Thursday, August 07, 2003
|This is the story of what happened to BYTE.
Let me begin by emphasizing, as of March 31, 2000, (and for that matter,
as of today), I am very pleased with
the final outcome. BYTE.COM has an excellent editor and managing editor.
We're doing a lot of things we couldn't do at the old BYTE. I very much
miss the best technical staff any computer magazine ever had: we don't
have all those people now, and all those experts, and I must rely on a
circle of readers and advisors for the support that I used to be able to
get with a phone call to Peterborough.
There will never be anything quite like the old McGraw Hill BYTE, but the new BYTE.COM is very much worth your while. I still have all the old editorial freedom I ever had. I still have good editorial support. And with the help of readers and the web I have access to a pool of expert talent equal to the old BYTE staff.
Now you may read about the BYTE FIASCO as it happened. I haven't changed any of it. But I do want you to understand that I am happy with Miller Freeman and CMP, no one owes me any money, and I am turning out the column every month as always. It is longer, and it goes to the overseas readers direct from me. And I can sometimes include pictures.
JUNE 30, 1999:
Alex, Eric, and I went to PC EXPO in New York. The CMP and Miller Freeman people couldn't have been nicer. We passed out "BYTE IS BACK" flyers, and they seemed to be welcome; an astonishing number of people stopped me to congratulate us and to tell us how much they missed BYTE.
And WINDOWS, which was getting thinner and thinner, has vanished. I presume there will be an attempt to keep it alive on line as BYTE is; in any event, BYTE appears to be here to stay. We're trying to revive the BYTE show awards, too.
April 30, 1999
Deja vu all over again: CMP is now sold to Miller Freeman, just as we were all getting settled in with CMP. It's not a big surprise: the CMP heirs have made no secret of the fact that they didn't really want to run a big empire and preferred to cash out, but they were also adamant that they wouldn't sell cheap. They didn't, and I think all will be well. I sure wish I had bought some CMP stock when they first get me on board for BYTE though...
More when I know more, but my editors assure me that nothing is changed except that we may be giving show awards again: Miller Freeman owns PC EXPO
BULLETIN: BYTE IS BACK. I have been offered and have accepted a contract to do the regular column for a new ON LINE BYTE done by CMP. In future, there will be a link to the new column on this site; click here. Otherwise this site will be more or less the same although from time to time I'll pass things along to CMP's new BYTE site too.
The new magazine will be on line only, and as of today I don't know how many of the old staff will be aboard, but they are actively trying to get some of them. Stay tuned for more when I know more.
THE FOLLOWING was written prior to the resurrection and tells what happened to BYTE as best I know.
FOR THE RECORD: CMP has graciously put a link to my web site on the old BYTE.COM site, making it much easier to find me. My thanks to them.
Pleaseput this URL ( http://www.jerrypournelle.com ) anywhere you think proper. Help spread the word.
For another view, see http://www.halfhill.com/bytefaq.html#Q1
The old BYTE discussion groups can be found by making contact with John Udell at http://udell.roninhouse.com/
THIS IS A FULL WEB PAGE with a LOT of stuff on it; please don't just read this and go away. The home page explains something of what this place is, and View will take you to current material. There is also WHAT IS THIS PLACE.
Latest: December 21, 1998: CMP announces that BYTE will be "revived" as a webzine and believes they will have a million subscribers. Perhaps: but to this moment they have not spoken with anyone from the old BYTE staff, so exactly what "continuity" this has with BYTE other than the name is not clear. Certainly they have not spoken with me about it.
I am willing to talk to them, presuming I would retain the same editorial independence I always had, and that they have technical people I respect. So far they haven't said anything to me, though.
NOTE THAT THIS HAS CHANGED; see above.
(December 10,1998): CMP say they will announce what is to happen by December 31, 1998, and will "restart" the magazine. That is the one thing they will NOT do, because they have not one single editorial employee of the old BYTE working for them. Zero. None. And although they have told readers that I will be a major part of the New Byte, they have not told that to me.
The latest word is that there will be no print BYTE, but there will be a web magazine. Once again I know this only by rumour; they have not spoken to me about it, and I know of no former BYTE editor who will be involved in it.
Now for the story.
I am sure you have heard that BYTE is folded.
