Saturday, October 29, 2011

World Fantasy Convention 2011, San Diego, CA

Speaking of conventions, the World Fantasy Convention is happening right now in San Diego, CA. WFC is a fun but low key convention with an emphasis on books and short fiction, no movies or TV.  In a way, it's a secret; although the name includes the word fantasy, tons of science fiction writers come to it, too. In fact, the attendance (in terms of percentage) of writers, editors, and agents is higher than any other con except maybe ReaderCon.

WFC is almost the only convention that caps membership. This year the combination of the headliners (including Neil Gaiman and Connie Willis) and the location made the con sell out months ago. Next year it's in Toronto; if you're interested, be sure to buy the membership early. You can sell it if you change your mind or can't make it.

If you're interested in what's going on in WFC now, check Twitter and use the hash tag #wfc2011. Some folks are also using #wfc by itself, so you can check that out, too.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Another nice review for No Safe Haven

Over on the SFBooks review blog, reviewer Anthony gave No Safe Haven 3 stars.  He noted the multi-threaded plot, and the emphasis on family, and he liked the ending.

Be sure to check out SFBooks! Anthony does a wonderful job presenting information.  His indexes by genre are really nice and they even show the book covers.  He reviews traditionally published books along with self published books, and indexes not only by genre and title but by author and publisher.

Addendum: The Ides of October sale has come and gone, and No Safe Haven is now back up to $2.99. The price change should kick in momentarily on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Science fiction has a long history of fan involvement in the genre. Every weekend in the year there is at least one convetion of science ficiton and fanasy fans somewhere in the US. I live in the Washington, DC area and we have our own local convention called Capclave (from Capital Conclave) that happens every October somewhere in the DC suburbs. This year it starts today, in Gaithersburg, at the Hilton Washington DC North/Gaithersburg.

We also have Balticon, which, not surprisingly, is in Baltimore, although really it's north of Baltimore at the Marriott Hunt Valley Inn, and it's always on Memorial Day Weekend.  Further north, if you feel like driving, is Philcon (now in Cherry Hill, NJ) which happens in November, and this year they're celebrating their 75th anniversary.  Further south and much newer is RavenCon, in Richmond, VA (or its suburbs), which happens in April. 

Cons are fun. Usually one or more writers are invited to be Guests of Honor (GoH); sometimes there are also editor, artist, and fan GoH's. Local writers (and some not so local) and fans attend, with some of them serving on panels in which topics are discussed (e.g., Why do so many adults read YA fiction?  What is the appeal of steampunk and will it last as a subgenre?  What is the "new weird" and is it still new?).  Folks who buy a membership can attend panels, shop in the dealers room (which always has books and often has jewelry, craft items, costumes, clothes, etc.), see the art show (if the con is big enough to have one), and hang out in the con suite where free sodas and nibbles are provided. 

There are cons with a wider scope, too, like Worldcon, Dragoncon, and World Fantasy Con (not that big attendance-wise, but that's on purpose). Dragoncon is always in Atlanta but the others move around and can even be out of the US. There's also ComicCon, which started as being just for comic book fans and morphed into a huge media extravaganza with TV and movie stars and crowds so enormous sometimes you can barely move. There are now ComicCons in different cities, but I don't really consider them science fiction cons. 

There are movie and TV-based cons as well as literary cons. If you've never been to a con, and you think you might be interested, visit this list to find a con  near you!

Breaking news! Between when I started this post and when I finished, it was announced that Sir Terry Pratchett will make a surprise appearance tomorrow at Capclave! Quite a coup for a small local con!  If you're in the DC area, be there!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Amazon to the digital reading marketplace: Bring it!

I've had a few days to take in the new line of Kindles, including the Fire, and I have to say I am impressed at how well Amazon has covered the market.

First, an explanation of "special offers," Amazon-speak for ads. All e-ink Kindles can be bought for $40 or $50 cheaper if you get them with ads in place of the usual screen savers of author portraits and line drawings. If you buy a KSO (Kindle with Special Offers), you are also sent emails offering other deals at special prices.  These are most often merchandise unrelated to books, like vacuum cleaners or small appliances. On new Kindles, the home screen (i.e., the list of books on the Kindle) also has the same ad as a small banner at the bottom of the screen.

First in the new Kindle line-up is the bare-bones entry-level Kindle, which sells for $79 with special offers and $109 without. It has wifi but no 3G option, and it has no keyboard and no touch screen. To type anything, you press a "keyboard" key that displays the alphabet on the screen and then lets you move the cursor  to the letter you want. Cumbersome, to say the least!  But if you buy mostly from the web store  and not the Kindle itself, you don't need to annotate or search books, or have them read aloud, it's a great deal. You can still get library books, and the screen is exactly the same size as the other e-ink Kindles.  Plus, it's very light weight. Unlike the Touch models, this one has already shipped, and I found an in-depth review of it here.

Next up is Kindle Touch, which is available in multiple configurations: as a KSO and not, and also as wifi-only or wifi and 3G.  It starts at an incredible $99 for the KSO wifi-only model and goes up to $189 for the no-ads wifi and 3G model. the touch-screen is infrared (IR) not capacitive (like the iPad), but it is said to be very responsive. This has everything the previous Kindle 3 had (now called the Kindle Keyboard) except for the clunky keyboard and the side buttons for turning "pages." It also offers something new called X-Ray, which appears to be a way to easily search inside books for references to characters or events. I'm not entirely certain how that will work.

And last up in the new line-up is the Kindle Fire, which is really a 7" Android tablet running the Kindle app, but Amazon wants to call it a Kindle (which is the same thing Barnes & Noble did with their Nook and Nook Color). It has wifi but no 3G and sells for $199. I find it interesting that there is no KSO version, and also no 3G version. I'm sure one reason there is no 3G yet is that Amazon could not offer it for free; tablet users would use a lot more bandwidth than any e-ink Kindle user, and Amazon could not absorb that cost and make money. In fact, rumor is they're losing money with the $199 price point as it is. But I think that price was set as the one they could make money at if they sell enough of them.

So, here we are. All these models have come out in the same month Amazon announced Kindle library book borrowing. In addition, Amazon is still selling the keyboard models. In having so many model, and pricing the new Kindles so aggressively (even selling the AC adapter plug separately, so they could cut the price of the Kindles) Amazon has said, basically, that they intend to dominate the digital reading market. They're saying to Apple, and Sony, and Barnes and Noble, "Bring it on!"

It worked on me. I have ordered a Kindle Touch 3G with no ads (If I am going to sell my soul to Amazon, I want more than $60 for it).  My one worry is that it won't be as easy to read one-handed as it is with my K3, but if that proves problematic, I will give it to my husband and take back the K3 he is about to inherit.