Category Archives: Good Reading Material

In Fire Forged – Worlds of Honor #5

It’s been awhile since I touched on the “Good Reading Material” topic and I just finished the latest Honoverse anthology book In Fire Forged so here is a review of that book.

First there has been grumbling among Honorverse fans about the length of the book being too short and not enough short stories in it (and no Treecat stories) to compensate for the $15 Hardcover price. Now that begs the question is it true?  To answer that I went back and looked at the four previous anthology books to see how many short stories were in them and while doing that I counted two other categories: Treecat stories and Technical pieces.

Up first we have the original anthology book “More Than Honor” (which strangely doesn’t provide the series name to the anthology series). In this book there where a total of just 3 short stories with only 1 of them a Treecat story (A Beautiful Friendship) and there was a rather large and in depth technical background piece on the Honorverse at the end of the book.

The second book “Worlds of Honor” (which did provide the name for the anthology series, so that Worlds of Honor is actually Worlds of Honor #2. No! Don’t try and reason for that path just leads to madness) has 5 short stories and of which 2 of those is Treecat stories. There is also no technical pieces in this book.

The third book “Changer of Worlds” has 4 short stories in it and 1 of those a Treecat story. There is also no technical pieces in the book.

The fourth book “The Service to the Sword” has 6 short stories in it, none of which is a treecat story and there was no technical pieces in it. Read more of this post

Do You Remember The First Book You Ever Bought?

I still remember the First Book I ever bought, it was King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry. I bought that book way back in the 6th grade in 1977/8 and the reason I remember it is because I still got it. I stumbled over the thing while going through the clutter in the attic while getting the Christmas decorations out. I opened this one box and went through it and there it was and even after 30+ years the book is in good shape. So after finding it I sat down and started reading it, probably for the first time since I left middle school, and did it bring back memories. I remember how the schools back then would hand out these forms that had little stamps of the different books, and what you would do was tear the stamps off and affix the to the form, fill the form out and then place it with a check from your parents into the envelope provided. You would then take the envelope back to school with you and give it to your teacher. From there you would wait for something like 4 to 8 weeks to get the books you ordered. I wonder do schools even do that anymore, try to get students to buy books and read? Read more of this post

Cryoburn From Lois McMaster Bujold

Coming this November 1st the latest Miles Vorkosigan  book by Lois McMaster Buold, Cryoburn, will come out in Hardcover. With this release of Cryoburn, for the first time ever there was a CD released that contains the past Vorkoverse books. Now prior to this I had only read one Miles Vorkosigan story ( The Mountains of Mourning) when it was put up for free in the Baen Free Library to see if I would like the authors style of writing. I found that I liked the story and would like to read the entire series, of course that presented a Problem: finding and buying all of the old books. As you can see this CD release was very good news since finances have been tight and the Fifth Imperium Site has recently placed the Cryoburn CD up. I have personally over the past week + been reading the entire Vorkoverse (except the Novel Memory, it is not on the CD).

So for all those that have wanted to check out the Vorkoverse but not wanted to hunt down and/or put out the expense of buying the books from the beginning of the  series can now do it by going here:

http://baencd.thefifthimperium.com/24-CryoburnCD/CryoburnCD/

If you want to see the “chronological order” (not publish order) and small blurbs to the stories see this wiki article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vorkosigan_Saga

However here is some things you should know about the characters and planets of the Vorkoverse: Read more of this post

The Legacy Of Gird

Just this past week I was able to obtain a copy of Legacy of Gird, which is a compilation of the two books (Surrender None and Liars Oath) that were printed after the three books in Deed of Paksenarrion which I reviewed here: http://boballab.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/deed-of-paksenarrion-by-elizabeth-moon/

The books in Legacy of Gird take place chronologically before the Deed of Paksenarrion. The first book Surrender None is the telling of Gird’s life, his struggle to free his people from Tyrants and the act that made him a saint in the High Lord’s service.  The second book, Liars Oath, follows the character Luap introduced in Deed of Paksenarrion as Gird’s second in command. It chronicles his deeds from basically the time shortly before Gird’s death up until the time the “sleeping knights” that Paks and the others found in the fortress in Kolobia. So lets take them separately:

Surrender None can be read separately as a stand alone novel, you don’t need to read Deed to follow this book. However with that said you see how much the elves that told Paks that the Gird as told in her time by the Fellowship  is nothing like the real Gird and makes it a very interesting read in that context for readers of Deed. You truly get to see how a man that would love nothing better than to be able to farm his land peacefully and raise a family is pushed step by step into rebellion.