CMP says they will bring out a "new and improved" BYTE, but what will come out will have little to do with BYTE as we knew it. The "new" "BYTE" will have none of the old BYTE staff: none of the editors, no columnists, no reporters, no lab people, no production people. It is a new magazine with the BYTE name.
As to me, I was paid 3 months in lieu of notice, and I am now selling columns to the overseas BYTE magazines. The overseas BYTE's are licensed, and were never part of the McGraw Hill enterprise. They continue. Some of them receive materials from CMP.
I was paid what my contract called for, and my only complaint is that links to my web site from the old BYTE site are broken, apparently deliberately. This seems petty. Otherwise, they go their way and I go mine. [January 6, 1999: THIS HAS BEEN FIXED: Apparently it was a mistake or the action of someone no longer in charge. The new editors of the BYTE webzine have been friendly, and approached me about fixing the links having read here that they were broken. I no longer have any real complaints about the current situation. Of course I remain upset about BYTE closing down so abruptly, but that's not the fault of the current BYTE editorial people.]
THE END OF THE MATTER: I have deposited both the CMP and McGraw Hill checks. Moreover, Nikkei BYTE and some of the other overseas BYTE licensees are buying columns for the future. I have no idea what will happen with the "revived" BYTE CMP says they will produce. Chaos Manor lives, overseas, and on this web site...
Please put this URL ( http://www.jerrypournelle.com ) anywhere you think proper. Help spread the word.
Now for the story. Here is what happened, as it happened:
Friday May 29, 1998
The fact is that no one seems to know a thing. BYTE was sold, then I was away in Israel for two weeks. Before I left The Word -- an impression really, but one that the entire BYTE staff held -- was that for a couple more months at least things would go on as usual. CMP had good reason to want BYTE. We are more technical than anything in their stable, and we were the last multi-platform magazine. We needed to be part of a group: McGraw Hill made a mistake in not keeping Popular and some of the other BYTE spinoffs, and being part of the CMP group made a lot of sense. Most of us looked forward, with a bit of trepidation about our exact place in the CMP pecking order, but still with some anticipation of good things to come. BYTE would live.
I returned to find that the staff had been given one day's notice and dismissed. No one from CMP called me or spoke to most of the editorial people. Few if any (none in editorial) were offered positions with CMP. I have a contract that requires notice; none was given and as of now I don't have the name of anyone I can contact; I have left a call with the CMP people. A secretary in the office of the editor assigned to BYTE had never heard of me. As of now the editor has not returned the call.
There are stories on the web about BYTE reappearing in future. If so it will not be the same magazine; it will be one put out by people who have done these things, and the BYTE editors and writers, a wonderful group to work with, won't be in it. Maybe some of them will be hired back. If so, they haven't been asked yet. Nor have I. Under the circumstances it seems unlikely that any of the BYTE people will be associated with the new BYTE. CMP bought a name, not a magazine, and if they think in terms of service to a readership they have shown no signs that I have seen.
[May 31, 1998]an old friend who is a CMP executive called to say they do want to talk to me, and he thinks they will certainly honor the contract; they are planning on making offers to some of the BYTE people, and all the former BYTE people are getting a decent severance package, although some of them may not know it yet. If so, then at least some of this is a foul-up. I am also told they will honor their contracts. Alas, all this is unofficial. Stay tuned.
I have had a wonderful amount of mail. Even telephone calls from old friends as far away as Sri Lhanka. Everyone says they hope I'll continue the column somewhere. I am thinking about it. Meanwhile, thank you: I suspected I wasn't as unknown as all that. You're proving the opposite.
So where to from here?
The simplest option is to accept one of the offers from another magazine. The problem there is that most have columnists of their own with varying reputations, and what happens next? Do I displace someone? Make enemies? It seems complex in practice if simple in theory. I'll see what offers I get and think on them, but the old Chaos Manor column, a mixture of show and tell and philosophy, was unique, and probably fitted only a BYTE readership. I think of nothing like it in any other magazine.
The most lucrative of my options would be to give up journalism and write one more book a year. It's about the same work to do a monthly column as it is to write a book. I write fast, but there is only so much creative energy in a given day, and columns use up most of it, so there's little left for fiction. Without the columns I would: have a desk again; have a large library study again (both my Great Hall and my office, and all flat surfaces in them, plus a large library room, a store room, and a small room I call the Cable Room, plus all flat surfaces including the floors in those, are covered to a depth of between 4 inches and several feet with computer documents, hardware, unopened software, boxes of press releases, software I intend to review, books, computers, and STUFF). I would have more time to think and reflect and write fiction. I would make more money because I get as advance on a book at least what I have been making per year with BYTE, and my books earn out and stay in print.
