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The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal Below are 10 entries, after skipping 10 most recent ones in the "The Ferrett" journal:

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July 15th, 2016
10:49 am

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Living At Pokemon Go Speeds

This sounds like it’s about it’s a game, but it’s not.  It’s about the way the game exposes a phenomena.  So even if you don’t give a crap about Pikachu, please do me a favor and listen.

Anyway: Pokemon Go was released last Wednesday.

I heard about it on Thursday, when pictures of Pikachu sitting in people’s back yards flooded into Twitter.

By Saturday I’d downloaded it and captured Pokemon around downtown Cleveland.  We gave a few folks knowing nods, already recognizing the “Pokemon Go hand position” that you hold your cell phone to play.

By Sunday Pokemon Go was making headlines.

By Monday, we went out and found at least eight other people playing Pokemon in our sleepy little burg, and we talked brightly to each other.  Wasn’t this weird?  It was weird.  But cool!  We had so much in common!

By Tuesday morning, I heard about clever business people who’d attached lures to the Pokestops in front of their stores, which drew customers.  By Tuesday evening, my friend Eric told me he was researching whether he could place Lures at his conventions.

By Wednesday, we went down to the mall and Pokemon Go was no longer an unusual activity.  Everyone was there to play Pokemon Go – the people who didn’t have their phones out and the by-now-mandatory recharge cord sticking out of their pocket were the exception.  And the friendly nods of Monday had been replaced by shrugs, because this was no longer cool or interesting, it was just what we did.  

Now check that out: Seven days, and we’d gone from “Never heard of it” to “Everyone is doing it.”  But it got worse.

By Thursday, we expected all the business Pokestops to have lures.  That was just standard practice.  Hillary Clinton was already making Pokemon Go jokes in that hesitating way the elderly discuss “the Facebook.”

By Friday morning, my feed was clogged with Pokemon Go thinkpieces asking, “Haven’t we had enough Pokemon Go?”

Nine days, and we had crested a complete wave from “This thing has never existed” to “This thing is so big that Presidential candidates feel the urge to reference it” to significant chunks of the population saying “God, this is played.”

I have a friend who’s in the hospital right now; she had a brain bleed last Thursday night, went into the hospital on Friday.  She’s okay, thankfully, but I can’t stop thinking that this is some parody version of Rick Grimes waking up in his hospital on The Walking Dead – arising from her coma to go, “Wait, when did Pokemon Go become just something that people did?”

And ya know, if you’re in the hospital for brain problems, waking to find everyone casually doing something you didn’t remember last week has to be a little worrisome.

When I grew up – which was, admittedly, in the dinosaur days before the Internet – nationwide crazes took months to catch on.  Star Wars was as big as it gets, but it had a premiere in May of 1977 – a well-attended premiere – but then word of mouth moved slowly in those days, as did theaters.  Star Wars, like every nation-changing phenomenon, was a glacial juggernaut, because movies often stayed in theaters for three to six months at a time with filled houses, drawing in people who’d never see it via Bittorrent or DVD or HBO.

I try to imagine the new Ghostbusters still drawing crowds to theaters in November, and it’s never going to happen. Even if it’s the best movie ever, people rush out to see them quickly and then they fade.  There’s a speed that gets us out there.

We’ve sped up.  Which is fine for entertainment.  Hey, Pokemon Go speeds are fine for videogames and movies and phone-booth-stuffing and whatever other trivial things we feel like whipping out.

But then we expect everyone to live at Pokemon Go speeds, and that’s pretty much inhuman.

I’ve seen major chains get yelled at because some store of theirs out in Futtbuck, Montana did something  intensely sexist/racist/otherwise stupid, and it’s gotten 50,000 Tumblr reshares, and why hasn’t this business done anything about this by now, don’t they care?

And I’m like, “That Tumblr post was posted nine hours ago.  At eleven o’clock at night.  When people were fucking sleeping.  And the people of this company got to their offices, logged into email, started to see something they were just aware of, and now they have to verify this awful thing isn’t some Photoshopped hoax, and get the regional manager out there to interview to see who did what and when, verify who’s responsible, and discuss a legally-correct punitive measure that’s not going to get them sued.”

Not everything acts on Pokemon Go time, and expecting that speed leads to you buying into lies.  Because a news that operates at Pokemon Go speed is a news that’s cribbing from whatever source it can get, and that leads to manipulation and horrendous smears that everyone knows, and believes.

Like, you know, the former Prime Minister of Britain, David Cameron.  If Americans know him, it’s because he’s the guy who fucked a pig.  The story broke a few months ago: he was in a frat initiation, and he put his cock in a dead pig’s mouth, and ever since then there’s been a rampant stream of jokes about “This little piggy went to market” and “YOU FUCKED A PIG THE WAY YOU FUCKED BRITAIN WITH BREXIT” and so forth.

