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Monday, July 21, 2008

Thoughts on Tor

Alright, so Tor has officially unveiled their new social networking super site (or whatever you want to call it since it is a mishmash of things). Some folks are rather excited about it and others a bit apprehensive. There has been a wicked fight going on between John Scalzi and Jonathan of SF Diplomat and I have a few things to say myself.
Now, having read the arguments on SF Diplomat I have to say that I'm a little on the fence about all this. I agree with certain points on both sides of the issue. On the one hand the new Tor site isn't all that new: it's several years too late in the social networking sphere and isn't necessarily offering us anything new or superbly interesting (I've gone a couple times and mostly I'm just disappointed in how it turned out). On the other hand the new Tor site is offering payment to writers (known writers at this point) and aiming to reach out to the SF community, being one of the first publishers to do so. Perhaps it will prove successful, or maybe they have a lot of things up their sleeves and they are keeping them behind closed doors before releasing them. I don't know. I'm not in the loop on that.
My problems with the new site stem from the fact that the site isn't really new. What is it offering us that hasn't been offered elsewhere? Two new stories by John Scalzi and Charles Stross? I must confess that while new stories are enticing, it's not enough to get me on the bandwagon (and I probably won't read those stories since I am not much of an online reader in general; perhaps turning some things into audio fiction would be nice, or as DRM free ebook style things would help too) . I just don't find the site all that interesting. I'm a huge SF fan and it isn't really doing anything for me that I haven't received elsewhere. I don't want to be negative about this. There is a positive side to everything (they actually made the site, while a lot of publishers don't really have this sort of fan inclusion), but at the same time, it could be so much more.
Part of my disappointment is that I was expecting something more from Tor. Yes, the social aspect of the site I did expect, but I thought that perhaps Tor, of all companies, would take things to the logical conclusion and really push the envelope. I remember the SciFi channel online fiction site that paid 25 cents a word and perhaps I was a little naive to hope that something similar might pop up from Tor. In fact, my interests would be peaked if such a thing existed for Tor, though I imagine it's not a very lucrative concept. While I am not a big online reader, I think such a project would be truly beneficial to the short story market, and perhaps interesting for Tor since it would have a personal stake in its authors--not to mention front row seats into finding out who might be the next big thing (or semi-big thing).
The other part of my disappointment has already been mentioned: it's not very new. I imagine a lot of people will like it, but I just don't want to waste more time on yet another social community. I have too many social communities as it is, including my website for young writers.
Maybe I'm just being lazy or too negative, but I think we need more from Tor's new site. Perhaps things are going to change. I imagine they have a lot of things to unleash. This is just the start and with Tor behind it I think there is potential for greatness. We'll see I suppose.

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  1. SCIFICTION paid 20 cents a word, not 25 cents a word.
    Carry on.

  2. Oh whoops! Thanks for the correction, Ellen! I knew it was 20 something though, so I was close, and 20 is still a darn good rate.

  3. Anonymous11:51 PM

    Back then 20 cents WAS 25 cents.

  4. JV: Probably. Back then gas was $1.60 a gallon too, if I recall correctly.
    Regardless, Scifiction was a huge market for new and current writers and I really would like to see the Tor site become something similar. Maybe not on the same scale, but certainly it would be nice if Tor become very open to hosting new writers, as in folks that really aren't known at all (no book contracts, etc.). Tor could do well to pave the way for the next batch of great SF writers out there.