If you haven’t been here in a few days, you’ll now notice that jd.com looks different, and a little more significant than the, “Hey, did you get a haircut?” sort of looking different. There are a few reasons for this, the biggest of which was that the other blank theme I used had no ongoing support. The website belonging to the girl that made it went poof, and with the upgrade to the next version of WordPress I thought it made sense to switch to a more WordPress-supported blank theme.
I did very little customizing to it — only 38 CSS declarations, and I could probably optimize that a little bit. Still no crazy graphics or colors, no super-charged goofiness links to every which way. The only significant functional change I made was turning comments back on, after turning them off for a few good months. It was an experiment that ended up with people making comments on the post elsewhere. I’d rather have people make comments on the actual post if at all, but ideally it would be through email. But I’m not going to get bent out of shape about it.
Missing out on the free donuts at work the other day — that’s something to get really upset about.
The equivalent for writers playing shows I think is capturing an audience and building a fanbase online even before an author has a book written. That way when you have a book you already have a built in group of people who want to buy it.
Yea, and so t’was. That is only recently, though, through the automagical incarnation of the internet. What about before blogs? Writers got known through short-story publications, chapbooks, knowing someone in the right place, or the “how could this be interesting” public readings?
Back in my guitar-playing days, a friend of mine said the best guitarist in the world is probably has a desk job somewhere, languishing in obscurity. I wonder if the next best writer is working twelve hour shifts, pushing buttons in a factory.
The other day, and album from the band Evelyn Hope (yes, a band, not a person) came up on our iPod. They were a band started by a former associate of mine, Chris, who owned a recording studio in New Jersey. One of my old bands recorded our demo there, so I got to know him a decent bit. His older band, Element 101, released one of my favorite albums of all time, and they started getting big before a petering out. After getting to know Chris, knowing his songwriting skills, and seeing them play live a few times, I had high hopes that Evelyn Hope would go somewhere. They didn’t, but I still spin the music from time to time.
Being a neophyte to publishing I have to wonder if things end up the same way in that industry. Publishing books is a different animal than a performing art like music. Artists can promote their product through performance; there’s not a parallel equivalent in publishing, so I think authors rely more on advertising, promotions, and word of mouth to move copies. Even though music is almost entirely subjective, are there books that you’ve read that are, or would be considered, officially “good” literature but have passed by critics’ desks unnoticed or haven’t been picked up by consumers? I haven’t read enough under the radar books to get a good reading (heh) on if this is a common or even possible situation.
Let me know: email me at email@example.com.
Moviefone made note last year of the coming invasion of films about coming invasion of aliens. I’ve noticed it, too, and I don’t need to actively watch TV to pick up on the trailers — all I need to hear in the background as I maniacally type away is scary music, military lingo bandied about, and some futuristic flight noises and explosions.
Though novels are probably a better vehicle than actiony sci-fi movies to delve into the details (probably), I like to determine why aliens would bother invading earth. It’s very unlikely, given a few safe assumptions and a dash or two of inductive logic, that aliens would bother invading earth — assuming aliens exist (one of the aforementioned assumptions).
First, we’re going to assume that the aliens that would pose a threat to earth are technologically advanced enough to travel here safely and mount a considerable attack. It does no good to consider aliens in a primitive state since all they can really do is curse at us from their depressing boneyard of a planet.
If they have the technology and resources enough to invade earth, it’s not likely that they would do so for a number of reasons. They would probably not do it out of self defense because we would not pose that much of a military or biological threat, especially when we’re more or less stuck here. If it’s for our resources, they have two strikes against them: one is that we most likely would not have the resources they are looking for if they are so advanced (it would have to be something we currently don’t know about), and it’s far far far less costly and more beneficial in many ways for the aliens to voluntarily exchange with us. If they get Element X and we get some of their technology, we both benefit and the aliens get a better rep for future transactions.
Unless the aliens were given their military and transportive technology by another race, it’s safe to assume that they place a high value on cooperation and material advancement (I’m not one to think that because they have weapons it means they are warlike). So unless they have an extremely provincial disposition it makes sense that they would want to make peaceful contact with us, and they would know the best way to go about it without triggering a self-preservation response out of us — because, let’s face it, some of us are going to freak right-the-heck out and become dangerous if they make contact.
