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A pretty much spoiler-free review of Temporary Duty

I had a schizophrenic experience reading Ric Locke’s Temporary Duty. As I read it through, a little voice kept telling me, “oh, now, a proper editor from a publishing house would so make him change that.”

And then this other voice would say, “yes, but do YOU think he should change it?”

Like, the pacing is uneven. Wait, no it’s not — it’s logarithmic. The set-up and introductory part runs long (background stuff about the ship’s engineering and the aliens’ language and that — I like that flavor of sci fi, so I wasn’t put off). Then it picks up when they get moving. And then it picks up some more. And then it moves really fast to the end.

There are two protagonists, and I found it difficult to tell them apart for a long time. An editor would surely insist he pick one and make us identify with him from the start.

But I have to wonder how much of that I noticed because I was reading it for somebody, instead of just reading it.

I liked it. It was very Andre Norton-y — with a touch of the Chronicles of Gor and a pinch of the Waltons.

I hesitated to describe it that way to Ric. Critics are so snobby about good old-fashioned Norton-style space adventure, but I’m a great fan. Happily, it seems he is, too.

Oh, and dude was definitely in the Navy.

So who won the schizophrenic contest? Well, Voice #1 would’ve made him smooth it over until it was exactly like every other scifi book of its type I’ve ever read. Voice #2 thought that would be a damn shame.

New Dead Pool tomorrow, 6pm WBT. You’ve read about dicks in the news all week, now win one of your very own!


Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: June 2, 2011, 10:05 pm

Interesting. I found the two characters distinguishable from fairly early on–but it did take a chapter or two. And I was engrossed by the book, much to my astonishment–I’ve never been a great consumer of sci-fi. Funny though, I liked Andre Norton as a pre-adolescent and adolescent (but I remember them as fantasy, which appealed to me more. . .) No doubt a proper publisher would have made him change things, but I’ve read books by authors I very much like which nonetheless left me wondering if the editor was sleep-walking; there is something to be said for allowing the artist to take responsibility for the success or failure of the work. And the more I have thought about the phenomenon of internet self-publishing since reading Temporary Duty, the more I am excited about the possibilities.

Comment from dustoffmom
Time: June 2, 2011, 10:27 pm

New Dead Pool starts tomorrow? Who the heck died??? I missed it.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: June 2, 2011, 10:54 pm

Jeff Conaway. I never saw Grease, so I had to have him explained to me.

I’ve become fascinated by the current state of self-publishing, Can’t hark. Used to be “vanity publishing” was the kiss of death (my grandfather self-published a book of anecdotes written in hillbilly dialect that still turns up in rare book forums. Yeesh!). Not so much now.

I don’t know why I’m so interested. I don’t write fiction, or plan to. But watching a big industry shift is…well, interesting.

Have I linked to this already? An long but very interesting article on the topic.

Comment from Mono The Elderish
Time: June 2, 2011, 11:31 pm

Well, the book looks and sounds like the shiznit. So, i’ll have to save up my gold grickles and take a look…

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: June 2, 2011, 11:41 pm

Well, jeepers. The industry shift doesn’t only affect the producers, in fact it may not primarily affect the producers–it affects the consumers, of whom you are one. I had an interesting discussion at the annual meeting/dinner of a public library client with the assistant director on the subject of the effect of electronic publishing on traditional libraries. (Hm. The syntax of that sentence is a bit odd, but I’m not up to transposing prepositional phrases to make it sound better.)

Point is–libraries have always been a HUGE source of sales for dead-tree publications; as electronic resources have become more important, the collections have changed, as have the functions of librarians. But there is some real angst in the profession about whether there will even BE such a profession 50 years from now.

Amazingly, as the rise of texting as a form of rapid communication demonstrates, the electronic age has not made written text obsolete–but it has definitely changed the way we create and interact with it. I truly believe this is a good thing, and it sure is fascinating to watch!

Comment from Can\’t hark my cry
Time: June 2, 2011, 11:44 pm

Mono the Elderish: Um. $2.99. Total price. OK, I do understand that that may still be a serious budget-stretcher. But I thought I’d mention in case you hadn’t actually gone and looked at the Amazon posting. Yeah. Electronic self-publishing is DEFINITELY changing the face of book buying. And what may be most fascinating of all–I have a sense that Ric Locke will receive MORE INCOME PER BOOK SOLD under this system than if he were conventionally published. . .

Comment from Mono The Elderish
Time: June 2, 2011, 11:49 pm

Do you KNOW the Exchange rate of Gold grickles to Dollars?! it’s worse than the peso! (and uh… Not seeing something thats staring you in the face is sign that you need to get away from the lcd screen for a while right?)

