Book Review: Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang

1 Sep

coverI started reading S.L. Huang’s Zero Sum Game for two reasons.

First, and most importantly, the premise had not one but two brilliant “high concept” elements, either one of which would have been enough to make me want to read it, but together made it a must-read for me. “High concept” is a now-dated screenwriting term that can be defined a number of ways, one of which is: an exciting premise that can be stated in 25 words or less.

Huang’s double-barrelled high concept is that her protagonist sees the world as math (I’m oversimplifying a bit), and that whoever or whatever her antagonist is, it gets inside the protagonist’s head and can edit, delete, and plant new thoughts. So the protagonist has to figure out how to beat someone who is very literally inside her head.

I mean, damn. Right there, you should want to run out and read this book, knowing nothing else about it. (And if you don’t, the failure is mine in communicating it, I promise.)

The second reason you might say is almost out of guilt. If you follow me at all, you know that I’m an advocate of the Creative Commons. My own work goes out under CC licenses, and I share all kinds of music I find in the commons that I think is worth telling people about.

But I haven’t really done much regarding CC-licensed books. Part of that is that the ones of much quality that I came across were from big(-ish) names that published through major publishing houses. If you read SF and F much, you’ve probably at least heard of Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross, e.g. And the few I’ve read that were totally indie were… not “bad”, but each had idiosyncracies and self-indulgences that rubbed me wrong, and as an advocate, I want to share The Good Stuff, not rag on authors with different tastes than mine.

So when I came across the summary of Zero Sum Game at Unglue.It, I instantly downloaded it and put it into my (terrifyingly lengthy) to-read list.

And now I’ve read it.

Holy crap is it good!

S.L. Huang has, in her very first novel, completely mastered the craft of writing a thriller. On a chapter-by-chapter basis, it is a joy to read. The laying of hooks, the timing of twists, the deft handling of exposition that also reveals character. She is, first novel, indie published, absolutely professional.

Cas Russell is the narrator and protagonist, and we meet her in the middle of doing her job — she’s a retrieval specialist, and on the first page of chapter one, she’s retrieving a young lady from a drug cartel’s compound. In fact, we first meet Cas as she’s punching in the face the only person in the world whom she trusts.

She hadn’t realized when taking the job that this man was in fact undercover with the cartel on his own mission, but it makes sense to her, since he was the one who gave her name to her client.

Except, as it turns out a bit later on, he’s never heard of her client and didn’t give her name to anybody recently.

Again, I’m just completely in love with Huang’s skill at putting this all together. The story starts off in the middle of an elaborate action scene, and only gets more tense once the action lets up.

I don’t want to go into the plot much more than that, but there are several observations I must make.

Cas Russell’s gift/curse of seeing everything as math essentially gives her superpowers. She sees, instantly and automatically, tiny little windows of probability, and how to use them, which (believably, within the story) gets her to such astonishing acts as breaking into a barred third-story window without any means of support or leverage, and figuring out a sniper’s precise location and taking him out with a pistol.

The “telepathy” in the story is not anything “psionic” or magical. It’s more like charisma at it’s most extreme degree, something done purely through vocal and physical presence and interaction. I’ve never seen it handled this way before, and it was terribly interesting, had restrictions I hadn’t encountered before because of its unique nature, and was made believable in part by the reader’s buying into Cas’s own gifts.

Huang is a fan of Firefly and the movie that followed it, Serenity. There is a character very much inspired by The Operative from Serenity, and this is acknowledged within the story by a nice reference, only once but enough to let the reader know that the influence was neither unconscious nor accidental.

If I have a quibble, it is incredibly minor and it is this: Zero Sum Game is the first book of a series, and does (excellent) spadework in establishing characters and relationships that are clearly going to play out over many stories. However, the nature of the story it tells feels, to me, like a story that should have occurred in an already-going series. For instance, the way that Cas is made to realize that some of her thoughts are not her own is dependent on a pre-existing relationship. As presented in the story, it’s set up expertly and is effective. But, it would have worked better if the relationship had already been going, in the reader’s head, for a book or several books already. There are a few other little details like this throughout the story. It’s not that they don’t work, because they do. It’s that they would have worked better if the series already had backstory in the reader’s mind. Again, this is an incredibly minor quibble, but I felt I should note it.

