Two Wrongs

Paul Krugman, an economist I usually find myself agreeing with and a dude whom I maintain a cache of respect for, has been getting a lot of author traction on the internets of late. Why? His recent opinion piece in the New York Times Amazon’s Monopsony Is Not O.K.

This morning no less than five author-peers reposted or reblogged Krugman’s opinion. Paul’s point “Amazon.com, the giant online retailer, has too much power, and it uses that power in ways that hurt America” is arguably a valid point. Arguably as there have been a number of well reasoned collections of words published of late which completely justify what Amazon is and has been doing in its ongoing struggle with Hachette. It’s arguable that Amazon is a monopsony (go ahead I had to look it up). It too is arguable that in a battle where the limits are drawn by the boundaries of the publishing industry that the suggestion of breaking up the whole company using heavy handed FTC tactics is justified. It is even arguable who, exactly is getting hurt in this interminable struggle.

America, really? Seems a bit over the top to me. Let’s take a brief moment and identify specifically who is being hurt right now. That demographic is authors and more specifically authors who publish through the publishing giant Hachette in one way or another.

People who publish through groups that are not Hachette are not harmed. Consumers who buy books through Amazon or any other distributer are not harmed. The only people taking a physical hit for this are unwitting leverage. Most likely they woke up one morning to find that their books weren’t where they thought they’d be on a list or release day and are arguably pissed they’re not getting their promised place of prominence.

Do I feel bad for someone who published through a Hachette imprint only to discover their master work subject to a “new” gate on its way to the consumer? Yeah sure, traditional publishing has occupied the role of tastemaker time out of mind. Who wouldn’t enter a publishing agreement with a company assuming that they could pull all the strings necessary to build all that delectable buzz. And Krugman has it right, Amazon is being a colossal buzz kill. So when I see statements like this from the esteemed Chuck Wendig I have to stop and think.

Well, even without the facetiousness, I get it — I’d rather be done with this topic, too. But here’s the reality: Amazon is hurting authors. Maybe they’re doing good business for themselves and no, I don’t think they’re evil or unjustified. But I don’t care, either, because authors are getting fucked over. And, to be selfish, given some of my future publishers, no reason to think that this fight isn’t coming down to come of MY books, too. I have friends here who are hurting, and it may hurt me in the future, so fuck all of that.

I don’t believe that it is possible to take note of how bad Amazon is being to these authors without also commenting on the ease with which Hachette sacrifices these people to this fate. For the better part of a year now these two business entities have been causing too much friction in publishing, hurting authors and for what? The right to determine who is and is not successful within the publishing industry. This battle isn’t about margins or money it is about who gets to play tastemaker in the medium. Amazon has been successfully usurping that role from traditional publishers for a while and Hachette is jealous of it’s loss. Jealous, but unwilling to alter it’s own behavior in the same way that Amazon can and has.

And what of the rest of us? Those seemingly few who went with a different imprint or turned the whole row on their own? I’m not in possession of any numbers here, but four of the Big Five and all the world’s independent publishers use Amazon for distribution still and with some success. It is possible that Hachette published authors represent a minority of of those who write.

If Amazon is to be blamed and/or reprimanded for anything than equal sanction should be imposed on Hachette. Krugman is right when he draws parallels between Amazon and Standard Oil, but only in as much as they are big, powerful companies in possession of weight to throw around. Rather, they are all very large business entities behaving badly.

Comrade Vladimir

Vladimir is a retribution melee caster (magic tank) who waits for targets to come to him before metering out spine crushing damage. He is built to soak up everything the opposition can give him and pound them for trying.

Lore: Comrade Vladimir was a naval infantry hero of the Red Rustok-Nestra conflict who became first among equals by crushing all enemy resistance. After the war Red Rustok scientists took advantage of the great bear’s physique and used their cutting edge science to augment him for the Greater Glory of the People’s State.

Vladimir has journeyed to the Fields of Strife to demonstrate to the galaxy the State’s unquestionable superiority. With augmentation of ice, fire, and his own brand of bone crushing might he will best all those who oppose the Red Rustok State.

