One Second After, by William R. Forstchen

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Re: One Second After, by William R. Forstchen

Postby JustSomeOldGuy » Tue Feb 07, 2017 2:05 pm

RoyGBiv wrote:
Greybeard wrote:"One second after.................what?" At least a couple of coordinated EMT attacks on a not-so-fine Friday afternoon.

EMP.... I'm certain this was an autocorrect error... very funny though... Made me think of Zombie EMT's :lol:


Yeah, something causing all the EMT's to simultaneously go berserk has potential as the plot for a teen B-movie slasher film. Mayhem with probes and triage scissors. I'm surprised no one's already done one. "rlol"
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Re: One Second After, by William R. Forstchen

Postby Skiprr » Tue Feb 07, 2017 3:37 pm

bblhd672 wrote:It is not a literary masterpiece - it is however a chilling warning about a real threat. Forstchen wrote the book to warn the people about the seriousness of this threat.

I find your assessment amusing that because the author lacks a Master of Fine Arts degree that he is unqualified to write a best seller.

:mrgreen: I was writing a couple of Amazon reviews, this (a longer version) among them. And you're absolutely correct that the book was written as a warning, and Forstchen likely wouldn't have found an audience for it with a work of nonfiction.

But it is a novel. And as a novel, it's about as deft as an Acme brick.

I never said he was unqualified to write a best seller. Anyone whose book sells enough to qualify for that title has earned it. But if you're marketing a work to me as a short story, novelette, novella, or novel, I'm going to hold you to my standards for fiction. And I feel my standards are unashamedly high.

Without knowing my opinion of other novels, in retrospect I now see that it looks like I simply decided to single out and bash Forstchen. Not so. I bash 24 of 25 novels that I read. ;-) For example, I found some of the writing in the first David Baldacci (the popular author of 38 best-selling books) novel I read to be so atrocious--honestly, I would expect better from a high school student--that I closed the book and have not read a word of Baldacci's since.

Dr. Forstchen has written about 40 books, some nonfiction (which I probably would read) and many fiction, some even science fiction including one in the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe. In fact, I think his first novel was a fantasy piece for Magic: The Gathering. However, if One Second After is an example, he simply isn't a good novelist.

In this day and age, it's actually quite difficult to stumble upon a good novelist. Twenty years ago I owned a small book publishing business. We produced trade paperbacks, that's the large format kind, typically 6"x9", with full-color, heavy-stock covers and acid-free archival paper. I had two editors helping me and we read--admittedly often skimmed--a humongous number of submitted manuscripts. We received 20 to 40 unsolicited novel manuscripts per month, and that count doubled when, in one of their annual issues, Writer's Digest Magazine featured us as one of the top 20 author-friendly houses.

Books we accepted for publication were carefully edited (I can proudly say that there was never a typo, grammatical or syntax error, or word omission or duplication discovered in any book we printed) and digitally typeset with the reader in mind: type one point larger than was typical, generous leading (the space between lines), and ample margins. Our books were distributed by the largest wholesalers, including Ingram Group and Baker & Taylor. But after years of trying, we couldn't get any large brick-and-mortar store to carry any of our titles, even the ones reviewed favorably by Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal. Amazon did carry all the titles, so we had to focus our marketing--other than what the wholesalers did for us--on online sales. And if anyone wants a bookmark or sample marketing postcard from those days, let me know; I still have about a thousand of them, can't bring myself to throw them away.

And, yes, brick-and-mortar stores were critical to success back then. Today, the once-despised notion of "self-publishing" is called "indie publishing" and all those unsolicited and unacceptable manuscripts we once received, well now they're all books--being produced at 20 times the rate--and as many titles are being sold for e-readers as in hard copy. Anyone with tenacity and a keyboard, serviceable grasp of the English language not required, can produce a book and sell it on Amazon.

Worse, much worse, is that the development has changed the way the big publishing houses operate. For those of you old enough, can you recall a hardcover book published prior to, say, 1980 that had typos in it? I'll wager you can't. At that time publishing a book was a big deal that required time and good deal of money up-front before the title was ever released. In fact, after the book was acquired and edited, there would typically be a five- to nine-month lead period where the book, in galley form, would be marketed to distributors and retailers, and copies sent to reviewers to garner marketable opinions. The only way to publish a book then was to typeset it for offset printing. It was terribly inefficient from a cost standpoint to do short-runs, printing only hundreds of books at a time. Print runs were always in the thousands, often in the tens of thousands.

But in the course of just over 40 years, the business model of book publishing--essentially consistent for hundreds of years--changed forever. So has some of the quality we came to expect. A snapshot of book publishing history 101:

  1. In the 1980s, big-box retailers, Notably, Barnes & Noble and Borders, sprang up and created large "destination" stores that stocked inventories 10 to 20 times greater than most, even large, independent booksellers. But the affect on publishing was quieter and more insidious. The big retailers carried huge monetary clout and developed IT systems that provided theretofore unheard of insight into consumer purchasing patterns. The cumulative result was that these large retailers began to dictate to the publishers the type of books they wanted to sell. The publishers began to lose a great deal of their editorial control.

