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Tad Williams To Release To Web 140

H.I. McDonnough writes "Tad Williams, author of the near future sci-fi series Otherland and the fantasy series Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn will be releasing a new fantasy series on the web. From the site: "Shadowmarch is not going to be simply a novel to download. It will be a serial story -- episodic, presented in regular installments more like a television show, that can either be downloaded and perused at leisure (even printed out) or read right on the site. There will be art, maps, and background history of the world, all available as part of the package." I don't know if any other major author has tried this. You can read the free prelude on the site at http://www.shadowmarch.com." The whole she-bang is supposed to launch June 1. But I will say that this looks more like what I think the online publishing will be like - less like King's "The Plant" idea, which was still dumb, IMHO.
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Tad Williams To Release To Web

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  • I haven't read any of Tad's work, how does he compare to Robert Jordan (Of the Wheel of Time cycle), who's got a legion of fans addicted to his lengthy tomes?
  • I am a writer and study English at Princeton. I have been hanging around on slashdot and other internet sites to study the feasibility of Open Source writing.

    I am a convert.

    I truly believe that Open Source is the only possible future for all forms of intellectual property and creation.

    I think that the only moral form of creative writing is that which is free. The publishing houses are the software houses of the writing world, and Penguin and Bertlesman are it's IBM and Microsoft. If writing is to become a truly creative medium on a par with programming, it must cease to be the creation of a single man, and become a chaotic mess, a maelstrom of conflicting ideas united by aim.

    Open Source writing already exists in a limited form on newsgroups, but it is breaking out of this ghetto and into the world of the mainstream. The publishing companies are running scared.

    I shall become the Stallman of the publishing industry, resolute in support of Free Literature. I urge you all to do the moral thing, and refuse to buy books, which are just monopolies. Books are fascist, for they make writing property and bind it in covers of steel.

    Fight for freedom, and we will see a free publishing industry based around the Internet, much like the software world.

  • ...it was an experiment. What contributions have you made to the electronic publishing arena? Anything, smart or otherwise? The only way to determine what will work and what won't is to have the testicular fortitude to try it. King was in a position to do it. Rumor among the publishing circles, by the way, is that he got bored with the story, not that the revenue model wasn't working. He's opened the door to everybody who was afraid to be first. Now we'll see some more experiments that might work out better.

    On a different note, I wish Williams would hurry up and finish the Otherland series so I can stop buying the damn things. I don't like them anymore, but I feel that I've already invested so much time and money in the first 3 books that I have to see it through to the end.

  • ok, reading news, whatever, etc, is great on the web, but as it has been discussed w/webpads, it is not a great way to read an entire book.. Sure you can print it out, but that reminds me too much of reading research material for 20 page papers..

    I like to spend time away from the computer doing leisure activities (reading, smoking pot, whatever ;)) why would I want to sit in front of the computer even longer?

    I think that it is great that people are expanding to the net to do these sorts of things, but w/the way he is talking about setting it up (installments) that would just make it difficult :(

    I say, publish the damn book really cheap and then let us read it :)
  • I am a fan of RJ, and after reading Otherland, he is not as good as RJ IMHO. I haven't read any of his other work so my opinion may be skewed.
  • i never liked jordan much, but really liked tad's memory, sorrow, and thorn series. fwiw, i read about everything and like most of it, but after battling against the first few chapters of the jordan 'wheel of time' thing i kept giving up. if nothing else, this story gives me the hankering to go back and re-read tad's series. also, i've read tailchaser's song and liked it. please, no flames.
  • Well he's very good and unlike Jordan he actually manages to finish a series.
  • As an addict of Jordan (who is dissapointing me lately, but that's a different story) I can say that Tad Williams is also addictive. His newer series 'the Otherland' is a great mix of sci-fi and traditional fantasy. Give it a try, it might be wierd at first but I'm salivation at the thought of the 4th and final book. His earlier series Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn is also very good. Also try Terry Goodkinds 'Sword of Truth' series, very sweet.
  • Well. If you really like Jordan's cheezy style, you'll definitel/&%/&%762354 gjgdhfg jhsbc. jjjjb. Obscene scene of Shaidar Haran taking over this obese post93044553aaah. aaa. Yep. Enjoy :D

  • by Fervent ( 178271 ) on Monday April 09, 2001 @09:00AM (#304916)
    Out of curiousity (and as a fellow writer coming out of college), why do these online "experiments" produce episodic stories at all? Why not release the whole story in one shot?

    One of the strongest facets to the Gutenberg project, in my mind, was that you could read all of Ulysses by gophering to the site, in one sitting.

    Unless there's real monitary reasons, I'd be much more willing to release whole stories instead of episodes.

  • and Penguin and Bertlesman are it's IBM and Microsoft.

    Shurely a stoodint of Inglish wuld noe it's "its" and not "it's". </grammar_nazi>

  • On a different note, I wish Williams would hurry up and finish the Otherland series so I can stop buying the damn things. I don't like them anymore, but I feel that I've already invested so much time and money in the first 3 books that I have to see it through to the end.

    You're in luck. The fourth and final volume is due out tomorrow.
  • I haven't read any of his earlier works and I still need to finish the series (4th of 4) just came out ... Some may disagree but I think Otherland is incredible - cyberpunk, mythology, fantasy, sci-fi all woven into the epic - most of the action takes place in a virtual reality world where visitors are hooked into physical life support systems while they explore online realms that vary as the limits of imagination, all vividly detailed ...

  • I like his Tad's books, but I cannot compare them to Jordan since I have not read them. Tad tends to write real long detailed books.
  • Somebody marked that article offtopic?

    Jebus! Get a clue. I'll spank you in meta, you bad moderator you.

  • Sea of Silver Light is hitting stores this month. Should already be out in the US and out in the UK next week. Prelude is out at tadwilliams.com Chapther 1 is displayed at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com
  • I can't believe I just blew my mod points before reading this off topic drivel. This venture has nothing to do with open source, it's a closed IP commercial project.