On the other hand, it has been fun being part of the computer revolution from the beginning and I would miss it. How badly I don't know. Hiking today I began to think about how nice it would be not to have deadlines, and to have my office freed again, and books on my book shelves, and only one computer on display in my office. No more COMDEX: I am now the only person who has been to EVERY COMDEX (in the US). No more computer shows. NO more airplanes with bad air circulation so that I get a cold every time I travel. But no more conversations with the people who make this happen, and a lot fewer toys to play with. I confess I have loved this job, and I will certainly miss it.
Another option is to continue Chaos Manor along with David Em's graphics reports on a web site. The problem there is we would need a lot of money, and I don't know how much web sites earn. I would have to get at least what BYTE paid PLUS what they paid in expenses; plus enough to make it worthwhile to David; plus enough to pay an editor to do fact checking and contacts with publishers and manufacturers; plus -- well, you get the idea. We're talking about half a million a year. Is there that much demand for my columns (plus David's graphics) on the web? Would people pay, and if so, how would they pay? Is there the advertising revenue?
Darnell Gadberry, my networking guru friend, says he can host the site and make the technical stuff happen and he is confident there is enough money in it to make it worthwhile to him, me, and my assistants. Alex and Eric seem to think so too. Me, I always liked journalism because you send in words and checks come in the mail, and the only complexities are going to computer shows and taking care of all the STUFF that keeps flowing into the house every day. Darnell says he can make it all happen without my having to do more than write a column. If Millicent were working I might think that the right way to go: I bet 100,000 people would pay a dime a week to read my column. Alas there is no Millicent and there may never be. That means collecting what, ten dollars a year? From a bunch of people, and I am not sure I know how to do that.
So we will see. I appreciate your comments and support. If you do send me your thoughts on this send them to me as email@example.com and include the word NEWCHAOS in the subject line so I can sort that mail into one folder.
I thank all of you who took the trouble to write, and I am overwhelmed by the support you have given me. That means a lot. I knew I could not be as obscure and unpopular as this turn of events would argue. Still, it's a pretty heavy thing, to come home and find my friends are out of a job. I have worked with some of them for many years. My editor, Rowland Aertker, is a jewel beyond price, one of the very few people in this world I will turn my text over to and in an emergency trust to get it right without further contact. None of them deserved to be treated this way.
BYTE was a great experience, and I think it was a great magazine. I will miss it as much as anyone. There is no place else I know where I can find the latest information in technical depth done by people who know the subject and who can write. I wish there were a rival to BYTE so that I could read that, but in fact I don't think we had a rival: we filled a niche that needed filling, and no one else did that. Alas.
I will let you know more when I know more. Thank you all, and stay tuned. The fat lady ain't sung yet; I hope she hasn't lost her voice.
June 1, 1998:It is now well after closing time on the East Coast, and so far I have heard almost nothing. One CMP executive, who is an old friend, is trying to make something happen and put the best face on it he can, but the news isn't encouraging. McGraw Hill says CMP bought the magazine contracts and all. CMP says McGraw Hill is supposed to fulfill contracts. My friend, who cannot speak for CMP, says he is sure it will all be straightened out. Let us hope so; one can hope that modern corporations can act on business obligations without waiting for a credible threat of lawsuit, but apparently that sort of civilized behavior is increasingly rare in this world.
Let me apologize for not answering my email: there is far more than I can deal with. I have read all your wonderful comments, and thank you very much; it's really cheering. I am putting it all in one directory, and Darnell says he can extract all your addreses from it and make a mailing list; when I know enough to have something to say I will send you a mass reply. I wish it could be individual, but that's just not possible.
I have had hundreds of email communications in support, about four that say I should take this opportunity to write books, the rest hoping that I will continue the column one day.