Finally, before going off on the political tangent, I’ll note that the resolution is open-ended and some readers might find it less than totally satisfying. As will become clear by implication below, I do not consider this a flaw, but a necessary and intentional consequence of how Huang approached the thematic issues she’s handling in the story. I won’t say I found the way things end up in the story unsatisfying, I enjoyed the whole book right up to the very end. But I do hope, at some future point, that she returns to the situation at the end of this story and explores further the conflict between different, incompatible ideals that she seems to hold.


Political stuff: You may or may not know it, but I am a member of the supposedly-evil, supposedly-racist, supposedly-misogynist Sad Puppies campaign that led to so much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the media in the past few months, and exposed the folks behind the Hugo Awards to be the whiny, glory-grabbing twits that we always said that they were.

I didn’t know it when I began the book, and only learned it inadvertently while reading, but S.L. Huang aligns with the “social justice warriors” of science fiction, the putative heroes saving the world from all the evils there are, especially racistsexistmisogynist Sad Puppies and other troglodytes. As far as I know, Ms. Huang was not involved in this past year’s Hugo kerfuffle at all, but her sympathies are indisputably at odds with mine, and others on her side of things would say that I’m more interested in pushing minorities out of the genre than anything else.

Which is exactly why I wrote this ecstatic, laudatory, five-star review. Obviously.

Snark aside, there is a point in the story where Huang’s social justice ideology comes up. The phrase “social justice” even gets used. And it’s not an aside or a throw-away; it’s inextricably tied into the theme of the book, to the point that the discussion gives the book its title.

If I were what the SJWs portrayed all the Sad Puppies as being (again, not Huang in particular, as I don’t think she got much involved in the controversy this year), then I would denounce this intrusion of the author’s axe-grinding into the story.

And if it did harm to the actual story, I would denounce it.

But it does not.

Huang grapples, in the story, with some of the negative consequences of her beliefs. Cas Russell is faced with a moral dilemma, and both possible outcomes offend her, in different ways. She has a choice (broadly and vaguely speaking) between enacting “social justice”, explicitly stated to be what she considers a good, or defending individual free will, and thus permitting individual people to do evil and commit social injustices.

This is presented honestly and fairly, without the author putting her thumb on the scales or magically making her pet ideas work where they wouldn’t and haven’t in the real world. She explores the conundrum she sets in good faith.

And I can’t help but think that she has problems with the choice her heroine makes. It’s certainly not an easy choice for Cas, and one that sits uncomfortably with her after she makes it.

I applaud this. I can do nothing else.

(As a minor note, of course I think she gets things wrong, because she’s proceeding from a false premise, but that’s beside the point. She’s dealing fairly, doesn’t cheat, and it makes the story a richer and more interesting experience. One can hardly ask for more than that from anybody.)


Buy Zero Sum Game by SL Huang from Amazon.

Download it for free under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 License from Unglue.It (where you can also send money the author’s direction as a way of saying “thanks” for releasing it to the Creative Commons).

#Writing #Music Monday: Orbital Nights by Chill Carrier

31 Aug

CoverChill Carrier is a German artist I’ve not featured here before, perhaps in part because I’ve only downloaded two of his albums and so he hasn’t turned up in my random explorations of my music library too much.

After giving Orbital Nights a few close listens, as well as using it as background a few times, I realized I need to rectify that and explore his work more.

Here’s what he says about it:

Orbital Nights is my hommage to the cult show “Space Night” which has shown views from earth from the orbiting space shuttles mixed with a great electronic soundtrack fitting perfectly to that dreamy scenery. I was influenced myself by that television show pretty much back in the late 90s and still love to watch them on DVD nowadays.

It’s repetitious in the way that “chillout” tends to be, but complex and layered enough that it never bothered me. One or two of the tracks are little more than sonic wallpaper, but others go beyond that, and none grates on the nerves or pulls you out of whatever you’re thinking about once you’ve got the music going.

Download Orbital Nights by Chill Carrier free from Jamendo.

Or, you can purchase it from BandCamp for £3, or about $4.50 (at the exchange rate at the time of this writing) and get it in a wider variety of formats, including lossless FLAC.


Creative Commons License
Orbital Nights by Chill Carrier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 International License.

#Writing #Music Monday: Cinematic Volume 10 Epic Choir by Gregoire Lourme

24 Aug

CoverI’ve shared some of Gregoire Lourme’s soundtrack work before. He only gets better with each release, and this is his latest and arguably his best.

