Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Friday, March 22, 2013

Please do not look away from... The Novel

The Novel is often held up and upheld as the ultimate achievement every author can and should strive for.

Frequently, when I admit that I am an author, people tend to show at least moderate interest.

Until I confess that I write short stories. You can often see that interest fade, or replaced with a faked interest of politeness.

Short stories are to novels what TV used to be to movies. TV used to be considered by most as inferior to movies. I’m still waiting for the time when short stories are not generally considered inferior to novels. Where does that idiotic and bothersome belief come from? And why does it persist? Short stories are commonly thought of as practice for novels, a stepping stone into novels, or something writers do until they write a novel. Apparently , you are not a real author unless you have written a novel.

No, scratch that. Not until you get a novel published. No, scratch even that. Published by an officially recognized publisher.

Somehow, short stories don’t count? They are not recognized as real stories in the minds of the mainstream public.

If you write short stories, the impression goes, you might as well be writing fan fiction. As a side note, I’ve read some excellent examples of fan fiction.

So all those great many short stories that Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, Poe and Stubblefield wrote?

Meaningless. Except as a means to an end: the almighty NOVEL. You are typically not taken seriously as an author, without a novel.

But what if they never produce a novel?

Writers like Yeats and Shakespeare are, therefore, by this illogic, not real writers.

Not really.

However, there are plenty of notable writers who wrote only or mostly short stories, and produced a considerable amount. How do you reconcile that contradiction?

I would say that you are only hurting yourself if you deny yourself the opportunity to read short stories, because of that belief. But in collectively sustaining that fallacious belief, you also deny many others by making it more difficult for short stories to attain literary credibility.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Kickstart Veronica Mars

Warner Bros agreed to support a Veronica Mars movie— but only after having had sufficient support (and financing) demonstrated through a 2.5 million dollar fan donation with a Kickstarter campaign.

Funding the production of a Veronica Mars movie with Kickstarter both excites and disappoints me.

I’m thrilled about the possibilities this precedent opens up for getting canceled TV shows revived (either as a movie or series continuation). Not to mention new original material. I’m intrigued and hopeful about the alternative and feasible model this presents for such projects. Here, the audience isn't waiting to be dictated to (or coerced) by Hollywood what movies that audience wants to see (and doesn't have to). This time, Hollywood isn't forcing a movie on the audience-- no, they are giving that audience a movie they actually want made.

This also demonstrates the ineptitude and irrelevance of the Hollywood model.

A substantial point that the Artemis Eternal film project has been making (and countering) poignantly and passionately for years—without the recognition (and funding) it deserves. AE was advocating and utilizing a crowd-funding model before kickstarter was even a thing. And totally minus reliance on (or obedience to) any Hollywood involvement or permission.

What bothers me is how incompetent and ineffectual Hollywood really is; that they didn’t know there was massive interest in this “property”. Imagine all the other properties languishing in the void of their gross impotence and apathy.

What bothers me even more, is that Mars gets this magnitude of support, while Artemis Eternal continues to wait, wondering.
What bothers me even more than that... is that all this effort is being expended on Veronica Mars, instead of shows like Millennium, or Firefly, or Andromeda, or Babylon 5, or Journey Man.

To be clear, I liked Veronica Mars. It was a good show. But there are SO many other TV shows more worthy of this kind of massive fan effort.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

You Either See It, Or You Don’t

A disturbing realization has insinuated itself into my awareness and taken unwelcome lodging:

Due to new media practices, book readers (as a group) have been corrupted into a profound habit of laziness and expectation of coddling. A sense of adventure in the reader (assuming it existed) is being diminished, eroded… replaced with a sense of entitlement or ownership (of the reading material and the writer). The new generation of readers today demonstrate a sad lack of willingness to actively participate in a contemplative and exploratory reading of books, to devote the patience, time and effort necessary for a proper reading of books, to accept and appreciate the book for its own merits.
Readers have become rushed and reckless, distracted and dilettante.
Many of them have reduced art to nothing more than a disposable digital file.

