Saturday, August 4, 2007

SF - No Boundaries

I helped to start a Science Fiction Book Club which has been meeting each month for the past 10 years. The club moved with me through three bookstores to finally reside here at the Inkwell. When the SF book club comes up in conversation with random customers at the bookstore, I know I'm going to face incomprehension and be told that this person "doesn't read that stuff." SF is more popular than ever in movies, comics, TV, and yes, even books. It's this popularity that has driven the uninitiated to assume the worst about SF (damn George Lucas.) I used to try to defend/explain the quality that exists in this diverse genre, but now I just change the topic of conversation. I swear I'm not bitter...

A short piece about Race and SF was featured in the Boston Globe recently. Since it is so brief, only the surface is scratched, but at least it gets the conversation started -

"It's an area of fiction that has allowed writers to tackle sensitive issues of race and culture. "It has always been the safe genre to talk about those issues," Harry says, "or it had been for years until there was a lot more tolerance for bringing those things up in the mainstream."
But some in the speculative-fiction community complain that a number of their white contemporaries no longer tackle these subjects." -Boston Globe

The article was noticed by one of our club members, and since then there have been several smart email responses from our group. No doubt this will come up at our next meeting, and I'm looking forward to the discussion.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Comic Book News Bits, In Brief

Top Shelf announces details of two new Alan Moore releases for 2008 and 2009. Click here (and then scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page) to read all about the new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book, as well as Moore's 'practical grimoire of the occult sciences,' The Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic.

Naruto mania has yet to die (and now the critical accolades are pouring in). From "On top of selling more than 2 million copies nationwide, the manga series received the most nominations in the inaugural American Anime Awards; was awarded the genre's first ever Quill Award in 2006 for Best Graphic Novel; and has appeared frequently on the USA Today Top 150 bestseller list. The televised "NARUTO" is the most popular show on Cartoon Network for boys ages 9 to 14."

Comicon, as told by the bloggers. The Comics Reporter has rounded up an extensive collection of links to various blogs chronicling San Diego's movie, er, comic book convention. Read what such luminaries as Neil Gaiman, Alison Bechdel and Peter David did on their promotional tours, er, summer vacations.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Gimme Gimmicks!

In yesterday's News Bits, In Brief (Um, did we really need that link? The post is located immediately following this one.), I cold dissed some fool's attempt to hype his novel by claiming to have written it on his cell phone. But was I too harsh on him? Have such gimmicks become necessary in order for products/art/etc. to stand out in today's information age?
Listed below are a few more examples of new and unusual ideas that authors and publishers are using to promote their books.

Via BoingBoing: TankBooks "pay homage" to the "monumentally successful" packaging of cigarettes with their line of literary classics. Tank is releasing books by Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, Leo Tolstoy and Franz Kafka in cardboard cartons the same size as a pack of cigarettes, complete with cellophane wrapping.

Via adgabber: "This guerilla campaign, in which a cup of coffee is stirred by an invisible hand or clairvoyant's effort, drew eyes to the book sitting alongside it. We'll let you guess which book it was for. Beware: the quality of the video is crappy, and the content itself is very long and very boring. And we don't know why it is that people, drawn to the stirring cup, touch the book and not the spoon. Is this psychological? Do they imagine there's some recipe locked deep in the hundreds of pages that will help them create their own vicarious stirring effects?"

(The sad part of this eye-catching alternative to everyday advertising? This viral video is quickly making its way around the web, yet no one knows what book it's hyping!)

Via MediaBistro: While we've got you in the coach potato position, click this link to see comics maestro Eddie Campbell's (Alec, Bacchus, From Hell) flash animation ad for his new book, The Black Diamond Detective Agency. Honestly, I can't fault this one. It's actually quite effective.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

News Bits, In Brief

Vintage Classics has just launched 'Vintage Twins.' The concept is a simple variation on the if-liked-that-you'll-love-this bookseller routine. Two books (one old, one recent) covering (arguably) similar themes are shrink wrapped together for retail sale. Here are a few examples: Ripley's Game by Patricia Highsmith with Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky, Haruki Murakami's Wind-up Bird Chronicle next to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Michel Houellebecq's Atomised with Gulliver's Travels, and Martin Amis's The Rachel Papers with Henry Fielding's Tom Jones.
Do any of you have any suggestions?

The headline reads, Man Writes a Book using his Nokia! The fact that neither the author or the book are named leads me to believe that I'd be better off buying the phone.

Hunter S. Thompson's widow is releasing a book this week. According to the press release, 'the book's mission is to introduce the world to the Hunter Thompson she lived and worked with and knew, rather than the drug-crazed persona he revealed in his writing.'
My only problem with this? The book is a scant 81 pages long. If that's all there is to contradict the thousands of pages of autobiographical gonzo-writing that Thompson produced...well, maybe he really was the drug-crazed persona he revealed in his writing.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Blog Bits, In Brief
(the finest in book related blog posts, stolen whole)

BigBadBookBlog's Technicalities, Schmecnicalities:
"Manuscript preparation is a strange little detail in the publishing world. It’s the bane of authors, editors, and production artists alike. Today the majority of writers are working on computers, not typewriters. They’re working in sophisticated word processing programs, not simple-format software with few options. And as wonderful as these advances are, they’ve caused a bit of confusion and consternation, particularly for the editors and production artists who work with the manuscript down the line. So if you want your manuscript to be publisher-friendly or if you want your submission to be taken seriously, here are a few tips."

Bookslut's Jessa Crispin:
"A little book in France is causing a stir: Corinne Maier's No Kid: 40 Reasons Not to Have Children. And by "stir" I mean "annoying reviews written by women who feel they have to defend their decision to have children or point out how Maier is scarring her own children with the book." (And a few men.) She's also the author of Bonjour Laziness, a guide to working as little as possible. I think I like her."

Behind The Scenes - Bookselling

It's surprising that there aren't more books published about bookselling. Every independent bookstore would stock books on this topic! I've gathered a small collection of these titles and will post reviews here occasionally. Here's the first:

Shelf Life: Romance, Mystery, Drama, and Other Page-Turning Adventures from a Year in a Bookstore
by Suzanne Strempek Shea (Beacon Press, 2004)

The tables are turned on author Suzanne Strempek Shea. She finds herself behind the counter of a bookstore selling books by other authors! It was an eye-opening experience for her to learn the routines of bookselling; unpacking boxes, receiving shipments, shelving, customers (some very quirky customers, indeed), displays, suggesting books, and of course, author events. It gave her a new perspective about the realities of independent bookstores, and when she went on her next national book tour, she had a foot in both trenches, author and bookseller. Shelf Life spoke to me particularly because it is about a bookstore in Springfield, MA that is set in a dying Mall. My first bookstore job was also in a Mall (in Massachusetts) that was half-closed. It generated an otherworldly aura...and Shea perfectly describes the apocalyptic feeling provoked by that environment. Shelf Life is an amusing must read, not only for booksellers, but for all writers. Also worth reading is Shea's charming novel, Selling the Lite of Heaven, which is also set in Western Massachusetts.