Liar’s Oath is a vastly different read then Surrender None. For those that have read Deed prior to this story (and Surrender None) know that the real Luap is nothing like the Luap of tale in Paks time and you can sense the coming train wreck. One of the things that delayed Paks from becoming a Paladin of Gird was because the story told in the “Official History” The Life of Gird made Gird out to be unbelievable. Turns out this was Luaps fault because he didn’t believe that by telling the plain truth about Gird, people in the future would not believe he was a true hero. He didn’t do this by accident but on purpose through scheming, including excluding that one of Gird’s Marshal’s was his own daughter. You also see how Luap’s scheming ended up causing the problems in Paks time between the Fellowship and the MageBorn. Turns out Girds dream of peace was the Mageborn and his people living side by side, but Luap separated them after Girds death. One positive thing that you find in this story is how two street urchins/orphans (one peasant and one mageborn) of Girds war against the Mageborn Lords, become first his adoptive children and then the first two Paladins.

Overall I place Surrender None as #3 on the list of the books in this series with Sheep Farmers Daughter being #1 and Oath of Gold being #2. Liars Oath comes in dead last behind the second book in Deed of Paksenarrion and the newest books in this universe Oath of Fealty (which I will talk about some other time)

Sidenote Keri Phelan as King of Lyona and Paks make two appearances in Liars Oath, which I won’t go into since it would spoil the surprise of why they are in it.

http://www.elizabethmoon.com/books-paksworld.html

Massive Ontogenetic Regulation Failure Syndrome (MORFS)

Sounds like a nasty disease doesn’t it? Well if you think that, you would be correct but only in author Brittany McMasters MORFS universe. Unlike most postings I have made in this category this is not about a particular book/story nor about any one author, but about a concept for a Sci Fi universe that multiple authors wright in. First what is MORFS?

‘Massive Ontogenetic Regulation Failure Syndrome’ or MORFS for short, was originally launched on the world’s population by means of a genetically engineered virus. It had been started as an attempt at a biological weapon by a group of terrorists back in the early 2000s. The virus spread unnoticed across the globe. All life forms that experience some form of puberty where affected. This virus altered the strand of DNA that is supposed to protect and regulate the integrity of an individual’s genome. The mutated portion essentially disables all or part of that activity, thus allowing many other mutations and gene swaps to appear and survive. This altered DNA was passed down to all subsequent generations and now each child is faced with the chance of undergoing life changing mutations in their teenage years.

As you can see it is set in a “parallel” universe to our own where a biological weapon doesn’t do what it was planned to do, but in some ways it did something far worse: It forces people to critically examine whether they “like” someone based on something physical or for who they are, because the physical can change drastically in just a few short days. In the MORFS Universe you have people switch genders, grow tails, wings or other animal traits. You see people go from being Ms./Mr. Good Looking to looking  literally like a horse. You also have the standby “powers’ of Science Fiction such as Telepathy, Telempathy, TK, Teleportation, Super Strength and more that people can get in various degrees and can be feared by those that don’t have nor understand it.

While some of the authors use the universe as a platform for their own political, religious and social beliefs to me that is far outweighed by the question of: “How would you think of your Girlfriend/Boyfriend (remember the characters are set at the age of puberty), Son/Daughter if they suddenly stopped looking like they did and now look like a cross between a human and a cat (or dog, bear, pig, squirrel, horse….) or they switched from Male to Female or vice versa”.

Another aspect is how would you handle such a thing? one day you are Tommy the Running Back in high school and 4 days later your Tammy with the reproductive equipment to go along with that name.

if you want to explore stories like that go to Brittany McMasters MORFS site and give it try:

http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/

Finestories.com

The owner/operator of Stories OnLine has started a new site called FineStories, with the major difference between the sites being that the stories on Finestories may not contain explict sex:

2010-07-05 : We started a new site :)
Head on over to Finestories.com and give it a try.
The new site uses storiesonline’s engine, so things will look very familiar. The site is just starting out, so it’s kind of empty.
It will be in the beta stage until the end of the year. Until then, all features are available to everybody.
Try it out and if you find something not working correctly, let us know through the webmaster link.
The difference between Finestories and storiesonline is that stories on Finestories may not contain explicit sex.

From the context the “may not” sounds more like a “can not”, I get from applying a little logic to it: Why make a different site if it will allow the explicit sex scenes as the original does.

