Simultaneously Exhilarating and Depressing, or The Most Influential Book in My Life

The_Hitchhiker's_Guide_to_the_GalaxyThis is, not to put too fine a point on it, a bit overdue. Can we all just accept that and move on? OK, good…thank you.

Now then, this is meant to be a discussion of the reasons why The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has been the most influential book in my life. There are many reasons though, and to be honest, a complete and total evaluation of this topic is probably better attempted in a book. So, understand that this is, at best, a summation. Also consider that, in a way, this is me cheating…well, myself I suppose. But hey, what do you care, after all, what book I put at the top of this list? On a related note, why don’t we recap where we’ve gone on this voyage…

So back to the idea of cheating. You may be well aware that THHGTTG, or HHGTTG, or H2G2 was, in its very first incarnation, a BBC radio drama that originally aired in 1978. That first radio drama was then turned into a novel. Over the years, literally decades, the first story (the one actually called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) was variously turned into more radio dramas, a “trilogy” of five novels (er…six novels), stage plays, a video game, a TV mini-series, a Hollywood film, a series of comic books, and a line of official towels (among other merchandise). The point is that this story (universe, really) is much more than just a book. I mean, on some level, all of the books on the above list are “more than just books.” But, H2G2 is literally more than a book. Each of the incarnations of story are different. They all tell the basic same story, but there are differences to each entrant in the H2G2 cannon. Douglas Adams, the author of the radio dramas/books, talked many times about the necessity of change when taking a story from one medium to another. One might choose, I certainly do, to see each iteration of the H2G2 story as a parallel universe in a larger H2G2 multiverse. In this way, no one version of the story is preferable/better than the others. Of course, as a person who, you know, has opinions there are certain versions of the story I do prefer. I mean, look, I enjoy them all. I think, though, that the film version (which, admittedly, I have watched in excess of 50, maybe 100, times) isn’t nearly as impactful as the books. In a way, I’d say the film somewhat misses in one crucial area as concerns the character of Arthur Dent…not the most appealing character trait. In fact, you could say it changes the least appealing trait and makes Arthur (in no small part thanks to Martin Freeman) rather likeable by the end. But the thing is, Arthur (the defacto protagonist) is never meant to be likable. He’s a simply man who has seen his planet blown up and is adrift in a limitless, weird, unfeeling, universe with only a towel for comfort. He is not happy about this…

But I’m getting off track here…

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An Open Letter to Gimlet Media

thGreetings Alex, Matt, PJ, Alex, et al (Hi Naz!),

How are you guys?

Well, I hope.

I want to start this off by saying that I’m a dedicated enthusiast for all things Gimlet Media. I’ve been a fan of Alex’s (Blumberg) for years. I’ve been listening to This American Life longer than I can remember (seriously, this is either a compliment or a very concerning statement on my diminishing brain capacity), and I started listening to Planet Money around episode 10 (give or take a few). So, I’d say that I have a fairly good appreciation of Alex (Blumberg’s) personality, or at least, his on air persona and have experienced a large part of his media career.

Sidenote, one of my favorite pieces of radio (ever) was one uniformly disparaged by Alex’s (Blumberg) fellow radio professionals. Alex’s interview with his father about the notion of corporate personhood (even though the consensus from This American Life was to not air that story in its entirety) is something I listen to periodically because I love it so much…I may, or may not, be slowly turning into a version of Alex’s father (albeit one who does watch baseball).

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The Center of the American Canon, or the 2nd Most Influential Book in My Life

huck-cover2Last night while I was watching one of the great pitching performances of the last few decades (or possibly, ever…at least in the live ball era) it occurred to me that we (by that I mean the entirety of baseball fans, but also Dodger fans specifically) are likely watching history unfold. And today, there is no shortage of words being written about Kershaw’s game last night specifically, or his career in general. The overriding theme, though, seems to be that what separates him from every other person on the planet who has ever tried to throw a baseball is not his natural talent (of which he has an over abundance…but so do many other major league pitchers) so much as his work ethic.

Inspired by Kershaw, I’ve set some goals for myself in the coming (i.e. summer) months. Mostly a list of milestones to reach as regards writing, in addition to finalizing the presentation I will give at the WCCHA conference in October. Long time readers of NR might be slightly (or, more probably, loudly) laughing at the thought of me sticking to any kind of deadline, let alone self-imposed ones. I have, however, been quite successful this year at actually accomplishing goals. Not really sure why that is and, honestly, said accomplishments have been achieved in non-writing areas, but still…I’m optimistic the trend will continue.