Except that never happened.  To quote this story:

Then, after a full day of online merriment, something shocking happened. Isabel Oakeshott, the Daily Mail journalist who had co-written the biography with Lord Ashcroft, a billionaire businessman, went on TV and admitted that she did not know whether her huge, scandalous scoop was even true. Pressed to provide evidence for the sensational claim, Oakeshott admitted she had none.

“We couldn’t get to the bottom of that source’s allegations,” she said on Channel 4 News. “So we merely reported the account that the source gave us … We don’t say whether we believe it to be true.” In other words, there was no evidence that the prime minister of the United Kingdom had once “inserted a private part of his anatomy” into the mouth of a dead pig – a story reported in dozens of newspapers and repeated in millions of tweets and Facebook updates, which many people presumably still believe to be true today.

Oakeshott went even further to absolve herself of any journalistic responsibility: “It’s up to other people to decide whether they give it any credibility or not,” she concluded. This was not, of course, the first time that outlandish claims were published on the basis of flimsy evidence, but this was an unusually brazen defence. It seemed that journalists were no longer required to believe their own stories to be true, nor, apparently, did they need to provide evidence. Instead it was up to the reader – who does not even know the identity of the source – to make up their own mind. But based on what? Gut instinct, intuition, mood?

In other words, she took an unsourced allegation, gave it to the Internet, and the Internet moved at Pokemon Go speed.  Was it true?  We didn’t have time to investigate, or fact-check; someone said it was true, and so we went with it.

Hell, I said it was true.  Why?  Because newspapers were reporting it.  I assumed, foolishly, that newspapers wouldn’t report something that was false – but I forgot how Pokemon Go speed is warping business models.

Because if everyone else on the Internet is saying something and you, the news source, are not confirming or denying it until you’ve determined whether it’s true, then you’re missing out on the precious clicks that fuel your coffers.  So you compromise.  You post a piece saying that “Everyone’s saying” this, the lie that Donald Trump slithers by on, and don’t bother to say in big letters that THIS IS UNCONFIRMED because the story is not whether he actually fucked a pig, the story is the allegations of him fucking a pig, but for some strange and ephemeral reason the words fucking a pig are the ones that stick in people’s minds.

If the truth comes out later, well, the fact that someone didn’t fuck a pig is way less interesting, so that never grabs people.

And we have rushed, with great speed, to a false conclusion, and never looked back.

The problem is that speed – or, rather, the assumption that this speed is necessary.  When Nice was bombed last night, we had thousands of folks on Twitter demanding to know what was happening by the minute, making crazy predictions about who did this before the last dying heart had stopped beating, everyone grabbing their hoary old stories of why these terrorists had attacked and tacking on their preferred narrative before a single fact could enter.

And I repeat: Pokemon Go speeds are fun.  It was super-fun to go down to the mall and find a group of people doing something unique in human history.  It’s fun to watch this story spread, and mutate, and see all the weird things Augmented Reality encourages humans to do when it’s mashed with actual, you know, reality.

But actual news cannot, and should not, move at Pokemon Go speed.  Sometimes good investigations take months of careful digging to get out the facts, cultivating news sources, discarding false leads, determining the story is bigger than this immediate scoop – the movie Spotlight has an excellent analysis of why a big story may not break at Pokemon Go speeds.

And I understand that news agencies can’t not report, because ultimately their primary goal is report what people want to hear, not what people need to hear – otherwise, they go broke, for all their lofty aspirations to responsibility – but I wish that news sources would draw a distinction.  To say “This is Pokemon Go-sped news, you should probably take it with about 80% skepticism, we’re going to deliver the real news in a week when we’ve had the chance to interview people, so chomp down on these news Cheetos until we can deliver you the rich, nutritious meal you deserve.”  And they’d repeat that every fifteen minutes, and put it at a big block at the top of every Pokemon Go-sped news page.

But they won’t.  Why?  Because you want your news at Pokemon Go speeds, just like you want your justice delivered at Pokemon Go speeds, just like you want your outrage delivered at Pokemon Go speeds.

And what I am suggesting – no, actually, I’m telling you – is that as long as you’re demanding people act at Pokemon Go speeds, you’re also demanding they rush to unwise conclusions based on sketchy facts perpetrated by unknown sources.

Slow down.

Wait a little.

Stop thinking you should get everything at convenience speed.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/547704.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(14 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

July 14th, 2016
10:26 am

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How Real Cocks Work: A Tutorial.

