The New York Times published a piece last week about the latest tool being utilized by Hollywood movie executives: statistics and algorithms. It sounds a lot like the sabermetrics chronicled in Moneyball, except applied to storytelling rather than sports. This is a very slippery slope, I fear. How long until someone writes a computer program that spits out stories merely by mixing which broad elements, character archetypes and plot points are found in blockbuster movies?
If left unchecked, all these TV showrunners below will be out of work. There’s no need for new ideas; just type what the computer tells you to type. For example, what algorithm could’ve come up with an character an intriguing as Walter White? Breaking Bad never would’ve been greenlit if executives had used such data.
Special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen passed away yesterday in London at the age of 92. You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who works in the SF genre (whether writing or filmmaking) who doesn’t owe a considerable debt to Harryhausen in one form or another. Who doesn’t remember the first time seeing cowboys lasso a T-rex in The Valley of Gwangi? Or a UFO crashing into the Washington Monument from Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers? Or a giant prehistoric octopus bringing down the Golden Gate Bridge in It Came From Beneath the Sea? The list goes on. Mighty Joe Young, 20 Million Miles to Earth, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, these were all seared into my psyche when I was five or six years old. Not to mention the films he’s most acclaimed for: Jason and the Argonauts and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.
Jeremy Greenfield has an interesting article about writers as control freaks. I agree with the sentiment; e-books allow writers to control many more variables (price, cover, meta-data, etc.) than traditional publishers allow. Most variables are still out of authors’ hands, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.
Also, Barry Eisler published a piece in The Guardian about the ongoing digital transition. It’s a nice overview of what’s currently playing out for the publishing industry.
An interesting article from the New York Times about writers with terminal illnesses who throw themselves into their work during the final months. Every author should be so lucky to be able to write up until the very end.
And Neil Gaiman gave the keynote address at last week’s London Book Fair. He talked at length about artists in the digital age, and how they will need to embrace new business paradigms to monetize their talents. It’s heavy on questions, light on solutions. See the full speech below:
On Friday, April 19, I will be at the Progress Energy art gallery in New Port Richey for an authors’ soiree. Several writers from the community will be in attendance, and it’s open to the public. Drop by and say hello between 6:30-8:00 PM; we’ll all have books on hand to sign. The gallery’s great, and the artwork from local artists is always stellar. Hope to see you there.
I came across this 50-year-old documentary about Ray Bradbury from 1963. This is a great piece that follows Bradbury’s writing process from idea creation through story submission. This is Bradbury at his height, and well worth a look.
Another interesting article from Buzzfeed. Over two dozen authors offer no-nonsense advice for young writers. My personal favorites come from Neil Gaiman, Patrick Rothfuss and David Drake.
A good article about agent-assisted publishing and Amazon’s White Glove program. This seems like the next logical step for literary agents, and it’s one that should make authors wary. Rather than pay 15% of your income for the length of the contract, it’s much wiser to commission a flat rate and itemize your expenses. Outside of ancillary rights to your material, I’m unclear what value agents add to the equation, especially if they’re providing services that you can perform yourself (for free) with minimal effort.
Last week’s big publishing news was that Amazon purchased Goodreads, which is a very smart investment on their part. I personally prefer GR over some of the other major book sites, such as Library Thing or Shelfari, some of which Amazon already owns. The consensus seems to be that rather than developing their own book site (see the underwhelming Bookish), major publishers should have bought Goodreads years ago. Now Amazon’s also-bought recommendations will be scary accurate.
It’s been a rough week or so for the horror genre. We lost three great writers in a very short span: David B. Silva, James Herbert and Rick Hautala, all in their sixties. Although no longer with us in body, they live on through their stories. Keep them alive by picking up their books and enjoying the stories they left behind.
Last week John Scalzi, current president of the SFWA, blasted Random House for unconscionable terms in its contracts. Specifically the Hydra imprint, RH’s latest SF/F/H venture that deals only with e-books. Read all about it here.