As of right now it doesn’t have the vast library that SOL has but I have seen some old favorites of mine on the new sight such as 3 stories from the “Worlds of Light” universe by Sea-Life.

So as it stands right now Finestories lets you have full options (what you would have to pay for on SOL) by just registering until the end of the year, so it might be a good site to check out

Lazlo Zalzac

So who is Lazlo Zalzac? He is one of the best free online writers out there.

How do I come to this conclusion? While not very scientific you can check for yourselves at a place called Stories Online or as it’s better known SOL. After getting your free registration out of the way and logging in  yoou will notice a few things, the most prominent in my mind is that there is a lot of stories here. SOL has a very large archive of older stories and while you can guess that most of them are less then stellar, there is still a large selection of very good stories. The next thing you will notice is that most authors, but mot all, turn on what is called voting. Most stories would be lucky to consistantly break a 5 rating out of 10. This author doesn’t have one below a 7 in allof his 36 stories posted. Also if you look at SOL’s TOP 20 Classic Long Stories this author has 5 on the list.

From his Happy Harry Last of the Hoboes to his John Carter stories, his humor based fantasy/scifi stories such as “Magic” and “The Quatyl”, to his romance/life lesson stories such as “The Millionare Next Door”  you will quickly come fall in love with his characters.

His Happy Harry/John Carter stories are basically to me stories of sacrifice for the greater good.

Magic and The Quatly spoof every Scifi and fantasy story/film in existance and will have you laughing for hours

The Millionare Next Door is IMHO his best story and it shows what you can achieve with hard work, some good friends and what really makes you a millionare.

A word of warning: SOL does have a lot of erotic/sex based stories and yes some of Lazlo’s stories also use elements in them, but Lazlo’s stories are not centered on sex. The closest he comes is in the spoof story Magic were he basically spoofs every other sex story with innuendo of sex.

Here is the link to SOL: http://storiesonline.net/home.php

This is the link to Lazlo’s page once you register: http://storiesonline.net/auth/Lazlo_Zalezac

I’ll finish this post with some of Lazlo’s descriptions of his stories.

The Millionare Next Door:

If happiness was measured in money there would be very few millionaires. This is a story about Dan Parker, a young man who starts his life as an adult with the odds stacked against him. Follow his journey of self discovery as he tries to achieve happiness. His story might make you wonder if you live next door to a millionaire.

The Quatyl:

The Quatyl are small and cute. With their short stubby legs, very soft fur, and small mouths they are basically defenseless. Did I mention that they are cute? They are very cute. They are also the most feared space faring race in the galaxy because they can telepathically control every species they’ve ever encountered. Oh, by the way, they just discovered the Earth.

Magic:

Science is killing magic. The last of the magical beings decide that it is time for the return of a Merlin-like person to bring back the magic. The job requirements are: he’s got to be an unlikely hero type that is lucky; he’s got to own silver and be willing to trade it for a gift of magic; and he’s got to be a horny guy with a bad fashion sense.

Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon

It has been sometime since I have had a recommendation for a good read, so as my last post (probably) before my vacation commences I bring you The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon. This is actually an older trilogy of books that has now been combined into one novel that has been issued for the new release set in the same universe Oath of Fealty.

This storyline is centered on a girl, a sheepfarmers daughter, from a very remote village that dreams of becoming a warrior and paladin. This girls name is Paksenarrion (Paks) and the story starts in the first book, Sheepfarmers Daughter, with her running away from home to join a Mercenary Company when her father dowers her to the son of a nearby pig farmer.

From there you follow Paks as she learns that becoming a warrior is not like her day dreams of riding around with a magic sword, on a magic steed, becoming the hero. She quickly finds out all the hard work involved (digging latrine ditches for instances) and the high price (leaving your best friends behind to die, so that you fulfill your duty) the “hero” pays to be the hero.

This is a basic swords/sorcery fantasy story arc. You have Good and Evil Gods opposing each other, Wizards, Elves, Orcs and Knights with multiple kingdoms with various nobles (both hereditary and through merit). You also have various “religious” orders such as the Fellowship of Gird who was founded by a simple farmer that led a successful rebellion against despotic nobles, then gave his life defending the land from minions of an evil god.

To see if you might want to purchase this compilation you can read the first book, Sheepfarmers Daughter, for free at the Baen Free Library: http://www.webscription.net/10.1125/Baen/0671654160/0671654160.htm

http://www.elizabethmoon.com/books-paksworld.html

Sennadar, Subjugation and Spirits

It’s been awhile since I did a post on good reading material (at least IMHO). So in this round I’m going to direct you to who I believe is the best that I have found on the Internet in the genre’s of Fantasy and Sci Fi.

