An Author on Literature

Alongside Night Tops 300,000 Downloads!


(OPENPRESS) September 20, 2011 — Award-winning author/filmmaker J. Neil Schulman’s “1979 Novel Ripped from Today’s Headlines!” — Alongside Night — has just passed three-hundred-thousand downloads from http://www.alongsidenight.net.

Alongside Night 30th Anniversary PDF edition

The novel portrays the near-future collapse of the American economy due to government overspending and the federal government monetizing its debt — resulting in a hyperinflationary collapse of the dollar — as seen through the eyes of Elliot Vreeland, the teenage son of Nobel-prizewinning economist Dr. Martin Vreeland, key player in a last-ditch attempt to prevent the United States government from collapsing because its money can no longer pay government officials or the military.

Alongside Night was originally published hardcover October 16, 1979 by Crown Publishers, with dust-jacket endorsements from Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman and A Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess.

The novel went on to win rave reviews in publications across the political spectrum from the Los Angeles Times Book Review and Sunday Detroit News to Reason Magazine and Liberty.

It’s often been compared to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. One reviewer wrote, “If Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ was the elementary school of a very effective education in freedom, then J. Neil Schulman’s ‘Alongside Night’ has to be the post-graduate studies course.”

In 1989 Alongside Night won a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award from the Libertarian Futurist Society. The novel was voted the Freedom Book Club’s Book of the Month for May 2009. Also in 2009 the Karl Hess Club cited Alongside Night as one of the reasons it was awarding author J. Neil Schulman its Samuel Edward Konkin III Memorial Chauntecleer Award.

Alongside Night has won cult status among libertarians, gold-bugs, advocates of laissez-faire capitalism, and most recently Tea Party proponents, this last because of endorsements for the novel from Tea Party icons Congressman Ron Paul and Glenn Beck. The novel — endorsed by Samuel Edward Konkin III, author of the New Libertarian Manifesto — is considered one of the founding documents of the international Agorist movement, being the first published presentation of CounterEconomics as an alternative to politics as a means of achieving libertarian social goals.

On June 13, 2009, the novel’s current publisher, Pulpless.Com, made a 30th anniversary PDF edition of Alongside Night available for free download from its website at http://www.alongsidenight.net. The novel quickly became a popular download but went viral when in five days in May 2010 over 100,000 copies of the novel were downloaded.

The 30th Anniversary PDF edition of Alongside Night passed 300,000 downloads on September 19, 2011.

Its text is the same as the 20th Anniversary edition of Alongside Night published by Pulpless.Com in 1999 and still in print as a trade paperback. An Amazon.Com Kindle edition with the same text was also published in 2009, and it was this edition that was read by Glenn Beck.

Dr. Milton Friedman wrote of Alongside Night: “A cautionary tale with a disturbing resemblance to past history and future possibilities.”

Anthony Burgess wrote, “I received Alongside Night at noon today. It is now eight in the evening and I just finished it. I think I am entitled to some dinner now as I had no lunch. The unputdownability of the book ensured that. It is a remarkable and original story, and the picture it presents of an inflation- crippled America on the verge of revolution is all too acceptable. I wish, and so will many novelists, that I, or they, had thought of the idea first. A thrilling novel, crisply written, that fires the imagination as effectively as it stimulates the feelings.”

Congressman Ron Paul wrote, “Alongside Night may be even more relevant today than it was in 1979. Hopefully this landmark work of libertarian science fiction will inspire a new generation of readers to learn more about the ideas of liberty and become active in the freedom movement.”

On his June 2, 2009 radio broadcast Glenn Beck said of Alongside Night, “It reads exactly like my show — written in 1979! Phenomenal! Phenomenal!”

The Los Angeles Times Book Review wrote, “High Drama … A story of high adventure, close escapes, mistaken identities, and thrilling rescues. … A fast-moving tale of a future which is uncomfortably close at hand.”

Publishers Weekly wrote, “An unabashedly polemical, libertarian novel which packages its message in a fast, effectively told action adventure.”

The Sunday Detroit News wrote, “Let me begin with a disclaimer: I don’t really agree with many of J. Neil Schulman’s ideas about society or politics or money. But his first book, Alongside Night, is as enjoyable piece of cautionary fiction as I have read in some years … Like Ayn Rand and Robert A. Heinlein, Schulman can tell a good story!”

Reason Magazine has called Alongside Night, “One of the most widely hailed libertarian novels since the classic works of Ayn Rand.”

Science Fiction Review called it, “Probably the best libertarian novel since Atlas Shrugged.”

Liberty Magazine wrote, “As the seventies ended … the time seemed ripe for a great libertarian novel to appear, and so it did. The novel was Alongside Night…”

Alongside Night’s author, J. Neil Schulman, is also known for his Prometheus-Award-winning novel, The Rainbow Cadenza (Simon & Schuster, 1983), known as the screenwriter of the 1986 CBS Twilight Zone episode “Profile in Silver” in which a time-traveling future historian creates an alternate time-line by stopping the JFK assassination, is author of the Charlton Heston-endorsed nonfiction book Stopping Power: Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns, and is the author of the longest interview ever conducted with science-fiction Grandmaster Robert A. Heinlein, published in Schulman’s The Robert Heinlein Interview and Other Heinleiniana.

In 2006 J. Neil Schulman wrote, produced, and directed the suspense-comedy feature film, Lady Magdalene’s, starring the original Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura, Nichelle Nichols, and the film won “Best Cutting Edge Film” at the 2008 San Diego Black Film Festival, “Audience Choice” at the 2008 Cinema City International Film Festival, and a “Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals” at the 2011 Anthem Film Festival, which is part of FreedomFest. The film is currently available from Amazon.com as a Special Preview DVD and Amazon Instant Video, where the movie’s musical soundtrack is available both as CD’s and as mp3 downloads. Sponsored by Life Enhancement Products, the movie will have its local Nevada. television premiere on Halloween 2011 then be released nationally for broadcast & cable-satellite, as well as a planned Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack to be released in 2012. Its official movie website is at http://www.ladymagdalenes.com.


Link to Alongside Night Official Movie Website

J. Neil Schulman has written a screen adaptation of Alongside Night and is in pre-production to direct it as his second feature film, starring international film and TV star Kevin Sorbo in the role of Dr. Martin Vreeland. Both Schulman and Sorbo are executive producers on the production, and its official movie website at http://www.alongsidenightmovie.com. Facebook maintains a group named Alongside Night — Book to Movie.

Kevin Sorbo and J. Neil Schulman
Kevin Sorbo
and J. Neil Schulman

Kevin Sorbo was the star of the #1 rated worldwide TV series, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and is featured in the 2011 movie Soul Surfer.

New York Times bestselling author Tom Woods has written of the Alongside Night book-to-movie project:

The libertarian world has been doing a good job writing and publishing in economics, history, and philosophy. But to reach a wider audience, we need to go where the people are. For one thing, people read much more fiction than nonfiction. J. Neil Schulman’s Alongside Night is an excellent example of the possibilities for libertarian fiction. And now there’s a move to get his book adapted into a motion picture. Fiction writing and the movies are two areas where we are getting killed. We’re not even putting up a fight. A project like this can change that.

Alongside Night, with major endorsements from Ron Paul and Milton Friedman, its libertarian awards and rave reviews, and the intention of Free to Choose media to use the film in its teaching modules distributed to high schools, is an extremely rare opportunity to make inroads into the mass entertainment media. It would be great to see people of means get behind this important project.

Tom Woods
Tom Woods

This article is Copyright © 2011 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.


Winner of the Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals from the 2011 Anthem Film Festival! My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available as a DVD on Amazon.com and for sale or rental on Amazon.com Instant Video. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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Nick Gillespie at Reason.TV Interviews J. Neil Schulman at FreedomFest 2011

From http://reason.tv/video/show/author-and-filmmaker-j-neil-sc

At FreedomFest 2011, Reason’s Nick Gillespie sat down with author and filmmaker J. Neil Schulman to talk about some of his most recent projects.

J. Neil Schulman at FreedomFest 2011

Held each July in Las Vegas, FreedomFest is attended by around 2,000 libertarians and advocates of limited government. Reason.tv spoke with over two dozen speakers and attendees and will be releasing interviews over the coming weeks. For an ever-growing playlist, go here now.

Scroll down for downloadable versions, and subscribe to our YouTube Channel to receive notifications when new material goes live.

Winner of the Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals from the 2011 Anthem Film Festival! My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available as a DVD on Amazon.com and for sale or rental on Amazon.com Instant Video. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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An Open Statement to Law Enforcement


Late last night I opened up my email queue and found a Google alert. Google Alerts are like the old newspaper clipping services professional publicists used to subscribe to for their clients. These days it’s a simple, no-cost key word search on the web, and I’ve set up several for my name and the titles of things I’ve written. One of them is my 1979 novel, Alongside Night.

This Google alert sent me to the website of an ABC News local station in Tampa, Florida.

Here’s the website link to the news story:


‘Silk Road’ website called the Amazon, eBay of heroin, cocaine, drug trafficking



That got my attention. I read the story. And discovered that my three-decade-old novel directly inspired this drug-trafficking website.

Alongside Night 30th Anniversary Edition
Alongside Night 30th Anniversary Edition

So let me make this clear and open statement to any law-enforcement investigators.

I don’t know anything more than this news story told me.

Nobody from this website has ever told me they were going to do this, are doing it, or identified themselves to me in any way.

I neither buy nor sell nor use illegal drugs.

Investigating me as a way to get to them is a dry hole.

Alongside Night has been in print since 1979. It’s won literary awards, got reviewed a lot, has gotten written about a lot. In the past couple of years there have been over 275,000 downloads of the novel from my website. No, I don’t have any records of who downloaded the novel.

I’m saying this right up front because I have no desire to have a SWAT team raid the home where I am writing this. If you want to interview me for an investigation, my contact information is publicly available here. Make an appointment with me and I’ll willingly tell you everything I know, which — by the way — I just did.

Here are all the links you need to find out everything about Alongside Night:

Download the Novel for Free
Official Movie Website
Official Novel Facebook Page
Official Movie Facebook Page
Amazon.com Page
Wikipedia Article
IMDb Page

Sincerely,

J. Neil Schulman

P.S. I’m currently working on turning Alongside Night into a movie. If you think financing my movie will be helpful to your investigation, I’m willing to take your money.


Winner of the Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals from the 2011 Anthem Film Festival! My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available as a DVD on Amazon.com and for sale or rental on Amazon.com Instant Video. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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My Unfinished 30-Year-Old Debate with Wendy McElroy

Three decades ago, at a libertarian meeting in Los Angeles, the program paired me with Wendy McElroy to debate the question, “Is Copyright a Natural Right?” Wendy argued against. Instead of arguing “for” as I’d agreed to I cheated by abandoning defense of copyright and instead offered my own brand-new theory of all property rights, including property rights in the products of authorship and invention.

In the thirty years since Wendy and I have both published on this topic, but in my view she has never gone beyond the original debate question by addressing my actual presentation.

A few days ago Wendy updated her first publication of her side of the debate and published it as “Contra Copyright, Again.”

Reprinted under a creative commons license, here is Wendy’s new article and my new reply.

–J. Neil Schulman

Author Wendy McElroy
Author Wendy McElroy


Contra Copyright, Again

Wendy McElroy

Retrospective

Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” Los Angeles in the early ’80s was like that for libertarians. It brimmed over with supper clubs, student groups, small magazines, debates and conferences. Given the concentration of high-quality scholars and activists in the area, the explosion of activity was inevitable. Although the new-born Libertarian Party was extremely active, the circles in which I ran were generally anti-political or apathetic about electoral politics. They included the cadre gathered around Robert LeFevre, a sprinkling of Objectivists (mostly admirers of Nathaniel Branden), a few Galambosians, and as many Rothbardians as I could meet. And, then, Carl Watner, George H. Smith and I established our own unique circle by creating The Voluntaryist newsletter and re-introducing the term Voluntaryist back into the libertarian mainstream. A libertarian used book store named Lysander’s Books that I co-owned became the center of Voluntaryism.

One intellectual circle in particular exerted a profound influence on the development of my thinking on intellectual property: the anarcho-capitalists who banded around Samuel Konkin III (or, as he preferred, SEK3), many of whom lived in the same apartment complex as SEK3; the complex became known as the anarcho-village. (In truth, it was SEK3 and Victor Koman rather than the entire circle that exerted the influence.)

My first exposure to the theories that constitute intellectual property came from reading Ayn Rand,[1] but I gave the matter little thought. It was not until reading Lysander Spooner that I began to analyze the issue critically. Spooner advocated a rather extreme form of ownership in ideas. He once wrote, “So absolute is an author’s right of dominion over his ideas that he may forbid their being communicated even by human voice if he so pleases.”[2] I had adopted many of Spooner’s ideas wholesale but I balked at his view of intellectual property. Although I did not then question the claim that ideas could be property, I was disturbed by how closely so much of Spooner’s advocacy came to the Galambosian view at which so many of my companions laughed derisively. Galambos famously had a nickle jar into which he would deposit a coin every time he used a word that had been “invented” by someone else and to whom (in his opinion) he owned money for its use. I thought then (and now) that such ownership claims went against the free flow of knowledge required by a thriving society … or a thriving individual, for that matter. In short, Spooner’s approach to intellectual property felt wrong.

