Thursday, August 26, 2010

Nerd Rage: You Run a Blog? $300.00 Please.

Of all the bureaucratic stupidity I've ever heard, this has to take the cake. The City of Philadelphia wants to charge blog owners/runners $300.00 claiming they are small businesses. For those who want the original story, it can be found here.

This is their reasoning as I understand it:

1. We need money.
2. Blogs make money.
3. Therefore they are businesses.
4. Therefore, we can charge them license fees.
5. Money problem solved!

Gah! Ok, first off, as I understand it most blogs do not make any money, or if they do it's to the tune of, like the article mentions, $11.00 over a few years. From what I've seen most blogs are like mine, a chance to share your thoughts and feelings with the world, a matter of expression and free speech. Only in Philly, it ain't free.

Granted, some blogs are run as media outlets/advertising/business communications. Heck, I'll even so far as to admit that one of the reason I had when starting mine was as advertising for my writing career, such as it is. But note, I have no advertising running on my blog, nor do I earn anything from it. Everything I've posted here has been free of charge (and will remain as such for the immediate future), and I've gotten no special favors or opportunities because of it. It's not like say, Whatever, which is essentially a marketing tool for John Scalzi, or Robert J. Sawyer's site. Both are for established authors, both advertise their works/services (they are available for appearances/talks/bar mitzvahs/whatever), and you can even buy autographed copies directly from Sawyer's site. So for those two examples I could understand classifying them as businesses and charging a license fee. I'd still think it's cheesy, as let's face it, most authors don't make that much money and essentially you piling another tax/fee upon them.

Interesting thought though. Philly already charges freelance writers the $300.00 (yes, yes, they are that money grubbing that they're already sticking it to people who probably can barely afford to make rent much less pay a license fee), so I wonder if they can start blogs and claim it as part of their established business. Even better, get the people who have blogs to team up with a freelance writer who claims the blog under their existing license and "hires" the other person as a work for fee writer, the fee being the occasional smile. :)

Nah! Wouldn't work. The city would likely just claim the blog was a new business and to cough up the fee anyways.

Do I expect a huge outcry about this? Yes and No. I expect on the Internet it will be a huge issue and fought tooth and nail. The regular media/mainstream audiences are likely to say "so what?" For them it's likely not that big of a deal. Keep in mind that while the number of people online is growing, it's still a relatively small number worldwide. And even then, how many bloggers are there in Philly?

I can see this going too ways. First, the blog community in Philly could dry up completely as people start shutting down or registering the blog out of city to avoid the fee. Second, I can see someone fighting this tooth and nail and get this shot down as a impediment to free speech. Honestly, I think it's going to be a mix of the two. A lot of people won't care that much and will close their blogs, but a few will be pissed off enough to fight it.

For those who are going to fight it, you have my support and well wishes. Just not my financial support. Hey, I'm just a poor blogger too.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served... Well Not To Me Apparently

Well, as you've probably already heard the winners for the Scalzi/Wheaton contest have been announced, and I'm not one of them.

Dang.

Part of me would like to use much stronger language in regards to this, but that would be counter productive and truly unfair to the actual winners. As much as I'd like to vent and rant about it, there is no good reason to. Heck, I should be proud of myself for even entering. I could have just sat on the sidelines and then regretted not trying. The only way I'll get published is if I keep trying. Who knows, maybe John Scalzi will take the suggestion about making this an annual thing to heart and I'll get another chance next year.

I'm glad I took a few days to mull over my feelings before making this post. I think the thing that really, really bothers me, is that the rejection for this was impersonal. There was no other way it could be of course, with the over 350 entries (I think that was the total number they quoted), so it's no one's fault. And it's not like I'm not used to rejection, but what I've been getting from other places has been so positive.

I know, I know, positive rejection, what's that? The best way I can put it is, the messages I've been getting back on the Riding Europa submissions have been polite, mostly form letters, but encouraging me to still submit. That may not sound like much, but it's a big difference to hear "this doesn't work for us, but please continue to submit," instead of "this doesn't work for us."

Maybe I'm just grasping at straws. Who knows? Still, I've written three things since I finished Riding Europa; a novella that's being read by friends, the Scalzi/Wheaton submission, and the first draft of a short story I just finished tonight. Each one has felt stronger than the last, so even if Riding Europa doesn't make it I've still got things in the pipeline I can send out.