A real cock comes on command. A real cock never provides you with that embarrassing moment where you’re trying hard to orgasm, but can’t quite get there in time, so your partner’s on their knees foreeeeever waiting for you to ejaculate.

Real cocks never get almost close enough for you to come, so much so that your chest is heaving and your heart is pounding, and then coast up to the edge of sweet release before going “NOPE” and leaving you to have to start all fucking over again.

Real cocks never come too soon. Premature ejaculation’s for teenagers and the inexperienced.

Real cocks switch on hard whenever you want them and stay trembling stiff for as long as you need them to. A real cock never requires you to jerk off for a little between positions to keep your groove in. Real cocks never lose their erection while you’re fumbling the condom on. Real cocks never have problems with the loss of sensation from the condom, even though yes condoms are brutally necessary, come on, stop being a jerk like that and trying to spread STIs.

Real cocks are tied directly to desire. When you’re turned on, a real cock is hard. When you’re not interested, a real cock is soft. A real cock never has a moment where it’s stiff and you look down and go “What the fuck, why are you hard, I wasn’t even paying attention to you!” A real cock never has a moment where you think, “Wow, buddy, every other part of my body is into this, would you mind joining me?”

Real cocks have one level of hardness: rock. Real cocks never have varying levels of hardness, some of which may be inadequate for the job, where trying to work this 70% stiffy into a recalcitrant asshole is like trying to stuff a marshmallow into a parking meter.

Real cocks are all eight inches. Minimum.

Real cocks are all perfectly straight. No bends or curves. Just this divining rod of erection.

Real cocks all bulge real good. Real cocks never require you to say, “I’m a grower, not a shower!” Real cocks are like 80% of a full erection at all times, pushing out through any underwear like a peacock’s plumage to show all the penis-loving people “PENIS, HEY, GOTCHER HOT PENIS HERE.”

Real cocks are pretty amazing.

Man, I wish I had a real cock.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/547531.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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July 13th, 2016
10:14 am

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The Complete List Of Obvious Pokemon Go Story Cliches, So You Don’t Have To Write Them.

As a former slush reader, I can tell you that lots of writers get their ideas from the news.  Right now, Pokemon Go is in all the headlines, and so every science-fiction and fantasy writer is writing a story that’s a spin on Pokemon Go.

Don’t make that spin obvious.  It’s going to be a lot harder to get your story published if it’s got the same plot we’ve seen six times this week.  And I can tell you from experience that in the months to come, magazines will see tons of stories with the following plotlines:

A Pokemon Go-style game is an evil plot designed to lure humans to their de –

What?

Kris Straub did it?

pokemon_gone

Well, I think my point’s been made.  If you want to be published – and I love it whenever a new writer gets published! – you’re going to have to work harder than the first ideas that come to mind.

But if you want more examples of the obvious twists slush readers will be seeing a lot of in the near future:

A lonely/abused child discovers his Pokemon Go-style capture is a real actual talking friend, and their new magical buddy humiliates and/or beats up the meanest character in the story.

A Pokemon Go-style game turns out to be the work of leprechauns (or fairies, or whatever) wanting to teach humans to accept finding magical creatures everywhere. 

A Pokemon Go-style game turns out to be the work of evil demons using the game to teach children in the secret ways of HATRED, even though honestly most of the people I’ve seen playing Pokemon Go personally have been in their early twenties.  

Pokemon Go-style creatures have real thoughts, and their own desires when humans aren’t looking, and yet none of them seem to realize this is the plot of Toy Story!   

A Pokemon Go-style game alienates a boy from his friends and he learns the amazing power of books.

Civilization has collapsed because every last human was playing Pokemon Go and nobody else mystically did anything, so now we’re all crawling through the ruins looking for Pikachu.  (Optional variant: A Very Smart Person tries to warn person about the dangers of a Pokemon Go-style game, and is ignored, and everyone is soooo foolish!  For extra chunky in your salsa, combine that with Pokemon Go-style games are the work of evil aliens and/or demons!)

A boy is sucked into the world of Pokemon Go, and now HE is the one who must be caught, and learns a valuable lesson about cruelty to animals.  

Maybe WE are all living in a virtual videogame, did you ever think of that?  Cooooool.

Pokemon Go-style… rape.  Someone will do it.  Someone always wants to tell the rape story.  Nobody ever buys them.

Pokemon Go-style characters comment about how silly the lives of humans are!  (We don’t have an actual plot here, just Squirtle making Seinfeld-style observations.)

A Pokemon Go-style game is a secret test by mysterious aliens to prove who really has the guts to catch them all.  (Although, you know, Ernie Cline got paid millions for that plot, so maybe you can do it too!)

