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Old 07-24-2019, 03:55 PM
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My Awesome New Robot Book


The biggest and best book of my career is finally out in public where people can see it, read it, and even buy it. Robots in American Popular Culture (by someone named Steve Carper) is the first comprehensive history of robots in media. Despite the academic title (fought 'em for six months and lost) and the academic publisher, McFarland, I guarantee that it contains no academic speak and should be loads of fun to read. (But the name got me in to deliver a paper on robots at the Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association conference in November, so it has its uses.)

I believe that robots as we know 'em first entered popular culture on January 8, 1868, when a young inventor unveiled a seven-foot-tall steam man, designed to replace the horse. (Yes, it was a con, just like almost every other supposed robot unveiled over the next century.) There's a huge amount of lost history predating modern science fiction: I don't get to Isaac Asimov until midway through Chapter 9. (He was beaten to the three laws of robotics, too.) Then I breeze through robot history right down to Stormy Daniels as a sexbot in 2016. Every entry is backed by massive documentation: 750 footnotes, a thousand-item bibliography (sorted by media type), and a 1500-entry index. If you want to use this as a textbook you'll find information available nowhere else.

The only thing missing are the images, and robots are wonderfully visual. That's why I created a companion website, RobotsInAmericanPopularCulture.com, which has over 350 images keyed by text page so you can follow along and see what I'm talking about.

I'm not boasting when I call the book "awesome." I'm quoting John Martellaro, host of The Mac Observer's Background Mode podcast, who also said that as a robot nerd he thinks it's the best robot book ever. The podcast hasn't been formally scheduled, but it should run next week or the week after. I'll post the date when I know it.

This post has been approved by the mods, who also ruled that I can't tell you where to buy it in CS. So please hop over to Marketplace, where info is posted.
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Old 07-24-2019, 05:35 PM
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Are you the only one prohibited from saying where Robots in American Popular Culture can be bought or is everyone prohibited from mentioning where Robots in American Popular Culture can be bought?
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Old 07-24-2019, 06:44 PM
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Congratulations!
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Old 07-24-2019, 07:45 PM
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Well Done, Exapno!, I hope to be in a position to acquire a copy without too much delay.

In the meantime, check your email.
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Old 07-24-2019, 08:10 PM
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Are you the only one prohibited from saying where Robots in American Popular Culture can be bought or is everyone prohibited from mentioning where Robots in American Popular Culture can be bought?
Hey, this is very nice but let's play by the mods rules since this is their house.
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Old 07-24-2019, 08:11 PM
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Congrats! The book sounds like it's fantastic!

Why was your 4 July talk in Layton? Do you ever do talks a bit further south?
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Old 07-24-2019, 08:22 PM
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Congrats! The book sounds like it's fantastic!

Why was your 4 July talk in Layton? Do you ever do talks a bit further south?
The North American Science Fiction Convention was being held there. (It's a suburb of Salt Lake City.) It was a good place to do my song and dance and introduce the book to the sf community. And it was the 50th anniversary of my first Worldcon.

But I'm in upstate New York. It's unlikely I'll be doing anything outside easy driving distance for a while. (Unless you have suspiciously deep pockets or a nerdy tech billionaire to bankroll you. I wish more tech billionaires were into robots instead of rockets.)
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Old 07-24-2019, 09:29 PM
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Fuck me; I had no idea that was where NASFiC was being held! I've been out of the con loop for quite some time now. I hope your talk was well-received; I'm sorry I missed it and a chance to meet you IRL.

ETA: I'm originally from Elmira!

Last edited by Snowboarder Bo; 07-24-2019 at 09:30 PM.
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Old 07-24-2019, 10:07 PM
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The Worldcon this year is in Dublin and next year is in New Zealand!

But that means the NASFIC will be in Columbus and that's drivable.

Ithaca and Corning I get to frequently. But poor Elmira... Not a lot of reason to do so.
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Old 07-24-2019, 10:29 PM
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Me neither except to see family. Altho next time I visit, I'm definitely going gliding/soaring.
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Old 07-25-2019, 04:30 AM
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Despite the academic title (fought 'em for six months and lost)
What did you want to call it?
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Old 07-25-2019, 08:37 AM
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Are you the only one prohibited from saying where Robots in American Popular Culture can be bought or is everyone prohibited from mentioning where Robots in American Popular Culture can be bought?
As long as Exapno didn't pay you to say that, we're fine.
  #13  
Old 07-25-2019, 08:48 AM
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Thanks for the info, looks great! A couple questions?

