A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘popular literature

[LINK] “Waterstones to stop selling Kindle as book sales surge”

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The Guardian‘s Nicola Slawson reports that British bookselling chain Waterstones has decided to stop selling Kindles, on weak e-reader sales and stronger book sales.

Waterstones, which teamed up with Amazon in 2012 to sell the electronic reader in its stores, will use the display space for physical paperbacks and hardbacks instead.

James Daunt, the managing director of the retailer, told The Bookseller: “Sales of Kindles continue to be pitiful so we are taking the display space back in more and more shops.

[. . .]

The move comes after physical book sales at Waterstones rose 5% in December 2014 at the expense of the e-reader.

It appears this trend is not unique to Waterstones. Figures released by Nielsen Bookscan show sales of print books for the first 36 weeks of 2015 rose by 4.6% (worth £739.5m) when compared to the same period in 2014.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 7, 2015 at 8:52 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly asks readers how they define their community.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at the Rosetta probe’s unusual comet.
  • Crooked Timber notes the death of Brian Friel.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze reports that hot Jupiter 51 Pegasi b apparently does not have rings.
  • The Dragon’s Tales suggests the bright spots on Ceres are salt deposits.
  • Language Hat wonders where the sabra accent of Hebrew comes from.
  • Languages of the World suggests grammar is a better guide to language history than words.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at the Russian deployment in Syria.
  • The Map Room’s Jonathan Crowe exposes the failings of the Mercator projection.
  • Marginal Revolution wonders if there might be a South Asian free trade zone soon.
  • Out There notes that Earth’s near-twin Venus is important for many reasons, not least as a guide to exoplanets.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at population growth in the North Caucasus and examines xenophobic rhetoric in Russia.

[REVIEW] Melissa Scott, Proud Helios

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As I mentioned before, starting in the late 1980s and continuing into the mid-1990s, I bought Star Trek tie-in novels consistently. I bought only the tie-in novels of shows actively running. I stopped buying Star Trek: The Next Generation novels at #37 or so, while with Deep Space Nine I never got past #10. Proud Helios, #9, may in fact have been the last one that I bought. It was not a bad place to stop: high points rarely are.

Melissa Scott‘s Star Trek novel, as noted on its Wikipedia page, is a novel about space pirates.

When asked why she wanted to write a Star Trek novel, Scott commented, “Partly, I think, it’s the simple fact that when you encounter a world and characters that you enjoy, you want to be a part of it, too. In a TV series, that temptation is particularly strong, because, after all, it is a series. There are people out there who contribute the stories, create the world, and there’s always the possibility that you can become one of them. In my case, because I came to Trek from the Blish novelizations, and was acutely conscious of how the written versions compared to the actual episodes, the idea of writing not screenplays but novels was very appealing. Plus, of course, I’m a better novelist than I am a screenwriter!”

Scott remembers how she got the assignment to write Proud Helios. “John Ordover approached me, knowing I was a Trek fan as well as an established SF writer in my own right, and asked if I’d be interested in doing a book in the DS9 universe. I really liked the series, particularly the constraints of keeping the show to the single station (this was early in the show’s evolution), so I jumped at the chance. I asked if he had any guidelines, any stories he particularly wanted to see, or any he didn’t, and he said, no, not really, he’d leave that up to me. So I went home, mulled it over and came up with the proposal that became Proud Helios. I sent it to John, who called me back almost at once, laughing. He’d promised himself that he wouldn’t do any stories with space pirates— and here I’d sent him one he wanted to use[.”]

Re-reading the used copy I bought here in Toronto, Proud Helios still stands out as a good novel. Set in the third season as the pirate ship Helios ventures desperately from Cardassian space towards the Bajoran wormhole, this is a fast-moving and well-written novel, with believable antagonists and many nice little character moments that shows Scott understood the show’s characters nicely. There felt like things were at risk, always an achievement in tie-in novels contemporary with the show. I also looked coming across the notes of queerness in the novel, particularly the smuggler couple Tama and Möhrlein.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 1, 2015 at 3:25 am

Sometimes amateur writers need a professional opinion

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The Globe and Mail‘s Kate Taylor had an essay on writing that I’ve been paying attention to lately.

Urjo Kareda, the artistic director at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre from 1982 until his death in 2001, was famous for many things. One of them was his commitment to reading every offering that every aspiring playwright ever sent his theatre. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, he read as many as 500 unsolicited scripts a year.

He responded to the writers, too, delivering honest assessments of their scripts in what could be notoriously sharp-worded letters. Kareda had previously worked as theatre critic at the Toronto Star and clearly didn’t believe in mollycoddling dramatists – or deceiving would-be dramatists as to their chances.

His reading probably didn’t uncover any hidden gems; the various new play development programs he established at Tarragon were surely far more important to the theatre’s artistic success. But if Kareda’s approach to unsolicited material was inefficient, it was also admirable. It suggested a commitment to the idea of playwriting and to the community of playwrights that extended far beyond the needs of his individual company; it suggested he felt it was his duty, as a salaried cultural arbiter, to acknowledge all those unpaid aspirants in need of cultural arbitration.

