Friday, September 2, 2011


A week after our brush with the apocalypse here in central Virginia, I am back at my keyboard with a grateful heart. My house is still standing, despite an earthquake, a major freak thunderstorm and a hurricane. I have electricity and drinkable water and drivable streets. There are a few trees down in my neighborhood, a few neighborhoods just getting the lights back on. But overall, Fredericksburg fared better than Louisa County (at the epicenter of the earthquake), Richmond, Virginia Beach or Cape Hatteras (lashed by winds and rain) and certainly better than dozens of little towns in Vermont (surprised by Irene’s floods).

Being of a Biblical turn of mind here in Virginia, we’re inclined to keep an eye on the horizon for a plague of locusts next, but perhaps things are back to normal, what with a tropical storm headed for the Gulf Coast and the earthquakes back where they belong in Alaska and California. We will definitely be watching the outcome of those acts of Mother Nature with a more heightened sense of sympathy now, though. In the face of the true power of this world—when the earth moves or the wind blows at a hundred miles an hour or the sea rises up and takes the shore—humankind has little more than faith, hope and a limited set of survival skills to rely on.

The question I have, in the midst of all this real destruction, is why one of the most popular sub-sub-genres of SFR and YA is post-apocalyptic fiction. Of course, the story set in a bleak future following the destruction of our current decadent society has been an SF staple from the establishment of the genre. And it certainly must have seemed that the “end of civilization” was near at other times in our history—during the Cold War, for example, with the threat of nuclear war hanging over our heads.

But as T.S. Eliot once said, “This is how the world ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper.” Today, in 2011, it really does seem as if we might be on the way out. In a slow crumble, as the temperatures rise and the ice caps melt and the oceans rage and the earth groans. Do I want to read a novel about it? Not really. Do I want to spend months writing one, putting all my emotions into it, living it day after day until it’s done, then selling it to others for them to enjoy? Hell, no. I actually have a story to tell about the end of the world as we know it, but the thought of living with it while I write it depresses hell out of me. It’s one thing to write to exorcise your demons. It’s quite another to draw a pentagram on the floor, burn a black candle and whisper incantations in the night, thinking you can manage whatever rushes into the room.

Think I’ll stick with torturing, slave-trading aliens, thank you very much. They may not sell, but they’re not nearly as scary.

Donna’s Journal

New authors, cool web sites, great workshops, great online sites!

The biggest obstacle to digital publishing is piracy, by which Internet thieves steal e-book files and offer them free through filesharing sites like rapidshare and megaupload. Now the Curtis Agency and E-Reads have collaborated on a program to find and take down pirated files, a program that will help not only Curtis Agency authors, but others as well.

The system, developed by Muso TNT, sends out “spiders” over the Internet to find unauthorized files, searching by author. The spiders store the files on a password-protected site for later inspection by the author, agent or publisher. If the files are found at an unauthorized site, one click sends the files to a site administrator, who issues a standard Digital Millennium Copyright Act and takedown procedures notice. and easy, even if chasing digital pirates is like playing Whack-a-Mole, as one commenter admitted in the back-and-forth that followed the article in E-Reads' blog.

E-Reads describes itself as “a trail-blazing reprinter of out-of-print genre and general fiction and nonfiction by leading authors.” Books are available in ebook and paperback format. The Curtis Agency is a well-known New York literary agency. Read the full article about the anti-piracy system at



  1. Yep, Whack a Mole it is!! I hate to say I've given up - but in a way I have. If I went after every site offering illegal downloads, I'd spend all my time doing that and not writing. Luckily some of the publishers are very quick to send notices but - that mole pops up again.

    And I'm with you on the post apocolyptic stories. I do find them a bit bleak. I will read them but I don't pick them as first choice!!

  2. I'm with you on the apocalyptic sub-subgenre, Donna. I don't want to be depressed and frightened by destruction and a shattered world...heck, there's plenty of that in real life. I'd rather read stories that give hope about a brighter, exciting future, and the challenges we'll face and overcome. Great struggle is a different thing from hopelessness.

    And three cheers on Curtis Agency's strike out against piracy. I wish more readers understood how devastating this is to most authors, that it many times ends their writing career. It's difficult to comprehend that "oh, a free copy by my favorite author--what a find!" mindset can very well turn into their favorite author never signing another contract due to lack of sales.

    I wonder how those readers would feel if they worked an entire year at their jobs to produce a product, only to be told someone stole their hard work so they won't be getting a paycheck? And then they get fired for being non-productive on top of it.

    "Just one little free download won't hurt anybody" becomes catastrophic when 50,000 readers think the same thing.

    E-publishing has opened so many doors for so many wonderful writers...but piracy truly is the apocalyptic dark side of the industry.

  3. It must be so discouraging, Barbara, to try and fight these **&$%^ing pirates constantly! The benefit of the Muso TNT program is that it is automatic and limits your involvement. The agent who tested it said he spent some 45 minutes looking over the files ID'd by the program for all of his authors and sent them off to the site administrator to be taken care of with the appropriate notices with a simple click of the mouse. Sounds like it might be worth a look.


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