Posts Tagged ‘cryonics’

INTERVIEW at Lucky Bat, publisher

Published by Gregory Benford on July 3rd, 2012

1. What are you working on now? Books? Short stories? Any upcoming projects you want to let us know about?


I’m systematically getting my older books reverted from Harper Collins (done!), Bantam (now done!–Heart of the Comer is out), Ace (working!) etc. Then I have Lucky Bat reissue them in e-editions and sometimes Print on Demand, as with my 1992 novel Chiller, reissued in 2011. I often include a new introduction, making them true second editions.
Beyond that, I have a new novel coming Fall 2012 from Tor, co-written with Larry Niven, Bowl of Heaven. More novels to follow that, including the Bowl sequel, to be called Shipstar. Many of my books remain in hard editions (“p-books” I’ve heard them called; printed) like Timescape and continue to sell well. But I spent five years starting and running some biotech companies and did little writing. That blows you out of the stores. I had half a dozen paperbacks in Barnes and Noble in 2005; now there are few. Time to get back in, on new terms.
I always write a half dozen or so shorter works per year, usually commissioned, to stay in the game. In science fiction (sf) you can get new readers with your short fiction, the traditional path. It’s nice being included in Best Of Year collections—good advertising. To drive this further, Lucky Bat has brought out my 5th short story collection, Anomalies.

2. What about topics? You’ve broken ground in your novels about time/space and even about cryonics. What science are you tackling now?
Bowl of Heaven is about what Larry & I call a Big Smart Object. His Ringworld is a Big Dumb Object since it’s passively stable, as we are when we stand still. A Smart Object is dynamically stable, as we are when we walk. There’ve been several Big Dumb Object s in sf by John Varley, Bob Shaw, George Zebrowski and others.. Our Big Smart Object is larger than Ringworld and is going somewhere, using an entire star as its engine. But why? Fun!
As well, Lucky Bat brings out further titles like my novel Cosm this year, which did well at Harper. They reverted my books, so now it’s my turn. Publishers just can’t get their backlist into e-formats fast enough to avoid having authors like me get them back. It’s a rought & ready era!

3. You’ve mentioned — and you’ve proven — that you’re intrigued by the new world of publishing. Why? What is the magnet for you?
Of all genres, sf should look to the future. The digital transition can liberate authors and readers as never before, with publishers playing not the single pipeline but one of several paths. Plus, digital carries the scent of permanence, liberating prose from matter so it can transcend time.
Want to be read in a century? Go digital. I have dozens of books and hundreds of stories that need moving to e-formats.

4. All but your book, Chiller, recently published by Lucky Bat Books after rights reverted to you, have been published by traditional publishers. How does that model differ for you from the experience of publishing through a house like Lucky Bat Books.
After 47 years publishing, I know enough to shape my own books – art, especially. So getting to commission new art, arrange formatting and not dealing with %$@#*! art directors is a gift. Where else in the arts does a creator get so little say in how his work gets presented?
(I had arranged for a jacket illustration of an anthology I coedited: a lovely 1948 Bonestell painting showing the US east coast from orbit…and an art director flipped it because he thought it looked better mirror reversed…for the jacket of Skylife, from Harcourt. So the coast was unrecognizable. Aaargh!)
Plus, publicity (what little remains) can be contracted out. Distribution through Amazon is potent, and one can arrange placement with Barnes & Noble, etc. Piecemeal publishing, distribution and advertising can be quite effective. Look at the newbie authors who’ve sold a million e-books! These are methods in their infancy, a brave new whirl.
5. Are you planning to be on the road or at any conventions this year where your readers can see you?
No plans as yet…last year I hit worldcon, World Fantasy Con, Condor & Loscon—plenty of fun. I’m Guest of Honor at VCon in Vancouver late Sept and I’ll be at Loscon the day after Thanksgiving. In October Larry & I will do a west coast book tour—Mysterious Galaxy in LA & San Diego, Books Inc in Palo Alto, Dark Carnival in Berkeley, Borderlands in San Francisco, University Bookstore in Seattle, Powell’s in Portland, maybe more.

6. As a professor of physics at the University of California Irvine, you’re conversing with students every day. Do they ever challenge the physics in your science fiction? Or make it a part of the classroom discussion?
I use sf examples especially in mechanics classes—is the ringworld stable, etc.. I’ve been a lifelong researcher, with hundreds of scientific papers published, and several books—so I truly care about communicating science to people.
A fun part of Physics Through SF, a course I taught at UC Irvine, is seeing where you should tweak the physics to make the story work better. Hal Clement called it “the game” and it’s mostly played these days at Analog. I posted a long piece about this on my blog,

7. What lies ahead?
A whole new landscape in publishing. I suspect that within this decade fully half of all new books will appear in e-formats and stay available forever. An enormous backlist will reside there. Many editors will be as freelance as writers are now. (A fine senior editor I worked with many times has gone freelance already,
This is more than an opportunity; it’s a revolution. Join it!