    Good luck with the degree, I think you'll need it.

  • ack, i loved the first of the goodkind books but hated the rest of it. ahh... memories of feist's belgariad and the 'death gate cycle' by weis and hickman flash through my mind. now THOSE were addictive. as yet another aside, Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, etc)'s re-release of 'The Big U' really tickled my fancy also. A lot of people didn't like it, I couldn't put it down.
  • by decipher_saint ( 72686 ) on Monday April 09, 2001 @09:04AM (#304925)
    This may be just my first impresison, but it seems to me that this is being tailored for mass consumption. To me it feels like a gimmickey attempt to jump on the fragile resurgant mainstream popularity of fantasy.

    I think the concept of serialization is interesting though, get you hooked and then jack up the price (as it were). But, it has been done before in 19th century newspapers with Dickens or Conan-Doyle, and I predict that this may prove to be as popular today as it was then. (Whether or not these stories are of any quality will prove how enduring they are, though.)

    But thats the internet in a nutshell isn't it? Try anything once...


  • but after battling against the first few chapters of the jordan 'wheel of time'

    Actually, the first few books are quite good if you manage to get past the first few chapters. Shame on Jordan for stretching the whole mess far too wide... I mean, eight-nine books, but at least Rand managed to clean saidar. Fun for the whole family.

  • How did this get up to a 3? It espouses Open Source writing? So writers are not allowed to make money from their efforts? I know that the publishing houses suck just as the music and software publishers do. It's a fact of life. The writers still need to make a living and since epublishing still sucks that means print is their best option. If I had mod points this would be marked troll.
  • I'm sure they want to see where it goes, if it becomes popular I'm sure they'll start offering pay-accounts that let you read more, or download the whole thing or any other number of reasons (well, money-making reasons that is).


  • by Tiroth ( 95112 ) on Monday April 09, 2001 @09:08AM (#304929) Homepage
    ...was that it didn't really take into account the realities of digital media. The two big problems are cost vs. value, and the potentially ephemeral nature of digital documents.

    Sure, I paid for the first installment, and enjoyed it. The projected final cost of the novel was between $15 and $25 though--far too much, in my opinion, when you don't recieve a nice hardcover volume. If you expected to print out the work, even at the modest cost of a nickel a page your total would be between $30 and $40.

    Reading online is all good and well, but I think almost everyone can agree that it is easier and nicer to have hardcopy for literature. This means that the cost, at minimum, must be lowered to the point where people can realistically print it out for the same cost as the hardcover.

    Second, The Plant didn't take into account the fact that people download files, then accidently delete them, or change computers and forget to transfer little things between them, or simply are lazy and want to download again for each location they access from. Should people who have paid for a copy and lost it (much easier to do than with a book) be forced to pay again? This fact was not taken in account when the pay-through percentage was calculated.

    Hopefully Williams is addressing both these problems-no word yet on cost, but it appears that there will be a login system to access the online version, rather than a pay-for-play download of the serials. This, at least, is a major improvement in my mind.
  • If the online serial is anything like Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, it will be well worth reading. Tad writes wonderfully rich stories and covers character development and depth better than many fantasy/sci fi authors. Ranks right up there in my mind with the Pern stories, the Book of Swords stories, and WoT books.
  • gopher? such a thing has never existed, i think you mean the world wide web, or internet, as i call it.
  • I'm sorry, did he mention how he plans to make money? Surely this isn't the new model for web publishing if there is no revenue stream. And where he says "if people give away too many copies of the story for free", I have to think of comparisons to King's approach with The Plant, which as we all know was dumb :).

    Also, what sort of formats will he be dealing with? Will it be a nasty IE-only site loaded up with Quicktime and Flash5 movies? If he makes it downloadable will it be in a nice portable format that I could use in my Rocket eBook, for example? That's what I think of when I see "downloadable format". (FYI, I'm reading King's traditional new novel Dreamcatcher that way.)


  • All of William's work is amazing. He IS epic fantasy. Memory, sorrow, and thorn is especially remenicent of the literary style of Tolkien--it envelopes you in a musty, old world with a complete history.
  • Well said, brother. I guess it shows that you study English... :)

    Your point, also, is excellent.

    Could you imagine if everyone had to pay $150 dollars to read Shakespeare or Chaucer? What would happen if all art and literature were bound by the shackles of 'the artists right to make a living' as the pro-RIAA advocates always say. This right lasts for 70 years after the artist's death. Where's the sense in that?

    The fact that art can be monopolized at all is detestible. Whether in source code, in music or in literature!

  • Why not release all of the Star Trek television episodes ever all at once in the beginning? Why do Soap Opera's continue? Why did serial magazine rule during the 1930's?

    Because the story isn't done yet when they start. That's the fun of a serial. It keeps on going, and it need never end.

  • oh dear lord... here I go anyway...


    How did what you post make any sense at all???

    Writing needs to be open source??? Yeah, right! I think that kind of underminds the purpose of most authors - if you have a creative vision, then it is your creative vision - not anyone else's. If you so choose to share that vision with the world, so be it, I think that's great.

    Perhaps you mean to "open" the publishing schemes, but there is no way in hell that writing should be "open" - that's not quite the way to write a coherent story.

    On the other hand, nice troll. Look, you even got us to respond...

  • So I'm really looking forward to this little piece of happiness. Be it news, commentary, discussion, or fiction, I prefer reading from my computer screen to letting my hand cramp trying to hold up a magazine or a paperback.
  • This is the last of the four books in the Otherland series. I just called my local Borders and had a clerk pull a copy off the shelf to hold for me. I have been waiting for this last book in the series for almost two years! BN.com says that the book comes in 4-10, Amazon just says published in April.
  • Another wanker with a half-thought idea.

