Spurious Theories Feed

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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"This slum of literature"

TheJobI've been reading some of the 'best books', which has been surprisingly fun. Perhaps slightly less educational than I had assumed it would be, but there's a virtuous buzz that comes from reading anything with <10 downloads on Gutenberg. 

Although not one of Sinclair Lewis' best works, The Job has a lot going for it. This is a sort of Babbitt for the working woman, and Lewis tries to balance warm-hearted (and progressive) feminist thinking with a thinly-veiled disgust for, well, everyone, including its own protagonist.

It is a tricky line to walk, and the book occasionally stumbles a little too far into one camp or another: either with full-on preaching monologues or vast swathes of parenthetical scorn. 

Still, mean is funny. And this lengthy, abusive aside about the 'literary itch' was particularly entertaining:

* * *

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What of the fans?

Journal of Science FictionThe Journal of Science Fiction was published by a fan group based at the University of Chicago. Like many zines, it was short-lived - despite some (now) star-studded issues, it only existed for four short issues. 

I can't vouch for the tone of the first three, as I've not found them yet, but the fourth is a corker. Whether the JSF was established with this particular tone, or if the editors took to the final issue with nihilistic zeal, the content - especially the editorials - is passionate and, er, rather blistering.

The editorial begins with a succinct explanation of the Journal's demise - 'malnutrition, both of material and of readers'. The editors also note that 'if a publication fails to satisfy the needs and desires of its time; it deserves to die'. Thus they sail, with stoic aplumb, into the darkness. But not without burning some bridges behind them with this - timeless, and ever-relevant - rant...

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SPFBO: Some Unwanted Writing Advice

Publishing your book

In 1921 - this has a point, bear with me - the compilers of What Editors Want interviewed a lot of the prominent editors (both magazine and publishing house) of the day. They all responded with pages of stuff: formatting advice, genre preference, commercial details, you name it. Very specific.

The best response was a single line from Atlantic's Ellery Sedgewick: "My selection is made according to the whim of one individual."

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Are genre readers more likely to separate the author from the work?

Unjustly Condemned

Discussion around separating 'art' from 'artist' is something that springs quite a bit - especially in the SF/F community. I have a lot of theories on why that's so:

  • we've got an academic fan tradition, and like to overanalyse context;
  • we're a tight-knit community and live in one another's pockets;
  • social media makes it so dirty laundry is everyone; 
  • our particular blend of escapism often stems from creative people outside of traditional social norms;
  • we sure have an awful lot of assholes writing in our genres

Take your pick. But whatever the underlying context, the ultimate question is still the same for each reader: if you don't like the author - personally or politically - do you still read them? Can you separate the author from the work? Should you? Discuss, ad infinitum.

I'm interested in how people answer this question quantitatively. Are readers more likely to separate art and artist than everyone else? And what about genre readers? Are we more or less likely to read books by people we disagree with?

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The art of publishing - who has form?

Fawcett Gold Medal

In Robert Calasso's The Art of the Publisher, the author distills to art of publishing to form - the "capacity to give form to a plurality of books as though they were the chapters of a single book".

This is a fascinating concept, particularly applicable in a world where branding is both understood as an art... and almost entirely ignored in the publishing industry. The most overt demonstration of form is, of course, the art and design of covers - and Calasso dedicates many thoughtful pages to the role of cover(s) across a publisher's list. 

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"A Comparative Study of Ghost Stories" (1885)

GhostsWe seem to need a name for a new branch of the science of Man, the Comparative Study of Ghost Stories. Neither sciology, from σκιά, nor idolology, from εἴδωλον, appears a very convenient term, and as the science is yet in its infancy, perhaps it may go unnamed, for the time, like a colt before it has won its maiden race. But, though nameless, the researches which I wish to introduce are by no means lacking in curious interest.

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Gray is an insult to real moral ambiguity

 

Gustave Dore - Jaufry the Knight
Jaufry the Knight and The Fair Brunissende by Mary Lafon (1886); illustration by Gustave Dore

When Gareth Edwards wanted to make the case that his new Star Wars film, Rogue One, was something new for the franchise, he called it “gray.”

In some world, this is still an odd adjective to sell an entertainment product--connoting, as it does, dreary weather, concrete, and the absence of light, color, and action. But in the world we live in, Donald Trump is President and we all know that “gray” means that a work is for educated adults who have acquired a taste for watching characters they like get murdered.

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"Dream Sequences and Dream Worlds" by Oliver Langmead

MetronomeFor a guy who's just about to have a book about dreams published, you might be surprised to learn that I'm not a great fan of dream sequences.

A lot of the time, they feel a bit unnecessary; one of the weaker parts of the narrative they're trying to enhance. Usually, it's the attempt at adding depth by using a combination of psychoanalytic metaphor and (more often than not) prophetic foresight which seems to fall a bit flat (with cunningly crafted exceptions, of course – take Twin Peaks, for example). As if, while attempting to add subtlety and depth, the writer has instead ended up making their narrative a bit obvious and shallow, or far too obscure to interpret. 

All of this being said, I am quite fond of dream worlds. It's a niche belonging to portal fantasy, in which the portal is the simple act of falling asleep, and it has a history of producing classics. Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz (film!), and even more contemporary essential pieces of reading, like Neil Gaiman's Sandman, have their own dedicated realms of dreaming, and each is considered important.

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