All posts for May 2011


Lose Yourself In This Dept.

I’ve heard a theory—I forget who originally floated it—that the length of the average mass-market genre fiction work has gone way up due to two things: the demands of the market and the invention of the word processor....

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2011/05/30 11:25

I’ve heard a theory—I forget who originally floated it—that the length of the average mass-market genre fiction work has gone way up due to two things: the demands of the market and the invention of the word processor.

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Tags: fantasy publishing science fiction writers writing


Book Reviews: A Bride's Story (Kaoru Mori)

Kaoru Mori last turned heads on this side of the ocean with her lovely and thoroughly-researched story of Victorian-era England, Emma, adapted into an equally lovely animated series. With A Bride’s Story, she’s taken the same fascination for period detail...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2011/05/22 00:41
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Kaoru Mori last turned heads on this side of the ocean with her lovely and thoroughly-researched story of Victorian-era England, Emma, adapted into an equally lovely animated series. With A Bride’s Story, she’s taken the same fascination for period detail and turned it on the life of the Caucasus tribes (also of the late-19th century). Aside from being gorgeous in just about every page and panel, this manga operates as both a drama of feuding families and as a look at the way civilized life slowly displaces its nomadic counterparts. If there’s no anime derived from this also in the offing, I’ll be shocked.

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Tags: Kaoru Mori Turkey books manga review


On Imagination And Entertainment

The New York Times has a profile of Steve Jobs that features the following quote: "His is not a product-design philosophy steered by committee or determined by market research. The Jobs formula, say colleagues, relies heavily on tenacity, patience, belief...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2011/05/21 13:05

The New York Times has a profile of Steve Jobs that features the following quote: "His is not a product-design philosophy steered by committee or determined by market research. The Jobs formula, say colleagues, relies heavily on tenacity, patience, belief and instinct."

This stands in marked contrast with the current state of the entertainment industry, where focus groups, polling and projections make it nearly impossible for leap-of-faith creations to gain an audience.

It's easy to say that when you have a $50 million, $100 million or even $200 million budget at stake, it's not wise to just go with your gut. But decades of going with focus groups and polling and projections have created a new kind of stagnation: an entertainment industry that is helpless to do anything but recycle its own past, to never take genuine chances, and to be content with properties that have the safety of built-in familiarity.

The only risk-taking present now comes in the form of outsider efforts done on smaller budgets (c.f., Gareth Edwards's Monsters, Neil Blomkamp's District 9*). And whenever one of those films comes out, nobody bothers to learn the lessons embodied within them:

  • Find individual people with singular visions who are determined to make a movie no matter what effort is required. There's a few programs like this out there, but they're the exception, not the rule. Most of the system is firmly committed to keeping the existing product wheels turning.
  • Dedicate someone to them to pre-sell the property. The art of entertainment sales is far more refined than we like to think. It is possible to get these movies in front of audiences.
  • Bank at least as heavily on the name recognition of creators rather than just properties themselves. This is happening to a degree, but not as much as it could be.

Try to imagine a movie studio that took an Apple-like approach to their product. Actually, I can: PIXAR. Which was, ironically enough, one of Steve Jobs's own investment projects. What does this tell you?

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Tags: Steve Jobs apple business movies


Book Reviews: Kallocain (Karin Boye)

There have traditionally been three great or at the very least formative dystopian novels of the 20th century: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, George Orwell’s 1984 and Evgeny Zamyatin’s We. The first two are almost stereotypically familiar; in my case...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2011/05/18 22:20
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There have traditionally been three great or at the very least formative dystopian novels of the 20th century: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, George Orwell’s 1984 and Evgeny Zamyatin’s We. The first two are almost stereotypically familiar; in my case they were proscribed reading in high school, and few people need them compared or contrasted. We, on the other hand, is nowhere nearly as well-known but every bit as crucial. I discovered it more or less on my own, re-read it time and again as new translations appeared over the years, and would gladly pack a copy on my next one-way trip to the moon. Now I have to add a fourth to this list, one which might well accompany me on that same trip—and which has been sadly neglected even by many other fans of SF or dystopian fiction.

Neither the title, Kallocain, nor the author, Karin Boye, will be familiar to most readers outside of her native Sweden. There from 1922 through 1940 she published several volumes of poetry and a few novels, all well-received by her peers. Kallocain was the most out-of-gamut of her works. Nothing before it hinted that she would produce this bleak future vision, one informed more by the tightening grip of the Third Reich on Europe than by anything in her own life. When her mother complemented her on the book, her response was “Do you really think it was I that did it?”—although it was clearly her book, given the toll it exacted on her emotionally. Less than a year after the great and sad Kallocain saw print, Boye apparently committed suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills, and the book itself did not even appear in English until 1966. But we have it now, in a good translation by Gustav Lannestock, and it begs to be rediscovered by an audience for whom dystopia has become a near-synonym for the future that is unfortunately continuing to come true around us.

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Tags: Aldous Huxley Evgeny Zamyatin George Orwell Karin Boye dystopia fiction review


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