Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tin Soldiers

While Google is facing a major age discrimination lawsuit, it disheartens me to see a tangentially similar situation in publishing. This today, courtesy of Publishers Weekly:

Scholastic is in the final days of offering a buyout package to all employees who have been with the publisher for at least 10 years regardless of age. The offer for all but book fair employees expired July 18; due to pre-scheduled meetings, fair staff has until next Thursday to decide on the package.

News of the buyout offer comes after the disclosure by Scholastic last week when it released its fiscal 2011 results that it was "taking steps to reduce costs in non-digital areas across the business," while expanding its digital operations. It also noted that its forecast for fiscal 2012 excluded severance and other one-time expenses associated with restructuring actions.


Arrgh. How is offering buyouts to longtime employees similar to age discrimination lawsuits? Both are indicators of the increasingly-hostile business environment for older workers.

Sure, Scholastic is giving the option of a golden (bronze? tin?) parachute to their staff. It's far better than being one of over forty thousand employees summarily dismissed by Borders. But surprisingly, Scholastic is also being completely up front about their intentions - "taking steps to reduce costs." They are trying to clear the decks to either consolidate jobs (read: employees doing more than one job for the same pay) or hire younger workers to whom they can offer much lower salaries.

Employees eligible for this package could be only in their early thirties, having worked for Scholastic since their early twenties. Granted, the youngsters probably won't take the deal, but people in their late thirties and up will have to take a very hard look at it. If they don't go for it, they still run the real risk of being laid off (i.e. dropped with no parachute) at any time, and with especially bleak prospects.

It is very much in Scholastic's immediate financial interest to get rid of long-term employees, who both command higher salaries and require more expensive health care premiums (though that problem can always be solved by making employees pay more, if not all, of their own premiums). Of course Scholastic is jettisoning one of their most valuable resources: experience. But that's not something you can present to your shareholders or on a balance sheet.

I don't know why I'd have hoped that a publishing company that made a gazillion dollars off of the Harry Potter series might have more ethical business practices than Google. My starry-eyed expectations of the publishing world have mostly disappeared in the ten years I've been here (I'm eligible for a retirement package at Scholastic - not sure what I get at Tachyon!). Editors used to have prestigious careers with excellent prospects. Publishers used to count on an audience that wanted lots of high quality books. Booksellers were local merchants who had customers paying fair prices. Authors, well, it's always been tough for authors (and that's another post entirely).

Now publishing is yet another a business run by greed and fear. In the corporate world, we're all increasingly interchangeable or simply disposable.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tim Powers is In Ur Bible, Fixin Ur Scripturz

So here I am, getting The Bible Repairman by Tim Powers ready to send to the printer, and I am seething with indignity.

Look at this cover:

Pretty badass, right? But I still think they should have gone with mine:

"It's too old a meme!" They said. But I said, "No. It's classic. Tried and true."

Alas! My protests fell on deaf ears, and you'll be seeing the serious version on shelves come September. Meanwhile, I have some finishing touches to make on our October release:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

SF in SF Movie Night:
The Adjustment Bureau and The Men Who Stare At Goats

Come on down to the Variety Preview Room tonight, July 20th, for the SF in SF movie night. Tomorrow's double feature: The Adjustment Bureau and The Men Who Stare At Goats.

As always, doors and cash bar (proceeds to Variety Children's Charity) open at 6, event starts at 7. Plus, free popcorn!

Variety Children's Charity works to provide pediatric wheelchairs for kids in need. Learn more at

SF in SF events are located across from the Montgomery station BART at:
The Variety Preview Room Theatre
The Hobart Bldg., 1st Floor — entrance between Quiznos and Citibank
582 Market Street @ 2nd and Montgomery
San Francisco, CA 94104

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tor's Genre in the Mainstream Series: The Secret History of Science Fiction's blog series, Genre in the Mainstream, shows that sometimes the difference between genre fiction and literary fiction boils down to the section where the book is shelved. Though there's lots to offer the science fiction/fantasy fan at the mainstream fiction end of the bookstore, as for the literary fiction buffs, you've been enjoying great genre for years whether you know it or not.

Today Genre in the Mainstream highlights Tachyon's 2009 anthology, The Secret History of Science Fiction:

"Instead of convincing you with a series of essays, (like Genre in the Mainstream) Kelly and Kessel pushed their thesis forward by laying out a bunch of stories from various authors in order to demonstrate cross pollination between genres has been happening for ages...If you’re interested in reading a bunch of stories written by some of the best contemporary writers out there, you’ll like this anthology. If you also want to read some of the best science fiction stories since the 70s, you’ll love this anthology."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Book Reviews for the Young and Old

We've got two great reviews to share today!

First, for our newest title, Future Media, from Publishers Weekly:

Wilber's solid anthology of short stories and academic essays successfully juxtaposes work both newer and timeless. Nicholas Carr's "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" posits that Google has severely curtailed our attention spans; this is further developed by James Patrick Kelly's "New Brains for Old," a discussion of reprogramming our brains. An excerpt from Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is paired with Gregory Benford's morbid book auction in "Centigrade 233." Allucquére Rosanne Stone's "Sex, Death, and Machinery" mashes up a nonfiction essay with a fictional style, exploring technology and all of our relations to it...Often deep, occasionally dense, and always thought-provoking, these works will appeal to both academics and lay readers.

And then an great review on Paperblog of one of our favorite Peter S. Baegle titles, A Fine & Private Place:

It features some of the best character studies I have seen. By the time you finish the story, it seems like the characters are people you have known for a long time. You will remember them long after you read this book... If fantastically developed characters trapped between love and death appeal to you, this is a nearly perfect book.

Friday, July 08, 2011

SF in SF author night: John Shirley and Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire

We have got two excellent guests for tomorrow night's SF in SF author event, so if you're in the Bay Area, you won't want to miss this one.

John Shirley has written in multitude of styles and genres. You're probably already a fan, even if you don't realize it. He's a horror writer, a science fiction writer, a lyricist, and his novel City Come a Walkin' was a cornerstone of the cyberpunk movement. He was a writer for The Crow, Deep Space Nine, and Batman: Beyond. Some of his latest titles are The Other End, Wet Bones, and Bioshock: Rapture.

Mira Grant, a founding member of the Horror Movie Sleep-Away Survival Camp, is a John W. Campbell Award winner and Philip K. Dick Award finalist. Her zombie novel Feed landed on several Year's Best lists. Her latest book is Deadline, book two in the Newsflesh series.

You might also know Mira as Seanan McGuire, author of the October Daye series starting with Rosemary and Rue.

SF in SF author night
Saturday July 9th at the Variety Preview Room Theatre.
Doors and cash bar (proceeds to Variety Children's Charity) open at 6, event starts at 7.

The Variety Preview Room is located right across the street from the Montgomery BART station:
The Hobart Bldg., 1st Floor - entrance between Quiznos and Citibank
582 Market Street @ 2nd and Montgomery
San Francisco, CA 94104

For more information contact Rina at
You can also call 415-572-1015 on the day of the event only.