    And how are you going to feed your family or pay for that fancy degree from princeton with all that free writing your doing? Oh.. wait.. never mind you must have money already!


  • I've read most of the Wheel of Time books and have read quite a bit of what Tad Williams has put out such as Tailchaser's Song, The Otherland series and Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. I like both authors a lot, but I have to say I prefer Tad Williams over Robert Jordan. Robert Jordan is addictive but his characters set my teeth on edge and makes me want to beat my head against a wall sometimes. A lot of them seem very one dimensional, even the supposed good guys and I have a hard time wanting to stay with these characters through their adventures. I have yet to have this problem with Tad Williams. I've enjoyed all his characters so far, even the bad guys. He manages to capture your interest in the people as well as the story line. He is also very good at vivid imagery that really sets your imagination spinning. If you want to try something by Tad Williams without being caught up in a series, try reading Tailchaser's Song. It is a relatively short book that is a standalone story and is very interesting. It's a fantasy type story from the perspective of cats.

  • But if people start passing too many free copies of the Shadowmarch story around and we get to the point where it doesn't pay for itself any more, then I'll have to stop doing it, and nobody (me included) will get to find out where it's going.

    What's everyone's predictions on how this is going to turn out? Even with all the multimedia, pictures, etc. that Tad is going to include along with the story text, do you think people are actually going to pay for it?


  • We also don't know alot about how Tad writes, I'm thinking that the design of the site will make it easier for him to produce text thus he will have lower effort. (No attempt at one stream of story telling.) Plus again money effort, Puting a complete work the size of a Tad Willams work must invole a few years of work on his part so Episodic get him to market faster.
  • It's a troll. Artfully done, but troll nonetheless. Use of the word "ghetto" is a major clue. Read it carefully - don't just skim - and you'll see that it makes no sense whatsoever.

    Of course, it's an open question whether "moderators who skim" or "moderators who read carefully" are in the majority.
  • by JesseL ( 107722 ) on Monday April 09, 2001 @09:18AM (#304944) Homepage Journal

    FWIW, for the past 8 months I've done almost all my reading on my Handspring Visor and I have to say that for me, it beats the hell out of paper books. The screen simply hasn't been an issue and I love the convenience of:

    1. Being able to finish one book at 3 a.m., go to Baen.com or Fictionwise, and immediatley get something new to read.

    2. Not having to hold a book open and continuously turn pages.

    3. Being able to read in the dark with a backlit display.

    4. Not using up any more of my (already packed) shelf space.

    Before I tried it I didn't really think it would work very well either, but, having tried it I don't think I'll ever go back.

  • Shame on Jordan for stretching the whole messs far too wide...

    Are you kidding me? Admittedly, the latest ones read like synopses of longer books, rather than books themselves, but it's not because Jordan stretched it. Instead, shame on Jordan for having a story that would take that long and not having the balls and grit to finish it off how it needs to be. After Path of Daggers, I'm extremely reluctant to buy any more in the series. I didn't pay $20 for Robert Jordan's book report on the book that it should have been but wasn't.

    Point is, any half-way decent author can tell you that you don't need to (and, indeed, should not) worry about how long your story is -- it has a natural length. At some point, the story'll just be over. It never felt like the series was being stretched. It was that we were progressing through the story -- not at Jordan's pace, not at the reader's pace, but at the story's pace. Which was an immenently attractive feature of the books: here was a story that was being given its due, without the author intruding too much to force pacing or put up framing devices or other rhetoric. This was very good. Even if the series was long, the story was still good, and so I could curb my impatience for answers because the story was comforting. Jordan knows he can't just jump to the end -- there's too much inbetween that needs to be resolved, but he appears to have lost interest in giving the story any credit. That's a shame. Goodkind is doing much better with the Sword of Truth series, which has developed quite nicely and is still written with the interest of telling the story, rather than trying to rush headlong towards the end of it.

  • The Dragon Bone Chair (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn book 1) was quite possibly what got me into the Fantasy genre, and as such, I think very highly of Tad Williams' ability to write. From what little I've browsed of his web sight, intros to books, etc, he's pretty in touch with fans. Hopefully this online venture will be guided towards a sane, useful online format, and I could definately see him pulling it off.
  • ...memories of feist's belgariad...

    The Belgariad was written by Eddings. Feist wrote the Riftware Saga. I loved both series, though IMHO everything Eddings wrote after the Belgariad was junk.

    The Death Gate Cycle was amazing. I've been thinking about reading it again.

  • Ok the idea of open source writing eludes me. If I understand the concept correctly you write a piece and then put it on the web for free in hopes that someone will change it? Thats all well and good but it kind of defeats the purpose of getting a message across. Not that this isn't already the case but who would want to read 6 million versions of Tom Sawyer all with a different overriding message and many about a completely different thing than the original?
  • Williams is not the first 'major' author to publish in this fashion. JMS (Babylon 5's creator) published a serial novel to an online site called Bookface.com. Users religiously logged on every Monday as new segments were made available.

    Bookface had a reading interface that was likened to 'streaming text'--it downloaded a piece of the book at a time, and as you reached the end of the segment, it pulled another. Sort of like the segments of an escalator.

    The user interface surprised a lot of people--many skeptics were converted after they found that they had just read online for an hour without even realizing it. The width of text on the screen was designed to emulate the approximate size of a paperback book. You hit the spacebar to advance to the next page, like a visceral reminder of flipping the leaves of a book. You could search through the text of the work you were reading, or search against all of the books in the database. When you returned to a book after a prior reading session, it would return you to where you left off. You could leave annotations to yourself, anchored on certain text--think of it as highlighting a passage and adding a note reminding you WHY you highlighted it at the same time.

    Unfortunately, the downturn of the internet sector clobbered Bookface. The company did have good momentum, partially because printing a trade novel to paper is a costly process (to address the assertion of another poster)--electronic publishing is a less expensive alternative, and it reduces time to market. Perhaps once the economic climate returns to "Sunny and Warm", the founders of Bookface will resurface.
  • Is Tad going to put up his chapters in E-Books format too? I want to read it on my PDA.
  • I don't completely agree.

