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Now Available: Copperwood Double #1

Copperwood Double #1: Drumlin Circus and On Gossamer Wings

I am pleased (and you wouldn’t believe how relieved!) to announce the availability of the first Copperwood Double, Drumlin Circus / On Gossamer Wings, in both print and ebook editions. The ebook edition is available from Amazon’s Kindle store in mobi format, and from B&N in epub format, both at $2.99. No DRM in either case. And because there’s no DRM, you can download the free app Calibre and use its excellent conversion utilities to convert mobi or epub to any of several additional ebook formats. The print edition is distributed through Ingram/Lightning Source and is thus available from online retailers who work with Ingram, which would be basically all of them. $11.99. (Note: The print book is not available from This was a major decision that I’ll talk about in a future entry.)

If the cover image above seems bizarre to you, well, you’re younger than you look. The grayhairs among us know precisely what I was reaching for: The Ace Doubles of the period 1952-1973. Each volume consisted of two short novels from 25,000-50,000 words in length, bound back-to-back and inverted, each with its own cover image. Ace did not invent the physical print/bind arrangement, which is called tete-beche (head-to-tail) and has existed for almost 200 years. They did make it a mainstay of recreational reading for two decades, and most of us back then had a pile of them.

A lot of people thought it was a weird idea (and many made fun of it) but we forget that the short novel as a form essentially vanished from SFF after Ace stopped publishing doubles. The magazines won’t publish something 40,000 words long, and 40,000 words is too short for a conventional print book unless you’re way out there in small and very small press. So there was this huge hole between 20,000-word novellas and 80,000 word novels. I fell into that trap in 1981, when my Firejammer clocked in at just under 30,000 words. I shopped it, but unless you’re Larry Niven no one’s going to seriously look at something that length.

I like the short novel as a distinct literary form. It’s long enough to develop some ideas and a few interesting characters, but short enough to require a certain focus, and a fairly linear plot line. It deserves to have a place in the SFF world, and two recent developments have conspired to give it one: ebooks and print-on-demand publishing. Ebooks have no strong length requirements, and from what I’ve read, the length of original ebook novels is drifting downward. More to the point, a story can be given the length it needs, and authors aren’t under pressure to pad an idea out to print novel length, or compress it to magazine novella length or less.

Print-on-demand publishing allows publishers to try interesting things without betting the house on the outcome. I will always love print books and still buy them in respectable quantities, but in these troubled times print publishers must be conservative to avoid going broke. (Do I know a little bit about that or what?) The beancounters require that a book recoup its capital costs, which means that books hover within certain boundaries set by retailer expectations. (Remember that if retailers won’t stock a book, customers never get the chance to vote on it. Retailers therefore have what amounts to a veto on print publisher publishing programs.) Slightly whacky things like tete-beche double novels fall outside ordinary bricks’n’mortar retail channel expectations, but POD manufacturing and online ordering make a lot of things possible.

So I offer you a book with two covers, and two authors telling two stories in one world, the Drumlins world that I introduced in Asimov’s back in 2002 with “Drumlin Boiler”. There’s much more to say, and I’ll continue the discussion (with specifics on both stories) in days to come.


  1. Bought the ebook via B&N a couple weeks ago, and burned through it. Excellent. I’ll buy you a fine Kentucky wine of your choice if you ever find yourself in the bluegrass state.

    Eager to hear your take on the lightning Source experience…Rich

    1. I would love to get back there (I think I was last there in 1979, not sure) and will definitely let you know when I do.

      I’ll have to study up on Kentucky wine a little–have done some Illinois wine and some Missouri wine, but I associate Kentucky with slightly stronger fluids. Again, some research is definitely called for.

      And thanks for buying the book. It’s been a huge amount of work but was great good fun.

  2. Carrington Dixon says:

    I don’t think it coincidence that the demise of the Ace Double happened about the same time that the major outlet for paperback books moved from the newsstand/drugstore rack to the Big Chain Bookstores.

    I don;t think the BCBSes were comfortable with the tete-beche format.

