PostHeaderIconWeek of 25 Feb - 3 Mar 2017

Week of 25 Feb - 3 Mar 2017


Welcome to my weekly update. A new month means a new Rule of Five episode. I've also got a new Analog column out. Some writing this week, but I've also been making progress on a couple of personal projects.

This Week

Major Project: 

For the last few years I've been scanning my personal library; this week I have 3,500 books in electronic format. (It's going to take a while longer; I know we've got more than 10,000 books in this house.)

Why do this? For one thing, many of my older books are falling apart. 50-year-old paperbacks haven't aged well; wood pulp paper oxidizes in what's essentially a very slow process of burning. Between brittle, browning pages and small print, it's getting harder and harder to read them.

For another, our house is FULL. Books on the hard drive/in the cloud don't take up any space. I'm reclaiming shelves (some of which are themselves falling apart).

For a third, I've discovered that when you touch a paper page and spread your fingers, the print doesn't get any bigger. My eyes are constantly getting older, and print keeps getting smaller.

Finally, if they ever figure out this "transfer your consciousness into the cloud" thing, I want to have all my stuff waiting there for me. Scanning books is a logical extension of ripping songs or videos to digital files.

Aren't you violating copyright? No. These digital copies are for my own personal use, not to share or sell. I'm sending the physical books to the recycling plant.

What tools do you use? I have an aging but reliable Fujitsu ScanSnap sheetfed scanner, an Amzdeal 17" Steel Heavy Duty Manual Guillotine Paper Cutter to cut the books apart, our trusty iMac to store them, Book Collector software for cataloging, and an iPad to read them upon.

Paper Cutter? You mean you're...? Yeah, I'm cutting the spines off to make loose pages. When I started, I used books that were falling apart anyway, so it was more like mercy killing. By now I've become used to it.

Are you doing this to ALL your books? No. Some books I treasure as physical objects—maybe they're particularly well-made or attractive, maybe they're autographed copies, maybe they just have sentimental value. However, in all these cases I have no qualms about ordering a cheap used copy and scanning it.

I could never do that. Okay, no one's forcing you.

By the way, could you scan a few books for me? Generally, no. I figure I've got at least five years of work here, if not more. However, if there's something you desperately need scanned, and I like you enough...we can talk. 

Other Project(s): 

Still polishing up A Cosmos of Many Mansions, a collection of my first five years of Analog columns. I expect to have it available by the end of the month.

Plugging away at Hunt for the Dymalon Cygnet, the long-awaited follow-up to Dance for the Ivory Madonna.  


Upcoming Appearance(s): 

Obligatory Cute Hamster Picture

Currently Reading


We live in unsettled times. Like many writers I know, it's a challenge and a struggle for me to keep on target with my writing goals. Each day seems to bring new anguish, new threats, new distractions.

Still, I force myself to sit down and work. I'd like to think that science fiction and fantasy are more important than ever these days. At very least, our field supplies diversion and escape; at most, perhaps we actually do some active social good—by exposing readers to different ideas and points of view, by giving a sense of perspective. (Ray Bradbury is rumored to have said, "I don't write to predict the future, but to prevent it.")

Frederik Pohl told the story of when he was editing Galaxy magazine during the McCarthy era, and a church minister in Los Angeles used to sell science fiction magazines outside the church after services, because "it was the only free speech in America." Pohl went on to say that science fiction was too revolutionary for censors to understand…and if the censors ever got sophisticated enough to censor sf, then we were all in trouble.

I've got some stuff out there that I'm pretty proud of. A collection of queer writings, sf and nonfiction. A near-future sf novel that caused Melissa Scott to call me "a left wing Robert A. Heinlein." A 25th century tyrant defeated by a multiculti group of African-descended pansexual clone geniuses. A pair of teen gay romances (1) and (2). A kinda new-agey far-future novel that brings out the best in Humanity. 

Anyway, I keep doing what I can. As should we all.

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