This author started long long ago back in the early 1990′s with a Story Arc that just kept growing. It eventually encompassed 5 books with each book basically with it’s own storyline inside the over arching one.  The name of the series is called the Firestaff and the writer is known as Fel.

Here is an excerpt from Book 1 of the Firestaff Collection, Tower of Sorcery, where we first meet Tarrin Kael a young man that grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere, who only had one dream in life: To become a Knight of Karas.

      Tarrin was sitting at the table, watching Eron and Elke dancing on the Green while Jenna checked the arrows she’d used in the archery contest for damage, when the knight’s voice called out.  “What brought an Ungardt to such a secluded place?” he asked curiously, walking up to them.  Tarrin saw that the Sorceress was with him, looking at the siblings with her penetrating gaze.

      “She married father,” Jenna piped in simply.  “Father wanted to live here, and mother came with him.  She says it’s warmer than home.”

      “I would think that it is,” the Sorceress said in a mild, calm voice, touched with amusement.  “You are brother and sister?”

      “Yes ma’am,” Tarrin replied respectfully.

      “I can see the resemblence,” she said.

      “Not many people can,” Jenna said impishly.

      “On the contrary, I cannot see how someone could not see that you share common blood,” the woman countered.  She reached into the bodice of her blue dress, and withdrew an amulet made of ivory.  It was rather unusual, Tarrin noticed, a circle holding a six-pointed star inside it created by two triangles resting over each other in opposite directions.  And inside the six-pointed star was a four-pointed star, its points going in the four compass directions, with concavely curved sides.  At the center of that inner star was a small diamond.  “Do either of you know what this is?” she asked.

      “It’s an amulet,” Jenna replied.

      “Not what it is, child, what the symbol means,” the woman elaborated.

      “No,” they both said, almost in unison.

      “It’s the symbol of my order,” she told them, pulling the chain over her head and holding the ivory object in her hand.  “We call it the shaeram.  It represent the seven spheres of Sorcery.  Earth, air, fire, water, the power of the mind, the power of the Goddess, and the seventh sphere, which is the power of confluence.”

      “Con-flewence?” Jenna repeated.  “I’ve never heard that word.”

      “It means the power of joining, of unity,” she said with a smile.  She held out the amulet to them.  “Here, take it.  Hold it in your hands, and tell me what you feel.”

      Jenna took the ivory amulet and silver chain, holding it in her hands and looking at it.  “Ouch!” she cried, almost dropping it before grabbing it by the chain.  She quickly pawned it off to Tarrin.

      “What’s the matter?” Tarrin asked quickly.

      “It’s hot!” she said loudly.

      “Hot?” Tarrin said.  He put his hand near the amulet.  “I don’t feel any heat,” he said, then he put his hand on it.  The instant he did so, it felt like he’d grabbed a piece of stock out of Master Karn’s forge.  “Ahh!” he hissed, yanking his hand back and shaking it violently to cool it.  “How do you wear this thing without getting branded?” he asked the Sorceress crossly.  Jenna was blowing on her fingers, giving the woman a baleful look.

      “Here, let me see,” she said calmly.  Jenna presented her hands.  Her fingers were red and blistered.  “By the Goddess!” the woman said under her breath.  “Here, you too, Tarrin Kael,” she said, in a commanding voice.  Tarrin held out his hand.

      His skin was severely blistered wherever it touched the ivory.

      “It burned you,” she breathed in surprise.  She put her hand over Tarrin’s seared fingers, and Tarrin suppressed the desire to yank it away when he felt something flow into his hand.  The throbbing pain eased, and then was gone, washed away by some sort of sensation that was warm and icy at the same time, and not entirely pleasant.  She let his hand go, and he gawked at it.  His fingers were smooth, pink skin, and showed no signs that anything had happened to them.

      “How did you do that?” he asked in shock as she took Jenna’s hands in her own.  Jenna yelped and tried to pull away, but the woman’s hands were like steel, holding them in an iron grip.

      “My name is Dolanna Casbane, a katzh-dashi,” she said formally.  “What I just did is called healing, and with practice, it is something that both of you will be able to do someday.”

      They both just stared at her.

      “The young one is a bit too young,” the knight said.

      “No matter,” she replied.  “I’m amazed that neither of them have done anything.  She needs instruction before she has an accident.”  She put the ivory amulet back around her neck, tucking the device back under her bodice.

