About Me

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A 40-ish publisher (editor, project manager, etc.), husband, and father of an even number of offspring, I grew up, or failed to, reading fantasy and sci-fi. I still enjoy reading, and now am trying to write. My favorite books include YA fantasy, manga, biography, and advice to authors. I'm also a former history major/grad student/high school teacher and assessment writer. Now I work for a school supplement publisher, specializing in high-low chapter books. I spend a lot of my time controlling reading levels. At night, I cut loose and use long words. W00t!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Don't think...

Don't think I'm not reading just because I'm not blogging!

I generally read something through at work, or until my 6-year-old son interrupts me at home, or until I fall asleep over it an hour after his bedtime story and the dishes (usually...OK, half the time) are done.

At work, I'm looking for new writers. (I know - I want to write, but I don't have time to write on the schedule we're looking for!) I found a site called fictionaut, and a few stories there really stuck out in a good way. I'm sure there are more.

This one, "Too Old for Their Age," by Liz McClendon, left me wanting more. It feels like a novel starting, to me. I like the characters, and I want their situation explained, and their relationship elaborated. But it ends. And I can't leave a comment till I've been accepted as a member. So I thought I'd link to the story here.

What I like most is that it runs smoothly. I don't notice I'm learning about the characters and their situation until I have already assimilated the information. Is this what "show, don't tell" means? It should.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Literature, Plugged In

This (Literature, Plugged In) is an illuminating look at a digital adaptation of literature to the emerging technologies and markets for literature. I read it with interest for work (I work in school publishing, and we're facing the digital challenge ourselves), but I'm encouraged by the outlook for long-form fiction, which I want to write and read, in a heavily mediated future.

Kodansha Comics Announces New Titles

Kodansha Comics Announces New Titles

This is good news for Japanese-impaired manga fans.

The recent collapse of US-based manga licenser-publishers CMX, Del Rey, and other smaller houses looked like a killing blow for the American consumer. In the absence of licensing, hungry fans turned increasingly to unlicensed scanlations for their fix.

Now Digital Manga and Kodansha are announcing expansions, licensing pickups, and new titles. Very good news.

Scanlations (scans + translations) probably undercut licensing by leeching off the market for translations. They may stimulate consumption long-term by developing the appetite for the content. This does not feed mangaka. And the publishers weren't too happy about it, either, so they got together about a year ago to curtail the illegitimate distribution of existing content with added translations.

I have long been of the opinion that the American publishers should hire off some of the better translators, letterers and cleaners for American licenses of the titles. But Digital Manga's model is one I was thinking more recently was smarter. The iPad especially looks like a good platform for manga. It's about the right size, and with touchscreen and wireless connectivity, comfortable and effective as a viewer. It's color, unlike the Kindle, and it multitasks, with lots of entertainment already associated with it.

Plus, scouting, editing, printing, warehousing, marketing, shipping, reprinting, and later discounting long serial publications with fluctuating and unpredictable markets is a challenge. Adding the translation, licensing, and cross-cultural barriers to that meant that few manga were getting published in the US. And only the proven hits with proven market success were getting here at first.

The presence of titles like Genkaku Picasso (DMP) and Sayonara Zetsubo-Sensei (DelRey, now Kodansha USA) demonstrate that quirkier visions can find market in the US.

Now, American manga fans, it's up to us. We actually have to stop downloading scanlations for these and pay the proverbial piper. I know what Christmas presents I'm asking for.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Diamond of Darkhold - Jeanne du Prau

I just finished the fourth Book of Ember last night. It's a brief interruption of my growing interest enjoyment of Mieville's Perdido Street Station. That's fantasy for adults, and it's like a trilogy of YA fantasies all together. With lots of sex. Alien sex. And decrepit architecture. It's very worth a read, but it requires several, so launch with caution.

The Diamond of Darkhold brings the Ember tetralogy back to the two main characters' arcs. The third book, Prophet of Yonwood, was an enjoyable standalone, an extended diagonal flashback explaining obliquely (kind of a shallow trick, but an enjoyable read nonetheless) how the world of Ember came to be.

It's also on some level an elaboration of du Prau's social criticism, which is not complicated in the Books of Ember, but is appropriate (I think) for the YA reader.

Still, it departs from the storyline, and though enjoyable in its own right, left me a bit cold because I was eager to either find out a lot about what happened to our world so that it became the world in Ember, or what happened to Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow after the end of People of Sparks.

Diamond of Darkhold satisfies the second goal best, and does it in a style that I think may be du Prau's alone. I'm not sure what it is exactly, but the Ember books have a slow/quiet/small feel to them. It's not that there isn't danger, that characters are dull, or that the events have only local significance.

In fact, what I'm feeling may be the afterglow - the dull, orangey afterglow - of the movie City of Ember, which I saw before reading the book. I hardly ever do that, and this is partly why. I loved the movie, and the books, but I can't disambiguate them. The movie has a gloomy, washed-out feel, with dull echoes and worn edges to everything. Bill Murray is brilliant, though physically wrong for the part of mayor, and the screenplay (except for a large creature) sticks very close to the book.

The movie stayed with me when I read the first book. For Sparks, Yonwood, and most of Darkhold, I was able to generate my own visuals, but I am not sure what influence the movie may still have had.

What I mean by slow/quiet/small is really about the characters, anyway. I like Lina and Doon. They are thoughtful, considerate, quiet, and brave. They remind me of bookish kids I either studied alongside or much later taught.

They contrast starkly with a similar age pair from Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy, Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry. Lyra is all impulse and anger and bravado, while Will is emotionally shackled to his dependent mother, mentally ill and under her pubescent son's protection. Everything Lyra does is larger than life, and the world is (or rather, worlds are) crowding around Will with immeasurable menace.

Lina (not "Lynn-uh" but "Line-uh," almost rhyming with Lyra) and Doon face dangers and obstacles in an intially much smaller universe. It's almost claustrophobic. But even when they emerge, the wide world is somehow narrow (constrained by travel on foot, their Emberite imagination, the limited horizons of everyone around them?).

I'm not sure I'm putting this clearly. Possibly because I'm not seeing it clearly. I'm anxious to read a book of du Prau's outside the Ember universe to see if that feeling carries over.