  2. The second major change happened in the latter 1990s when internet commerce became fully entrenched as a powerful consumer alternative to shopping in a physical bookstore. This shift in consumer control and preference for online retailers continued and accelerated, leading to the eventual demise of not only most remaining independent booksellers, but also many of big-box bookstores.

  3. The third shift occurred around 1998 or 1999, as digital printing of books enabled micro-runs fueling small press houses and the self-publishing industry. Self-publishing started to pivot control over the value chain back to the authors, often bypassing and cutting out publishers altogether.

  4. The fourth transformation was the introduction and popularization of dedicated e-book reading devices. E-books cut out the pass-through costs of paper publication and, more significantly, the costs of actual publication, distribution, and maintaining inventory. This further moved control over the value chain away from the publishers and into the hands of those who controlled the electronic storefronts.

  5. The fifth development began about five to seven years ago and continues now. Book manufacturers are faced with declining run lengths per book and high setup costs, and cycle times from order to delivery are, by market force, compressing to a degree undreamed of just 30 years ago. The only way for traditional book manufacturers to survive is to become more efficient, to digitize and automate more and more of their processes. Printing books by offset--essentially the only game in town until the 90s--has all but disappeared. By 2025 I doubt we'll see any business that looks like a traditional publisher and book manufacturer.
The relevant point here is that with each disruption to the business of books came a change to the way editorial content was viewed and handled. With each disruption came a compression of the editorial timeframes and pressure to reduce costs.

Gone are the days that Hemingway and Fitzgerald collaborated with editor emeritus Maxwell Perkins to produce literary works where every paragraph, every sentence, every word had been scrutinized, considered, and polished before it met the hands of the reader. To have a novel published in hardback for wide distribution prior to 1980 was a very big deal. It cost a lot to do so, and time was taken to edit the book properly and make certain it was as good as it could be.

Now, when we download an e-book from Amazon to our Kindles, we start reading with the full expectation that the book will not be well edited. If we're very lucky, it will have been edited at all...beyond hoping that the author himself or herself actually read through the final work with an eye for errors. We're so used to this status quo now that we don't even blink when we encounter a typo or minor error in grammar or syntax even in a book produced by a major house.

One Second After is an example. The book was published by MacMillan in 2009, reached the 11th position on the New York Times Best Seller list for fiction 45 days later, and a trade paperback edition was produced eight months after the hardcover publication. But, yep, the book contains typos. Not many and not egregious, mind you, but they're there and we're simply now conditioned to read over them and keep going.

I think I'll go back and edit my first post to make it clear that I was offering a quick opinion of One Second After as a novel, as a literary work of fiction. It may well be--in fact probably is--an important book. It's well-researched subject matter is chilling, eye-opening. On that basis I'm glad I read it.

But as a novel, it is not well written and does not display fine craft in the art.
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Re: One Second After, by William R. Forstchen

Postby bblhd672 » Tue Feb 07, 2017 3:47 pm

Skiprr wrote:
Now, when we download an e-book from Amazon to our Kindles, we start reading with the full expectation that the book will not be well edited. If we're very lucky, it will have been edited at all...beyond hoping that the author himself or herself actually read through the final work with an eye for errors. We're so used to this status quo now that we don't even blink when we encounter a typo or minor error in grammar or syntax even in a book produced by a major house.

One Second After is an example. The book was published by MacMillan in 2009, reached the 11th position on the New York Times Best Seller list for fiction 45 days later, and a trade paperback edition was produced eight months after the hardcover publication. But, yep, the book contains typos. Not many and not egregious, mind you, but they're there and we're simply now conditioned to read over them and keep going.

I think I'll go back and edit my first post to make it clear that I was offering a quick opinion of One Second After as a novel, as a literary work of fiction. It may well be--in fact probably is--an important book. It's well-researched subject matter is chilling, eye-opening. On that basis I'm glad I read it.

But as a novel, it is not well written and does not display fine craft in the art.


Excellent post! Thank you for the thoughtful and informative reply. I remember that period when typos began to appear with regularity in the books I purchased. You're correct, now instead of it bugging me I just shake my head and read on.
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Re: One Second After, by William R. Forstchen

Postby twomillenium » Tue Feb 07, 2017 4:11 pm

I read this book during the holidays, it was not one that I could not put down but it was one that I wanted to finish. The book had mostly positive reviews. Most reviews were written by folks who probably were not skilled at writing reviews but I read the book anyways.
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Re: One Second After, by William R. Forstchen

Postby Salty1 » Tue Feb 07, 2017 4:39 pm

I read this book some time ago and enjoyed the message which was very thought provoking, especially what would actually happen if an EMP struck? How prepared are most people to actually deal with it. It was the small things that we take for granted that we would need the most. How many people actually have matches to start fires? It was the entire spectrum of what would be required and how people would need to band together to get to the point where survival becomes second nature...... it comes down to being prepared which most people are not even close to being self sufficient for even a short amount of time.

