Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Dead Hand of Mrs. Stifle

It's not a horror story.

A while ago, I set about writing an essay/blog post about the ways I think self-published e-books are changing not just the business of publishing but the nature of published fiction. It's the latter part that I think is important and long-lasting.

The essay grew and grew. I ended up publishing it as a shortish (okay, short) e-book. Which seems appropriate to me, given the subject matter. That's an experiment for me. Everything else I've published as an e-book was standard book length. Short e-books at even lower prices than standard-length e-books seem to be popping up more and more. That's an interesting development in itself, I think.

Details here: http://www.dvorkin.com/stifle/

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mischievous Time Traveler

Imagine the reaction if some mischievous time traveler had dropped this paragraph, from today's Eurekalert, into a popular science magazine fifty years ago:

Oxford Nanopore will collaborate with Harvard University for the development of graphene for DNA sequencing. Graphene has remarkable electrical and physical properties; it is a single atom thick sheet of carbon with very high conductivity. By piercing a nanopore in graphene it may be possible to use this material to analyze DNA at a very high speed and low cost.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Business macho suckers

You’ve probably run into these people. You may even be one of them.

“I work at least 60 hours each week,” they brag. “Sometimes I work 12 hours a day, seven days a week. I never take a vacation. My kids don’t recognize me. The dog thinks I’m a stranger and barks at me.”

The subtext is, “What a stud I am!”

The reality is, “What a sucker you are.”

It’s the modern, corporate version of machismo. (Is there a machisma flavor, too? I assume so, but I haven’t encountered it.)

Dig down, and there’s something much more sinister than machismo. These workers are exhibiting the mentality of the medieval serf who thought he was in the role that God had intended for him and that his noble masters deserved to live in a castle and profit from his labor because that was the role God had ordained for them. His noble masters agreed.

Some of these modern serfs think the system is fine because if they work hard, adhere to most of the rules while bending the right ones, play the game, and have just a bit of luck, then some day they’ll be living in the castle themselves. Indeed, a few of them will ascend to the halls of the nobles. Even in the Middle Ages, there were rare cases of people rising from the lowest rungs of the social ladder to the upper ones. It was rare, but it did happen. But that didn’t make the institution of serfdom any less evil.

Of course modern times are different from the Middle Ages. After all, we don’t have inherited titles, and today’s serfs aren’t legally tied to the land.

I’m sure the plutocrats are working on that.