February 21st, 2013 | mobilesignals
February 20th, 2013 | brainjuice
February 20th, 2013 | comics talk
I’m friends with a futurist named Jamais Cascio, and he had occasion early in 2010 to meet a very eminent scientist and author. As these people do, they got to talking about The Future, and a scenario was described wherein Type III civilisations would have the technology to “boil spacetime,” creating or accessing a new universe for itself or even returning to the beginning of the universe in order to have all of time over again to live in.
Me and all our friends were running around yelling BOILING SPACETIME for several months.
Grant Morrison once described for me – and this is back around 1989 – his experience of discovering, while in the grip of severe entheogenic refreshment, that a comic is an entire spacetime continuum, capable of replay, non-linear access and chronological isolation.
Comics boil spacetime.
This is metatextual gibberish intended to prime your brain for what is next.
Time in comics is completely elastic.
Dialogue can slow down the experiencing of a page. (Frank Miller once said, possibly in EISNER/MILLER, that when he wants to slow the reader down he just starts the characters talking.) But your control of time begins with panelling and space.
Japanese comics read very fast because they have very few panels a page and those panels generally contain little visual information. Occidental comics are often too dense for the Japanese to enjoy. (I was told the same thing by my handlers when I was writing outlines for Japanese animated series.) There’s a thing I love in manga, though: every now and then, you’ll find a panel knocked out to bleed at (say) top, left and right. Leaving the framework of gutter and margins. And it creates a complete stillness, a frozen moment that you live in for a little longer.
There’s a scene in Bryan Talbot’s LUTHER ARKWRIGHT where the protagonist slows down the time perception of a group of men in order to kill them more efficiently. He breaks each page down into a couple of dozen panels, showing movement in staccato increments. The sequence is entirely silent, but because there are so many panels, with actual information in each, you experience the sequence almost as slowly as do the targetted men in the story.
I’ve seen comics that have run two different timestreams on the same page. Recursive comics. Pages containing flashbacks to three different timeframes as well as moving forward in the present while making complete sense. Chris Ware did a famous short comic in RAW that featured several different historical periods in the same room in the same page while maintaining a linear story flow. Kevin Huizenga will turn a suburban stroll into a multi-linear history tour and then tie all the lines back together without losing you for a moment.
The point being: you’re not locked to one minute per page, like a screenplay. You can make time run so fast that the reader thinks that your comic has been injected into their eyeball, or so slow and heavy that the reader feels like you’ve boiled a doorstop novel into some condensed informational substrate.
February 19th, 2013 | brainjuice
If you didn’t get MACHINE VISION 038, the latest step of my newsletter, yesterday – check your spam filters. Gmail, Comcast and Verizon users especially should take a look.
If you didn’t see it, the web version is at this link here. If you’re not a subscriber, you can still look, too. And, if you’re interested, you can subscribe at this link here. You only get emails from me, and, at this point, I’m only going to be posting a newsletter a couple of times a week.
(Older subscribers will laugh at that, because I can go weeks at a time without posting, not least because, unlike my old list, there’s not really an easy mobile option with this system. But things are a little more sorted now.)
Anyway, if you are a subscriber, I’d appreciate you checking your traps this week.
February 18th, 2013 | brainjuice
February 18th, 2013 | stuff2013
|This novella is pitched as “a tribute to Raymond Chandler and to Donald Westlake,” but, while there is certainly a tincture of Parker and Marlowe here, it reads to me more like Ames looking at the likes of Jack Reacher and other modern hard-man crime characters and saying to himself, “what would that protagonist and their stories really be like?”
The end result is as black and sticky as graveyard dirt. It almost but not quite tips into parody at a few points, but, although I don’t doubt the author had a chuckle to himself in a couple of places, it comes good as a study in steely-eyed extrapolation. It is, in fact, a ruthless depiction of that “violent but good-hearted loner hero” and the actual consequences of that life. Hugely entertaining grimness, cleverly written.
There’s an excerpt here, which includes purchase links (ebook only).