I have one letter from a gentleman who says he is weary of my whining and sniveling. That is a reproach to me, but not the one he thinks: it means I am not as good a writer as I thought. I have no whines and I see no snivels here. I have considerable sympathy for my colleagues who have no books to fall back on, but in fact I need no sympathy. Mr. Heinlein always told his friends that writers are professional gamblers, and you should always own your house, car, and typewriter free and clear so you can, in a pinch, live off beans and rice for a year while you write something else. He wrote Space Cadet in a trailer so small that Ginny had to lie down so he could pace back and forth, this in a driving 3 week rainstorm. I am much better off than that. I owe little on my house, my car and computer are paid for, and I have residuals from my books. Niven and I are nearly finished with a big book, and we have a large floor bid to start the auction.
I am told by my BYTE friends that the compensation package is pretty standard for the industry; certainly not overly generous given the one day's notice of being dismissed, but a great deal more than nothing. That is good. I wish them all well; I have never worked with a better group of people than the BYTE staff, editorial, administrative, and sales, ladies and gentlemen and professionals every one.
I have a surprising amount of support from Mac users; I hope because I have always tried to tell the truth, not only about Macs but also about the problems with Windows. In any event, thanks.
Indeed, thanks to everyone, including the gentleman who reminded me that I don't write as clearly as I thought. I won't revise what follows, which is written sort of as it happened, but do keep in mind, I had no intent of whining about my fate. Life has been quite good to me, else how could I have been on a trip to Israel when this happened? It was a great trip, with a visit with President Weizman, services in the Holy Sepulchre and at the Sea of Galilee, visits to colleges and clinics: a whirlwind, and I will try to get together a report, since I have hundreds of digital pictures, some from places few ever see.
I won't keep this journal up for a while: in a day or so Niven and I are going down to the beach house to write. If I hear from CMP, even so much as a courtesy call, I will tell you.
And again, thanks to all for the support. It's about a thousand emails now. Darnell Gadberry, Alex, Eric, David Em, and Richard Pournelle had a conference with me here at Chaos Manor yesterday afternoon, and it appears we have everything we need to put together a real web site. I have offers from major publishers. And my agent tells me my books are doing well -- do go buy a copy of STARSWARM if you really want to help me. It's a great life.
June 2, 1998:I have heard nothing from CMP, but one of my colleagues who had a contract with BYTE has, and they are saying that McGraw Hill has the problem, not them; they didn't buy the contracts. This is interesting.
I have also had a call from Norbert Schumaker of McGraw Hill; he is a VP, and a gentleman. He said this was out of his area of responsibility but he will talk to the McGraw Hill VP who is involved, make him aware that there are contracts unfulfilled, and see what can be done. I now feel a great deal better; I have always been treated in a professional and courteous manner by the McGraw Hill 42nd floor people, and now that they are aware of this situation, I expect things will work out on contracts.
I still have heard nothing official from CMP; I have a contract, and the CMP executives are aware of it, but nothing is happening. So it goes. I have also heard from Tom Halfhill, who will take a bit of time off to consider his options. See my links page to get to his web site. I have not yet got his permission to publish his account of what happened, but it may be available elsewhere. It's quite a story.
Interestingly, if CMP did not buy my contract, do they own any residual rights to my works? The only reason BYTE could put my stuff on the web was that there was a contract period when they could, and I gave them permission for the rest. Interesting to see what happens now if CMP insists that they did not buy my contracts, and McGraw Hill pays on the contractual obligation...
A number of you have suggested that I try to get former BYTE people together to create the old BYTE with a new name. Alas, I have neither the capital, nor the administrative talent, to do that; I'm in a good financial situation because of my books and residuals, but most BYTE people are young, some have families, and all will need employment more lucrative and steadier than I can promise. At my age one takes on obligations of that kind--and I would consider it an obligation to anyone who joined me--with some reluctance.
On the other hand, the possibility of Chaos Manor as a web site is another story. I own the Chaos Manor appellation, not McGraw Hill or BYTE or CMP. I don't have the ChaosManor name for a web site, but I am told that Internic will consider prior use, and God knows I have that, having been Chaos Manor since the 70's. Darnell says he would like a web site with whizbangs because people will expect it. Perhaps: but if we do, the whizbangs will be kept off in their own area, and my part at least will be text, with thumbnails and text indices to pictures: I have those great Olympus and Agfa digital cameras, and I can illustrate the daylights out of my 'build a machine' stuff with separate pages for those who want to see them. My idea of a web site is one that is fast to download, and has lots of text information; illustrations are secondary. I know many don't agree, so if we do this, we'll let Darnell and his designers go nuts, but only in their area: I won't have a page that needs complicated plug-ins just to read.