    While some intellectual property might be more beneficial if it were "open-sourced" (for example: software), I believe some should most definitely NOT be (fiction). Software could be contributed to by many sources to be improved upon, whether it is additional functionality, more efficiency, better user interface, etc.... Fictional works written by individuals should more-than-likely not be improved upon or rewritten by additional authors. (If this were the case, we'd probably have about 30 different versions of "Star Wars: ANH" trying to explain "the Force" and midichlorians.) Fiction should remain the property of the author and if they wish to charge a fee to have access to their works, then so be it.

    If authors could not make money on their writings, do you honestly think that we would have any more (or at least as many) writers? (Of course, other than people who find that they have a free time after their current job and family time etc...) Sure, I have no doubt the Steven King would have no problem writing more, because he's made money already and can probably live off of that for the rest of his life (although I have no idea what type of lifestyle he leads), but any writer would never consider getting into this business if you can't make a living off of it. (Unless, of course, you have a sugar-daddy on the side. But how many of us are lucky enough to have THAT?)

  • If you want to read on your palm/visor, try CSpotRun [32768.com], it's awesome- it's GPL'd, you can set it to read in landscape format and it's got a little teleprompter-type setting that lets the text autoscroll at whatever speed you like so you don't even have to push buttons once you start. It goes REALLY fast if you have afterburner installed:)


  • ack, i loved the first of the goodkind books but hated the rest of it.

    Hrm. Different strokes for different folks, I guess, but I chalk up this series as some of the best fantasy I have ever read. Of particular interest is that Goodkind avoids going for cheap thrills or messy implementations of a formula. So while Jordan turned into a, "Bad guy of the week," tale long ago, Goodkind appears able to keep focus and not resort to just having a war or Richard kill the baddy to resolve every single issue. Each of the books has something different in it and a very solid, real premise. For instance, the first was definitely about the evils of Nationalism and Intense Ethnic Pride (Darken Rahl is easily seen as Hitler); the last was definitely about Communism and the downfall of a society whose people stop doing for themselves. It's a little bit of real world politics, which might be disconcerting to people solely interested in getting away. But the fantasy elements are very strong, the love story is intriguing, the characters so lovable, etc., that it's easy just to ignore the aspects of literature that Goodkind incorporates and focus on the rest of it. If you like literature, you can easily ignore the fantasy elements and focus on the message. And if you're like me and like both, then you're in orgasmic bliss because, here, we have everything.

  • Out of curiousity (and as a fellow writer coming out of college), why do these online "experiments" produce episodic stories at all? Why not release the whole story in one shot?

    Obviously so they can have the readers come back again and again to the site looking for the next chapter, constantly making more money for displaying banner ads on the screen for each visit.

  • why do these online "experiments" produce episodic stories at all? Why not release the whole story in one shot

    Too risky. If you publish 100,000 words electronically, clever conclusion and all, then you've pretty much blown your chance of getting a conventional publisher to pick it up.

    And if two fans pay for it then, ahem, share it with their friends, and they share it on, and on, then BANG, it's gone, and you've blown a year's work and a year's reward. The downside to electronic format is that the perceived copyright gets diluted rapidly once you're not getting it from the original distribution source, so it starts as copyrighted, then it's seen as fair-use-ware, then just another share down the line you're into the Napster zone where the content is pretty much viewed as public domain freeware.

    On the other hand, episodic is a bad move considering micropayments are still on the To Do list. Did you notice that The Plant would have cost you $20 to read (of which 1/3 went straight to the credit card companies), plus the cost to print it out if you wanted a hard copy? The saps - bad pun intended - who purchased the early episodes must have had rather poor arithmetic skills. However, there's no indication that Tad has a better idea. At the moment, it sounds like he's just blueskying.

  • ok, reading news, whatever, etc, is great on the web, but as it has been discussed w/webpads, it is not a great way to read an entire book.. Sure you can print it out, but that reminds me too much of reading research material for 20 page papers..
    OK... so to rehash the usual discussion each time the subject of electronic text rears its head (just in case somebody is new to the discussion :)...

    I have no problems reading electronic text. I've read quite a few novels via my old Palm Pilot Pro. The only hassles I deal with is occasionally having to reformat the text so its comfortable on the Pilot and dealing with the Pilot Pro's limited memory (which means creating multiple doc files and shuffling out the old for new to keep up with where I am in the story).

    I have been suprised to find that I have no problems with the interface. I find myself just as immersed in the text as when I read a traditional paperback book. It is easier to carry the novel around and read it at oportune times. And, as a bonus, I get a book light for reading when it gets dark.

    Others report having a hard time reading with this format. Usually the complaints center on the readability of the text rather than the reading tools themselves. After all, the Pilot wasn't designed as an electronic book - so its no suprise that some find the experience unsuitable.

    Does that mean the end of paper books? I hope not.

    I still like traditional books. There is still something about the experience of a book that can't be replaced by a glossy electronic device. And I like to have my book shelves populated by my favorite works - quite often hard cover copies of series that I particularly liked. Again, its not the same as a directory of file names... even if you do something Nautilus-like with a nice cover art icon.

    I would love to buy a book and be able to slip out the included CDROM to load up my Pilot before placing the book in my library. But I suspect publishers would have little incentive to do this. Instead, I suspect the model would be something along the lines of buying hard cover books for my library and (hopefully) a reduced fee to download the electronic text.

    This wouldn't be the end of the paper book. But paperbacks may become the casualty in this arangement.

  • Hey, I'll have you know CmdrTaco has contributed hundreds of typos and Hemos forgets to close his italics tags fairly often. They have contributed, don't overlook their efforts.
  • Yeah, but the guy writes whole books in real life. Not serials. This is completely different for him.
  • And that's one of the great things about the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series... Tad could have cut corners (dramatically) and slimmed down the last book (To Green Angel Tower) by a few hundred pages. Yet, he didn't. It clocks in at well over 1,000, but it's a thorough joy to read from beginning to end.