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Indie Publishing: Considerations for Writers and Readers

A very unscientific search of images using the phrase "death of publishing" brought me this...

A very unscientific search for images using the phrase “death of publishing” brought me this…

While in graduate school, (2005-2009) I was in the regular habit of asking both Tim Powers and James Blaylock for advice. On one such occasion (circa 2007) I asked Powers what he thought about publishing in general, and whether or not an unpublished author (like, say, a guy in graduate school) even had a shot at when submitting to a large publisher.

His response, in typically entertaining, Powerisian fashion was something along the lines of “Hell yes! Look, do you realize how much crap they get sent? Half of it is in crayon. And you know how to write, so yeah, they’re [editors] practically foaming at the mouth waiting to get their hands on something good.”

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A Virtual Ghost Town, or Where Does the Time Go, or I’m a Year Older, or Consistent Professional Disappointments May Be Coming to An End

4668275-297851-old-buildings-in-bodie-an-original-ghost-town-from-the-late-1800sI have been remiss in not spending any time on this site. To be honest, it has fallen off my radar for, literally the entire last year. 10 days ago, however, I received a very polite form email from the web hosting company letting me know that the host and domain were set to expire on May 1st, 2014. Meaning, unless I coughed up some monies, the Ol’ NR would fade off into the ether whence it had been spawned.

Surely worse events have transpired in the long, sordid history of the internetz. And I did give some serious consideration to allow the site to expire. It was quite a shock, in fact, to realize that is has been 13 months since my last post. If I had not made the site any kind of priority over the last year, what is the likelihood that I would do so moving forward?

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Random Acts of Insightfulness #4 – Mark Lawrence, or The Writer of Thorns

emperor-of-thorns-by-mark-lawrence-adoi

Though my posting has decreased significantly due to a variety of factors. I’ve kept thoughts of what NR is, was, and can be in the future constantly on my mind. Obviously, I would love to be able to produce comics, either as the ol’ NR proper, or something new. As I’m not capable of producing visual art anyone would want to look at, that won’t be happening anytime soon. Gilgrim and I are still in contact from time to time, but circumstances for both of us have conspired to make collaboration…what’s less than “not feasible”…where n = some value of feasible, let’s just say -n for now.

One component of NR that I wish I would have pursued with more vigor, though, is the quite sporadic interview series, Random Acts of Insightfulness. And then it occurred to me that there wasn’t anything very compelling (other than lack of time) that was keeping me from interviewing interesting and intelligent persons on a more regular basis.

So here we are, then, with the (quite overdue) fourth installment of RAOI. This being the first text based go round…an interview that was conducted over the course of several weeks and no doubt tested the certifiably saint like patience of the interviewee…it worked better than I could have hoped. Though I believe the success can be fully attributed to said interviewee.

So, without much further ado, I present to you Random Acts of Insightfulness #4 with Mark Lawrence, author of the “Thorns Trilogy” by night and (seriously) research scientist by day (no, seriously!). Topics for your consideration: writing as a mid-life endeavor, character considerations both within the fantasy genre and without, redemptive/non-redemptive ideology within fiction, writing processes, and some opportunities for charitable contributions,

Enjoy

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Why Do People Steal My Ideas Before I Have a Chance to Profit From Them, or HarperTeen Impulse and Some Wise Words from Cory Doctorow

On Sunday HarperTeen announced the launch of a digital imprint called HarperTeen Impulse. The title of the NY Times article says it all…HarperCollins Imprint Aims at Lucrative Young Adult Market. The imprint will release up to four new books each month (every first Tuesday) with prices ranging from $.99 to $2.99. The work will be in a variety of genres, but it does look like the works will all be novella length or shorter, hence the low price point.

Harper has a similar model with Avon Impulse which focuses on romance titles. The Romance world, of course, has a long history of churning out new, short, titles on a monthly basis…even back in the dark ages (read: print only days). The appetite for new content of the average Romance reader being akin to the gaping dark maw of a black hole, the Romance imprints learned long ago that they could produce a constant stream of work and still never quell that collective hunger.

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