The Brave New Whirl: E-publishing

Published by Gregory Benford on August 26th, 2011

I had a fine time  at the worldcon in Reno. There were many old friends and some new ones. I met Claire Brailey, who then won a Hugo as best fanwriter. She really is good, as you can see from this link.

I had decided in May to reissue my recently reverted novel Chiller. It seemed a good way to combine my fannish self with the pro in my life. Debut a revised novel at worldcon!—first time ever. It even turned out to be fun, working with Judith Harlan and Cindie Geddes at Lucky Bat Books.

Published in 1993 under the pseudonym Sterling Blake, Chiller was to be the opener in a series of “scientific suspense” novels. With my Bantam Books editor Lou Aronica I intended to write a series of novels exploring future technologies. I had long noticed that Michael Crichton and others captured the sizzle of science in novels like Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain, but at novel’s end the world returns to its previous state, the intrusive, exciting possibilities and threats dissolving like the dew of morning.

I wanted to write realistic fiction about future prospects that didn’t end in the essentially conservative or even reactionary finish of the Crichton school. Chiller is about cryonics, beginning now and taking it into the future. It’s the longest book I ever wrote.

Alas, Lou Aronica left Bantam for the chance to be Publisher (not to mention a huge increase in salary) at Berkeley, a few months before Chiller appeared. The crew that took over then, when Bantam was the #2 publisher in the country in profits, cut the book’s ad budget to zero and did nothing to promote it. Still, it sold well in the US and England. My thinly disguised pseudonym got uncovered quite quickly, too, and may have helped sales.

Still, soon enough Bantam’s new fiction head, straight from romance novels, let me know that I and other writers like Bill Gibson and Robert Silverberg were no longer wanted. Off I went. Bantam now ranks #6 in profits. The same people are still in charge.

But by getting Chiller reverted I could begin anew. Much else has changed since 1993, but I believe it remains a fair description of cryonics and the people who believe in it. Rereading it to eliminate anachronisms, I was amused to see I had anticipated today’s e-readers and online newspapers fairly well when writing in 1990. Also some biotech, including a bath mat that cleans your walls as it crawls along. I could use our brave new whirl of e-publishing, too.

I gave Lucky Bat Books the revised ms. July 7 and at worldcon on July 17 they had 100 finished copies of a big new trade paperback—speedy indeed. Plus a new idea: e-book cards like big greeting cards, the first page the book’s cover, with info on the book inside and back, and a plastic card you could peel off to discover on the reverse the code to download the e-version in any reader you want. This allows book stores to sell e-books. All this cost me about $4000, a good gamble considering I’d made over $300,000 on the 1993 edition.

At the worldcon, both the trade pb and the e-cards sold well. I signed dozens. The e-cards give collectors something signed to put on the shelf. Just mailing the card lets the buyer send a gift to a friend. The hucksters liked that a lot. I found the whole experience enlightening: moving into a new market with a big book, the second edition sporting a new introduction and long afterword.

Into the future! Even if you’re not frozen…

69th World Science Fiction Convention – Renovation

Published by Gregory Benford on August 1st, 2011

I’ll be in Reno for Worldcon, and I’m bringing CHILLER with me.

This was first published in 1993 under a pen name – my publisher, Bantam, wanted me to start a new line of scientific suspense tales. They then fired my editor, which killed the idea, though the book sold very well and had foreign editions.

You’ll find a new introduction in the book, along with a few minor updates to the info. Very minor. Here are the first couple thoughts in the 2011 Intro:

CHILLER by Gregory Benford, 2011 editionINTRODUCTION 2011

This novel I wrote in the early 1990s. I now reissue it, with a few anachronisms cleaned up for this edition. Those I haven’t caught I hope will not disturb the narrative overly much.

Writing demands planning, yet for me the best part of fiction comes when you’re able to find something more than was in the plan. This is the charm of outsmarting yourself (not so hard in my case; my plans seldom survive contact with the keyboard). In the early 1990s it seemed time for a novel that looked at cryonics with a view of how it might play out in our time….

Cryonics was a fascination and an ethical conundrum in the early 1990s. It still is. What’s more, now you can read CHILLER in e-book format. Gotta admit: that’s cool.