Weirdness Rodeo Feed

Fandom, Metalheads, Goodreads and Tactility

Roadside service sign (1955) (via Space Age Museum)
Roadside service sign (1955) (via Space Age Museum)

A touching story

Professor Fiona Candlin has been trying to figure out why we keep putting our grubby little fingers on things in museums:

Touching, Candlin says, is "part of a much bigger, more imaginative encounter with things—trying to somehow make contact with the past." And there are countless ways of facilitating this type of contact, it seems. Recently, she says, a former head of conservation at the British Museum told her about a visitor who came into the Egyptian sculpture gallery and left tins of cat food as an offering for the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet. (Atlas Obscura)

As always, it all comes back to books. Physical books are less convenient, less accessible, less easily purchased, and more expensive. So why do they exist at all? The inertia of tradition can only carry the presence of physical books so far.

Studies Candlin's show that tactility has a deeply, perhaps neurologically, rooted appeal. Can publishers of physical books rely on this mysterious force? Or is there something they can do to build on it?

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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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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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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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Starring Colson & The Olsens

VirtualBoy-with-packaging

Nintendo Virtual League Baseball, via the Museum of Obsolete Media

Appointing Death Panels for Science Fiction

Clarke winner Colson Whitehead seems pretty cool, via the Guardian:

The Underground Railroad “could not exist without the toolkit of fantastic literature.... Way back when I was 10 years old, it was science fiction and fantasy that made me want to be a writer,” said Whitehead, whose previous novel Zone One featured zombies. “If you were a writer, you could work from home, you didn’t have to talk to anybody, and you could just make up stuff all day. Stuff about robots and maybe zombies and maybe even miraculous railway lines. Fantasy, like realism, is a tool for describing the world.”

I have genuine appreciation for anyone that freely conflates fantasy and science fiction in his first post-Clarke interview. Somewhere out there, a rocketships-and-math genre pedant is spinning in (undoubtedly) his grave.

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