Mail: I am getting 50 an hour now. There is no way to respond, and it is getting beyond my ability to read although so far I have managed to read it all (some in batches late at night). So:
should be self explanatory. I'll read it all, but it may take a day or two, and we will have a mail list response: Darnell tells me that will be easy.
So far I have about 1,000 emails, of which all but 12 are positive, some very much so. Thanks to all of you! Now Niven and I are off to finish The Burning City, our new heroic fantasy with a Niven/Pournelle twist. Be sure to go buy a copy of STARSWARM; right now it's the very best thing you can do for me! And thanks.
Late on June 2, 1998: CMP is now reporting to subscribers:
"The next issue of Byte Magazine is July '98 and it will be mailed to you the week of June 1-6, 1998. After that, the magazine will suspend publishing through the summer and have an exciting relaunch in the Fall.
"The relaunch does not affect the number of issues due you. As a loyal subscriber to Byte, you will receive all issues that you paid for."
This is all true; but they do not seem to make it clear that the exciting relaunch will be made by entirely new people; they made an offer to exactly one Byte editorial staff member, and that offer was refused. There are NO people from the old BYTE on the new staff. I do not know who the new people are, but they sure aren't us.
Early June 3, 1998:
CMP now says: "Jeffrey L. Strief, who has been named Executive Vice President of the newly formed Business Computing and Communications Group in which Byte will reside, said, "We view Byte as the number one publication for those whose jobs depend on their knowledge of advanced technology with a particular concentration on application infrastructure."
While I have no quarrel with that statement, how does it apply to this "New BYTE" he is bringing out? Let me emphasize again, there is zero continuity; not one single person from the old BYTE is in the new one. I am told that they made offers to two BYTE people, one literally as he was being hustled out the door. Both turned them down. The others were not offered at all. How this differs from a new magazine I do not know; certainly it is hardly the old BYTE.
The Email has slowed to maybe 20 an hour, still all favorable: the only one to YOUDOLT took me to task for not forming a group to do a class action suit in the name of BYTE subscribers. Alas, that is both out of my power and well beyond my obligations since I never had any ownership in BYTE at all.
I still have not heard from any CMP executive (other than an old friend who isn't involved in this) in any capacity whatever. I presume they know who I am. I also discover that the June issue was the last I was paid for (the stub is marked June), which means that the July issue now in the mails does not seem to have been bought by anyone. I would presume this is a minor violation of Federal copyright laws. Under classic Catholic doctrine, depriving a laborer of his just wages is one of the sins that cries to heaven for vengeance, but I don't really expect angelic intervention. It would be pleasant to have a bit of common courtesy, though.
Mike Hehir, the McGraw Hill VP of Information Technology, called me while I was out at the bank, and was back in meetings when I got back, but we'll manage to get together. I have some confidence that McGraw Hill will see that right is done; despite some muddle about management of BYTE -- we never really fit into their publications (and in fact many at BYTE viewed the sale to CMP as a Good Thing when we learned of it; hope springs eternal among the naive) but McGraw Hill's legendary editorial independence was enforced with a vengeance. In 20 years I was never given any hint of what or about whom I should write, and McGraw Hill Legal on more than one occasion was ready to defend me, asking only that I could prove truth.
Addendum: Mike Hehir says that CMP explicitly assumed the contract obligations of BYTE. I've sent a copy of the contract to a CMP publishing official. We'll see.
I am now off to seclusion to finish The Burning City. If you want to do anything for me, go to your bookstore or Amazon and buy a copy of STARSWARM...
Darnell is working to get us a new web site, where we'll have something more substantive than this silly story. I do have a lot of backlog of Chaos Manor stories, and when I get back from finishing Burning City I'll start telling them. Thanks again for all the support.
June 4, 1998:
Evening: All quiet. Mail still running about 20 an hour, not so much I can't read it, but far too much for answers. I am making files and Darnell says he can manage a mailing list mailing shortly. Thanks to all of you!
