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Draft Posts and Middling Along

A week on the road and with a really, really tetchy computer, but - I'm back. And straight into the middle of things.

Middle Relievers Don't Win the Cy Young

We tendency to lionise the start and the end of creative projects, and forget about the middle bits. 

We all become 'authors' as soon as we open a Word file, 'artists' as soon as we buy paint, 'bloggers' as soon as we register our domain name. By contemplating creation - simply by having an idea - we re-identify ourselves.

But then, we also leap to the other extreme. A creator isn't 'allowed' to claim that identification until they have successfully created. You're not really an author until you finish a book. (Or perhaps even publish one.) You're not really an artist until you finish a painting. A blogger without posts is a poor example of the breed. This isn't unfair: inspiration might be the easiest part of the project. Socially, we should celebrate the do-ers and which means focusing on the evidence of what they've done.

But what about everything in-between?

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Sweet Savage Love, Romance and Realism

Sweet Savage Love

I've been reading a lot of vintage romance novels.

Incidentally, you get a lot of very special looks on the Underground when you're reading a well-worn copy of Sweet Savage Love. Especially, I suspect, as a thirty-something dude.  

My romance reading is pretty new, it only started around three years now. What began as curiosity blossomed into, slightly unexpectedly, a genuine passion for the books. That's a metaphor for you. They're a lot of fun, they're culturally interesting, and - I don't want to gloss over the key point here: I really enjoy them.

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The End of the World(s) as We Know It

I'm fascinated by instances where the creators of video games, RPGs, or comics change their worlds. The joy of fantasy is that everything is completely malleable. The history, the politics, the very physics of the universe - all can be changed at the creators' whim.

But what happens to the readers and players who are committed to that world? How do they deal with the upheaval?

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What if Apple bought publishing?

Chocolate Dinosaur
If you're going to be a dinosaur, be a chocolate one! (via Reddit)

Apple announced a $1b 'war chest' for original content (Wall Street Journal). This is still much, much less than its rivals - Netflix spends an estimated $6b each year, and Amazon Video $4.5b. Let's face it. That's a lot of money, but the world's richest company may be critically far behind. They can't follow in their rivals' footsteps with any hopes of catching up.

So, here's a lateral way of approaching it. What if they just bought the entire British fiction publishing industry?

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Amazon is a Slytherpuff and Other Revelations

The brand that lived

The managing director of the Licensing Industry Merchandising Association nails it in a guest piece for Campaign

Harry Potter is more than the films, more than the books. It is a genuine lifestyle brand.... Along the way its brand DNA has grown to encompass imagination in all its infinite possibilities, outdoing conventional fashion brands at their own game.

I've argued in the past that Batman, Superman, Spider-man are all t-shirt brands with comic book spinoffs. I think Harry Potter belongs in that pantheon as well: geek culture brands where the identification is now so embedded that they're part of the visual vernacular. It isn't just about a nerd franchise being in Primark, it is about a nerd franchise being in Primark and coverage in the Sun.

If anything, Harry Potter's gone a step further and given us four lifestyle brands. Superhero logos say, generously, something about you. But the four Hogwarts houses have become a socially-accepted Meyers-Briggs self-classification

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50 Books on Imagining and Re-Imagining Cities

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2017-08-12/8cef1c9a-0c5b-4709-8d9f-88c5b1bf0a13.png
Moil houses from China Miéville's Un Lun Dun

I've been thinking about cities - and how we imagine and definite and interpret them - since the panel at Nine Worlds was announced. The panel itself, chaired by architect Amy Butt, and featuring Verity Holloway and Al Robertson, was brilliant and free-ranging.

One thing we didn't do is lapse into 'here are some books about cities that I recommend'. I'm grateful we skipped that because a) that's boring on a panel and b) that makes cracking blog content. Listicles are good fun.

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Tolkien, Potter, and Pulps

Abandoned Spaces by Stefan Hoenerloh
Photograph by Stefan Hoenerloh

#MordorisforEveryone

Adam Roberts on the global success of Tolkien:

One reason Tolkien’s imaginary realm has proved so successful is precisely its structural non-specificity. What I mean is: Tolkien treats material that has deep roots in, and deep appeal to, various cultural traditions; but he does so in a way—as fictionalised worldbuilding rather than denominated myth—that drains away much of the poisonous nationalist, racist and belligerent associations those traditions have accumulated over the centuries.

This is very similar to what Henry Jenkins has to say about Harry Potter, where he argues (my paraphrasing) there is a world broad and shallow enough to include the potential of every individual reader's inclusion. 

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Mouseburster

Gigers_alien

Tomorrowland 2055 was to be an updated version of Tomorrowland..... One of the main attractions that was to be added was Alien Encounter. Initially Disney owned the right to the alien from the movie Alien and planned to use that as the alien, but some Imagineers thought that it would be too scary. There was debate over it and the Imagineers got George Lucas to convince Michael Eisner that it was too scary for Disney.

- Chris Ware, Disney Unbuilt: A Pocket Guide to the Disney Imagineering Graveyard (2016)

The book itself is not particularly well-written (I think, despite the Amazon/GR tagging, this is not Jimmy Corrigan-Chris-Ware), but there are a lot of interesting fun facts in here. As well as the Alien inclusion in Tomorrowland, there were also plans for a separate Nostromo ride. Other fun facts include the Black Cauldron and TRON attractions that never happened (but design fragments from the former wound up in, of all things, a Cinderella ride), as well as MYST Island, because, ... MYST.

Other, slightly creepier, ideas include the various country pavilions (all with planned corporate sponsorship!), with the Soviet Union Pavilion a baffling highlight, and about 10,000 different creative re-imaginings of 'American Mythology', including a Civil War themed attraction that is about sixteen types of terrible idea. Walt Disney's original scheme for Epcot - a Utopian micro-city - is also included, and would make an excellent backdrop for fiction.


Are independent bookshops the new conspicuous consumption?

Nom nom nom

Elizabeth Currid-Halkett's new book looks at the changing consumption habits of the wealthy in the West (especially America):

Over the past 100 years, improvements in technology and globalization have made consumer goods increasingly accessible to the average American. Currid-Halkett says this led to the “democratization of conspicuous consumption,” which has made consumer products a less appealing way for the wealthy to show their class. Rather, acts of conspicuous consumption are now focused on limited edition versions of goods that are difficult to imitate, like $20,000 Birkin bags and rare vintage wines.

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All The Eggs, One Basket [Click to Buy!]

Roadside America
Roadside America, photo by John Margolis

If you're not reading Lisa Schmeiser's So What, Who Cares,... get in there. It is a brilliant bi-weekly newsletter that connects the dots in fascinating ways. Her thoughts on this matter are much more considered, and interesting, than mine - so go read that.

The most recent issue examines the connections between Amazon and journalism. Not in the conspiratorial way, but in an economic one: Amazon affiliate links are a huge source of revenue for professional and amateur journalism.

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