Is homogeneity conducive to peace?

Globalization is good for business, with brands gaining cross-cultural recognition, often at the expense of the culture they’re infesting.

But this works for most large businesses because a homogenized culture means fewer misunderstandings, and so a more peaceful (than it could be) society, which is more conducive to making money.

So if it promotes peace, how much culture should we be willing to sacrifice to it? Obviously we’re not fully homogenized yet, if such a thing is ultimately attainable, and there’s still a lot of conflict around (and how much culture is being destroyed by it?), but we live in an increasingly global world where a degree of commonality is inevitable.

Just consider how much interaction we would have had with people in other countries only a century ago. And how difficult it would have been to communicate, not simply due to language.

Today’s technology offers a baseline communications culture which both helps and hinders peace, advancing and spreading faster than our cultural integration with each other. Communication is good, but the smaller world such easy communication offers means different cultures are interacting far more, and faster, than they would have a century ago, making conflicts based on cultural differences more common.

In such a global community, the erosion of individual cultures seems inevitable. Even if the culture is remembered, and preserved for future generations, everyday life in an increasingly global world will inevitably abandon some cultural elements.

It probably always has, though, so the nostalgia for lost culture could be due to the speed with which technology is forcing our culture to progress meaning that culture is now being discarded within living memory rather than being forgotten over generations. This doesn’t mean we should be blasé about its loss, since a uniformity of culture runs the risk of creating a sterile society whose evolution can become stunted.

But if clinging to disappearing culture creates divisions in an increasing closer global society, at what point does it become too costly to retain?

In Tartarus

I have another short story out today, In Tartarus, in the BestsellerBound Short Story Anthology Volume 4.

The galaxy’s sixth greatest thief is sent to Tartarus, a prison orbiting a black hole. What could possibly go wrong?

It’s free on Smashwords, and will be free on Amazon.com when it gets price matched.

There’s a trailer for the Anthology at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIWsIIKyobI&feature=youtu.be.

A writer’s view of their story

Don’t know that I’m going anywhere with this, so it’s up to you whether you tag along.

One of the hardest things I’ve found as a writer (apart from the slog of actually writing) is trying to see the story as the reader will.

As a reader your view of the story builds up as you go along, and some of the boring bits may be forgotten a few chapters later. A shift in the story, say a sudden death, changes the way you view the entire thing, so the story as a whole isn’t fully formed in your mind until you’re read the last word.

As a writer (the way I write, anyway) I have a view of the whole thing in mind when writing. Some bits may be indistinct until I get to them, and some bits might get changed when I’m writing or revising, but the general shape of the story is already there before the writing begins, so I’m kind of filling in the shape as I go.

Of course I could well see more of the story than the reader will, since some stuff may not make it onto the page. Hopefully intentionally, but there’s always the danger you’ll forget to include some relevant fact. This is one danger of having an outline, that you’ll overlook elements of the wider story that you’re familiar with but which will leave the reader confused at their absence.

This is part of a wider problem in knowing how much to reveal when without giving stuff away too early, and how much can a reader work out when. Foreshadowing is good, but it can often be difficult to gauge the right level to go for without tipping your hand.

Most of these problems should be fixed by other people reading the story (editors or alpha/beta readers), but it’s still a concern when writing.

 

Also: I’ve found character names tend to evaporate by the time I’m on to the next project. I know WHO the characters are before I find names for them, so the names tend to be transitory. Unless I actually do a sequel, I’m unlikely to remember a character’s name off the top of my head.

Silent Echoes

I have a new fantasy short story out today, Silent Echoes.

In the ruined heart of a shattered empire brute force and spliced magics hold sway, and strangers are suspect. Using this suspicion, Skerin gains the attention of the local gang boss, drawing him into a violent game for a prize once very close to him.

It’s free on Smashwords and Feedbooks, will be free on Amazon.com when it gets price matched, and is unlikely to become free on Amazon.co.uk the way they’re going.

D&D magic system

WARNING: This entry is unlikely to be of much interest to anyone unfamiliar with D&D, or most who are. But it’s something that’s always bugged me.

