AISFP 56 – Mary Anne Mohanraj

Mary Anne Mohanraj joins us in our third Clarion special show to discuss MFA work, writing grants, how to write the Other, Strange Horizons, and more. Then we present the first Publishing Key in our contest, and Tobias S. Buckell addresses POV in Ask a Writer.

Show Notes

I start this episode off by reading an article concerning the latest ploy by to wrestle rights and profits away from publishers and writers. I am deeply concerned by a series of events committed by Amazon, each depicting a steady move toward monopolizing the book world. I’m concerned enough that I’m considering eliminating this podcast’s association with them. What are your thoughts on the matter? I could use some feedback, and a healthy conversation would go a long way.

Mary Anne Mohanraj joins us from the Clarion Workshop. She and I discuss her background, her Clarion West experiences, grant money for writers, writing the Other, her current work, problems with the writing of inexperienced writers, Strange Horizons, and more.

Then Tobias Buckell presents the First Publishing Key in our summer contest, sponsored by Tor and Pyr SF. Toby also brings us another segment of Ask a Writer, this time addressing Jonathan’s question about POV.

We’ll see you next week with Neil Gaiman!

Promos: The Keys to Publishing Contest; Staked, by Jeremy F. Lewis

Times Online article about Amazon
Strange Horizons
Turkey City Lexicon
The Speculative Literature Foundation
The Carl Brandon Society

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  1. I, like Shawn, am disturbed to hear about the possible new practices by Amazon to push prices lower. I spend more money each year at Amazon then I care to admit. Amazon is my go to place for ordering gifts for my family since they are all out of town and I can get just about anything from Amazon.

    Back to the point, I am starting to see many parallels between Amazon and Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart was able to grow because it is innovator in the realm of logistics and inventory management. I think Amazon’s success is greatly due to it’s ability to manage inventory and respond so quickly to customers. It has also, like Wal-Mart, played to the American consumer’s need to “get a deal” with its daily lightning and gold box deals.

    If you have not watched PBS’s Frontline special on Wal-Mart I suggest you take a look at it. I have used it in many accounting courses I teach to help show students how accounting information is used to drive business.

  2. I’ve been seeing promotion of Indiebound/Booksource as an alternative to Amazon. It’s less slick, takes more time to find and order a book, and I’ve got to admit that I haven’t used it yet… I’m fortunate enough to have Another Change of Hobbit, a great scifi bookstore, right by my house, but for photo books and specific things, it’s hard to find a store that carries specifics!

    Amazon is easy… too easy. Got to get back into the spirit of the hunt!

  3. I was overjoyed to hear the interview with Mary Anne Mohanraj. I’m a massive fan of Strange Horizons.

    On my website, I’ve not quite settled on how I link to books, but I think I may actually switch my links away from Amazon to Librarything. Librarything is in many ways a highly structured wiki about books. There’s tagging and reviews and lots of social features. It satiates my desire to use technology in pursuit of good hard copy fiction.

    For those of us that do much of our gift giving via amazon wish lists, I’d suggest using amazon’s new Universal Wish List functionality to point to other sources for the books and such that we want. I discovered that yesterday. It’s a great example of embracing network forces, but we can also use it to express alternatives.

  4. To be honest, I don’t buy many books. As a librarian I tend to be a freeloader, considering my library’s vast collection to be my own.

    When I do buy books I piggyback my orders on the library’s, and we principally purchase from vendors other than Amazon–vendors that cater to libraries or bookstores (e.g. Ingram). Or I’m an opportunity buyer–keeping an eye on the bookstore’s discount shelf or picking things up on the cheap (or as free ARCs) at library conferences.

    Amazon’s frightening power comes from the unwillingness of the average reader to exercise the effort it requires to find deals elsewhere, and their unconcern for the damage Amazon is doing to the book world.

    Of course, the industry’s main problem is not Amazon, but the same problem it’s had since the early 20th century–returns. I can’t think of an industry with a less reasonable distribution system. How many miles (with gas prices being what they are) does a book have to travel, back and forth, back and forth? I can’t see how this will change, with no one able to make the first move without being crucified, but if bookstores could no longer return books for full refunds the price of books would drop universally, without hurting profits.