I don’t mean to scorn, writers.  I bring up Ernie Cline at the end because if you write well enough, you can put a good spin on the hoariest concept.  But slush readers are going to be seeing a lot of stories like this, and even if you’re writing the best possible spin on this, an overworked slush reader may write you off because you sound too much like the last seven stories they’ve heard on this.

There’s good ideas for Pokemon Go out there.  Be inspired!  But be next-level inspired.  Think of an idea, and wonder if anyone else has thought of it, and take it to the next level.  Maybe the Pokemon Go AI has become sentient, and it doesn’t want to take over the planet or save a special child or make twee observations, so… what interesting things could it want?   Maybe the Pokemon Go changes society in fascinating ways – it already is – but that change is not as simplistic as “Pokemon Go leads us to the Rapture” or “Pokemon Go destroys civilization,” but rather has a subtle effect that leads to more unique story ideas than “save” or “break.”

You’ve got a good source material, here.  Now take it somewhere nobody but you is going to take it, write it, and submit it everywhere until, as they say in the Viable Paradise Workshop, “Until hell won’t have it!”

And good luck.

(But seriously, don’t write the “Pokemon Go is the lure of the devil” story.  Kris Straub’s done it.)

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/547125.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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08:56 am

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Ask Me Anything, Stressed Weasel Edition

So I had a pretty crappy day yesterday, what with a cavity and a gruellingly ignorant tech support experience:

So I’m doing my usual “I want to reach out to people but don’t want to write an essay to do it” trick of saying “Whaddaya wanna know about me?”  All serious questions are on the table, which is to say, questions you actually want to know the answer to: the answer to questions like “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck?” is “You’re not nearly as clever as you think you and shouldn’t post in this thread,” which generally makes people sadder than they’d like to be.

But anything else: up for grabs.  Wanna know about the new novels?  Polyamory?  What’s happening with me and Pokemon Go?  My opinions on random news events?  I’m up for anything, because last night was so stressful all I had for dinner was cupcake frosting and Ativan, so g’wan, distract me.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/546833.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(53 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

July 12th, 2016
10:04 am

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Your Secret Dental Weapon: Waterpiks

I just went to the dentist, as I do every three months, because about seven years ago I lost ten of my front teeth.  Cue three years’ worth of agonizing, embarrassing gum implant surgery.

…I’m better now.

(And a little better this morning, because I had the strange reward of “going downtown to see the dentist” and finding how Poke-packed the dentist’s office was! Seven Pokestops within an amble of the receptionist’s desk!  Two new Pokemon, a Zubat and a Koffing!  The only thing that might make random doctor visits fun is, indeed, Pokemon!)

Anyway, because of this, hoo boy am I familiar with dental hygiene!  And if you’re slack on your own teeth, I have some advice you need to know:

Get a Waterpik.

One Waterpik, even used improperly, beats the hell out of really good flossing.

Flossing requires a lot of knowledge, both in how to manipulate the string properly and in the personal topography of your mouth.  If you get the angle wrong, you don’t catch the plaque you need to.

A Waterpik, however, is basically pressure-washing your mouth – it requires no particular finesse, as you’re just flooding the spaces between your teeth with water.

I used to spend half an hour at each dental cleaning, being told I needed to be more careful as they scraped my teeth, me bleeding the whole time.  (I build up a lot of tartar.)  Now, post-Waterpik, I can be in and out in ten minutes, and at best my gums are a little red.

And it’s pretty quick, too.  Fill the tub with warm water (cold water hurts my gums), add a shot of Listerine to ensure that the bacteria get killed (and diluted, it doesn’t taste as awful as the direct stuff), and after about a minute you’re as squeaky clean as you can be.

So seriously.  If you’re looking to up your dental game so, I dunno, all your front teeth don’t have to be yanked out in a traumatizing surgery, get you a Waterpik.

Advice ends.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/546749.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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July 11th, 2016
10:10 am

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Pokemon Go: First Impressions Of A Game That’s Changing Everything.

1) I’ve had a lot of friends sniffing how Pokemon Go isn’t as good as Ingress (which is the game it’s literally based on), and I don’t think these folks understand how deeply a game’s theme affects your appreciation of it.

Take Magic: the Gathering, for instance.  I can give you a card that’s an Equipment:

Equipment
Equipped creature gets +1/+0.
Whenever equipped creature blocks or is blocked by a member of Faction X, destroy that creature. It can’t be regenerated.

And if you’re big into Magic, you’ll understand what that card does, but it’s not a particularly memorable card.  If you don’t understand Magic, it’s a bunch of random words.

But that’s not the real Magic card.