This also means that, if they value the material sciences enough to develop advanced traveling technology and enough of a sense of adventure to be so distant from home, that they would want to learn from our planet. If we don’t have much to offer in terms of technology, we would be an anthropological curiosity in the very least.
There’s left only two reasonable scenarios where we are invaded: if they are warlike by their nature to the degree that they are willing to spend so much time and resources in destroying entire planets of living things for no other reason — or if they were coerced to invade us, either by their own government (sorry, there’s my libertarianism again) or they are being used by another, master alien race as slaves (expendable resources, more or less) to invade for their benefit.
I tend to the think the second half of the latter scenario to be more likely, because I think they would have less and less need for such a strong government; their technology would mitigate their need for centralized, monopolized power. The slave-invader scenario works better, especially if the master race gifted the unfortunate, less-advanced proxies the technology (an idea I mentioned a few paragraphs before) and were faced with an ultimatum to invade us or be exterminated.
Today marks the halfway point of my “read the entire Bible” marathon. I’m actually a few days over because I don’t plan on taking the two grace days that act as a break from reading. Why in the world someone would need a day off from something as non-strenuous as reading is beyond me. People just need different avenues to express their sissiness and I suppose the act of reading provides the least resistance.
The halfway point is in the book of Proverbs. A few things I’ve learned, or had reaffirmed, or been reminded of, so far:
I had the honor of revealing the news on Noisecreep and a lot of people are as excited as I am.
Besides the article I linked, there’s something else writing-related I have with them. I was in the band earlier last decade for a year or so and I remember writing our bio at point point. I wish I still had a record of it — it was one of those band bios that made them out to be much bigger and loftier than they really were. At the time I thought it was just dandy but I’m sure in reality it was too much. Why is everything about our younger selves always embarrassing?
There’s also something else, too: a lot of my experiences in the band and playing music in general served as a general backdrop for a lot of plot elements in A Season Underneath. These are things that you can’t really teach, they’re things you go through — life experiences that just seem to find their way into a writer’s story.
Anyways, here’s to many more years of awesome music ahead.
About craigslist’s stripped-down functionality, Gary Wolf writes:
Each of these sites, of course, is merely one of the many sections of craigslist, which dominates the market in facilitating face-to-face transactions, whether people are connecting to buy and sell, give something away, rent an apartment, or have some sex. With more than 47 million unique users every month in the US alone—nearly a fifth of the nation’s adult population—it is the most important community site going and yet the most underdeveloped. Think of any Web feature that has become popular in the past 10 years: Chances are craigslist has considered it and rejected it. If you try to build a third-party application designed to make craigslist work better, the management will almost certainly throw up technical roadblocks to shut you down.
“More” of this, please. We are already inflamed with function-creeping, social networking incestuousness — we don’t need any more swelling. Unfortunately it’s bled over into blogging, where you, as the reader, are attacked on all visual fronts to hey hey hey hey hey click this do this now now now share it share it like like like, in warp-speed technicolor at 72 dpi. It’s something I’ve tried to fight on this here site; heck, I’m thinking of stripping things down even further. It can be done.
This is why I like books. Aside from the cover artwork and a few design flourishes on the inside, it’s all thoughts on page, committed to paper and the mind of the reader. When at one time books were what everyone relied on for entertainment and knowledge, they have now become Avalon for our wounded Arthurian senses.
On an interesting side note, Wolf describes Newmark as “politically liberal”, yet:
“People are good and trustworthy and generally just concerned with getting through the day,” Newmark says. If most people are good and their needs are simple, all you have to do to serve them well is build a minimal infrastructure allowing them to get together and work things out for themselves.
Newmark’s words are classically libertarian: leave people alone and they will most likely work things out for themselves. For every single “craigslist killer” there’s probably a million mutually beneficial, peaceful, voluntary transactions. Not a bad ratio. I’ve done maybe a dozen sales through craigslist with zero problem — I simply use some common sense and intuition to avoid transactions from which I may not benefit. The idea of a society capable of functioning by itself, coercion(government)-free is fundamentally at odds with modern left-liberalism, as well as most other political positions, including conservatism. If Newmark believes we’re just trying to get “through the day”, what need do have for a government to make sure we play nice with ourselves (i.e., the left’s costly welfare state), or that we play mean with others (i.e., the right’s costly warfare state)?
