So let me get this straight.

Amazon would like to offer a Netflix-like subscription to unlimited ebooks for its Prime members. Business sites are all over the publishing companies to comply–after all, what’s a little monopoly between friends?

But as an author this stinks to high heaven. You know, that place where Borders is chilling on a cloud and crying into its celestial beer.

See, there’s no mention of author benefit–everyone is talking about the publishers and how they need to get with the times. But how, exactly, would we be compensated for this? Since it’s for their Prime members, who as Netflix has seen, would howl over a price hike, it’s possible this will just be lumped in, wrecking ebook sales and contributing further to the idea that the ideal cost for a book is $0.00. Not to mention the number this does on libraries.

Now, I get that ebooks are happening whether anyone likes it or not. And I get that subscriptions have worked for other media–I use my Netflix like anyone. But there’s a reason Netflix has a quite limited streaming selection, and it’s losing, not gaining, content. This is not because Netflix hates you and wants you to suffer. It’s very hard to get those licenses because it’s not a very good deal for the content creators and distributors. And it costs a lot of money to manufacture the level of quality content people expect. Now, it’s axiomatic that the middleman sucks and should be shot (except The Middleman, who is awesome) but to be quite frank, they serve a purpose, and while I’d like to see their tactics changed, I would not like to see them vanish entirely. They are also human, and in publishing they do the great good work of sifting wheat from chaff, editing and packaging the wheat and making sure the wheat can spell, while getting shit on from every side. (I would also like to see real competition for Netflix, who is a middleman, too, don’t be fooled. They’re just a very hands-off middleman. But until you can write a check to Matt Weiner for Mad Men, you are still using a middleman. However, as I’m going to say a lot, no one company should be the single portal for information of any type.)

So, let’s hear how this is anything but a grab for more rights for less money? Will Amazon be paying lump sums for licenses? Will authors see even one cent of that? Will we be paid per download? If they aren’t charging much more than Prime services already cost, who will be paying us? Anyone? Bueller? What about books already in print? Will we be paid for joining the service or just told our major problem is obscurity and we should be grateful?

But the business rags don’t care about that stuff. They’re too busy bizarrely cheerleading Amazon’s attempt to become an almost total media monopoly. And in a stroke of PR genius, Amazon has indie authors on their side, convinced Amazon is their friend, a champion of the little people, and a stand-up guy, willing to stick it to the mean old publishers. (Who sinned in not publishing literally everyone and deserve to be skewered, I guess?)

Hoggle is Hoggle’s friend. Amazon is no one’s friend. They want to control the ebook market. They’re pissed they don’t control the music and movie market to the extent they’d like to. They are nearly there with books, and having destroyed bookstores, they’re now after libraries and quite possibly just really interested in becoming the only publisher there is. Don’t think no one over there has thought of simply replacing the whole publishing apparatus with Amazon.com. And a lot of people would wave their pom-poms for that.

The fact that a company that tried to punish Macmillan simply for not kowtowing to them immediately is considered worthy of trust is laughable. These guys are thugs. It’s an awfully nice industry you got there. Shame if anything should happen to it.

I don’t actually feel like helping them to my own detriment, and don’t see why I or anyone else should be jumping at what looks like a shitty, shitty deal for content creators, libraries (I do not want libraries to die, you guys. And they let you borrow unlimited books FOR FREE. And pay for their copies. In fact, library sales are a huge part of a book’s life, particularly in the YA and children’s market. Oh and BY THE WAY. Poor people can use libraries. Not just us geekelites who can afford ereaders and subscriptions.) If I see people actually discussing what authors get out of this beyond that age-old gold standard EXPOSURE ZOMG! I’ll listen. For awhile. But here’s the rub.

To some extent this is already a thing. Libraries, yes, but also Baen Webscriptions and other services. Why not let Amazon in on that game?

It’s different because it’s Amazon. This is a company that has shown itself to be unscrupulous in its dealings with publishers time and time again. It’s being friendly to authors now, but it was friendly to publishers and bookstores for awhile too. Amazon is way more than an 800 pound gorilla. They want to be the only way you access books. That is good for no one. No one source should have that much power, or else you end up in a situation where if, say, Amazon doesn’t like queers, they can kill all their books and no one can say anything. They don’t think erotica should get ranked with “normal” books? They don’t. Amazon wants to remotely delete something you paid for? It’s deleted. This has already happened. More power to those people? I don’t think so. No single company should have the influence they want. You think it’s bad that there’s so few publishing companies? At least there are six.

Amazon knows they have the market share and presence to make competition basically a grassroots joke. They do not care. They do not care about you and they do not care about your (or my) indie cred and to be quite frank they could give a shit about books. That’s your dream. They’re happy to sell anything, it doesn’t matter what it is. (Clearly. I just bought a chicken nesting box from them. They just want to be where you shop, and by and large they are succeeding. Awesome?) This is about control of information and money. And I may have to knuckle under when my contracts come due but I do not have to be their cheerleader in the meantime.