I do not consider myself a book snob as it is the message I am more concerned with than the messenger or the writing style. in my opinion it was worth the time I invested in reading the book..


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Re: One Second After, by William R. Forstchen

Postby Abraham » Wed Feb 08, 2017 12:06 pm

Skiprr,

With your background, I'd bet you're familiar with Robert Gottlieb?

I just finished his memoir/biography "Avid Reader: A Life"

It's an excellent read.

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Re: One Second After, by William R. Forstchen

Postby Skiprr » Wed Feb 08, 2017 12:44 pm

Abraham wrote:With your background, I'd bet you're familiar with Robert Gottlieb?

I just finished his memoir/biography "Avid Reader: A Life"

Now, that's a name I haven't heard in a long time; in fact, I didn't know he was still alive.

I didn't know about this book. Amazon says it was published last September, and I'm going to snag a copy now. Thanks for mentioning it.
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Re: One Second After, by William R. Forstchen

Postby Jusme » Wed Feb 08, 2017 1:31 pm

Great post and thanks for sharing your background in the publishing business. (I'll have to be more careful with my grammar and syntax now)

I think writing, like most art forms, has faced tremendous changes in just our lifetimes. With the advent of computer aided sounds, and graphics, the consumer driven, instantaneous result oriented, public, sees time consuming prose, composition, and sound, much as we viewed horse drawn transportation. It is quaint, and good for an afternoon distraction, but not worthwhile to really consider it as viable anymore. I still don't own a Kindle or any other dedicated electronic reading device. I do download electronic books to my laptop, but I still prefer being able to turn pages.
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Re: One Second After, by William R. Forstchen

Postby RogueUSMC » Wed Feb 08, 2017 1:52 pm

Skiprr wrote:I never said he was unqualified to write a best seller. Anyone whose book sells enough to qualify for that title has earned it. But if you're marketing a work to me as a short story, novelette, novella, or novel, I'm going to hold you to my standards for fiction. And I feel my standards are unashamedly high.


Not to mention that 'Best Sellers' are 'Best Sellers' before they even ship from the printing plant...
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Re: One Second After, by William R. Forstchen

Postby JustSomeOldGuy » Wed Feb 08, 2017 2:04 pm

Another nail in the coffin of the traditional publishing industry was the 1979 Thor Tool vs IRS court case. It had the side effect of making purchasing for public libraries an order of magnitude more frustrating because now items were going out of print (out of stock) at a faster rate than the institutional purchase cycle (annual budget for most, 2 year cycle for some)

Effects[edit]
The Thor decision caused publishers and booksellers to be much quicker to destroy stocks of poorly-selling books in order to realize a taxable loss. These books would previously have been kept in stock but written down to reflect the fact that not all of them were expected to sell.[2]


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Re: One Second After, by William R. Forstchen

Postby Skiprr » Wed Feb 08, 2017 3:31 pm

Jusme wrote:Great post and thanks for sharing your background in the publishing business. (I'll have to be more careful with my grammar and syntax now)

Nope; I'm not the grammar police. And I got interested in publishing because, though the desire was there, I couldn't write. Kinda like the lifetime sportscaster who makes a living calling the game, but never had the talent to play it himself. :mrgreen:

Jusme wrote:I think writing, like most art forms, has faced tremendous changes in just our lifetimes. With the advent of computer aided sounds, and graphics, the consumer driven, instantaneous result oriented, public, sees time consuming prose, composition, and sound, much as we viewed horse drawn transportation. It is quaint, and good for an afternoon distraction, but not worthwhile to really consider it as viable anymore. I still don't own a Kindle or any other dedicated electronic reading device. I do download electronic books to my laptop, but I still prefer being able to turn pages.

Yep. It began over three decades ago shortly after MTV launched and the realization hit that attention spans were being shrunken to nothing over the length of a music video. And seemingly with each improvement in technology, that attention span has continued to shrink while the proclivity to multitask increased.

In spring of 2015, with the publication of a study by Microsoft, we learned that humans now had an average attention span shorter than that piscine mental giant, the goldfish. The study surveyed 2,000 participants and studied the brain activity using EEGs of 112 others. What they found was that, over the space of 15 years, the average attention span dropped 33% down to eight seconds. The lowly goldfish logs in at nine seconds.