1) Do you consider Kindle versions to deliver less-than-ideal experiences? I love the convenience but figures and the like sometimes get mangled. How do you think yours looks compared to print?

2) How the hell does someone have a Used version to sell?
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Old 07-25-2019, 09:03 AM
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Have you ever mentioned this book before on the SDMB? I feel like I've heard of this book before and when I did I thought "that sounds like something I'll be interested in getting!" Your book is giving me deja vu!

Anyway, congratulations on your publication! I've put it in my wishlist! And very cool adding a website with images to "follow along".
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Old 07-25-2019, 09:05 AM
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Congrats! Very cool idea for a book!
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Old 07-25-2019, 09:18 AM
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Congratulations; balloons and champagne. Will look for it on the kindle store.

Do you use the word robit in the text at any time?



ETA:
Quote:
This site is done entirely in Roboto font.
Hah!

Last edited by kayaker; 07-25-2019 at 09:19 AM.
  #17  
Old 07-25-2019, 09:50 AM
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2) How the hell does someone have a Used version to sell?
Review copy, I expect?

Congratulations, Exapno! And I love the author photo on the Amazon page...I never suspected that in addition to being a Robot History Genius, you’re also a pompatus of love!
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Old 07-25-2019, 10:31 AM
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What did you want to call it?
I offered numerous two-word titles to make it easier to reference. My problem was that I never could find hit the aha! sweet spot that demanded to be used.

Quote:
Originally Posted by txjim View Post
Thanks for the info, looks great! A couple questions?

1) Do you consider Kindle versions to deliver less-than-ideal experiences? I love the convenience but figures and the like sometimes get mangled. How do you think yours looks compared to print?

2) How the hell does someone have a Used version to sell?
I haven't checked out the Kindle version yet, but the book is pure text with nothing that would trip up formatting. No idea on what the used book sellers are pulling, but I wouldn't go there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZipperJJ View Post
Have you ever mentioned this book before on the SDMB? I feel like I've heard of this book before and when I did I thought "that sounds like something I'll be interested in getting!" Your book is giving me deja vu!

Anyway, congratulations on your publication! I've put it in my wishlist! And very cool adding a website with images to "follow along".
I mentioned that I had a robot column on BlackGate.com a while back and that I was working on the book.

The lack of images was frustrating. Both the evolution of robot designs and the variation of looks within a time period are fascinating topics in themselves, besides the fact that seeing an image is easier than reading a description of one. I don't know of others who have done a companion to a text, but I knew it was a good idea. (If I had realized how much work it would be, though...)
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Congratulations; balloons and champagne. Will look for it on the kindle store.

Do you use the word robit in the text at any time?
No. And that wasn't even a typo I ever had to correct. One of the few.

Quote:
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I love the author photo on the Amazon page...I never suspected that in addition to being a Robot History Genius, you’re also a pompatus of love!
I prefer to think of myself as a professional Grumpy Cat impersonator.

And a collective thank you to all who offered congratulations. I needed that. It's been a long three years.
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Old 07-25-2019, 12:09 PM
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[Moderating]


As long as Exapno didn't pay you to say that, we're fine.
(Hides stack of Benjamins, whistles nonchalantly.)
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Old 07-25-2019, 01:25 PM
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Congrats!!! Super Cool!!
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Old 07-29-2019, 05:32 PM
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In the OP I mentioned a Background Mode podcast with The Mac Observer's John Martellaro. It just went live. We had a wide-ranging discussion about robots in the past and what robots represent in today's culture. John called it fun; I called it nerve-wracking.

It's available on the Mac Observer site, but will eventually sink below newer podcasts there. A more permanent, direct link is below.

https://www.macobserver.com/podcasts...-steve-carper/
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Old 07-29-2019, 07:55 PM
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Congrats and good luck.

One thing though: your book is pure text and all pictures have to be viewed online? That is going to cut down on coffee table style buyers.
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Old 07-29-2019, 08:20 PM
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Congrats and good luck.

