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Archives: June 2008

Harris O’Malley: A Wink and a Smile

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I was trolling through Gawker the other day when I stumbled on this great illustration by Harris O’Malley and wondered which books lent inspiration to the work. Here’s what he had to say:

I did this piece as part of a targeted portfolio aimed at various RPG companies such as White Wolf and Wizards of the Coast. It came out so well and had such personality that it’s become something of a signature piece for me and I’ve been using it as a visual anchor for my web-presence.

The idea itself is mostly part of what I like to draw; urban fantasy but with a twist. I like illustrative art, something with personality and a hint of narrative. I like taking dramatic pieces like that and giving them a little touch of humor, a sort of wink and a smile to the viewer.

Book-wise, books like Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files, Simon R. Greene’s Nightside series and Patrick Rothfuss’ “Name of the Wind” have been on the reading list while I wait for the next George R. R. Martin novel.

I can’t wait to get my copy of Demon Summoning for Dummies.

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So Who Peed in Dan Savage’s Cornflakes?

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When Judy McGuire noticed that this year’s “Queer Pride” issue of the Seattle alternative weekly The Stranger bore some strong visual similaritie to How Not to Date, the relationship advice handbook she published earlier this year, she wrote about it on her blog, clearly more amused than chagrined, and sent an email to Stranger editor Dan Savage which, she told me over the weekend, was written in the same playful spirit.

Savage went ballistic, sneering that he’d never heard of McGuire’s book and that he was sure his newspaper’s art director “was harkening back to our first queer issues, and not perusing the dollar bin at Half Price Books, when he put this cover together.” Some Stranger readers appear to have a more highly developed sense of irony than Savage, though; one response describes Savage’s post as “needlessly douchey over what seemed like an un-hostile email,” while another commenter observes, “Your heavy-handed ‘Who is this peasant to question me?’ tone just makes you look like an asshole.”

My favorite bit, though, is when an anti-McGuire commenter goes to her blog and says, “If you mean your commentary to be funny, you should label it so.” Yes, because otherwise, how are people supposed to know? I understand Jonathan Swift used to get this same reaction all the time after the publication of “A Modest Proposal.”

Progressive Book Club Launches With Rooftop Shindig

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Director of operations Dede Kinerk and chief operating and marketing officer Michelle Berger greet guests at the launch party for the Progressive Book Club, held last Wednesday night in the rooftop bar of the Gramercy Park Hotel. Shortly after taking this picture, I got to chat with Berger, who spoke of the cultural shift that made now a perfect time to start such an organization. “After eight years of the Bush White House, people are looking for new leadership,” she said. “They’re leaning towards progressive values.”

What about the notion, expressed by some, that book publishing already is a progressive book club. “I don’t agree,” she said. “There is definitely a hole in the market.” Even if the rank and file of the publishing industry leans liberally, she continued, it has not succeeded in coalescing the market around books with progressive values. The PBC’s mandate is to speak directly to that audience, in particular to call attention to new voices, with independent and university presses getting as much time in the spotlight as the big houses,

“It’s awesome for us,” said Elizabeth Clementson of Ig Publishing, as her partner, Robert Lasner, chimed in, “You can write that: We really like the Progressive Book Club.” The Brooklyn-based press, which brought Vance Packard‘s The Hidden Persauders and Edward Bernay‘s Propaganda back into print, has already been selected as the PBC’s small press of the month for August.

VIDEO: Karl Meyer’s Seen it All Before in the Middle East

Last Tuesday night, former World Policy Journal editor Karl Meyer spoke to a small group of friends and colleagues gathered in a conference room at the HSBC tower in midtown Manhattan to celebrate the publication of Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East, which he co-wrote with his wife (and “indispensible executive producer and superego”), Shareen Blair Brysac, who quipped that she’s hoping for a review that says “this is the book George W. Bush should have read before he went into Iraq.”

To that end, in this video clip, Meyer jocularly explains why he hasn’t really brought anything new to the subject—the patterns have all been there for anybody willing to take a careful look. You might need to turn the sound up on this one; I was taping from a distance and without amplification.

Can You Sell One Story By Telling Another?

Technically speaking, this Hellboy cartoon isn’t a “book trailer,” but an animated adaptation of a comic book that serves as prologue to The Golden Army, the movie that opens at the end of next week. But I think there’s a pretty interesting takeaway for certain types of fiction writers here…

Usually, when I’ve talked about using the storytelling power of book trailers, it’s been about making a promotional film that introduces or summarizes the plot of the novel or the central theme of the nonfiction work. This film, however, shows us another alternative: backstory.

Science fiction and fantasy authors, romance novelists, and mystery series writers—among others—might be able to create a trailer out of material that didn’t make it into the final manuscript, but helped them figure out what that story was. Maybe it’s an incident in a character’s past that’s barely hinted at, or a quick history of the political infighting within a galactic empire, or just a scene that got cut because you needed to lose 10,000 words… The point is this: As the author, you know more about your stories than your readers—but one of the ways that readers can become “True Fans” is when they feel you’re sharing more with them than what’s in the book. Romance writers have this principle down solid; among other things, they’ll sometimes write “bonus stories” revisiting favorite characters for their online fans. But what is used as a reward can also be used as an inducement…

(spotted on io9)

Scene @ Opium‘s Literary Death Match in the Park

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Top: Amy Shearn, Debbie Kuan, and Gabrielle Mitchell-Marell;
Bottom: John Williams in action