  • ...less like King's "The Plant" idea, which was still dumb, IMHO.

    Need to change "News for Nerds. Stuff that matters" to "Editorials for Nerds. Stuff that matters". It suits this place a little better.

    Bryan R.
  • He[Williams] is also very good at vivid imagery that really sets your imagination spinning.

    Yeah, vivid imagery I really love the way Tad Williams tells a story. I get wrapped up in the stuff so much. As to the imagery, his style fits to the setting so well. In Memory, Sorrow, & Thorn, the only Williams I have read, in all-out battle, the writing is extremely fast-paced. And during the cave-crawling scenes, the style was very slow and excruciating, but it was like being in a cave with no light.

  • I suppose then you can be a fry boy with a writing habit? Don't be silly. There's a large number of publishers out there that manage to get shelf space. And it's an almost entirely different field than software. Open source works because people can still make money from support. How do you offer support for your writing? Are you thinking about some sort of Street Performer's compensation?

    I honestly don't get it. Writers don't want a daily grind -- they want to write. If they give a good deal of people some joy, they want a reasonable return so that they can support their family, live in relative comfort, and write more. In the world of software, programmers aren't respected as artists. They don't receive a royalty for the sale of their creations. They're salary workers expected to come in to the workplace like a typical gopher, sit in a cubical, and perform some magical rites over a computer.

    It seems to be pretty clearly an entirely different situation... But maybe I'm missing out on something?

  • Williams is not the first 'major' author to publish in this fashion. JMS (Babylon 5's creator) published a serial novel to an online site called Bookface.com.

    I don't know if I'd consider Tad Williams to be a major author. I DO know that I definitely wouldn't consider they guy that created Babylon 5 to be one.

    Josh Sisk
  • Go to the library. About as open as I can think.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    when was the last time you did something that made half a million dollars?
    http://www.stephenking.com/PlantNumbers_010101.htm l [stephenking.com]
  • Will it be a nasty IE-only site loaded up with Quicktime and Flash5 movies? If he makes it downloadable will it be in a nice portable format that I could use in my Rocket eBook, for example?

    We all have to make choices, and dependent upon what Tad Williams is familiar, we shouldn't judge him if he uses formats not viewable for everyone. In all life, there must be sacrifices.
  • Too each his own, what can I say? I have a horrible sinking feeling that books will become unfashionable and only purchased in dingy stores full of literature geeks, but... *shrug* I won't mind being a lit. geek as well as a math, physics and tech geek ;)

    I actually like reading books and the fact that the battery won't run out on the train journey home from work :) I don't mind when I've rested too long on one wrist and I'm walking round the house like an egyptian for a few minutes. I suppose that I'm lucky in that if I run out of book shelf space I've enough room to build more :)

    I do keep an index of my books, a precis and who I've lent 'em to on one of my boxes at home but I don't read the things there. As I say, I think books will increasingly become electronic, you'll increasingly probably not have to pay for specific books as publishing co-operatives are set-up by other lit. geeks and your content provider buys a bulk license so you get it with your service :) None of this is bad, particularly. Some of it very good (especially the co-op publishers, I like that idea; anybody know of one?). In fact the only bad thing is that I seem to be currently unable to finish a sentence without using duff punctuation }:^)


  • Ever since I read "The Science of Hitting" as a child, I've been eager to read more of his work.

  • "It's" is more technically correct, for both "belonging to it" (posessives use apostrophes) and for "it is" (contractions use apostrophes).

    The "correct" English usage of "its" is wrong. That it is accepted practice does not make it correct. It's a stupid rule, and I'm happy every time I see someone using the incorrect, yet more logical "it's". Each time brings us a step closer to removing "its" from the language altogether.


  • I don't know exactly how Williams is going to work it, but publishing fiction on the web (good, commercial fiction, not just fanfic) is already being done. Clockwork Storybook [clockworkstorybook.com] is a good example; it's a SF/fantasy anthology of stories all set in the same city. They publish the stories on the site for a limited time, and then sell print editions. They're not getting rich, but it isn't a loss-leader, either, and the quality of the writing is damned good.
  • This respondent nails it. $15-25 for an ephemeral experience is just a rip job. The problem with digital distribution is that the greedheads that run publishing are desperate to take what should be a cheaper distribution technology and turn it into a cash machine. Now, some will object by saying that a movie is no less ephemeral, and has a comparable cost. Well, at a movie you're paying to rent a pretty unbeatable playback mode, giant screen and professional sound system. Whereas with digital publishing, the user gets stuck with the cost of the playback technology. A bunch of things are going to have to happen to make this kind of thing fly: 1. It's going to have to give an experience significantly superior to simply reading (reading online is a drag anyway except to kill time while it looks like you're working). 2. It's going to have to be reasonably priced and in a format where it's worth the effort to drag out your credit card (so when there's only one project like this out there, it's gonna be a much harder sell. There are a million things I could read, this one requires special effort ergo...) 3. It's going to have to leave some useful/desirable artifacts behind (since I don't get a book, I need stuff like fun icons or noises for my cptr, puzzles or games, posters or cards to print, SOMETHING beyond just the content of the experience). With a book I get, well, a book. I'm not going to shell out cash just to read something once. I question whether I would bother even for one of my favorite authors, let alone someone I had no special feelings for like Williams.
  • Heh, I just got it yeserday because MobiPocket was mangling palmdoc stuff from fictionwise. I agree it's pretty sweet.

  • by VValdo ( 10446 ) on Monday April 09, 2001 @10:24AM (#304973)
    First off, I don't know what you mean by "open source" writing in the first place-- are you talking about writing something and then placing it in the public domain for free distribution? Or do you mean an "open-source" like writing PROCESS whereby a "project manager" writes a book with contributors from various sources?