In the introduction of my newest book, Days Remaining, I wrote—
To paraphrase writer Stina Leicht… The truth is--- an author only creates half of the book; the reader creates the other half through their own perspectives, assumptions, attitudes and experiences.

Stina sagely advises, and I agree:
Writing is about being brave, taking risks, accepting and embracing our essential humanness; it is not about being comfortable or safe or a way to stay invisible. Accept that. Embrace the naked.
Do the work. Ignore the rest.

But the same is true for the reader. Embrace the naked. Do the work.
Ignore the rest.

Now, young readers are conditioned to think the book is not enough from the author, conditioned to demand the author supplement the book with extraneous materials, that authors innately owe readers a variety of free stuff in addition to-- and even including-- the book! From the author, they demand blogging and social networking, their free time, personal attention. Unreasonable and unwarranted demands.
Apparently, inexplicably, the fact that the author has provided a book that the readers like is not enough for them anymore. A book that already took much investment of the author’s time and hard work.

To me, this feels like a kind of passive aggressive ungratitude and unappreciation. As an author, I resent and reject this presumptuous and preposterous imposition. I don’t say this to offend, or be controversial; I’m just saying: Dude. I’m glad you like the book, but back off. Please. Enjoy the book for what it is. Don’t bother us authors with ridiculous demands.

Further, and worse, these readers have proven unwilling to seek out new and hidden written narratives on their own, or take risks on independently and self-published books. That accept only what they are shown through advertising and promotions, thinking that’s all there is to read. Or worse-- that’s all there is worth reading. That only things presented by Big Publishing are valid.
Shenanigans, I say!
This isn’t only true of books, but also movies and music. There is a whole world of possibilities outside the sphere of Hollywood or Radio or Publishing Houses.

In the Forward of another of my books, a posteriori, I wrote—
Nietzsche boldly asserted that readers of his books must deserve them. I think the same attitude should be true in every relationship between art and its audience. Meaning that readers are required to invest themselves, be willing to put in the effort to understand his words, be able to respect the artistry of words as he does. Especially in our digital media saturated society, the book is a necessary instrument: it requires and fosters a capacity for sustained and deep concentration, facilitating a “slowing down” to properly consider and dwell in the written words.

The opening of my book Long Story Short included this segment, that states my attitude regarding my own books and their ideal or “right” readers—
Nietzsche said in Ecce Homo, “If I conjure up the image of a perfect reader, it always turns into a monster of courage and curiosity, and what’s more-- something supple, cunning, cautious, a born adventurer and discoverer.”

But, unfortunately, modern book readers are becoming unaccustomed to doing the work… of exploring a book, of dissecting and reassembling and interpreting its various meanings, deciphering its methodologies. They lack a bold courage and curiosity necessary for books like mine, that reward such deliberate and deliberating engagement.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Let This Be A Lesson To You

*image from http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wonder-Woman-Fan-Trailer/148064368690752*

Sometimes, you can’t see a thing until you see it.

I have a very particular image of what Wonder Woman would/ should look like in real life. Something resembling the Alex Ross conception.
Only a very few women have the appearance and physical presence to pull off that look. Adrianne Palicki is not appropriate for Wonder Woman. Erica Durance has the physical presence, but not the right appearance.

When I heard about Nina Bergman portraying Wonder Woman in a fan trailer, I scoured pictures of her from various angles and poses, with skeptical interest. I just didn’t see it. She did not look anything like how I envisioned the character.

Katie Holmes, Cindy Sampson, Jaimie Alexander, Olivia Wilde, Evangeline Lilly, Tabrett Bethel, even Cobie Smulders
I could picture as admirably depicting Wonder Woman. But Nina Bergman? Really? I didn’t see it in her.
Until I saw her in that amazing trailer, as the character.
Holy WOW! Stunningly fantastic. How did I miss that? Why didn’t I see it before?
Nina Bergman is actually a wonderful Wonder Woman.

Gene Roddenberry is said to have been adamantly opposed to Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard.
Until—after much persuasion, Gene surrendered-- he then saw Patrick embody that character so magnificently. After a few episodes, Gene was convinced of his error.
He couldn’t see it... until he saw it.

