The last few days you might've noticed I sort of fell off the map. Reason 1 is that I'm currently work on some music, which takes some time. Reason 2 is because I had the great fortune of having my computer malfunction.
After a few days without access to my main writing device, I found myself diving deeper into music and writing out a new version of His Daughter by hand, and that's when I realized there were even more benefits than I previously mentioned.
"Ideas, ideas are just as real as the neurons they inhabit. They leap from brain to brain." - Concept from the "What is Meme?" essay by James Gleick &Richard Dawkins
More so than genetics, ideas over the years evolved in nature. The basic concept here is that ideas transcend, generation to generation, which often times results in a more-informed and creative society. As ideas mature, they can even lead to progression. While these ideas might seem ever-lasting, I do believe there are a few threats stopping us from becoming a more productive specie.
At first I was absolutely shocked to find out a controversial book leaked to the web. The book is called How to Murder Your Life, and the author is Cat Marnell, who is known best for XOJane . . . and being a "drug addict ex-beauty editor."
This is another one of her drug- and sex-journeys in the form of a personal essay nonfiction piece. It sold for around $500,000 USD, which wasn't the highest offer.
This is extremely high for a first-time author with a nontraditional format. And it was leaked to the web? This seem to interesting to be true, and in fact, I started putting the pieces together and came up with an entirely new hypothesis.
Maybe you've never considered "learning" as a possible addiction, but here I am to suggest the contrary. "Addiction is a brain disease," Alan I. Leshner, PhD. said back in 1997. He was considering the chemistry of the brain as it related to addiction, but I believe there are many more ways to look at such a statement, one of them being the way you process information. For example, there are some of us who coast in life, just bouncing off the ropes a bit, because there's an inherent sense of knowledge.
Some people like to refer to such individuals as "old spirits" because they either know everything, literally, or because they have a basic understanding of what to do in life. "New spirits" are often seen as inferior or somewhat ignorant individuals. These people tend to question everything and always flash a curious eye. In my opinion, the stigma around new spirits (and/or "souls" as I think of it now) is completely erroneous and arbitrary at best. People who want to know more, might have a real advantage in life, but on the other hand, they might have a limiting addiction.
Any curmudgeon out there will tell you the problem with the kids these days is a sense of entitlement. I think that's what every generation says. "You mean, some bus comes to your house and picks you up for school? In my day I had to walk 20 miles, along a snow mountaintop, to reach the 10-mile-away point . . . ."
The second thing they might tell you, is that more and more youngsters aren't doing their homework. That is, social media ruined our true connection with people & the spoken/written word. If no one's reading and writing, they're losing out big time. However, that's just not the case.
I've roamed around the web a few times, and now there seems to be a combination of recreational social media use and, of course, the homework. And guess what? Youngsters are online and writing more than ever.
I've been talking about hand-bound, signed, & numbered copies of No-Injury Policy lately, and now there a few pictures from the construction stage of these special editions of my debut short story collection.
While these a just a few pictures for now, keep tuned in to the blog for later updates on the hand-bound books. Next time, I'll show you better quality images of the finished product as well as some snippets of how I made the books.
Of course, you can always request one here. Mind you, these can take awhile to produce. Intuitively, you might think the construction time causes the slight delay. However, it's actually procuring all of the materials. For instance, I travel to find a suitable book cloth for the hand-bounds, some of which is only carried in limited quantities.
At any rate, check out the mid-stage of the hand-binding process.
The Biggest Giveaway I've Ever Done.
Us masterminds behind Somewhere in the Shadows: The Anthology decided it would be cool to create a giveaway.
Naturally, we wanted to give away copies of Somewhere in the Shadows. Instead, we thought it would be a lot cooler to have a competition.
This contest is akin to an arcade game: Certain accomplishments reward in more tickets than others. Score the most points, and you'll win nearly every book published by every author.
In other words, if you win, you might need to either buy a new bookshelf or expand your eReader's memory. I, alone, am handing out free paperbacks copies of No-Injury Policy and eBook copies of both #NIP & Excluded.
Pretty good deal, right? Here's how you play:
You pick a task. Each task is awarded a different amount of tickets. Say you do something on twitter, you just copy & paste the link into the box. If you visit a website, you copy & paste that link into the box.
Win a Small Library of Books!
Those of us behind Somewhere in the Shadows decided to put together a sweet little giveaway.
If you're a boss, you'll win a copy of every book in the contest.
If you're a middleman, you'll win a book of your choice and an eBook of Somewhere in the Shadows.
If you're the muscle, you might squeeze your way into third place, which is a copy of the anthology.
What's cool is you already qualify for 2 tickets. Copy the link of this page into the tab for visiting cmhumphries.com!