Cinematic Volume 10 is subtitled Epic Choir, and it is completely epic. You can’t listen to these tracks without imagining yourself on horseback, sword drawn, charging at hordes of undefeatable enemies.

I’m currently wrestling with a high fantasy novel (Ex-Ministers of Fate) that subverts the genre in a few ways, but when I downloaded and started playing this album, the wrestling became a bit less urgent, and the story worked with me a little more.

In fact, one of the tracks is going to be used in the book trailer, if I get my act together and actually make one. (The joy of Free Culture licensing — I already have the license to do this!)

It flows, it stirs the blood, it excites the soul.

If that’s what you need for your writing today, what the heck are you waiting for!?

Download Cinematic Volume 10: Epic Choir free from Jamendo.


Creative Commons License
Cinematic Volume 10: Epic Choir by Gregoire Lourme is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

One reason to use a Free Culture license on your work

11 Aug

Try freedom sometime. (Image by snapwiresnaps, CC0.)

Try freedom sometime.
(Image by snapwiresnaps, CC0.)

I have a friend who was published through a small publisher. Not a New York imprint, but an actual, out-in-the-boonies small publisher.

The reason I say “was” and not “is”, is that this small publisher suddenly lost several authors and artists, all at the same time, is facing tax fraud allegations in multiple countries, stands accused of skimming profits from authors, and has had criminal charges filed against her in her state of residence.

My friend is not one of the authors who walked. His first instinct was to sit tight and just wait for the rights to his books revert to him.

That, by the way, is a terrible idea, and I’ve already advised him to talk to an intellectual property lawyer about filing a cross-complaint to get the rights back as soon as possible, given that the publisher will obviously not be able to fulfill the terms of her side of their contract.

And the reason I advised this was made clear when another writer joined in with a bit of his experience. He had works with a publisher who was facing a trial, and the publisher knew he would lose. After failing to “sell” the rights back to the author, they were sold to a holding company, which then changed owners seven times in six months. As he put it: “They effectively made the properties nuclear waste that is sitting on a list somewhere in title/name only.”

Does he still hold the copyright? Technically, but only technically.

This is a common story these days, and not a surprise with the copyright law the way it is. But let us not dwell on that for now. Let us, instead, look at how my friend might have avoided this hassle and expense with Creative Commons licensing, specifically a Free Culture license.

If you decide to go with a publisher, rather than publishing yourself through Amazon, you can still insist that your work go out with a CC license. The publisher will fight it, naturally, as it makes available to anyone rights that are generally the purview of the publisher exclusively.

So, perhaps, you will have to take a smaller advance, or give other concessions, to get that license included in the book.

But imagine you get it. Your novel gets published by Small House Publications, Inc. And it goes out with “Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License 4.0” on the copyright page.

Now imagine that the publisher gets arrested for fraud six months later, and decides to hold all the copyrights of all his authors hostage, either to improve his negotiating position, or to squeeze a little money from his clients when he can’t get any from any other source, or even simply to screw with people because he’s getting screwed with himself. Happens all the time.

But you don’t need to worry.

Because you can put out your own edition of your book immediately. Without asking permission from anyone.

The only restriction you have is that you have to put it out under the same license, of course (that’s what “share alike” means), but you’ve already done that.

You’ll also probably have to mock up a new cover, since the license almost certainly won’t apply to the one the publisher put on his edition of your book.

And if you really want to twit him, you can even release yours as “the only author-approved edition”, which it will be, since you and the publisher will at that point be at loggerheads.

This is one of the great advantages of free culture for artists. No longer do the products of your mind need to be signed away to corporate suits to be held hostage whenever there’s a regime change or the CEO decides he doesn’t like your tone of voice.

The era of Buddy Holly having to beg for permission to record his own music is over, if you want it to be.

You can do business with the big five publishers or the record companies, if you want. But if you require your work to go out with free culture licenses, you are no longer owned by them. They can try their manipulations and abusive tactics, and you can just walk, use all your material again, and let them keep their editions of it hostage if they want, or release them once they realize that won’t hold you any more.

Free culture doesn’t just benefit consumers of culture, it’s a boon to creators as well.

#Writing #Music Monday: handmade by Bruce H. McCosar

10 Aug

CoverMellow. That’s the one-word summation of this album. It’s just mellow.

Bruce McCosar has appeared here twice before, and all of his appearances in Writing Music Monday post-date his apparent disappearance from the internet. His music is still extant, and all under the free culture Attribution-Share Alike license, so his legacy will continue regardless, but when they say “the internet is forever”? It’s not really true.

