Thursday, April 23, 2009

Periodicals Then, Now, and Then Again

A much wider range of much better and more varied content is, essentially, what we want from periodicals as they move into the new electronic world.

To be avoided is the way too many genre publications homogenize into a single tone, with narrow parameters of taste and style, due to single editors dominating for decades.

Quality becomes harder to sift from chaff as quantity and other factors change established methods and filters. Used to suffice if the ms looked pro. Now it is within everyone's grasp to format properly, check spelling, and so on. Used to be prior publication in semipro zines meant a lot more than it does now, when so many pub their own ish.

Editors now must be all the more alert to the cutting edge while knowing in detail most if not all the history of the genre.

Doing all that on top of editing and sifting slush is a murderous burden. To lighten it, we may turn to rotating or guest editors, even though this solution prompts the problem of producing a consistent product to keep readers' interests.

Seems an impossible mix, doesn't it? Maybe each issue will have to stand alone, more like an anthology. Or maybe subscribers will be able to choose content for themselves rather than rely on an editor's tastes. Perhaps picking among sample openings and allowing subscribers, say, ten choices per month from the loosely categorized pools of content will solve this problem.

Television is an alternative model, with readers choosing one story here, another there, from an array of publications.

No matter what model shakes out as a new industry standard on Kindle or Online, definitely look for more series characters like Sherlock Holmes and more continuing serials like Dickens published. These are how reader loyalty will be encouraged. It only makes sense, once you get past value-added gimmicks. Remember hypertext? Links are taken for granted now and no big draw. Gimmicks will come and go, but a good story well told, and a familiar character that pulls you back, are perennials.

The goal for new periodicals, then, is to become a sole source for something with continued popularity. Think: Dresden Files Emag and so on. This requires editors to develop the skill set not seen since Victorian days. They will want to cultivate a wide variety of writers so they can spot new enthusiasms and trends, new favorites and new popularities. They will also need to keep an eye out for great longer works that can easily be offered in exciting chunks that will guarantee continued interest between installments. Each segment will have to be exciting itself, too. And they’ll have to find appealing characters, as in the Pulp era. New versions of The Shadow, Doc Savage, and Tarzan.

That’s why I mentioned The Dresden Files, one of today’s hottest repeat characters in genre fiction. And yes, Harry Potter comes to mind, too, as the perfect kind of book to have formed the foundation of a new kind of periodical, although it would have been doled out in smaller dollops and stretched over a longer period.

Any thoughts about what you’d want to see as the next phase for periodicals?

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ridicule As Statecraft

The right has gone so far into Crazy it's not even funny anymore.

Although mocking them IS funny, yes. What would comedians do without them?

Ridicule, by the way, is what I recommended way back in in the late 1970s as the best way to deal with so-called terrorist groups. See, terrorism is the last-ditch effort of a politically powerless group to gain serious attention, right? That is what they crave, to be taken seriously, to have their cause or concerns addressed by the big fellas in a sober, serious way. They can't rattle sabers the way big nations do, and they can't go to war or threaten nuclear annihilation, so they turn to crime, specifically murder in the form of explosions, hostage taking, and the occasional mass shooting.

Same as Al Capone in the 1930s trying to make an impression on Bugsy Seigel.

So my epiphany was: MOCK them. Make pitiless fun of them. Ridicule them and their pathetic tiny concerns until NO one takes them seriously. At which point you make them an offer: Play nice and we'll stop belittling you and drop the satire offensive. Grow up and act civilized, period, or stay in Time Out.

And you know what? That will work. It'll work a shitload better than any amount of torture, war, or idiocy will. By taking the fear and mystique away, they have nothing left. Make them look small and insignificant.

And there is even historical precedent, by the way. Oh yes. Look up how the Caliphs and Emperors used Satire and Satirists to write plays and poems and songs marginalizing their enemies and keeping them laughable so that no one ever flocked to their causes. It was a standard piece of statecraft 2000 years ago in Ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, Byzantium, and so on.

We can and should bring it back in a fully conscious way.

Make Al Qaeda a laughingstock of bumbling idiots, not a cartoon villain only super-Bush can possibly vanquish.

