Nine Worlds, Sex and Marketing
Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence

Weirdness Rodeo

Emma Stone is awesome.

This week's link o' the week - a piece from Alistair Smith on the role of subsidised culture:

The arts and culture contribute £7.7 billion to the UK economy – and quotes from some major employers inside the creative industries (and beyond) explaining just how much they rely on arts and culture as a training ground for their own businesses...

The economic case for supporting the arts and culture is a strong one, but pursued without restraint it creates a subsidised sector that simply mimics what the commercial sector could do perfectly well itself, without funding. The economic impact of the subsidised arts is a happy by-product of one of the UK’s most successful sectors, not an end in itself. We mustn’t allow the tail to wag the dog.

Completely agree, although I'm sympathetic to the difficulty of the debate. The only 'understood' metric we have for cultural success is commercial - not because of money qua money, but because money is a measurement of how people are using and re-using that culture. That's not to say that's right, but especially in a cut-throat austerity context (which again, isn't necessarily right), you have to defend what you've got, however you can.

This report on measuring cultural value is a very useful introduction to the challenge, and reviews many of the approaches that people have trialled.

Meanwhile, I break our 'no Hugo link' rule to share this rather exceptional piece by Adam Roberts:

This is what is so frustrating about the Puppies’ campaign. Not that it has resulted in a bunch of frankly inferior works being shortlisted – although it has. And not that it values old-fashioned SF over more experimental, literary and progressive writing – that’s a matter of taste. What is so annoying is that it so ostentatiously turns its back on the global context out of which the best writing is happening today.

Adam's piece is remarkable, at least to me, because it is directed at explaining the significance of the Hugos (and the current kerfuffle) to those outside the 'bubble'. Which is handy because a) bubble, bleh, and b) everyone in the bubble has a pretty solidified position by this point. 

Failbetter Games' Alexis Kennedy on (interactive) storytelling:

The thing the player feels is up to them. The protagonist is the player. Not a character you have written. Never tell a player why they have done something. Never tell them what they are supposed to feel. They are feeling it.

Kennedy also notes that "The temptation is to write long and give people value for money. More is not always better. Say what you need to say and get out of the way." Which, as I've finished the DGLA shortlist, seems pretty good advice for a lot of writers, honestly.

Yes, your opinion can be wrong:

An opinion is a preference for or judgment of something. My favorite color is black. I think mint tastes awful. Doctor Who is the best television show. These are all opinions. They may be unique to me alone or massively shared across the general population but they all have one thing in common; they cannot be verified outside the fact that I believe them.... There’s nothing wrong with an opinion on those things. The problem comes from people whose opinions are actually misconceptions. 


The week in juggernauts

Amazon lockers in petrol stations. Another one of those painfully simple, utterly obvious moves that only Amazon seemingly have the chutzpah and the resources to pull off. (Also, fashion? Amazon's coming for you next.)

The above provides a nice counterpoint to this piece in the Drum about what 'luxury' means any more:

Investing in service and experience also has wider benefits in that it generates more authentic and enriching content that can be used to bolster digital presence. While e-commerce is important, for luxury brands the digital experience is less about hard sales and increasingly about building community. The personalisation, personal interaction and exclusivity that some luxury brands are built on can be difficult to replicate online.

I know I harp on about this a lot - but Amazon's got accessibility, usability, range, price nailed. but what it can't do is luxury (at least, according to the terms above). There's an unfortunate tendency to think of bookstores as charities - a place you shop out of moral obligation, because it is the right thing to do. What if we think of them as luxuries instead?

A tiny bit on social commerce

For those interested in the difference between how the major platforms (and Google+) are behaving with social commerce, a short round-up.

Reebok says they've cracked social, but, reading between the lines, it sounds like all they're doing is throwing a lot of social advertising around sporting events. And not just the big, global ones, but the mid-sized, specialist ones - Spartan Races and all that. That said, even those are larger than most publishing events, and there probably aren't enough of the latter to fill an entire calendar. There's a recent move in publishing to create events - real and virtual - which is a good tactic for an industry that has more human than financial resource. But given the volume of clutter and the lack of organic social cut-through, just hosting a 'thing' won't be enough on its own.

Meanwhile, us.

We're at Nine Worlds! More details here.

We're at Fantasy in the Court! More details here.

The Dragonlance reread is coming dangerously close to finishing Dragons of Autumn Twilight.

Molly Tanzer, interviewed by Wag the Fox:

All the best Westerns are revisionist, whether it’s Deadwood characters cussin it up like cowboys never did, or Connie Willis getting everyone into gender trouble with Uncharted Territory, I think it is a possible and wonderful act to repurpose what can be a deeply problematic genre to show the history that’s never been shown, or the history that never was.

Mahvesh and Bex talk zombies, cultural appropriation and world-building for Midnight in Karachi.

Becky Chambers' The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is being published in the US by Harper Voyager! Congrats to Becky and, you know, America. (Pre-orders)


You can sign up here to receive these occasional round-ups of publishing and genre stuff by email.