Monday, December 19, 2022

New Covers The Parasite and The Bosch

As I have detailed elsewhere, before I got taken on by Macmillan I was working my way up the writing ladder with numerous setbacks along the way. I did not leap from zero to a big publisher as has been the case with some and I’m quite glad about that. I learned the craft from that zero, to small articles in local papers, to stories in small presses for which I was paid nothing, to a few quid for stories, to novellas and collections and on upwards. I’ve had an agent that went nowhere, numerous companies taking my stuff and going to the wall. I’ve made the error of sending a snotty letter to a publisher because of a delay and having my submitted piece kicked. And I’ve learned along the way. After 20+ years of effort I got to see my books published around the world. And now have been producing books for another 20+ years on top of that. 

One upshot of this is that when Macmillan did take me on I had done hundreds of shorts stories, a number of novellas and various other bits and pieces either sitting unpublished in my computer or with small presses. Some of them came back to me as those small presses either went to the wall of shut up shop. I needed to decide what to do with all this stuff and, I gathered from fans, there was an appetite for it despite it being produced along my learning curve. Then along came Amazon Kindle, and latterly Print-on-Demand.

I didn’t expect much from this – just a way to make this work available to the few who might be interested – so I gave it a try. I put on there a novella called Mindgames: Fool’s Mate published by a company doing airport books and which fell foul of the net book agreement. I put another called The Parasite, published by Tanjen Books for a while until that closed down. Three short stories published in a magazine called Kimota and then distributed as a booklet at and SF convention went in – and those were Mason’s Rats. Another was a short collection called Runcible Tales published by a small press called Piper’s Ash, which closed down. And since then I’ve been throwing other stuff that way like a collection called Owner of Worlds, and a novella called The Bosch.

In every case I put these up with their old covers or something generic selected from the Amazon Kindle site. However, seeing that these constantly keep selling, I decided some time back that I should really give them some decent updated covers. How I got to the ones you see here involves something else I put out through Ian Whates’ company Newcon Press. Prior to and during lockdown I produced a few short stories but mainly novellas and published these as Lockdown Tales. I’ve since sent in Lockdown Tales II which you will see next year. I much liked the cover picture for the first book done by Vincent Sammy and so contacted him about doing covers for all my Kindle/POD stuff. I told him to take his time and see what he comes up with and here show you the results for The Parasite and The Bosch. More will be incoming, including a large collection of short stories which, not fitting any particular genre, I have titled Fantastical.


Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Twitter and Facebook Bansturbators

I recently had my Twitter account restricted, which came as a surprise what with a ‘free speech absolutist’ now in charge. But then Twitter is a big organization and despite the apparatchiks in ‘Trust and Safety’ being canned, it still has a lot of dead wood that needs cutting out – both human and algorithmic. I protested the restriction and it soon came off. I then screen captured my tweet and the one I replied to and put them up on Facebook for ridicule. And next I got a 24 hour ban from Facebook.

Just as an aside from this let me show you some algorithmic stupidity because, only when investigating this ban did I come across one from back in August:

So what was my heinous sin this time in December? Someone posed the question of how does one reply to a silly conflation of biological gender with gay marriage, to which my reply was, ‘Straw man argument. Now identify as a seagull and fly off a cliff.’ I kid you not. Apparently on Twitter I was encouraging suicide while on Facebook I was going against ‘community standards’. I disputed that of course since I’d made a rhetorical analogy i.e. you can identify as whatever the hell you like but that does not mean you can be that thing, and it was not directed against an individual. Anyway, checking now to find the text of that conflation I find that my 24 hour ban has been lifted early.

But all that is beside the point I’m getting to here. I’ve been reading through the ‘Twitter Files’ where we’re getting an inside track on how the various methods of silencing people actually work. Obviously there is crappy code stuff that picks up on certain phrases, has no perception of sarcasm, satire and parody and often gets things wildly wrong, as per my screen shot above. But then there’s the hands-on human element and this is where things get a crappy. 

Throughout those email and slack communications between the apparatchiks of ‘Trust and Safety’ since booted from Twitter, things become plain. They were simply rationalizing what they selfishly wanted to do, which was shut down those they disagreed with or disliked politically. They talked a great deal about ‘rules and safety’ because, y’know, giving the other side of the USA political aisle a voice is dangerous, while apparently child porn and dictators elsewhere calling for death and destruction of other cultures is fine. Various ‘teams’ and individuals discussed this at length and had many meetings, which I guess is what you do when you haven’t got any actual work lined up. And the upshot was of course precisely what they wanted with accounts being muffled and shut down including, after much tying themselves in knots to designate a couple of innocent phrases as a call to violence, that of the sitting president.

Arising out of all this and my own bans/restrictions, I see that you also cannot definitively separate the human and algorithm elements and that there are gradations of influence throughout. Of course humans write the programs and can make those politically biased. I can guess that somewhere there are bits of code that get you noticed if you use the phrases ‘Make America Great Again’ or ‘Trump rocks!’ It is almost certainly the case that those you ‘associate’ with, whose tweets/posts you like and/or share have an effect too. I have no doubt there are watch lists and sliding scales running from harmless to dangerous (under their ridiculous definitions of these) and the higher up the scale you go the more likely you are to be shut down. 

In my case I look at stuff I share ripping into woke Hollywood, global warming, China, left wing politics and so forth, and assume I’m some way up the scale. There is undoubtedly ‘sensitivity’ there to anything I post and a greater likelihood of me being banned/restricted. This thumb on the scales, this knowledge that some blue-haired woke activist can shut me down with the press of a button, brings home to me the dangers of social media. You end up silencing yourself on matters you feel strongly about just to stay visible. It’s in the region of making excuses for and altering your lifestyle to fit the booze or cigarettes – forming yourself to something that is anathema to you.            

And that way the fuckers win.