The real Magic card takes place in Innistrad, the Gothic horror plane overrun by werewolves and zombies, and the actual card is:

Wooden Stake – Equipment
Equipped creature gets +1/+0.
Whenever equipped creature blocks or is blocked by a Vampire, destroy that creature. It can’t be regenerated.

Suddenly, all those random statistics coalesce into a story.  It fits into your brain a lot easier.  It becomes a pleasure to see this card, even if you don’t think it’s a good card (it isn’t), because the flavor of the card conveys and reinforces rules.

And I played Ingress for a bit, and I just didn’t care.  The flavor was dead: oh, you’re the blue color or the green color.  There was some vague text in the game about one being the rebellious color, but functionally both sides were perfectly identical, so I forgot which side was which because it was meaningless: there was “my side” and “the other side.”  And I went around checking in places for a while, but my rewards were pretty much “Hey, you’re more blue, go blue,” and I wound up not caring.

Pokemon Go is saturated with flavor.  First off, collecting little cute animals?  A major upgrade, even if nothing else happens.  But these animals are also iconic, giving you the choice of finding a Pikachu or a Charizard, so the collectibles you get in the game are more desirable.  And you can photograph them in the places you got to share them with your friends, so it’s automatically more entertaining than pressing a button when you’re within thirty feet of some restaurant and getting random numbers added to a meaningless score.

Flavor matters.

And maybe Ingress got better once you got to a super high level, but the fact is that at the early levels, the rewards were not particularly well defined.  They were an equipment, not a wooden stake.

Making Pokemon Go a wooden stake is a major upgrade even if you change nothing else, and if you’re a game designer you ignore that flavor component at your peril.

2)  Pokemon Go is a super-popular videogame, yes, but what strikes me about it is how it takes a solitary pasttime and makes it visible.  I mean, millions of people were playing Call of Duty and Dragon Age when those came out, but they were seated in their living rooms.  Pokemon Go makes you go out and be seen.

In a way, it’s the most brilliant marketing ever.

3)  I suspect it will also be a real sea change for how games intersect with real life from now on.  Already we have people who’ve had their houses tagged as gyms complaining about the way random folks showing up makes them look like a drug dealer, and they have no effective way to “un-gym” themselves.  We’ve had a Pokemon Go player stumble over a dead body. We’ve had robbers setting up camp by Pokemon Go stations.  We’ve had businesses putting up signs that “Pokemon are for paying customers only.”

We’ve seen black dudes and white dudes bonding over Pokemon Go at three in the morning, and concerns that Pokemon Go could get black men in trouble, wandering suspiciously in white neighborhoods.

What I like about the game is that it encourages real-world exploring.  I live in the suburbs, and I’m pretty much all rat and bird creatures.  My friend Dave went to the woods this weekend, and he found all sorts of water Pokemon I’m unlikely to find here, and I got a little jealous – which, if you know how much I hate the outdoors, is a strange strange feeling for me indeed.  I like the idea that Pokemon Go rewards people for going to new places, and you’d be surprised just how little incentive people need to change their behavior.

We’ve never really seen what augmented reality does before, and this is going to have so many surprises – both good ones and bad ones.  It’s going to get more insane, just you wait.

4)  It’s also going to cause a run on external power packs.  This game chews through batteries like there’s no tomorrow.

5)  This game is both good and bad for your social life.  On the one hand, I like the way it encourages small talk between strangers – I know if I see a guy with his phone in the “Pokemon hunting” hand position, I can say, “Hey, what’s in the neighborhood?” and talk shop with him.  Given that the game also encourages me to get out, that’s lovely.

But it’s terrible for talks with friends.  I went for a walk with Gini yesterday, and every three minutes the game buzzed and we collected a Pokemon.  We kept going, “…as we were saying” until we realized that it’s hard to discuss anything but Pokemon while you’re playing Pokemon, because it snatches your attention away.

6)  The game itself is… okay.  Like most MMORPG variants, it rewards “time” over “skill,” which is to say that a guy who grinds a lot will be rewarded a lot more than a very talented person who only has a half-hour or two to put into the game.  And it’s annoyingly undocumented, as there’s all sorts of things the game doesn’t bother to make clear, like what you’re supposed to do at a gym or what the little footstep-meters next to the Pokemon mean.

(Forbes Magazine, of all sources, has some hints for you.)

However, the “catch ’em all” formula has worked for years, and I do feel an urge to catch all the possible Pokemon in my neighborhood.  I found a crab wandering on my neighbor’s lawn today.  I don’t know why he was there, but hey, I caught him.

