to fill with you guys not believing me.” said Brunomars Nicechap.
“Maybe we could just all sit here and check our emails instead?” suggested the scientists.
Which is what they did.

Chapter 6
“F_cccckkkkkk” continued the Countess Moggymotheaten for at least another few chapters.

Chapter 7
“What was I doing again?” asked Buggles Tinternabbeygiftshop of the Emperatrix.
“I think you were still supposed to be in chapter 1 getting orders from the Countess Moggymotheaten.” suggested Betty as nicely as possible.
“There’s not much point, she’ll be swearing for another six chapters at least.” said Buggles.
“Well we could have sex instead?” suggested Betty.
“Only if it is perfunctory and somewhat unerotic,” suggested Buggles.
“F_ck,” said the Emperatrix.

Chapter 8
Then the Interminabledependnecy collapsed.
“F_ck” said everybody.

“That’s not how you write a novel,” said Jonathon Franzen.

“F_ck off, Jonathon Franzen,” said the Countess Moggymotheaten who then crashed a spaceship into the sun.

Work in Progress

Last year my walrusfysing sci-fi cover maker was fun but I wanted to do something a bit better. I made the last one quickly using a tool called Hype, but I wanted to make something with leaner code that would let people make a big colourful space opera cover. In particular, I wanted the final image to be downloadable as an image file with enough resolution to use as a legitimate book cover

And I’ve done that! The code works and I’ve got a lot of images together (more still to do though. My main issue now is finding a home (the attic workshop can’t hold the number of image files needed).

When everything is ready I’ll announce it 🙂

Meanwhile, here is an example of what it can make. Each image has seven layers (some of which can be blank) and you can pick an image for each layer.

covermarksample

McEdifice Returns: Chapter It’s Grimdark Oop North

penguinmcedifice

By Tim “bobbins” Cat and Straw “fettled keks” Puppy

It were grim all right. Grim and grey. Grim and grey and the air was sulfurous and full of grit.

“This is must be an aspect of the hell dimension,” said McEdifice as the trio trudged up the hillside on the outskirts of the fume enshrouded city.

“It cannot be,” replied Qzrrzxxzq, “the populace was too relentlessly chirpy.”

“Service is required when belt lubrication is low,” stated ScanScan.

“He thinks it is the vast quantity of tea that they drink,” translated McEdifice, “Perhaps the demonic overlords of this place put something in the tea.”

“What I don’t get is the rain,” said Qzrrzxxzq changing the subject to the near incessant drizzle, “When it isn’t raining it is foggy. The air is constantly near the point of saturation but that is manifestly impossible. At some point the water has to evaporate to get into the atmosphere and yet it nearly never stops raining. The water cycle here defies logic – it is completely implausible.”

“Paper jam in the bypass tray,” said ScanScan.

“He says not everybody was chirpy,” explained McEdifice, “there were occasional angry young men with big ideas who were going to challenge the system.”

“Frankly I preferred the constant music-hall jokes,” mused Qzrrzxxzq, “but I think if I’d encountered another colliery brass band I would have enacted violence on a tuba.”

They had wandered the city for days but the polluted damp air had made it impossible for ScanScan to use his transdimensional abilities. After much effort to communicate with the locals they had been told that “thing might be different in Yorkshire.” When asked where this fabled place might be, the locals just waved vaguely at the hills to the east.

The trio had marched out of town and up onto the moors.

On the third day, like a miracle, the clouds parted. Above the smog and coal-fired fumes, ScanScan re-activated the ansible projector.

“But where to now?” asked Qzrrzxxzq.

“I have so many unanswered questions. Why did the vampires send me back to that planet of hippies? Why didn’t they just kill me? And why did they invade Planet Campus?” mused McEdifice.

“There’s only one place that we can find those answers,” stated Qzrrzxxzq.

“Draculon 6 – The Vampire Planet of the Six-sixty-six System.” said McEdifice.

“Settings entered,” said ScanScan.

“Lets kick some vampire butt,” said McEdifice.

“I think they say ‘vampire arse’ around here,” corrected Qzrrzxxzq.

And with that they were sucked into the transdimensional gyre.

