Tag Archives: Arisia 2009

At Arisia: whither short fiction and magazines?

I had to leave Arisia around three this afternoon, because tomorrow is a work day. I attended one particularly thought-provoking panel discussion, “the Changing Face of SF/F Magazines,” on the future of future of paper-based magazines. The panelists included two publishers, one of whom publishes online and the other of whom publishes on paper, and two authors. All the panelists agreed that it’s becoming more difficult, financially speaking, to publish a magazine devoted to short fiction — costs of paper, printing, and distribution keep going up. The consensus among the panelists was that eventually we’re going to see paper-based magazines die out in favor of some sort of Internet-based printing and distribution system.

But the panelists reached no consensus as to what is going to replace paper-based magazines. You can find Web-based science fiction magazines, but they typically don’t have enough money to pay authors well (or at all). There are authors, like the writers’ cabal behind Shadow Unit, who self-publish some of their work online and solicit donations. The panelists agreed that authors now have to worry about “branding” themselves; readers don’t just buy a work of fiction, they tend to buy an author’s “brand.” But no one was willing to predict the future of fiction periodicals; and all the panelists agreed that it was going to become harder to earn a living by writing short fiction.

The discussion broadened beyond paper-based magazines, and turned to books:– paper-based books are facing the same economic realities as paper-based magazines. There was more consensus about the direction books are going in:– books are now being published in multiple formats (e-books, other downloadable files, print-on-demand, and traditional books), and that trend will continue. But the situation is still very much in flux, and no one knows quite how it’s going to turn out.

I wonder if the monks who were scribes had these kinds of conversations among themselves when Gutenberg started printing books on his printing press.

At Arisia

Liveblogging from a science fiction convention

Richard Stallman was a member of a panel discussion called “Copyright: Theory and Practice Today and Tomorrow.” I have never seen him in person before. He is extremely articulate and plays with his long hair when he is not speaking. He said: “Never use a product with DRM [Digital Rights Management] unlessyou know how to break the DRM.”

At the same panel discussion, a librarian stood up to speak about orphaned works, that is, works which are covered under copyright law but where the copyright owner can no longer be found. “Librarians want to make orphaned works available,” she said. Librarians, she claimed, want to reach as wide an audience as possible, but under current copyright law it is illegal for them to digitize orphaned works; this limits how libraries can make information available to the people they are trying to serve. She wore a costume that you might see in an 18th C. historical re-enactment: white blouse, bodice, full skirt.

This is one of those conventions where people wear costumes. Earlier, I saw a woman wearing leopard-skin-pattern cloth over most of her body, a wide black belt, and an orange cape passing by a man in black leather pants and a black leather coat and a fuzzy red lobster hat. Just now, a woman walked by wearing a very short latex miniskirt. Now a man just walked by wearing a large grey tri-cornered hat, and a colorful quilt as a cape.

The film series here at Arisia has been excellent so far. Highlights this evening: Our Man Flint, a 1966 parody of the old James Bond films, which is subtler and much funnier than the Austin Powers franchise. We saw it in a 35 mm print that was in poor condition; but even in poor condition, I still prefer film to digital video. Also fascinating was a six-minute film in 16 mm called “Heave Away.” It looked like an amateur film, with bizarre footage of the decommissioning of a NASA spacecraft; the soundtrack was a recording of a sea shanty performed by obscure folk singer Helva Peters. This film represents what people did before YouTube videos. And later this evening, they’ll be showing a new print of Metropolis, with live organ music.

Carol just arrived. “This is fantastic,” she said. This means: Boy, there is unbelievably good people-watching here.