Tagged: music

MIKE GOLD: The Paperless Chase

According to Pew Research, one out of every five adult Americans now owns a tablet or an e-book reader. That was before Apple announced its new e-textbook initiative.

Imagine buying all your college textbooks for about a hundred bucks and then carrying them around in a 1.33 pound device. You’ll never need your locker again. Students won’t pop their spines carrying a backpack that is so heavy PeTA wouldn’t let you strap one onto a mule.

And if you’re a comics fan, you’ll never need to schlep around a couple hundred long boxes. Well, not unless you want to.

So people should just stop bitching about electronic comic books. It’s not controversial any more. It doesn’t begat bootlegging; certainly not now that the government is shutting down bootleg sites. Just as soon as publishers start releasing their books at a fair price point – there are no printing costs, no paper costs, no shipping, no returns, and no alternate covers, so $2.99 (let alone $3.99) is a rip-off.

“But I like the feel of the paper,” you might whine. Yes, and I enjoy hearing the crack of the buggy-whip. Deal with it. Stop cutting down trees and milking our ever-dwindling oil supply to print and distribute all those books and magazines you read once – if at all. Publishing is an ecological nightmare; e-publishing doesn’t cure the problem but, like the hybrid and electronic engines, it helps. A lot.

The other by-product is even more interesting: we are breeding a new generation of readers. People are buying e-books and magazines and newspapers and we’re reading them on our iPads and Kindles and such. For a full year now, adult hardcovers and paperbacks, adult mass market books, and children’s/young adult hardcover and paperback have exceeded hard copy sales. In the past year, Borders finally bit the dust, Barnes and Nobles continues to cough up blood, and tablet/e-reader sales skyrocketed.

Tell me where our future lies.

If sales slow down considerably – forgetting how Apple’s sold zillions of iPads to schools and to businesses, forgetting how the iPad 3 is coming within the next 10 weeks, forgetting textbook sales – then it’ll take as long as, oh, maybe three years before over half of the population of American families have one.

Yes, you don’t have to use the device for reading. You can do a lot of other things with your tablet: play games, surf the Internet, write stuff, listen to music, watch teevee, even make phone calls via Skype. All I need is a comfy chair, a toilet, a shower stall, a refrigerator, a microwave and a great pair of headphones and I’m set for life.

Comics store owners – the smart ones – are beginning to adjust. They’re filling in the vacuum created by Borders’ vaporization by expanding their trade paperback and hardcover racks. They’re getting involved in more comics-related tchotchkes, more heroic fantasy movie stuff, and more innovative and distinctive product in general. They no longer have to endure as much terror as they go through the monthly Diamond catalog to guess which non-returnable pamphlets are going to put them out of business.

So, again I ask you – as comics readers, as book readers.

Where does our future lie?

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

 

REVIEW: Kamala Sankaram’s “Miranda”

What do you get when you take a dystopian who-done-it, three suspects, a composer-soprano-instrumentalist-victim, set it to music that is part Baroque opera, tango, Hindustani classical, and hip-hop, add multimedia elements (including a projected big, singing head and funky fake commercials for deadly fashion accessories and wacked-out news broadcasts), dress it all up in steampunk sensibilities reminiscent of Watchmen, include a bailiff ringmaster of a TV show (The Whole Truth) that would make Tim Curry’s Frank-N-Furter proud, add Rocky Horror-like audience participation, a libretto written by the composer with director Rob Reese, and swirl in six avant-garde new music veteran musicians-singers-actors a la the most recently retooled Sweeney Todd?

This is the hybrid lovely beast that is Kamala Sankaram’s Miranda, which opened in preview (tickets $20, 9 p.m.) on Thurs. Jan. 12th, opened on Friday the 13th, and makes its final performance on the 21st as part of HERE’s 3-year composer-development HARP (HERE Artists Residency) Program. Grandly ironic sensibilities. And it lived up to all its promises despite a few technical nits.

