Category Archives: Books

Why don’t we reprint old books?

It’s obvious: there’s no money in it. If you print books that no one wants then you have to pay to buy them back, to have them pulped and recycled so you can make them into more books that people do want. Publishing is an expensive business and profit is a key motivator. It’s why most authors need to keep writing new books as the only way to remain profitable is to keep writing new material as eventually the publishers will stop printing the old stuff.

eBooks are changing this to a degree, but even there I imagine there is pruning of the archives. You could let people buy any book that has ever been converted to an eBook format, but doing so means that they might fail to find the expensive new ones you want to promote.

Certainly there’s been little effort to re-publish many of the books that are now out of print in eBook format – why expend effort on a market you consider dead?

And this, finally, brings me to my point. There are books I read long ago that I have wanted to re-read at certain points in my life. As a teenager, I devoured my local library to the point I had to buy reams of my own books to keep myself in books. Amazon was a saving grace for me, as it meant that I could buy books I didn’t even know existed. But now, fifteen years later, there are books I once read from the library that I can’t find any more. At least not new. Some of them I’ve managed to buy used copies of, but I’m sure there are others I haven’t found at all, and even getting complete sets of some of the ones I have found has been an arduous task.

It isn’t even like the authors I have been seeking out are of little consequence. If anyone can say that Isaac Asimov and Timothy Zahn are of little consequence to science-fiction then they’re missing out on some great material. Collecting the Conquerors’ trilogy by Timothy Zahn was a bit tricky, but I managed it – by no means his most famous work but I always liked it. Asimov’s Foundation series also presented a challenge and that’s despite films and television series supposedly being in the works.

There is little profit in reprinting old books so companies don’t do it, meaning that you’re left with the choice of the new up-and-coming books while your half-finished collections are sometimes destined to go unfinished. But it doesn’t stop me wishing that this wasn’t the case – that I could reach back and pluck new copies of any book I wanted out of its time and into mine so I could share them with others who’d enjoy them as well.

If eBooks have one fault beyond all others, it’s that you can’t loan them to other people.

Looking for book recommendations

Looking for book recommendations. I’ve just finished listening to Nexus by Ramez Naam, before that was Off to be the Wizard by Scott Meyer, before that Strata by Terry Pratchett, before that Firefight by Brandon Sanderson, before that Armada by Ernst Cline, and before that Dune by Frank Herbert.

Specially looking for audio books as I listen to them while cycling to work and exercising in the gym.

On the subject of audio books I’ve gone from loathing audio books to listening to then voraciously. A change in times and an extra fifteen years will do that to you, I suppose. Probably helped that I’ve been listening to excellent readers, but I do still find my concentration slips away from the book pretty easily sometimes. On the other hand, I’ve found myself just as enthralled listening to an audio book as I have with paper copies, so it does vary.

I should post more book reviews, really; get down my thoughts on some of the many books I devour throughout the year.

“You tell stories?” the man asks, the piquing of his interest almost palpable.

“Stories, tales, bardic chronicles,” Widget says. “Whatever you care to call them. The things were discussing earlier that are more complicated than they used to be. I take pieces of the past that I see and I combine them into narratives. It’s not that important, and this isn’t why I’m here-”

“It is important,” the man in the grey suit interrupts. “Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. Your sister may be able to see the future, but you yourself can shape it, boy. Do not forget that.” He takes another sip of his wine. “There are many kinds of magic, after all.”

— The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. p.381 (hardback)

#rpgaday2015 day 19 – favourite supers RPG

This one’s quite simple: I don’t have one. I’ve never really played or looked at playing a supers RPG. I hear there are good systems, but I’ve never played any.

The closest I’ve come is an online game run by Gordon where we were playing various X-Men as a playtest for a system he was working on.

I’ve been thinking about this one, because it’s basically the one I have the least to say anything on, and what hit me as I was listening to Firefight (the second Reckoners book by Brandon Sanderson) was that I might not have played any, but there was one I wanted to play – a Reckoners RPG.

In the Reckoners universe, supers (known as Epics) are corrupted by their powers and go mad with their use. It’s an addiction cycle – having powers makes you want to use them, using them makes you corrupt, being corrupt means you have less hang-ups about using them. The Reckoners are a team of normal people dedicated to taking Epics down by discovering their weaknesses (something that prevents them using their powers) and killing them. That’s a universe I’d really like to play a game in.

Also of Brandon Sanderson note, and a form of supers, would be a Mistborn game. I’ve got a copy of the Mistborn RPG (haven’t read it), and I think that’d be an interesting game as well – but the idea of fighting Epics appeals more. I think it comes down to game preference in a way – I prefer playing modern games, but enjoy reading fantasy books as much as if not more than books with modern settings.

With this post, I’m now caught up with the #rpgaday posts and can see about keeping the schedule for the remaining twelve days.

Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest ClineReady Player One by Ernest Kline is a book I really enjoy. I’ve read it a few times now, and this recent reading seems to have haunted me a little.

I decided on Wednesday morning that I was going to start re-reading it. Wednesday night, I put it down (finished) having only stopped reading it while I was in the office. Oops.

Thanks to Loot Crate‘s Play Crate from February, I actually now have two copies – which may have been the inspiration to re-read it. Halfway through it, I decided to recommend it to one of my colleagues, and offer to loan it to them. Turns out I didn’t need to. This is where the haunting aspects came in.