    Or, perhaps, you mean that all writing should be "free" (as in beer). Because if the literary work is the "compiled product," the real "source" of one's writing, insofar as I can tell, is the collection of experiences of an author. I've already seen some responses here saying, "yeah, imagine if we had to pay for Shakespeare" or whatnot-- First point-- shakespeare was PAID for what he wrote, just not by you. Secondly, Shakespeare's plays and poems were not written in a write-something-and-pass-it-on fashion (unless you're one of those people that believe he didn't actually write anything). The "collaborative" elements that inspired his work came from other plays and writings that had come before him, world mythology and the history of civilization, and from his own personal experiences and trials and experimentations.

    They did not come from a committee submitting literary "patches" for his sonnets.

    If writing is to become a truly creative medium on a par with programming

    Is this a joke? Are you also advocating open-source painting? If so, maybe you can help me get a paintbrush into MOMA-- I'd like to make a few improvements to some of the Picassos.

    In short, if you really believe all writing should be definition be collaborative, please forward your Slashdot password so i can submit better informed opinions.

    I kinda feel like this is a troll or I'm just missing the sarcasm.


  • "Technology adds nothing to art. Two thousand years ago, I could tell you a story, and at any point during the story I could stop, and ask, Now do you want the hero to be kidnapped, or not? But that would, of course, have ruined the story. Part of the experience of being entertained is sitting back and plugging into someone else's vision. The fact of the matter is, since the beginning of time, you could buy a Picasso and change the colors. That's trivial. But you don't because you're buying a piece of Picasso's $&#**^% soul. That's the definition of art: Art is one person's ego trip."
    - Penn Jillette
  • I hope he puts out some of his other, earlier stuff, like "The Erotic Awakening of O" or "How to Love your Dog"...

  • If he builds an experience worth having it could work. Of course, like the public library (only illegal and fomenting a lot of angsty societal discussion and justifying a lot of questionable laws) the urge of the masses to broadcast digital intellectual property will mean that only a core of fans will pay for the full experience. But with a solid contingency who have decided, with whatever motivation, that intellectual property is actually wrong or immoral or unnatural, this kind of thing is bound to escape because the net is just not set up to protect intellectual property. The trick (look I'm giving away my intellectual property for free) is to charge a one-time access fee giving rights to view the whole shebang, then embed user information into the encoding format in a way that isn't obvious/easy to detect so that people who release the content they've acquired can have their access revoked. That way you could only give away plain text, and there would be a disincentive for giving away the content - losing access to the rest of the story. Of course it would eventually fall to circumvention but in a case like this the critical thing is to hold the inevitable off for as long as possible. Prediction: it will break even and be completed but prove not sufficiently profitable to encourage much action; publishers will continue to seek an on-line experience people will pay for.
  • After the first chapter of Stephen King's The Green Mile came out, the next six months of my life were CONSUMED by wondering what would happen next. It's like being addicted to a really great television series, but even better! Serial fiction is the tops.

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  • In fact, I think that Tad Williams is the only "fantasy" novelist to out-Tolkien Tolkien himself. His novels have amazing complexity, some of the deepest and best-realized characters imaginable, and Williams has even gone through the effort of writing several original languages to flesh-out his worlds.

    - - - - -
  • Tad Williams is well known for going "over-budget" on his novels. Typically, they're HUGE, and each set of books he's written has taken close to 10 years to finish. You'd need an 8meg (or more) flash chip just to hold one of the volumes.

    - - - - -
  • I wish Williams would hurry up and finish the Otherland series so I can stop buying the damn things. I don't like them anymore,

    I haven't read anything of his since picking up Caliban's Hour at the Dollar Store. I thought, 'hey, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn kicked ass! This novel is only a buck, must be my lucky day!' ...but no, there was a reason it was at the Dollar Store.
    Was that his only flop? I never read any of the Otherland stuff. (I'll likely download this serial thingie, though, it sounds cool...)

    "Smear'd with gumms of glutenous heat, I touch..." - Comus, John Milton
  • I just got done reading the prelude, and I have to say it looks interesting. The "Blind King" reminded me a bit of Lovecraft's "High Priest not to be described, which wears a yellow silken mask on its face." :) The Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy kicked ass, so with any luck this will, too.

    Writhe your naked ass to the mindless groove.
  • I brought up the Shakespeare point, and i will defend it thus:

    If i had to pay money to read Shakespeare, I wouldn't. If i had to pay money to look at a painting by Picasso, I wouldn't.

    I consider myself fairly enlightened. I enjoy such things as Shakespeare and Picasso. But if someone were to demand outrageous prices for the priveledge of viewing them, i wouldn't put up with it. If this were the case, nobody would.

    I by no means advocate an 'open writing' process where patches come and go and it's a collaborative process. That's ridiculous!

  • by Caffeinated ( 122694 ) on Monday April 09, 2001 @10:54AM (#304983)
    Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn (MSoT :) is, IMHO, the finest set of fantasy novels ever written. A friend of mine who's a hardcore Tolkien buff (has the themed chess set) has even admitted that as a piece of literature, MSoT even blows Lord of the Rings out of the water.

    The gist of MSoT is, what happens after "they lived happily ever after"? The novel starts with the death via old age of Prester John, the land's beloved king who, in legend, slayed a dragon and built his throne from its bones. The king's sons start a struggle for the throne, but the real story follows a scullery boy named Simon as he flees the castle and "dark forces" (oooh) that are pulling the strings.

    It's all pretty basic Joseph Campbell stuff, except that there is no blind "here's the archetypal hero, here's the archetypal bad guy" stuff. The characters of MSoT (and there are a LOT of them) are all very deep and complex; Tad Williams is clearly aware that from each character's perspective, the story being told is their own.