Jerry Miller as the Bailiff plays it larger than life—he sells it, with power, and controls the audience with aplomb: a bravura performance. Sankaram is a soprano worthy of Puccini, in demeanor and vocal timber and skill, plus able to carry her ethnic classical tropes with equal grace, yet still be convincing in the more contemporary milieu of the infectiously heavy hip-hop grooves of the show’s theme she writes for her mini-orchestra (guitar, cello, violin, tenor sax/clarinet, bari sax/bass clarinet, accordion—it needs a viola to round out the dark tones and support the violin and guitar—but I am a violist). Sankaram’s writing is lush, inventive, and dramatic, seamlessly slipping between the genres, and the staging, choreography, and projected imagery do it justice in the appropriately dark and industrial HERE main theatre (holds 100, capacity crowd). Her portrayal of the poor-little-rich girl is at once ditzy (when she speaks) and noble (when she sings), highlighting the dichotomies of her character and her struggles, once she discovers a wrong that shatters her protective bubble, to Do The Right Thing. She and Miller are the stand-outs of this production, along with the behind-the-scenes artists. The other voices: Muchmore’s reedy tenor, Fand’s mezzo, Fleming’s baritone, and those of the supporting cast sung by the multi-winds, were serviceable and had moments.

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NEW FROM IPULPFICTION THIS WEEK!

Coming this Week on iPulpFiction.com
[ Week of Dec. 4 – 10]

WEIRD HORROR TALES:OFF THE HOOK by Michael Vance
1949 — State Senator (and Azrealite) David Block goes fishing on the useless lake created by a boondoggled dam that buried Lost City, the ghetto of Light’s End, and a dirty secret under murky waters.

[ Publisher: Airship 27 – 4,100 words – 50¢ ]

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From the APRIL 1941 issue of Astonishing Stories

IMP OF THE THEREMIN by Ray Cummings
Born and bred in an Amati violin played by the Immortals of music, the transition to a theremin playing in a red-hot orchestra was too much even for an imp!

[ Publisher: Black Mask Magazine – 4,900 words – 50¢ ]

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From the OCT 1934 issue of Terror Tales

FROM OUT THE SHADOWS by Frances Bragg Middleton
It was hard for Shelley Reeves, city-bred, not to fear the musty, superstitious legends of that bleak bayou land where her husband’s people dwelt.

[ 5,200 words – 75¢ ]

MARTHA THOMASES: Frank Miller Bounceback

There’s been a lot of noise on two areas of the blogosphere that I follow – comics and politics – because Frank Miller recently posted about the Occupy Wall Street movement on his blog. My favorite response, as usual, was on TBogg’s blog, because I love me some snark.

See that photo over there? It’s had an honorable position on my refrigerator since it was taken about 15 years ago at the San Diego Comic Convention. It’s me and Frank, back when he could still walk the floor.

I’ve known Frank since the late 1970s. I met him soon after I met Denny O’Neil, and we hung out a lot when he was drawing the Amazing Spider-Man Annual #14. My friend, Legs McNeil <http://www.amazon.com/Legs-McNeil/e/B000APOLAA>,  was (and is) a huge comic book fan. He managed a band, Shrapnel, that was essentially Sgt. Rock set to music. We conspired to put them into an issue of a comic book, a mission that required many trips to CBGBs.

I don’t remember talking politics with him, but its possible that I did. There are a lot of people in comics that I like, but with whom I disagree politically. Dan Jurgens, Larry Hama, Chuck Dixon – we don’t agree, and that’s fine. We also tend to like different kinds of music, movies and books. We have fun conversations.

Our disagreements never led me to boycott their work. And I’ll boycott quite easily. For example, I haven’t bought any Revlon cosmetics since Ron Perelman plundered Marvel.

But I won’t give up something that gives me joy. If my joy is ruined by my disagreement with the owner or creator, then I’ll give it up.

What amused me about this particular kerfuffle is that, once you got away from the comic book sites, the reactions were fairly hilarious. Most people seem to think that Frank Miller, not Zach Snyder, was responsible for the movie, 300. It’s true that Snyder spent a lot of time and energy trying to mimic specific pages of Frank’s work, but he also added a lot of other stuff to fill out the 117 minutes of playing time.

I disagree with Frank on this issue. I think he’s wrong, profoundly wrong. I think he’s far away from this issue, and getting his information from less than reliable sources.

But I don’t think he deserves to be called names. As grown-ups who defend the free exchange of ideas, we can disagree with each other. We should. But it’s bad for the country when we descend into name-calling.