Of the three McCosar albums I’ve shared to date, this is the second for which he prepared extensive “liner notes”. For La vie sous la mer, he prepared a PDF with everything he wanted to say. Unfortunately, that seems to have been lost when he closed up his blog, and I’ve not been able to find a copy.

For today’s album, archaeologists and musicologists of the future are somewhat more fortunate: McCosar did his notes as a series of pages on his blog, and a portion of them are preserved by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. Basically, any multi-part note has the first part preserved, and the rest seem to be gone.

Apart from that, on the album’s page at Jamendo, he says:

I named this album handmade because all the rhythms were performed using hand percussion instruments: three conga drums, two maracas, and a cowbell. Against this background I have highly melodic improvisation, jazzy chords, and of course a groovin bass line.

I play every instrument you hear on this album—guitar, bass, Hammond organ, keys, and drums.

And as I say above, it all comes off as very mellow. It’s fifty-six and a half minutes of melodic, relaxed tunes that fit in the background very nicely as you’re typing along. OK, maybe not the thing to have playing if you’re writing a horror novel or a nail-biting thriller. But aside from those, I’d say it’s simply one of those perfect writing albums, one that can fit almost any story mood so you can bang away at the keyboard.

You can download handmade by Bruce H. McCosar free from Jamendo or from the Internet Archive.


Creative Commons License
handmade by Bruce H. McCosar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

#Writing #Music Monday: Sir Agent Chill by K4MMERER

27 Jul

[cover] Kammerer - Sir Agent ChillK4mmerer (aka Kämmerer) is a Swedish composer who has been putting work into the Creative Commons since 2008, and is still going strong.

The cover, and some of the track titles, might be a touch misleading. Sir Agent Chill isn’t really James Bond-style music. The tag attached to this post that seems most apt to me is “chillout”. It’s very calming, soothing synth work, but melodic and tuneful as well, rather than just sonic wallpaper.

And there’s a lot of it. Fifteen tracks, giving you just over an hour of continuous music to write to.

Download Sir Agent Chill by K4mmerer free from Jamendo, or from the Internet Archive.


Creative Commons License
Sir Agent Chill by K4MMERER is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

How (and Why) to Use Free Culture Lyrics In Your Book

21 Jul

"I've got the 'white boy tryin' to use song lyrics in my novel blues.'" Image by zooverano, CC0

“I’ve got the ‘white boy tryin’ to use song lyrics in my novel’ blues.”
Image by zooverano, CC0

A year and a half ago, I did a post titled “A different way to legally quote lyrics in your books“, providing a legal, workable alternative to bringing in song lyrics to your novel without putting yourself at the mercy of the litigation-happy recording industry.

It has come to be the post I refer to most often on social media, somewhat to my surprise, and the more I link it, the less happy I am with how non-comprehensive it is.

So today I return to the well, and aim to do a better job of explaining what the Creative Commons is, what Free Culture licenses are, and how to go about finding songs whose lyrics you can use in your books with minimal fuss and no legal vulnerability on your part.

But before we go exploring the Commons and Free Culture, let’s deal with what all new writers are actually trying to do.

Do Not Use Mainstream, Major Label Songs In Your Writing

you may cast me off
but i remain
you may tell your tale
but i’m the same

— Bert Jarred, “Spectacular“, CC BY 3.0

You’ve been working on your novel for a long time, and it’s the greatest book ever written, and the only thing that could make it more perfect is if you could just use this one perfect song lyric as an epigraph.

Don’t.

I don’t care how perfectly “Stairway to Heaven” or “Under The Milky Way” are suited to your story. If you quote them, there will be legal consequences.

You can — probably — get away with referring to the name of the song, and the band name, in the story. But I wouldn’t even go that far, personally.

There is a theoretical limitation to copyright known as “fair use” in the United States. In theory, people have the right to use a portion of a copyrighted work in a larger, original creation.

In reality, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) (or your local equivalent if you’re outside of the US) is going to bring suit against any use for which they did not get paid and to which they did not give permission.

It doesn’t matter how cool the band or artist is with fans making use of their works (and some are, but they don’t get the final say). The major labels and the RIAA sue, basically, everybody. Unless you’re Stephen King or Dan Brown, you don’t have the resources for the knock-down, drag-out legal fight that would ensue. As far as they are concerned, there is no fair use until it has been litigated, and the purpose of that is to create a very expensive barrier to entry for any use.