February 18th, 2013 | scatterlands
So I’d been talking about newspaper strips, and an idea that amused me: to lay a daily single-panel strip down on the website. I mean, I’d been talking about various options, but that one did kind of make me smile. And then Jason Howard, a frequent collaborator with Robert Kirkman, emailed and said “I could fancy that.” So we got to talking, and discovered that certain musics and certain kinds of science fiction were mutual pleasures, guilty and otherwise. And we came up with SCATTERLANDS. A largely improvised comic strip that will run here Mondays to Fridays, one panel a day. We’ll take a short break every four or five weeks, at which point we’ll run a digest of that block of panels somewhere or other (we have no serious plans in this direction beyond the intent, and are basically making shit up as we go along). But here they will be daily and free.
Just a bit of fun, as they say.
(So much so that I’m tempted to do a second and bookend each weekday with a panel.)
And with some terrific cartooning by Jason, whom I suspect will regularly surprise the people who believe they know his work.
You can find Jason on Twiiter as @thejasonhoward.
February 15th, 2013 | brainjuice
February 14th, 2013 | stuff2013
|This was a fun little thing. Len Deighton writes a gossipy, fond, sometimes rather sad history of how the James Bond films got made, how there came to be two Bond movies made at the same time (the unfortunate NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN being the stalking horse to the “real” movie cycle), and how almost everyone involved lived in grandeur and yet died in despair and poverty. Some lovely touches of detail, and fascinating sketches of a time somehow oddly past: the days of the well-dressed, well-lunched, somewhat gamey creative eccentric, staggering from country home to city bar to beachfront pile in a wine-sodden haze, trailing an industrial plume of cigarette smoke and legal paperwork the whole way.
A very enjoyable afternoon read. Cheers, Len.
I’ve already talked about the first instalment of John Scalzi’s serialised sf novel THE HUMAN DIVISION here. I read parts two to five on the train into London today – I’ve been getting them auto-delivered every week, and intended to read a couple of parts on the plane, but got into David Byrne’s HOW MUSIC WORKS instead. (Still on track for a book a week in 2013, if you squint at it.) Anyway.
What I wanted to briefly note down is this. This is a thirteen-part serial. Each piece takes no less than ten or fifteen minutes to read, I think. Some, like the first episode, are much bigger. He’s taking a risk by varying the length of the episodes so dramatically, but I think he’s getting away with it. Each piece is costing me 99 American cents, or 64p. An mp3 runs me 99p on iTunes. A tv episode costs £2.49 on iTunes. Each episode of THE HUMAN DIVISION automatically downloads to my Kindle.
In modern-day terms, this is the equivalent of a cable television show season happening – but in a deeply participatory “cool” medium, and with a greater informational density than other cool media like tv or even comics.
It’s the instant nature of the ebook, with its automagic form of broadcast, that’s the killer. If there was a single serious misstep, it was that the publisher did not negotiate with Amazon (I don’t know if it’s true for other vendors) to create a one-click subscription for all thirteen parts. Perhaps that was impossible. I certainly would have liked it, though.
While companies like Netflix attempt to embrace the “novel for television” by making all thirteen parts of HOUSE OF CARDS available simultaneously, it’s interesting to see Scalzi and Tor go the other way by testing not a traditional serialisation but a “television season for novel.” The walls of the current standard of container are getting bent a little.
You can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Stephen King’s forays into periodical serial had been taken in the spring days of the e-reader, tablet and smartphone.
Yes, doing digital-only or (in this case) digital-first still feels a little exclusionary. But, honestly? Is it any more economically exclusionary than publishing in hardback? And it’s not like there’s not a substantial digital-first audience out there.
I don’t pretend to be informed enough to know if THE HUMAN DIVISION constitutes a signal suite of breakthroughs in publishing. But it’s the one in front of me, and it’s gotten me thinking. There’s a beauty to the idea of signing up to receive the digital broadcast of a prose serial. Buying a season of book and having each piece magically appear every week. And, conceivably, reaching an audience that won’t or can’t hit bookstores, through the developing momentum of word-of-mouth over thirteen weeks. And, frankly, getting to talk to people for an entire season, one week at a time.
Not Fully Baked, as a thought. But it’s nagging at me. There’s more to unpack, but I wanted to get this down now.
February 12th, 2013 | mobilesignals