Thursday, December 20, 2012

What Do We Do With This...?

I really am unsure what to say about this movie review that I was introduced to via that ever valiant source of information-- Facebook. I read it and was in mental and physical pain. Go ahead-- take a browse below.

In short, all I can ask is...what in the world is happening to our readers? I assume levels of ignorance such as this have existed throughout the years, but it seems to me that the ability to flaunt it has only increased with time. Aging, I suppose, like the stinkiest of fancy cheeses that connoisseurs think everyone should like, but really, everyone just wonders why it is they keep eating cheese that smells like feet...

So, we have this stinky cheese here. You'd think whoever wrote this would do some research before opening up his mouth (or rather typing away). You see some similarities between a book you read and a movie you saw? Hmmm, well, wouldn't it be interesting for you to go to google and type in the author's name, and see who it is who actually came first.

The archetypes and similarities between Harry Potter, for instance, and Lord of the Rings, could be listed with interest. Every book has something in common with something else-- it's the way stories go. For example, in "The Two Towers", Faramir calls Sauron "he who we do not name". Sound familiar to Harry Potter's "he who must not be named"? Some people could call this ripping off, but wait until you find out if J.K. Rowling even read Tolkien's works before she wrote Harry Potter. If she did, well, she was influenced. Perhaps she made a tangible choice to use something along those lines. Authors do it-- and don't tell me, if you're a writer, that you haven't read something or seen something or heard something and thought, oooh, I have to use something like that! Then usually you promptly forget and it shows up in your work anyway by subconscious decision and you think you came up with it all on your own until you see the original later and think dang.

Of course, there is always the possibility, also, that Rowling never did read Tolkien (which would be a great shame) and the similarities are merely coincidences or based on the cultural and psychological building block of fantasy that has been growing and evolving in this country since fantasy and fairy tales were created, both here in their own ways and abroad in their origins. They're nothing new-- go back to the ancient myths and legends and you'll find they have nothing to do with Disney princesses. You'll find fierce and beautiful Tuatha de Dannan from Ireland and decide you probably don't want to run away with a cute little fairy who is possibly going to eat you in the next second. You'll find Djinn from India and Kaonashi from Japan. Changelings and dangerous parallel worlds galore.

If Rowling never did read Tolkien, it's entirely possible that she made all these links and connections with his work completely oblivious. I've done this myself-- I thought I made up a name, or altered a known name into a different one, only to find years later that it was the exact name of a character in an Anne Rice book. I'd never read that book before, so I was making the connection backwards. I had not been influenced by Anne Rice, and I certainly did not rip her off. But the same name was used.

This person seen up above...I can't really quite comprehend. Not only does the writer not know that Tolkien wrote the Hobbit first (something the writer criticizes Tolkien for not doing) before continuing on to Lord of the Rings, and in good, long time before Rowling even conceived of Harry Potter, but he clearly doesn't know that Tolkien has been dead for 40 years. Hm. That will sort of put a damper on him making an appearance on the DVD.

Besides, many authors write prequels after their main series. What is so wrong with that?

But truly, I'm mostly constraining myself around the line "Tolkien, that unoriginal, stupid idiot"...

Deep breaths...

In a world where information is merely a click away (I remember having to do everything via encyclopedia, guys) how could you not cross check your information before doing a fail-rant against one of the most beloved storytellers and world-weavers of this century? Twenty years went into the writings of Lord of the Rings, and it's endurance and life in this new century attests to its power.

I rather think the words 'stupid idiot' could be reassigned, here...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Who Says Hard Rock Isn't Art?

All you rock stars out there and all you fans of rock stars, now you can point to this and prove that you're more literary than people may think you to be!

So classic/hard rock and all who run around with it are nothing more than pot heads and boozers, right? Wrong, actually. Though this stereotype does come from some fact in the extremes (extremes always shout loudest, people, on both sides) there's this really wide swath of rockers who actually have some brains and literary savvy to them. Quite a lot of them, actually.

John Williams wrote an article addressing this topic, Book Titles With That Indie-Rocker Feel that points out quite a few of these inspirations, both forward and backwards and across the table.

Apparently The Cure inspired two novels by Andrew Porter and Allie Larkin, reflected in the book titles, and The Cure themselves were inspired by a children's book called "Charlotte Sometimes" by Penelope Farmer. R.E.M and the Smiths are also cited as having literary influences in the title-naming-world. These are, of course, just a few. Rush was inspired by Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead" in many areas, and their lyrics reflect that. You can bet that a number of hard core Rush fans have read the novel.

Of course, some authors get it right when they title their books after a song, and the innards of the novel reflect that. Other's don't. I admit to being in the 'not listening so closely' camp in regards to R.E.M's song "Losing My Religion", which has inspired several religious books. I'm not a fan of the song only because the idea of losing one's religion is so sad to me. And yet that's not the goal at all (and hence those who have written solely religious novels off of the title have not been paying attention). Apparently

"singer Michael Stipe has explained the phrase as a southern idiom that means running out of patience."
Huh. Well, I think I owe that song another listen.