Will this game have lasting value, or be a fad?  A bit of both, I think.  We’re watching the high tide crest as Pokemon Go eclipses Twitter in “number of active users” (in under a week!), but eventually it’ll subside as everyone’s tried it and levels up enough to decide hey, I’ve seen enough.

But Nintendo hasn’t unleashed everything.  Once we can start trading Pokemon, that’ll be a major change in how we interact.  And the mass-captures, where everyone assembles in a city at a given time to capture, say, a Mewtwo, will be legendary – and they’re coming, it was in the game trailer.

And with each of those changes, societal ramifications will also ripple.  What happens when you can trade Pokemon, so some enterprising robber sets up shop at a gym to force people to trade him their strongest Pokemon at gunpoint?  And then he sells them on the black market to other Pokemon users? What happens when a kid gets sick and someone decides the best way to cheer him up is to get everyone to trade him the world’s best Pokemon, making him a tremendous owner of massively overpowered artificial monsters?

This is a fascinating world, my friends.  Pokemon Go is gonna change it a lot.

Let’s see what happens.

Until then, anyone wanna go into the woods to get a Magikarp?

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/546326.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(30 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

July 8th, 2016
10:07 am

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The World Is Sad And So Am I. So Have Some Pretty Pretty Fingernails.

You may note I haven’t blogged much this week, because the news is pretty overwhelming.  So many people dead, and what the hell can I do about it?

(Well, I can join Campaign Zero to see which lawmakers are passing laws that might help the shooting of innocent black men, and write to those lawmakers – and I’m doing that – and to donate money to those law reform campaigns – and I’m doing that – but that doesn’t really help the blue bloodbath in Dallas, either, so I just wind up feeling overwhelmed and inadequate.)

I’m retweeting an awful lot on my Twitter feed, but my personal thoughts are a whirlwind.  It feels like every new headline knocks the last blog idea out of my hands.  This is a chaotic time, more turbulent than even the 1960s, and I’m pretty sure we’ll get through it – we have until now – but what scars will be left behind?

So fuck it.  I also realized I hadn’t posted my last three fingernail shots, so let’s put some joy in this world.

(As usual, all manicures are done by my Mad Manicurist Ashley, who currently works down at Fantasy Nails in Ohio City. Ask for her by name!)

Fingernails against sadness

Here’s perhaps the most amazing scientific feat of the year – we flung a three-ton robot across millions of miles to put it into orbit around a distant planet, and hit our target so precisely we were less than ten miles off by the time we got there. So why not Jupiter nails?

(Alas, Ashley forgot to put the little probe on my finger, but hey, she was busy and I had writing to do.)

Fingernails against sadness

Before I went on my two-week trip to Greece, I asked Mom if she wanted to have her nails done with me. I got sailboats, because, well, we were on a cruise. My Mom, who already had done her nails in deep blue, got Ashley to paint anchors on them, which coincidentally made her nails look like the Greek flag. We both got a lot of compliments, although I doubt my mother ever expected to be in a “fabulous nails” competition with her son.

Fingernails against sadness

When Game of Thrones premiered, everyone went “Get Game of Thrones nails! You love Game of Thrones!” But I was in my seasonal depression, and the world seemed bloody enough as it was, so I went with the other show premiere – the one that promised love and redemption.

Steven Universe nails are pretty wonderful. And I got to sing the theme song a lot, which I will do at the drop of a hat.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/546113.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(7 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

July 5th, 2016
09:11 am

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How Many Copies Of FLEX Did I Sell? Well, How Many Copies Does The Average Book Sell?

When I sold my novel Flex to Angry Robot, I knew if I didn’t set a sales goal before the book was published, I would angst endlessly over whether the book had been a success.

So I set a secret “Fuck you, Ferrett” number, making a promise to myself: If you sell that many copies of your debut novel, you have succeeded.  You may not compare your sales numbers to any other author and despair.  If you beat that “Fuck You, Ferrett” number, you sold more copies than you thought you would; take a bow and shut up.

I’m quite cruel to myself, really.  But me and I, we get along.

That “Fuck you, Ferrett” number was taken from an author I trusted, who told me over drinks that most books only sell 3,000 copies over their lifetime.  As in, “They sell 3,000 copies total before they’re put out of print and forgotten.”  So I said, “If I sell 4,000 copies, I must have done well.”

Problem is, the more I talked to authors, the more I wondered whether that 3,000 was correct.

I had lunch with an author friend of mine.  “My publisher treats me nice,” he said.  “Of course, I’ve sold like 30,000 copies.”  Three months later, they offered him a six-figure deal to write the next books in the series.  So, okay, 30,000 copies is good enough to get publishers running back.