At that same time, I was also engaged in indexing Benjamin Tucker’s 19th century periodical Liberty (1881–1908) and, eventually, I progressed into Tucker’s discussion of intellectual property in which he fundamentally disagreed with the views of his mentor, Spooner. The pre-Stirnerite Tucker considered the issue to be his only deviation from Spooner. As I read the very active debate within Liberty, I began to reduce my commitment to intellectual property, to narrow it. For example, I abandoned altogether the belief that inventions could properly be patented. My belief in copyright, however, was more persistent despite the fact that Murray Rothbard—my idol and my friend—was anti-copyright. Frankly, Murray and I never discussed that subject.

But SEK3 and I did. Many people found SEK3 to be a bit annoying in how he argued ideas. There was a persistence and casual assurance about him that irritated some but which I found charming. SEK3 was always available and “up” for gab-sessions that lasted for hours. He had an uncanny ability to find the strand of thought in your argument which could be reduced to absurdity. Some people bitterly resented this ability because they thought he was making them look foolish but it fascinated me and I found it compelling. Indeed, it had been a similar technique of arguing that had made me relinquish my belief in God at the age of sixteen. SEK3 now used the technique on me and, so, chipped away at my acceptance of copyright.[3] The last blow was dealt by the science-fiction writer and SEK3 cadre Victor Koman who asked me a pointed question at an otherwise forgettable party. Vic asked, “Do you really think you own what is in my mind?” As an anarchist who was then reading both Tucker and 19th century abolitionist tracts, one answer alone was possible: “No.” And, yet, if I claimed ownership over an arrangement of words he had read, then I was answering “yes” because that arrangement now resided in Victor’s mind. If I could compel him (as Spooner suggested) not to speak the words aloud, then I was making an ownership claim over another person’s body.

At that moment—and, granted, it took several months of consideration to reach that moment—I abandoned all belief in intellectual property.

One of SEK3’s cadre who never made the same leap was/is the science-fiction writer J. Neil Schulman. Shortly after my conversion experience, I was asked to debate J. Neil on the topic of copyright at a Westwood supper club that scrapped the dinner part of the evening in order to accommodate a longer program of debate, rebuttal, Q&A. (SEK3 may well have been the more logical choice but, as I said, he irritated some people.) The event was a rousing success in several ways. First, the large room was filled beyond capacity, with people choosing to stand for hours rather than leave. Brad (now my husband of over 20 years) attended as the representative of the Society for Libertarian Life. SLL offered 2 buttons: one pro- and one anti-copyright; as I remember, they sold out.

It was a long evening, mostly due to the fact that J. Neil went over his 20-minute time limit by about 30 minutes. Nevertheless, not a single person left and the Q&A was unusually lively. At first, I was disappointed because the questions were overwhelmingly directed toward J. Neil. But, then, I realized no one was arguing with me. Everyone was taking exception to his presentation on what he called “logorights.” At that point, I relaxed until, finally, the moderator had to cut off questions because the gathering was going beyond the time for which the room had been rented. A group of us adjourned to a Great Earth restaurant and continued the discussion.

J. Neil immediately began to write up his side of the debate and later published it.[4] I followed suit. Since I always write out my presentations, this merely required some polishing to produce “Contra Copyright” which appeared in an early issue of The Voluntaryist newsletter. A still more polished revision appears below.


Contra Copyright

Copyright—the legal claim of ownership over a particular arrangement of symbols—is a complicated issue because the property being claimed is intangible. It has no mass, no shape, no color. For the property claimed is not the specific instance of an idea, not a specific book or pamphlet, but the idea itself and all present or possible instances of its expression.

The title of a recent book on intellectual property, Who Owns What Is In Your Mind?, concretizes a commonsense objection to all intellectual property: most people would loudly proclaim that NO ONE owns what is in their minds, that this realm is sacrosanct. And, yet, if the set of ideas in your mind begins “Howard Roark laughed” do you have the right to transfer it onto paper and publish a book entitled The Fountainhead under your own name? If not, why not? To say you own what is in your mind means you have the right to use and dispose of it as you see fit. If you cannot use and dispose of it, if Ayn Rand (assuming a still-living Rand) is the only one who can use and dispose of this specific arrangement of the alphabet, then she owns that sentence within your mind. And if she owns what is in your mind, you have violated her rights in writing or speaking it because you do not have permission to use her property.

I advocate a form of copyright—free market copyright. I view copyright as a useful social convention to be maintained and enforced through contract and other market (voluntary) mechanisms. This is in contradistinction to those who believe copyright can be derived from natural rights; in other words, ideas or patterns are property and their exclusive ownership does not require a contract anymore than preventing a man from stealing your wallet requires a prior contract.

Basically, the debate over copyright—or, more generally, intellectual property—comes down to two questions: What is property? What are the essential characteristics which make something ownable?: and, What is an idea?

Before going on to a discussion of theory, however. I want to address two implications that often lurk beneath criticism of free market copyright.

First: It is said that the marketplace cannot handle intellectual property issues. Those who contend that ten different people would publish Hamlet under their own names and, so, create cut-throated chaos, are using a form of the “market failure” argument which has been applied to everything from medical care to defense. Similarly, it is claimed, the market cannot regulate the publishing industry. The opposite is true. When I co-owned a used book store—a business which is virtually unregulated—I was astonished at how effectively the free market spontaneously set standards. It was not uncommon for stores in L.A. to know the specifics of a stolen book or a forged autograph the day after it had been spotted in New York.

Second, it is said that free market copyright would strip authors of valid protection or credit for their own work. When Benjamin Tucker—a 19th century libertarian opponent of copyright—was accused of stripping authors of protection, he replied: “It must not be inferred that I wish to deprive the authors of reasonable rewards for their labor. On the contrary, I wish to help them secure such, and I believe that there are Anarchistic methods of doing so.”[5] Equally, those who oppose state-enforced copyright are not seeking to victim authors but to use free market mechanisms to offer whatever protection is just.

Returning to theory … The issue of copyright hinges on the question: can ideas be property? Which leads to another question: what are the characteristics of property?

Tucker addressed this issue in fundamental terms. He asked why the concept of property had originated in the first place. If ideas are viewed as problem-solving devices, as answers to questions, then what about the nature of reality and the nature of man gave rise to the idea of property? In a brilliant analysis, Tucker concluded that property arose as a means of solving conflicts caused by scarcity. Since all goods are scarce, there is competition for their use. Since the same chair cannot be used in the same manner at the same time by two individuals, it was necessary to determine who should use the chair. Property resolved this problem. The owner of the chair determined its use. “If it were possible,” wrote Tucker,

and if it had always been possible, for an unlimited number of individuals to use to an unlimited extent and in an unlimited number of places the same concrete things at the same time, there would never have been any such thing as the institution of property.[6]

Yet ideas defy scarcity. Since the same idea or pattern can be used by an unlimited number to an unlimited extent in unlimited locations, Tucker concluded that copyright ran counter to the very purpose of property itself, which was to ascertain the correct allocation of a scarce good.

Copyright contradicts not merely the purpose of property but also the essential characteristics of property, one such characteristic being transferability. Property has to be alienable: you must be able to dispossess yourself of it. The individualist anarchist, James L. Walker, commented, “The giver or seller parts with it [meaning property] in conveying it. This characteristic distinguishes property from skill and information.”[7] When you buy the skill and information of a doctor who gives you a check up, for example, you don’t acquire a form of title, as you would acquire title to a car from a car dealer, because the doctor is unable to alienate the information from himself. He cannot transfer it to you: he can only share it.

It was this point, transferability, that lead Thomas Jefferson to reject ideas as property. Jefferson drew an analogy between ideas and candles. Just as a man could light his taper from a candle without diminishing the original flame, so too could he acquire an idea without diminishing the original one. Jefferson wrote:

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is … an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it.[8]

When a poet reads or sells poetry without a contract, when he throws his ideas and patterns into the public realm, the listeners receive information, not property. For the publicized poems to be property they must be transferable, alienable. Yet, as the egoist J.B. Robinson said, “What is an idea? Is it made of wood, or iron, or stone? The idea is nothing objective, that is to say, the idea is not part of the product: it is part of the producer.”[9]

In other words, if the poet claims ownership to the pattern of words in his listener’s head, this reduces to a form of slavery since the ownership claim is over an aspect of the listener’s body: namely, his mind, his knowledge. Such a claim is comparable to saying you own the blood in someone else’s arm. Certainly, you could buy the blood—perhaps for a transfusion—but such a purchase would be contractual and not based on natural right.

Everyone owns the ideas within their own minds. If there is only one instance of a specific idea or arrangement of ideas—e.g. a writer who locks his novel in a desk drawer—then the idea is protected by natural right, by the author’s to self-ownership. He has right to live in peace and silence and maintain a locked desk; no one can properly break into his desk and steal his property. When an author chooses to publicize his ideas without securing protection based on a listener’s or reader’s consent, however, he loses the protection afforded by his self-ownership. He loses what Tucker called ‘“the right of inviolability of person.”

To restate this: I own my ideas because they are in my mind and you can get at them only through my consent or through using force. My ideas are like stacks of money locked inside a vault which you cannot acquire without breaking in and stealing. But, if I throw the vault open and scatter my money on the wind, the people who pick it up off the street are no more thieves than the people who pick up and use the words I throw into the public realm. And, yet, the poet might respond, no one is forced to absorb the poetry floating through the culture. They do so of their own free will. Therefore, says the poet, there is an implied contract or obligation on the part of the listener not to use it without permission.

Victor Yarros, Tucker’s main opponent on copyright in the 19th Century movement argued along these lines. He claimed, “All Mr. Tucker has the right to demand is that these things shall not be brought to his own private house and placed before his eyes.”[10] Tucker responded,

Some man comes along and parades in the streets and we are told that, in consequence of this act on his part, we must either give up our liberty to walk the streets or else our liberty to ideas … Not so fast my dear sir! … Were you compelled to parade on the streets? And why do you ask us to protect you from the consequences?[11]

Moreover, the introduction of an implied contract between the poet and listener is a two-edged sword. To fall back on some sort of implied agreement implicitly admits that copyright is a matter of contract, not of natural law for one does not need to fall back on contract to protect natural rights. If a man steals your money, there is no need to appeal to an agreement—implied or otherwise—to justify a demand for restitution. Restitution occurs because it was your money. Only when you are dealing with those things to which you have no natural right must you appeal to contract.

Historically, copyright has been handled differently than patents. Many people accept copyrights while rejecting patents. The distinction is usually based on two points: (1) literature is considered pure, personal creation as opposed to inventions which rely on the discovery of relationships that already exist within within nature: and (2) independent creation of literature is considered to be impossible. Copyright is said to protect style or the pattern of expression rather than the ideas expressed. By contrast, most people agree that ideas themselves can be independently and even simultaneously created—for example, Walras, Jevons and Menger all separately originated the theory of marginal utility—but they do not agree that style can be independently or honestly duplicated.

The issue of duplication of style raises interesting questions. For one thing, it is not unknown for poetry, especially short poems, to closely resemble each other. Do these chance similarities constitute duplication? Do they violate copyright laws? If they don’t, what prevents me from taking Atlas Shrugged and publishing it under my name after changing one word in each sentence? This would produce a similar pattern but not a duplicate one. If copyright would prevent me from doing this, then it is aimed not only at prohibiting exact duplications but at prohibiting similarities as well. And similarities are quite within the realm of honest possibility, especially when the guidelines of what constitute similarity are vague.

Many advocates of copyright would argue that honest similarities in nature are impossible or highly improbable. But laws should be based on principle, not upon probability. Tucker wrote:

To discuss the degrees of probability is to shoot wide of the mark. Such questions as this are not to be decided by rule of thumb or by the law of chances, but in accordance with some general principle … among the things not logically impossible. I know of few nearer the limit of possibility than that I should ever desire to publish in the middle of the desert of Sahara: nevertheless, this would scarcely justify any great political power in giving someone a right to stake out a claim comprising that entire region and forbid me to set up a printing press.[12]

In short, a question of right must be determined by a general theory of rights, not the likelihood of circumstances.

In regard to the ownership of a form of expression—of what is called “style”—Tucker believed that a particular combination of words belonged to no one; the method of expressing an idea was an idea in and itself and, therefore, “not appropriable.” As long as you are not claiming ownership of a specific instance of a book, but of the abstracted style of every instance of this book, you are claiming ownership of an idea.

