Tag Archives: Reading

Worldcons and World Conquest (by way of Pop Culture)

I’ve never been to a Worldcon, but I’m thinking I ought to for when it’s in my backyard.

George R. R. Martin, however, has been to just about every Worldcon he could for several decades running.

This year’s WorldCon is in Dublin, so the Irish Times caught up with him and he mused on WorldCons and fandom and all sorts of things.

If you want more of Martin musing on his career and art, you can also catch an interview of him on Maltin on Movies.

Recommended Reading: For Love or Money (or both!)

The other week, I mused about giving your young’uns a steady diet of scares, inspired in part by reading an article by artist Greg Ruth.

Well, as probably comes as no surprise, Ruth also has some thoughts about the eternal struggle to make a living from one’s creative work and yes, it’s naturally pertinent to illustrators, but I think his points should resonate with writers as well.

By the way, if you want to check out more of his work, his website is here.

Navigating Being Online, Offline, and Increasingly In-Between

After Wednesday’s post that focused a great deal about how to curate one’s persona online, I was surprised that I hadn’t written at length about Jenny Odell and her efforts to help people curate their involvement in the “attention economy.”

I’ve found the article bears repeat reading, because there’s so many different ideas it raises and so much that you, personally, need to reflect on.

And yes, I mean need. At its core, and related to my Wednesday post (which was mainly for creative folk looking for fans) this article raises questions about you define your boundaries with engaging online. Being a luddite is probably not the answer for most people, though ignoring whole swaths of the Internet might be.

In other words, it’s about you taking agency for how you define “getting real.”

Scare Because You Care

This can probably get a viewing soon.

This past weekend, I let my kids watch the original Clash of the Titans. Besides being able to pass on my love for Ray Harryhausen films as my dad passed on to me, I’ve had the chance to do some short stop-motion films with both of them with smartphone and tablet (ain’t modern technology grand?).

One of the concerns was how scary the film would be to the young’uns. The man burning alive, the giant scorpions, and, above all, the Medusa sequence were most on my mind. Thankfully, all went well. The burned suitor didn’t register, the scorpions were “wow, ginormous” because “that [Calibos] is going to do something mean again, isn’t he?” and I was safely close during the showdown with Medusa.

My kids have already shown they enjoy spooky stuff, so I want to make sure they continue to get a good fright now and then… but age-appropriate scares. Artist Greg Ruth argues that exposing your kids to scary stories is a good idea.

So, I’m already thinking about the next entry in the de facto film festival to hit the kids right in the amygdalae.

Rather Sad about Mad

It’s no secret that Mad, the steadfast satirical magazine that’s been on newsstands for the past 67 years is all but ending, as per these pieces in the Washington Post, New York Times, and a personal one from The Week.

What, me shed a tear?

I learned about it first from Mark Evanier’s blog, as he’s not only a pop culture historian, he regularly works with one of Mad’s most storied illustrators, Sergio Aragon├ęs. Technically, Mad is not completely dead: the magazine will continue as a vehicle for reprints as per a message sent to contributors last Wednesday.

The New York Times piece especially touches on how big of a cultural impact Mad had: people thought of the Mad parody version of movies before they thought of the original film itself! I know one screenwriter who had the joy of finally seeing his film get made as a star-studded Hollywood production, but he felt he had really arrived when Mad magazine parodied said film — and he wrote Mad magazine to tell them so (Mad happily published his letter).

To boldly go– DAMMIT Mr. Neuman!

My one brother and I were especially fond of Mad’s Star Trek parodies which were uniformly excellent. Dick DeBartolo‘s pitch-perfect scripts combined with Mort Drucker‘s expert illustrations made for satirical synergy. And they were but one section of many equally distinctive illustrators and writers.

It could be that the wonderful continuity of talent which was such a plus was, in part, part of the minus that led to the current diminished state of Mad. Leastways, the corporate executives didn’t figure out how to transition to junior staff as had happened in the past. Longtime Mad writer Joe Raiola thinks this is both what happened with the move to the West Coast. Still, it’s not dead yet and it might get better from its newt-like state. Certainly the brand is still valuable which, in this day and age, is one of the most important things to corporations. As Evanier notes, someone –perhaps many people– are figuring out how to get the brand to make more money.

