The new Apple iPad


I’m tempted to leave this post at that, just a single word. But if I’m honest there is more to this iPad thing than that. Fundamentally, Apple have gone to great lengths and enormous fanfare to release what is essentially a big iPhone without the phone or the camera. Sure, it’s a swish looking thing – Apple products always are. And the interface would be awesome, just like the iPhone, because Apple know how to meld man (or woman) and machine.

But is this iPad really anything spectacular? The thing that annoyed me the most watching a news program last night was the closing comments on the brief coverage of the iPad launch:

“The new iPad will allow people to read books electronically.”

They made this sound like it was a new thing. Like we’d never read an ebook before. Seriously, Apple are masters at convincing people that the emperor is wearing a fine ermine robe. I read ebooks regularly on my iPhone. The Kindle is going gangbusters in the US and has recently rolled out internationally. My books sell better in ebook formats than print formats by several orders of magnitude. And so on and so on.

So now, due to the massive media arse licking that Steve Jobs always seems to elicit, there will be thousands of people thinking that Apple has made ebooks a reality at last. Good grief, they’ll cry, are we living in the future? (Well, it is 2010, but still no flying fucking cars).

To be optimistic about it, regardless of how annoying it is, the iPad being touted as the new thing in publishing is good for writers. It’s not the new thing in publishing by a long way. We’ve been hammering out the pioneer trail through digital books and all associated stuff for several years now. But, Apple does attract its fanboys and fangirls. The latest Apple device is the must have gadget every time. The marketing behind it is terrifying.

When I heard that Stephen Fry had endorsed the iPad with talk of how great it was to use I felt the Earth shift on its axis. When Fry, the God-Emperor of Twitter, and Jobs, the Witch-King of Technology, combine forces, the future of humanity is theirs to toy with.

Steve Jobs, mind-controlling the masses

But, this can only be a good thing. Publishing is going digital. It’s a simple as that. You might remember this post I made back in August. It’s just a matter of how it will happen. Print books will still exist – Print On Demand technology will be the new vanguard of print – and speciality editions will still be popular with bibliophiles like me. It’s just a case of what becomes the standard for digital publishing.

The Kindle and its e-ink brethren tried to lead the way taking electronic reading from a computer screen to a hand held electronic book. As similar as possible to paper in every way. Then handheld devices like the iPhone shattered the calm of the library.

Sure, a Kindle is a great ebook reader, but an iPhone is a great ebook reader, and a phone and, most importantly, a web portal. The iPad has taken that concept and made it bigger. Too big, in my opinion, but we’ll see if new physical sizes emerge – remember the iPod gave birth to the iPod Nano. I’d like to see an iPad Nano, halfway in size between an iPhone and the current iPad.

Anyway, the point is this. The iPad has full internet activity and a brilliant user interface. You can go straight to your news media source, read the top stories, click on a picture to see the video, listen to the latest single from Current Pop Sensation And The Plagiarists and so on. It’s an interactive media source along with being an ebook reader. That’s where the allure lies. Remember the post I linked above where I talked about convergence. That’s what is needed.

For me the iPhone offers that convergence and the iPad is just an iPhone that won’t fit in my pocket. And it doesn’t have a phone or a camera. And, true to Apple form, there’s no USB connectivity, no expandable memory card ports, no access to the workings of it and a truly shite battery life. But it’s the latest thing from Apple, it’s slick and you feel all Star Trek when you use it. People will buy it. When they do, due to very clever and aggressive action from Apple with regard to getting publishers on side, they’ll suddenly see ebooks as the future. Not because ebooks are the future, not because we’ve been saying that and making them the future for the last few years, but because Steve Jobs said so. All hail the Techno Messiah. It’s a little bit sickening, but what the fuck. More people will be buying ebooks. For writers, embracing the digital publishing revolution, that’s no bad thing. It’s also going to shake up the podcasting and vodcasting world, so watch out for explosions on that front as well.

I won’t be getting an iPad. Not least because it sounds like an electronic monthly item for women, but mainly because it doesn’t really offer anything new yet. It just offers what’s already there in a bigger format. But it won’t be long before the iPad and competitive examples are as ubiquitous as the iPod. Think back to 1995 and going to buy the latest album on CD. Could you imagine having your entire music collection in digital form on something smaller than a pack of gum in your pocket back then? Now it’s the norm. It won’t be long before commuter trains are filled with people holding flat shiny screens, flicking their finger across them now and then to ellicit an electronic swoosh as they turn the “page”. And that’s only the beginning.


