Showing posts from March, 2012

A Writers' Retreat in Wonderful Matera

Matera is wonderful...or very bizarre, depending on how you look at it. A World Heritage town, it's located in Southern Italy, not far from Bari, in a rather nondescript agricultural plain that has provided grain, fruit and wine since the time of the Ancient Greeks - and much before them no doubt, because Matera has one extraordinary feature: a big part of the old town, called the "Sassi", are in fact a collection of paleolithic caves. The area has been surely lived in for over 40,000 years and it shows. And now, of course, it has become a major touristic attraction, with the caves turned into highly unusual hotels.

Panorama of Matera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It is in this suggestive setting that an international group of writers recently met for a 4-day seminar without any precise agenda other than "brainstorming" their current work and future plans. This is the second year the event is held - always at the end of March - sponsored by literary agent Christine W…

The Video Game Society: a source of inspiration for The GREAT HACKER HEIST, a short story

With the growth of Internet, revenues in the video game industry have sky rocketed in recent years and have started to surpass the film industry. The figures are astonishing: according to the latest statistics, it is the fastest growing component of the international media sector. Growing annually at a rate of over 9%,  it stood at $48.9 billion in 2011 and is expected to reach $68 billion in 2012. While precisely comparable figures for the film industry are hard to come by (depending on what you include in them - for example video/DVDs, television), there is general agreement that annual revenues from film entertainment is around $65 billion, evenly divided between the US and the rest of the world. 

But one shouldn't overlook the fact that sometimes the video game industry cross-cuts with the film industry, as the release of some films lead to the creation of video games and vice versa. A recent example that comes to mind is the hugely successful Prince of Persia, but there are m…

How the Digital Revolution is Changing Publishing: The Good and the Bad

Publish and Perish! publish #101 (Photo credit: mediamolecule)
In the three years since the Digital Revolution started, it has already changed publishing in many ways, good and bad. It's early days to pass a final judgment, but some of the impact is already very clear.

First, the Digital Revolution has opened the doors to indies, i.e. self-published authors, bringing a measure of respectability to self-publishing.  Authors found they no longer were the prey of so-called "vanity presses": they could take the jump and go to Smashwords or Amazon's KDP Select (the easiest way to do this) and several have made it big - notably Amanda Hocking, Konrath and John Locke. 

That was good. 

Unfortunately is had a bad result: so many would-be authors rushed to self-publish that what was once hidden from view - the infamous "slush pile", i.e. all those (often half-baked) manuscripts send in by aspiring writers to literary agents and editors - is now published for all to see.


When the State Acts Like a Jungle Capitalist: How to Make Money From Collecting Taxes

acqua privatizzata: he forgot to pay the water tax (Photo credit: vignettando con Dario Levi)
Privatizing tax collection - a major State function - has been done in Italy in 2011 through Equitalia, basically a State Holding in private hands. Equitalia collects taxes on behalf of the State using a private business model that was meant to deliver superior results, the idea being that a privately managed firm would be better at collecting taxes than the stodgy and inefficient State bureaucracy.

That is the kind of ideology that is currently driving proposals to "privatize" water distribution in Italian cities, with results like in the vignette, where the poor citizen forgot to pay his water tax...

Collecting tax funds is certainly something Equitalia is good at, but it seems to be especially good at it for its own benefit. As a result of Equitalia's activities, a small priviledged group of little known private citizens have managed to make money from all the other hapless tax-…