David Bowie's Top 100 Books [Plus Some Links]
Taylor Swift: Are We In The Clear Yet?

Weirdness Rodeo: Trends! Opinions! An Open Letter!


I'm not 100% sure what this is, but TUBE-LEVELING sounds like a very dangerous pastime.


The Guardian picks out some 2016 trends for art and creativity. Some might be a little more controversial than others, such as Tony Churnside noting that:

A big theme this year will be the use of data to provide personalised content experiences, going beyond recommendation systems and adapting narrative in response to audiences.... For personal data to provide more engaging experiences, art and storytelling themselves must become more flexible. We need to stop seeing art as sacrosanct, as artists and storytellers develop new tools and processes that allow the generation of adaptable user experiences.

More trends! The stats gurus at FiveThirtyEight make some calls for 2016, and decide that, amongst other things, we might be done with YA movies:

While the Comic Book Movie Industrial Complex keeps humming along, 2016 may be a bad one for another staple: movies based on young adult novels. With “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2” released back in November, the three most lucrative franchises based on a series of young adult novels — Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games — have come to a close. And so far, there isn’t a proven successor series to fill that gap.

All sorts of fun graphs in there, definitely have a read.

And... one more trend: black shops with tiny white signs!

Controversial opinions!

Jezebel, surprisingly, take a stand against diversity-based reading challenges. Controversial (and surprising), but their core point basically boils down to 'how about you just do something good without telling the world about it':

If you were a queer writer, or a woman of color writer, would you want someone to read you because they thought they were doing something dutiful about power structures? Or because they gravitated to you, not out of any sense that you would teach them something about diversity that they could then write about in a year-end essay—but that they just read you because you were good?

Definitely reading the discussion as well. Needless to say, not everyone agreed.

The Blunt Instrument tries to answer the question 'what is fiction for' and finds herself sailing into genre descriptions:

Let’s just say for the sake of argument that it is—what features distinguish literary fiction from other genres? Often people say that literary fiction foregrounds language over plot, but that’s not always the case. (For example, I don’t think of Kazuo Ishiguro’s writing as particularly “languagey.”) To my mind, one of the main reasons we call something “literary” is because you can talk about what it’s “about” without recounting the plot.... 

I don’t love knowing the plot of a novel ahead of time, but in terms of “spoiler alerts,” I’d rather know the plot than all the themes. And if every blurber and reviewer is able to pinpoint the same one or two themes and package it up for you, the novel probably isn’t as interesting or complex as it should be.

I'm going to mull this one over for a while, but I can see myself quoting it incessantly in upcoming reviews. I'm not sure I agree, but it does make some nice (if pithy) guidelines for quality that would lend themselves to a shared reviewing framework, especially regarding something like, I dunno, literary awards.

The Bookseller continues the trend of celebration with a 'print is on the rise, publishing is saved' piece (paywall, sorry!). (Ironically, at the time of writing this, the article immediately below it - 'Time Out travel guides to cease publication' - and on Twitter, 'Six of the top seven paperback non-fiction titles in 2015 were colouring books'.)

As a brief refresher, the many, many issues I have with the 'print is on the rise, publishing is saved' storyline: bad data, misleading data, conflicting data, numbers inflated by niche products (such as adult colouring books), 1 year ≠ trend, print ≠ publishing. I think today's goat is most gotten by the latter. There's something terribly reactionary about the belief that print publishing is the only publishing that matters, and that's more damaging to the industry (big and small) than anything else. I love me some papery goodness, but more investment in the future, less in defending the past, please. 

An open letter!

The UK trade press (singular) blew up recently when the Society of Authors wrote an open letter to publishers, penned by Society President Philip Pullman. Predicated on the thesis that "authors remain the only essential part of the creation of a book", the letter outlines a number of proposed changes to author/publisher contracts. (It is worth noting that the letter itself is available only as a PDF, which is a wee bit symbolic.)

The letter notes that only 11.5% of UK authors earn their living solely from writing, down from 40% in 2005. (Based on this study.) This is, understandably, terrifying - but it also seems like that's a very difficult like-for-like comparison. The market has changed substantially since 2005, including the advent of digital publishing, the growth of a virtual monopoly in bookselling, a decline in readers, and, you know, a dramatic rise in the number of authors publishing and books published (the UK published 20 books every hour in 2014). Open letters to Amazon, the education system, bargain-hunting readers and non-readers should all be required as well. Interestingly enough - and perhaps needing more inspection - the same ACLS earnings report points out that 5% of authors received over 42% of all earnings. 

I am, just as everyone else is, slightly biased. But from my point of view, publishers are working just as hard, and with just as little reward, as authors right now. Punching the other guy in the lifeboat isn't the solution, even if he is the only one within reach. 

And finally...

Appalling formatting but totally fascinating: Empire's oral history of The Last Action Hero.

And the first Adult Colouring Book was grim and hilarious.


As always, if you're interested in this occasional, irrational and not-so-timely round-up of publishing, cultural and marketing stuff, you can get it via email.