One tidbit from the report: "Heavy multi-screeners find it difficult to filter out irrelevant stimuli--they’re more easily distracted by multiple streams of media."

"Look! A squirrel!"

I grew up a reader. My mother had that passion and passed it on, and my parents didn't restrict my reading material (well, within reason; meaning that they didn't try to filter out material based on reading level or seriousness of topic; back then, overtly sexual subjects and profane language were much less common, so it didn't take as much work on their part as it would today). I was reading at a fairly mature level by the time I went into elementary school. The books we read there drove me nuts. I took vocal exception to the "See Jane run" curriculum, which in turn drove my teachers nuts. I'd wake in the middle of the night in second and third grade, sit up with the sheet draped over me, and by flashlight read Ian Fleming, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Johnston McCulley, and Dashiell Hammett, or pulp magazines like Amazing Stories, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, or Weird Tales. No wonder I ended up wearing glasses when I was young. :???:

But if you had a young, imaginative mind in the era of console televisions the size of a deep freeze that housed a rounded, 12-inch black-and-white screen, you read. Now a kid lives in a home with, typically, more than one flat-screen TV, probably with local and internet streaming capabilities plus several hundred cable channels and a gazillion YouTube videos available, one or more desktop or laptop computers and tablets, and seemingly everybody over the age of 10 has a personal smartphone.

"Okay, Google. What is the average person's attention span?"

I don't think the novel, as art form, will disappear anytime soon. But as the Baby Boomer generation dies off, the demand for novels will, I expect, markedly decrease. Add to that the shear volume of terribly written stuff now available in digital form--and able to masquerade as if it were legitimately edited and published--and today's high schoolers or college students who might decide to dabble in reading for entertainment are likely to find all the chaff too hard to sift through and permanently off-putting.

There will always be those in every generation who love the written language, its infinite flexibility, and the nuance it can convey that multimedia immersion simply cannot. But those will be few, and I wouldn't be surprised if hardcopy novel publication doesn't drop below a tenth its current volume by 2040. Hardcopy book publishing in general may face the same decline, but I think textbook sales will provide a longer lifeline before the printing presses go dark.

Of course, there are almost no printing presses left in large book publishing. The printing is electronic now, done by a Ricoh or a Xerox. But the quieting of clacking offset presses is a more tangible metaphor. I don't know if we will ever again see a work challenge for the title of, "The Great American Novel."
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Re: One Second After, by William R. Forstchen

Postby Jusme » Wed Feb 08, 2017 4:09 pm

:iagree:

I too, was a voracious reader, as a child. I lived on the south side of Ft. Worth and we had public libraries, as well as a bookmobile that would bring a set selection, but also you could request books and they would bring them the next week. My favorites were Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes books. I read all of the classics along with some just for fun. My mother enrolled me in the book of the month club, (I forget the publisher) and I always looked forward to them. I tested so highly in reading in school that I was usually allowed to go to the library during reading class to keep from being bored. My son has also inherited that gene, and while he has all of the electronic distractions you listed, he still enjoys sitting down with a book and reading for hours on end.
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Re: One Second After, by William R. Forstchen

Postby ScottDLS » Wed Feb 08, 2017 4:24 pm

I am a big reader also, but I have completely embraced the technology of e-readers and Internet. I've had a subscription the Wall Street Journal since I was 19 and converted it to paperless about 9 years ago, when the e-readers came out. I used to haul paperbacks around with me in my carry on bags for the last 22 years that I've been traveling for business. I still read 1-2 a week, but all on the iPad now. I order the books from my favorite novelists as soon as they're published online.

I like to give hardback books as gifts at Christmastime because they make a nice presentation and there is something nice about the feel of a printed book, but as much as I read books, magazines, and newspapers, I'd run out of space if I didn't go electronic.
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Re: One Second After, by William R. Forstchen

Postby bblhd672 » Wed Feb 08, 2017 4:26 pm

I too read a lot as a youngster, and still do. My mother was a teacher, perhaps that was part of it. The bookmobile (my age indicator) parked in our driveway every Saturday during the summer.
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Re: One Second After, by William R. Forstchen

Postby The Annoyed Man » Wed Feb 08, 2017 5:27 pm

ScottDLS wrote:I am a big reader also, but I have completely embraced the technology of e-readers and Internet. I've had a subscription the Wall Street Journal since I was 19 and converted it to paperless about 9 years ago, when the e-readers came out. I used to haul paperbacks around with me in my carry on bags for the last 22 years that I've been traveling for business. I still read 1-2 a week, but all on the iPad now. I order the books from my favorite novelists as soon as they're published online.

I like to give hardback books as gifts at Christmastime because they make a nice presentation and there is something nice about the feel of a printed book, but as much as I read books, magazines, and newspapers, I'd run out of space if I didn't go electronic.

That's me too, minus the WSJ. Kindle owns me now.
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