Forget that "kids are like sponges" nonsense. They're way more than that. They're off-the-end-of-the-chart wackos, I tell you, total, freakin' brainiacs, bionic geniuses, practically cyborgs, the meter's pegged with kids. They have powers beyond our (adult) comprehension. Which demands an answer to what the hell happens to us when we grow up? Something along the way grinds us down, tries to turn us all into slow-witted, envious dullards.
OK, that's my intro. Here we go.
The problem with reading so many blogs is that I forget where I read something, and it's particularly annoying when I know I wanted to post a comment, but things come up, meetings, work, etc. The opportunity's gone.
I wanted to put this comment somewhere, so here goes. The day after Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince appeared in bookstores, there was a flood of reviews, analysis, what's-next? reports, who died this time? and who in hell is R.A.B. Well, some daft wee brain at L.A. Times book review panned Harry Potter, wondering why anyone would waste their time reading it. There were also a few digs at LOTR and Narnia, childish trash, that sort of thing. His message was basically, "grow up." I disagree. There is a place for adventure in stories, and it should be rather spacious in my opinion. Most of the comments on referencing blogs also disagreed with the reviewer, some amounting to "I consider it a success if I can get my kids to read anything over thirty pages." Others--adults--saying they've started to read them to find out what all the hype's about. Most enjoyed the books.
There was one thread that, condensed, went something like this: I take exception to your "reading anything is better than reading nothing" argument. Your average ten year old is going to have trouble with a 500-700 page book, there are three in that range and three shorter of the Potters. Conclusion: these young kids are going to spend all their time (a year was the range thrown out in the comments) to complete the series, leaving them no time to read other books, presumably the boring, depressing, "naturalistic" ones the L.A. Times reviewer wants them to read instead.
Enter the wacko sharp as nails kids...
Here's the comment that I didn't post: My daughter, who'll be eleven in October, read Half Blood Prince in a day and half, and with, as far as I can tell, complete comprehension. I know she understands it as well as I do because we argued about plotting and character motives, and she has as much insight into the story as anyone else who's actually read it. Back to the original point: she can read Harry Potter 1-6, end to end, in less than two weeks.
I think it's an adult tendency to underestimate what kids are capable of, and more--maybe this is what we've really lost--how much time they have on their hands--especially in the summer months. I wonder if the commenter has children, the one who assumed ten-year-olds need a year to read all the HPs? Probably not. His opinion sounded a lot like Plato yapping about the ideals of common child rearing in the Republic. Yeah, Plato, the lifelong bachelor, who knew nothing about raising children, who's total grasp of childhood behavior and requirements probably amounted to, scratching his chin, "They're shorter, right?" and "I may have noticed a few of them trotting around the agora after their mothers. Not sure, though."
I thought it would be nice to scan an oldie to celebrate the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery this morning (STS 114). I painted this one in 1987 on really cheap 9X12 watercolor paper. You can click the image to see a medium sized version, or see the my sketching and painting section for the big version. See the links below for more info on the shuttle launch: http://www.nasa.gov/returntoflight/main/index.html?skipIntro=1
I just read an idea-inspiring post on Grassroots and Sci-Fi by J. Marcus Xavier at VerySmallDoses.com, building on a discussion started by Loren Javier at Confessions of a (thirtysomething) drama queen. Now, just coming out of a four hour meeting, I think I'll let my thoughts ramble at the keyboard for a while.
I thought about the connection to purchasing power: "Like it or not, hard core science fiction nerds are the "early adopters" and stage-setters for majority opinion...[and they] tend to be "early adopters" of electronic communication technology." I wonder if there's consideration for the nerd demographic? There must be, right? Geeks, nerds, SF fans? They tend to take technical jobs, which pay fairly well, right? The rest of us work in video stores but spend all our hard-earned money on computers, PSPs, books and movie tickets. A powerful piece of the population, if you ask me. Of course, why on earth would you do that? I know almost nothing about real marketing. I don't even know a lot about fandom culture. I'm an SF fan, I love Star Trek, I loved the original Battlestar Galactica, but I've never been to a convention, never wrote a letter to a TV studio with my demands, never dressed up as James T. Kirk, and rarely participate in anything remotely fan-ish. (Hell, I even got a capital "I" for introvert on my Myers-Briggs eval, which puts me somewhere between downward-spiraling agoraphobia and get-away-from-me anti-social).