But then during one of the inevitable Twitter discussions of “Does social media get you sales?”, I revealed that ten years of blogging and daily Tweeting got me a sum total of 900 preorders for Flex.  Several author friends of mine replied that they hadn’t sold 900 copies of their book total, and man did I feel like a dick all day.

A publisher friend of mine told me that the 3,000 copies was actually a bad figure, at least for sci-fi; most books sold more than that.   But my agent told me that it really depended on the book, and the publisher, and any number of other factors.

When I said my goal was to sell 3,000 copies, was that good for a debut?  Bad?  I didn’t know.  I knew 30,000 copies was good.  I knew 10,000 copies was enough to get a publisher to as for the next book in the series.  So clearly somewhere in between is what I could expect…

But authors, by and large, don’t discuss copies sold.  They occasionally discuss earned income, which is useful, but when it comes to “copies moved” you only hear about raging successes.

So is 3,000 copies actually a respectable number?  4,000?  Or is that the sort of figure you’d expect to see if you get signed with a major publisher like Tor or Random Penguin, and most indie publishers can expect to see a lot lower?

I figure the only way to determine what “average” looks like is to compile data.

So I asked authors how many copies they’d sold, and combed through blog posts to find authors who’d revealed their copies sold, and made a spreadsheet.  I’ve tried to embed it at the end of this entry – but if I failed, you can find the Google Spreadsheet detailing copies sold here.

If you would like to add your data to this spreadsheet, please email me at theferrett@theferrett.com with the email header AUTHOR SALES FIGURES SURVEY (so it doesn’t get lost in spam).  I’ll add them when I can.

I will note that self-published authors earn a lot more off of fewer numbers.  I’ve seen authors earning thousands off of hundreds of copies sold, because some of the authors shared their income.  I suspect on average, authors sell more copies through a traditional publisher, but the amount of cash is about the same – a suspicion confirmed by Brooke Johnson’s twin self-published/traditional published numbers.

As for me?

First, some figures:

  • Flex had an Amazon sales ranking consistently between 30,000 and 80,000 in the first year of release (though it’s dropped off lately, almost sixteen months after its debut).
  • It has 167 reviews on Amazon, which is probably above-average for a book of its sales numbers because I have a lot of loyal fans.  (Thank you guys.  Seriously.)  It’s got seven reviews on Barnes and Noble.
  • It has 1,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  • I’ve “earned out” on the book, which means I’ve sold enough copies to cover my initial advance.

So knowing that, how many copies would you say I’ve sold?

Flex sold 7,125 copies in the first nine months of release – or 178% of my “Fuck You, Ferrett” goal of 4,000 copies sold.  This was enough for Angry Robot to request a third book in the series – which, I should remind you, you can preorder now.

The sequel, The Flux, sold 4,125 copies in its first three months of release – Angry Robot’s sales figures end on December 31st, 2015.  Which, honestly, is way more than I thought it would sell, but those may not account for post-Christmas returns, which I suspect will bring it down a bit.  Then again, Angry Robot did run some promotions to goose The Flux’s online sales in the spring, so that may have shot up quite a bit.

The finale to the ‘Mancer series, Fix, will sell approximately one more copy if you click this link and go over and buy it now.

And that’s it.  7,125 seems like a pretty good number to me for a debut, and that’s not even a year.  But it’s hard to say, or compare. I think total number of Goodreads reviews is probably the best predictor of overall sales – you don’t have to write a review to leave a rating, unlike Amazon, and you generally have to have read the book to leave a rating.  But who knows?  Amazon sales rankings are crazy, BookScan numbers are crazy.  (According to Bookscan, I’ve sold roughly 3,000 units.)

If that was Young Adult, though, where the sale come fast and furious, that’d probably be a disappointment.  And if it was a cookbook, well, I’m told 10,000 is your bottom-of-the-barrel number.

So it all does depend, I guess. I’ll quote this segment of this extremely thorough overview of book sales, which I’d recommend to any author, which asks “What Constitutes ‘Good’ Sales?”:

As with anything here, we need qualifications. What constitutes “good” sales is entirely dependent on what type of book you are publishing, what size your publisher is, and what your advance was. 5,000 copies of a short story collection on a small press is a huge hit. 5,000 copies of a novel from a big publisher that paid a $100,000 advance is a huge disaster.

You also need to factor in the format. Selling 10,000 hardcover is worth more than 10,000 paperbacks. For ebooks, prices can be all over the place, even from a major publisher.

Qualifications aside, if you are a new writer at a big publisher and you’ve sold more than 10,000 copies of a novel you are in very good shape — as long as you didn’t have a large advance. It should be easy for you to get another book contract. If you sold more than 5,000, you are doing pretty well. You’ll probably sell your next book somewhere. If you sold less than 5,000, then you could be in trouble with the next book. (Although it is, as always, dependent on the project. If a publisher loves your next book, they may not care about previous sales.)