I’ve gotten a few positive emails about the post I did of some favorite writers of mine sucking on the sweet brown lettuce, so I’ve decided to do another bakers’ dozen. This time around it’s not necessarily some personal favorites (though there a few in here), but they are sufficiently qualified in all the other areas.
Williams S. Burroughs:
Jon Dos Passos:
Jean Paul Sartre:
Irvin S. Cobb:
My friend Seth W alerted his twitter followers a little while ago, directing them to this wonderful piece on wired.com written by Patton Oswalt, who played Kevin James’ buddy in King of Queens. I normally don’t like the strain of comedy in sitcoms that don’t go beyond penis jokes and battle of the sexes one-ups, and I didn’t know he did standup, so I was taken aback by Oswalts’ insights on the easy consumption of otaku, or geek culture.
Oswalt argues that it will implode, or reach critical mass, or some other self-destructive phenomenon, because of the Internet’s speed and ubiquity. It will form a infinitely-dense point of existence called Etewaf (Everything That Ever Was—Available Forever), however…:
This will last only a moment. We’ll have one minute before pop culture swells and blackens like a rotten peach and then explodes, sending every movie, album, book, and TV show flying away into space. Maybe tendrils and fragments of them will attach to asteroids or plop down on ice planets light-years away. A billion years after our sun burns out, a race of intelligent ice crystals will build a culture based on dialog from The Princess Bride. On another planet, intelligent gas clouds will wait for the yearly passing of the “Lebowski” comet. One of the rings of Saturn will be made from blurbs for the softcover release of Infinite Jest, twirled forever into a ribbon of effusive praise.
Think of the Junkions from the first Transformers movie (the animated, good one), where the planet of Junk is inhabited by robots whose language is a pastiche of phrases and film clichés received from Earth-origin TV transmissions. Multiply that by roughly a million.
But I was amazed to see that Oswalt has a writer’s soul, and he even gives a nod to A Confederacy of Dunces.
“If it’s bad art, it’s bad religion, no matter how pious the subject.” -Madeleine L’Engle
A few months ago I read an interview with an agent working within the CBA industry. For those not in the know — and I was one of those until very recently — CBA is the “Christian” Booksellers Association*, the official gatekeepers (I think) for things all literary sold in the achingly stifled environment of Your Local Christian Bookstore. The thing that stuck out to me was that, when directly asked if the books she accepts contain swearing, the agent flat out said that those kinds of books were not accepted. While this in itself isn’t necessarily that odd, it was a little strange when I looked at what the agent considered to be the bellwether publication. Amazon had some sample pages, and the writing was not good. It was passable in the sense that it was error-free and I’m almost sure there was a decent story in there, but the author’s grasp of the nuances of language was shaky: inaccurate metaphors, weird sentence construction, obvious cliches, high school-level dialogue (the characters speaking were educated adults). I couldn’t see any lit-head taking that aspect of the book very seriously, and some of the reviews reflected that. It made me ask internally whether God would find more offensive swearing — done by a Christian character or not — or bad writing. I chose the former.
Here’s the thing: bad writing is in the willful control of the author (really the editor, who should be picking these things out), but I can’t see the act of an author narrating a cursing out of, say, an abusive boss as condemnable — unless it was badly written. Except for some subjects of prurient interest, there’s no reason for a Christian author not to describe the offensive things in life, but what well-adjusted adults seem to be unable to parse is the idea that description does not equal prescription; they conflate explanation with approval. This is bolstered by the fact that it can be difficult to distill what an author’s true affections are through fictional narrative. It is hidden underneath a created universe, and sometimes religious folk want someone’s doctrine spelled out before the venture into consuming your art.
I’ll give my amateurish opinion in the form of a rhetorical question here. Christians show no compunctions about placing in their story characters holding an absence of true belief, which is really the only sin that gets us in the end. Indeed, without formal data on hand, this is probably one of the defining characteristics of Christian(ized) fiction. Why, then, is the presence of unbelief acceptable in this instance but something microscopically significant as swearing isn’t?
*I used the scare quotes because objects can’t be Christian, only people can. Jesus didn’t die for entertainment mediums, unless you’re talking about any kind of audio recording with an accordion. Them things are from the pits of hell.