I’m not saying they’re evil–well, maybe a little, but no more than any company. They simply want to grow. You know, like any organism. Without heed for the survival of any other organism. They will probably get this because no one, not least our rusty-ass anti-trust laws, stands up to them with any conviction. But to be honest, I am puzzled at people’s desire to be fish flakes for the Sarlaac. I am continually horrified at the rush to love and defend Amazon because of their current stance on self-publishing. Emphasis on the current. Yay! My book is on Amazon and I get 70%! Fuck everyone else! No, literally fuck them. Let us take to our blogs and cheer, just squeal with delight, for every job lost in a library or publishing company, large or small, every janitor at Random House and editor at Harper Collins, every librarian who gets kids to read, because Amazon loves us with its big fuzzy heart and will always, always treat us with dignity and fairness. Just show me where to sign that exclusive contract. And if I need an agent, why, Amazon can be my agent! They’re sure to give themselves a good deal. (Again, already happened.)

And the publishers had better just sign where they’re told to. After all, those dinosaurs had better get with the times. And the times, it seems, are called by Amazon. It’s the Year of the Unlimited Free Ebooks Brought to you by Amazon.com, as our late great David Foster Wallace would say. Enjoy it.

And as far as self-publishing, which can be and is laudable and valuable, well, give it time. It’s early yet on that beachhead, kids. If the last 15 years of the internet taught you anything, it should be that nothing open and good lasts forever, and corporations trend ugly over time. (I’m looking at you, Google.) It has not been enough to consume bookstores, libraries, publishing companies, and any author not selling direct to Amazon are next. Amazon was a friend to all of these once. Trust me, you don’t want to live in the world Amazon wants to build.

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Omnibus!

As I mentioned on the frontpage of my awesome new website, Wyrm Publishing is putting out an omnibus of my early work–ie, The Labyrinth, Yume no Hon: The Book of Dreams, The Grass-Cutting Sword, and Under In the Mere (which was written at the same time as the others, though it came out later). All but the last of these are out of print.

I am very excited about this! I has an omnibus! (It goes vroom-vroom) It is called Myths of Origin, and it will be out in the fall. You can pre-order it right now, though.

I’m just about done with the notes for each book, but I wondered if any of you had anything in particular you wanted to know about any of those kids up there, that you’d like me to address in the notes. Hit me!

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I’ve been re-reading House of Leaves for the first time in a decade. It remains a book that just gobsmacks me with its brilliance, daring, and sheer goodness.

It’s also the scariest book I’ve ever read.

I’m a veteran horror reader, and perhaps for that very reason, being that I am quite jaded, House of Leaves is the only book that has actually elevated my pulse, kept me up wide-eyed at night looking at the corners of the dark walls and convincing myself that they’re not really moving.

And last night, after reading through Exploration #4, I went downstairs to get a drink and turned on every light on the way to the kitchen, because it was too damn scary not to. And I know how this book ends!

I know a lot of people slide off of it because of the cryptographic element and the textual jiggerypokery (which is intense, even for me) but honestly, there’s such a good story at the core of it, such a strange, painful, personal, dare I say unheimlich story, that the pomo of it all can be taken or not taken, treated as DVD extras or as a vital part of the book, and both readings are correct. And I think the very unheimlichness, taking the familiar — a house — and turning that familiarity into awfulness and totally unexplainable and unexplained (one of the few books or films where the never-explaining tactic doesn’t piss me off, possibly a greater feat than scaring me) freaks the reader where they live, so to speak. Also, it takes the familiar haunted house narrative and literally explodes it, landing text all over the place. It’s just so fucking brilliant. And though it lands outside the last decade by a year, I’d call it the most “important” adult book of the new century. But everyone’s been influenced by it. And many of the tricks, such as this one: house, basically can’t ever be used again without accusations of derivativeness. (And it’s SUCH a good trick.) You have to take your hat off. All the way off. And do a slow clap.

On the re-read, it’s been interesting to meditate on how the found-footage horror film has become so much of a staple that it’s kind of played-out and trite now, whereas I don’t think even Blair Witch had come out when this book was written, and the idea of something like The Navidson Record was so weird and interesting and exciting — I wonder how many found footage filmmakers have read HoL. Because essentially, Paranormal Activity tells a smaller, less interesting version of the A plot (Zampano’s manuscript and The cultural phenomenon of The Navidson Record — though maybe that’s the B plot, it depends on how you read the novel) of the novel, though without the total unseating of reality, and serious doubt as to what is and is not fiction.