Afternoon: I have calls from both CMP and McGraw Hill. CMP says they are paying for my column in the July issue, the August one, and my contractual notice period. The voice on the phone was very nice. I will speak with them in the morning; I wasn't home to take the call, being down here at the beach with Niven to work on books. Mike Hehir of McGraw Hill called to say they will take care of my expenses prior to May 31. Apparently there is honor left in corporate America. I am very pleased; I have always thought well of McGraw Hill (they zealously protected my editorial independence and their legal department was always read to defend me so long as I could prove I had told the truth).
There was also strong indication from CMP that they really want to keep some of the old BYTE staff. If so, they have gone about it in the worst possible way, but
"Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence," said Napoleon Bonaparte. There are also degrees of SNAFU short of incompetence which may suffice.
More when I know more, but things look much better than they did this:
Morning. More news: CMP says McGraw Hill is supposed to pay for contracted materials, such as my August column. McGraw Hill is equally adamant that CMP explicitly took on this obligation. My guess is that in this fight over 'principle' which amounts to about $100,000 total in a $26 million deal, those of us who need the money are in the position of the bone that two dogs are fighting over. Whatever happens, it is not likely to be good for the bone, is it? Apparently there are no gentlemen and there is little honor in corporate America, making it even more attractive to write books. In my case it is inconvenient to be put off on what is owed me, and since is apparently publishing something they do not own, namely my July column which has not been paid for, I suppose I will have to get lawyers in the act. Who knows, there may be damages? A Congressman friend wants to turn his lawyer loose on this. My attitude is that if I had wanted to put in time in courtrooms I would have been a lawyer, but this is beginning to interfere with books.
On that front, Niven and I are down at the beach and working hard on our next book. We had lunch with the Editor of Tor Books, and I have appointments with several publishers in New York later this month. We seem to have good offers on BURNING CITY even before we finish it.
This is also good publicity: apparently I can get on all kinds of shows and things, and hold up my book while I blather about Corporate America. This may be fun after all. But first to get BURNING CITY done.
Thanks to all of you who bought STARSWARM. Thanks also to the more than 1,000 who have sent me letters of support, and grins to the three who sent something less than that. Now to work. I'll have a new report tonight even if to say there's nothing new.
June 5, 1998:
Morning: Mail is holding steady at some 20 an hour. Now that this site is hosted at Darnell's binmedia, I'll be able to get some statistics on just how much traffic we have. It must be quite a lot to generate as much mail as we have. My thanks to every one of you, for writing me, and for writing CMP. I think it has made a real difference.
Both McGraw Hill and CMP have said they will do the right thing, paying me what is owed; McGraw Hill for all my expenses prior to May 31, CMP for the columns including the contractual notice. Apparently I get a vacation for the first time in 20 years; but do see the Chaos Manor Journal I am keeping up. I also have offers from several major publications, including some that surprise me. For the moment I am going to finish BURNING CITY and MAMELUKES (the net book in the JANISSARIES series) and TOR would like an outline of a book set in the STARSWARM universe. If you haven't bought Starwarm yet, this would be a good time to do so
More when I know more, but for the moment things are calm, I have books to do, and all seems well. The weather at Mission Beach is glorious.
Evening: little to add. Mail continues at 10-25 an hour as more sites post links. I have got a lot of support from Apple and Linux people. CMP is talking about making offers to some of the BYTE staff including me; I don't have time to think about that now. Niven and I are doing well on BURNING CITY. Darnell has got this web site humming. I think I have fixed all the broken links. And the weekend approaches. Again, my thanks to everyone.
Monday June 8, 1998:Mail is down to 10 an hour and about steady. Darnell will have some site reports shortly. We are now fully over at binmedia at www.jerrypournelle.com so tell your friends.
I have a ton of messages on my machine, but that's in Studio City and I am in Pacific Beach with Niven doing a book. Astonishingly, with all this boiling over in the computer world, we are finishing The Burning City and may be done with it today.
Otherwise there's little to report. BYTE is gone. CMP is talking about reviving it, but whether they will hire enough of the old BYTE editorial corps to give it any real continuity is another matter. They may. Apparently this was all done in an astoundingly heavy handed manner, but with less malice than one might suppose given the number of good people -- and BYTE people are good people, I never worked with a better group in my long years in both aerospace and publishing -- who were hurt by the way things were done. Whether those wounds can be healed, and whether enough of them can be attracted back to a revived BYTE, I do not know.
Nor do I know anything definite about plans to revive BYTE under another name but with the same staff. Such rumors always start, but that takes a very great deal of money, and I for one neither have it nor would want to be on the hook for borrowing it. I am open to suggestions, of course.