See the awesome Wonder Woman fan trailer below...

Often times, I’ll witness a performance by an actor in a scene that so impresses me-- is so brilliant and emotionally invigorating-- that I feel a profound sense of awe, and reverence. I cherish those moments, and seek them out, embrace them, soak in them, bask in them. I sincerely feel privileged and grateful to see them do that. Fortunate to experience that powerful moment vicariously.

This is one of those times.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Well, hey, these things just snap right off

In the spirit of asking, all my books are now FREE (printing & shipping are not).
But if you like my work, please be kind enough to donate and/or tell others.

The cultural attitude about economic transactions is paradigm shifting, from an approach of demanding to one of asking. From producing, to creating.

In the old model, we focus on what we can get from customers; in the new model, our concern is what we can give them. What we give to them, and how, influences their reciprocation.
We see this illustrated in kickstarter type crowd funding and community donation projects.
Instead of requiring people to pay or trade a certain amount, we are beginning to request payment, and even letting buyers pay donations of whatever amount they can afford and think is fair. Reliant on, and hoping for, and trusting the generosity of strangers.

All that is well and good. But this phenomenon has inspired a negative side effect:
Our internet, digital culture has breed people who expect art for free, and think of art as disposable. That artists should give their art away, that the public is entitled to the results of our creativity. And if we operated in a gifting economy, that would be fine. I don’t do art for money or attention. I gladly give it away. I dismiss the concept of “if you are good at something, never do it for free.”
However, since we need to earn money, compensation is not only nice but necessary.
But the idea that creatives owe it to the world somehow; should expect and desire no compensation for their efforts? An assumption springs forth: the art inherently belongs to the public. Even to the point that the artist belongs to the public.

The transaction is no longer just about the value of product or service, but now includes value considerations regarding the seller, selling behavior and tangential benefits.
The product and service, in and of itself, is no longer deemed enough. We now are expecting bonus material and associative relationships.
We are now being conditioned to expect extraneous features and rewards for purchase.
What? It isn’t enough that we made a book or song or movie or whatever? Now you want us to pay you to buy stuff we make? We do not have that obligation. You expect too much.

I refuse to accept that the value of a product or service must be made to depend on the esteem consumers or audiences have for the creator or provider. That I must become your friend or role model, or give you bribes in order for you to be interested in my creation is absurd, and will not play that fool’s game. I am not going to be manipulated or coerced into making you care about me, just so that you will care about what I create. Because the art is not about me, it is about the art. Nevermind me-- what about the art?!
I insist that creators and providers must not be mandated, implicitly or explicitly, to sell themselves, in addition to (or instead of) what they create or provide.
You do not have the right to impose such an expectation or responsibility on creators.
A seller ought not be required to network and schmooze and blog and entertain their consumers or fan base, as well as sustain their primary offering.
Creatives have been penalized and hardshipped enough by consumerist and industrialist thinking. It is already difficult enough to be economically compensated for and by our creativity. To be respected and appreciated as artists or creatives in the capitalist mainstream.

For centuries, our society has been, and mostly still is, culturally trained to be productive, to achieve, to maintain traditionally acceptable forms of employment. If we aren’t, then we tend to be deemed lazy, unproductive, irresponsible or having no marketable skills.
No value.
But now, we are (thankfully) entering an era where productivity and “doing something” are valued less than creativity, imagination and thinking.
We are starting to accept the wisdom of working smarter, not harder. More than that, working and thinking creatively rather than mechanically or formulaically.
That doing “nothing” is not necessarily or exactly the doing nothing it might seem to be.
What qualifies as work, or a job, is expanding. What is the point of employment, if not to get money or be productive, or meaningfully engaged?
And if you can do this outside the confines of traditional definitions of “getting a job”, then why should that be any less acceptable or valid?

We have to be willing to invest in people—in their creativity, their potential and capacity for invention and innovation and imagining. To nurture and foster that spirit and skill of creativity as an ongoing process, rather than a singular event or tangible result. These are the productive assets of the future.