Examples of styles or patterns surround us everywhere. In chairs, shoes, hairstyles, gardens, clothes, wallpaper, the arrangement of furniture … patterns are everywhere. And if it is out of respect for style that arrangements of words cannot be duplicated, then for that same reason, a shoemaker cannot duplicate shoes. Women cannot duplicate hairstyles or clothes for, after all, these items express style as much as a sonnet does. Yet it is only with the sonnet, with literature that the originators clamor for special, legal protection. If copyright were not the norm, if all of us had not grown up with it, we might consider it as absurd as a house owner claiming special, legal protection of the pattern of colors with which he had painted his home or the arrangement of rocks in his garden.

Indeed, to be consistent, the copyright advocate has to reduce his position to similar absurdity. For example, not merely writing but all of speech is a personal form of expression; speech is an arrangement of the alphabet in much the same manner as writing is. Therefore, by the advocate’s own standards, a man should be entitled to legal protection for every sentence he utters so that no one thereafter can utter it without his consent. Lysander Spooner, a defender of copyright much quoted by libertarians, seemed to consider this possibility when he wrote, “So absolute is an author’s right of dominion over his ideas that he may forbid their being communicated even by human voice if he so pleases.”[13]

Think about that statement; it is frightening in its implications for the free flow of ideas and knowledge upon which human progress depends. I do not believe state-enforced copyright protects the just profits of an author. I agree with George Bernard Shaw who contended “copyright is the cry of men who are not satisfied with being paid for their work once but insist upon being paid twice, thrice and a dozen times over.”[14] I believe free market copyright would temper the immense profits that can be made from writing, and that they should be tempered because such profits do not reflect just rewards so much as they do a state monopoly.

Moreover, I do not believe that the absence of state enforcement would destroy literature Most of the world’s great authors—Shakespeare for example—wrote without copyright. As for the possible destruction of the publishing industry, Tucker—a publisher—explained:

Why did two competing editions of the Kreutzer Sonata [a book he issued —WM] appear on the market before mine had had the field two months? Simply because money was pouring into my pockets with a rapiditv that nearly took my breath away. And after my rivals took the field if poured in faster than ever.[15]

As a writer I am eager to maximize my profits. I am not so eager. however, that I would claim ownership to what is in your mind. My attitude toward writers and lecturers who throw their products into the streets and, yet, claim legal protection as they do so is the same as that once uttered by Tucker: “You want your invention to yourself? Then keep it to yourself.”[16]

The energy being expended in debating intellectual property would be better used in exploring methods by which the free market could protect the just rewards of intellectual products.

*Wendy McElroy (wendy@wendymcelroy.com) is author of several books and maintains two active websites: wendymcelroy.com and ifeminists.com. This article contains a new introduction and a revised version of McElroy’s “Contra Copyright,” The Voluntaryist 3, no. 4 (June 1985), http://www.voluntaryist.com/toc.html.

Cite this article as: Wendy McElroy, “Contra Copyright, Again,” Libertarian Papers 3, 12 (2011). Online at: libertarianpapers.org. This article is subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (creativecommons.org/licenses). Published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

[1]See Ayn Rand, “Patents and Copyrights,” in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1970).

[2]Lysander Spooner, The Law of Intellectual Property; Or an Essay on the Right of Authors and Inventors to a Perpetual Property in their Ideas (1855), p. 125, http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=2243&Itemid=27.

[3]SEK3’s views on IP are expressed in Samuel Edward Konkin III, “Copywrongs,” The Voluntaryist (July 1986), http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig11/konkin1.1.1.html.

[4]See J. Neil Schulman, “Informational Property—Logorights,” Journal of Social and Biological Structures, 13 no. 2 (1990), pp. 93–117,

http://jneilschulman.agorist.com/2009/12/classic-j-neil-informational-property-logorights/.

[5]For further discussion of Tucker’s views on property and IP, see my article “Copyright and Patent in Benjamin Tucker’s Periodical,” Mises Daily (July 28, 2010), originally published in Wendy McElroy, ed., The Debates of Liberty: An Overview of Individualist Anarchism, 1881–1908 (Lexington, 2003).

[6]“More on Copyright,” Liberty 7 (December 27, 1890): 5.

[7]“Copyright.–IV,” Liberty 8 (May 30, 1891): 3.

[8]Thomas Jefferson to Isaac McPherson (Aug. 13, 1813), http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/a1_8_8s12.html.

[9]“A New Argument Against Copyright,” Liberty 8 (May 16, 1891): 5.

[10]“The Right to Authorship,” Liberty 7 (February 21, 1891): 4.

[11]Commentary on “The Right to Authorship,” Liberty 7 (February 21, 1891): 5.

[12]Commentary on Yarros, “More About Copyright,” Liberty7 (Dec 27, 1890): 4, at 5.

[13] Spooner, The Law of Intellectual Property, p. 125.

[14]Quoted in Clarence Lee Swartz, What is Mutualism? (1927), http://www.panarchy.org/swartz/mutualism.5.html.

[15]Commentary on “The Reward of Authors,” Liberty 7 (January 10, 1891): 6.

[16]“The Knot-Hole in the Fence,” Liberty 7 (April 18, 1891): 6.



J. Neil Schulman Reply

I could not blame Wendy McElroy for not being prepared to debate the new theory of property rights I first presented in debate with her, but she’s now had thirty years to debate my theory and she has still never done it. For in that presentation I undercut all the assumptions she was prepared to debate and in effect left her to debate the straw man she brought into the room with her. She is still debating that straw man. She has never debated me.

Wendy was prepared to debate statist copyrights and patents. Wendy was prepared to refute the ownership of ideas. Wendy was prepared to argue that the intangible could not be owned. Wendy was prepared to argue that no one could own what existed only inside someone else’s head.

I rejected all of those assumptions in the first five minutes of my presentation. I rejected both the terms “copyright” and “intellectual property” in the first fifteen minutes.

Maybe Wendy should have taken some notes and actually tried to answer my presentation. Instead, she went on with her pre-prepared speech and left it to the audience to listen and debate with me.

One of the audience members — Robert LeFevre — lent his endorsement to my presentation when I soon published it as a pamphlet. Unfortunately after thirty years LeFevre’s actual words are in a storage locker in a box somewhere, and it will be a while before I can recover them.

What Wendy has never in thirty years addressed is that my logorights theory is not a theory of intellectual property but a new natural-rights theory of property deriving from the concept of “material identity.” Previous theories of property made a distinction between real property — and Locke wrote about ownership arising from a man mixing his labor with land to homestead it — and everything else, which was regarded as ephemeral if not completely intangible. Nineteenth century libertarians divided along a false dichotomy because what property actually was and how it came into being had never been rigorously defined.

That’s the task I took on in my debate with Wendy and in the articles that soon followed.

My argument should not be hard to understand for someone like Wendy who has a familiarity with Ayn Rand’s Aristotelian-based epistemology and ontology.

If an author writes an original work that work is not the materials upon which the work is printed. This might have been a hard concept to understand in the age before computers — although I think Morse and Tesla could easily have grasped it — but an author created something which is objectively real and can be apprehended, as can any real thing, by observing its component properties.

When I completed writing my first novel Alongside Night it was not something intangible existing only in my mind. The process of writing was making something that was objectively real and capable of being seen by others than myself. The whole nature and purpose of authorship is other-directed.

The first medium that carried the novel was typing paper; but over the years this real and new thing I made has existed not just as typescript but also in bound books, on computer disks, as information objects transmitted over media both wired and wireless; and soon to be both an audio dramatization from Sound of Liberty/ARTC and a movie produced and directed by me, from my own screenplay adaptation.

None of these things are ideas. None of these things owe their existence to what is in someone else’s head. All of these things are reflections and usages of a thing I made and the component properties and uses that can be extracted from the whole.

I have used several different terms to explain this over the past thirty years since my first presentation. I have called these things a “logos” and the property rights in them logorights. I have used the terms “informational property” and referred to the “material identity” which makes anything ownable as property.

I specifically addressed the necessity of property, to be an economic good, to be scarce, and explained how a property, to be ownable, does not need to be limited in all dimensions (land ownership, for example, does not own the unlimited sky above it), but only in some dimensions.

I’ve explained how the limits of what a specific logos or information is by the Law of Identity makes it a scarce item of commerce, no matter that there be a single copy or a trillion. The copies being identical to the original, the number of existents vary but the entity — thing — itself remains unique and therefore scarce because copying does not change its defining identity.

As I recently posted elsewhere:

How many copies of Atlas Shrugged exist? Millions. How many Atlas Shrugged‘s are there? One. Atlas Shrugged is just as scarce a commodity as the day Ayn Rand finished the manuscript. It was one Atlas Shrugged then and one Atlas Shrugged now. Atlas Shrugged is a unique thing. Only the number of carriers of that singular and scarce object varies.

I’ve also explained how separating out rights for different uses of that property — and licensing them — is no different than leasing a house or apartment, or dividing use of a space by time (as in a timeshare), or selling a ride in a car as opposed to the car itself — and that the assumption that, in allowing others to observe and make use of a created work of distinct material identity the owner abandons his ownership of the thing, necessarily must annihilate the concept of private property entirely.

Most recently, in an attempt to leave in my rearview mirror the straw-man debates about owning ideas, intangibles, and what is in other people’s minds, I have devised the term Media Carried Property (MCP) as a replacement for the misleading term IP — even when by that abbreviation I meant not Intellectual Property but Informational Property.

MCP says what I mean better and without as much baggage.

Wendy has never addressed any of this. Perhaps she believes one has to be long dead before one’s ideas should be addressed.

Or maybe Victor Koman was just more dashing than I was.

References:

The Libertarian Case for IP

MCP


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Alongside Night Tops Quarter Million Downloads


(OPENPRESS) December 30, 2010 — Award-winning author/filmmaker J. Neil Schulman’s “1979 Novel Ripped from Today’s Headlines!” — Alongside Night — has just passed a quarter million downloads from http://www.alongsidenight.net.

Alongside Night 30th Anniversary PDF edition

The novel portrays the near-future collapse of the American economy due to government overspending and the federal government monetizing its debt — resulting in a hyperinflationary collapse of the dollar — as seen through the eyes of Elliot Vreeland, the teenage son of Nobel-prizewinning economist Dr. Martin Vreeland, key player in a last-ditch attempt to prevent the United States government from collapsing because its money can no longer pay government officials or the military.

Alongside Night was originally published hardcover October 16, 1979 by Crown Publishers, with dust-jacket endorsements from Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman and A Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess.

The novel went on to win rave reviews in publications across the political spectrum from the Los Angeles Times Book Review and Sunday Detroit News to Reason Magazine and Liberty.

It’s often been compared to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. One reviewer wrote, “If Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ was the elementary school of a very effective education in freedom, then J. Neil Schulman’s ‘Alongside Night’ has to be the post-graduate studies course.”

In 1989 Alongside Night won a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award from the Libertarian Futurist Society. The novel was voted the Freedom Book Club’s Book of the Month for May 2009. Also in 2009 the Karl Hess Club cited Alongside Night as one of the reasons it was awarding author J. Neil Schulman its Samuel Edward Konkin III Memorial Chauntecleer Award.

Alongside Night has won cult status among libertarians, gold-bugs, advocates of laissez-faire capitalism, and most recently Tea Party proponents, this last because of endorsements for the novel from Tea Party icons Congressman Ron Paul and Glenn Beck. The novel — endorsed by Samuel Edward Konkin III, author of the New Libertarian Manifesto — is considered one of the founding documents of the international Agorist movement, being the first published presentation of CounterEconomics as an alternative to politics as a means of achieving libertarian social goals.

On June 13, 2009, the novel’s current publisher, Pulpless.Com, made a 30th anniversary PDF edition of Alongside Night available for free download from its website at http://www.alongsidenight.net. The novel quickly became a popular download but went viral when in five days in May 2010 over 100,000 copies of the novel were downloaded.

The 30th Anniversary PDF edition of Alongside Night passed 250,000 downloads on December 27, 2010.

Its text is the same as the 20th Anniversary edition of Alongside Night published by Pulpless.Com in 1999 and still in print as a trade paperback. An Amazon.Com Kindle edition with the same text was also published in 2009, and it was this edition that was read by Glenn Beck.

Dr. Milton Friedman wrote of Alongside Night: “A cautionary tale with a disturbing resemblance to past history and future possibilities.”

Anthony Burgess wrote, “I received Alongside Night at noon today. It is now eight in the evening and I just finished it. I think I am entitled to some dinner now as I had no lunch. The unputdownability of the book ensured that. It is a remarkable and original story, and the picture it presents of an inflation- crippled America on the verge of revolution is all too acceptable. I wish, and so will many novelists, that I, or they, had thought of the idea first. A thrilling novel, crisply written, that fires the imagination as effectively as it stimulates the feelings.”

Congressman Ron Paul wrote, “Alongside Night may be even more relevant today than it was in 1979. Hopefully this landmark work of libertarian science fiction will inspire a new generation of readers to learn more about the ideas of liberty and become active in the freedom movement.”