Chapters are cultural convention that we need not adhere to

mcedificebeam.jpg

McEdifice Returns by Timothy the Talking Cat and Straw Puppy ©Timothy the Talking Cat and Straw Puppy. McEdifice™ Timothy the Talking Cat and Straw Puppy. All rights reserved. Patent pending. Also, we put this whole chapter in an envelope and mailed it to the Pope but we deliberately used the wrong address so it came back to us which means our copyright claim is recognised by the Vatican and the Post Office.

McEdifice was still recovering from having punched himself out of a hallucination, staggered onward to Outlaw’s Gulch, the infamous hideout of the Treerat Gang against who he had sworn revenge for what was now a multitude of crimes. To wit:

  1. Shooting at his head
  2. Killing Chuck the Pony (don’t worry he isn’t really dead)
  3. Sabotaging Simon the Bicycle (sadly Simon is definitely dead – also we decided to call him ‘Simon’ so you knew which bicycle we were talking about)
  4. Putting hallucinogenic drugs on the handlebars of the bike
  5. Being all round bad people

Oh, those miscreants were in for a heap of trouble once McEdifice got their hands on them! This was going to be a showdown of epic proportions! A gunfight of some significant magnitude! A veritable brouhaha of brutality and bruises. A Toccata and fugue of Bach-like proportions where violence is the organ keys and McEdifice would be pulling out all the stops. (Nice one SP!)

McEdifice stepped through the entrance to Outlaw’s Gulch with a brazen swagger, knowing that his very appearance would intimidate the feeble willed outlaws.

“Come out and meet my vengeance!” shouted McEdifice.

But the only sound was the echo of his cry.

“They’re all gone McEdifice,” said a snide and yet familiar voice.

With reflexes so quick that the nerve impulses in his nerves probably go like faster than lightning, McEdifice whipped around lightning fast with his laser pistol ready to spurt lightning at the intruder behind him.

There was nobody there.

“Over here, you stupid ass.” said the snide voice.

McEdifice looked up and then left and right.

“In the tree. For goodness sake. It is RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU.”

McEdifice turned back to the centre of the gulch where stood an old oak tree. On a branch sat a man in full dress uniform of the Intergalactic Space Navy Marine Corp.

“Well, well, well,” said McEdifice, “if it isn’t Commander Clench, my old nemesis. I thought I told you never to set foot again on the Grassland Planet of Steppe.”

“Well yes, you did but as I explained at the time, I’m free to go anywhere I like and also I outrank you and also I have an orbiting space-dreadnought directly above us that could wipe you off the face of the planet before you could even grimace at me in a way I didn’t like.” explained Commander Clench.

“Well, I told you then that I was never going back. I’m officially retired.”

“Your choice McEdifice but I’ve some bad news for you. If you want those Treerat boys then they’ve already left the planet.”

“What?”

“War has returned to the Galaxy McEdifice. The massed armada of the evil Space Vampires is claiming huge tracts of space. The Intergalactic Space Army has conscripted every lowlife, miscreant, outlaw, ner-do-well, street punk and tax account into a desperate rag-tag yet elite army of the meanest, nastiest and most financially prudent scum-of-the-earth battalion you never imagined. This ‘bad battalion’ as we have named them will form the vanguard of an assault on the space vampires followed by more conventional (and better groomed) forces.”

“That means nothing to me Clench. My mission is vengeance not another one of your endless wars. No, not even the looming threat of my ultimate enemy – the insidious space vampires – is enough to sway me from my course of avenging Chuck and Simon.”

“Actually Chuck is fine.”

“I won’t fall for your lies again Clench.”

“Have it your way, but the only way you can kill those Treerat Boys is to shoot your way through the Intergalactic Space Army, killing brave soldiers intent on defending the galaxy from evil space vampires. Oh, I know you McEdifice, better than you know yourself.”

“Damn you Clench. What is it that you want from me?”

“Mainly to humiliate you and make you look stupid. To that end, here is a once only offer. If you join the Intergalactic Space Army then you will have the right under the military code of settling debts of honour via the ancient tradition of a duel. Your course is simple: join the army, make your way to the front, challenge the Treerat Boys in turn to duels. And, of course, while you are out there KILL SOME SPACE VAMPIRES.”

“Grrrrr. DAMN YOU CLENCH! OK, you give me no choice. If Major Commander McEdifice needs to take to the field of battle one more time then I’ll do just that.”

“Minor correction: that would be PRIVATE McEdifice. Your rank was for the Space Navy Marines. You’ll need to join the ARMY. It’s back to boot camp for you McEdifice!”

“NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!”