Friday, April 19, 2013

Boston Bombing Suspect in Custody

I was just sitting down to write an update—really to let everyone know that my own family is safe and well following the Boston Marathon bombing and the following manhunt, just a few miles from my house—when I saw on the TV, "Suspect in custody." Well done and thanks, Boston area police! What a tremendous, professional job. As I write this, we still don't know any of the details, just that they took the suspect alive, a nineteen-year-old kid who somehow got drawn into being part of this atrocity of terrorism and murder. And we still have the unanswered question: Were the two brothers acting alone? The story is far from over, but God willing, the day of fear has come to an end.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Shock and Grief at the Boston Marathon

I was miles from the finish line of the Boston Marathon when the bombs exploded yesterday. Busy with mundane tasks, I didn't hear much about what had happened until hours later, when I started getting text messages from out of state, people checking to see if my family and I were all right. (We are.) When I finally got caught up, I realized I was learning about something just a few miles away that was breaking news around the world. Unlike September 11, 2001, when I saw the TV images minutes after the attack, this came to me as a slow-building shock. I think it's still building.

Are my loved ones okay? Thankfully, yes. A number of people where Allysen works were running in the marathon. They're all okay. The soon-to-be-incoming pastor at our church was running. He's okay. The son and daughter of someone I know made a last-minute decision not to go see the finish of the race. To the best of my knowledge, no one I know personally, or even second-hand, was physically harmed in the attack.

Emotionally is another matter. People are sad and shaky and angry and depressed. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families whose lives are shattered. I find myself wondering what kind of vicious and demonized thinking can lead someone to murder and maim innocent strangers, and presumably rejoice in it. (Yes, I know, this sort of thing goes on every day, somewhere in the world. But this time it happened in my city.) I don't propose to answer the question, because I have no answers. It's been going on for thousands of years. But only in the recent past has it become so easy to commit acts like this with relative impunity.

I've never gotten personally involved in the running of the marathon, despite knowing some people who have participated. But to me, the marathon is like the Olympics: it's a place where people from all over the world come together to compete as friends and equals. It's a stage that brings out the best in us as people. A stage where money doesn't matter, nationality doesn't matter, religion and politics don't matter. It's a time for coming together, and celebrating the winners and almost-winners alike.

Was that why the marathon became a target? Because it celebrated the best? Because there are those who don't like celebration, don't like seeing people of all nations and colors running together? I don't suppose we'll ever know for sure. But I'm pretty sure of this: It wasn't an attack just on America; it was an attack on humanity.

Here's a photo posted to Facebook by Canadian astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield, from the International Space Station, titled A somber Spring night in Boston.

One online response to the photo was this: "Can you see our broken hearts from space?"


Friday, April 05, 2013

Another Loss: Film Critic Roger Ebert, at 70

I've never been a regular reader of the Chicago Sun-Times, but when it comes to checking reviews of movies I might be interested in (especially movies that show up on cable), the first reviewer I check is always Roger Ebert. I've trusted his reviewer's eye and sensibility ever since I first encountered him with Gene Siskel, on Sneak Previews, on PBS. He died yesterday at age 70, after a long struggle with cancer. The Sun-Times has a detailed obituary, and Blastr has one that focuses more on his interest in science fiction. He was a lifelong SF fan, as well as a  perceptive reviewer of movies of all genres.

Along with millions of other moviegoers, I'm sure, I mourn his passing. But I'm grateful for the legacy he's left us of intelligent, compassionate, critical thought about the movies. I'll keep checking for his reviews as long as they leave them up on the web.

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Thursday, April 04, 2013

Hugh Howey on Self Publishing

By now, most people interested in books and publishing have heard of Hugh Howey, a self-published SF writer whose eighth (I think) book Wool hit gold and became a runaway bestseller in ebook. It made a millionaire of the author, and led in the course of time to an extraordinary print contract with a major New York publisher, in which the publisher offered a large six-figure advance for print rights only, allowing the author to continue to mine his own ebook rights to the tune of six figures monthly.

Wool cover
[Deep breath, and expel the envy. All together, now...]

Anyway, Hugh Howey writes on about his views of traditional versus self-publishing. It's pretty interesting, although I don't necessarily agree with everything he says. (For one thing, he doesn't mention the role that traditional publishers play in helping writers, especially new writers, improve their craft and produce better books. Some say that that role is diminishing these days, but I think it really depends on the publisher and the editor.) Still, it's hard to argue with Howey's success.

I write this as I'm taking a break from working on my taxes, wherein I discover that I sort of seriously underestimated the effect my own improved ebook sales would have on my tax bottom line. Ow. I'm not remotely in the same universe as Howey, sales-wise. Nevertheless, last year was one of the best years I've  had in my modest career in terms of book income, and it was all from my backlist. The paradigms, they are a-shiftin'.

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