Early test sketch of Vladimir

Q: Freeze and Thaw (90)

Vladimir swipes ice with his right paw and fire with his left. This attack hits targets within a 180º radius in front of him. Targets are momentarily slowed as the ice chills them to the bone and then their movement speed is increased slightly when the fire paw hits them.

Damage 100/110/120/140%

Cool down: 11 seconds

W: Panic Roar (100)

The great bear roars and all targets in his immediate vicinity temporally are struck with fear. NPCs cannot move or fight, heroes afflicted cannot move, but can still attack.

Panic: 1.5/2.0/2.2/3.0

Cool down: 15 seconds

E: Furnace of Rage (50)

The gray bear drops a barrier of brimstone from his furnace which surrounds him in protective fire. All incoming damage is reduced by 35% for the duration. Enemies that attack Vladimir while the barrier is active take 50/60/70/90 damage and suffer movement slow. Additional hits incur progressive 5% damage increase.

Cool down: 16 seconds

R: Red Blizzard (130)

A large area around Vladimir is engulfed in a momentary blizzard. Targeted area deals 140/185/230 physical damage and applied a 70% movement slow.

Enemies that hit Vladimir during this time receive an additional 75/100/125 damage and bonus slow. Additional hits incur progressive 5% damage increase.

Cool down: 90 seconds

Hadiya the Werehippo

EDIT: (10.10.14) – Zane Kinney did a really cool concept piece using Hadiya. Fear the hippo!

EDIT (10.9.14) – A little feed back and a little more thought later I’ve changed a little about the way Hadiya works. Chomp and Charge to Shore have been sketched as well.

The werehippo on the warpath Hadiya is an aggressive melee hero who can dish a beating and soak plenty of damage. Her skills provide mobility and crushing direct damage and she can stand up to the worst of physical attacks. Hadiya dances, spins, and crushes the opposition.

Hadiya is from a distant race of swamp dwellers who call the mangroves of Nigetia home. The Nigetians trained her in their fighting style, which looks remarkably like a dance, so that she could represent their far culture in the Trials of Strife. She spent her childhood dedicated to this one cause. On the eve of her passage to the trials she was cursed by the hag Nikto and now must integrate the hippo spirit that inhabits her body into her fighting style. She learned to let the hippo emerge at just the right moment on the threshold of the Trials.

Q: Chomp (80)

Hadiya quickly sends forth her hippo form three times. Any target caught in the attack cone takes damage and is pulled close to her.

90/100/110/120% damage.

Cooldown: 12 seconds

W: Restlessness (120)

Grants Hadiya 90 bonus move speed and 10% damage reduction. After 3 seconds, deals 80,105,130,155 magic damage to nearby enemies and stuns for 1,1.25,1.5,1.75 seconds.

Cooldown: 15 seconds

E: Thick Skin (0)

Passively grants stacking shield against physical damage equal to 4,4.5,6.5,9% of Hadiya’s maximum health on ability use. Shield last 6 seconds

Cooldown: 0 seconds

R: Charge to shore (140)

Target direction to charge. Any unit encountered in the path is dealt 140,180,220 physical damage and is pushed to the side of Hadiya’s destination.

If an obstacle is encountered enemies take 50% additional damage and a 0.8 second stun.

Cooldown: 60 seconds

New Things

Admittedly, I am a far happier person when I stick to the predictable. Want to take me out for something to eat? Take me to someplace I know well enough to avoid looking at the menu and I’ll be a happy. I usually ignore alternative driving directions because they might take me along unknown roads and into unexperienced traffic messes. And I spend the greatest effort in my day-to-day affairs sticking to a predictable schedule so that both Aral and I can exist in the tranquility that results from that sort of routine.

