Spurious Theories Feed

"What if digital came first?"

SLNSW_12850_Womens_formal_gownsThis is a rather stream-of-thought abuse of the 'spurious theories' tag, but I wanted to lump a lot of ideas together in one place.

The main cause of this? A great talk at Digital Shoreditch from Chris Bishop, who asked a simple, but heady, question. What if digital came first?

The talk - available online here - is largely from a consumer, retail, digital mindset. Bishop points out that a lot of ecommerce attention has been wasted trying to create physical experiences online, rather than embracing digital's strengths. And, similarly, the reverse is true: stores are now trying to imitate websites. His conclusion is that, eventually, the two channels will find their complementary ways, and physical stores will become an asset again. (Harsh, but not entirely fair.)

Anyway, this got me thinking. In publishing, we have two physical-first avenues: the books and the stores. And they're both taking a beating. So what if... digital came first?

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Mad Max is unexceptional, and that's for the best

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Mad Max: Fury Road is one of this spring's cinematic surprises. Although the opening weekend was trumped by Pitch Perfect 2, the combination of glowing reviews and word of mouth momentum seem to be adding up to, if not a hit movie, at least a future cult classic.*

Anticipation was always high for this long-awaited sequel, following a trailer that made the film seem like a gleeful throwback to the nonsensical, ultraviolent fun of the cult hit Road Warrior. (We don't talk about Thunderdome). An action film for fans of the action film. If you like noisy explosions, what's not to love?

And then, upon release, all hell broke loose. From an unexpected quarter too - Men's Rights Activists began a noisy (and bizarrely self-defeating) series of protests because the film was deemed 'feminist propaganda'. Which, of course, only drove more people to see the movie - not only out of curiosity, but also to spite the MRAs. And, as a result, the film's received high ratings and support from unexpected quarters and galvanised a very enthusiastic fan base - Fury Road is currently the most talked-about film on Tumblr.

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Justin Landon on "The Hugo Awards: An Entity at War With Itself"

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Congratulations to the 2015 Hugo Awards Nominees. For all of you this is a life long dream that has culminated in your recognition by your peers. For some it must be terribly difficult. You have been recognized not because of the quality of your work alone, but because of an axe someone else wanted to grind against an institution.

Mind you, this isn’t to say you don’t deserve it. You might. But, it would be silly to ignore the fact that you got there because an incredibly vocal minority chose to make your nomination an ideological line in the sand. Unfortunately, this has created some measure of hysteria within science fiction and fantasy fandom, who have been pretending for years that the Hugo Nominations weren’t already horribly easy to manipulate. 

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"Fuck You, Legolas" by Daniel Polansky

Those AboveI have a terrible secret. Chthonic and furtive, one I have kept hidden lo these long last years, one which I have not dared to whisper even alone and on a moonless night. One which I have only through thousands of hours of sessions with mental health professionals have I finally become capable of admitting to the world.

My name is Daniel Polansky, and I hate elves.

Hate them. Can't stand them. Dislike them all around—be they wild, high, frost, dark, fire or sky, if they've go pointy ears and a shitty attitude, I don't like them. Never liked them, in fact. Back when I was prone to walking around with sheets of paper elaborately detailing the characteristics of imaginary heroes, said heroes were never elves. They were half-Orc Paladins, they were undead cowboys, on one occasion they were a sort of humanoid dragon with guns for hands, but they were never, ever elves.

The kid at the bar next to you who sniffs unattractively when he discovers the chicken is not free range is an elf. An elf stole my high-school girlfriend just before prom, wearing a bomber jacket and shades even though it was evening. Elves always have perfect hair, even if they've just been killing something with a knife, which they inevitably do in some dance-like fashion which bares no resemblance to violence as it actually takes place. Elves think they're so fucking special, living for a thousand years, and communing with nature, and feeling superior. At best, they're all cheap superheroics, faster and stronger and tougher than everyone else. At worst they're bastions of the most exhausting sort of pseudo-philosophical gibberish, environmental studies majors with long bows, and behind every oration about the importance of preserving the forest is visible the smug, smirking, self-satisfied face of the author. (See also: Avatar)

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Ross & Rachel & Ron & Hermione & Jessica Rabbit

Ladbrokes Bingo_Valentines Cards_Lord of the RingsAnother survey - this one on behalf of Ladbrokes Bingo - this time investigating 2,000 cinema-goers and how they feel about loooooooove. As before, they've very kindly let me poke about with the numbers and draw my own conclusions. And boy, are they fun.

Background: the 2,000, are split across all ages (18+), equally between men and women, and, generally speaking, they're pretty genre-agnostic (equal fans of romance, comedy, sf/f/superhero, action, crime, etc). So, you know, people.

The bulk of the questions, again, this being about looooooove, have to do with favourite couples and romantic moments. What I found particularly interesting is how these split by age and gender.

I suppose it shouldn't come as huge shock but my top-line conclusions are: some of these 'timeless' romances... aren't. And when it comes to 'romance', men and women seem to have slightly different ideas. Oh, and - men are creepy.

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5 x 15 Question SF, F, Horror Book Meme

memeOriginated at SF Signal and spotted on Gail Carriger's blog. She's one of our role models, so if she's meme-ing, we can too.

Featuring four of the Pornokitsch team, and a wide variety of evasive responses!

