Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New and Noteworthy (Soviet Arcade Games, Hollywood Remakes, "The Next Big Thing," McCalmont on New Model Army, Self-Publishing, the Hugos)

In today's edition:

* By way of io9, Connal at A Dangerous Business on his visit to the Museum of Soviet Arcade Games. (Yes, they had video games there too.)

* Also from io9: this list of science fiction films Hollywood is currently remaking (twenty-one of them!), accompanied by alternative suggestions of successful but as-yet unfilmed science fiction works.

I don't know all of the alternatives they mention, and I'm not sure that all the ones I do know really would be worth filming, even when I happen to like the source material. (I don't think there's a two hour movie in John Kessel's "Pride and Prometheus," for instance. And while there's no arguing the place of E.E. Smith's Lensman in the history of space opera, it may be too sprawling and too retro to be viable as a Hollywood movie.)

All the same, I'm sympathetic to the idea behind the post. An unwillingness to let go of (or let rest) a salable brand name or profitable intellectual property--an obsession with the sequel, the series, the remake--has always been part of Hollywood's way of doing things, and if it seems more pronounced now, it is worth remembering that this is also a response to the ever-bigger gamble involved in gigantic and still-growing budgets, shortening theatrical runs, ever-more fickle attendance at theaters, and the ever-louder pop cultural cacophony which a project needs to get above to be seen or heard, something easier to do with an already-established IP.

But all that's really no excuse. The budgets are as big as they are because the studios are so preposterously wasteful, the audiences fickle in large part because so much of the product is so bad and the ticket (and concession) prices so high, while the larger cacophony of pop culture is a reflection of their own hype-creating machines. And it's well worth remembering that much of the mess is due to the contempt of Big Media for the new and the creative that has made reality television (ugh!) what it is today, another, crucial reason for this desperate clinging to the same old IPs.

Ultimately, the biggest threat of all to their profit margins is their small-minded insistence on trying to hold back change rather than adapt to it.

And so here we have the studios determined to produce mega-budget movies no one ever asked for while ignoring vast, fertile fields of possibility. Going down the list, it seems to me that not one of the listed remakes is a genuinely exciting prospect, with some of these movies redoing what hadn't even been worth doing the first time around, and others bound to be inferior to what was accomplished with their concepts on the first go.

* SfSignal's recent "MindMeld" on "the next big thing" in science fiction and fantasy literature. Predictably, none of the authors interviewed had a particularly good answer--at least, not as straight answers go. None of them convincingly points to a new scientific development or area of technology opening up explored new territory, to an orthodoxy that will be challenged, or a vein of untapped potential that can be mined, or a new work or talent changing the game. If anything, they put me in mind of the argument I've made time and again that nothing to compare with, for instance, the splash cyberpunk made in the '80s, seems to be on the horizon.

Still, Jeff Vandermeer in particular has fun brushing off the question with facetious answers.

* Jonathan McCalmont's review of Adam Roberts' New Model Army for The Zone. You may remember I reviewed the same book for Strange Horizons back in June, but his take is quite different, McCalmont declaring it "one of those rare works that seems to provide a cultural blueprint for the entire genre," and indeed, inviting comparison with the birth of the novel. (I think that's a bit much, but as might be expected from McCalmont, the case is certainly an interesting one.)

* Victoria Strauss dissects the implications of statistics on self-published books recently published by Publisher's Weekly at the blog of the Science Fiction Writers of America. That there are more books appearing through this avenue doesn't mean more people are actually buying them, a reminder that, as Andrew Orlowski put it, the hope that "things would get fairer on the Interwebs" for those whose path to authorship has been blocked by Big Media has not been realized, and perhaps will not be.

* Last but not least, the winners of this year's Hugo Awards have just been announced. China Mieville's The City & The City and Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl tied for best novel. Best novella went to Charles Stross's "Palimpsest" (first published in the collection Wireless, which I reviewed for Strange Horizons last year). Best novelette went to Peter Watts for his highly praised "The Island" (which appeared in the New Space Opera 2 anthology). You can click on the link to read the full list.

Congratulations to all the winners.

The End of James Bond?
Review: Matthew Reilly's Jack West Trilogy: Seven Deadly Wonders, The Six Sacred Stones, The Five Greatest Warriors.
New and Noteworthy (OMNI, NYT bestsellers, Red Plenty, Stross on Space Cadets, European SF Awards)
Review: A Brief History of the Future, by Jacques Attali
The Triumph of the Thriller: How Cops, Crooks, and Cannibals Captured Popular Culture, by Patrick Anderson
New and Noteworthy: Items From the Hiatus #7 (Aliette de Bodard's Novel, More McCalmont, Stross, Macleod, Creative Writing Programs)

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