      “What are you talking about?” Tarrin asked.

      “Both of you, you have tremendous potential,” she said, pursing her lips.  Then she noticed the slightly confused looks she was getting.  “Both of you have the natural talent to be Sorcerers, to be katzh-dashi,” she explained.  “Tremendous potential.  The shaeram burned you.  I have never seen that happen before.”

      Jenna looked at her a bit fearfully.  “What does that mean?”

      “That means that both of you must come to the Tower of Six Spires, in Suld, and undergo formal training,” she replied.  “Soon.  Now.”

      “Now?” Jenna said.  “I can’t just leave!  My parents wouldn’t let me, and I don’t want to go!”

      “Jenna,” Tarrin soothed, “calm down.”  Then he looked at the small woman expectantly.

      “There is no need to look so surprised,” she said gently.  “Nor is there reason to be frightened.  I will speak to your parents, and let them know what has happened.  Then we will all sit down somewhere quiet and discuss what must be done.”

      Tarrin put his arm around Jenna, who had begun to cry, then he pulled her into his arms and comforted her, his own mind tumbling around a numb sensation.  “It was wrong to just blurt it out like that, Dolanna,” the knight berated as the pair left.

      “I was surprised,” she said a bit ruefully, and then their voices were lost in the din.  He didn’t notice the knight stop and look back at them.

      “But I wanted to be a knight,” he said numbly, putting his chin on the top of his sister’s head.

From there Fel takes the reader on a journey, the journey of life and times of Tarrin Kael. You live the high and lows with a young man coming of age and the harsh lessons that he learns along the way. You will see an innocent, highly principled youth get turned into the most feared being on the face of the planet, while deep inside protected from the harsh cruelties of life the innocent youth still remains.

The Firestaff Collection spawned a sequel the Pyrosian Chronicles, but besides the action fantasy Fel also has taken a stroll into Sci Fi with his Subjugation Universe:

Mankind’s first contact with extra-terrestrial life was as dramatic and historical as everyone believed it would be. 

 They were called the Faey, and they came to Earth not as messengers of peace, but as conquerors.

      On March 12th, 2005, they arrived in two immense starships and addressed the peoples of Earth via radio transmission, in every major language, that Earth had two weeks to surrender to the Faey Imperium or face war.  They did not use any show of force or destroy anything to prove their might, for the images that Earth telescopes gave of their two vessels was all the show of force anyone needed.  They were two miles long and nearly three quarters of a mile across, two sleekly designed monstrosities that were so massive that when they entered into Earth orbit, they affected the tides.

      The next day, a lone Faey emissary descended from the vessels above to address the United Nations with the Faey demands, and the global news coverage of the arrival of the emissary caused its own confusion.  The Faey representative, a high-ranking military officer, was a breathtakingly lovely human-looking female with light blue skin and pointed ears.  She did not look like a warlike alien, she did not even look particularly dangerous.  But when she addressed the United Nations, in English, it became quite apparent to everyone watching the globally broadcast event that she was every bit the conqueror.  She was arrogant and condescending, and she made it clear immediately that there would be no negotiation.  The Earth had two weeks to surrender unconditionally or face war.  Earth could either surrender or be conquered, but either way, they would become a part of the Faey Imperium.

      Faced with an enemy vastly superior in technology to their own, the nations of Earth met in the United Nations met for two solid weeks and debated furiously, but such a debate had only one ultimate conclusion.  That conclusion was reached March 26th, 2005, when the Secretary General of the United Nations, Vladimir Kosparivic, formally and officially surrendered on behalf of all the nations of Earth.

      Without firing a shot, without killing a single human being, the Faey Imperium conquered Earth.

      And so, Earth became a farming colony under Faey control.  The second major shock that the natives—as the Faey called them—discovered about their conquerors was that there was much more to them than first believed.  The Faey were a telepathic species, and they used that telepathic power to quickly move in and root out all the resistance movements that had sprung up since their arrival.  All Terran governments were dissolved, replaced by a feudalist system where a Faey noble held absolute power over his or her territory.  At first, the humans held hope that their conquerors could somehow be overthrown, but it was a feeble one.  In two months, the Faey Occupational Forces wiped out every band of organized resistance, leaving the humans with nothing but grim resignation of the lot that had been dealt to them.

This story spawned sequels with more to come.

To read online or download Fel’s oldest works go to this address:

http://sennadar.com/oldsite/

To download Fel’s newest stories visit his site here:

http://forums.sennadar.com/

You do not need to register to download Fel’s stories only to take part in the various discussion forums.