So, with that out of the way, (and you're comfortable with my speaking with authority based on a total lack of knowledge) what is the real issue here? Are we talking about influencing the Nielson Ratings? Is this about idea creation, e.g., fan fiction? Is this the general notion: hardcore fans influence softer ones, who tell their friends, who--by this time in the millions--demand the show must go on, the pilot be made into a series, screenwriters should move the plot in this direction, demands for the return of old shows? Are we talking about becoming influential bloggers that sway industry insiders? Is this an artistic medium issue? I mean, books hang around forever, they sit on shelves at B&N, they end up at used bookstores, and can spring to life at any moment, sometimes years after they're published. (Harry Potter wasn't a "phenomenon" until the fourth book). Books are like seeds in this respect. A television show seems different. Perhaps not with TiVo, but they seem transient. Is this changing? TV does have the advantage of momentum, a series building week after week, and may run for years. A movie hits the theater, hangs around a while, goes dormant, and then shows up at Target on DVD. It's something like a book, then, a book that cost a few hundred million to make.
Stretch this notion a step further, and I ask you, when will SF fans begin making their own movies, video shorts, graphic novels based on their favorite TV series or movie? Is this already happening? Are there rights issues to be resolved? Not enough fans with video editing gear? I'm completely out of touch with this side of the art and the visual medium. I'm a software engineer, but I'm also a writer. I write more than I read, and I read more than I watch TV, and I watch TV more than I get to the theater. I get around to watching things way too late. I just picked up the DVDs for the Sci-Fi Channel's productions of Dune and Earthsea (Yes, at Target for $7.50 each). I haven't even unwrapped them, and they might sit on my desk for months. Really a shame. (Obvious killer app: time machine or some VR world where you can dial down the virtual time to real time ratio to 300:1 as in Morgan's Broken Angels).
Now it seems unlikely that an author will turn to fan-fiction for ideas, but it does make sense that the writers for a TV series might tap talent and ideas from fans. An author can complete a novel every other year and keep his fan base. Maybe there's an if-we-can't-beat'em-join'em tack, become a idea resource for a series.
I wonder if there's more acceptance by publishers and authors of written works for fandom. There's an enormous Harry Potter following.
The estate of J.R.R. Tolkien has allegedly made it clear that fan-fiction using The Lord of the Rings is off limits. If you want to write fantasy better stay the hell out of Middle Earth.
Harry Potter is not off limits (within reason) as I understand it. This from a copyright seminar I attended given by a copyright lawyer: J.K. Rowling thinks, for the most part, fan fiction is "good for the brand." It does not dilute or damage J.K. Rowling's creation. There is no harm to her world, to her characters, to her intellectual property if a fourteen-year-old from Boise writes a short story about Ron Weasley, Quidditch practice at The Burrow, dashing into Ottery St. Catchpole for some muggle shopping. She's opened up the world she created, and as long as you don't have Hermione doing something...well, you know, distasteful, go ahead and write away.
With rights, the music and motion pic industries have been heavy-handed. I wonder if a lot of these conflicts come down to who owns the rights, and that they're unwilling to share something with the fans?
There you go. Some half-baked questions. Too many of them. Not many answers. Time to go. Ramble end.
It is for me, but that's what hobbies should be, right? Something you really really want to do, something you'd pay to do, and if it works out to be the other way around (they pay you) so much the better. My question for Mr. Godin: is this a new phenomenon? I'm just curious. The answer doesn't really matter, because we're all here now, writing, publishing, but the one complaint I hear often is that the publishing industry has changed, "Harry Potter changed the world," mega-book stores, etc. Did authors twenty years ago face the same uphill battle?
Read Seth Godin's post, "Advice for authors".
The idea of two or more people thinking about similar ideas at the same time, in the same room and miles apart, is intriguing. I just wrote an SF short that contained, among other things, a plant with the ability to root, not just through the local soil, but through space, and could sprout on other planets, and one of its properties was the ability to communicate real-time to any branch in the cluster. (Hopefully F&SF won't think this is a silly idea and reject it--although it could just be my writing). I've read Steven Strogatz's Sync and Barabasi's Linked. I've skimmed Jung's work. Alright, dammit, I'll admit it. At one time I even owned a vinyl copy of The Police, Synchronicity.
What's weird is that I posted here about buying a shirt I bought from ThinkGeek, white Star Wars type lettering on black, "Han Shot First." Yes, that's weird in and of itself, but what makes it weirder is that an hour or so after I posted to my blog, a friend of mine in California sent around a funny audio file of Greedo conversing. I just assumed he'd read my post, but he hadn't. Han Solo shot Greedo first, and then suddenly there's a clip of Greedo talking in my inbox. How did that happen? Am I totally unaware of Greedo's cultural significance, the depth of his presence in American society? How was this connection made?
As you would expect--you can see where I'm going with this, right?--I'm about to trot out the 2nd century AD writer, Lucian of Samosata. I'm so predictable. Just bear with me. I'm trying to spice things up, add a little spontaneity to my blog, but it's damn tough to write about the non-obvious. Plain as day, it was either going to be Lucian or the Ancient Greek edition of Harry Potter, right?