In other words, this.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

REVIEW: Americus

REVIEW: Americus

by Sam Kusek

Neil Barton is your quintessential bookworm. Happiest when his nose is buried in the middle of his favorite young adult fantasy series, Apathea Ravenchilde, Neil is not looking forward to his transition into high school. Like many of us at that tender age of 13, Neil doesn’t exactly know who he is yet, having little means of self-expression in his quiet and very religious town of Americus. It isn’t until a local church activist group deems Apathea Ravenchilde “unfit for souls of our youth,” and his best friend is sent off to military school, that Neil has to take a stand and find out exactly what he’s made of.

What I enjoyed most about this book was Neil’s journey from young, unsure child to young adult. His experience is like so many of our own, making it extremely relatable. Throughout the book, Neil is influenced by a number of older men and women, from vegan librarians to punk music enthusiasts and begins to see a world outside of the scope the dreary small town he and his single mother live in. To further emphasize the point, the book is interspliced with scenes from the young adult novel (Apathea Ravenchilde), which features a big reveal about Apathea’s origin and family relations and the rising tension between the library committee and the activist group, providing a wonderfully complex sense of balance and allows the book to touch upon a number of the issues of young adulthood, such as relationships with lovers and parents and often feeling trapped by the society around us.

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MIKE GOLD: For Whom The Bell Tolls

There are few songwriters – few writers – I respect more than Pete Townshend. Were this a music column I’d go into detail why I hold this belief, but today in this venue he’s a means to an end.

Last week, Pete (okay, we’re not on a first name basis; the only time we were within 10 feet was when he bashed my boss in the back of his head with his guitar) accused Apple’s iTunes online retail store of being a “digital vampire.” His analysis was fraught with mistakes and revealed a genuine lack of knowledge of the situation. He was defending a system that treated him and his band, The Who, very, very well – a system that no longer exists as a creative outlet for newcomers going back at least a full generation. He also mistook iTunes for a label and not what it actually is: a retail outlet. A very successful one, but then again Pete’s net worth is in the neighborhood of $75,000,000 – a true one-percenter – so success isn’t the issue here.

What does this have to do with the wonderful world of comics? Hang on. I’ll get there.

Pete also said “It would be better if music lovers treated music like food, and paid for every helping, rather than only when it suited them … Why can’t music lovers just pay for music rather than steal it?” That’s the heart of my diatribe today: people who sort of steal artists’ works instead of paying for it.

Bootlegging is a serious issue, but more a moral one than financial. Sure, Disney and Warners will bitch about all the milions they’re losing but that’s because they see every bootlegged item as a lost sale. Few are.

When it comes to comics, sometimes it’s a matter of convenience. Some people boot stuff they’ve already purchased because they prefer reading on a tablet. After all, we’re in our third generation of comics fans who go bugfuck whenever somebody folds the cover back in order to read the damn thing. Still others are sampling new wares: with literally over 300 new comics released each month and maybe a third of them brand-new titles or “reboots” (a word with unintended irony) a reader can’t afford to sample even a fraction of the new stuff.

And then there are the idiots. Stupid people who live the life of Wile E. Coyote until they finally look down.

Our buddy Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool reports of a guy named Stephen Chandler out in Glasgow, Scotland who is offering every comic book published each month by the “major” publishers (DC, Marvel, IDW, Image, Dark Horse, Dynamite, and perhaps others) in electronic form for the low price of about $27.00 a month – 20 Euros, so the price fluctuates.

His is a for-profit operation. No matter what you think of readers downloading comics illegally, this guy is taking money out of publishers’ pockets. Most publishers can’t afford that; even the big guys are responsible for delivering an acceptable bottom line to their masters.

Steve, pal… look. Maybe your heart is in the right place. Most comics readers pay more than $27 a month for a fraction of the content you’re delivering on disc. And you’re entitled to a reasonable profit for your work. But that’s only in the sense that Al Capone was entitled to a reasonable profit for his work.

Eventually, Wile E. Coyote looked down. So will you, Steve. You work and perhaps live near the All-Saints Secondary School. You might dine at the Delhi Darber. Maybe you drink at the Aushinairn Tavern and shop at Asda Robroyston. Or perhaps you go to the Food Cooperative off of Wallacewell Road.