Mission of Honor E-Arc

WARNING THIS WILL BE A LONG POST 

In my very first blog post I mentioned the publishing house of Baen Books while talking about DRM. In this post I’m going to talk specifically about why I believe Baen Books is the best publishing house and the model all others should follow. I also will be talking about the latest Honor Harrington book too. 

First up: What is Baen Books?                                                                                

Baen Books was formed by the late Jim Baen, who was known across the publishing world as a visionary and later on you will see how much of a visionary he was. Jim Baen back in 1983 formed Baen Books which specializes in adventure, fantasy, military science fiction and space opera genres. Over the years he not only signed some of the biggest names in Scifi/Fantasy but discovered quite a few of it rising stars. If you are a fan of David Drake, David Weber, Lois McMasters Bujold, Mercedes Lackey, Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven and Robert Heinlein you have probably read a Baen Book. 

Second: What made Jim Baen a visionary? 

Back in 1999 Jim Baen saw the power of the internet and he foresaw things like the Kindle. In that year he started an e-book operation with Arnold Bellamy called Webscriptions. There they sold e-books without a shred of anti-piracy software on it and in multiple formats to make it easier on Baen customers. He also started not just a company website but an interactive community between himself, the executives of Baen, the authors and the fans. Fans could log into what became known as Baens Bar and actually talk to Jim Baen himself and his top executives, tell him what they liked, what they didn’t and also interact with the people that authored their favorite books. I will speak more of Baen’s Bar later but we will move on to the Baen Free Library and where Jim Baen put his money where his mouth and his principles were. 

Back when e-books first started was the era of Napster and the Record industry running around screaming how “piracy” was killing the recording business. They stated they had to be able to slap very restrictive anti piracy software (DRM) on to save themselves and the “recording artists”. The Major Publishing houses seeing all this followed suit using DRM on any e-book they released. 

One of Jim Baens authors not only disagreed with this, he disagreed strongly and talked to Jim Baen about it. Instead of myself trying to tell this tale I will just copy the best part here and then let you go read the rest for yourself. 

Introducing the Baen Free Library

by Eric Flint

Baen Books is now making available — for free — a number of its titles in electronic format. We’re calling it the Baen Free Library. Anyone who wishes can read these titles online — no conditions, no strings attached. (Later we may ask for  an extremely simple, name & email only, registration. ) Or, if you prefer, you can download the books in one of several formats. Again, with no conditions or strings attached. (URLs to sites which offer the readers for these format are also listed. ) 

Why are we doing this? Well, for two reasons. 

The first is what you might call a “matter of principle.” This all started as a byproduct of an online “virtual brawl” I got into with a number of people, some of them professional SF authors, over the issue of online piracy of copyrighted works and what to do about it. 

There was a school of thought, which seemed to be picking up steam, that the way to handle the problem was with handcuffs and brass knucks. Enforcement! Regulation! New regulations! Tighter regulations! All out for the campaign against piracy! No quarter! Build more prisons! Harsher sentences! 

Alles in ordnung! 


  I, ah, disagreed. Rather vociferously and belligerently, in fact. And I can be a vociferous and belligerent fellow. My own opinion, summarized briefly, is as follows: 

1. Online piracy — while it is definitely illegal and immoral — is, as a practical problem, nothing more than (at most) a nuisance. We’re talking brats stealing chewing gum, here, not the Barbary Pirates. 

2. Losses any author suffers from piracy are almost certainly offset by the additional publicity which, in practice, any kind of free copies of a book usually engender. Whatever the moral difference, which certainly exists, the practical effect of online piracy is no different from that of any existing method by which readers may obtain books for free or at reduced cost: public libraries, friends borrowing and loaning each other books, used book stores, promotional copies, etc. 

3. Any cure which relies on tighter regulation of the market — especially the kind of extreme measures being advocated by some people — is far worse than the disease. As a widespread phenomenon rather than a nuisance, piracy occurs when artificial restrictions in the market jack up prices beyond what people think are reasonable. The “regulation-enforcement-more regulation” strategy is a bottomless pit which continually recreates (on a larger scale) the problem it supposedly solves. And that commercial effect is often compounded by the more general damage done to social and political freedom. 

In the course of this debate, I mentioned it to my publisher Jim Baen. He more or less virtually snorted and expressed the opinion that if one of his authors — how about you, Eric? — were willing to put up a book for free online that the resulting publicity would more than offset any losses the author might suffer. 