The Internet’s Altar of Umbrage

I’m working on some other posts related to fandom. One is a follow-up in the Crisis of Infinite Star Treks series (where I talk about fan involvement with Star Trek throughout, but specifically go into more here and here.) I’m also working on a longer piece about getting one’s own creative work out there and developing fans oneself.

One struggle I’ve had of late has been how much the Internet thrives on hate and outrage. I don’t just mean comments at the bottoms of articles which, by and large, are probably better left unread. I don’t even mean how social media discussion threads can go horribly hateful, though that’s certainly something to always be wary. I’m thinking more along the lines of every fun Internet series like Honest Trailers, there’s a more bile-infested series along the lines “Everything wrong with [Movie]” or “Why [Movie] Really Sucks” or so on. Pair that with all the ‘clickbaity’ article headlines of the “[Thing] will complete shock you” variety and, well, guess why some of those social media threads devolve?

I realize this is neither a new nor uniquely groundbreaking observation, but it’s been on my mind given the pieces I’ve been working on, with two articles particularly making me think about the course of events.

Conor Friedersdorf wrote in The Atlantic back in January about how the Internet has eroded the ability for people to, well, essentially, curate their identity in different places. You still can, but the unification of self everywhere on every channel is problematic. The fact that this erosion is fueled by outrage does not help matters.

The other factor is how corporations are adopting this particular Internet flavor of umbrage as a standard advertising tactic, as Luke Winkie wrote today in Vox.

I guess I just don’t want anyone to feed the trolls even if they think they know how to use the trolls for their own ends. Don’t we have countless cautionary tales about how well that sort of thing turns out?

This Year, Resolve to Make Art

I thought I had already posted this article by Sean Kane from 2016, but evidently I hadn’t. So go ahead and read up on seven darn good scientifically-backed reasons why you should make art even if you’re not “any good” at it.

A perfect example of simply making art is Inktober, an annual event to do an ink drawing every day during October. I did this with my son –and moms and dads reading this, that’s reason enough to give it a go. Because while I tried things with shading and perspective that were hit or miss, he developed recurring story elements in the scenes he drew throughout the month that was a delight to witness (and on a parental note, it was a good transition to bedtime).

So go ahead, get your art on, whatever way you want to. You don’t need to share it with anyone. Science has your back.

I, for one, don’t welcome our net ‘bot overlords…

Though from reading Max Read’s piece in New York magazine, it’s kind of moot whether I welcome them or not: a huge portion of the Internet is fake.

I mean, it’s not that it’s a huge surprise that the Internet is full of automation to simulate traffic for ad revenue purposes, engage people for some Machiavellian monetization motives, or otherwise amplify some ill-conceived echo chambers…

But it’s depressing to have it validated to such a hefty degree.

Perhaps you, like me, remember those days pre-Netscape Navigator, exploring the Internet universe via Gopher and the like. The possibilities seemed as vast as Pangea, which is an accurate extrapolation of how long ago it was in Internet terms.

Will we survive an inversion when ‘bots outnumber us all? I don’t know. I just know that, Even now, spam bots are getting ready to comment on this post.

All that Glitters is not Gold

The stuff of dreams and nightmares (photo from Chris Maggio for The New York Times)

You’re just going to have to trust me on this one: go read Caity Weaver’s in-depth exploration on the history of glitter. You’ll get caught up in it much like glitter grabs ahold of you and never lets go.

After a 21-year Pause, More Art Enters Public Domain

2019 will bring many things, both planned and unplanned… but one of the planned events is one I had forgotten until people started circulating an article from the Smithsonian magazine by Glenn Fleishman: a mass of copyrights is expiring putting books, poems, music, films, and other art into the public domain.

This is very exciting, and not just because Jabberwocky Audio Theater will happily adapt 1920s sci-fi and adventure material as it did from H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, long in public domain. No, this means a lot of works which haven’t been distributed and shared widely can and will be, allowing countless people the opportunity to experience the art anew. As the one article says, it’ll be like a yearly time capsule.

In addition, NPR did a brief piece about the coming mass expiration and Lifehacker has a list of some of the more prominent works that will be in the public domain. I suppose “expiration” has a bit too negative connotation, so let’s call it an artistic explosion.

Now I have another reason to be excited for January 1st every year.