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 - labour-wise - part of the project. Socially, we should celebrate the do-ers, which means focusing more on recognising the evidence of what they've done.
But what about everything in-between?
How do you recognise the path to completion? At what point in Zeno's infinite copy-edits does he eventually deserve to claim the title of author? Hans Ulrich Obrist explored the idea, tangentially, with Unbuilt Roads, which focused on the 'unrealized' projects - architectural plans that, for some reason or another, never achieved fruition. But it too is a celebration of beginning, not middling: a recognition of 'speculation', not the process along the way.
If we're going to get more people down the path from A to Z, we need a better way of celebrating B to Y.
Robert Sharp recently wrote a lovely piece on his 'draft posts' folder, citing an earlier Michelle Kazprzak post that did the same thing. As far as memes go, it is an awfully good one. But I'm not sure where this sits - tonally speaking. By listing our drafts are we giving up on them ever achieving fruition? Or is this a celebration of middling - a moment where we get to talk about projects that aren't done, but simply incomplete?
We only have a few drafts, but here they are:
- The Black Witch
- Newsletter Amnesty
- Growing Up Geek (and Girl)
- Bad Genre Fiction: Some Solutions
- Adventure Seeds (I, II, III)
- Robert Chambers
- Jane Gaskell
- M.A.R. Barker
The latter three posts went live elsewhere, but I didn't want to re-use them without adding something to them, so they count.
A few of these are from Anne (I suspect you guessed from the titles). They divide pretty evenly between 'stuff we're nervous about posting', 'column ideas that went nowhere', and 'just not done (yet)'.
9 isn't actually that many, which I find reassuring. Pornokitsch is a pretty, um, instinctual place. If a piece of writing doesn't happen immediately, it probably won't.
This list of drafts is a pretty stark contrast with the lengthy Unbibliography we included within The Extinction Event - a list of 21 'unrealized' projects that never happened with Jurassic London. That's 21 unfinished projects compared to 40-something completed ones (roughly 35%). Compared to Pornokitsch: 9 drafts versus over 2,500 published (.35%). We are a thousand times more likely to abandon a book than a blog post.
It goes to show that, again, middling is the dangerous bit. A book is a vastly more complex project. But, with encouragement, motivation, or even a bit of help, I'd think that many of those could have been realized. Instead: they'll remain perpetually unbuilt.
Which is all a long-winded way of saying: spend more time supporting people that are in the middle of things. That's the hardest part.
"Where I’ve seen brands succeed today is in more niche areas, like one-of-a-kind sunglasses or one-of-a-kind shoes, where they’re really building a focused brand. Amazon can’t knock off that kind of brand. They’re already a giant brand; they can’t be this niche, cool brand, too." - the founder of Krewe opens up to Glossy (although this doesn't quite work when Amazon have shown that they'll just spin up new brands as needed)
A study of a billion tweets shows that bad weather mades us sad. (Sorry, Londoners) (MIT Technology Review)
Terrific case study of adidas on Business of Fashion, and how they've gotten 'cool' again. There's some wank in here, and it is ill-timed given the recent scandal, BUT:
Two years ago, we presented our strategy ‘Creating the New’. The focus of this strategy was to significantly increase the desirability of our brands, because only with desirable brands can we sustainably grow sales and improve profitability,” explains Kasper Rørsted, chief executive of adidas Group. “Our 2016 results are proof positive that ‘Creating the New’ is working. Focusing on our strategic choices ‘Speed’, ‘Cities’ and ‘Open Source’ makes us much more impactful in the marketplace compared to a few years ago.”
Students who watched Queen of Katwe performed better on their exams. Representation matters + media makes a difference. (Quartz)
Related: the meteoric rise of Indian SF. (GQ)
Related: TV and movies about crime, medicine, or SF give viewers a favourable view of scientists. (Pew)
One final aside
From the research above, 44% frequent viewers of SF TV/movies say the genre gives a favorable view of science, while only 15% say it gives an unfavorable one. Not to read too much into this, but if viewers are 29% net positive about the science of the 'notoriously' entertainment-driven science fiction in TV and movies, maaaaaaybe we don't need to be jamming scrupulously hard detail into science fiction books?
I suppose the alternate reading is that when people really want the full source code of their imaginary science, they turn to books. Which is fine, but then - that's a niche audience. More people watch SF movies than read SF books. If the industry is out to sell more science fiction books to the most obvious audience - science fiction viewers - maybe the industry needs to chillax on the deets.