The minute he made the proposal, I realized he was right. After all, Dave Weber’s On Basilisk Station has been available for free as a “loss leader” for Baen’s for-pay experiment “Webscriptions” for months now. And — hey, whaddaya know? — over that time it’s become Baen’s most popular backlist title in paper! 

And so I volunteered my first novel, Mother of Demons, to prove the case. And the next day Mother of Demons went up online, offered to the public for free. 

Sure enough, within a day, I received at least half a dozen messages (some posted in public forums, others by private email) from people who told me that, based on hearing about the episode and checking out Mother of Demons, they either had or intended to buy the book. In one or two cases, this was a “gesture of solidarity. “But in most instances, it was because people preferred to read something they liked in a print version and weren’t worried about the small cost — once they saw, through sampling it online, that it was a novel they enjoyed. (Mother of Demons is a $5.99 paperback, available in most bookstores. Yes, that a plug. ) 


Then, after thinking the whole issue through a bit more, I realized that by posting Mother of Demons I was just making a gesture. Gestures are fine, but policies are better.So, the next day, I discussed the matter with Jim again and it turned out he felt exactly the same way. So I proposed turning the Mother of Demons tour-de-force into an ongoing project. Immediately, David Drake was brought into the discussion and the three of us refined the idea and modified it here and there. And then Dave Weber heard about it, and Dave Freer, and. . . voila.  

 The Baen Free Library was born. 

This will be a place where any author can, at their own personal discretion, put up online for free any book published by Baen that they so desire. There is absolutely no “pressure” involved. The choice is entirely up to the authors, and that is true on all levels: 

— participate, or not, as they choose; 

— put up whatever book they choose; 

— for as long as they choose. 

http://www.baen.com/library/ 

So here we are over 10 years later and what became of Webscriptions, the Bar, the Free Library and how has it affected Baen Books? 

Lets start with the last first: 

Baen was an outspoken opponent of DRM, regarding it as harmful to publishers and authors as well as readers. He flatly refused to use encryption or even Adobe’s Portable Document Format (PDF) and was quite vocal in lambasting e-copy protection in any form as an act that was cutting the throat of any publisher that adopted it. This stance was quite controversial at the time, but after seven years, other publishers are adopting the same policy, and Baen Book’s hardcover sales numbers have soared in direct relation to the number of titles available as inexpensive e-books, while the competition’s remained flat or declined in the same period. As another measure, in comparison, e-royalties paid by Baen run circa 5% of a hardcover royalty over the same period, other publishers have paid out less than 1% comparatively on average — typical period numbers are a difference of four figures to two figures in e-royalties. 

Baen Books has grown steadily since and established a large readership among fans of accessible adventure SF, publishing books by authors such as David Weber, John Ringo, Eric Flint, David Drake, Lois McMaster Bujold, Elizabeth Moon, Mercedes Lackey, Larry Niven, and many more. According to Eric Flint’s “Editor’s Page” Column just after Baen’s death, once tiny Baen Books had been voted the second most looked for “label” among science-fiction fans, up from fourth in 2004, and seventh in 2003. The rapid growth in recent years is credited being due to Jim Baen’s visionary electronic marketing strategy — by seeming to court piracy, ignoring encryption and by giving away free titles on CDROM (See “Electronic marketing strategy” under Baen Books), by offering bundled “bargain samplers” and e-ARCs — Baen’s e-marketing pulled in sales. People could sample the wares, decide they liked it, and picked up a tangible book to read — which given the series orientation of the SF genre, translated into more than one book. In short, even as the average small town library is trimming titles carried and stocking up on audio-visual media, Baen took advantage of technology to counteract the former “boost” gotten from libraries buying titles and keeping them around. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Baen 

Some of what I’m now going to talk about next was mentioned briefly earlier. 

Webscriptions: 

The Webscriptions site is not just a place to buy e-books or even to buy a dead tree copy (paper) to have mailed to you. It is more like going to a bookstore but one that just happens to be coming to you instead of you going to it. 

How does it work like that? Simple you can go through the Baen library of books on Webscriptions and read sample chapters of all the books and not just the old books either. You can read samples of the newest releases and even books that haven’t seen print yet. 

I know you are asking “Say what? Not even in print yet? How can that be?” 

That is another thing about Baen Book, you can actually buy the e-book version of most of their titles up to 5 months before they go to print. Take your time I’ll wait until you pick yourself up off the floor and close your jaw…….before dropping you again. 