I’ve played World of Warcraft, the massively multiplayer on-line role playing game of great fame, since people actually role played within the confines of the world. When it was new I got sucked into it because a friend was playing and because it was arguably the climax of a pursuit I had invested a lot of time and effort into previously (starting way back with DiKU MUDs). So, for nearly a decade now, I’ve ponied up about $15 bucks a month and slogged my way through dungeons, guild politics, griefers and hackers while seeking purples and legendary orange tokens indicative of my dedication to this collective suspension of disbelief.

After a while this became sort of a habit. Something I kept doing because I have done it before, because I scheduled my life around this game. “Leave me alone, it’s raid night,” was a common refrain heard in my household. I don’t think I ever over did this indulgence, but I certainly invested my time and effort into it. Often gladly, some times even with great joy.

But here is where my story finds a kink. Last January, while attending Legendary Confusion, I met a representative from S2 Games. Unfortunately I don’t recall the guys name, but I imagine I could pick him out of a line up if pressed. Hopefully I can be forgiven, there were a lot of new faces and names and likely some drinking mixed in. Anyway, he handed me a short comic book about the new game he and his compatriots were working on.

I thanked him and tucked it into my bag next to a growing stack of interesting hand outs. There it sat, forgotten until just a few days ago.

Sometime this summer, when I was increasingly frustrated and bored by the same old slog I have labeled Pandarian Summer Funk, I somehow made it into the closed beta for Strife. I downloaded the game and played a little. Game play was exciting and new, tactically challenging even. Most matches were over in an average of seventeen minutes, which meant that I could pop open the client, get a quick game fix and return to real life satisfied. Compared to the cluster events that even Looking for Raid imposed upon me this was an exceptional advantage. Write a thousand words, play a quick match, fold some laundry — my days and life are not consumed by a little escapism.

As time wore on and the beta opened up I started looking into the story. The artworkS2 commissioned, both in game and for the game, is excellent. A very rich and involving world with just enough visual zing to keep the GPU warm. The character and world development feels a lot like looking over the edge of a crevasse on a deep glacier. You don’t see much on just over the surface, but you get the impression of depth. And the story itself, that the heros gather on the fields of Strife to practice their martial arts, requires no more disbelief than WOW ever did.

By September Strife had replaced all other games. Today I composed the basis of one of three new heros that have been floating around in my head (a werehippo named Hadiya, she if freaking awesome). In some small way, a way that I thought never to see repeated after WOW entered my life, my imagination has been captured once again by a game.

I’ve recently canceled my WOW subscription. Ostensibly it’s because I just don’t have that much time to play games these days, but you can add to this that I think Blizzard has lost the all too critical thread of their own story. They seem more focused on improving graphic rendering in game and concocting media sell-out events designed to pander attention than hiring good writers who can continue their formerly strong tradition of story telling. Seriously, Azeroth Cycles? This is some of the shit I am trying to escape while playing people.

Going through some of my convention stash recently I came across the comic I had been given last January. I pulled it out of its plastic and thumbed through the pages. Mostly inked over pencil work, nothing stupendous as far as a comic book goes, but in these pages I saw a group of people in love with an idea. Taking time and effort to perfect their craft and, more importantly, to tell a really cool, new story.

That’s gold, no tropes being repeated here, golden story telling.

EDIT:

If you’re interested in trying (and Strife is free to play) if you could use my referral link than you’d be buffing a true fan of the game. Click on through from here.

A Question of Etiquette

So, right now I’m feeling a tad bit confused and maybe a little stuck. I’ve been submitting short stories to a variety of venues in the SF world. Eventually, I get back a rejection notice. And while this is perfectly okay with me — I’ll simply move on to the next venue with the story to see if I can find a better fit — I feel a desire to reach out and thank the editor in question for their time.

I’ve done a bit of research. The “do you write a thank you note after a manuscript rejection?” query has been run on Google, but there seems to be a decided lack of advice on this one point of protocol.

So, are you an editor? Is a thank you note for your time and consideration something you’d appreciate? Are you a writer who sends thank you notes? Does this work for you?

Truth be told not having an answer for this one question is going to bug the crap out of me all day.