Also, I haven't run out of ideas, not by a long shot. Gonna spend the rest of tonight reading, and then start working on another new project tomorrow while letting the first draft of my current story percolate in the back of my brain.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Dork Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Go and see this movie.

Right now.

You're still here? Alright I'll give you some reasons to see it. If you've seen any of the trailers for this movie your probably have one of two reactions; shouting "awesome!" or scratching your head and going "WTF?". Alright then, my reaction was the first, but I can fully understand the second.

Scott Pilgrim is a wild and frenetic movie filled with geek love, and not just the love between the two main characters Scott and Ramona. It's rife with video game references and wild characters, but at the same time remains consistent and, dare I say it grounded. It's wacky, but not over the top wacky. Everything that happens in the movie makes a weird sort of sense, even the stuff that should make most of the audience clutch their heads and scream. Fair warning; if you do not have any imagination do not see this movie as it will likely fry your feeble little brain, so fair warning to business and phys-ed students.

And the movie is more than just a geek love story. We get to see Scott change and develop, to become someone truly worthy of being in a relationship, while he fights the demons (somewhat literal) from Ramona's dating past and realizes some of the damage he's done in his own dating past. The ending is done just right, with a bit of a twist yet still meeting the audience's expectations.

When this comes out on Blu-ray I will be picking it up. This movie is destined to be one of those, as my friend Jeff put it, love it or hate it cult classics. I love it, and you should to.

Go now, as a movie this awesome isn't likely to last much longer in theaters. It's just too weird and too fun.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Nerd Rage: Book Prices

Ok, so this is going to be a bit of a rant. Fair warning and all that.

So, lets set the stage. Last night a friend and I went out for sushi and then ended up wandering around Chapters to look at some books. Nothing to unusual at that. I love to just browse, and it's not unusual for me to pick something up. Saw one book that caught my interest, checked the price and it was 14.95 American and 16.95 Canadian. So, about two dollars difference. Not really that much when you get right on down to it. Seems reasonable to me, only being about a 13% difference, well within what you would expect with current currency fluctuations. So I decide to pick it up.

Little bit later I find another book, this one on how agriculture and the movement of foodstuffs has affected empires. Sounds cool to me, so I check the price; 25.00 American and 32.99 Canadian! Excuse me, why the 30% difference in price? Especially considering that the Canadian dollar hasn't been, on average, under 10% different than the American dollar this year? And this isn't even an isolated example. I looked in the fiction section and found the new Starcraft book detailing the early history of Jim Raynor and considered picking it up (don't judge, I like backstory to Starcraft) but the price differential is the same. Why should I buy any books at Chapters, when I can go over the border and even with duty and exchange rate still save probably around 15%?

The 15% is of course an estimate, as I'll admit I haven't crunched all the numbers and if I do make a trip over to the States it's likely to be for more than just books. But still, 30% difference in book prices when the Canadian dollar is as strong as it is and has been for an extended period is redonkulous.

It's even worse for a friend of mine. He's really into naval history, much more than I am, and looks for books on the subject. First off, he had to use the American Amazon site because the Canadian one sucks beyond belief (you can search for something using the same search string on both sites, find it on the American but not on the Canadian, then take the ISBN number and find it on the Canadian site). He'll find the book on the American site, then look it up on the Canadian one and the price differential will be even worse. A book that goes for 200 on the American site will be over 600 in Canada! Gah!

How many book sales are lost because of this? How many authors are getting shot in the foot by the cover prices of their books? Hell, how much of the Canadian book market, heck even the overall economy, compromised by this? If the Canadian price was more in line with the American price we would probably see a nice bump in book sales by chains up north, and hopefully more independents getting a slice of the action as well.

I know this stopped me from buying two books last night.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Proposition 8 Overturned!

This (link) makes me very, very happy, as someone very dear to me is gay, and I'd love for her to be able to get married no matter where in the world she may be. Not that it's really an issue, as she lives in a country where it is legal, but anything the increases the acceptance of gay and lesbian rights in the world is alright by me.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Riding Europa - Rejection 1, Submission 2

Well, the fine people of Asimov's have decided they don't want my short story Riding Europa. It was nice that I did receive a response in just about a month, so at least I know. Now to try placing it somewhere else. Hmm... where to send it, where to send it. Ah, Lightspeed! Away it goes.