On his June 2, 2009 radio broadcast Glenn Beck said of Alongside Night, “It reads exactly like my show — written in 1979! Phenomenal! Phenomenal!”

The Los Angeles Times Book Review wrote, “High Drama … A story of high adventure, close escapes, mistaken identities, and thrilling rescues. … A fast-moving tale of a future which is uncomfortably close at hand.”

Publishers Weekly wrote, “An unabashedly polemical, libertarian novel which packages its message in a fast, effectively told action adventure.”

The Sunday Detroit News wrote, “Let me begin with a disclaimer: I don’t really agree with many of J. Neil Schulman’s ideas about society or politics or money. But his first book, Alongside Night, is as enjoyable piece of cautionary fiction as I have read in some years … Like Ayn Rand and Robert A. Heinlein, Schulman can tell a good story!”

Reason Magazine has called Alongside Night, “One of the most widely hailed libertarian novels since the classic works of Ayn Rand.”

Science Fiction Review called it, “Probably the best libertarian novel since Atlas Shrugged.”

Liberty Magazine wrote, “As the seventies ended … the time seemed ripe for a great libertarian novel to appear, and so it did. The novel was Alongside Night…”

Alongside Night’s author, J. Neil Schulman, is also known for his Prometheus-Award-winning novel, The Rainbow Cadenza (Simon & Schuster, 1983), known as the screenwriter of the 1985 CBS Twilight Zone episode “Profile in Silver” in which a time-traveling future historian creates an alternate time-line by stopping the JFK assassination, is author of the Charlton Heston-endorsed nonfiction book Stopping Power: Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns, and is the author of the longest interview ever conducted with science-fiction Grandmaster Robert A. Heinlein, published in Schulman’s The Robert Heinlein Interview and Other Heinleiniana.

In 2006 J. Neil Schulman wrote, produced, and directed the suspense-comedy feature film, Lady Magdalene’s, starring the original Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura, Nichelle Nichols, and the film won “Best Cutting Edge Film” at the 2008 San Diego Black Film Festival and “Audience Choice” at the 2008 Cinema City International Film Festival. The film may be streamed or downloaded from Amazon.com, where the movie’s musical soundtrack is available both as CD’s and as mp3 downloads. Its official movie website is at http://www.ladymagdalenes.com and it’s listed on IMDb.


Link to Alongside Night Official Movie Website

J. Neil Schulman has written a screen adaptation of Alongside Night and is in pre-production to direct it as his second feature film, starring international film and TV star Kevin Sorbo in the role of Dr. Martin Vreeland. Both Schulman and Sorbo are executive producers on the production, which is listed on IMDb and its official movie website at http://www.alongsidenightmovie.com. Facebook maintains a group named Alongside Night — Book to Movie. Wikipedia maintains an article on Alongside Night.

Kevin Sorbo and J. Neil Schulman
Kevin Sorbo
and J. Neil Schulman

Kevin Sorbo was the star of the #1 rated worldwide TV series, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.

New York Times bestselling author Tom Woods has written of the Alongside Night book-to-movie project:

The libertarian world has been doing a good job writing and publishing in economics, history, and philosophy. But to reach a wider audience, we need to go where the people are. For one thing, people read much more fiction than nonfiction. J. Neil Schulman’s Alongside Night is an excellent example of the possibilities for libertarian fiction. And now there’s a move to get his book adapted into a motion picture. Fiction writing and the movies are two areas where we are getting killed. We’re not even putting up a fight. A project like this can change that.

Alongside Night, with major endorsements from Ron Paul and Milton Friedman, its libertarian awards and rave reviews, and the intention of Free to Choose media to use the film in its teaching modules distributed to high schools, is an extremely rare opportunity to make inroads into the mass entertainment media. It would be great to see people of means get behind this important project.

Tom Woods
Tom Woods

This article is Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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A Rich Businessman Complains About Movies




Him: I’m so sick of movies that make businessmen like me the bad guy. All I want is to make money by producing products that people need, free from government bureaucracy. Why do Hollywood producers always portray businessmen as unscrupulous monsters like Gordon Gekko in Wall Street or Parker Selfridge in Avatar? Even in a movie like Alvin and the Chipmunks, the Chipmunks business manager wants to put them in cages and make them slaves. I don’t want slaves. I don’t want to win by making other people lose. I don’t want to kill the Na’vi. I like tall blue people with tails and cute talking rodents. Why do movies make me the bad guy?

Her: So why don’t you finance a movie with a script you like?

Him: I never thought of that. You mean all I have to do is find a script I like and write a check?

Her: Yes. And I know of a good one. It’s called Alongside Night. It’s based on a famous underground novel with lots of great endorsements, reviews, and awards. It was endorsed by Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman. It was endorsed by Anthony Burgess, who wrote A Clockwork Orange. It won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. Ron Paul endorsed it. Glenn Beck raved about it on his radio show. The author is directing it from his own script. He’s already written and directed another movie called Lady Magdalene’s. He wrote for the Twilight Zone, the one where a future historian prevents the JFK assassination. Alongside Night reflects all your higher values. It will be exactly the type of movie you want to see!

Him: But how do I know the movie will be any good?

Her: The filmmaker is J. Neil Schulman. He already has Kevin Sorbo and Erick Avari cast in the movie. He has an Emmy-winning line producer. All you need to do is email Neil and he will send you everything a businessman like you needs to finance this movie. He will even make you an executive producer on the movie. If you want he will put your name above the title. All he needs is the financing to set a start date. And even if you don’t make money, you will have produced a movie which educates the public about the principles of free-market economics and individual liberty.

Him: But why should I risk my money? I’d rather just continue to bitch about movies I don’t like. Culture doesn’t matter anyway. Let only socialists make movies. I don’t care. I’ve only read one novel in my entire life. Atlas Shrugged. Actually, I didn’t even read it all the way. I just read John Galt’s speech and the sex scenes between John Galt and Dagny Taggart.

Her: You are an incredible asshole. I hope communists take all your property and throw you in prison. You are as selfish and stupid as they say you are. Eat shit and die.

Him: Okay, you’ve convinced me. I have learned better. I have changed my ways. Where do I send the check?

Her: J. Neil Schulman has a website. He has a blog. He is on Wikipedia and IMDB and Amazon.com. He is on Facebook. He is on Twitter. He is on LinkedIn. You can Google him. Neil will send you the script and the budget. It costs less than you think. Google Alongside Night! In the name of all that is good and holy, Google J. Neil Schulman and Alongside Night! This movie might save you! The capitalist fortune you keep out of the hands of the socialist hordes might be your own!

Him: I would but I am only a cartoon character. So which rich businessman in the real world will do what I would do if I were real?

If you are a rich businessman as smart as this cartoon character, email J. Neil Schulman at jneil@jesulu.com so Neil can email you the movie script, budget, and everything someone would need to finance this movie. This cartoon is for entertainment purposes only and is not a solicitation to invest. And when Neil sends you information on what he needs to make the movie, that isn’t a solicitation to invest, either. In fact, nothing Neil ever says to anyone is a solicitation to invest. You have to beg Neil to put money into this movie and if he’s in a good mood he might agree to take your money. He just wants to save the world. No kidding.


J. Neil Schulman addresses LibertopiaJ. Neil Schulman addresses Libertopia

For a more serious discussion of why Alongside Night should be a movie, listen to my October 17, 2010 Libertopia speech, Reloading the American Revolution.



Alongside Night Scary Poster
Go to the Alongside Night Official Movie Website

This article and its links are Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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If I’m So Smart, Why Ain’t I Rich?

Amazon Kindle

From an Amazon.com News Release, July 19, 2010:

  • Over the past three months, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 143 Kindle books. Over the past month, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 180 Kindle books. This is across Amazon.com’s entire U.S. book business and includes sales of hardcover books where there is no Kindle edition. Free Kindle books are excluded and if included would make the number even higher.
  • Amazon sold more than 3x as many Kindle books in the first half of 2010 as in the first half of 2009.
  • The Association of American Publishers’ latest data reports that e-book sales grew 163 percent in the month of May and 207 percent year-to-date through May. Kindle book sales in May and year-to-date through May exceeded those growth rates.
  • On July 6, Hachette announced that James Patterson had sold 1.14 million e-books to date. Of those, 867,881 were Kindle books.
  • Five authors–Charlaine Harris, Stieg Larsson, Stephenie Meyer, James Patterson, and Nora Roberts–have each sold more than 500,000 Kindle books.


Here Come The Paperless Books

by J. Neil Schulman
President
SoftServ Publishing Services, Inc.

Version 1.2
December, 1987
Copyright © 1987 by J. Neil Schulman.
All Rights Reserved.

Logoright (L) 1987 by J. Neil Schulman.


The SoftServ Concept

SoftServ Publishing Services, Inc., is a recently formed
company creating the new information-media service industry of
Electronic Mass-Market Trade Publishing. The types of Works
previously available only as bound books–novels, anthologies,
self-help books, biographies, cookbooks, etc.–will be made
available as text files accessible on computers, either by
purchase of disks or as downloads via telephone lines using
modems. Once available on computer, they will be available to
monitors, to printers, to voice synthesizers, and–ultimately–to
pocket-size electronic “book players.”


Introduction
Publishing: History versus Ideal

Publishing exists both as an historical development and as a
theoretical ideal.

We need not deal here with much of the history: it is too
richly documented elsewhere. Still, we can note that since it
began in earnest with the invention of movable type by Johann
Gutenberg over five centuries ago, it has been assumed that
publishing occurs when a composed Work is set into type or onto
plates, when type or plate imprints ink onto sheets of paper,
when those sheets of paper are bound together into books or
periodicals, and when multiple copies of those imprinted books or
periodicals are distributed and marketed to people interested in
reading that composed Work.

As a theoretical game, publishing is far simpler: it is any
efficient and desirable medium for a composed Work to be made
available to those wishing access to it. This implies two
ultimate players: the Author of the composed Work, and the Reader
of it. All other players are Mediators between Author and
Reader. Further, Author and Reader each have an idealizable goal
of transmitting the Work from one to the other with as little
mediation between them as possible.

The Author’s Ideal is to create a Work that fulfills both
some internal goal (such as self-expression) and some external
goal (such as proselytizing or making money), to inform all
potential Readers of its information or entertainment value, and
to have it unceasingly available to all Readers who desire it.

The Reader’s Ideal is to have as varied a choice of Works as
possible for information and entertainment, to have elegant tests
to determine which of those Works are desired (and filter out
those which are not), and to have such Works available, as
painlessly as possible, whenever and wherever desired.

This article will proceed on these assumptions as follows:

First it will analyze the process, then demonstrate the
failures–and note success where due–of the current Trade and
Mass-Market Book Publishing Industry in serving these defined
ideals of Authors and Readers. It will then analyze and
demonstrate how the currently emerging technological media of
Computers and Data Communication can more-closely approach the
ideals of both Authors and Readers.

Second, it will show how SoftServ Publishing Services, Inc., is
creating the new information-media service industry of Electronic
Mass-Market Trade Publishing.

Note that the new industry is not electronic book
publishing. We are here proposing a new kind of publishing in
which the very concept implied by the word “book” needs to be
redefined, delimited, and in some cases discarded. Creation of
any new industry should never be looked upon as anything less
than mightily formidable. In discussing publishing that has no
ultimate need for paper, ink, glue, or binding, this task must,
at the start, seem daunting.

Authors write–publishers publish, critics critique, stores
sell, libraries shelve, and readers read–books. When one begins
by telling Authors and Readers that what they have been trading
for the last five centuries are not really books but what has
been recorded and transported inside books, then one is likely to
encounter–at least at first, at least among a significant part
of the populace–the sort of incredulity and stubbornness that
manufacturers of Horseless Carriages received when what had been
readily apparent to any moron for thousands of years was the
primary importance not of the carriage but of the horse.

Ultimately, people decided that carriages pulled by
horsepower rather than by horses worked better for getting
around, but that horses would still have an honored place on the
racetrack and at the riding academy.

So, I expect, it will be with “Paperless Books.”

Bound books will still have their place in the hearts–and
on the shelves–of those who appreciate their history, the beauty
of the crafts used in making them, the almost sensual smells of
paper and ink. For certain readers, books will remain delightful
to look at, wonderful to hold. For certain authors, there will
always be something approaching ecstasy in seeing their names on
the title page of a book, their words shining off the semi-
glossed sheets bound within.

But the Paperless Book will come as surely as did the
Horseless Carriage, and for the same reasons. Automobiles were
far better than horses at getting from one place to another.
Given the commonality, and approaching universality, of computers
and modems, software is simply far better than bound books at
getting Works from Author to Reader.

Let us say a profound thank you to Herr Gutenberg for giving
us economically practical books. Let us next give thanks to
Caxton, Cerf, and Ballantine for giving us quality books, for
their times, in the largest quantity and lowest price possible.

