Who Owns A Book?

Yesterday’s signing – and the conversation that followed in both staffroom and pub – has made me ask myself a question.

Who really owns a book?

It it’s written by the Author, represented by the Agent, bought by the Publisher, polished by the Editor – and then Printed (one way or another), promoted by the Publicist, reviewed by the Bloggers, featured in the Press, sold by the Bookstore, bought by the Public and promoted all over again… breathe, dammit… whose is it, really? What if you add digital publishing and certain online retailers to this cycle and it becomes more complex still? (Or less, depending upon which side of the till you’re standing. Charlie Stross put this one better than I ever could).

And that’s not forgetting the self-published authors; the cover artists, and blurb-writers, the fan-bases and bloody, bloody Facebook… everything folds in together and the list goes ever on.

Eventually, with fortune and planning, the whole thing comes full circle – and the Author comes in to talk to the Public. As a friend of mine used to say, ‘Everybody wins’.

But does that answer the question?

The face of publishing is changing. We’ve glimpsed it in the darkness – where new hopefuls or talented artisan writers are treated like monkeys, given peanuts for selling soul and talent to organ-grinders who want only profit… and the backlash has been substantial. I’m sure we all remember a certain gentleman in Frey Flannel.

I’m always reassured that the moment one faction steps in and demands sole ownership, the fight rises to topple their monopoly.

Watching Joe talking about and reading from ‘The Heroes’ yesterday – watching the responses of and questions from his fans – has made me realise something. Not about fighting (though we talked about that too) but about the real owners of a book.

Who owns a book? The characters. That’s where the passion is; if the cycles turns properly, then they live in the hearts of minds of everyone, Author to Public, all the way round. (It’s when they don’t that it seems to go tits up). To coin a popular phrase – it’s character driven, the whole damn thing.

And that’s how it should be.

Witness: –


With thanks to Joe, his Heroes, Gollancz – and the team at FP Bristol.

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#MADMONTH! BristolCon and Other Stories

Every so often, life at Forbidden Planet goes balls-to-the-wall crazy.

We’ve done Star Wars Days and Hallowe’en Celebrations, we’ve had signings with some of the most exciting names in the industry and we’ve taken our butts and our books to the Bristol Ramada and drunk far too much beer at BristolCon… and had a great time doing all of it. No matter how busy the business may be, there’s a sense of involvement that keep the energy levels high.

As Doctor Tim, manager of the Bristol Megastore said: we do it because we love it.

Honest, guv’nor.!

Seriously, though, sometimes, this stuff is just a privilege. From the wondrous (and hair-raising) tales of Michael Moorcock’s youthful antics, to stealing William Gibson’s ebook signing pen (erm… sorry about that), to remembering the basement days of Denmark Street with Iain Banks, to rediscovering the warm and open friendliness of Simon Pegg… there’s never a dull moment. The tales of Denmark Street remind me that all of these people started in exactly the same place as the rest of us – and each one still values the opinion and input of every single one of his fans. Props to the lot of them!

The #madmonth has ended with a day at BristolCon – a new venture for the local SF/F collective and a perfectly slotted-together event. In the Dealers’ Room as ever, it was still good to see a full and engaging programme of events (we at least got to Nick’s pub quiz – Walters, you’ve missed your calling as a stage comedian!) and (inevitably) to the bar… plus we got to chat to a guest list, all local, that all pitched in to make the event a success.

And the ‘local’ is absolutely the event’s hand-on win. There’s a strong genre family in Bristol, a gathering of authors and bloggers and podcasters and fans who’ve helped build a city hub that’s become big enough to host a Con of its own – and to make it a success. The atmosphere was very chilled – and there was a togetherness to it that can be missing from larger gatherings.

As with the signings at the Megastore – it’s gone to underline that we’re all the same at the root, and we all have the same things dear to our hearts. At the risk of sounding a scrape too cheesy… do we all do it because we love it?

So – props to Jo and her team for a fantastic event that will grow into something even better next year. It was absolutely bigger on the inside!

And yes, we will be back!

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The Imperial March

They never tire of it.

The frightened little ones, the loud-mouthed pre-teens, the squealing girls and the enthusiastic Dads – everywhere the Garrison go, you see the same kaleidoscope of reactions. All the hot girls love a Stormtrooper, all the geeks make jokes about droids, and all the smart arses end up on the pavement with their hands behind their heads.

Hell, I never tire of it either.

And we’ve had a few new discoveries this time. Working with us at Bristol and Southampton to promote our exclusive book-plated edition of Star Wars: The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, the UK Garrison do seem to like Forbidden Planet. Lord Vader himself came to inspect Bristol, where he absolutely refrained from throttling anyone (unless they really deserved it) and loomed outside the store, silent and menacing and breathing as only Vader can. Surrounded by a plethora of flashing cameras, eagerly costumed children and wide-eyed tittering Mums.

The UKG absolutely excel at the Comedy Photo Op. They will pose for days and the passing public will never let them go… but there’s also something surreal and hilarious about any Stormtrooper doing something that’s essentially mundane. Trooper reads menu, Trooper goes into shop – it’s a win every time. Faceless and humourless, voices both mechanical and polite, all they have to do is stop by the front of a market stall and people turn and point.

And they never, ever, tire of it.

Today, though, we’ve had a moment.

Spotting a pair of smartly kilted bagpipers on Southampton High Street, the Troopers naturally had to investigate. The public were naturally entertained. The piper naturally made an attempt at The Imperial March on his chanter, and promised solemnly he would ‘learn it’ for the next time.

Fair enough, we thought.

Imagine our wonder, then, when the ‘next time’ turned out to be two hours later, when both pipers came down to Forbidden Planet Southampton. As promised, he played, fucking flawlessly, the Imperial March.

We were, Troopers and store and onlookers alike, absolutely gobsmacked.

Check this out…

[vimeo 16125323 w=400 h=300]

Piper at the Gates of… from Danie Ware on Vimeo.

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