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Racism in a sci fi universe

I’m getting close to finished with the first draft of my sci fi novel (tentative title is Daros), and I’m starting to think about cover design. I’ll get actual artists to handle that for me, but one fun part of that is deciding whether to represent the characters on the cover or not. On the one hand, you can create an appealing cover with some kind of action or character represented. On the other, once you provide a picture of a character, you inhibit people’s ability to imagine them how they want to. That includes complex issues like race.

In a book set on Earth, physical appearance comes with a whole bunch of social baggage (and often prejudice and discrimination) that comes from our current society. In a future space-faring setting that still has humans, a few things seem likely:

  • racial categories that are present on Earth won’t mean the same things that they do now
  • the physical characteristics that people present will be more homogenized than on Earth now (we’re already seeing that in the 21st century as migration happens and as love overcomes barriers against cross-boundary partners that were stronger in the past)
  • people who’ve adapted to life on different worlds will potentially be more different from each other (both physically and culturally) than the historical racial and ethnic categories in Earth’s current population (unless there’s tremendous connectivity, uniformity of media, and easy travel)

If all of that is true, then probably bias and prejudice would still exist, and some of it may be appearance based, but it would be addressed toward people from different planets rather than people from regions or nations.

I’m not sure of any of this, and I would hope that a technologically advanced society would leave a lot of this behind, but it’s interesting to think about.

Revisions!

I’m in the middle of my first revision pass for my second novel, which I finished last weekend. Here’s my revision command central. The list of chapter numbers, working titles, and revised titles is the left three columns. The next three are elapsed time and start and end dates, so I’m consistent with timing as the story progresses and know how much time is passing for the characters.

The yellow boxes to the right are issues in some chapters that I want to check or correct or do better. Some of them are really minor, while others are things I blew it on the first time through that will take some work to fix.

The gray box on the far right is a screencap of my writing software showing the original descriptive chapter names so I can keep them straight as I rename them to stupid puns.

The colored column in the middle is whether I think the chapter is funny or not – red and yellow less funny, blue and green more. At least to me. I don’t know if there’s anything to be learned there, but I figured I’d note it for pacing and revisions. The dark blue line shall remain mysterious for now. I’ve done 31 of 63 chapters so far, and I’m shooting to have this first pass through it done before classes start on Monday.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I can’t help but use spreadsheets for stuff. Not sure if this is interesting to anybody, but I thought it might be. Blurred to hide spoilers.

NaNoWriMo

In order to get the sequel to Flames Over Frosthelm going in a big way, I’ve been doing the National Novel Writing Month challenge this November. I started the month just under 21,000 words, and now I’m up to about 41,500, so it’s going pretty well. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in a month, and I’m ahead of that pace by a little bit, as the graph below shows.

I’m obviously more concerned that the words be good than that they be plentiful. I’m pretty happy with how it’s going so far – I think the story is fun, and I’m having fun with it. For the sequel, I decided to keep the storytelling in first person but to shift the narrator, so that’s been a bit of a challenge writing with a new voice.

A full novel in fantasy is usually between 80,000 and 120,000 words, and I should be near the lower end of that range by the end of November if all keeps going well. The first book came in at about 122,000, so it was a little long. We’ll see how this one does. I’m not ready to share it with anybody yet, but if you’d like to be a beta reader, let me know! Write to dave@davedobsonbooks.com.

Free promotion

I’m in the middle of a free promotion for Flames Over Frosthelm, running September 5th to 9th. It’s been a success so far, if giving away thousands of copies of your book free is successful. I ran a number of announcements on free book sites on Thursday when it started, and I ran a Freebooksy announcement today. Both of those seemed to produce a bigger response than Friday, when I had no announcements. Here’s how it looked:

That’s a total of 3172 copies downloaded so far. This was enough to get me well up into the rankings on Amazon for free books:

I actually hit #1 in Sword and Sorcery on Thursday. I’m sure this is completely ephemeral, and it will fade as soon as the free promotion ends, so it doesn’t really have any meaning, although it’s fun to ride this roller coaster for a while. What I’ve read is that

  • this kind of thing doesn’t do much for sales after it’s done
  • many of the free downloaders never read the book
  • you don’t see many new reviews after one of these
  • you do have the potential to see more Kindle Unlimited activity after this kind of promotion

One other immediate effect is that I had 13 people add the book as “reading” or “to read” on Goodreads in the past three days, so there’s a chance that I’ll get some more ratings from people there.

One of my goals since the release has been to increase my exposure and introduce the book to a bunch of new folks, and this seems to be working as a route toward that end. I’ll see if it has any lasting effects after another couple of weeks, but it’s been interesting and fun.

First sale from Amazon ads

So, I’ve been playing around with advertising on several platforms. I’ve figured I probably need some more reviews and buzz before this will work, but I figured it was fine to experiment. Although I’m reported to be generating clicks on Facebook, Google, and Amazon, I have not yet generated a confirmed sale.

Until today!

Yes, as of today I have officially paid $25 to Amazon to sell $5 worth of books, for which I’ll receive $3 and they’ll receive $2. Clearly, this business model is not yet working, but this is the first inkling that it might work eventually. Pretty cool.

The Binge

This showed up on my Kindle Unlimited feed today. The Unlimited version of the book has exactly 587 pages, so it looks like somebody just destroyed the book in one sitting. Even funnier, this showed up a little after noon, so it must have been an all-morning kind of thing.

Working on release…

I’m working on getting my book ready for release on Amazon. Reading up on some technical information and some advice from other authors. I’m also trying to get settled on a cover. I’ve had some trouble settling on a title and a cover image, but hopefully I can get to something I like soon. I’ve got my author account set up on GoodReads, so I hope that will be a place where I can connect with potential readers (and, once the book has been out for a while, talk to readers about the book and other projects). All this is complex, with many moving parts, but it’s exciting, too.

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