  5. Shaun Farrell says

    I really appreciate the discussion, everyone. Andy brings up a great point concerning the bigger picture of the book world. How much waste is there in the publishing business? And how much would publishers, authors, and readers profit if these inefficiencies were addressed? I can’t even begin to guess how many hours I spent trying to organize (boxing, unboxing, receiving, returning, receiving again what I had just returned, ect., when I was at BN) the receiving room. It was a mess, and I only experienced the tip of the iceberg.

    Still, back to the subject at hand, Amazon is misbehaving and should be punished. And how do businesses who misbehave in free market systems get pubished? They loose money. You gotta punch them where it hurts.

  6. You could switch to giving Powell’s links — they seem to be the big, established, reliable indie of choice.

  7. @Steven Klotz – also check out, I have been using that as my gift list for about a year and my aging parents and low-tech siblings have been able to use it without a problem. The best feature for my family is they can “reserve” an item it minimize duplicates but don’t have to purchase from Amazon but can purchase from local resellers. No more preparing separate lists for different sides of the family 🙂

  8. I’m totally going to check out Kaboodle a little more closely. I’ve found a TON of social shopping utilities, but I’ve not explored any of them in depth enough to really get to know the unique feature sets.

  9. Shaun, thank you very much for forwarding on my question to Mr. Buckell. Get ready for Sam to make fun of you, though. The Halo company is ,a href=””>Bungie, pronounced like the chord people tie to their ankles before jumping from a bridge. Bun-Jhee. Your pronunciation was unintentionally hysterical. They have a podcast.
    It’s mostly developers talking about new maps or game variants. They are incessantly asked by players for that Recon armor variant, so I hope I didn’t set Toby up.

  10. Jonathan Rock says

    And now I will prepare for Sam to make fun of me for messing up my anchor tag with a , instead of a <

  11. Thanks for another great episode. I wanted to reply to Tobias Buckell’s comments about omniscient point of view. Terry Pratchett tends to open his books with the universe: Flying through the flotsam we call space is a giant turtle…
    The other example that immediately springs to mind is Douglas Adams.

    Problem: They’re both satirists. I can’t think of a good genre omni 3rd person serious novel, but I’d love to get suggestions.

  12. Chris Carlson says

    Josh English:

    As regards omniscient narrators, I think they can be incredibly useful if handled by someone who knows what they’re doing. That said, they can be crippling when handled by a novice who doesn’t know where to put the focus of omniscience. I can think of good examples of omniscience in literary fiction, but it took a second to come up with a good example of genre fiction omniscience: Frank Herbert. Dune is done in omniscience, as are several other of his books that I’ve read. Also, Philip Pullman uses an omniscient third (exclusively, I believe).

    I think many people are afraid of 3rd omniscient voice since it requires such a knowledge of the world and the characters in order to pull it off. You’ve got access to *everything* in the world, which makes it conspicuous when you leave out information. For instance, people often feel jilted by an omniscient story if there is a twist at the end, since the information could have been presented at the beginning. Also, if you don’t go into a character’s mind, the reader questions why you didn’t go there, since you had access. Also, I think omniscience works much better in novel-length works than in short stories (again, for the most part).

    As for “serious fiction” with omniscient narrators, The Scarlet Letter and Anna Karenina both deal with omniscience really well. I know, “yuck literature,” but read them anyway.

  13. Shaun Farrell says

    I love The Scarlet Letter!

  14. Ashley Knight says

    Just to add to the list of good online book shops, try The Book Depository. They’re based in Gloucester, UK, but offer free shipping worldwide. They have various content, and offer reviews from Amazon plus a price comparison. I’m not sure if they offer affiliation, but they do offer a good service, I’ve never had any problems. Anyway take a look here:

    Love the show,


  1. […] called “The Keys to Publishing”. You basically listen to their podcasts, starting with AISFP #56 and ISBW #94, listen for the key and write it down, and when you have all six, email them to […]

  2. […] I absolutely love the clone theme. The Keys to Publishing contest has started. Listen to discover key 1 and key 2. Also, I’ve been working my way through my backlog of Escape […]

  3. […] Number 1, by Tobias S. Buckell: Episode 56 of AISFP Key Number 2, by David Louis Edelman: Episode 94 of ISBW Key Number 3, by Brenda Cooper: Episode 58 […]

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