What Kinds of Protests Work? (SSIR)
Protest actions seen as extreme and highly disruptive diminish popular support.
But they also garner popular attention.
this is why demanding flawless representation from every piece of media, and trying to police who writes what based on identity is a huge fucking mess
The Never-Ending Storm
So, a while back I had a Redbubble. Cool, right? Yeah, it was pretty cool until I wanted to change my email address. Apparently, such an outlandish request was not possible at that time. I...
Film-makers condemn PBS over lack of diversity and dependence on Ken Burns
Almost 140 non-fiction film-makers seek transparency about programming, spending and staffing
Nearly 140 non-fiction film-makers have signed a letter criticizing PBS for a lack of diversity and...
The Never-Ending Storm
fanworks aren’t “content.” they’re pieces of joy and wonder.
content is a placeholder word used by social media sites to talk about the pieces of flotsam and jetsam that keep people using the site so...
The Old Words...
Something struck me as funny today after I woke up from a nap (think some wild shit sometimes, right after waking up… this is actually pretty tame and boring).
So, like, culture, right? Fixed forms of artistic expression. In this case, of the narrative variety (movies, television shows, and, of course, books). I read a lot of what use to be called ‘speculative fiction.’ In other words, fiction that they could sell but that ‘didn’t really belong’ in distinguished company. You know, some of the most prolific, astonishing, and now culturally permanent works of literature ever written? Yeah, that trash. I read that stuff because, for me, it’s right there on the forward edge of what it means, not only to be human, but to be alive, to be aware of yourself and the world around you. You just don’t get that reading about somebody’s upper middle class affair or illegitimate child or dark family secret (SHE’S actually your grandmother), or some great man’s legacy from whenever in the past. Yuck. Give me alien monoliths and complex magical intrigue any day.
Anyway, a lot of the stuff I read is older, some of it from decades before I was even born. Take the John Christopher (Samuel Youd, Christopher was his pseudonym for YA fiction… ‘cause it was so speculative) books I often quote from. Albeit not to the same blockbuster extent, that stuff was the Hunger Games or Chosen Ones or Divergent of its time, but it’s ancient by today’s cultural standards. They’ve only recently really started putting a lot of it back in print. I mean, you could find it, but you had to order it.
So, I read this dude, and a lot of other now ancient stuff (by internet standards). A lot of Gibson or Stephenson, to name more recent writers. Those guys aren’t ancient, of course, but their works have been around for a few decades, for sure. People have built on them. And then there’s Clarke or Asimov. Or Tolkien, or even Jordan, now, ‘cause it’s getting harder to find his original hardcover runs.
Yes, yes, achrilock, stories age and they get harder to find. Of course they do. But what got me thinking was the difference between stories of this nature that are contained in books and stories that are told through other fixed media. Take a DVD of something from the nineties, for example. A lot of that is now digitized, but not the majority of it, by any measure. A lot you can only still watch if you can lay hands on the fixed media (unless you’re torrenting it, of course). But, sometimes, if you’re lucky and there isn’t a pandemic, and you’re at a big-box store or a flea market, you can find a huge bin of old DVDs, and there are cult gems mixed in there among the garbage. You can get that stuff for like $3, sometimes less. If you’re dedicated, you can find an old fixed-media for a TV show or a movie fairly easily and cheaply.
You try looking for an old hardcover book, though. Sure, it’s out there, but you’re gonna pay for it. You’re gonna pay a LOT for it. Doesn’t matter that you can (rent) the same book on Kindle and read the very same words. Doesn’t matter that those words are printed, probably on higher quality paper, in brand new editions with better cover art. If you want to read the old words, you’re gonna need the old money. And those things are just sitting in a dusty storeroom, being seen by no one. Behind lock and key. Think about that for a second, and how wild that is.
Now, the intrinsic value between two stories from the same genre isn’t necessarily any different. Books and television / movies have their differences in presentation and internalization, sure, but I don’t think anybody who is a serious fan person would say that one is always ‘better’ than the other. They both bring different and valuable things to the storytelling experience.
And, in many ways, this is ridiculous. I’m not one of these people who actively encourages the piracy of literature. I think you should pay people for their work (never mind that the publishers loot most of it…). I don’t look down on people who haven’t the money to spend who pirate books, because I think that everyone has a right to knowledge and to entertainment, and libraries (where I actually started reading Christopher as a child, as it happens, as a kid in a house with very few books) don’t always have everything you wanna read. Sometimes you can’t get to a library. Sometimes you’re homeless but you have a phone that can download things to read. Life is complicated.
But, it is ridiculous, to an extent, that book culture is so different. Think about the technological capability and financial investment required to make a television series, or what we would think of as a modern movie. Incredible amounts of money and anthropological complexity required to make a single DVD / Blu-ray that you can get out of the trash for a few dollars. And, yet, the practice of applying pigments to scraps of pulped wood, and then placing that between two pieces of cardboard is granted a higher place in society and in the economy. As if the mind and the hands behind that creation were somehow sacred.
Don’t get me wrong. Authors are magicians, and I worship at that altar, obviously, and probably to a greater extent than the average consumer (again, grew up in a house without many books and without a lot of money, so I appreciate that shit). But, the disparity is weird. Maybe it’s because the movie / television sphere is so collaborative, so corporate. As if the hard work and effort of the many is somehow diminished by the fact that it is controlled by a soulless whole. Maybe it’s because the construction of a linear train of thought and feeling that is then applied to something physical that you can hold still feels more human and personal, more real, to us. Maybe it’s the broadness of awareness required to create a world out of the mind of one person as opposed to many. I don’t know. And, I’m saying this as somebody who is also affected by the spell, so don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying it’s ‘wrong.’ I’m just noticing the difference in how we approach the medium as a culture.
But, yeah, it’s wild. One thing I do take away from it is that markets, economic or intellectual / social, are largely arbitrary and somewhat irrational, contrary to traditional assertions. We like what we like. We respect what we respect. There’s a whole complicated bunch of nonsense that explains why, but it all comes down to the feeling you get when you consume a stream of thoughts and feelings from another primate. Are you at church, holding a sacred tome like a holy child that’s going to teach you and not the other way around, or are you at the movies? The content of either means nothing. Its inherent value to us, however powerful or mundane, means nothing in the equation of which medium we value financially or culturally. We have entire industries dedicated to gaslighting one another with conjured cultural avatars of impression and relevance, to cataloging and collecting these, and we love it, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Humans are fascinating. Humans are crazy.