Then let us proceed to doing what Gutenberg, Caxton, Cerf,
and Ballantine were properly doing for their generations: making
the bridle path between Author and Reader as short, smooth, and
straightforward as possible.


I.
Book Publishing Today

Who has not heard the phrase, “You can’t judge a book by its
cover”? Yet, the obvious truth to anyone who gives even a
cursory glance at the process by which books today are ordered,
distributed, and vended, is that often the only ways books are
judged is by their covers.

The process of publishing books today is not driven by what
readers wish to read or by what authors wish to write, or even by
what editors wish to buy for publication.

For trade hardcovers and trade paperbacks, the process is
driven, chiefly, by what the large retail bookstore chains–
Waldenbooks, B. Dalton, Barnes & Noble–are willing to order and
display on their shelves. Secondarily, it’s driven by what chain
retailers such as K-Mart and Bradlees are willing to order and
display. Using the horse-racing analogy, the aggregate orders
from independent bookstores show, but rarely place or win, when
it comes to creating display space for a book.

For mass-market paperbacks–in addition to the
aforementioned outlets–the ordering process is driven by what
newspaper and magazine distributors are willing to order,
warehouse, and send out with their trucks for their drivers to
stack on wire racks in supermarkets, convenience stores, and
airports.

Both trade book and mass-market-paperback retailing are
driven by the same basic assumption that is used for selling soft
drinks, soap, and toilet paper: display space is valuable. Put a
product up: if it sells fast, reorder; if it doesn’t move, pull
it off and ship it back.

Retailers consider book-purchasing largely an impulse “buy”
based on generic use (the category: Romance, Biography, Science
Fiction, or Self-Help), brand familiarity (the author’s name),
packaging (the cover illustration, promo copy, and quotes), and
promotion (advertising and publicity).

Aside from price, the only difference between trade book and
mass-market paperback publishing is that unsold trade books are
shipped back to the publisher’s or distributor’s warehouse while
unsold mass-market paperbacks–like unsold magazines–have their
covers stripped off and sent back to the publisher for credit.
Minus their covers, unsold mass-market paperback books are
destroyed.

The necessity of product turnover is such a major element in
book retailing that the shelf-life of 95% of published books
should be measured in the halflives of highly radioactive
isotopes.

The shelf-life of a hardcover book averages six months
before unsold copies are removed from shelves and shipped back to
the warehouse, there to be marked down to or below unit cost and
sent back to bookstores as “remainders.” One year after
publication, all but bestselling hardcovers are virtually
impossible to find in the chain retail outlets other than as a
remainder unprofitable to either publisher or author.

The shelf-life of a paperback book averages six weeks before
unsold copies are removed from racks, have their covers stripped
for credit, and destroyed. Eight months after publication–for
all but bestsellers–a paperback won’t be found anywhere but
independent bookstores. Even a successful paperback isn’t immune
to a retail book outlet stripping covers for credit against new
orders even of the same book. Thus are still-salable books
regularly destroyed by retailers and distributors eager to
improve their cash flow a few percentage points by putting off
payment to publishers for another month.

The retailing requirements of books today dictate–up stream
from retail outlets to distributors and publishers, from there up
stream to the publishers’ sales and marketing staff, up stream
there to editorial staff, and up stream ultimately to authors
wishing to be published–what can and will be written and
published.

And, overwhelmingly, what can and will be published is
severely limited by several basic rules of mass-marketing:

1) A product must be standardized at the lowest common
denominator to sell at mass-market quantities.

2) Mass-marketing is selling many units of a few products,
not few units of many products.

3) Start-up costs for a new product are high, so reduce
costs by limiting advertising and letting the product’s packaging
sell it on the shelf.

4) Introducing a new product is risky, so reduce risk by
making the new product as much as possible like the products
already available, and selling them as “just as good.”

5) Moving a brand-name product around the store too much
loses sales, so keep it on the same shelf so the customer will
know where to find it.

These basic rules of retailing are filters which determine
what books are publishable today.

By rule one, a book must fit into a standard category or
appeal to the lowest common denominator: thus the necessity that
a publishable book be either a generic–science fiction, mystery,
or romance–or a surefire runaway bestseller. Thus is an out-of-
category book, other than those capable of significant publicity
based on the author’s reputation or connections, rendered
virtually unpublishable.

By rule two, effort must be spent promoting, advertising,
and selling only the product leaders: the books which are planned
from the outset to be bestsellers. (Accidental bestsellers are
all but impossible.) Thus the publishing industry’s reliance on
celebrity books, movie and television tie-ins, “formula”
bestsellers, self-help books, cookbooks, cute calendars, and
gimmicks.

By rule three, category books must sell themselves by
generic packaging and, in some cases–such as the general-fiction
category–author’s name, alone, minimizing the risk that
customers will perceive each new book as the unique product it
is. Corollary is that a different book package must be developed
and manufactured for each category into which one would wish to
shelve the same Work. This is rarely worth the effort and the
risk is almost never taken.

By rule four, literary invention is an undesirable risk.
This makes it necessary for the “uniqueness” of books to be
eliminated as much as possible, in order to make it possible to
sell them as “just as good” as the last one. (Book retailing
seems to have been unable to find a way to apply the marketing
technique of calling a book–vis a vis a previous book–“new and
improved.”)

And by rule five, an author with name-recognition value in a
particular category must be shelved in that one category whether
or not the new Work fits that category or not. Thus will one
find Isaac Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare shelved in the science-
fiction section of some bookstores where it might find a few
science fiction readers interested in Shakespeare … but far
fewer than shelving it in the theater section.

These are the market realities that a publisher must deal
with–by which an acquiring editor is placed in blinders and an
author is saddled–before that publisher decides whether a
particular Work has even the slightest chance of overcoming the
considerable costs of acquiring rights, editing, typesetting,
packaging, manufacturing, selling, advertising, publicizing,
shipping, warehousing, and (for paperbacks) destruction.

All these are endemic limitations on book publication, even
before one gets to the epidemic book-industry difficulties such
as coordinating availability of books with their advertising and
publicity, the mis-forecasting of trends, or the collapse of
marketing commitment for books already acquired–or even in
production–because the acquiring editor has left the company.


II.
How Electronic Availability
Changes Publishing Assumptions

Even before we get to the Author’s and Reader’s perspective
on publishing, we can demonstrate how electronic availability can
solve publishers’ problems with respect to distribution.

Much of this can also be applied as “retailer” benefits,
inasmuch as a percentage of consumers will prefer to do business
through already established retail channels.

1) The retail assumption of “scarce shelf space” is
eliminated at the outset: both storage space and display space in
electronic media are, for all practical purposes, unlimited.
“Shelf-life” no longer being scarce, there is no necessity of
“moving” a product or taking it off sale, or requiring that sales
be impulse “buys.”

2) Start-up costs and therefore start-up risks that are
caused by the book-manufacturing process are brought down to a
level that can only be thought of as “spectacularly low.”

The lengthy years between delivery of a completed Work to
the publisher and earnings of revenue which can be paid to the
Author can be reduced to several months, obviating the necessity
of large up-front “advances.”

Storage costs approach zero: about $1.00 per Work, period.

Manufacturing cost before placing a title on sale: $0.35.
(Preparation of the Work up to current publishing standards is
now the author’s financial responsibility.)

A grand total of One Copy needs to be published on disk
before the first sale is made: all further copies of most Works
can be placed onto disk in minutes; a copy can be downloaded via
modem in somewhat more minutes–but minutes nonetheless.
Availability to the consumer can better mass-market distribution,
while every order can be filled as if it were a special order.

3) There need be no out-of-print titles, no remaindered or
destroyed copies. Inventory is reducible to one copy per title.
Shipping cost per unit on disk approaches that of first-class
letters or–for download via modem–is costed directly to the
consumer.

4) There is no necessity of a time-limit on availability of
a title: costs can be amortized over a much longer time than for
book publishing.

5) There is no necessity of choosing one particular category
in which to publish a Work: it can be simultaneously published in
all marketable categories: categorization can now be inclusive
rather than exclusive, encouraging–rather than discouraging–
diversity in the marketplace.

6) Works no longer need to be placed onto inappropriate
“shelves” because of the author’s name value: cross-referencing
can make it available in all marketable categories.

7) There is no necessity of relying on surefire bestsellers:
twenty titles selling moderately well can produce the same
profitability as one title selling extremely well.

8 ) Finally, there is no longer any reason to reject any
worthwhile or interesting Work because of the risk: the risk of
publication approaches its being a non-existent market factor.

Virtually in one-fell-swoop, electronic availability manages
to eliminate almost the entire downside risk of publishing and
distributing Authors’ Works. As a consequence, the cost-per unit
to the consumer can equal and ultimately drop far below mass-
market paperbacks, while the unit profitability to publisher (and
retailer) can approach that of hardcovers.


III.
The Author’s Viewpoint

From the Author’s standpoint, the marketing of books is
almost always a nightmare rather than a dream. An Author’s most
brilliant Works are often unpublishable because they are unique,
or new, or cross categories lines, or because they are difficult
to describe in twenty words or less.

First Works, particularly first novels, are often
unpublishable merely because readers won’t know the Author’s
name, and therefore the book is unlikely to overcome economy-of-
scale minimum print-runs and produce a profit. This is
compounded if the first Work is also particularly unusual or
brilliant–which is often the case.

Certain categories of books–such as fiction anthologies or
short story collections–go in and out of fashion–if one tries
to sell one the wrong year, tough luck.

The author’s share of the proceeds from sales–called
“royalties,” under a contract in which editorial responsibility
is reserved to the publisher–is small: usually 10% for hardcover
(up to 15% royalty after sales numbers achieved only by a small
percentage of books); between 4% and 10% for paperbacks, with 8%
being the commonly achieved rate given the sales figures of most
paperback books. For books first published in hardcover, these
paperback royalties must be shared between author and hardcover
publisher, usually fifty-fifty. Usually only successful authors
are able to negotiate better splits. This often leaves the share
of paperback proceeds paid to author at 3% to 4%. Most states
collect more in sales tax on a paperback book than the percentage
received by the author who created it.

The publishing process itself is costly and time-consuming,
which, again, is why book publishers have the additional start-up
cost of paying an author advances against royalties in order to
acquire the right to publish their books.

A year is the average minimum from delivery of a completed
manuscript to first publication. A year after that is the
minimum for an author to see any royalties from the first three
months of sale, and if earned royalties have somehow managed to
exceed the advance against royalties given the author by the
publisher, a certain percentage will be held back by the
publisher against the possibility of bookstores returning copies
to the publisher’s warehouse.

Often these “reserves against returns” prevent authors from
seeing significant royalties for three or more years. Given such
delays, and the short shelf life of a book, authors regularly
figure that their advance is the only money they’ll ever see from
a book sale.

Except for bestsellers, advertising ranges from minimal to
zip. Publicity tours are likewise fantasy for anyone but the big
names. The average author is lucky to get a two-in-the-morning
radio call-in show. For that all-important day of glory–the
bookstore autograph signing–the author had better phone friends:
they are likely the only ones who’ll show up.

As for reviews, they are usually sporadic, and sometimes
nonexistent. A paperback original stands as much chance of a
front-page review in the New York Times Book Review as Jesse
Jackson has being elected … Pope. Even a respectable novel
published hardcover by a major publisher may find itself ignored
by every major newspaper, magazine, and book review in the
country.

But even success has its downside. An author who has had
any success at all in one category may find it impossible to sell
a book in another category. The author can, of course, use a pen
name … but then all the painstakingly acquired name value is
lost and it’s as if the author is publishing a first book.

This is a serious drawback to such a move. A beginning
author must often sign a publishing contract on a take-it-or-
leave-it basis, with publishers offering little advance money,
giving no guarantees, assuming the right to edit the author’s
Work any way they see fit, and taking high percentages of
subsidiary rights. It seems to an author like outright thievery
until one realizes that even stacking the cards this way, the
publisher is still more likely than not to lose money on the
book.

A few authors do manage to run this gauntlet all the way to
the bestseller’s list. Here is comparative paradise: high
advances, good distribution, prime reviews, real advertising,
publicity tours, movie sales. But for the vast majority of
authors, the bestseller list is a Shangri-La, never to be found.

No wonder it’s been observed that there are only four
hundred or so authors in this country of a quarter billion who
are able to make a full-time living out of writing.


IV.
Here Comes The Commercial

Here are just a few of the ways electronic availability will
be better able to serve Authors than the current book publishing
industry:

Author’s Problem 1: The Work is unpublishable because it is
too inventive, or doesn’t fit a publishing category, or the
author is unknown, or the book can’t easily be described, or that
sort of book is out of fashion.

SoftServ Solution: Send us your poor, your tired, your
huddled Authors yearning to breathe free! The cost of storage
and distribution of a Work on SoftServ is so low that there is
virtually no quality Work on which SoftServ can’t take a chance.
Additionally, SoftServ may sell an impressive enough number of
copies that traditional publishing may take notice and publish
the Work in book form.