The smaller the press, the more you can scale down. One publisher of an independent press told me that most indie press books sell — not BookScan — about 1,500 copies, with 3,000 being good sales. Even then, the publisher stressed, an author selling 3,000 is really just paying for themselves. To be contributing to the operations of the press, they’d need to sell over 5,000.

So that’s the numbers.  That’s what I got.  As for what that all means, well, I’ll direct you towards Kameron Hurley’s wise dissection of her own sales numbers and how authors like us have to fight for the midlist.

And I’ll remind you that, as an author, comparing yourself to other authors is a void you can harm yourself in.  There is always, always, someone doing better than you did, and there always will be.  This is my debut novel, but I can name three authors who had debut novels that sold 20,000 copies, or 40,000 copies, or, you know, won the Hugo on their first novel.  I do this because, as a former book buyer – if you bought a computer book at Waldenbooks between 1997 and 2000, that’s because I put it on the shelf – sales numbers interest me.

But remember, “success” is defined by your publisher.  And “number of copies sold” is not the same as “quality,” unless you wanna start arguing that Renowned Dan Brown is the literary goal you are aiming for.  The suck thing about publishing is that lots of really good books don’t move the numbers in the way people had hoped, and professional writers have to live with that understanding that the marketplace is not a perfect reflection of their talent.

To quote William Goldman on Hollywood: “Nobody knows anything.”  So keep writing as well as you can, and keep writing until hopefully the dice fall your way.  That’s literally all any of us can do.

And again, if you wanna share your own numbers, either through email or through letting me know about a blog post/Tweet/Tumblr you made, email me at theferrett@theferrett.com.  The more data we can have on this, the more we can normalize what sales numbers look like.

In the meantime, well… I’m happy with what I sold.  I have to be!  I made my goal.

So fuck you, neurotic Ferrett!  YOU DID GOOD.

Have a spreadsheet.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/546004.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(13 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

July 3rd, 2016
10:44 am

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The First Review Of FIX Is In!

As y’all know, the third and final book in my ‘Mancer series, FIX, is coming out in September.  The review copies went out on Friday (and are still available if you’re a book reviewer).

Today is my birthday, so it’s really nice to get the first good review through Twitter:

Full disclosure: Cassandra’s been a huge fan of the series since the beginning, so much so that I Tuckerized her in Fix. (In many ways, she has the most tragic death.)  But if you’re a fan of the ‘Mancer series, this is a superfan saying that I managed to cobble together a good ending for what was never intended to be a trilogy, but sorta turned out that way.

So if you want to buy it, you know, preorders make a publisher happy.

And also, after having spent literally a week trying to figure out how to start my next novel, I finally cracked the opening 583 words in the first half hour of my birthday.  This is after experimenting with twenty-five different attempts, four serious, all of which sucked on some level or another.  But now I feel nothing but a strange giddiness, because the other attempts weren’t bad, they just weren’t as good as the novel I wanted to write.

So that’s there.  I’ll be making a post for the Clarion Echo soon, detailing what I did and how I did it, and if you want to walk through the novel-writing process with me, remember, all you have to do is donate $10 to the Clarion Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop.  It’s a bargain!

And now I’m off to eat too much cake, drink too much bourbon, and operate power tools.  Just as I beat not one, but two videogames yesterday and ate too much cake.

IT ARE MAH BIRFDAI YAYYYYY

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/545758.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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July 1st, 2016
10:11 am

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Almost Forgot: If You’re A Book Reviewer, FIX Is Up On NetGalley!

The third book in The ‘Mancer series, FIX, is finally available on NetGalley if you’d like to read and review.  Alas, this only applies to book reviews approved by NetGalley; the rest of you will have to wait until September.  But you can order it now!  (And please do!  My birthday’s this weekend!  Pre-orders help authors out, every time!)

I have to admit, though… seeing NetGalley tout my book as “THE THIRD TITLE IN FERRETT STEINMETZ’S CRITICALLY-ACCLAIMED ‘MANCER SERIES” is a little weird.  Actually, a lot weird.  I was like, “It wasn’t critically… okay, it got a lot of nice reviews… maybe a lot of them… but okay, it’s a marketing thing, I can turn off my ego-dampener just this one.”

Anyway.  If you review books, go request it from NetGalley.  If you simply want to find out what happens to Paul and Aliyah next – and major, major changes happen to everyone in this book, as I raze the potential of future books to the ground – then purchase it in advance.  Call it a birthday present, from you to me to you again!

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/545360.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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