When HarperCollins announced recently that it would close its website Authonomy Sept. 30, I didn’t mourn the forum to which writers could post unpublished manuscripts for peer review; instead, I mourned the professional spirit of Urjo Kareda. A handful of published, bestselling authors whose work was first discovered on Authonomy are apparently deeply saddened by its demise, but the site sounds as though it was mainly a way to get the slush pile to read the slush pile. Self-publishing, print-on-demand and the fan-fiction phenomenon have eroded the distinction between amateurs and professionals in the literary industries, but every so often you get a small reminder that sometimes you need to send in a pro.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 30, 2015 at 10:07 pm

[LINK] “Alan Poul To Helm ‘Dancer From The Dance’”

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Towleroad notes that Andrew Holleran’s novel Dancer from the Dance, a classic from pre-AIDS late 1970s New York City, is set to make it to film.

Director Alan Poul is teaming with Brazilian-based RT Features for a feature film based on Andrew Holleran’s cult novel Dancer From the Dance, considered a cornerstone of 1970’s gay literature. The book chronicles the search for love and pleasure in the mid-seventies dance-club subculture of New York, centering on the unlikely friendship between the charismatic and mysterious Anthony Malone and the wildly flamboyant Andrew Sutherland.

I’ve touched on Holleran before. I look forward to see what will come of this.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 24, 2015 at 9:23 pm

[LINK] “10,000 zines and counting: a library’s quest to save the history of fandom”

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At The Verge, Adi Robertson describes how the University of Iowa is trying to preserve the documents of science-fiction fandom from as far back as the early 20th century.

The University of Iowa is home to almost a century of fandom history. Its library’s special collections house everything from 1920s “dime novel” reviews to T-shirts that were auctioned off in protest of the 2002 Farscape cancellation. In 2012, though, it acquired one of the most valuable resources yet: the library of James “Rusty” Hevelin, a lifelong science fiction superfan and prolific collector of books and fanzines dating back to the 1930s. Last year, the Hevelin Collection was chosen as the first target of the university’s Fan Culture Preservation Project, a massive effort to digitize some of the most vulnerable and ephemeral pieces of science fiction history. Now, that effort is starting to take shape.

In July, UI digital project librarian Laura Hampton officially began the long process of archiving the Hevelin Collection. The library is partnering with the fan-run Organization for Transformative Works to collect more zines for eventual digital archival, but Hampton is currently focused on material from the 1930s to 1950s, spanning the rise of zines and the Golden Age of science fiction. The vast majority of the images will stay offline, but an accompanying Tumblr has given outsiders a peek into the roughly 10,000 zines that Hevelin donated — and into the communities that helped create science fiction as we know it, from fandom clashes to fan fiction.

It’s impossible to talk about the history of sci-fi, or modern popular fiction more generally, without talking about fandom. H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and many other seminal authors were shaped by and participated in fandom, whether through letters, early science fiction conventions, or fanzines. Zines were home to some of these writers’ first stories; later in the 20th century, they were central to the rise of fan fiction. But for a variety of reasons, they were usually meant to circulate through a community, fade away, and fall apart.

Fanzines feel almost designed to resist archival. “Creators were working with what they had, often within pretty tight budgets, and producing fantastic images with relatively cheap materials,” Hampton tells The Verge. Many of Hevelin’s zines were hectographed — copied by pressing paper to an inked gelatin pad. The medium produced brilliant purples and blues that can still be seen in some of the illustrations. But it favored cheap, highly acidic paper, and images could fade within hours under direct light. “There are rusty staples, tape — all these material things that make a fanzine a fanzine are also what make them difficult to preserve.” Each zine is photographed page by page as quickly as possible, supported by a specially designed cradle, until it can go back in storage.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 11, 2015 at 7:05 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “A Carefully Curated Queen West Bookshop Takes Flight”

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Torontoist’s Kate Fane reports on the interesting-sounded new Queen West bookstore Flying Books, run by a former book publisher who is curating collections.

In Neil Gaiman’s 2012 commencement address at the University of the Arts, he stresses the importance of establishing a mountain: a goal towards which you direct all your creative energies. When making career decisions, you have to weigh whether the path will take you closer or farther away from your mountain (regardless of salary) and then choose accordingly.

It’s an idea that keeps coming up during our conversation with Martha Sharpe, the owner of the newly opened Flying Books. Her mountain has always been discovering, polishing, and promoting excellent works of fiction, though her ascension hasn’t been without its setbacks. During her 12 years at House of Anansi press, she was credited with introducing the country to award-winning authors like Michael Winter and Lisa Moore. But after relocating from New York to take on the role of Editorial Director at Simon & Schuster Canada, Sharpe found herself laid off after just 11 months.

Sharpe’s now on a slightly different track to her peak, this time as a literary retailer who carefully selects each work she sells. And like with any responsible climb, she isn’t doing it alone. Flying Books is located inside the Weekend Variety, the “Cultural Gifts Shop” owned by gallerist Katharine Mulherin, whom Sharpe describes as a “community hub” unto herself.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 10, 2015 at 6:04 pm


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