    In fact, this storytelling tendency even gets Williams into a little trouble. The first volume of the "trilogy" is enormous. The second (and fastest-paced of the set) isn't quite as large; the third is twice the size of the first. In paperback, the third is simply sold as two gigantic paperbacks. There's an amazing amount of story stuffed into this simple premise.

    There have been rumors of Tad Williams doing another set of novels in the MSoT "universe," and I know of one additional short story set as a prelude to MSoT. Shadowmarch might be this additional set of novels -- "Qul-na-Qar" sounds like a city right out of MSoT, and the Twilight People are probably the Sithi. Maybe.

    A couple other things: I haven't been able to get into the sci-fi epic he's spent most of the 90's working on. Sorry. VR fiction just doesn't do much for me after Snow Crash. But I really want to give it another chance.

    also: Serial fiction rules. For six months I was absolutely GLUED to Barnes & Noble waiting for the chapters of Green Mile to come out. It is so great to have something to look forward to so much every month. Remember when X-Files was at its height and you couldn't wait to see each new episode? It's like that, but literary. This is gonna be FUN.

    - - - - -

  • you've pretty much blown your chance of getting a conventional publisher to pick it up.

    So you say. I argue: a) online distribution is not a bellweather for print success, nor do the audiences overlap to any great extent; b) the market for e-books of any format remains largely nascent.

    The fact is that this is an established author, not King, granted, but he could get this book between covers if he wanted to. I'd be more interested in the experience of a new author using this model more. I think this is a legit road to print for a new author, building a demonstrated market for her work which only enhances its value to potential publishers.
  • I DO know that I definitely wouldn't consider the guy that created Babylon 5 to be one.

    Fair enough; however, JMS has published short stories and other works in addition to creating Babylon 5. His following encompasses a significant portion of the online community. Being a member of that community, I can't account for his popularity with "offline" folks.
  • of the qualities of the medium. Serialization allows for content to be refreshed regularly, for audience to build through word of mouth as the series progresses. It is also widely accepted conventional wisdom that folks don't like to sit and read from the screen for extended periods of time, present company excepted.
  • where did i get the o in MSoT from??? ah well

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  • god, i am stupid sometimes. and yes, i loved both series.
  • I am with you. I think that the serial has a new lease on life with the distribution economies the web makes available. Its also a great way to tell a story if done well. The plodding and repetetive cliffhangers of pulp's hayday are thin gruel against the plotting of a Dickens.
  • Wow, you mean you actually read all of Ulysses in one sitting?

    Man, your butt must have been really numb by the end.
  • I agree that Williams tends to write much more likable characters than Jordan, but !Xabbu annoys the hell out of me. Dread is sufficiently sadistic and twisted to make a great villain, Sellars is the perfect mysterious old man, and Orlando is probably the single most unique character i've ever read about.. but i just can't Stand !Xabbu. (note that all my references here are coming fron Otherland.. i've read MST and tailchaser, but it's been a few years).

    It's just something about the little nut's mystical jibber jabber that sets me off. And it wouldn't be so bad if people didn't take it so damn seriously. I mean, come on.. you're trapped in the most advanced computer system the world has ever seen, and you're basing your decisions off african tribal mythology? Renie's started annoying me toward the end of book 3 as well, she's getting a bit pushy and domineering. I'd almost be tempted not to even read book 4, but i just have to find out what happened to Orlando, and what happens with him and Fredericks. *sigh* Addiction is a harsh mistress.
  • There is a good one: the afficion (passion) model. Let the big money folders retread their backlist. There is going to be an explosion of really good writing soon. It makes market for all the stuff that is to small to hit the radar screen of the big boys. First indie music, then indie movies, now indie fiction.
  • Having read all of Williams and most of Jordan, Williams' "Memory Sorrow and Thorn" blows away "The Wheel of Time." It's really really good. Unfortunately, his later stuff (The "Otherland" series) doesn't measure up as well IMO.
  • Anyone read Margret Weiss and Tracy Hickman's DeathGate Cycle Series? I liked them also.
  • My favorite Otherland character? He is finally figuring out who he really is ... well, sort of ...
  • by redmonk_x ( 180650 ) on Monday April 09, 2001 @12:20PM (#305004)
    The only way to determine what will work and what won't is to have the testicular fortitude to try it. I think that King's "experiment" had less to do with "testicular fortitude" and more to do with "making a quick buck". I'm sorry, but taking an outdated (20 years) throw-away short story (it was originally given as a Christmas gift to a few friends) and stretching it out until the money stops coming in is NOT what I would consider a serious attempt at publishing. Rumor among the publishing circles, by the way, is that he got bored with the story, not that the revenue model wasn't working. Regardless of the reasons, the fact remains that he stopped. Now all the people that did pay ended up with nothing but a few CHAPTERS of an incomplete story. An experiment in electronic publishing indeed. King's previous attempt at serialized fiction (The Green Mile) worked because the consumer KNEW that all 6 books would be available right on schedule. By stopping The Plant, King showed himself to be an untrustworthy businessman. Would you ever buy a book by-the-chapter from him again?
  • No it certainly wan't a dumb idea (the story wasn't so hot, but what else could he use for an experiment outside of his publishing contracts?).

    If you go to his web site [stephenking.com] you can see the expense report [stephenking.com] for The Plant. He made a fairly nice profit (half a million) considering 1) it was a first-time experiment, 2) it was overpriced, 3) he botched up the mailing list that was supposed to announce new installments, so nobody knew to get the next installment, and 4) the story was a leftover.

    He even wrote letters (used to be on his website someplace) to major publications that called it a "failure" saying that it actually wasn't a failure, he made half a million on a book that never even existed on paper! But of course the publishers declined to publish those letters. Wonder why?

    I would definitely call it a successful first attempt. Imagine if he works out the wrinkles, gets some better marketing, and tries it with a better book (or in parallel with a regular paper book).

