Decision At Doona (Book Review)

Decision at Doona was published in 1969 byAnne McCaffrey, In this book, two races, both living on overcrowded world, decide to live on the same pastoral planet at the same time. Once they discover each other, both are wary, but quickly learn to overcome their differences. However, each believes that only misery will come from cohabiting with another race, and their laws forbid it. If not for the out-of-control and headache inducing son of the main character, all might be thrown to ruin.

Due warnings: The science, tech, and social relationships are archaic. The inherent sexism of the age shows. There are more than a few things contrived. It's all part of the age. At least nobody smokes. There's even the period lack of characterization.

The book reads like an SF version of Dennis the Menace collided with Gunsmoke, with some Lassie thrown in as well. The motivators behind the book are not violent, but social. So lost kids get lost, herds stampede, and barns get raised. And worse of all, the government gets involved, and that's where the major trainwrecks threaten. Fortunately, the book never devolves into Libertarian World.

The story sometimes flounders a bit, making choices that we would consider odd, but fit perfectly well within its own time. The idea is there more than the story. Despite that, I have a great respect for the book, for writing an SF novel without violence as the narrative backbone is harder than it looks.

This may not look like a watershed book to you, but it is for Anne. This book contains the blueprints for all the future dragon rider books. The colonists here have purposely chosen a lower-tech lifestyle, an idea that returns in future McCaffrey books. This novel centers around social conflict, differing goals, rather than the fight. Strangely, there aren't any psychics at all, which is pretty rare for an early McCaffrey.

I suppose that the novel examines race-relations of the age, an allegory of black and white living together. The late 60's were a terrible time in race relations. The book shows that despite laws, both races have the same goals of living good lives, and it's up to the ordinary person to seize that. Mutual cooperation will breed mutual respect and bring blessings to all.

Headaches

One hell of a headache this morning. As best as I can tell, the pita from Saturday's dinner had whey in it. Dammit.

There was also a thunderstorm last night, which meant rescuing an unhappy cat. When it was over, it meant getting up again to shove out an unhappy cat. 

Weekend

The swim meet this weekend was rather wet. The weather folks predicted thunderstorms, but those never came to pass. Instead, we just got rain on and off during the morning. At the very end, during cleanup, the rain finally let go, giving us rain for the entire day. It was a veritable deluge.

On Sunday, my daughter DesignGirl wanted to go bowling, so we did duckpins. She won, 74 to 71. Bumpers helped her greatly, but by the end she was rolling her balls pretty straight. Meanwhile, with all my bad junior-high habits, I threw fast and a little too wild, I kept twisting where I shouldn't twist.

The rest of Sunday I spent hauling leaf litter onto the new garden bed. Good God I was tired at the end of the day. My lower back is all stiff and sore this morning. 

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Roberts Was Right

The Robert's court has held up the subsidy provision of Obamacare.

Putting on my Conservative upbringing hat (which I keep around for such occasions), he was right to do so.

Literalism sounds like a good idea in law, but in practice, it just doesn't work. As Roberts indicated, many parts of the law were "inartfully drafted." If the court had found that that particular clause could be interpreted differently due to a flaw in the drafting, then every law could be held to the same scrutiny, with every flaw being held accountable. The results would be judicial gridlock as every flaw in every law became actionable.

Even worse, new laws would see more suits than old laws. Imagine being a conservative, getting your law passed, then having it torn apart by your opposition for every grammatical mistake and drafting oversight. Your attempt to implement a truly conservative government would grind to a halt. The effort to defeat one law would lead to countless conservative defeats in the future.

The truth is that law isn't dictum, law is dialog. Law exists in a relationship between the writers, the implementers, and the court. Laws aren't merely words on a piece of paper, they are interactive bits of government and society that work through a common understanding. Because no law is without flaw or error, the system needs a reasonable threshhold of imperfection so that the laws can operate toward their intended goal as the drafters intended.

If humans could draft perfect laws, then yes, literal reading would be useful. Humans aren't perfect. Laws aren't perfect. In that context, a literal reading of the a law is an impossible ideal.

Hosting Fools

We've been hosting fools lately.

Two nights ago, we had Mark and Izzy over for dinner. Always good to see my brother-in-law and his dandy girl. Izzy had come over for the day as she was between jobs, had fun hanging out at the library and went swimming.

Last night we had our newly ex-neighbors over, no longer across the cul-de-sac. The girls had a grand time, but their boy got bored.

After the storm rolled through last night, we got that weird, somebody went crazy with color grading affect. The entire world had a lemony cast, almost a lime green, giving the outside a distinctly otherworldly appearance.

I'm into my next reading book, "Decision at Doona." This book by McCaffrey isn't nearly so painful as the last, but it's still quite archaic in feel. 