Thursday, I talk to my colleague, having finished it again in a day (oops), and discover it’s the next book on his reading list. Coincidence, I think, but awesome. Then last night I’m watching the TableTop Cards Against Humanity episode (NSFW[1], NSFC[2], NSFA[3]) and one of the guests is Laina Morris (Overly Attached Girlfriend). So I go and check out her channel on YouTube, and at the end of the first video I watch, she recommends an audiobook of Ready Player One read by Wil Wheaton.

So that was weird.

Anyway, I love this book. It’s geeky and it doesn’t pretend to be anything different. It’s full of trivia and media icons from the 80’s and follows the story of a geeky fat kid who ends up becoming an OASIS superstar, beating the bad guys and getting the girl along the way. Yes, that’s cliche but it’s the story full of them. In an age where you have virtual reality worlds freely available with modding potential far above that of Second Life that has effectively replaced the internet (and the real world for some people), there’s a story based around 80’s classics and text adventure games. And that’s awesome.

Maybe there’s a little too much “orphan raised by his aunt has all his family and friends killed then goes out and brings down the evil empire with nothing more than pluck and a few loyal friends”[4] but that doesn’t matter – it doesn’t stop it being a good read.

Seriously, stop reading this and go read Ready Player One instead.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Not Safe For Work
2. Not Safe For Children
3. Not Safe For Anyone
4. the plot to Star Wars and a few other enterprises

A giant has fallen

If we see further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

One of those giants died yesterday, and though his death weighs a heavy toll upon all of us who loved him, his work stands on and will continue to stand for decades still.

In the future, it won’t be unusual for someone to be called a “modern-day Pratchett”, and that may even be the highest accolade in the land. After all, how many of us got our start with his work? How many of us picked up his books in school, or at home at a young age and were immediately enthralled by them? How many of us delved deeper into fantasy works guided by his words having planted the seeds of curiosity in our minds?

“The space between the young readers eyeballs and the printed page is a holy place and officialdom should trample all over it at their peril”
– Terry Pratchett

That is his enduring legacy – the words he has written and the effect they have had on all of us, and the effect they will continue to have on future generations.

“Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can.”
– Terry Pratchett

He suffered as a result of the Embuggerance, and his views on the right to die were well known. It is because of this that I do not mourn his passing, but I mourn the future that doesn’t have new words from that most excellent of minds.

A giant has fallen, but his works stand tall and mighty.

RIP Terry Pratchett 1948 – 2015

#rpgaday – Day 4 – Most recent RPG purchase

Demon: the Descent – Heirs to Hell. Having backed the Demon Kickstarter, I thought I’d also pick up a copy of Heirs to Hell – and it was rather cheap on DriveThruRPG.

Well, that was rather short and sweet.

I think Demon: the Descent might be the most recent system I’ve picked up as well, rather than just a supplement… Nope! I lie. The most recent RPG I’ve “purchased” is Timewatch, a game about time travel with intelligent time-travelling velociraptors.

I say “purchased” because as with many things these days, I acquire them through Kickstarter.

#rpgaday – Day 3 – First RPG purchased

Strangely enough, given my previous post, it’d be a Fighting Fantasy book. I strongly remember it being Ian Livingstone, but not what book it was.

Orpheus by White WolfGoing back to the idea of proper RPGs, it’s a little trickier. I’m not sure which I bought first – Orpheus or Witchcraft.

I suspect it was Orpheus, as Witchcraft was out of print, and I had to order it from America. Admittedly, that may still mean I bought Witchcraft first, but Orpheus was almost certainly in my hands first.

I now own all of Orpheus, including the short stories book. It’s one of the only games I own in its entirety – may in fact be the only game. I’ve only skimmed some of the later books in the vain hope that someday I might get to play in a proper campaign and knowing all the metaplot would spoil things a bit.

#rpgaday – Day 2 – First game gamemastered

The first game I properly ran was a Witchcraft game. It didn’t go so well, didn’t even really go anywhere. I think we managed a couple of sessions at best before it fell apart – something that seems a common trait in my games when I’m feeling down.

Vampire: the Requiem by White WolfThe next game was a Vampire: the Requiem game as I recall – that actually went on for a while. The bit that stands out there was the ghouled cat called Twinky who ended up being better than most of the characters in a fight – when she could be bothered to take part. Rule 1 of ghouling – never let them know they can do it without you. Okay, so I was bending the rules with letting a cat do it independently, but it amused the players no end.

World of Darkness: Asylum by White WolfThen there was the old World of Darkness game that was actually a feint into a new World of Darkness game – the Apocalypse was changed by a cabal of mages who cast a ritual to remake the world in their image – setting themselves up as the Exarchs and removing everyone else’s memories. For some reason, the players could recall who they’d been, but had lost their abilities; they were just mortals stuck in an insane asylum. In the Old World, they’d been vampires and werewolves, and now they were just human. One of them found Malkovian in the asylum basement and got themselves ghouled – nowhere near as powerful as the vampire they’d once been, but still useful. With that, they managed to break out of the asylum and escape into the real world. Things didn’t go too far after that, but I thought the concept worked rather well.