While I think the novel as a whole is unfilmmable, The Navidson Record would be an amazing film, and I wish it existed. Funny thing, that. For a novel completely and utterly about film and the image, it relies on text and is in love with text to the extent that filming it becomes somewhat pointless. Again, slow clap, because that shit is brilliant. (And as someone writing a novel about movies right now, I’m paying close attention.)

But the idea of the viral found footage horror film is just part of the culture now. All this would be up on You Tube these days. Zampano’s manuscript would be a website or a blog. And I know people have done this kind of stuff online, creating fake blogs to tell a horror story. But House of Leaves would be a bitch to code and it has a quality so far and above most “experimental” fiction I can’t help but be in awe. In fact, the lack of digital penetration into the narrative is remarkable — I know it was written in the mid-nineties, but by 2000 the internet was in full swing, and yet there is almost no mention of it as the Navidsons and Johnny Truant try to solve their problems and research their origins. (To be honest, I still have much less patience for the Truant sections than I think I’m meant to. It plays to a lot of tropes that have no resonance for me, but of course it’s totally necessary to ground the novel in an observer, to give it emotional, direct, un-academic voice and depth. Still, he’s just kind of a douche. His mom, on the other hand…)

The point is I love this book so hard. And we live in a world moved somewhat past it now, a world it had a part in creating, which makes it all the more fascinating and recursive. The novel creates an almost unique emotion, of genuine fear and doubt and longing for something to be real at the same time as being grateful it is not, of dread and wonder. And maybe, whatever that feeling is called, it’s what the horror genre is always trying to bring us, from dark, cold places just out of reach.

And before you ask, yes, I have heard and loved the Poe album. Instead, for those of you who are fans, what’s your favorite hidden bit, code, easter egg?

I wonder if Tor.com would let me do a re-read in the style of? That would be awesome fun.

Mirrored from cmv.com. Also appearing on @LJ and @DW. Read anywhere, comment anywhere.

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New Digs

I am so excited to make this post!

I am making this post from WordPress, not Livejournal. This is a huge sea change for me, the end of an era. It’s not that I don’t love LJ, it’s not that I’m leaving LJ in any way. I expect the main conversations will still take place there, where my community has grown and thrived over the last decade. (LJ and FB comments should appear on the main website as well, so that is a great place to see the majority of the discussion on any given post.) But given the recent DDoS issues, spam and privacy concerns, and the general motion of the internet, I felt I needed to change how I interact with social networking sites, to make it easier on myself, more secure from individual site crashes, and hopefully, everyone else.

So! When I hit post, this entry will propagate to Livejournal, Dreamwidth (same username), Twitter (@catvalente), Facebook, and my BRAND NEW COMPLETELY REVAMPED AWESOME WEBSITE catherynnemvalente.com.

The website is gorgeous and so much cleaner and better organized–it’s been a long refit but it’s finally in, well, 1.0. More features and changes will roll out slowly over the next year. For now, you can find an entire page of free fiction, everything of mine that is available for free online in one place, an updated ebook store (still trying to get a bunch of this on Kindle, if anyone can help me out with that), updated biography and FAQ with a handy little 100-word bio for editors seeking such things and interviewers looking for common interview questions I have already answered, a Twitter widget on the front page as well as an automatically updating calendar, and best of all, it’s all in WordPress, so I can update it myself instead of pleading with poor Dmitri to update it for me. (Which means publishing announcements will be on the front page! Why, there’s one there now!)

There’s also a new variation on the tip jar: the automat. You can use the little switch to toggle between “buy the author a cup of coffee” “buy the author lunch” and “buy the author dinner” which all have different donation amounts. If you like my work or enjoyed the free fiction or whathaveyou, and are moved to toss me something extra, it’s just a little more tangible–very realistically, authors and artists need to live, some people are very kind and want to make sure that happens directly, and coffee and food are the stuff of life.

As part of the New Website excitement, I’ve put up my first novel, The Labyrinth, for free. Completely free, no strings attached, please enjoy it!

I’m just so pleased to have something this lovely and clean and organized. Richard Mueller to to thank for the beautiful graphics, and as always my husband Dmitri has wrangled the code.

I’ll keep you posted as it evolves, but I’m pretty proud of it as is. If you see anything you think should be there, a FAQ I missed or a feature you’d like to see, throw me an email and we’ll try to implement it in the next iteration.

Go look! What do you think?

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Wyrm Publishing is set to release Myths of Origin, an omnibus of Cat’s early short novels, containing The Labyrinth, Yume no Hon: The Book of Dreams, The Grass-Cutting Sword, and Under in the Mere (released in 2009 but written during the same era as the others) in November 2011. Having all of these rich, surreal works in one place is tremendously exciting, and we hope you’ll get a chance to share these early works!

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