Category: Odds & Ends

Marvel’s Problem With Diversity

Marvel’s attempt to blame flagging sales of their comics on the move to diversify their characters met with some interesting responses across the Internet, but I think this one from Nerdist.com typifies it the best. I think Marvel finds itself in a very peculiar and unique position. The thing to remember about their comics is that they are what they were. By that I mean they were, for lack of better terms, the escapist pastime of many young white males, (and a few females). We cannot go back and time and change these characters. They are who they were 40, 50 years ago when they sprung forth from multi-colored panels. I grew up with a special connection to Marvel comics as my grandfather Vince Alascia was an artist at Marvel and worked on Captain America in the 40’s. As such I grew up with many of these characters and can honestly say I remember them as all white males. With one exception, The X-Men, who would become my favorite.

That is not to say that moving to a more diverse universe is a problem. It isn’t, as long as the stories are delivered in way that maintains the same quality of writing. A big component of that quality is a sense of authority. This is what the link above from Nerdist.com cites as Marvel’s real reason for flagging sales. I’m not as into Steve Rodgers as I am an intense super soldier with uncommon bravado and sense of right. As long as the writing conveys that I know I’m reading Captain America. However if instead I get a focus group designed cardboard cutout I’m not going to be happy, or reading for that matter. Yet you do not have to wade too deep into the Internet to find fans of the mindset that do not appreciate a female Iron Man or an African American Spiderman. The odd thing is if a superhero is an archetype as long as the writing is consistent and remains true to the character then gender, skin color, or country of origin are immaterial.

 

Where’d the Discourse Go

I’ve been doing some interesting reading this week that had me thinking. Music used to be a communal experience. Whether it was a guy with an acoustic guitar, or a boom box, music was a shared experience. Now it is pumped directly into listeners’ brain cavities through thin white wires that go into a pocket somewhere. Then there are the serious head hugging Princess Leia cans. You know you’re into your beats with a pair of those. People aren’t sharing their music any more, that got me thinking.

This post isn’t about music. Another story I read was about Facebook’s attempt to incorporate their messaging app’s bubble style into the comments part of posts. This is an attempt, on their part, to engage people to comment and reply more. This is really where I wanted to go and put two and two together. In the months leading up to the inauguration and even the election itself, Facebook posts filled with a back and forth that became heated at times and at other times managed to reach a general consensus. Recently I’ve noticed a definite lack of that. It is almost as if both sides have retreated to their corners, put their blinders on, and plugged their ears. They even have cute names for each other, fascists and snowflakes. There was a time when you could count on the common ground of facts to reign in the debate, but even that is no longer true. Our facts, like our music, are whatever we pump into our brain cavities. In the recent past we would stand in our corners and shout at each other. Now it appears the fog of war is so thick we don’t even see the opposite corner anymore. I am guilty of this too and it bothers me.

The scary part is, if debate is the foundation of an effective democracy, and we no longer have that, how much longer can we expect to have democracy.

Scalpers Suck

Nintendo SwitchTypically when you mention scalpers images of $500 Guns and Roses tickets come to mind. As much as that pains me there is also a new type of scalper that really sets me off. Last week Nintendo released their 7th home console in the US, The Nintendo Switch. Almost immediately, and as little surprise to anyone who hoped to get one of their Classic NES consoles this Christmas, the pre-orders disappeared as soon as they posted. When release day came, lists of Switches for sale filled eBay and even Amazon.com with one minor difference. They all ran at least $70 more than the suggested retail price. To the bystander, it looked as though every one of those pre-ordered systems was now being cashed in for a quick 100 bucks. Unlike with concert tickets, it is all free and legal.

On the one hand it makes sense for sites like eBay to welcome these sales as they get a commission on each one. The harder question is why a site like Amazon would allow it. Well, that isn’t to hard to figure out either because they also get a cut of the sale. So it makes sense for them. Hell they probably made 8 or 10% on the original sale so if that person turns around and puts it up they stand to make another 15% on that sale as well. As an adult it’s easy for me to say no thank you and wait for the item to return to stock at its original price. An adult with a kid will have to figure out how much their incessant whining is worth compared to the hit on their wallet. I urge you, resist. As long as people are willing to pay inflated prices for the convenience of being the first to own this practice will only continue, and dare I say worsen.