There's a pretty popular argument out there concerning social media versus literature. Before we begin, let me explain I write, read, and use social media. Check out around the site - there are tons of icons for Facebook, Twitter, Google+ (which I might use for a hangout one of these days), Goodreads, Cowbird, etc.
I dig the whole social networking thing. I use it for good on most days. On others, I idle on the newsfeed. However, there's still a question I'd like to address:
Does digital rubbernecking influence you more than an actual story? Can you remember what happened on Facebook better than you can remember what happened in the last chapter of a current read?
Today someone asked me whether eBooks and whatever is next will ultimately replace print. I get this question a lot, and I've probably touched on the subject somewhere in this blog. However, I think I have a clearer view as to why print is here to stay, and it's broken down into five fancy smidgens (in no particular order).
Today I was spoiled with an opportunity to interview author Andrew Cyrus Hudson, the mastermind behind Somewhere in the Shadows: The Anthology. See, he's the guy who designed the book and had it made.
He's worked with multiple aspects of publishing, and his passion resides in producing a book from the ground up. He's also the guy who asked me to be in the short story collection.
You know that "Charlatan" thing I've been, admittedly, self-promoting like crazy as of late? That's the short story I contributed.
For now, here are the publishing-related questions and his uncensored response to them all.
C.M. Humphries (C):
C: How did you decide which authors would be in the anthology?
C: What were the overhead expenses for producing such an anthology?
C: What are your future plans for Somewhere in the Shadows or for other story collections?
C: Where can everyone find you online?
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Ask Andrew Cyrus Hudson Anything About Somewhere in the Shadows or independent & self-publishing in the comments - and earn points towards a hand-bound edition of No-Injury Policy!
"And the Zombies Starved"
Zombies were all the rage back then.
It started off with movies like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, all the comedic romance stories disguised by those flesh-eating beasts. Cara and I’d watched them all during their midnight releases. When it first began, I was just as much a fool as anyone else. That was true until I remembered my distaste for the film Pearl Harbor. Some said Pearl Harbor was a masterpiece in the way it isolated a personal story from something much larger. Critics said it humanized the United States involvement in WWII. I said it was populist bullshit designed to sell the same old Hollywood love-story. It was a multi-million-dollar rerun masked by something that looked like war in the background—a love triangle and explosions in the distance.
Such storylines could’ve been juxtaposed with any other set of circumstances: an interstellar dilemma, an ominous dreamscape on Elm Street, inside of a failing 50s diner. Back then, it was tongues in throats and, oh yeah, zombies eating brains. But it was all the rage and it had everyone hooked.
One night after work, Cara came home with an atrocious set of heels painted black and green with something I assumed to be a face of a brain-munching undead. “You like them?” she asked. “I don’t think they make too many of them. They’re Zombie Heels.”
I nodded and kissed her before we went to bed.
The next morning, on my way to work, I saw dozens of women pass by wearing green, red, and purple variations of the same goddamn Zombie Heels. When did the undead become so colorful? Even at work, women wobbled in and out of the sandwich shop with the click and clack of cliché until I had my first apocalyptic impulse. That was, I wanted to shoot every last zombie-sporting sucker right through the skull. Zombies were never meant to be cute, colorful, or cuddly. They were—and always would be—a mixture of medical and social experiment gone awry. If Hollywood turned the stories of Jack the Ripper or Jack Kevorkian into whimsical love stories, would women start dropping their day jobs for the glorious life of prostitution or start carrying around their own IV tubes?
My only sense of relief derived from the fact, when the customers ordered their sandwiches, they asked for BLTs instead of brains. And I only discovered sleep when I realized that one day the fad would pass. Be it the end of my beloved creatures as they were in their raw, gruesome forms, but the end of mainstream madness nonetheless.
But it only metastasized. The following morning, I awoke to a thump on the nightstand next to our bed. My eyes peeled open like fresh blood oranges to see Cara hovering over me with a grin that slit her face in half. “Look,” she shouted as she pointed at a book next the alarm clock.
I glanced over and saw a book with zombies on the cover. “Jesus, no,” I muttered. I read the back cover:
Roman and Julia are forced apart by their wealthy parents, never to express their love for each other again . . . That is until a scientific experiment to turn their parents into super humans turns them into flesh-eating monsters.
“Doesn’t it sound great?” Cara asked, truly impressed with her find.
“Do you realize what this is?” I asked her.
“Yeah, it’s a gory zombie book.”
“Gory—No, this is nothing more than Romeo and Juliet . . .”
Something boiled under my skin. Whatever it was, it hid under the façade of anger and consumed me in a matter of mere seconds. I snatched the book and showed Cara exactly what I thought of it by hurling all three hundred pages at her chest. The problem was, I aimed too high. The book smacked against her temple, and Cara dropped limp to the floor.