Author’s Problem 2: The lion’s share of revenue produced
from sale of a Work is eaten up by retailers, distributors, and
publisher, leaving only crumbs for the Author.

SoftServ Solution: The SoftServ contract assumes–for Works
not yet published–that when the Author places the Work onto
disk, this is First Publication, making the Author the Work’s
Publisher. The Author/Publisher then places the Work on
consignment with SoftServ and contracts with SoftServ to provide
marketing and electronic dissemination services.

Pre-publication functions usually assumed in the publishing
contract to be the province of the Publisher will therefore
remain with the Author: editing, proofing, copyright, placing the
Work in a format suitable for publication–in this case putting
it onto a machine-readable form. The Author/Publisher may choose
to contract with SoftServ to provide these pre-publication
services, but SoftServ will charge for these services and apply
these charges against the Author/Publisher’s share of sale
proceeds. The Author/Publisher will be free to contract
elsewhere for these services, but they will have to negotiate
separate agreements.

Literary Agents may well decide to become “Packagers,”
preparing their client’s Works for publication through SoftServ
in exchange for a larger percentage than the usual agent’s
commission.

Book publishers contracting with SoftServ for Works they
control will find the process identical to a standard subsidiary
rights arrangement.

Because of the relatively low cost of electronic storage and
dissemination, a much-higher percentage of sale proceeds will be
paid to Proprietors than offered by standard book-publishing
contracts. The standard SoftServ contract will pay between one-
third to one-half of the proceeds to the Proprietor
(Author/Publisher), depending on how the Work is sold.

Author’s Problem 3: It takes a year or more before a
completed Work is published, and a year or more before royalties
are finally, received. Significant portions of revenue due
authors are held back as “reserve against returns.”

SoftServ Solution: SoftServ should usually be able to take a
completed Work in machine-readable form and have it on sale
within thirty days. Statements of account and payments of share-
of-proceeds for copies sold the previous month should follow
every thirty days thereafter. There will be no “reserve against
returns” because there will be no returns.

Author’s Problem 4: Loss of control over the editing,
packaging, and promotion of the Work.

SoftServ Solution: All these are the domain of the
Publisher, and for Works first made available on SoftServ, the
Author will also be the Publisher. However, at
Author/Publisher’s discretion, all these can be contracted to be
handled by SoftServ, either at cash cost charged against the
Author/Publisher’s share of the proceeds, or with percentages of
proceeds against sales dedicated to these purposes open to
negotiation.

Author’s Problem 5: Little or no advertising for the Work.

SoftServ Solution: Advertising can be handled either by the
Author/Publisher, or by SoftServ, and five percent of sale
proceeds will be set aside for that purpose.

Author’s Problem 6: Few reviews of a Work.

SoftServ Solution: While how long it will take for
newspapers and magazines to begin reviewing Works available only
electronically is a matter of speculation, it can be assumed that
the stodgy book-review media will take as long to review Works
available on SoftServ as they have to review mass-market
paperbacks: no time soon.

But additional review media already exist and can be created
for electronic Works. Reviews can be garnered from computer
bulletin boards, from fanzines, from computer users groups, and
those reviews placed on computer consumer networks such as
CompuServe, The Source, and Genie. SoftServ can find these
reviews and index them to the title of the Work, making a variety
of reviews available to potential consumers before they buy a
copy.

SoftServ will maintain both a reader’s review bulletin-board
electronic magazine called DisContents, wherein SoftServ readers
can list their opinions, and will start a professional electronic
critical review magazine, Pistols at Dawn!, wherein Authors and
Professional Critics can have at each other to their hearts’
content. It should be fun to watch.

Moreover, SoftServ will make available the first 7,500 to
10,000 words–approximately the first three chapters–of every
Work available free, and in addition will distribute SoftServ
Samplers to promote Works available on SoftServ.


V.
The Reader’s Viewpoint

From the Reader’s end, book-problems are more likely to be
annoyances rather than life catastrophes. Many of these itches
are so taken for granted that their elimination will be closely
akin to providing word processors to people who’ve used nothing
but typewriters: apprehension at first, soon followed by the
question, “How did I ever put up with it?”

Here are an even dozen common problems that the SoftServ
concept will eliminate for readers:

Reader’s Problem 1: Unavailability. Variations of: “Yeah, I
know you just saw the author on TV, but–”
“We don’t have it in yet.”
“We sold out.”
“The library only has one copy, and it’s out.”
“We just sent all our copies back to the warehouse.”
“It’s out of stock at the distributor.”
“We only have volumes two and three of the trilogy.”
More serious unavailabilities:
“Never heard of it.”
(Or the reader’s never heard of it!)
“It’s out of print from the publisher.”
“I haven’t seen a copy of that for years.”
“This library doesn’t have the budget to order
that many titles since Proposition 13.”
Most serious unavailabilities:
“The town council has passed a resolution forbidding
this library to carry that book.”
“The Campus Bookstore may not carry any book deemed by
the Student Council to be racist or sexist.”
“We burn books like that!”

SoftServ Solution: Works distributed by SoftServ can remain
in on-line storage permanently, available on a moment’s notice by
modem, twenty-four hours a day. They can be delivered directly
into the home, out of reach of all censorship short of cutting
off all telephone service or banning computers and modems.
Indexing of titles and cross-referencing with reviews stored on
SoftServ can make information about the Works also instantly
available.

Reader’s Problem 2: High price: “I’ll have to wait until it
comes out in paperback.” This leads to an additional
unavailability: many hardcover books never sell to paperback.

SoftServ Solution: SoftServ should be able to sell all but
the lengthiest Works at paperback prices, but offer revenues to
Authors equivalent to hardcover sales. Moreover, even when
scheduled for book publication, Authors could make their Works
available on SoftServ a year before the first printing.

Reader’s Problem 3: Misleading packaging due to category
requirements: “This novel is titled The Tomb but there’s no tomb
in it anywhere!” Or, “There’s a spaceship, a Bug-Eyed Monster,
and a Beautiful Babe on the cover–how come they’re not in the
book?”

SoftServ Solution: Works sold by SoftServ have no necessity
of being limited to one particular category. As a matter of
fact, the more categories a book can be indexed to, the better.
Current book publishing is category-exclusive. SoftServ
Publishing will be category-inclusive.

Reader’s Problem 4: Lack of variety: “After a while, these
sorts of books all run together. Doesn’t anybody write anything
original anymore?”

SoftServ Solution: Works sold through SoftServ need have
none of the retail market limitations on content, originality,
inventiveness, breaking category, or necessity of mass sales to
the “lowest common denominator.” The elimination of most start-
up costs and market risks makes even a first novel by a complete
unknown a potential money-maker. Because of this, electronic
publishing should produce a veritable renaissance in literature
by eliminating all retail-created limitations on publication.

Reader’s Problem 5: Storage space. Schulman’s First Law:
Books will exceed bookshelves.

SoftServ Solution: Given the storage capacities of current
diskettes, most people could keep their entire library in a
shoebox. When CD-Rom becomes industry standard, entire libraries
will be storable on one compact disk.

Reader’s Problem 6: Shipping weight of books when moving.
“Leave them behind? It took me ten years to build this
collection!”

SoftServ Solution: Take the shoebox (or CD) with you when
you move.

Reader’s Problem 7: Small type.

SoftServ Solution: Set your computer printer to print large
type.

Reader’s Problem 8: Difficulty of replacing worn-out copies.

SoftServ Solution: Print another copy. If you’re worried
that your diskette is getting old, make a new copy of it, too.

Reader’s Problem 9: Two people in the same household want to
read the same book at the same time, but don’t want to buy two
copies.

SoftServ Solution: Print out two copies. Or get a computer
with multi-user capability. Or even two computers, cheapskate.

Reader’s Problem 10: Difficulty locating a particular quote
in a book, or a particular scene, or a character.

SoftServ Solution: Global “string” searches could locate all
instances of a name or key word–a useful capability for both the
student and the professional.

Reader’s Problem 11: Illiteracy, Blindness, Poor Eyesight,
Reading Disfunctions, or English-language difficulties.

SoftServ Solution: For the illiterate or those with other
reading problems, works available on SoftServ could
simultaneously be displayed on screen as text and read aloud by a
voice synthesizer. Or just the latter. For the blind reader,
Works available on SoftServ could be immediately available to
Braille printers, dot-matrix printers using software designed to
print Braille, or any other equipment capable of accepting ASCII.

Reader’s Problem 12: Difficulties in judging a book by its
content, rather than by its cover, particularly: a) Obtaining a
wide variety of reviews of a Work–a comparison of opinions–
before purchase; and b) Difficulty of reading a significant
portion of a book–enough to decide on purchase–while standing
in a bookstore.

SoftServ Solution: Through on-line reviews available in
DisContents and the critic/author debates in Pistols at Dawn!–
all indexed both to Title and Author–the Reader will have access
to a powerful tool in determining which Works are worth purchase.

The SoftServ Sampler concept, mentioned under heading IV,
will also provide readers with free copies of the first 7,500 to
10,000 words–approximately the first three chapters–of every
Work available–another powerful tool in judging Works by their
content, not by their cover.

In addition to all these solutions to already-existing
problems, there will be one primary reason why Readers will come
to SoftServ to find the Authors they wish to read: That’s where
the Authors will be.

Given the overwhelming problems that SoftServ is able to
solve for the vast majority of Authors, and the much-higher-share
of proceeds-per-sale that will be available to Authors as
compared to traditional book publishing, the market will surely
gravitate toward even bestselling Authors placing their Works on
SoftServ then selling them to book publishers.

And given that many Works–even by name Authors–will remain
unpublishable as books given the high costs, high risks, and
limitations of book publishing, SoftServ will often remain the
one place where Readers will always be able to find a book.


VI.
Publishing a Work Through SoftServ

The process of publishing a work through SoftServ will
parallel that of publishing through print media.

An Author will write the work, and is free to engage
whatever editorial help is necessary. SoftServ will be
interested in seeing the Work only when it is finished and ready
for publication, and will rely on established authors, literary
agents, and publishers to prepare the Work up to publishable
standards, copyright it, place it into machine-readable form, and
format it to SoftServ’s electronic requirements.

At the point where the Work is ready to go, a Marketing
Agreement will be signed between the Proprietor of the Work and
SoftServ. SoftServ will place the Work on its host computers,
list it in its electronic catalog of available Works, and
publicize it to the electronic marketplace.

Works will be available through SoftServ both in electronic
“soft” versions in magnetic or optical media, and, if the Work is
not in print as a bound book, the Work will also be available as
an unbound “hard” copy.

For each copy of the Work sold through SoftServ, SoftServ
will collect from the purchaser, deduct its sales commission, and
forward the proceeds to the Proprietor. Statements and proceeds
will be sent once each month.

SoftServ will also sometimes handle subsidiary rights to
license the Work for traditional print publication such as in
book or magazine form, through a book club, or on tape.

For Works available on SoftServ that are also available, or
soon to be available, in published book form, SoftServ will make
the book version available direct-mail to its customers through
electronic orders from the SoftServ Electronic Bookshop.


VII.
Buying From SoftServ

Buying Works from SoftServ will begin with a sign-up
procedure to establish an account and a Personal Identification
Number (PIN) on the system. A start-up kit will then be sent
which includes a properly configured SoftServ Reader Program with
the PIN embedded in it, as well as XModem software to be used for
electronic modem communications with SoftServ, documentation, and
credit toward the purchase of two Works. Modem communications
with SoftServ, including access to the electronic catalog and to
place orders, will be available at 300 bps, 1200 bps, or 2400
bps. The customer will be responsible for all communications
charges, whether by telephone or through a computer network such
as the Source, CompuServe, or GEnie.

If the customer does not have a modem, a hard copy of the
catalog may be ordered and orders for Works will be able to be
placed either by mail or by ordinary voice telephone.

Once the SoftServ customer has a Reader Program for her or
his computer, the customer will be able to place orders with
SoftServ, either for the Work, or a SoftServ Sampler, to be
downloaded immediately via modem–at either 1200 bps or 2400 bps,
24 hours a day, 365 days a year–or mailed on disk. All Works
purchased will be in crunched, encrypted form and keyed to the
PIN number in that particular customer’s Reader Program: these
Works will not be accessible without the Reader Program or by any
other Reader Program. This is both to protect against pirating
of Works, and to be able to assure both Author and Reader that
the Work is authentic, and hasn’t been cut, edited, re-written,
censored, bowdlerized, or otherwise screwed up.

The customer will be billed for all copies ordered, and will
be allowed to make up to several hard or soft copies for personal
not-for-commercial-resale use.

SoftServ will also be experimenting with selling diskettes
and hard copies through retail outlets such as bookstores,
computer & electronics stores, copy shops, and department stores.


VIII.
The Bottom Line

Judging by how well it can serve the needs of Authors and Readers
as compared to the problems of book publishing today, there seems
little doubt that Electronic Mass-Market Trade Publishing is an idea
whose time has come.


