Critical Battleground States
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Let Us Welcome Our Web 2.0 Publisher Overlords

Charlie Stross on Tor Books's arrival on the internet at http://www.tor/com/:

Charlie's Diary: Dragged kicking and screaming into the Century of the Fruitbat: It's something of a truism that the larger a publisher gets, the more trouble they seem to have in understanding this interwebnet thingy. While smaller outfits like Baen Books and Subterranean Press seem to have more than half a clue, it's been almost embarrassing to watch the larger book publishers flailing around... so it's nice and refreshing to see one of them get their act together.

Case in point: — Tor's revamped and relaunched web presence. It's very Web 2.0, with original fiction, blogs, and social networking bells and whistles; hopefully it'll be linked up to their long-awaited ebook store fairly soon so you can all buy my books. (Ahem ...)

Tor editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden says:

Welcome to the Frontpage: The conversation: Effective blogging is a combination of good personal writing and smart party hosting. A good blog post can be a sentence long, or three pages long; what matters is that it encourages further conversation.

Back in the heyday of the Whole Earth Catalog, visionary Catalog editor Stewart Brand told would-be reviewers to (I quote from memory, and probably imperfectly) “write as if you are writing a letter to an engaged and interested friend who knows almost nothing about the subject.” That’s a good starting point for blogging. is for fans of science fiction, fantasy, the universe, and the many “related subjects” that such persons are also liable to be interested in.... We’re not trying to convert everyone to our particular geeky obsession, but we do assume that our natural audience is composed of people who understand the pleasures of geeky obsession, and we hope to share the cool.

Much of what has driven is our desire to more fully contribute to the great conversation that is the subculture of SF.... That conversation has done nothing but expand. It is a major tributary to the modern Internet. aspires to be part of that conversation. We recognize it as something older and bigger than we are.

We’ve recruited a number of front-page bloggers based on their knowledge of certain specialized subjects and their demonstrated ability to blog interestingly....

As this site’s editorial straw-boss, I guess what I’d say to everyone playing here, front-page bloggers and commenters alike, is: Converse. Be yourself; be a person, not a megaphone--a personal point of view, not an encyclopedia or an “objective journalistic voice.” Even the original fiction is part of the conversation; the authors writing for us are aware that there'll be a public comment thread following every story, just as if it were a blog post. Talk to the rest of us like we’re human beings at an interesting social event. If you feel like you’re up at a lectern on a big stage, reconsider. aspires to be a room party, not Carnegie Hall. Circulate and talk.