Don’t believe me? In 2007, Stephanie Lenz posted to Youtube a 29 second video of her toddler dancing. Her child was dancing to Prince’s 1980s classic “Let’s Go Crazy”, which can be heard (poorly) in the background of the video. Universal Music Publishing Group had Youtube pull the video due to a claimed copyright violation. (“‘Universal’s takedown notice doesn’t even pass the laugh test,’ said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry.“) The lawsuits and countersuits started that same year.

It is now 2015, eight years later, and the suits still have not been decided.

That’s over a 29 second dancing baby video, from which the song in question could not possibly be pirated, or detract from the copyright in any way.

Do you really think using lyrics in your novel will get you less of a legal quagmire than a dancing baby video?

So, you can (again, probably) use a song title and connect it with the band or artist’s name in your story, but do not go further than that, or you’re all but certainly going to regret it.

What is the Creative Commons?

did you think that you could save me from myself?
i’d rather stare at these four walls i know so well
i know their stories, i know their hells
i’ve been there too and i think they need my help

— madalyniris, “Leave And Never Look Back“, CC BY 3.0

The Creative Commons is a non-profit organization founded in 2001 by Lawrence Lessig and others, with the goal of promoting general licenses so that artists and creators can choose to waive certain rights otherwise protected by copyright.

A work released under the Creative Commons does not include the phrase “all rights reserved”, but instead says “some rights reserved”, with the particular license making clear which rights those are.

The goal of these licenses is to encourage people to share creations that they like with others. Some licenses restrict you only to that, while others grant more and wider permissions. And culture consumers can do so without fear of being punished for, say, making a mixtape-playlist and giving it to a friend.

What are Free Cultural Works?

A thousand footsteps outside my door
Well they don’t seem to matter anymore
I’ve seen the signs along the wall
Mine is the greatest sign of them all

— Glenn Wilson, “Try“, CC BY-SA 3.0

You can read more about them at the Creative Commons site, but here’s a quick thumbnail.

There are four necessary characteristics for a work to be part of Free Culture:

  1. Freedom to use the work itself.
  2. Freedom to use the information in the work for any purpose.
  3. Freedom to share copies of the work for any purpose.
  4. Freedom to make and share remixes and other derivatives for any purpose.

The important point here is that any Free Culture license allows commercial use of a work, and derivative works.

If you write a book and it has somebody else’s lyrics in it, you have created a derivative work. If you then sell that book, you are making a commercial use of that derivative work.

With a Free Culture license, you already have permission to do both of these things, without penalty or even notifying the creator, so long as you abide the terms of the license.

The Creative Commons licensing structure has two licenses that fall under Free Culture.

The Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license is just that — you can do pretty much anything you want with the licensed work, so long as you give proper attribution (generally with a link to the original source), indicate whether changes have been made, and make clear that your use is not condoned or supported by the original creator.

The Creative Commons Attribution–Share-Alike (CC BY-SA) license requires the same things as the Attribution license, as well as requiring you to release your derivative work under an identical or compatible license.

Note that this does not mean you need to give your work away for free. It does mean, however, that you need to stop worrying about “piracy”, because you are giving permission to copy and share by using the license.

(And, really: relax. It’s not piracy, it’s free advertising. How many of your favorite authors did you discover by buying a book blindly? If someone reads your book, loves it, and makes a copy to encourage his friend to read it, that friend might become your new biggest fan. If he does, you’ll get plenty of purchases from him in the future, so why would you think about punishing him for that first read?)

At the moment, apart from earlier iterations of the same license, there is one non-Creative Commons license that is compatible with CC BY-SA — the Free Art License (FAL), also known as the License Art Libre (LAL).

If you read that license closely, you will find that it is, in every essential, the same as CC BY-SA. So if you find a song under an FAL license, you can put your book out with a CC BY-SA, and you’re covered.

(There is also the Creative Commons license to dedicate works to the public domain, the CC0 license, but to date, very few songs have been released under it.)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, but how do I find a Free Culture song to quote?

It’s cause I like to fight about it so I,
Bite down taste blood then spit it out.
I learn quick, I make connections,
I don’t dream just pay attention.

— Lily Wolf, “Play The Game“, CC BY-SA 3.0

There are places to look, and ways to search, that can help you zero in on something appropriate. But you’ll be ahead of the game if you commit to listening to a lot of CC-licensed music to begin with.