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A Philosophical Conversation with Robert A. Heinlein

In July of 1973 the grandmaster of science-fiction writers, Robert A. Heinlein, granted me a rare interview. The full interview is in my book The Robert Heinlein Interview and Other Heinleiniana, and an audio version will be released through Sound of Liberty/ARTC.

Here’s a little of what we talked about. — JNS

Robert A. Heinlein with J. Neil Schulman. Photo by Julius Schulman. Copyright (c) 1973, 1999 by J. Neil Schulman. All rights reserved.
Robert A. Heinlein with J. Neil Schulman.
Photo by Julius Schulman.
Copyright © 1973, 1999 J. Neil Schulman.
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.

SCHULMAN: Do you believe time travel is possible or is it merely a fictional device?

HEINLEIN: There is no basis for belief or non-belief in this question, Neil. We don’t have any data from which to work. There is at present no satisfactory theory of time. We haven’t the slightest idea of how you might get your teeth into the fabric of time—whatever it is. Time travel, as of now, comes under the head of fantasy, inasmuch as it requires one to postulate something about which we know nothing. I do not regard time travel as either impossible or possible. I have no opinion about its possibility or impossibility because we have no data on which to make a judgment. But it makes an excellent device for telling stories, particularly stories that speculate about the condition of mankind and his future, and so forth and so on; it’s been used almost entirely for that purpose, including A Connecticut Yankee In KIng Arthur’s Court which is very largely a social and political pamphlet expressed in story form, to go back to a time-travel story of the last century and one which doesn’t even use a time machine—it just postulates it. And the same thing is true, of course, of H.G. Wells’ Time Machine and his When The Sleeper Wakes. In both cases he was using a time-travel device in order to permit him to speculate about the human condition.

HEINLEIN: “I’d like to know more about your theory that ‘no matter how individualistic you feel, you are really only part of an evolutionary organism.'”

SCHULMAN: Did I quote you correctly on that?

HEINLEIN: You’ve placed a little emphasis in there: “really only a part of.” What i believe I said—the book is across the room and I’m not going to dig it out—was that “you are part of an evolutionary organism” not “really only a part of.” Difference in emphasis, do you follow me?

SCHULMAN: Yes.

HEINLEIN: Just as you are J. Neil Schulman and you are also part of the population of an area known as New York City. But it isn’t a case of J. Neil Schulman being “really only a part of” New York City. You are J. Neil Schulman and you also happen to be one of that population group called by that name. Now, there is a matter of emphasis here. You say, “Can you prove this?” Well, I can’t prove that you are “really only a part of” but I observe that you are only a part of. No emphasis on it, we simply observe it. You have parents. You have at least the potentiality of offspring. I assume that you go along more or less at least with evolutionary theory.

SCHULMAN: To a certain extent.

HEINLEIN: …Yes. We simply observe that we are part of this continuing process.

SCHULMAN: Now, I think what I was asking here was the more philosophical question…in other words, I can see that I have parents and come from an evolutionary chain.

HEINLEIN: Yes.

SCHULMAN: But the phrase “evolutionary organism” seems to suggest that you have one being with central control or something…or at least some central plan.

HEINLEIN: I don’t mean to imply that. Evolutionists differ in their notions as to whether or not there is any central plan or whether the whole matter is automatic, or what it may be. All I really meant is that although we feel as if we were discrete individuals, if you consider it in terms of four dimensions with time as the fourth dimension, you are part of a branch…a branching deal, with an actual physical connection going back into the past and physical connection extending into the future until such a time as it’s chopped off. If you have no children then it’s chopped off at that point. I have no children myself, however I’m not dead yet, either. I think, however, you are more interested in a later part here: “if so but we retain free will, why should we place the welfare of the whole organism above ourselves?” The question as to whether or not you place the welfare of your species—your race—above yourself is a matter for you to settle with yourself and for me to settle with me.

SCHULMAN: On what basis?

HEINLEIN: [Quoting question] “If you say it’s something you can’t justify on a purely rational basis, then what other basis is there to justify it?” That’s what you’re getting at; you’re trying to make it as either/or here between rational and irrational.

SCHULMAN: Well…rational and nonrational in any case.

HEINLEIN: All right. [Long pause] Uh, I’m trying to phrase this clearly. And you say this last question leads up to this next one: “Is there ever any justification to accept something on faith? How can you prove this since by doing so you are inherently rejecting reason as final arbiter?” Now, there are a lot of implications in your question, a lot oh hidden assumptions in your question.

SCHULMAN: I suppose so.

HEINLEIN: Yes, indeed. All the way through this I can see that you regard yourself as a rationalist and you regard reason as the final arbiter on anything.

SCHULMAN: Well, I’m basically starting out with Ayn Rand’s Objectivist epistemology.

HEINLEIN: Well, I’m not going to comment on Miss Rand’s epistemology; I have notions of my own. Have you read anything by Alfred Korzybski?

SCHULMAN: No, I’m familiar with his work only through your own; you’ve mentioned him quite a few times.

HEINLEIN: Only through my own. You haven’t read Science and Sanity, for example?

SCHULMAN: No, I haven’t.

HEINLEIN: And you’re not familiar with his epistemological approach?

SCHULMAN: Only what you yourself have mentioned.

HEINLEIN: Let me invert these questions a bit. If you’ve read Stranger in a Strange Land, you’ve probably gathered what I think of faith. I do not regard faith as a basis on which to believe or disbelieve anything. On the other hand, Neil, there are many things—practically all of the important questions of philosophy—are not subject to final answers purely by reason. In my opinion, they are not subject to final answers simply by reason. This has been gone into a considerable extent by philosophers in the past, and there’s even a term—a technical term—for that called “noumena” as opposed to “phenomena.” Phenomena are things that you can grasp through your physical senses or through measurements made with your physical senses through instruments and so forth and so in other words, phenomena are things that we can know about the physical universe. Noumena translates as the unknowable things. The unknowable things: What is the purpose of the universe? Why are you here on this earth? What should a man do with his life? All of those wide open, generalized, unlimited “whys.” There are all noumena, and consequently they are not subject—consequently by definition—these things are not subject to final answers simply by reason. My own attitude on that is shown a bit in several places in this last book [Time Enough For Love] in which Lazarus Long indicates that he hasn’t been able to find any purpose to the universe any more significant than gametes using zygotes to create mare gametes. He expresses it that way in one place, then he turns it over, turns it upside down, and expresses it another way to the effect that as far as he knows, there’s no more important purpose to the universe than making a baby with the help of a woman you love. And yet obviously neither of these things are answers; they are just expressions of what Lazarus Long happens to like. Now, do you happen to like chocolate malted milks?

SCHULMAN: Uh, yes.

HEINLEIN: Now, do you like them better than strawberry malted milks?

SCHULMAN: Yeah, I would say so.

HEINLEIN: Can you justify that by reason?

SCHULMAN: No, I would say that it’s a purely subjective judgment.

HEINLEIN: That’s right. That is correct. It doesn’t involve faith and it doesn’t involve reason.

SCHULMAN: But I’m using internal data; there is data which I am acting upon.

HEINLEIN: That’s right. The internal data tells you that you like it better…but it doesn’t tell you why. This applies also to a great many things about the universe: it’s your own internal, subjective evaluation of it, not any final answers given by reason or rationality.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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Glenn Beck’s Libertarian Thriller — The Overton Window

The Overton Window
by Glenn Beck with contributions from Kevin Balfe, Emily Bestler, and Jack Henderson
Simon & Schuster Threshold Editions / Mercury Radio Arts
June 15, 2010
Hardcover:
336 Pages
ISBN-10: 1439184305
Kindle Books Edition:
288 Pages
ASIN: B003LL2Z4Y

The Overton Window book cover

As an author who as early as 1987 handed out my booklet titled Here Come the Paperless Books! at the yearly convention of the American Booksellers Association — let me say that I read The Overton Window on my Windows computer using Amazon.com’s free Kindle-reading application, having ordered the Kindle Book edition of The Overton Window with One-Click shopping from the Amazon.com Kindle Store.

I was reading the novel seconds after ordering it. — JNS

It’s probably no surprise to anyone who’s read my books, but I’m a long-time fan of what might best be called the Paranoid Thriller.

“Paranoid Thriller” isn’t a book publishing category. You won’t find such a classification in the Library of Congress, or in the shelving system of Borders or Barnes and Noble. Amazon.com has the most cross-referenced indexing system of any bookseller I can think of and even it doesn’t seem to have that as a sub-category of fiction.

Technically — because these stories are often set in the “near future” or “the day after tomorrow” or sometimes in an alternate history — the Paranoid Thriller is a sub-genre of science fiction. But usually, beyond the element of political speculation, there are none of the usual tropes of science fiction — extraterrestrials, space, time, or dimensional travel, artificial intelligence, biological engineering, new inventions, scientists as action heroes, virtual realities, and so forth.

I’m sure even this list shows what an old fogey I am when it comes to what’s being published as science-fiction these days, which within the publishing genre has abandoned all those cardinal literary virtues of clarity, kindness to the reader, and just good storytelling in favor of all those fractal fetishes that previously made much of “mainstream” fiction garbage unworthy of reading: dysfunctional characters, an overwhelming sense of helplessness and despair, and of course hatred of anything ever accomplished to better the entire human race by old dead European-extraction white men.

The Paranoid Thriller is an atavistic throwback to earlier forms of literature. There are suspense plots, adventure, a focus on characters driven to make decisions by intellect rather than addiction, and — God bless them! — often enough a happy ending after you’ve ploughed through the wreckage caused by the miserable wretches who actually make life decisions based on the gulf oil sludge that passes for literature in those committees who for the last few decades have been passing out once-worthy awards to writers who if they tried to tell a story around a campfire would soon find themselves alone, talking to the coyotes.

And with some poetic justice eaten by them.

The Paranoid Thriller is not actually based on any emotion, much less fear. The Paranoid Thriller is specifically a type of intellectual libertarian literature, the purpose of which is to sound a clarion call to wake up the sleepwalkers among us who have been hypnotized by government-run schools, socialist-dominated universities, misanthropic organs of popular culture, and cynical destroyers of all sense of public honor or decorum for fun, profit, and sick love of power.

The Paranoid Thriller is the literature of liberation — and often enough, the cinema of liberation as well.

The Paranoid Thriller is step-brother to the Dystopian novel, such as Yvgeny Zamyatin’s We, Ayn Rand’s Anthem, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and George Orwell’s Nineteen-eighty-four, and brother to the espionage novel — everything from Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels to John Le Carre and Tom Clancy’s spy novels; and at least kissing cousin to alternate history thrillers like Brad Linaweaver’s 1988 Prometheus Award-winning novel, Moon of Ice, about a Cold War not between the United States and the Soviet Union but between a non-interventionist libertarian United States and a victorious Nazi Germany.

Some good examples of the Paranoid Thriller?

In books, let’s start with Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here, the story of an American president who rises to power by enforcing a Mussolini-type fascism in America, published three years after the movie Gabriel Over the White House enthusiastically endorsed such a presidency, well into the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt who did it for real, and a year after Adolf Hitler became the Führer of Germany.

Three years before Jack Finney’s novel The Body Snatchers was serialized in Colliers, Robert A. Heinlein’s 1951 Doubleday hardcover novel, The Puppet Masters crossed genre between futuristic science-fiction and the Paranoid Thriller — in effect creating an entire new genre of Paranoid Science-Fiction Horror — in which unlike H.G. Wells’ invaders from Mars in The War of the Worlds who had the decency to exterminate you, the alien invaders instead jumped onto your back and controlled your brain making you their zombie.

But then again, Heinlein had already created the Ultimate Paranoid Thrillers in his 1941 short story “They” and 1942 novella “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag” — over a-half-century before The Wachowski Brothers’ 1999 movie The Matrix — in which the entire world is a vast conspiracy to convince one man of its reality.

Jumping two decades forward I’ll use as my next example Ayn Rand’s 1957 epic Atlas Shrugged, in which the Soviet-refugee author warned how the United States — by following the path of a kindler, gentler socialism — could end up as the fetid garbage dump that had devolved from her once European-bound Mother Russia.

The Cold War gave us several classic Paranoid Thrillers about either attempts at — or successful — Soviet communist takeovers of the United States.

We had Richard Condon’s 1959 brilliantly ironic novel — adapted into a wonderful movie in 1962 — The Manchurian Candidate, about a Soviet agent who controls both her son — a brainwashed assassin — and her husband, an anti-Communist United States Senator loosely based on Joseph McCarthy who comes close to securing his party’s nomination for president.

Less well known were the pseudonymous Oliver Lange’s 1971 novel Vandenberg, about a Soviet takeover of the United States, or In the Heat of the Night author John Ball’s 1973 Soviet takeover novel, The First Team, in which a single undetected American nuclear submarine holds the hope for forcing the Soviets out of their occupation of America.