The way that Baen is able to do this is that they offer what is called an electronic Advanced Readers Copy or e-Arc for short. 

What is an e-Arc? Glad you asked, an e-Arc is the final draft turned in by the author to Baen. This is the final version of the story and the only thing different between it and what goes into print is that the final spellcheck and proof read needs to be done. So Baen makes this “final draft” available for sale 3 to 5 months before the print version goes on sale in a bookstore, which brings us to price. So of you may have been following the recent tug of war between some publishers and Amazon over e-book prices, well Baen wasn’t one of them. Baens pricing structure is unique and here is how it goes. 

The e-Arc e-book costs $15.00, now this seems high especially since it’s not the “print” version, but remember that hardcovers cost $25 to $26 or more and here you are getting the same story 3 to 5 months before anyone else. So then the Hardcover comes out and the normal publishing cycle goes into effect all the way down to paperback books. Here is the thing the e-book price drops from the e-Arc to the “print” version just like the Hardcover does to paperback and you can typically get the “print” version for the same price as the paperback or less. That’s right you can get a Baen “print” version e-book for anywhere between $3 to $6. 

Also as I started this section during that entire time since the e-Arc went on sale you could read sample chapters to see if you might like the book first. Just like being in the book store and pulling a book of the shelf, reading the backcover and scanning through the first couple of pages. 

Now here is another area were Webscriptions is different: It is also like an online serial magazine in a way. You can purchase 4 stories for the price $15 but you get the stories in sections to read over time, which is a great budget saver. I might have got a few things wrong so why don’t you read it for yourself at the Webscription FAQ page here: http://www.webscription.net/t-faq.aspx 

The Baen Free Library: 

The Library is still going strong and was last updated in Dec of 2009. In the Library you will find some stand alone books such as Eric Flint’s “Mother of Demons” but also many of the first couple of books in series such as the David Webers “Honorvese”, Eric Flints “1632″ Universe, David Drakes “Cinnabar Navy” series and Mercedes Lackeys “Bardic Voices” series. 

I know some of those series are old and have so many back books in them (Honorverse) that if you now read the first one and liked it, you still couldn’t read the latest and greatest since you would need to try and track down a copy of all the other titles in the series and read them first. Yes that would be a chore and the cost of trying to buy each and everyone of those Honorverse books, however don’t fret I’ll let you in on a secret.  You can read alot of these stories online, for free and no I’m not talking about some pirated copy either, Baen knows all about it and the authors even feed the site administrator tidbits. You can read the entire backlist of the Honorverse, The Cinnabar Navy Series, the 1632 series and many more at this site: 

http://baencd.thefifthimperium.com/  

It is run by Joe Buckely, who has an interesting relationship with Baen. It seems that the authors are determined to make Joe the record holder in several SciFi catagories such as the “Most annoying fictional character”, The most spectacular death and the most times being the inspiration for a character that dies. Trust me people if a Character, Ship or AI is patterned after Joe it will have some very unique things happen to him/it and typically in a spectacular death scene. 

Now how was Joe able to do this, simple really he just published online the promotional CD’s that Baen gave away in some of their books. Yes Baen hands out CD’s that have not just a few books on them but almost entire series such as the Honorverse. Baen is fully cognizant of the site and seems to have suffered no ill from it. 

Baens Bar: 

Is still there and still growing. In it you will interact with Arnold Bailey who runs Webscriptions, Toni Weiskopff the person that took over running Baen at the untimely death of Jim Baen and multiple  authors such as Eric Flint, David Weber, Michael Williamson (MadMike), Col. Tom Kratman and many others. Also there is the famous Slush Pile for Baen books where those that want to give it a shot can put a story up, there is also the 1632 Slush Pile where Eric Flint has and does pull stories for his online “newspaper” set in the 1632 Universe the Grantville Gazette (If Eric uses your story he does pay you for it at industry rates and your characters may even make it into the main story of 1632). You will also find that the authors publish snippetts of their up coming works, an example of this was that about %50 of the book Storm From the Shadows by David Weber could be found at the Bar before the book hit the stores, for free. Of course there is the forums for talking about your favorite books and speculation on what will happen in the future. 

Now after all this we get back to the Headline for this piece which is the e-Arc of Mission Of Honor, which I was able to buy, download and read while waiting for this latest snowstorm to finally stop. Thanks to Baen I got to read a good story in the comfort of my home while the weather outside was frightful and I advise that anyone looking for something new to read visit one of the links I provided and join in.

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