“Trial Not Required” in M-Brane SF #13

My short story “Trial Not Required” has just been published in M-Brane SF magazine. It’s in issue 13 and starts on page 13, which is kinda cool. The PDF edition of the mag is out now and the print edition should be available in the next couple of days.

The publisher, Chris Fletcher, asked for a little afterword about the story to include in the issue. This is what wrote:

“Trial Not Required” is a story born of a single absurd concept that occurred to me one night – wouldn’t it be strange if there was a big artificial ape that was once cutting edge technology but was now old-fashioned and a bit of a freak. And what if that ape started to question its role and the role of those that made it…?

You can find out all about it here. I hope you like it.


Blade Runner spawns a web series

The greatest movie of all time is Blade Runner. I’ve said it before and nothing yet has changed my mind. No, not even Avatar, which today toppled Titanic as the biggest grossing movie ever. I’m so pleased that a sci-fi movie has replaced Titanic in that spot.

Anyway, back to Blade Runner. The film’s director, Ridley Scott, has announced that there’s a new division of his commercials company (RSA Films) working on a web series called “Purefold”. The series will be a bunch of linked 5 to 10 minute short films, initially targeted at the web under a Creative Commons licence.

Given that the movie took its inspiration from the Philip K Dick novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep, and given that Scott and co. don’t have rights to that book, they can’t actually make a Blade Runner series. The episodes are set prior to the 2019 date of the movie and will be “inspired by Blade Runner.”

Says David Bausola, founding partner of Ag8, the independent studio working with Scott, “We don’t take any of the canon or copyrighted assets from the movie. It’s actually based on the same themes as Blade Runner. It’s the search for what it means to be human and understanding the notion of empathy.”

I can’t help thinking that they’re pretty much using the Blade Runner name to get attention for a near future series that doesn’t really have much of anything to do with the movie or Dick’s book. The use of the Creative Commons licence is interesting though, giving fans the chance to remix and redistribute the films, making the whole concept a very public domain exercise. Scott and co. are also planning to use viewer input on storylines, using the FriendFeed website.

Sounds like an interesting concept, worth keeping an eye on.

(Sources: Dogmatic, New York Times.)


Aurealis Award winners 2009

The Award ceremony happened in Brisbane last night. I was very sad not to be able to get up there for it, but finances are only so elastic. I was greatly heartened, however, to discover a great little Twitter party happening as the Awards were announced. I got to vicariously enjoy the ceremony by tweeting with people like Margo Lanagan, Felicity Dowker, Tansy Rayner Roberts others while the results were tweeted live by several people in attendance, including Donna Hanson, who was generally the quickest on the keypad. Enjoying a few beers and watching the results live in such great virtual company almost made up for not being there. Almost.

So, to the results. Here they are:

best science fiction novel
Andrew McGahan, Wonders of a Godless World, Allen & Unwin

best science fiction short story
Peter M. Ball, ‘Clockwork, Patchwork and Ravens’, Apex Magazine May 2009

best fantasy novel
Trudi Canavan, Magician’s Apprentice, Orbit

best fantasy short story – Joint winners
Christopher Green, ‘Father’s Kill’, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #24
Ian McHugh, ‘Once a Month, On a Sunday’, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #40, Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Co-operative Ltd

best horror novel
Honey Brown, Red Queen, Penguin Australia

best horror short story – Joint winners
Paul Haines, ‘Wives’, X6, Coeur de Lion Publishing
Paul Haines, ‘Slice of Life – A Spot of Liver’, Slice of Life, The Mayne Press

best anthology
Jonathan Strahan (editor), Eclipse 3, Night Shade Books

best collection
Greg Egan, Oceanic, Gollancz

best illustated book/graphic novel
Nathan Jurevicius, Scarygirl, Allen & Unwin

best young adult novel
Scott Westerfeld, Leviathan Trilogy: Book One, Penguin

best young adult short story
Cat Sparks, ‘Seventeen’, Masques, CSFG

best children’s (8-12 years) novel
Gabrielle Wang, A Ghost in My Suitcase, Puffin Books

best children’s (8-12 years) short fiction/illustrated work/picture book
Pamela Freeman (author), Kim Gamble (illustrator), Victor’s Challenge, Walker Books Australia

Regular readers here will know that I’ve been crapping on for months about the awesomeness of Paul Haines’ ‘Wives’. A well deserved winner. Shame he had to share the prize with himself, but there you go.

Congratulations to all the winners!