So last night, I'm thumbing through AREIOΣ ΠOTHR KAI H TOY ΦIΛOΣOFOY ΛIΘOΣ (Harry Potter and Philosopher's Stone) thinking about the amount of work Andrew Wilson put into the translation, and wondering about the vocabulary. How do you translate modern concepts into ancient Greek? I mean trains and cars and telephones?
The question went unanswered till this morning when I ran across the blog of Kathryn Koromilas, a freelance writer in Greece, who posted recently about a Science Daily article on a University of Liverpool professor's research on "theories of modern science fiction writing and how these can be applied to texts from the ancient world."
You have Homer and Antiphanes and Herodotus and, yes, Lucian, who, among other things, wrote a fictional account of a trip to the moon and interstellar warfare a millennium and three-quarters ago.
A little more Googling, and it became obvious that talk of Lucian was fairly hot among a bunch of bloggers and news sources. In a short time I found a web page written by Andrew Wilson, the Harry Potter in Greek translator, with an enormous amount of background into the project, details on translation difficulties, extracts in Greek, an all around fascinating account of how he got the thing off the ground and how far he went with it. The interesting point here is the ancient model with which he started:
Lucian's humorous tongue-in-cheek approach, together with his fantastical notions such as The True History (which is guaranteed to contain not a single word of truth) soon convinced me that he was the closest writer in ancient Greek to J K R. So Lucian became my model - his Greek, despite his date (3rd century AD) is (almost) pure 5th century BC Attic.
So now I'm thinking about the genesis of Lucian as a hub of information. How did that begin?
What? Milliseconds after I type the question and you want an answer? Give me time! I'm still thinking about it. OK, off the top of my head the only thing I can think of is that this would be one of those opportunities to trackback to A-list social networking, viral marketing and idea generation blogs. Ah! You were thinking the same thing, weren't you? Linked...all of us...interminably linked. Did I mention that Seth Godin has an interesting article on book publishing?
A friend of mine, Jeff Hayes, has an art studio in the gallery district in Boston, SoWa (South of Washington [Street]). Here's a New York Times article focused on "the old mill building at 450 Harrison" where Jeff has his studio (suite #201), along with "five galleries and dozens of [other] artists' studios on its upper three floors." If you're in the area, stop by. There's always something going on the first Friday of every month.
I started planning my future vacation to the Moon today. Where else do you start, but with Apollo 11? If you started anywhere else it'd be like going to Disneyland by climbing over the back wall into Toon Town. I promised my daughter four or five years ago that we'd go on a trip to the moon someday. When she asked when, I said, "Oh, when you're twenty," thinking that I was putting that date so far out there, that a) she'd forget about it, or b) lunar travel services would be commonplace by that time. I sat back, and thought, no problem. Fast forward a few years. She didn't forget, and now my son's on board. "When are we going to the moon, dad?" Now, I'm panicking. I scour space.com news regularly. Where are the Moon tours? What in Zeus' name is it going to cost me?
Well, at least we can plan it, thanks to Google. http://moon.google.com/
And I almost forgot, if you zoom in close enough you get see what's under the Moon's tired gray crust.
The BMCR "publishes timely reviews of current scholarly work in the field of classical studies (including archaeology)."
The Medieval Review (formerly the Bryn Mawr Medieval Review) publishes "reviews of current work in all areas of Medieval Studies, a field it interprets as broadly as possible."
Take a look at this one about Late Roman Spain, and try to tell me that there's nothing to be gleaned from the review alone:
Free subscriptions by the way.
The whole family went to a "Harry Potter Street Fair" Friday night at 10 PM, listened to a reading of Chapter One, stood around while my kids made snitches and potions and had their futures' forecasted.
There were some near perfect costumes, a great Hagrid, looked just like the big guy except for the wire-rim glasses.
Somewhere toward the end of the novel, there's a letter addressed to the "Dark Lord" and signed R.A.B. I figured it out (I think so anyway) before my daughter did. In the story, Hermione, with the tremendous power of her intellect trained on R.A.B.--not to mention the entire Hogwarts library and Daily Prophet archives, couldn't put a name to the initials. I figured it out before the end of the book. Now, maybe I'm a delusional wacko who knows way too much about Harry Potter, strung out for two years waiting for my next wizard fix. Maybe I'm just smarter than Hermione. Maybe it's my "Envoy intuition" kicking in, feeding me connected info and conclusions. Nah, it's the first one.
Oh, yeah, it's Regulus A. Black. Has to be.
Anyway, the story continues to be a lot of fun, recommended.