In other words, Steve, you’re an idiot.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

Review: “Lady Lazarus”

It has been documented that the first word a child learns to utter is, most commonly, “no”. Michele Lang’s historical urban dark fantasy, Lady Lazarus (Tor, trade Sept. 2010 $14.99, mass market June 2011 $7.99), and her heroine Magda make a fine art of “no” that turns into a resounding “yes” on the eve of WWII (up to Hitler’s invasion of Poland, Sept. 1st, 1933 and the Hitler-Stalin pact), from the cafes of Buda-Pest through Austria, Germany, and Paris, to the booksellers and brothels of Amsterdam and back again. The first installment of the story, this book is as good as it gets. You cannot guess where she will take you, even in the historical bits but, once Lang gets there, it is perfectly logical and believable, even at its most outrageous.

Why? Because Lang has done her history, theology, and Bible homework and Knows her Kabbalah in a way that even some whiskery old masters do not. And she makes you believe. Even her undead, demonic, and angelic characters are utterly human and thus you are compelled to watch this tragic train-wreck of a story (after all, we know the atrocities of WWII) that is not without the insanity of hope. Her prose sings—even in her English translations the music of the German, Hungarian, Hebrew, and Aramaic remains. Amidst all the darkness, the light shines, even in some romance with an angel, Raziel (Secrets of God), whose description really is like that of a Greek god (trust me, I know one…wink).  But no clichés, here, and no punches pulled, ever—no flinching. People suffer exquisitely for what they believe in, to save their way of life, their people (Jews, witches, vampires, demonesses). Lang tortures her characters in ways unimagined by those not acquainted with the depths of the mystical lore in all its facets, beautiful and horrifying. All to a purpose.

Imagine a world where the daughters of men perpetuate their legacy since primordial times, since Eve, where angels fall for their beliefs, and a line of daughters can return from the dead and work great magics, but always at a great price (and Lang’s word painting is worthy of renderings in movies and graphic novels)? Can you stop a war? Can you stand back and not even try—hide or run? The entire story hinges on the last two lines of the book: “Who do you love? Do you seek the darkness or the light?” Only, once you read this, and I dare you to be unaffected by it, your definitions of dark and light may not remain so neat and tidy. Sweet dreams. Call on your guardian angels. They will come. They are real.

Happy 100th Birthday, Mary Blair! Enjoy Your Google Doodle!

100 years ago today, Mary Blair, an artist whose unique style was immortalized in classic Walt Disney films of the 1940s and 50s and theme parks, was born in McAlester, Oklahoma.

She was best known for the artwork she contributed to animations including Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and Cinderella, and the look for It’s A Small World at the 1964 New York World’s Fair and later appeared in all Disney theme parks. Several of her illustrated children’s books from the 1950s remain in print, such as [[[I Can Fly]]].

To celebrate her birthday and influential art style, Google has given her a Google Doodle, which we show you here. If you want to know more about her, her nieces have put together a web site, or you can try and find the book [[[The Art and Flair of Mary Blair]]].

Now if only I can get the music from It’s A Small World out of my head…

Hat tip: Google doodle celebrates influential Walt Disney artist Mary Blair.