For the moment I am working on THE BURNING CITY with Niven, and expect to return home in a couple of days, at which point I can devote more time to thoughts on the future of BYTE.
I will also try to keep up my VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR journal, but just at the moment I'm down here and all my STUFF is up there.
Thanks for all the support. It really has meant a lot. And go buy STARSWARM. You'll like it.
Tuesday, June 09, 1998: Morning. Nothing new. Roberta reports piles of paper mail at home (she went, I stayed, see View From Chaos Manor) and other BYTE contract people report that CMP has finally got around to sending notices of termination of contracts. Presumably this means they'll pay for 90 days in lieu of notice. I hope some lawyer hasn't figured out something tricky to take advantage of my friends. Me, it's a little harder to do it to, thanks to all of you. I'm told that the mail in ZD's discussion forum is bigger on this issue than anything in their history, and almost all of it favorable to BYTE. There's a lesson in there somewhere. Wonder who will learn it?
It's interesting adjusting to the absence of deadlines. Wonder how long I can stand it? Again, thanks to everyone. The mail is still 10 an hour, so I can't possibly answer all of it, but I sure like getting it! Skip to the end of this for mail categories. And thanks.
Wednesday, June 10, 1998:Home to find a letter from the CMP legal people giving me formal notice that my BYTE contract is terminated; this seems reasonable, but now I have my lawyer coming over to see just what it is they owe me. It's not clear to me. I sent in a July column and it is in print, and it is not paid for. I sent in an August column, and it was accepted, and it is not paid for. Seems to me the 90 day notice starts after those works were turned in; but we'll see. Mr. Hertz can tell me. And I'll head off for New York for a conference on the future of the family in America. Nice to have some intellectual energy not associated with computers. Whatever happens, it seems they owe me enough to keep me going a while, my publishers really want another novel in the Starswarm universe if not a sequel, and THE BURNING CITY is finished. I think I am over the worst of this.
That's not so true for my friends from BYTE, still the best people I ever worked with. They're good enough to find other jobs, but they'll never find a better team to be on. That's the sad part of all this. But enough. BYTE as we knew it is no more, and I don't see how it can be revived. We get on with our lives.
Sunday, June 14, 1998: Little new to report. I have received a request for an invoice from CMP, made up the invoice, and sent it. I have yet to do my BYTE expenses to send to McGraw Hill but Mike Hehir assures me there's no problem about it, so I'll do that first thing somorrow.
The mail continues at over 100 email a day, and Darnell Gadberry, who operates this site as part of his binmedia installation, says we are getting a lot of hits and visits and downloads (there's a difference although I am not yet sure enough of what that means to explain it). We've been in New York, but I'll be home this evening; with luck for a long time. If you have not been following things in the journal here at this site, that's the place to go. Click HERE for The View From Chaos Manor. Thanks to all for buying STARSWARM.
Monday, June 15, 1998:Still nothing new. I've made some cosmetic changes to this page, and see above for how to get to Jon Udell and the old BYTE discussion groups.
Wednesday, June 17, 1998: CMP called to say they will pay off my contract. They're being very reasonable: they want a copy of the August column which was turned in and accepted but not yet paid for; they'll buy it, and they'll want a release stating I don't have any more claims once they've paid me off. I can't complain about either condition.
I have offers and phone calls from major players in the editorial game, despite this being PC EXPO week.
I was in New York for an academic conference until Sunday evening, and I could have stayed for PC EXPO; I understand the show people were interested in talking to me about the show awards. BYTE used to give the BEST OF PC EXPO awards, and I always handed out the Best Technology and Best of Show awards. Of course I wasn't foolhardy enough to think I could choose those awards by myself: the editorial meetings we held to determine the show awards were some of the most stimulating and informative events I have ever attended. We took those awards seriously; and being the BYTE staff there was little that one or another of us didn't know. Everyone argued aggressively for his opinion (actually, while I dislike the 'his or her' usage that seems common now, the women professionals at BYTE were every bit as well informed as the men). While a few awards were decided by votes, at least one a very close vote, most were decided by discussion and consensus. There was no chance we could put together anything like that on a few days notice, and I decided to go home. This will be the first PC Expo I have missed.