One thing though: your book is pure text and all pictures have to be viewed online? That is going to cut down on coffee table style buyers.
But think of the money that Dell and Apple are paying me.
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Old 08-01-2019, 03:01 PM
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I found my copy on the doorstep this morning. (I presume UPS rang the doorbell yesterday, but I must have slept through it.) Just finished the first chapter. So far, I am enjoying it.

I am contemplating getting a copy of Capek's R.U.R. Any opinions as to the best translation? Claudia Novak-Jones' version is relatively cheap. Majer and Porter's version is more expensive, but comes with three other plays as well.
  #25  
Old 08-01-2019, 05:51 PM
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I found my copy on the doorstep this morning. (I presume UPS rang the doorbell yesterday, but I must have slept through it.) Just finished the first chapter. So far, I am enjoying it.

I am contemplating getting a copy of Capek's R.U.R. Any opinions as to the best translation? Claudia Novak-Jones' version is relatively cheap. Majer and Porter's version is more expensive, but comes with three other plays as well.
I'm afraid I don't have an opinion on this. I looked at more than one, but I focused solely on content rather than enjoyment. Turns out that there are many small differences, down to the names of the characters and how many years pass during the play, that are far more annoying to someone trying to describe it accurately.

But a big thank you for buying it. Here's hoping you'll enjoy it all the way through.
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Old 08-01-2019, 06:48 PM
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Bought the e-version for my kindle. About a third of the way through. Very well written, and a fascinating topic. I’d heard of the chess-playing Turk, but thought it was unique; I had no idea automatons were such a vaudeville staple.

I hope, though, that you’ll be able to incorporate pictures and illustrations in future additions. I can’t get the companion website to work on my mobile devices, and it adds a lot to be able to see them as you’re discussing them.

Congratulations and kudos!
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Old 08-01-2019, 06:49 PM
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Do you make more on the sale of a paper copy or a digital one?
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Old 08-01-2019, 10:01 PM
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Do you make more on the sale of a paper copy or a digital one?
I get a percentage. A paper copy costs more than five times as much. The long term question then becomes whether the cheaper version sells more than five times as many.
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Old 08-02-2019, 07:47 AM
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But for those of us just buying one, a paper copy is more money in your pocket.

Just checking. Thanks, and good luck.
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Old 08-12-2019, 11:28 AM
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I finished reading it this weekend, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It's strange how the human mind works. I had to force myself through the chapter on 19th Century automatons. Yet, in retrospect, I find myself thinking about that chapter a lot. I want to see a Steam Man in action!

"Apologies to anyone whose favorite robot has been stinted or left out entirely." Yup. No mention of one I would have thought was essential. (The Runaway Robot, by Lester del Rey, if you're interested.) I wonder which omission will produce the most grumbling from its fanboys?

There are a few typos to nag your editor about, before the 2nd edition. A couple of misspelled words. A couple of sentences that were missing an article or a preposition. Very tiny stuff. And one reference to "William Tiberius Kirk" that made my jaw drop.
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Old 08-16-2019, 03:40 AM
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Congrats Exapno Mapcase! I have no problem believing this is the best robot book ever!
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Old 08-16-2019, 09:21 AM
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Exapno, I'm about half way through the free sample Kindle provides, and I'm sure I'll buy the whole thing once I finish it. I'm very impressed with the depth of your research and the quality of the writing, although the latter will be no surprise to any Dopers. It's somewhat more academic than the prose with which you favor us here, but nevertheless familiar as our Exapno.

I've spotted a few typos that I'll try to track and forward to you. The most notable so far, in the first chapter, I think, was "Anthanĉum," which I assume should be "Athanĉum."

I've noticed that in some Kindle editions when you highlight a word, in addition to showing a definition or translation, it allows you to report a typo. I don't know if that's an option for original works like yours, or mostly applied to books that have been scanned (many of which desperately need it). But if you have the ability to turn it on, it would allow you to crowdsource proofreading of your first edition, which might be helpful.

Anyway, congrats on a masterful work. I wish you great success.

Now excuse me while I get back to reading it.
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Old 08-16-2019, 10:17 AM
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I've spotted a few typos that I'll try to track and forward to you. The most notable so far, in the first chapter, I think, was "Anthanĉum," which I assume should be "Athanĉum."
Ouch. Typos are like the death of a thousand paper cuts. Oddly, it's spelled correctly in the footnotes and bibliography. How that got past both me and the copyeditor is a mystery.