Setting Foot Into City Lights

written by Joshua Pantalleresco

One of my all time favorite book signs.
I received my orders via email from the all powerful Hancock.  He commanded me to write about this wondrous place where I found classic pulp during my vacation.  A giant talking head that reminded me of a powerful wizard was just something you couldn’t ignore; besides, I love bookstores.
With this in mind, I head to City Lights, one of my all time favorite bookstores while on vacation in London Ontario.  Like all real gems the entrance to this cave of wonders is located in one of the emptier parts of downtown on Richmond Street and King.  Outside of LA Mood, an awesome comic shop where this writer did a book signing for his comic Veritas (which you can order at Indy Planet), all that surrounds this section of downtown are old and dusty buildings.  Old pawn shops and music places and abandoned apartments line up along the side of the street.  There is graffiti and a faint smell of sewage in the air.  I approach the bookstore with trepidation.  Would it be the same after being gone so long?
I see the familiar bars in the windows and the bargain books in the boxes decorating the entrance way.  The door is old and creeky and I fumble my way inside.
I open the door and gape.  Here there be books.  Seas of them stare up at me on the floor.  Most of them are divided by their sections and categories and are in large cardboard boxes, although a few seem to have escaped from their confines are just hanging around.
To my left is a bookshelf filled with the latest vampire and horror fiction craze.  I notice the books Marked and Twilight hang side by side as two guardians of the gate.  They greet you warmly with their black covers and insignias.  Both series are there in abundance and it serves as a gentle reminder to the reader not to be greedy.  There are wonders here yes, but at the end of the day you have to feel the wrath of Stephanie Meyer and PC Cast as you make your way to the exit.
After that cursory glance I notice some of the other books alongside the vampire army and to my amazement there are some nice books up there.  Brian Lumley is hanging around with his Necroscope series.  There is a touch of romance and violence with Ilona Andrews and then there are the many faces of horror behind Twilight.  Truly there are good books right from the start tempting you to take them home.  The wood creeks as I step inside.  The building talks to me as I try not to sneak past the cashier gazing right at me.  The wall of shame hangs behind him.  The wall contains pictures of silly mortals who thought they’d steal a book in this place and get away with it.  Each victim has their image ingrained in the background forever.  I pass them and wave high to the slightly overweight man behind the counter as I cross the threshold of being an accidental tourist.
I’ve been here before.  I think I know where I need to go.  I proceed to walk to the back of the store.  My quarry was located back there, as was the greatest temptations for a reader like myself.
City Lights has a marvelous science fiction section.  It is easily a quarter of the first floor.  You go past the part where the store sinks and dips and it’s on the other side.  It is not only in alphabetical order but the authors themselves are categorized.  You can see classic ABCs of science fiction like Asimov, Bradbury, and Clarke with pulp favorites like Burroughs, Norton, Zelazny.  Series like Conan, Tarzan and Doc Savage…wait a minute, Doc Savage?!
I grab it and look and there can be no doubt:  The man of bronze sits there idly.  I glance inside the cover and find it’s the right price.  Sold.  You don’t find Doc Savage just anywhere.  Satisfied with the book I continue my exploration of the section.  I pass by Charles De Lint, saddened to see they don’t have any more books I don’t already have. At this point, this cave of wonders feels like a familiar haunt.  I love good science fiction and pulp and City Lights has tones of books for me to read and rediscover.
Looking back at the pulp series at the very top, I find a name I am unfamiliar with.  John Norman towers above the B section right beside Tarzan.  The first book is called Tarnsman of Gor.  I open it up and read the first page. I was sold.  This looks to be a fantastic book.  I can’t wait to review it.
I stop there.  My treasures have been found and I proceed to the checkout.  I pay for my books, say a quick goodbye to the Twilight/Necroscope Section and head out the door, saddened that the experience was over, but happy I did it in such a place.
I’ve been very fortunate to be in some very cool book places, but City Lights is one of a kind.  If you ever go to London Ontario it’s worth going in and taking a look, whether you are saying hello to a familiar book or like me are always seeking new works to try.
Happy 24 Hour Comics Day!

Happy 24 Hour Comics Day!

24 Hour Comics Day is here! Check with your local store for events, or stay at home and try it yourself! The rules are simple, as defined by Scott McCloud:

Create a complete 24 page comic book in 24 continuous hours.

That means everything: Story, finished art, lettering, color (if applicable), paste-up, everything. Once pen hits paper, the clock starts ticking. 24 hours later, the pen lifts off the paper, never to descend again. Even proofreading has to occur in the 24 hour period. (Computer-generated comics are fine of course, same principles apply).

No sketches, designs, plot summaries or any other kind of direct preparation can precede the 24 hour period. Indirect preparation such as assembling tools, reference materials, food, music etc. is fine.

Your pages can be any size, any material. Carve them in stone, print them with rubber stamps, draw them on your kitchen walls with a magic marker. Whatever you makes you happy.

The 24 hours are continuous. You can take a nap, but the clock keeps ticking. If you get to 24 hours and you’re not done, either end it there (“the Gaiman Variation”) or keep going until you’re done (“the Eastman Variation”). I consider both of these “Noble Failure” Variants and true 24 hour comics in spirit; but you must sincerely intend to do the 24 pages in 24 hours at the outset.

THE ONLINE VARIATION: The above applies to printed comics or online comics with “pages” but if you’d like to try a 24-hour Online Comic that doesn’t break down into pages (like the expanded canvas approach I use in most of my own webcomics) then try this: At least 100 panels AND it has to be done, formatted and ONLINE within the 24-hour period!

If you’re ready to go for it, good luck! And if you want a topic to start fresh, you can always try the Evil Overlord Plot Generator!