Amanda ReCupido went to last week’s Opium-sponsored “Literary Death Match” in Sara D. Roosevelt Park, “braving wayward basketballs, the soothing sounds of passing motorcycles, and, of all things, the Steve Nash Showdown going on at the other end of the park,” she reports:

“The match consisted of two rounds with two writers each representing different literary journals,” ReCupido continues. “The first round featured Debbie Kuan representing Wigleaf, a new online journal of (very) short fiction, and Gabrielle Mitchell-Marell representing Anderbo. Round two featured John Williams from Titlepage.tv, an online literary talk show, and Amy Shearn (whose first novel comes out next month) from Brick. Each read for 10 minutes or less and were then critiqued by three judges: New Yorker editor Ben Greenman on literary merit, comedian and writer Julie Klausner on performance, and Details editor-at-large Jeff Gordinier on intangibles (which ranged from what t-shirts the writers wore to the level of sexual innuendo included in the their work).

“The competition narrowed to Kuan and Williams, who then faced off in a garbage bag/potato sack race around the park. Williams came out triumphant, but most would claim that it was due only to his Chuck Taylor s.”

I’m told Opium will have video footage of that sack race up at some point…

(photos from James J. Williams III)

Your Party Photos: Sway & Gaspipe Launches

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Two weeks ago, I jokingly suggested President Bush should read Sway, a book by Ori and Rom Brafman about “the deep-seated forces that influence behavior and cause people to make irrational choices.” That prompted an email from Ori, who told me the book actually does have a section dealing with the Bush administration—and since we all know how this White House reacts to criticism, which is to say ignoring it completely, I guess we can scratch the book off W’s reading list.

But the book’s still a NY Times bestseller, and to celebrate its publication Ori (far right) came to town last Wednesday night for a party thrown by friends Dina Kaplan and Juliette Powell held at, appropriately enough, a downtown restaurant named Sway, where he was joined by, among others, Doubleday/Currency editor Sarah Rainone, ICM agent, Esther Newberg, and Currency editorial director Roger Scholl.

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A few blocks south, Philip Carlo (center) was celebrating the impending publication of his biography of organized crime figure Anthony Casso, Gaspipe: Confessions of a Mafia Boss, at Ago with a guest list that included celebrities like Tony Danza (right), Chuck Zito, and John Ciarcia. (That’s Rusty Shelton of Phenix and Phenix, the Texas-based PR firm that’s promoting the book along with Morrow, on the left.)

Everything Must Go at the Strand’s Downtown Annex

Strand Books announced late last week that their Fulton Street annex will be shutting down for good at the end of August. That means that starting today, everything in the store is discounted 20 percent. It’s got good selection, and it’s conveniently located across the street from the subway entrance, so you might want to make a little side trip. (No word yet if this price cuts will get deeper as the final date approaches, so you’re on your own figuring out the “amazing discounts versus diminishing stock” calculus…)

Book Coverage Slashed… Again

Well, we’re here again. Rachel Deahl just reported on PW that

Sam Zell, the new owner of the Tribune Company, would likely try to sell the buildings that two of the chain’s marquee papers–the Chicago Tribune and the L.A. Times–now occupy. The move, to cash in on highly valued properties in an attempt to ease the company’s financial woes, comes after two Tribune-owned papers, The Hartford Courant and the Baltimore Sun, announced significant staff reductions in their newsrooms… rumors have surfaced about book sections being cut at Tribune-owned papers. If the Tribune Co. does reduce page counts across its papers, history indicates that book review pages will likely be the first to go.

To top off this news, The Book Publicity Blog just reported that

RIP Newark Star-Ledger book section. Ben from Viking Penguin reports the paper is ending its Sunday Perspectives section (editorial, opinion and books) as of this Sunday and replacing it with a brief section at the back of the features section (if space allows).

sigh.
Have a great weekend, everyone.

It’s the End of the World As We Know It?

einsteinsbridge.gifDennis Overbye at the NY Times reports

lawyers for the federal government argued this week that a so-called “doomsday suit” intended to prevent the startup of a the world’s most powerful particle accelerator should be thrown out of court.

It appears the fear is that

the Large Hadron Collider could create microscopic black holes that could wind up eating the Earth, or other dangerous particles known as strangelets – a sort of contagious dead matter – or so-called magnetic monopoles, which could catalyze the destruction of ordinary matter.

Are we all doomed? Well, I just happen to know a physicist who’s done work with particle accelerators and happened to have written an amazing SF novel about what could possibly go wrong too. John G. Cramer is a Professor of Physics at the University of Washington and author of Einstein’s Bridge so I asked him what do we really have to fear. As it turns out, not much.

One can do a very simple experiment to resolve this issue: go outside on a clear night and see of the Moon is still there. If it is, we have nothing to fear from our particle accelerators, because the Moon, with no atmosphere to slow incoming cosmic rays, is continually being bombarded with cosmic ray protons and heavy nuclei (particularly iron) far higher in energy than anything we could produce with our feeble particle accelerators. The resulting particle-particle collisions are also far higher in energy than anything we could produce with, for example, the Tevatron at Fermilab or the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. If such energetic collisions made planet-devouring black holes or nuggets of strange matter, the Moon would not be visible in the sky. If it is, we’re OK.

Cramer wrote a cool article about about black holes at the LHC for the Analog Alternate View Column which you can read here. He says “The LHC could perhaps make black holes, but they would be tiny, super-hot, and would fizz away in a thermal cloud of lighter particles almost as soon as they were produced.”

Now we can go back to worrying about 2012.

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