The Day I Canceled My Sales Tax License

sales use taxThis week found me in the predicament of needing to renew my sales tax license with the state. Plus I was already spending 44 cents a month to mail in a form to one of the cities to report that I have nothing to report. So I’ve decided to cancel all my licenses. I really wasn’t selling many books anyway. In addition the prices for tables at events have increased to a point where I just never saw myself selling enough books to break even. The hard part is, for a self-published author, your best bet at selling your books is to get out there and make those one on one connections with readers. In the process of that I’ve learned I’m not a very good sales person, at least not concerning my own work.

I like to tell myself that I can now concentrate more on my writing and less on worrying about selling enough books to make up the cost of getting out there to sell my books. Still it feels a little like giving up. Such are the decisions we face and the second guessing that goes along with them.

For Information’s Sake

Those who know me, know that by day I am a librarian. You may not know that librarianship covers a wide range of disciplines. My main draw to librarianship was, and still is, studying how people interact with information. The events of the last year have really given me concern over that choice.

Recently we’ve been beset with information to the point that we can’t possibly take the time to process and evaluate it all. Worst of all we have taken to tuning out any information that would give us cause to reexamine our opinions. This is anathema to everything I’ve worked for and stand for as a librarian.

As I see it there is no such thing as fake news. There are facts and there are conjecture. Willing one to be the other so that your opinion is validated is the utmost in ignorance. Yet we accept this every day. Have you seen Facebook? Why is this? Is it just that much easier? Do we need so much validation that we are perfectly happy locking ourselves in our own echo chambers oblivious to when we are being lied to? Then again that just may be my inner librarian talking, but at times this is what it seems we have fallen into.

The academic in me is interesting to see how this experiment plays out. The librarian in me screams at every meme that passes disinformation off as fact. Never mind truth, because that is often in the eye of the beholder. A democracy lives or dies on the ability of it’s people to make informed choices. Sadly I  fear information has taken a back seat to opinion. Until that is recognized we can only slip further into our self defined fog.

Will I Finish a Book In 2017

It’s that time of the year when we make our predictions for the new year. For writers, it often involves a project or two. For this writer in particular, there are several. Now, as anyone who’s been there will tell you, writing a book and finishing one are two entirely different things. I have no doubt I will finish the current book I’m writing, The Prince of Zero. My story of a teenage son of Lucifer is coming along nicely. Will I finish the other ones I have in the oven is another matter. What do I have so far…

The Fourth Prometheus is still being edited, but my Steampunk take on Frankenstein is coming along, still.

The sequel to Undead Heart is written and just needs to go under the microscope as is my urban fiction Midnight Detail.

Broken Toys is an other early one that I’ve been thinking of reworking, (a lot), and getting out. It was kind of spooky when I wrote it back in 1989 so hopefully it still is.

Either way 2017 could be a very productive year or I just may be sitting her writing the post, 2017 – What the Hell Happened?

 

A Funny Thing Happened When I stuck My Head Outside for Some Truth

truthThe internet has been full of articles about fake news lately. Just what is fake news? It’s not as black and white as you may think. Speaking of that analogy, there is a video game by Treasure, called Ikaruga where you toggle between a white and black spaceship, while in the white state you absorb bullets that are white but die if you touch anything black, and vice-versa. We’ve become pretty much like that little spaceship, absorbing what we match and reacting violently to anything we don’t. So naturally the the journey to anything resembling truth is a perilous one. I could go on but I think Nathan Bransford summed it up perfectly in this article. http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2016/11/the-end-of-truth.html

A democratic society depends on information, but more than that it depends on information that is delivered equally. That equality is currently under attack. Even as writers of fiction we need truth in small pieces to help us sell our readers the more fantastic bits. That bit of truth creates a common ground for the reader and pulls them into the story. What happens when we don’t agree on what that ground is? We get confusion and right now we have a lot of confusion. In the past we relied on truth to give us a common point of reference. Now, not so much. Our differences and our opinions are the new truth. It kind of gives me an idea of a story where no one experiences the same reality. Wait a minute, according to Quantum Theory that’s what we do every day. So then is truth overrated?

How to Tell If You’re Having an Agrument

With all the nonsense of another election season behind us I thought I’d reflect on something I’ve recently come to notice. There appears be a disconnect on what is the difference between a debate and an argument. So I think I’ve uncovered the secret to knowing if you’ve had an argument or a debate.

If after both parties discuss their view and still cannot see the merits of the other side you have had an argument. If after discussing both sides and you agree that there is merit in exploring both sides further you’re having a debate. Here’s to hoping we will see more debates and less arguments in the near future.