Monday, April 27, 2009

The Stigma of Self-Publishing, Part 1: Daemon

You may have read last year's Wired article about the novel Daemon, detailing how three agent rejections discouraged first-time novelist Daniel Suarez so much that he started his own company to publish and market his half-baked techno-thriller.

You may also have seen novelist J. Steven York's deconstruction of Daemon's success--the book was later acquired by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin, and reissued in hardcover (and with the author's name spelled forwards instead of backwards).

I have nothing to add to the information presented in those two articles, especially the second one, except to say that the Big Ideas name-checked in Daemon are presented much more completely and plausibly in Charles Stross' Halting State (which opens with a bank heist inside an MMORPG) and Cory Doctorow's Little Brother (which delves into actual hacking in great detail; complete text available free online).

I've been programming computers for over twenty years, and I know from personal experience that automation is hard. Maintaining the Internet is a war of attrition. Someone discovers an exploitable flaw in the network--e.g., in TCP/IP or DNS or some other protocol--either by research or accident; then somebody figures out how to fix it; and the security hole gets patched. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I don't care if you're Lex Luthor; there's no way anyone can create a single automated system that can hack the planet for over a year without some human intervention. Also, the repeated threat that the daemon will crash the global economy falls flat, since we've now demonstrated that we can do that pretty well all by ourselves.

Anyway. Skip this nihilistic crapfest and read Stross and Doctorow instead. It's a huge plus that Halting State and Little Brother, in addition to being authored by competent writers with a firm grasp of narrative language, were also vetted by experienced editors who knew from good storytelling and copy-edited by professionals who knew where to put quotation marks and how to join separate phrases together to form actual complete sentences. It's not a coincidence that Halting State was nominated for a Hugo Award last year, and Little Brother is nominated this year.

Finally, speaking of Charlie Stross, here's what he had to say about the continued value of real book publishers in 2007:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApcNzwy9Zas (skip to 46:47)

~CKL
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