And yes, that's what was really going on. Dicks like Cheney were puffing and bloating their own sad C-student Yale flunky loser reputations by pretending to fight a dragon of their own devising.

Talk about self satire.

Talk about counterproductive, too.

A small group of criminals blew up some buildings. We should have gone after them with law enforcement, and belittled them as desperate stupid nothings over-reaching their station. We should have brushed them off like gnats, instead of giving them attention and making them appear important enough to go to war over. Instead, we react as if they are a sovereign state and pretend to go to war with them, even though they are not a sovereign state and in fact have no real country, etc. And just like other wars against abstracts, such as the one on drugs, it's both indefinable and unwinnable. (Which suits the arms dealers and other endless looters just fine, of course.)

And so we handed them every terrorist's wet dream, to be taken not only seriously, but so seriously that it actually changed their target in drastic ways, and has in fact ended up nearly bankrupting us both financially and morally.

Thanks, Dick.

A real man, an adult, would have brushed it off as a mugging, severe, yes, but ultimately just a criminal act of no consequence to the strength and integrity of our state. We should have built again, ASAP, on the WTC site, rather than leave it as a gaping scar of shame all these years. We should have continued with business-as-usual, to show the world that no two-bit gang of thugs can bring us to our knees.

Instead, what do you do, Dick? You throw a fit, squander the world's goodwill, start a gang war to appease your threatened little ego, institute wiretapping, kidnaping, torture, and a gulag of secret prisons, plus assassination, and in the process jeopardize everything USA ever stood for. Infantile.

We need to go back to being an adult nation with grown-up concerns and mature, considered responses. It will work a lot better than being a fear-driven paranoid panic-stricken infant lashing out at shadows and thrashing in its crib tangled in its blanket of self-induced fears as it wails for its Big Oil bottle and fills its diaper with prejudice, bigotry, and racism.

You listening, GOP? Right wingerss? You are, right now, the most easily ridiculed bunch of buffoons and bozos anyone can think of, a joke without a punch line, a lame duck of a political heritage, a feeble spark of imagined glories that led irrevocably to failure after failure, a howling hollow shell of an echo chamber where lunatics cry and whine and moan and bellow gibberish all day every day. You cannot be taken seriously, and only were because of the harm you did.

You met the enemy and became the enemy in one moronic stumble.

So keep up the geek act, if it amuses you.

The rest of us have grown-up things to say and do.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Still hopeful, but Obama's refusal to reinstitute a rule of law by prosecuting Bush / Cheney crimes is a major misstep, not because the scum deserve punishment, (revenge is beside the point with those revolting morons), but for the good of the country, in order to demonstrate once again, symbolically and strongly, that no one, not even the President, is above the law. Unless and until we do that, we have lost the rule of law and that makes us much less than what we once were.

And what disturbed me most about this was Obama's statement that the CIA torturers, (he didn't mention military ones, or civilian ones such as shrinks and MDs), did what they did "in good faith". Well, I'm sorry, but that's the equivalent of saying "They were just following orders," and that in and of itself is a gaffe insensitive and historically ignorant enough to be worthy of W himself. What is going on? Was the surge of hope Obama was elected on just another bait-and-switch manipulation of our sucker bets all along? Should we be singing, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss -- won't get fooled again?"

Another disturbing thing he did was strengthen the legal defenses for the Bush-era wiretapping. WTF, to coin a phrase?

The people who mandated Oh Yes We Can Obama for Change had damned well better start kicking his ass and taking names and making damned sure he complies with the People's wishes.



Given the legal ramifications and political exigencies surrounding and permeating all this, I can now see why we want to proceed in a deliberate manner, with full process and due diligence.

We want any investigation and subsequent prosecution to stick. We want it thorough and genuine, not a political whitewash. This means going forward at a deliberate pace without panic or prejudice. We do not want to see a few fall guys thrown to the wolves so the majority can escape unscathed. Look how many ex-Nazis still operate at high levels in the French government. If we rush to judgement we may well fail to scour ourselves clean of this neo con scum infection.