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: June 2, 2011, 11:51 pm

Can’t say I’ve ever visited in climes where gold grickles were the coinage–my loss, I suspect. Sorry! And, um, which obvious fact did I miss? I’m good at that, I am. But I sturdily resist the implication that I need to go participate in my real life. Harumph!

Comment from Mono The Elderish
Time: June 2, 2011, 11:53 pm

uh, i meant my not seeing the price, Not saying that You DIDN’T miss something important, but not something i know about…. lol

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: June 3, 2011, 12:06 am

‘k, I can confess I was pretty sure that was what you were referring to. . .but I’m a big fan of not rubbing folks’s noses in things. Hope $2.99 isn’t an actual budget-breaker for you. I’m not a good judge of the Sci-Fi field, but I am (she said modestly) a damned good judge of what is readable, engaging prose–and Ric Locke’s got it.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: June 3, 2011, 12:16 am

I wanted to be a librarian, until I discovered it was a Master’s course. Feh. I still spent many, many hours — pre-internet — haunting libraries. I had cards for all the major libraries within twenty miles (including a pay reader’s ticket for the Brown University libraries — worth every cent).

I was surprised Google didn’t kill libraries. All that research know-how reduced to a few clicks.

Anyhow, I wish I could remember who said this (it’s not original), but publishers — book publishers, music publishers — have made their money selling containers. Paperbacks, hardbacks, albums, eight tracks, casettes, CDs. They contain content.

Now the containers have melted away, and everyone is scrambling to figure out how to sell what was in the container.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: June 3, 2011, 12:20 am

In an earlier incarnation (no, I was not a writist, as you can tell), I had a fair amount of involvement with the traditional book publishing trade and I came to roundly despise it.

Can’t Hark is right, even a moderately successful self-publisher will make more money than someone chained to the wheel of trad pubs – but, more to the point, she or he won’t have her or his book re-written by a wannabe (the myth that most editors are literary enablers is just that – a myth) and she or he will also have complete control of rights management, design, production, pricing, marketing and all the other things that most book publishers get wrong most of the time.

Long live self-publishing. And God damn publishers. Record companies too, come to that – and for similar reasons.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: June 3, 2011, 12:28 am

The downside is that many self-publishers desperately need a good editor (and proofreader, and pubs designer, and cover artist) to apply a bit of polish. And many won’t seek them out, or won’t listen to them if they do.

Thankfully, Ric’s book wasn’t like that, or I’d’ve had to do quite the tapdance 🙂

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: June 3, 2011, 1:14 am

Oh, Stoaty, the container thing is EXCELLENT! If you ever come up with the source. . .until then, I’m crediting you.

And, Uncle B–OH YES!, from what I hear, as to record companies.

About the need of self-publishers for editors, proofreaders, designers & cover artists. Um, I can’t believe the token liberal is the one saying this but–trust the free market. Those folks are out there. As self-publishing expands, they will learn to market themselves to that trade. And savvy self-publishers will learn to take advantage. Those who take advantage effectively will do better in sales and word-of-mouth buzz. Really, the interesting thing to look at is how marketing will be done, and what will be effective. I visited smashwords.com, which is a self-publishing site, and the biggest drawback to investing a few pence there is that I don’t know how to pick and choose. My skills are attuned to conventional bookstores; I’m going to have to learn new skills, but the publishing sites are also going to have to put some thought into how to facilitate choosing.

Interesting times indeed!

Comment from Ric Locke
Time: June 3, 2011, 1:44 am


As debt piles up, one reaches the point where the only possible action is to say “thanks” and wait for Guido to show up.

Thanks. If you’ll tell me what Guido drinks, I’ll try to have some on hand.

And I told you by email, but you didn’t believe me or couldn’t credit it: I like criticism. One “It sucks!” is worth a hundred “Well, err, something’s not quite right…”s, especially since I don’t take hints at all, unless delivered with explosives.

To all who bought the book: #1, Thank you! #2, the version on Amazon isn’t very pretty. I have a version on my hard drive with all the typos fixed that will ever be, cover, copyright, and dedication pages, and page breaks between chapters. I should upload it, but that starts the 24-hour waiting period again, and I’m having too much fun watching the sales happen. If you’ll forward your Amazon receipt to ric@riclocke.com I’ll return an updated copy in .pdb format — or any other supported by Calibre, just to avoid having to deal with Smashwords. From what I’ve seen, the .epub format saves the formatting best, and Stoaty was able to load it via Calibre, which I strongly recommend.

Again, thanks. I’ve never had a more rewarding whim.


Comment from Andrea Harris
Time: June 3, 2011, 1:51 am

“I wanted to be a librarian, until I discovered it was a Master’s course.”