It’s not difficult, and for the most part costs you only time and hard drive space. The only thing is you have to be willing to wade into unexplored waters and judge for yourself what’s good and what’s not. For some people that might be difficult, or at least it might take you a while to get your bearings.

But it’s worth it. Making CC-licensed music a regular part of your listening means when you think “man, this tune would be perfect for this video I shot”, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to use that tune with a clear conscience and no worries about RIAA lawsuits or DMCA takedown notices.

If you’re looking for a lyric Right Now, the first thing you want to do is go on a general CC search. Creative Commons has a CC Search tool (which is apparently being replaced, but hasn’t been yet).

jamendo_logoTo start listening to CC music generally, the place to start is Jamendo. It is, I believe, the oldest CC-music site, and has thousands and thousands of works, all under one CC license or another. Jamendo has some drawbacks. Older works disappear with disturbing frequency, and even finding a pointer to where they once were is difficult. So, for instance, I have a number of albums I downloaded from Jamendo and, due to moves from one computer to another, and other exigencies, the licensing info got lost, and I can no longer look up what license they had because they’re not even listed on Jamendo anymore. Jamendo also used to have a thriving community and lots of artist-fan interaction, which is now gone. And those “improvements” suggest that the owners of the site are perfectly willing to cripple it further without notice or regard for what you or I think. That said, it really is the best place to dive in to CC music.

WFMU-free-music-archive-logoAnother long-time CC music archive is the Free Music Archive, which hosts lots of CC-licensed music (lots of overlap with Jamendo), along with other music that’s free to download but not so clearly licensed (and some public domain music as well).

bandcamp_130x27_whiteBandCamp is a wonderful music outlet, and many artists on it use CC licenses, but there are two drawbacks — you cannot search by license, and when you download, at least the last time I did, licensing data is not included, not even in the music files’ metadata.

ia_purpleThe Internet Archive also houses a lot of CC audio, but it’s difficult to search by license, to find the sort of CC music you’re looking for, and to be sure that it’s legitimately under that license. I recommend going here only after you’ve got a lot of experience with searching out bands and songs, and having a good feel for what’s likely legitimate, and what’s probably somebody stealing music and passing it off as his own. (It’s pathetic, but yes, people actually do this.)

93px-SoundCloud_logo.svgThere are a number of Creative Commons artists on SoundCloud, but I’ve found searching there to be substandard, even while the formats available tend to be superior.

magnatune3-logo-smallMagnaTune is a pay service, so you know that artists are getting some financial support, and often they use CC licenses.

cc-mixter-logo-blackCCMixter is a service I’ve almost never used, but it definitely makes music available under CC licenses, so it’s worth checking out.

Too Long; Didn’t Read

No one likes the freak, no one likes the odd man out.
I’d rather live my life alone,
Than live a life of doubt.
I won’t let you force yourself on me,
I refuse to be a victim to your society.

— Sunspot, “Intellectual Terrorists” (CC BY-SA 3.0)

If you’re a writer, especially an indie writer, you don’t want to quote lyrics from mainstream songs in your book, or you invite lengthy litigation courtesy of the recording industry and their flesh-eating lawyers.

If you absolutely must include lyrics in your book, and wish to avoid legal bills, you can either invent them, or use lyrics from songs with Free Culture licenses (and abide by the terms of those licenses).

Unless you are under a severe time crunch, the very best way to find that one perfect lyric is to start exploring Free Culture music yourself, at any or all of the sites linked above.


As an addendum, I can add another way to explore Free Culture music. Last year, I did a first installment of a podcast meant to expose people to cool CC-licensed music.

The Creative Uncommons‘s first episode only got a few dozen listens and virtually no reaction, however; so, for that and other reasons, I let the project languish.

I have playlists for two more hour-long installments ready to go, and can easily put together many more, almost without thinking about it. And each of the playlists to date is entirely Free Culture.

If enough potential listeners are interested, I’m willing to take it up again, but, given my extremely limited financial means, I do need to make it pay. If you’re willing to support such a podcast, and/or know others who would be, leave a note in the comments or hit the contact form to send me a private email. If enough people seem interested, I’ll sit down, figure out what I’ll need to get back up and running, and put together a crowdfunding campaign. (Given my personal quirks, I may be foolish enough to do it with Bitcoin through the Lighthouse de-centralized crowdfunding platform, but we’ll see.)

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