However, it now goes into my errata folder.

Thanks for the praise. I'm glad you're enjoying it.

ETA. eunoia, sorry I didn't see this before. My jaw has dropped as well.

The Runaway Robot (actually ghosted by Paul Fairman) appeared in 1965, which would have put it into Part 2, a period with so many YA robot books that I wound up skipping almost all of them.
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Old 08-19-2019, 06:35 PM
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Ouch. Typos are like the death of a thousand paper cuts.
Don't I know it! I think I've mentioned here that I'm a newsletter publisher, and there's nothing more frustrating than poring over proofs, thinking you've found every possible typo, only to get hundreds of copies back from the printer and find a glaring error you and the copy editor somehow missed. Usually it's the very first thing you see when you pick up the first copy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by commasense View Post
I've noticed that in some Kindle editions when you highlight a word, in addition to showing a definition or translation, it allows you to report a typo. I don't know if that's an option for original works like yours, or mostly applied to books that have been scanned (many of which desperately need it). But if you have the ability to turn it on, it would allow you to crowdsource proofreading of your first edition, which might be helpful.
Okay, so that feature wasn't active in the sample I was reading when I posted that, but it is in the full book.

Question for you, Exapno: do you see those corrections, and should I just make them there, or would you like me to forward them to you separately by PM or e-mail? (I haven't found a lot more, only a couple so far.)

Here's one I found on the website with the pictures: the caption for the image by Flammarion reads "Fammarion."
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Old 08-19-2019, 08:06 PM
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Okay, so that feature wasn't active in the sample I was reading when I posted that, but it is in the full book.

Question for you, Exapno: do you see those corrections, and should I just make them there, or would you like me to forward them to you separately by PM or e-mail? (I haven't found a lot more, only a couple so far.)
I never knew this feature existed, and I have no idea who gets the notifications or how they are passed on.

Anyway, my email is is my profile so just send things there.

Did you find having the website images to be useful?
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Old 08-19-2019, 08:38 PM
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...Wait. Was that the story where robots could be identified by an inability to bend their knees, and the human character deliberately mimics this to disguise himself as his robot, to foil some plan or another? Or (as I hope) was that a story that nobody but me ever read, and which got relegated to the dustbin of history for being too stupid?
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Old 08-20-2019, 09:09 AM
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I never knew this feature existed, and I have no idea who gets the notifications or how they are passed on.

Anyway, my email is is my profile so just send things there.

Did you find having the website images to be useful?
When I've finished reading, I'll collect all the typos I've found and e-mail them to you.

And yes, the website with the pictures is great, although on my Samsung Android tablet it seems a bit sluggish and quirky: clicking on the arrows to change pictures can take a couple of seconds, and the floating menu across the top intrudes too much, and doesn't seem to disappear when it should. But on my PC it seems to behave properly. Better optimizing the site for mobile viewing would be an improvement, although I understand if time or money makes that problematic.
  #38  
Old 08-20-2019, 09:49 AM
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When I've finished reading, I'll collect all the typos I've found and e-mail them to you.

And yes, the website with the pictures is great, although on my Samsung Android tablet it seems a bit sluggish and quirky: clicking on the arrows to change pictures can take a couple of seconds, and the floating menu across the top intrudes too much, and doesn't seem to disappear when it should. But on my PC it seems to behave properly. Better optimizing the site for mobile viewing would be an improvement, although I understand if time or money makes that problematic.
I use Wix. That has limited adaptation for mobile view. Mostly I can only size or position text blocks or images. The menu shouldn't be floating. I'll look into it, but I'm not sure how much I can override what Wix does that is hidden from me.
  #39  
Old 08-20-2019, 10:08 AM
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Congratulations! I'll have to put it on my list. I love McFarland Books; I haunt their booth at every year at Gen Con. They publish the most erudite books on the most geeky topics!

Why weren't you able to include images, if you don't mind my asking? I own a number of McFarland's books, and I know that at least some of them are illustrated.
  #40  
Old 08-20-2019, 10:33 AM
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Why weren't you able to include images, if you don't mind my asking? I own a number of McFarland's books, and I know that at least some of them are illustrated.
Exapno can elaborate if he wishes, but here's his answer from the Marketplace thread.
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Old 08-20-2019, 10:48 AM
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Makes sense. Thanks.
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