Me too! I basically lived in our neighborhood libraries, and as soon as I was old enough, started to take the bus downtown to the main branch, which then (in Miami) was a Greek-style building (it really looked like a white marble temple) in Bayside Park. This was before computerized anything, at least what the Dade County budget was willing to pay for. I really loved the old library; inside it looked like a proper library, with leather chairs that had those brass studs, those tall windows, varnished wood all over the place. The card catalogue was a literal catalogue of those typewritten index cards. They had some “modern” machines, like microfiche readers and microfilm readers. I used to read old newspapers on the microfilm, and had to chew gum to stave off the nausea induced by rolling the film past. They had a typewriter for hire — it was a manual. I did some of my homework on it when my father’s old beast of a Royal was in the shop for breaking down. (Some metal piece on the platen kept jamming.)

Anyway… in the 80s they decided to build a state-of-the-art new main library. They built this thing downtown but this time it was on the other side of the old courthouse, deep in the heart of Miami’s cramped, cave-like little downtown. The new library itself was built in “Spanish” style and it looked like the sort of place that the Inquisition would have used for their trials. It was dark and gloomy despite an open courtyard and a couple of big expensive fountains. The many bums, junkies, and hobos that infest downtown Miami loved to use the fountains to wash in. The old library had a population of smelly bums that used its leather chairs to nap in, and you sort of got used to them, but for some reason they weren’t as obnoxious in the old library. I hated the new library and only went a few times.

I did think of becoming a library assistant, as the only place in Florida to get a Masters Degree in Library Science was FSU and I didn’t want to move to Tallahassee. But the Dade County government made getting a job in any of their institutions such an arcane, ridiculously complicated affair that I ditched that idea. So I was spared becoming a government flunkie.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: June 3, 2011, 2:47 am

My older sister was a librarian, an indexer with the Library of Congress. She once remarked to me that indexing involved the wielding of political power–her point being that, for example, in a print indexing system the indexer decides whether the main subject heading will be established as “Ceylon,” with a “see Ceylon” reference for “Sri Lanka,” or vice versa. Which may not sound like a big deal but. . .there are thousands of main subject headings in a print index. The indexer shapes the way people MUST think about the things they are researching.

Electronic searches have changed all that (and, let me say, good electronic searching did indeed revolutionize legal research, a central, essential, function of the practice of law). But–someone is constructing the search algorithms, and there are folks out there gaming their webpages to garner more hits by fair means or foul. So possibly the functions that librarians used to fulfill still need librarians to fulfill them–but in a different way.

Comment from EZnSF
Time: June 3, 2011, 3:08 am

Never having read much Sci-fi past Loren Eiseley, Dame Stoat’s mention of the Waltons in conjunction with space aliens, perked my ears. Just may have to look into this a bit more.

Also, Perhaps the Dead Pool should be changed to the ‘Live Pool’: Wager on the last celeb standing? Would save you lots of dick shipment, considering they are dropping like files anymore.

And Hey! Were is Joe Binden? He dead yet?

Comment from bad cat robot
Time: June 3, 2011, 3:30 am

I work for a company that does library software, believe it or not. The stuff librarians care about (and now, *I* have to care about) is arcana at an Olympic level. I’ve seen machine code more comprehensible. And oh yes, getting ebooks in the system is happening. Not nicely, more like shoehorning a squid into an accordion, but it is happening. Fun fact: our local county library has ebooks you can check out, but you can’t check them back in again. They have a set time and when that expires the next lucky bastard in line can get it. Prehistoric, I call it.

Comment from bad cat robot
Time: June 3, 2011, 3:33 am

Oh and Ric, am I a bad person for immediately thinking I was getting the Further Adventures of Roger Wilco, Space Janitor of Space Quest fame? Mild disappointment when I read further and it was two moderately competent swabbies instead … 😉

Comment from Ric Locke
Time: June 3, 2011, 3:52 am

bcr: No, you aren’t a bad person, and I’m sorry I disappointed you, but that wasn’t what I wanted to tell a story about.

Hope you weren’t too let down by the rest of it. Stoaty’s review was a bit, umm, glowing


Comment from Deborah
Time: June 3, 2011, 4:54 am

Husband is a HUGE fan of electronic books. He started downloading and reading books onto his Palm Vx in 2000 or around then. He’s upgraded many times of course, now to one of those spiffy cell phones—which he is never without so he always has something to read or listen to. He downloads podcasts to listen to while he’s on the road—he drives about 4000 miles a month.

In fact, one of his favorite podcasts is about science fiction in books, television, and movies. So he will definitely want to read Ric’s book—which I am downloading tonight on my Kindle. So Husband will have to wait until I’ve read it.