I haven’t bothered with the game since 3.5, so I have no idea what changes have occurred since then.

Like so many others, I’ve never been particularly fond of the cast and forget magic system. Even the Sorcerer system of allowing a certain number of spells per spell level has a degree of awkwardness and tricky bookkeeping to it. So here’s the alternative solution I was knocking about when I lost interest in the game.

Like a Wizard, they can learn any number of spells, but only memorize so many at a time. Unlike the Wizard, they aren’t limited to a certain number of spells they can learn at each available spell level. They have a pool of points with which they can buy the spells to be memorized (until replacing the choice, rather than needing to relearn every day), so they can decide how many spells they memorize at each available level.

The actual casting then uses an exhaustion system, whereby each time the caster casts a spell, the spell level (including any additions for metamagic feats, is added to the pool of spell levels cast (let’s call it a Mana Drain). The number is automatically reduced by 1 for each round they don’t engage in spellcasting (the rate can be increased by 1 with the Improved Arcane Recovery feat, which can be purchased multiple times, and which they automatically get every five levels).

When the Mana Drain reaches twice the caster level, they must make a caster level check against the Mana Drain level. Failure means their magic is burnt out, leaving them unable to cast again for 5 minutes per Mana Drain point.

Never got around to properly play-testing it, though.

eBook Pricing

There are a few different ideas about eBook pricing (and given the market is still developing the uncertainty is likely to remain for a while), which generally come down to them being best in the $2.99 to $5.99 range. $2.99 seems to be the average according to some studies, but some people claim that pricing that low can make it seem less valuable. The idea is that charging more for it makes it appear more inherently valuable (the common example given is Starbucks’ coffee prices).

While I initially priced my novels at $0.99, and my shorter stories as free, when I put them on Kindle last year I raised the prices to $2.99 so they’d be in the higher royalty category. While there was a slight drop in sales via the Smashwords distribution circle, the Amazon sales made up for them.

At the beginning of July I raised the prices to $3.99, to see whether the higher price would make any difference. On Amazon they actually rose on the previous quarter, but possibly just because they’d slumped (I’d had a couple of books out in the first quarter, and there’s usually a slight bump for a new book). Elsewhere, sales have just continued the slow decline from very few to hardly any (not that all distributors have been bothered to change prices, and it may be another month, at least, before they’d report all the sales from this period).

I think three months is enough time to experiment with the prices for, so now I’m considering whether to raise them again, to $4.99, or to drop them back to $2.99.

Dropping them down seems more likely, even if I try raising them again later. $4.99, or even $5.99, just feels too high for an eBook, and not too far below the price of a print book.

It’s probably at least in part due to me not having adapted to seeing their value, despite the fact I’m selling these non-physical goods. Not having an eReader myself might be part of it, but buying a physical book just feels so much more definite that a virtual one.

And a physical book can always be sold on (selling stuff on eBay is a source of income for me at the moment), whereas a virtual copy needs to be worth what you’re paying for it, because you’re paying purely for the content.

But ultimately their inherent value is all eBooks have going for them. Two cost no more to produce than one, so apart from the transaction fees by retailer (and possibly distributor), there’s no reason for them to be anywhere near the price of a physical copy. The inherent value is ultimately what you’re willing to pay for the experience, and to support the writer in writing their next work.

The $0.99 price point for full novels has come to be seen as implying they’re not worth anything, rather than that a writer wants to reach as many readers as possible while still earning something from their work. Having the first in a series set at $0.99, or even free, tends to be viewed differently, but a standalone book, from a writer who isn’t yet popular, can be too easily dismissed. (Given the number of free eBooks around at the moment, even higher priced eBooks are probably dismissed more easily that they might otherwise be.)

If not for the inherent lack of value with which the price point is currently viewed, and Amazon’s lower royalty rates for it, I think I’d be inclined to go back to pricing them $0.99, if I thought I could reach a wider audience. But as things stand I’ll probably stick with $2.99 until I see how the market develops next (and go back to reducing one book to 99c for a month, starting with The Sin of Hope).