Saturday, August 09, 2008

Denvention, Saturday part I

A full day today.

I started with one of the guilty pleasures of a con - going to hear editors and publishers' readers read the worst things that float to the top of the slush pile. (The "slush pile" being the name for the unsolicited submissions they receive.) It's a guilty pleasure because no one likes ripping another writer's work apart in public, but they are often so rippable - so funny - that it's impossible not to like the experience.

This year the editors must have felt subconsciously guilty too, because two out of three of them forgot their folder of slush pile gems. Erin Evans of Wizards of the Coast was the exception, and she not only cross referenced the slushees' names against the con-goers lists, but also stuck mainly to cover letters and query letters rather than the fiction itself. This allowed us in the audience to hear some of the hubris, and some of the complete lack of social skills, of the authors rather than their inability to write English. As usual, it was rib-ticklingly funny.

Ms. Evans told the tale of one person who first told the Wizards of the Coast staff that they were going to Hell ( WotC also runs Dungeons and Dragons), but finished off with a plaintive plea to buy his/her manuscript first. The others agreed - if you want to sell your work don't do that.

In fact don't do that was the theme for a lot of the excerpts, so I learned a lot.

Then a panel on Copyright, DRM and so forth in which Brad Templeton of the EFF and Jim Minz, Baen editor, acquitted themselves very well. Fascinating subject, but too long to go into here. Sample sound bite from Baen: If someone is never going to pay for an ebook, then it is not worth the investment in cash to put on DRM to prevent him stealing it. It's a waste of money.

Brad Templeton also pointed out that by moving your files into the "cloud" (cyberspace) as opposed to a computer under your control in your home, you were "erasing the Fourth Amendment" for yourself as it guarantees rights against unreasonable searches and siezures in your home, not in files in someone else's custody (except in named areas such as email, medical records and banking records).

A panel on the phenomenon of Harry Potter followed, at which I mainly wrote down tips on what people love about Potter for my own use.

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