Oh wait, Husband could buy his own copy. I guess that would be ok, too. 🙂

Comment from David Bain
Time: June 3, 2011, 6:07 am

Are librarians ALL round the bend? Those in our town’s main library are as wacky as a box of frogs, always whinging or back-stabbing one another. Mind you, maybe it’s working for our local authority that does it.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: June 3, 2011, 12:40 pm

I worked in a university library system as a teenager — my first proper job. It was Vanderbilt’s library system, but really a joint effort among all the local colleges. It was a fabulous series of eleven collections scattered across town.

The main building was Victorian, but had a modern facade stuck on it in the Sixties. So you’d walk through the new part and suddenly find yourself staring at the granite parapets that used to be the exterior of the old building, then the ceilings would get lower and you’d be in the old part.

The modern half was Library of Congress and the old half was Dewey Decimal. The elevators didn’t go to every floor. It was an intensely eccentric building.

Comment from Mark Matis
Time: June 3, 2011, 2:02 pm

For the Dead Pool fans of Dr. Kevorkian, you’re screwed:
No word on whether somebody assisted him. Besides the Man Up There, of course. And no, I do NOT mean the Muslim in Chief. He won’t be doing that for a few more years. Of course, if I win the Dead Pool, then he and his toadies won’t be doing that at all…

Comment from Uncle Monkey
Time: June 3, 2011, 2:14 pm

Yeah! Late B-Day gift for S. Weasel!!
I just saw the news about Dr. Jack and headed over here too!


Satan is shoving pineapples up his ass as we speak.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: June 3, 2011, 3:22 pm

I’m pickled tink, and may the evil fucker rot in hell.

For those who missed my take on Dr. Death.

I’ve just re-read it and am terribly disappointed in the mildness of my prose. He was a sick rat bastard who love, love, LOVED to watch people die. Long before he was in the euthanasia biz, he was skulking around hospitals staring into the eyes of friendless people and taking pictures while they breathed their last.

Bent. Twisted. Fucked in the head. Should’ve been in the lockup most of his adult life.

Comment from Uncle Monkey
Time: June 3, 2011, 3:41 pm

Bent. Twisted. Fucked in the head. Should’ve been in the lockup tied to a pier and had pineapples shoved up his ass most of his adult life.

Fixed it for ya.

Guess I’m just in a “tropical mood” this morning.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: June 3, 2011, 4:04 pm

Uncle Monkey’s making daquiris!

Comment from Nina
Time: June 3, 2011, 4:10 pm

I’m about halfway through it, and yeah…Ric mist have been in the Navy because I don’t get half the service-related references in it. Some of the transitions are a bit abrupt and leave me wondering where the heck I am, but that could just be me.

But so far I’m enjoying it on my iPhone, definitely worth the three bucks if you’ve got it.

Comment from Nina
Time: June 3, 2011, 4:19 pm

Oh, and my daughter was a librarian until about 2 days ago, and she could give you chapter and verse about libraries (she’s the one who came across the 10 year old kid watching porn on the juvie side computers and almost got fired for it–they did get her to quit, which is why she was a librarian until about 2 days ago).

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: June 3, 2011, 5:11 pm

Looks like James Arness is out of the Dead Pool, too.

Comment from Uncle Monkey
Time: June 3, 2011, 5:34 pm

They’re dropping like flies!

C’mon Jimmah!
There’s a Mr. Grim holding on line 3!

Mmm, I do have a killer recipe for mango or banana daquiri’s. Ananas are a bit too strong, but can add a nice touch like coconut.

Comment from Sven in Colorado
Time: June 3, 2011, 10:02 pm

KIRK Douglas *YAOWP!*

– in the library with Mikey’s wif, Zeta-Bones, and sumpin’ to do with a cadelabra?!?!?!

(dunno either…I am just typing what the Ouija Board tells me to.)

Comment from Nina
Time: June 4, 2011, 3:58 pm

I’m in the third act, something bad’s gonna happen, I just know it!

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: June 4, 2011, 7:46 pm

BTW, while I liked the ending very much (and it sets the stage for a possible sequel), I actually prefer the original ending (http://warlocketx.wordpress.com/fiction/temporary-duty/tdy-49a/), which I gather some folk found depressing. Well, yes, although the epilogue keeps it from being totally 1984; but sometimes depressing is the right way to be.

Comment from Oceania
Time: June 5, 2011, 10:21 am


Just paruse this site to check if your science fiction story meets science fact.

Comment from JuliaM
Time: June 5, 2011, 3:41 pm

That’s the second blogger-written e-book I’ve purchased today! Self-publishing is really taking off, isn’t it?

I do like progress, when it’s real progress, and not the type championed by the progressives!

Comment from Oceania
Time: June 6, 2011, 4:51 am

Yes David, they are around the bend … wild parties, drugs, and sex …

Those book pushing paper cutting alphabetical retentives have a Dark Side …

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