Monday, October 29, 2007

Fight Club Jr.

So, I stumbled upon this site, which claims to draw its inspiration from Palanhiuk's novel.

I think it's interesting to see how an inspiration can be so blatantly stolen from an existing work, but hardly resemble it by the time the 'thief' is done with it.

I recently encountered a similar phenomenon in art. This image was taken directly from this one. I was there when it was done (in fact, I even suggested the first photo as a starting point). Yet, I think we can all agree that the stencil, while owing its existence to the photo, is not derivative. Odd. It was derived from the photo, but, except in the most technical sense (and certainly not in the colloquial use of the word) it is not derivative of it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


So, I swear I was just about to go to bed when I stumbled across (yes, using the Stumble Upon toolbar for firefox, which is evil and devours all your time in witty goodness).... where was I?

Ah, yes: I stumbled upon "Book-A-Minute," in original classic flavor, and brand new Sci-fi/Fantasy flavor (someday I shall rant on the subject of the combined genre of Science Fiction and Fantasy).

Most of the condensations take significantly less than a minute to read, but they are hilarious. However, you really have to have read the books to find the jokes funny. I don't think that will be a problem for any readers of this blog (what is this, a compliment?!? No. It's not possible.), and the site has a large enough list of books to laugh at that you should be able to find quite a few to laugh at.

My favorites are probably The Xanth Series by Piers Anthony, and Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Books: The Traveler

I'm about halfway through The Traveler, by John Twelve Hawks (Seriously, what's with that middle name? Is it a pen name, or were his parents just exceedingly odd?)

As the NY Times review of the book observes, Traveler reads like "a cyber 1984," which, as far as I'm concerned, is unfortunate. Y'know, since that book has already been written. Perhaps I'm being a bit harsh. Traveler doesn't actually feel like 1984 merely updated for the internet age. It feels more like Hawks loved dystopian novels like 1984 as a young'un, and now, when he has a cool plot idea, he decides to set it in a big brother dystopia.

The problem is, it's getting more and more apparent that the current danger is not an oppressive governmental system. We've been amply warned of that, and are very wary of it. No, the worrisome direction in which we are currently moving is toward the cronyism of a government that is no more than a tool of big business. Sure, the government has done some crummy things lately as far as civil rights are concerned, but it's important to remember that we, the people, have an expectation that the government respects civil rights - there is no such expectation for multinational corporations.

Have any of you heard of CRM? It stands for Consumer Relations Management, and it's a concept so prevalent that it's introduced to business students in their basic marketing course. The idea is that the corporation should pursue a one-on-one relationship with their customers, offering them only the products and services that they are likely to desire. Sounds OK, no? Unfortunately, pursuit of this goal involves collecting LOTS of data about you and your purchasing habits - over the course of years - and then compiling it all into a data warehouse. That's somewhat concerning, but most (not all!) companies have privacy policies that preclude them selling that information to third parties. The catch? When a company with a CRM database goes bankrupt, there is a precedent of considering their consumer data an 'asset'. It is therefore sold to the highest bidder. Disconcerting, no?

To get back to the novel, despite the somewhat juvenile and arbitrary choice to house the story in a big brother dystopia, I'm actually quite enjoying the book. The story follows several different characters living "off the grid," which is quite an accomplishment in Hawks' dystopia (it's tough enough in today's USA!). My favorite, and probably the strongest character, is Maya. She is a Harlequin, a sort of modern warrior - she uses a sword and everything! Well, ok, she uses a shotgun too, but you get the idea.

As I pointed out earlier, I have yet to finish the book, so I don't know if these characters meet up, although I suspect they do. All in all, it's been a good and interesting book so far, and I suggest you give it a shot.

The Traveler

Friday, October 12, 2007

Webcomics: Questionable Content

I've decided to write the first obtrusive post on webcomics about the comic that began my love affair with the damned things.

Questionable Content, or QC, Is a long running online comic by Jeph Jacques. He currently updates every weekday, and is rapidly approaching 1,000 comics, which is particularly impressive for a page style comic, rather than a strip format.

The comic itself is highly amusing, even for folks (like myself) who have zero involvement in the indie music scene which is the frequent subject of the characters' snarky comments. Jeph does a pretty good job of making each page amusing of its own accord, but there are also story arcs that are well worth reading. The art is quite good, and has come a long way from the first comics. Like many webcomics, QC is a testament to the artist's growth, and it records the gradual, but significant, improvements over Jeph's years of drawing.

In many ways, QC is the golden standard of webcomics. Like Something Positive, QC provides its author with his sole source of income, but unlike SP, QC is lighthearted, and entertains those of us who are not complete jerks (A jerk myself, I can sometimes enjoy SP, but I would fully understand if you didn't. Also, I think SP's popularity says something about the composition of the internet community...).
Jeph accepts donations for QC, but his main income appears to come from the sale of clever T-shirts, both comic related and not.

Now, if you people would just give *me* money, I wouldn't need a job.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Fiction on the Net

I had intended for this blog to focus on books I've read, but I am coming to realize that there is an abundance of material on the net for me to comment on.

In fact, I am only now starting to see the web really begin to display the sort of revolutionary fiction you'd expect out of such a revolutionary medium. Keep in mind that the internet is the first medium for communication that is both a true mass medium and genuinely interactive. We're seeing a rise in egalitarianism as a result (the very fact that you are reading a blog is evidence of this.)

I see two main innovations in fiction on the net (so far). The first is that writers who appeal to a quirky, small, or otherwise non-mainstream audience are able to reach readers on a wide scale, and in a way that is not possible with the traditional print media. This is true of any successful writer with prose (or poetry, though I have less interest) on the net. However, someone who has caught my eye is Jeff Harrell, who, in a Vonnegut-esque fashion has titled his collection of stories "Lies that are true". His stories are here. I particularly suggest "When Alone Was Forgotten," "Cheshire Smile," and "The Slow Ones."

The other innovation I see is very similar to what many webcomics have been doing for a while - that is, using lengths and formats that would be inappropriate for print. A prime example of this is Lexy Erin's writing, particularly her superhero serial Star Harbor Nights, as well as the superior (and currently updating) Tales Of MU. Lexy's writing is certainly an example of an author reaching a readership largely unavailable through print, but she is also writing serials. Each "chapter" is roughly the length of a short novel chapter, but she is in the third book of "MU," and, while the writing would occupy three volumes, the pacing is quite different from that of your average novel. The day to day narratives that get lost in a novel are fully explored here, and, while I have no inside knowledge, I can easily imagine the entire arc of a novel-length plot, but with each smaller sidestory fully developed. I think the format lends itself to empathy with the characters, because it is easy to feel like you are living their lives alongside them.

Again, check out Lies that are true and Tales Of MU.

PS - Tales of MU can be a bit... involved, particularly in the more recent chapters - to the point that they're nsfw. I would say that if you're easily offend you should avoid it, but, frankly, if you're easily offended, I'm not sure why you're reading this blog.