Kindle egg

They’re suspicious people down at Amazon. Cheryl put up Kindle versions of His Majesty’s Starship and Jeapes Japes and they promptly got taken down again until Amazon could be absolutely sure she had the right to publish them. They’d noticed paper versions exist, you see. Can’t be too careful.

But, we were able to convince them and the Wizard’s Tower Kindle editions of said books are now available – as already were The New World OrderThe Xenocide Mission and Time’s Chariot. So, the entire Jeapes oeuvre is now available Kindlectronically. Buy them now. It is your destiny.

His Majesty’s Starship, Jeapes Japes, and absolutely no DRM

Now I’ve signed the contracts (as of today) I’m delighted to announce the republication of His Majesty’s Starship and the first-time publication of Jeapes Japes, my short story collection, both by the wonderful Cheryl Morgan’s Wizard’s Tower Press and both as ebooks. Check out the online book store shortly, and behold Andy Bigwood’s excellent cover.

I remember in one of my first serious writing efforts, c. 1984, imagining people reading something off a book-sized handheld gadget – and I was imagining the image being something more sophisticated than a cathode ray tube which was pretty well all that was available back then. Go me! What I didn’t foresee – though anyone who actually knew a thing about computer files could have worked it out within minutes – was the whole DRM thing.
One of the great things about Cheryl’s contract is that it specifies the books have noDRM protection. Now, you can see why publishers want to protect their books. In principle, with a paper book, anyone could take a photocopy and pass it on to friends; in practice, they probably won’t. With ebooks – indeed with any kind of software – they very easily can and do, and the publishers lose a sale. The publishers lose many sales. So, publishers want to make sure that doesn’t happen and they slap protection on – which effectively criminalises all the innocent readers, i.e. the majority. People don’t like that. Would you buy a paper book that you could only read in your own house, or your own house and that of a designated friend, just in case you photocopied it? Of course not.
But what about the lost revenue, you ask? Well, yes, that is a tough one and it’s a strong argument – but it will never, with existing technology, get over the point that people simply don’t like being treated as potential criminals just because of the minority (raking in huge sums) who actually are. Even Apple, which is pretty good at using its weight to get its own way regardless of everyone else’s feelings, was forced to drop DRM on iTunes. The successful publishers will be those who acknowledge there will be leakage of revenue, and work with it.
I’m hugely grateful to Cheryl for her principled stand on the matter, and for giving the books this chance.
Going back to the books, I did this cover myself (photo by Derek Walker) and take full responsibility for any sub-optimal awesomeness.

My name in Dnepropetrovsk is cursed / when he finds out I publish first

J.K. Rowling is being sued (again) for alleged plagiarism. In this case the estate of the now-deceased author of the 30pp self-published Adventures of Willy the Wizard(published 1987) claims (a) that by some miracle Rowling became aware of this opus and nicked bits of it for Goblet of Fire, because (b) it is inconceivable, inconceivable I tell you that anyone else could possibly imagine a society of wizards taking everyday life as we know it (sports competitions, chess, trains) and adding their own magical twist to it. QED.

Prognostications for the plaintiff are not good and this may well be the last you hear of it.

If you want a case that just might have merit, however, tune into BBC1 on 10 April (and make sure you do because I’m calling you all as witnesses), which is when “The Beast Below”, the second episode of the new Dr Who series will be shown. According to the Beeb’s publicity lords:

“The Doctor takes Amy to the distant future, where she finds Britain in space. Starship UK houses the future of the British people, as they search the stars for a new home.”

Sound of screeching brakes. Now, hold on just a minute! Starship UK? Starship UK?? Why, that’s almost exactly the same as:

“UK-1 … the largest spaceship ever built – seventeen massive wheels in space spinning around a common axis. The last redoubt of the exiled House of Windsor.” (His Majesty’s Starship, 1998)

Note that even though HMSS was published in 1998, I sent it to my agent in early 1995. Later in 1995 I spoke on the phone to Steven Moffat, then a mere script writer a decade before he would achieve the status of Hugo-winning Dr Who Deity with “The Empty Child” and 15 years before he would take over series production from Russell T. Davies. Now, my memories of the conversation are mainly that we coordinated ideas for our forthcoming stories in the Decalog 3 collection: but I put it to you, is it entirely impossible that the conversation could have gone:
[Gentle Scottish burr] “So, Ben, what else have you written?”
[Crisp, eager, slightly naive English accent] “Well, I’ve just turned in my first novel, which includes the UK in space, based on a giant spaceship and ruled by the guy who would be king if Britain was still a monarchy.”
[Slightly more acquisitive Scottish burr] “Fascinating! Tell me more …”
Not at all impossible, I’m sure you’ll agree. The fact that I don’t remember it is obviously because I dismissed it as unimportant. The phone call was about our stories, after all, not my novel, and anyway, I trusted the man, trusted, I tell you.
I will hold my horses for the time being. I have still to watch this episode, and I’ll wait for Willy the Wizard vs Rowling‘s inevitable dismissal, because I wouldn’t want my chances affected by any perceived similarity to such an obviously futile, money-grabbing case.