But really, who hasn't been inspired by one of their favorite songs, including rock and roll? I got this close  to writing a story inspired by The Cure's "Burn". It's still on my list to-write. The idea includes the old Celtic mythology about crows being the escorts of the dead between worlds, and how they fall in love with a living woman and steal her away. Her husband doesn't quite approve of this, and from there the story builds. In my mind, the lyrics of "Burn" are the malignant voices of the crows speaking to the husband.

Besides, though there be some mindless lyrics out there in the rock world, if you listen to 85% of songs, you'll see the literary aspects and poetry behind them. Blue Oyster Cult, Styx, Rush, Journey, Queen-- all incredibly poetic and literary bands. Even Black Sabbath has some beautiful and/or intriguing lines, as 'hard rock' as they are. Music is integrally linked to the written word, and I very rarely write creatively without something playing in my ear. Because what are lyrics and songs for? To tell some form or story, whether it be real, fiction, personal, impersonal, statement-based, or merely culture-based. Some will be better than others, of course, and some will resonate more with certain people than others.

But isn't it the same with books, themselves?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Mayans Were Right...but wrong...but Right...Again!

Well, maybe the end of the world isn't happening at the end of 2012...but then again, Twinkies were threatened, and that's (I hear) enough of a shock to make it seem worth the proclamations of doom. They're not my favorite snack, by fact I find that delightful, over-dyed, greasy cake filled with questionable, poofy, marshmallow cream to be a bit of a turn off.

But did you know that if you deep fry it, it actually tastes...good? I was a bet. That got lost.

Now, however, there is something else that makes the oncoming year 2013 seem ominous. Apparently copyright law has a change that is 35 years in the making and is about to collect.

In an article by Jeff John Roberts, the concerns and possibilities of the new Copyright Act will allow authors to reclaim their work after 35 years. All those backlisted novels by authors famous by today's standards (Roberts listed a few including Stephen King, Judy Blume, and John LeCarre...definitely some names who could cash in now what they may not have been able to back then) could prove quite an unforseen monetary hazard for publishers already struggling. Here's how the law works:

"The law in question is Section 203 of the 1978 Copyright Act which allows authors to cut away any contract after 35 years. Congress put it in place to protect young artists who signed away future best sellers for a pittance . . . The 1978 law also means a threat to the back list of titles that are a cash cow for many publishers. The threat is amplified as a result of new digital distribution options for authors that were never conceived when the law was passed — these new options mean authors have more leverage to walk away from their publishers altogether."

Ahh here we are...the threat of eBooks and ePublishing yet again. As you can see, the friendly balance between the two has not yet arrived. Maybe it never will. They are, after all, in direct competition with each other, and until all the major publishing houses own all the major ePublishing houses (or vice versa) there will not be peace between the Montagues and the Capulets.

You can see how this might be a problem. If a present-day author who is stable both financially and in terms of popularity, they will have great leverage over their publisher should they want to take their old books elsewhere. Which means either the publishing houses will have to pay up, literally, or risk losing their money makers. Having Stephen King on your list is no joke, folks. So all the publishers are in a quiet tizzy, trying not to bring attention to this change approaching in the new year and hoping that it all goes over quietly.

Then again, there may be nothing to really worry about. It seems that most agents and authors don't really know about the law, and even if they do, their chance to do something about it is not very wide. Roberts goes on to say that

"authors have a five-year window to exercise the right but must also provide advance notice at least two years but no more than 10 years beforehand. For 1978 authors — who are eligible to reclaim in 2013 — the window is already closing."

They'll only have three years to make this work, and believe me, that's a short time even as it is simultaneously a long time in the publishing world. All the gears have to get going at the same time and in the same way before much can get done. So if the authors are going to do this, they need to go ahead and be prepared to do it when the first of the year hits us. And if none of them really know about it, how are they to do that?

Of course, at the same time, it may not be worth the legal trouble. Court cases are incredibly expensive, should the publishers take it that far, and some producers have already done so in the case of music copyright reclamation. Roberts discusses that further in his article, but I will refrain from getting into that here.

In my opinion, contrary to all concerns, this could prove to be a windfall in the publishers' benefit.

This could be the big chance to renew these old titles. Who among us wouldn't eat up anything by our favorite author? And if some of their first novels became 'rereleased' from the printing block? We'd eat it alive. Buy everything, buy anything! I do this already with J.R.R. Tolkien. I see a book by him that I've never read before (rare at this point, but it does happen to my great delight) or at least an edition that I've never seen before, and snatch. Mine. I just recently got my hands on an original 1960s edition of The Tolkien Reader that I'd never seen before. Immediately became part of my collection without question.

And the swarm of, for example already mentioned, Stephen King fans-- I'm sure they already have his backlisted books, even if they are out of print (there are ways, my friends) but who wouldn't want a brand spanking new crisp and beautiful edition to put next to their old one? I do this...I'm still looking for the 1960s Lord of the Rings, personally...I've mentioned this before, but if you're new to my blog, I love books printed in the 60s. They smell the best.

As usual, I take a more laid-back opinion on the whole matter. I don't think it's as much of a crisis as the publishers fear it could be, but then again, I could be wrong. I certainly hope I'm not! Any more turmoil in the industry and no new books will ever be published. Everyone will just throw up their hands in defeat. This is, of course, a hyperbolic statement. But I bet you knew that. You're a clever bunch.

Stay away from those Twinkies...