Likewise, fears of appeasement of the Soviet Union led to Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II’s 1962 novel, Seven Days in May, about a Pentagon General’s attempt to overthrow the President — which two years later Rod Serling adapted into a Burt Lancaster/ Kirk Douglas movie directed by John Frankenheimer, who two years earlier had directed Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, and Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate.

Television gave us the classic Patrick McGoohan 1967-1968 paranoid thriller TV series, The Prisoner, granddaddy to all the knock-offs of people kidnapped by mysterious forces and transported to gilded cages and danger-filled islands.

Movies gave us:

The Parallax View (1974)
Twilight’s Last Gleaming (1977)
Rollover (1981)
Red Dawn (1984)
JFK (1991)
Wag the Dog (1997)
Murder at 1600 (1997)
The Siege (1998)
Arlington Road (1999)
Josie and the Pussycats (2001)

Yes, Josie and the Pussycats — though played as a comedy — eminently qualifies for the genre.

I could go on and on — Wired-magazine-founder Louis Rosetto, Jr.’s pre-Watergate-written Paranoid Thriller novel of President Nixon’s coup d’etats, Takeover — published in January 1974 just six months before Nixon was forced from office; John Ross’s 1996 post-Waco/post Oklahoma City bombing novel Unintended Consequences.

In that sub-genre of the Economic Paranoid Thriller we have financial writer Paul E. Erdman’s 1976 Paranoid Thriller The Crash of ’79 (Erdman had good reason to be paranoid — he’d served time in a Swiss prison for financial fraud); and Nixon-administration economic mavens Herbert Stein and his son Benjamin Stein’s 1977 novel of America suffering from hyperinflation, On the Brink.

My own 1979 novel, Alongside Night, just misses being in the Paranoid Thriller category only because hyperinflation and government conspiracy is only the launching point for a novel which is mostly an exploration of how the principles of the Declaration of Independence might be implemented by a “new guard” other than re-upping the Constitution of the United States after its failure to maintain a limited government — as is the endgame of Atlas Shrugged and the novel I come here today to review, The Overton Window.

Let me start by saying that everything the mainstream critics will say about this novel is true. It’s talky. I expect the words “preachy” and “didactic” to be used a lot. There are long speeches — even by the main villain, who like many destructive people are disappointed idealists. Events of the novel seem to have been picked not because they advance the plot but because they’re popular topics in the news. It quotes the Founding Fathers as if they’d written the Bible.

Screw these critics all to hell. These are what make a novel worth reading.

Why in the name of God would anyone waste a moment of their precious reading time on a novel that doesn’t have ideas, doesn’t have characters who are capable of making coherent speeches, doesn’t have an author who thinks he knows something worthwhile and has a passion to gift you with them?

What the mainstream literary critics use to condemn novels like The Overton Window are the very virtues that makes them literature.

Think I’m sounding defensive here?

No, I’m on the offense, and have been ever since these same bogus standards were used by uncreative drones to make lame attacks on my novels, three decades ago.

Here’s how I answered them in my article “There Are Two Sides to Every Review” published August 10, 1980 in the Los Angeles Times Book Review:

1. “The writing is heavy-handed.”

The author says things explicitly.

2. “The story is melodramatic.”

The book is strongly plotted.

3. “The plot is contrived.”

The plot is original and intricately logical.

4. “The novel is polemical.”

The novel has a discernible theme.

5. “The novel is preachy.”

The theme phrases a moral proposition.

6. “The book’s intent is didactic.”

The plot demonstrates practical consequences of the theme.

7. “The author manipulates characters.”

The characters do things that fit into the plot.

8. “The characters are two-dimensional.”

The characters are only shown doing things that fit into the plot.

9. “The book is Pollyannish.”

The author finds things in life that make it worth living.

10. “The story depends upon coincidence.”

Events in the story logically coincide.

11. “The book is a roman à clef.”

The characters are so realistically drawn, they can be confused with real people.

12. “The characters are unrealistic.”

The characters are shown being heroic, moral and intelligent, while the critic views his own character as cowardly, amoral and stupid.

13. “The author has no feeling for his subject.”

The author portrays things differently from what the critic thinks they are.

14. “The characters give speeches.”

The characters are capable of expressing a coherent viewpoint.

15. “This character is the author’s mouthpiece.”

This character makes more sense than the others.

16. “The book is utopian.”

The author thinks things can get better.

17. “The book is an exercise in paranoia.”

The author thinks things can get worse.

I find myself here — as both a novelist myself and a critic — having to be didactic, myself. I have to teach you the very standards that need to be used when criticizing a work of literature. I have to arm you with the very tools necessary to understand what it is that critics are trying to steer you away from — and why.

Critics who are not themselves practitioners of the art they are writing about are — with rare exceptions, caused by a dedication to reason and honesty above all else — the enemies of art. Without the ability to create it themselves, they are wannabes sitting on the sidelines envious, spiteful, and on a mission to destroy that which they, themselves, do not have the power to create.

The failed artists — the one who gave up — tend to be the most dangerous of all.

Adolf Hitler was a failed painter. His hatred of Jews likely started because a Jewish art teacher had the strength of character to point out his failings.

Saddam Hussein was a failed novelist. As dictator of Iraq he self-published his novels and his minions forced people to buy them.

The Roman Emperor Nero played the lyre while Rome burned.

And Bill Clinton was either a failed saxophonist or someone who didn’t have the perseverance to find out if he could spend his life supporting himself doing it.

The critics who were never artists and the critics who are failed artists don’t like art that clearly communicates. They thrive on murk and obscurity. They shrink from any sort of standards. They hide behind a doctrine they’ve invented called deconstructionism, which when you strip away the academic veneer of respectability means that a work of art has no objective meaning at all, but means only what an audience member imagines it means.

Sonny boy, I did not go through eight drafts of my first novel — and more recently fourteen cuts of my first movie — because I don’t think I am capable of refining what I’m trying to communicate to my audience down to the subatomic level. Screw Heisenberg and his uncertainty principle when it comes to the business I have chosen to be in.

If my art does not communicate precisely and absolutely what I intend it to mean, either I have failed as an artist or I have failed to find an audience worthy of me.

My father did not practice the violin for hours every day for over half a century because he was satisfied with being sloppy in front of an audience without an ear to tell the difference. He heard the difference — and on that day when his strength and agility and hearing had failed him and he could no longer perform to the lofty standards he had set for himself, on that day he began to die.

The Overton Window is told third person from several viewpoints, the most important being Noah Gardner, whom we meet on his 28th birthday — and what an eventful birthday it is, having him stopped in a New York City cab by Halliburton-type security contractees protecting political candidates in town, and arrested at a Tea party type meeting taking place in a beer hall — and I’m sure the authors picked that meeting location pointedly.

Noah is the scion to a New York public relations firm into everything from making pet rocks a fad to saving politicians from sex scandals. Noah’s father is a cynical bastard who is smart enough to see the writing on the wall from previous misuse of power, but not smart enough to understand that when the game of musical chairs which is the world economy stops he won’t be conducting the music any more. Noah’s possible salvation lies in a chance meeting with a beautiful young libertarian woman who begins to seduce him away from the dark side.

An “Overton Window” is what’s called “the realm of the possible” in politics — it’s that which is on the table for current discussion. So if you’re in the business of politics, job one is moving the Overton Window in your direction — getting what the public can accept as possible to include your agenda. If your agenda is total control, you create incidents that scare the public into incremental losses of their privacy and liberty. If your agenda is expanding freedom, you create loopholes for people to escape through.

If you’ve come to this page expecting me to tell you anything more about the story or characters of The Overton Window, think again. Anything more I tell you would be a spoiler.

Trust me, I’d love to be able to tell you why the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse in Las Vegas, Nevada plays a part in this plot. That was the exterior we used for the office of Jack Goldwater’s supervisor, IRS Deputy Commissioner Lewis Heinlein, in my movie Lady Magdalene’s.

Oh my God — there’s even a sequence in Pahrump, Nevada — where I filmed most of Lady Magdalene’s — and where I live!

Some Star Wars references, even. Sam Konkin, Victor Koman and I did produce the very first Star Wars fanzine, The Force.

Spooky. More than one place in the novel gives me an eerie feeling of déjà vu.

Ayn Rand told her readers that an author’s job is to present facts instead of predigested conclusions, and let the reader make up their own minds.

But my telling you about the plot and characters of a novel by someone else isn’t my job. It’s the authors’ job. Let them communicate their images and events to you. Let their words — not mine — be your first introduction. I do not intend to broker the experience of reading The Overton Window for you.

I gave you my standards for judging a work of literature. By these standards I find The Overton Window to be an important work of literature, expertly crafted, relevant to our times, presenting solid values, and on the same mission that I am to liberate this country from the critics who are incapable of creative work yet feel themselves capable of standing in judgment over it.

The critics of The Overton Window will not need to read the novel to condemn it, and many won’t even trouble themselves. They already know all they need to know because they’ve listened to its producer, Glenn Beck, speak to them on his television and radio shows.

The Overton Window is a trenchant and uncompromising critique of power brokers who can not create life but feel themselves competent to rule over it. It is a novel that wants the free will that God gave each of us to be once again free. If that’s not literature then to hell with literature. If that’s not a good enough reason for you to read a novel, nothing further I say to you will make any difference, anyway.

As it happens, I have many disagreements with Glenn Beck — both with the content of his presentations and sometimes with his method of presentation. He’s been on a journey. This novel is a strong indication to me that he’s going in the right direction.

None of anything negative I might perceive in the author is reflected in The Overton Window. Glenn Beck is his best self as a fiction writer — and the collaboration of producer Kevin Balfe, editor Emily Bestler, and novelist Jack Henderson — known for his own previous novel Circumference of Darkness — only enhance Glenn Beck’s first outing as a thriller writer.

On June 2, 2010 Glenn Beck praised my novel Alongside Night to the three million listeners of his nationally syndicated and satellite radio show.

I guess this review is the beginning of a mutual admiration society.

As a Prometheus-Awards laureate in 1984 and 1989, I recommend to the next Libertarian Futurist Society’s Prometheus Awards Nominating Committee that The Overton Window be placed into consideration for the “Best Novel” category.

Mr. Beck, welcome to the libertarian fight. This time I know our side will win.


Winner of the Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals from the 2011 Anthem Film Festival! My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available free on the web linked from the official movie website. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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Draft Glenn Beck to Play Dr. Martin Vreeland in Alongside Night!


From FR33 — The Freedom Activist Network
and the Facebook Group

On June 2nd Glenn Beck spent several minutes telling the three million listeners of his radio show about how great he thought Alongside Night is.

Now I’ve done the math and what I’ve come up with is that Glenn Beck’s popularity — mixed with his fondness both for being in front of cameras and actually liking Alongside Night — just might add up to production funding for the movie — if I play the right card.

The card I’m playing is asking him to take the role of Dr. Martin Vreeland in Alongside Night.

Beck is a stand-up comic. His IMDb listing shows that he was on an episode of Cheers. He’s the right age and physical type to play the role.

To begin with, I’d ask someone like my lead actor in Lady Magdalene’s, Ethan Keogh — an alumnus of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and the Groundlings, as well as being an acting coach — to fly to New York and work with Glenn Beck for a week or two before we even started rehearsals.

Then I’d work with make-up and wardrobe experts to craft a new look for Glenn Beck so he’d fit the role of the Nobel laureate like a glove. I’m thinking longer hair, a distinguished looking beard, Armani suits and Gucci loafers.

With prep like this I’m sure I can direct Glenn Beck to a great performance.

The fact is, Dr. Martin Vreeland is the viewpoint character in Alongside Night for all the arguments in favor of retaining limited constitutional government. The words I’ve written for the character fit Glenn Beck’s minarchist views — if not perfectly, close enough for him to feel comfortable with the dialogue.

I’m aware that the novel of Alongside Night is probably outside Glenn Beck’s comfort zone when it comes to its treatment of sex between its teenage characters. In my screenplay adaptation, the action moves so quickly there’s no time for teenage sex. Problem solved. The film will likely get a PG-13 that will play well in Salt Lake City.

And if Glenn Beck does accept the role the publicity will drive Alongside Night — and its core pro-free-market/pro-Declaration of Independence ideas — into the mass media.

To launch this viral campaign I’ve produced a new YouTube Video. It’s a winner. Watch it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I51sxpY8CAo.

I also blogged about it at http://jneilschulman.agorist.com/2010/06/a-very-personal-message-to-mr-glenn-beck/.

Glenn Beck’s email is me@glennbeck.com.

The call-in number for his show (on the air between 9:00 AM and noon EDT) is 888-727-BECK.

Please reblog this, send it out to anyone who’s a fan of Alongside Night and wants to see the movie made — and made right by the guy who originally wrote it.

And if you’re not a fan of Glenn Beck’s politics, please don’t spend a second worrying about it. He didn’t write the script, isn’t directing the script, and as an actor he’d be saying the lines that I wrote for his character in the script.

Agorist Cadre … charge! :-)

Neil

Alongside


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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