    1. I don’t think so either, and I’ve often wondered why. Certainly book retailers are more author-sensitive now than they used to be, which might contribute to their discomfort. If they shelve by author, which author dictates the shelf position? Which face is out, or which end of the spine is up? Things that might seem trivial to outsiders can complicate a heavily automated and “by the book” (as it were) retail channel–especially in very large bookselling chains, which now dominate the industry.

      In fairness, I bought most of my Ace Doubles in an odd little (long-gone) bookstore on the basement level of the strip mall at Harlem and Foster in Chicago.They were all spine-out, and I don’t think anyone there gave their odd configuration a second thought.

  3. Erbo says:

    Tor did tete-beche “doubles” for awhile, too, inspired by the Ace ones. I recall reading one once: Chip Delaney’s “The Star Pit” backed with John Varley’s “Tango Charlie and Foxtrot Romeo.” I have another one from after they stopped doing the tete-beche format, Dean Ing’s “Silent Thunder” with Robert Heinlein’s “Universe.”

    According to Amazon, my copy of “DC/OGW” should be here by Monday.

  4. Dominic says:

    Just finished reading the new drumlin pair as well as Whale Meat (which is a fantastic story). Loved both the new drumlin stories as well. I’ll match Rich’s offer – if you find yourself on the east coast of Australia, the first drink’s on me.

    Dug back through my memory a bit to recollect a relatively recent tete-beche, ISBN 0575073055 from 2002, with Ian McDonald & Peter F Hamilton back-to-back.

    As an aside, I read “Drumlin Circus” et al with the Kindle ap on an Acer Iconia A500 tablet. I didn’t buy it specifically to be an e-reader but it performs the task admirably as well as been a fine 10″ tablet without an Apple logo in sight 🙂

    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence! Jim and I are just getting started on the Drumlins thing, and we had another strategy meeting yesterday, planning Konig’s revolt against the Institute and trying to figure how the thingmakers would present the Big Ball of Fluorine.

      You’re the first person I know who has an Acer Iconia. How well does it work? What kind of battery life do you get? I gave Carol my Dell netbook to be her traveling computer, and now I’m trying to figure which way to jump on the tablet front, and when. A good tablet with a thin Bluetooth keyboard would do pretty much what a netbook can do, and for most travel that’s all I need.

      I’ve wanted to get to Australia for many years and hope to do so before I get too old to trek around and see it in detail. I’ll take you up on the offer. We get some excellent Australian reds up here but I’d bet you keep the best for yourselves. In the meantime, the most important thing you can do for us (for any author, actually) is post reviews on the stories.

      I’ll be posting the ebook edition of my Cold Hands and Other Stories collection to Kindle and Nook in the next few days. The collection contains three drumlins stories, including “Drumlin Boiler.”

      1. Dominic says:

        I’ll grab “Cold Hands” once it goes up. I already have Drumlin Boiler – when you mentioned (long ago?) I tracked down the copy of Analog (or whatever it was) on eBay – but it’d be great to read some others. Looking forward to more from yourself and Jim too.

        Allow yourself plenty of time when (not if 🙂 you visit Australia. I’m confident your inquiring mind will find lots to see and do here. And yes, the wine we export is just the tip of the iceberg.

        The Iconia is a very recent purchase (less than a week) so I’m still exploring it. Battery life looks good so far – I read all of Drumlin Circus, did a bunch of web-surfing and general monkeying about and used maybe 30% from a full charge. Biggest annoyance so far is the inability to charge from USB – it has it’s own 12v wall-wart. Plus, many apps don’t take proper advantage of the form-factor yet although that’s changing fast with the burst of recent Android tablet releases.

        Honeycomb (Android 3.0) feels like it’s not quite ready although I can’t put my finger on specifically why. After rattling around inside the computer industry since the very early ’80s I should know that x.0 releases of anything quickly become considerably better x.1 releases 🙂

        The screen is very nice and the ability to plug in USB devices and micro-SD cards is a definite plus over Apple’s offerings. Dollars wise it was a little cheaper than the equivalent iPad. I’m keeping my eyes open for a good travel-sized keyboard which I can pair with it. It’s certainly responsive enough to be used for “real” work.

  5. […] that the Copperwood Double #1 (containing Drumlin Circus and On Gossamer Wings by Jim Strickland) has been out there for awhile, […]

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