It's a new experience to be without deadlines, and I have been enjoying it, but a few minutes ago I was reminded that my Intellectual Capital column is due shortly. And editor Bob Gleason of Tor Books reminds me that HIGH TECH WARS, a book of both stories and essays, is long overdue. And Jim Baen points out that I'm officially late with Mamelukes, the next book in the Janissaries series. All of which means I think I will take a couple of months off to write books. We'll try to keep this site up: it seems to be getting a lot of traffic. Tell your friends. And let me know if you think it's worth while. And keep buying STARSWARM.
Tuesday, June 23, 1998:Mike Hehir says my McGraw Hill expenses have been approved and sent to accounts payable, so that ought to be getting here Real Soon Now. In fairness, McGraw Hill's account mills have always ground slowly, but they have always paid everything due.
The CMP offices haven't been heard from: I don't have that release they want me to sign. I was waiting for an email address to send the August column (which BYTE accepted, but which CMP apparently can't find) but now they want a fax. I can either do that on Roberta's Joizy which has Winfax installed, or print it and let the Panasonic send it by paper. I'll get that done shortly. I don't envy the person who has to retype it: I'd have thought they would want it in electronic format. Live and learn.
It's still a new experience being without deadlines, although this web site substitutes for them pretty well. I am getting a lot done. MAMELUKES, the sequel to Janissaries, is progressing slowly but steadily; I am working on a submission copy of The Burning City; I have managed an article on space policy and X programs for a decent pay rate; I got my Intellectual Capital column done; and you know, all's pretty right with the world. Thanks to all of you for the support, and thanks particularly for buying Starswarm. Keep that up...
Saturday, June 27, 1998
The release came. It amounts to an "offer" from CMP for about 60% of what they have admitted they owe me. I presume this is a lawyer's trick, or possibly a misunderstanding. Never attribute to malice --- In any event, the situation remains the same. They have published a column they have not paid for, McGraw Hill accepted a column which has not been paid for. There are other contractual obligations, none astonishing given 20 years of service that included a lot of things like going to conferences, making speeches at editorial meetings, handing out awards, and the lot; not that I am complaining. It was a good run and I had a good time.
Monday, June 29, 1998
Mr. Adam Marder of CMP called to say we have an agreement, and the "offer" was in fact some kind of misunderstanding by the lawyer who sent it. Since the release they sent claimed to be based on the invoice for services I sent, and offered to pay about 60% of what the invoice requested, I can only presume that either this lawyer didn't bother to read what he purported to be responding to, or is excessively dense, or had darker motives; but as Bonaparte says, never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence. Let me emphasize that all of my dealings with Mr. Marder, who is actually in charge here, have been pleasant, professional, courteous, and honorable.
As part of our arrangement I will deliver the August BYTE column to CMP. They are paying for it. This gives them, under the contact, a year of exclusive rights, after which they retain non-exclusive right with me. This means that the first publication of that column is likely to be in one of the overseas BYTE magazines; it certainly will not appear on this web page for a year. Apologies, but that was part of the agreement with CMP, and it is a very reasonable one. The August column was sent in before the sale, and accepted by BYTE.
After that, I don't know what the overseas BYTE magazines will do. For some of them my column was a good 20% of the magazine, and it was carried by most of them. I haven't had any direct contact with any of them. Let me emphasize once more: while I am never likely to be happy with the abrupt way in which BYTE was folded up, and I resent the treatment given to my colleagues, who were the best professional team I have worked with since the very early days of BYTE, I have been treated fairly and honorably. CMP has promised to pay everything I think is due, and McGraw Hill is paying all the expenses incurred up to May 31, 1998. I'll eat some expenses that came in later.
Financially, I have done all right from this. I no longer have deadlines, I have finished one book and I am well on the way to finishing another (Mamelukes, in the Janissaries series). I have enough to live on for months as a result of the settlement. If I can't manage to write enough to keep from starving with all that going for me, I deserve what happens.
I really wish the team were together again.
If the overseas BYTE people are interested in buying something like the old Chaos Manor, I'm open to an offer.
Wednesday, July 01, 1998 The new forms from CMP came. I've signed them and sent them back, along with a copy of the August column which they are buying (but which apparently got lost in the changeover shuffle, although it had been sent in and accepted before the sale). So all is well, and that should be the end of this story. I hope.
Here Endeth the Narrative
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