Estimating Somebody Else's Income

There's a bit of a brew-ha-ha caused by Kristine Rusch (KKR) with her most recent blog post on gaming the publishing system. She, along with her husband Dean Wesley Smith (DWS) own their own publishing company which handles their back catalog and and publish some of their projects. What I'm going to do here is to estimate the minimum income of their publishing company, WMG Publishing, based on public information. I've heard indies discount them because they aren't making any money and that they aren't successful. Let's test what the numbers have to say.

Disclaimer: This is a back-of-the-envelope calculation based on public sources. I have no privileged information.

Over the last few years, both KKR and DWS said that they have nine employees in WMG. That number has held steady, so I can reasonably conclude that WMG is earning enough to make payroll.

According to CSI Market, the print industry average $24k in profit per employee. Using that as an estimate, WMG would be pulling in about $240k profit.

CSI market estimates a $300k average gross income per employee in the publishing biz, which multiplies out to $2.7 million in gross income for 9 employees.

Put it together, and I can postulate that WMG grosses $2.7 million in business, netting $240k per year in profit. In addition, KKR and DWS gain additional income in royalties. Not a bad deal.

Are those numbers right? Certainly not. But the numbers are plausible enough to demostrate that critics overstate their cases.

What's interesting to me is that DWS and KKR have certaily given themselves good publishing contracts with WMG. When they sell the publisher (old age happens), they pocket $X million for the sale and they still get all their favorable royalties. Nice deal, that.

Writing Update

I did some revisions on A Crown of Silver Stars and I'm happy with the changes. Although I did not dislike the first ending, I think that the genre called for something more confrontational. I'm still not done revising, but I'm getting there.

I did a significant revision on Weeds Among Stone. I cut 10k words out of the manunscript in an effort to tighten it up and focus it in. I have no idea whether it succeeded, but I did find numerous text errors. Most significantly, I rearranged the ending, which I think helped tie the whole thing together far better. The ending should feel more like an ending now.

Following that, I pounded my head against my epub software. An update fixed that.

I'm moving onto iBooks next. I've started the rigamarole yesterday, then forgot about it, then did a little more 

Weekend

My daughter swam in the A-Meet over the weekend. She cut 7 seconds off her time, completing her lap in 33 seconds. If she had started with a good dive instead of a frog leap, she would have touched first. Way to go, girl.

Father's day was our usual visit to Nick's diner. I'm getting my order down. Two eggs, over easy, scrapple, no potato, and only one piece of toast.

My daughter, DesignGirl, is slowly expanding on food. Finally! She liked the beef stock that I bought the other day. She ate saffron rice at the kebab place on Saturday and the roasted tomatoes. Good stuff, that.

The new blueberries came with berries and are now ripening. We're eating some. I think that our local groundhog is eating some, too.

Jenny told a story at church, the King James Blues. You'll enjoy it.

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Dinosaur Planet (Book Review)

Anne begins1978's Dinosaur Planet with a sawed-off shotgun full of technobabble, firing indiscriminately in all directions. Not satisfied with abusing readers with tedious technical detail on the first page, she continues this neutronium thick technobabble for the next 50 pages, which is 1/4 of the book. The technobabble is so thick that there isn't even any room for a plot, not even the vaporously thin plot of this book.

Somewhere around page 50, the technobabble shots simmer down to a more reasonable pace and some degree of plot and characterization moves in, much like oxygen. So I suppose that the horrific writing of the first fifty pages lets the perfectly lame writing of the remaining book seem good by comparison. But trust me, it's only good in comparison.

The plot, whichs starts around page 100, revolves around a vegetarian planetary survey which loses contact with their ship. Rather than accept that they may be marooned, they hope for the best and march onward. Meanwhile, "heavy worlders" have turned carnivore, and the meat drives them into violence. They take over the expedition, stealing everything, and attempting to murder everyone via dinosaur stampede. The leadership survives, holes up in their remaining shuttle, going into techno-sleep.

That's it.

And you'd think with a title like Dinosaur Planet that the book would be a sure-fire dino-love-fest. Nope. The expert future biologists don't even recognize the creatures as dinosaurs. Really? T-Rex is so obscure that you have to look him up?

By my educated guestimate, Anne began this book early on, abandoning it for other works. For some inexplicable reason, as she got to be a better writer, she hauled this manuscript back out and finished it, if you could call this book finished. Fortunately, every editor who saw the book rejected it until Anne got so popular that even a roadkill like this book became a viable source of income rather than a viable source of ridicule.

It's not the worst SF book that I've ever read. (Andre Norton holds that title.) However, it does make it into the annals with a silver medal and a commemorative plaque. 

Swim Meet Update

My daughter's times for swim meets has improved. She'll be in the A meet for both freestyle and breast stroke this weekend. That's a big improvement over last year, but a finite surprise as the new swimmers in that age range are really terrible.