  • I don't like them anymore, but I feel that I've already invested so much time and money in the first 3 books that I have to see it through to the end.

    Could have been worse. You could have started reading wheel of time when the first book came out. What was that...? 1990? 1991?


  • For starters, you're arguing falaciously. Someone can recognize a bad idea without necessarily having a better idea of their own. To point out that someone hasn't had any great ideas in a field does not discredit their statement that someone else's idea is bad. (And, I'll also point out that the /. editors have built the biggest geek site on the net... not a trivial accomplishment.)

    Second, The Plant was a stupid idea - for the consumers. Pay 2-3 times the price for a paper book, have insane restrictions on redownloading multiple copies (SK's head is *so* far up his ass on issues like multiple copies of an e-book being equated to a physical book.) and a lack of guarantee of a finished product.

    Sure, SK made a shitload of money. So do many other conmen every day. He sold a product he clearly didn't intend to actually provide and guilt-tripped the innocent into covering the supposed 'theft' of others. (He counted multiple downloads as a theft, without even considering that downloads fail every now and then, let alone that downloading a second copy for the Palm isn't an offense anyone with a clue would care about, and furthermore, that 'theft' is not a word that applies to making *copies* of something.)

    He obviously went into it for a quick buck, intending to quit whenever it wasn't profitable, regardless of all the users he screwed by leaving them with a partial story.
  • I'm sure glad that SK considers it a success. I'm sure that everyone who paid to download the story, with the understanding that a whole product would be provided, would disagree. But, he might as well make a lot of money at the expense of the fans.

    And I don't think it was 'dumb', I think SK intended to stop at some point. He knew he had a flop of a story, but if he flogged it chapter by chapter he could eventually blame the lack of sales on 'pirates', instead of the fact the story sucked.

    If he was doing this, for real, he wouldn't have guilt-tripped the paying users into paying more to cover the supposed 'theft' by the nasty 'pirates'. He'd have had a reasonably robust system implemented to make sure that people actually got the section they intended to download, and that replacements could be provided for a reasonable price (free, or $.05 for the bandwidth, etc) for people who lost the original copy.

    Instead he set up a system with insane rules, knowing that when it screwed up, he'd be a good bit richer and wouldn't have to actually provide the product.

    What a complete ass.

  • A lot of recent fantasy [dannyreviews.com] seems to be effectively serialised, albeit it at the granularity of the book - Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time is just the biggest and highest profile example.

    I think I'd actually prefer a novel that was serialised more in the manner of Dickens, because it will avoid the long wait between volumes, which can be as much as two years with a high quality work like George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.

    Anyway, I enjoyed Memory, Sorrow, Thorn, so I'll definitely give this a look. (I might even change my mind about not reviewing e-books [dannyreviews.com]...


  • One other mistake he made was using percentage of downloads paid as the benchmark. He should've used his profit margin as the benchmark (i.e., I want to make fifty cents of profit for every dollar spent on web hosting and bandwidth, or something), or absolute profit (I want to make one million on this ebook or I won't do another one). If he reaches his goal, who cares how many people have copies of the story? And he should've put something in the PDF itself reminding people to pay if their friend gave them a copy, just on the first page or something. If 1 out of 1000 pays like this, that's pretty good considering copies between friends doesn't cost him a penny.

    But I still hope other authors follow his lead and continue the experiment.

  • Charles Dickens' novels were originally released in serial form. Several of his storylines were influenced by his readers writing in. This may be why they are (IMO) so crap.


  • The "correct" English usage of "its" is wrong. That it is accepted practice does not make it correct. It's a stupid rule, and I'm happy every time I see someone using the incorrect, yet more logical "it's".

    Bzzzzt. Sorry, thanks for playing though. Its is a possesive pronoun; pronouns aren't modified by the genetive ending ('s). If we apply your 'logic' than it should be he's instead of his and I's instead of mine, and so forth.

  • Small followup:

    Bzzzzt. Sorry, thanks for playing though. Its is a possesive pronoun; pronouns aren't modified by the genetive ending ('s). If we apply your 'logic' than it should be he's instead of his and I's instead of mine, and so forth.

    The 'logic' you mentioned would apply more in (here I'll use some technical terms, since you seem to value that) agglutinating [let.uu.nl] languages (such as many Finno-Ugric languages), or in polysynthetic [let.uu.nl] languages (such as most Eskimo languages), but it generally doesn't apply in inflectional languages (such as most Western European languages), and can't apply in isolating languages (such as Chinese).

    "It's" is more technically correct

    If you'd like to learn some accurate technical things about languages, I suggest you check out what the Linguists say: http://www.linguistlist.org [linguistlist.org]. Afterall, they spend a bit more time thinking about this kind of stuff, and they use a little more empirical data than their own opinions.

  • Hrmm. I hope you're mistaken. A book printed is printed "for keeps" as well. I just find the idea of electronic distribution too compelling to let it rest in the hands of the big houses. E-rights are separable and should be negotiated in this light, but unless you are SK or someone of comparable stature, this is problematic.

    The argument I am making, I'd like to see made, is that the new distribution model dramatically alters the value proposition the big publishing houses make for authors, but this has thus far had no impact on the status of authors in negotiation for their IP. The production, inventory and distribution costs have essentially vanished and with no impact on rights valuations; the situation is precisely comparable to that in the music industry. The only value-add publishers provide is editing and quality assurance, effectively noise filtration. Against this the terms of the typically first-time novelist's contract are profoundly insufficient.

    Big publishing has only recently allowed its accounting procedures to be audited by a professional association of American writers and they found gross negligence and outright fraud, with costs being inflated in order to ensure that little or no royalties would be due. It is quite common for new authors to be required to reimburse the publisher a portion of their advance. Perfectly criminal, IMHO.

    I shamelessly invite you to have a glance at scripsi.com in a week or two.

"It takes all sorts of in & out-door schooling to get adapted to my kind of fooling" - R. Frost