Previous Posts: Uncategorized / General: February 2012

Minus Two Princes And Amber Dept.

It's harder than you think to recognize your own biases.


I've been reading Seven Princes (the title of this post is a sorry attempt at humor about it, I apologize), and in the process discovering something about myself that I don't like to admit: I'm biased in ways I scarcely know about. And the only way I can find out about that kind of bias, it seems, is to blunder across it and break my toes on it.

I originally planned to write a regular review of Seven Princes, in which I shrugged and described it as yet another fantasy cloned from the same cuttings of Tolkien that everyone has been cultivating since the Seventies. What's odd is how in many respects it reminded me of another set of books that I find far more appealing: Guin Saga. What was it about the latter, despite being written in almost the same manner as Seven Princes, that made it far more interesting to me?

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Tags: books fiction Guin Saga Seven Princes writing


Unimedia Dept.

I like to think that maybe someday there will no longer be such things as sculptors and composers and film-makers and playwrights and poets. There will only be artists.-- Tom JohnsonJohnson, a longtime music critic for the Village Voice, wrote...


I like to think that maybe someday there will no longer be such things as sculptors and composers and film-makers and playwrights and poets. There will only be artists.

— Tom Johnson

Johnson, a longtime music critic for the Village Voice, wrote that back in 1970-something, after being exposed to the then-burgeoning wave of multimedia artists. The impression he got was not of people who couldn't decide whether to work in film, music, sculpture or painting and so simply opted for "all of the above", but rather people who wanted to see what kinds of experiences could be produced by making different media share the same space.

I wonder what the Tom Johnson of 1970-something would have thought if he could have seen, say, today's video games. Those are multimedia experiences in a manner far more advanced than anyone of that period could have conceived of.

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Tags: art entertainment multimedia


Big Damn Heroes Dept.

From authoritarian heroes to egalitarian ones.


'One Piece' manga offers young and old something to believe in age of uncertainty - The Mainichi Daily News

The strong bond between the "One Piece" characters goes beyond mutual support. Yasuda points to the equity between characters. "(The characters) maintain egalitarian relationships, with different characters taking the leadership role depending on the situation. It's completely different from the Showa-era (1926-1989) image of the authoritarian athletic team leader pushing members to make sacrifices for group success," says Yasuda.

I'm not myself the biggest fan of One Piece  — it's one of those things that where I missed the first bus, so to speak, and getting caught up with it now would be a gigantic investment of my time. I've tried dipping my toe in the water since, but each time I ask myself Do I really want to bother going back and getting caught up with all those previous episodes? And the answer is always No, and that's the end of it. The same thing happens with Bleach, Naruto and maybe even Gintama despite me being a major fan of the comic when that was coming out here.

This "egalitarian" analysis sounds easy on the face of it — meet the new shonen hero, nothing like the old shonen hero — and I wonder how much water it holds on closer inspection. To wit: Nobody is ever going to vote Luffy off the boat, and Naruto is never going to stop being the axis around which much of Naruto's action revolves — because a) those things would go against what they are, and b) they'd produce stories that would be arguably a good deal less exciting than what we're getting now.

That said, I do think the general trend is towards heroes that are still heroic but also clearly part of a larger whole. In something like Fist of the North Star, the whole thing revolved around Kenshiro and who he was punching out this week. In Fullmetal Alchemist, the story is unquestionably Ed & Al's, but they would get nowhere in it without the cast that surrounds them — both good guys and bad, who give them both support and something to push against. It's more mature storytelling, that's for sure.


Tags: anime manga


Small In Japan Dept.

Why Foreign Bestsellers Often Fail in Japan | Publishing PerspectivesAn interesting piece on the mechanics of publishing in that country. One of the oddities about bookstores there -- this I can confirm from my own experiences with Japanese bookstores here,...


Why Foreign Bestsellers Often Fail in Japan | Publishing Perspectives

An interesting piece on the mechanics of publishing in that country. One of the oddities about bookstores there — this I can confirm from my own experiences with Japanese bookstores here, too — is the strange way many books are filed by publisher first, then author. The used bookstore (Book-Off) that I patronize is not like this, but I think that's only because they have no reason to return books.

Tove Jansson, BTW, is the creator of the "Moomin" series of books, which remain perennially popular in Japan the way Peanuts is in the States.

I should also note there's no discussion in the article of the issues involved in translating a work for the Japanese market, or finding a publisher for it. I imagine those things are in a class by themselves.


Tags: books bookstores Japan marketing


Baking the Bread of Yearning Dept.

Sometimes wanting to be a writer is the worst way to be a writer.


Robert Olen Butler: “The Danger of Wanting to Be a Writer” | Talking Writing

The danger of wanting to be a writer is that it generally means “I want to get published, I want to win an award, I want to have a book.” And if that’s what’s driving you as a writer, you’ll never create anything worthwhile — even if you’re capable of it.

The title of this post comes from another quote mentioned elsewhere in the piece, and between that and the quote excerpted above I had plenty of things to chew on.

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Tags: Brad Warner writers writing


Almost Famous Dept.

Why Should Libraries Focus on Popular Books? « Annoyed LibrarianLibraries should concentrate on collecting books that people might want to read, might even enjoy and benefit from, but don’t know about, and then promote them like crazy. The bestsellers are...


Why Should Libraries Focus on Popular Books? « Annoyed Librarian

Libraries should concentrate on collecting books that people might want to read, might even enjoy and benefit from, but don’t know about, and then promote them like crazy. The bestsellers are already promoted like crazy. Most of them are pretty bad by whatever standard you want to apply, but they’re like cotton candy. They go down smoothly because the readers know exactly what to expect and never get any surprises. People who exclusively read bestsellers and mass popular fiction are hardly worthy of being called readers at all.

There's a lot in this piece (and in Annoyed Librarian's posts generally) about how libraries are scared of losing funding if they stop carrying the obvious bestsellers and genre fiction that, for better or worse, make up a big part of their circulation stats.

A lot of that attitude, I suspect, comes more out of the politics of public financing than anything else: I remember all too well the Congressional sessions where various scientists were called upon to defend the millions of dollars being poured into their research, and (rather stupidly, if I dare say so) admitted that there might not be any practical application for such work, but the fact that America would be promoting that much more scientific research was in itself good. End result: they had their funding slashed. In the same way, any public library that says "We're not going to emphasize books that everyone already knows about and can find" is begging on bended knee to have its funding gutted at the next referendum. Them's the breaks.

But all of the above brought to mind another question: Are bestsellers bestsellers because they're promoted like crazy, or is there another mechanism at work?

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Tags: books publicity publishing writing



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This page is an archive of entries in the Uncategorized / General category from February 2012.

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