1. What was the last sf/f/h book you finished reading?

Anne: [Can't answer because professional and stuff]

Jared: Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekbäck. (It was great. Also the sort of book that I think only I would classify as SF/F/H.)

Jon: Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer.

Mahvesh: Trigger Warning, by Neil Gaiman; Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean, edited by Kirsty Murray, Payal Dhar, Anita Roy

Molly: Gunnerkrigg Court Vol. 4, by Thomas Siddell

2. What was the last sf/f/h book you did not finish reading?

Anne: [See above]

Jared: City of Halves, by Lucy Inglis.

Jon: NOS4R2, by Joe Hill. I should stress, not because I've given up on it. I just got distracted part way through. I will go back to it.

Mahvesh: City of Stairs, byRobert Jackson Bennet (I had a false start & I will get back to it, I will!)

Molly: Conan the Swordsman

 

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"Redefining genre" by E.L. Tettensor

Master-of-PlaguesWe in the fantasy community love to categorise. Perhaps more than any other genre, we delight in dividing and subdividing into ever more specialised niches, until the distinctions between subgenres are so subtle as to be almost meaningless. And yet, for all our enthusiasm for labelling, a lot of it is pretty superficial. More and more, our taxonomy seems to me to be based on backdrops and widgets – urban, or flintlock, or steampunk – rather than substance. To use an analogy, it’s a bit like punk: to some people, punk is a subculture; to others, it’s just a hairdo.

I’ve had this on my mind a lot lately, in the course of promoting my latest book. When it comes to guest posts and interviews, I’m most commonly asked to focus on one of two things: antiheroes, or what it’s like to write two different – completely different – series. These two subjects have something in common: they both boil down to a discussion of worldview. And it got me thinking, is there a different way, still meaningful, that we could be categorising our books? A taxonomy that tells you more than what the characters will be wearing, and whether they’ll be driving or riding or winging about on dragonback?

I think there is, and I’d like to take a shot at it.

Jared got us off to a good start in his recent review of The Goblin Emperor, by offering the following definition of grimdark:

“For this purpose, I think grimdark fantasy has three key components: tone, realism and agency.”

More specifically, he argues that grimdark occupies a particular place along these three continua. I think he’s on the right track with this, but I’d like to offer a slightly modified view.

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Illustrators, Credits, Data and Search

Coloredpencils1Brilliant article by Sarah McIntyre here - extremely important for illustrators, writers, publishers and readers.

In a nutshell, illustrators get hosed - as a matter of social tradition and institutional failure. Despite being a critical part of the book, they get second-billing, if at all.

McIntyre cites such instances as: 

  • The Carnegie Medal didn't list illustrators, even though its parallel prize, the Greenaway Medal, listed authors (this has been corrected as of this year, which is great).*

  • The Bookseller - the industry trade journal - covered the above sympathetically,... but still, in their routine discussion of children's books, defaults to referring to them by writer only.

  • And the institutional failure: Nielsen - the UK's primary source of book data, and the folks that hold the ISBNs - includes illustrators (and many other roles**), but not as a primary field. So when it comes to, say, sorting books by sales... you can't do so by illustrator. And since Nielsen is provides its data to Amazon, Waterstones, etc., that means searches on those platforms come naturally hindered as well. 

That latter bit, as you can imagine, is crucial, as it quietly reinforces - and legitimises - the 'social norm' of author-only crediting.

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7 Songs That Defined Pop Music

Pop!Pop music as we know is a strange little beastie, all sparkly and prickly, brash and uber-opinionated. But it wasn’t born this way.

Most of the roots of contemporary pop music can be traced back to early American blues and soul, with a steady stream of influences all pouring down and becoming what we now know as pop, rock and hip hop - or what I sometimes think of as poprockhop because there are frequently just so many blurred lines.

It probably isn’t possible - or right, or fair - to trace the roots of popular music to just a handful of songs, but I’m going to try anyway.

Here are seven songs that explain to me where contemporary pop has come from, seven songs that define the cultural heritage of popular music today...

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Non-Fiction: "On Writing Short Stories" by John O'Hara

During the years I was not writing short stories I was occasionally invited by magazine editors to excerpt passages from my novels which the editors thought would "stand up" as short stories. I never did. I am a great believer in the creative flow, that once you have commenced the writing of a novel, all that follows is part of that novel. In spite of digressions and interruptions, a novel is continuous and should not be capsulized or "digested" or even synopsized, unless the synopsis is clearly labelled as such. (I allowed a novel of mine to be "digested" and I promise not to let that happen again.)

By the same token it is artistically wrong to take a passage out of a book and present it as a short story, no matter how it is labelled. The short story is such a different art form that an author simply must not have the same approach to a novel that he has to the short story. The author must say to himself that this is to be a short story; he must say it over and over again so that he conditions himself and disciplines himself before setting words down on paper, until the habit of thinking in short-story terms is re-formed. Obviously he must make all the words count, obviously he must set space limits ahead of time. But at the time he is preparing himself to compress, he must also bear in mind the fact that this may be the only thing of his that some reader will ever read. In other words, the artistic conscience must be functioning.

The author may write rapidly, and I do, but let it not be inferred that I "dash them off". The way I feel about writing, which is practically a religious feeling, would not permit me to "dash off" a story. And there is another aspect to it: the work of writing is fun, and without the work the writing is not fun, pleasure or a joy.

-- John O'Hara, Foreword to Assembly (1961)