“Shit,” I yelled.
Back then, the police were overzealous and overabundant, and they didn’t care how or why your wife was unconscious in your bedroom. If you’d hurt her, the police would hurt you. So I ran.
Past all the houses on our street, down through the shopping centers and glass testaments to mankind, I sprinted for nowhere. It didn’t matter where I ended up so long as I was away. On my journey, though, something came over me.
Everywhere I turned there were watered-down zombies. Passersby wore tattered t-shirts with cartoon zombie prints. Chuck Taylors and high heels alike boasted some demented aspect of beauty coinciding with the zombie. Was I alone in the world? Maybe all these people were zombies in the Haiti sense; carrying on the last thing they were told or shown. On every corner, marquees contained zombie puns within the movie titles. There were zombies everywhere.
Enraged by the zombie rage, I hurried along my path of uncertainty, brushing by zombies on every crosswalk. I knocked down a woman in her forties when I saw her zombie earrings. I took out some punk on a zombie-themed skateboard and almost cried when I saw blood rushing onto the sidewalk from underneath his head. Right before I took a bus headed out of town, I knocked out all five members of a street band called The Lost Sombi.
Wiping off the sweat from my brow, I found a seat on the bus and tried to regulate my breaths. The bus reeked of cat-piss, cheap cologne, and mothballs. Together it stirred into a brew I’d associated with decay. Although my senses peaked and the bus ride was slow, I kept to myself. During the trip, however, I couldn’t stop thinking about Cara. Did I knock her out, or did I actually kill her? How many zombies did I take out during my escape from town? It wasn’t my fault—It was those stupid movies trying to cover-up tasteless and unmemorable plots with the walking dead. It was the devolution of mainstream society from Barbie to Zombie High.
Just when I thought I’d regained my composure, a little boy turned around and stared at me, before he shoved his Game Boy in my face. He said, “I just got this.” While his mother tried to stop him from talking to a stranger, the boy kept yapping as a remake of Zombies Ate My Neighbors flashed on the screen. “See, you go around and shoot zombies with Super Soakers and kill them, and you can throw soda cans and twin-pops at them, and you . . .”
I punched the kid square in the face.
The mother screamed and swatted at me with a zombie purse, as I stood up and smashed her son’s Game Boy on the grated floor. At once, the bus halted, and one-by-one, the travelers came at me.
Swiping the purse, I wacked and pushed everyone in sight until I reached the front of the bus.
Tossing the purse to the ground, I ran as fast as I could to an old hotel at the end of the next block. Inside, I pulled out all of my cash from my wallet and told the woman at the desk, “I need a room as high up as you’ve got.”
She threw me a curious look and remained still for a moment. A phone resided next to her, a few inches from her anxious fingertips. She tapped along the countertop, her slight movements drawing more erratic by the second. The woman peered up at me, and I stared right back at her. As she started to reach for the phone, she pivoted around and grabbed the top left key from a pegboard behind her. “You’ll need to write yourself in,” she said before she slid a clipboard of forms in front of me.
Back then, time eluded me. I might’ve stayed in the room for a few days, although it felt like months. From time to time, I clicked on the television to see if I needed to find a new hideout, but there was one time when the evening news surprised me with a different sort of newscast. On the screen, a woman so starved she might as well been a zombie reported the tale of a new cult hero. A video package displayed dozens of people boasting hats, shirts, and lunchboxes with my face. Not only did the merchandise depict an unauthorized interpretation of me, but in my hand was a shotgun pointed at a mob of poorly sketched zombies. The videos of my fans cut short when the reporter pressed on her earpiece and said, “We’re now going live to the hotel, where our ‘cult hero’ was last seen checking in. Breaking news, folks: I’ve just received word that police are now in search—”
I slammed my thumb on the power button of the TV remote controller and bolted for the window. The window wouldn’t give as I tried to lift it open, so I grabbed the nearby end table and shattered through the glass no sooner than the police plowed through the door of my room.
Down below, reporters and a swarm of fans with my t-shirts all screamed up at me. There was a way out, for sure. I could’ve escaped through a set of emergency ladders around the hotel, but I hesitated at the sight of at least 300 people cheering me on. Didn’t they get it? I guessed there were a lot of people who didn’t get it back then. Now I had to choose between escape and perpetuating the very thing I detested. It was either that or I’d have to succumb to the officers’ efforts to arrest me and go to jail as a wife-beater. One more glance at all the zombies below on the streets and I decided to do what was right. The right thing was not the rage back then. Arms straight out in front of me, I dropped to my knees and said to the police officers, “Please."
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By nature, literature has always remained somewhat conservative. I don't mean this in any political way, and I don't mean the content is too PG (I think that wave is almost over). When I say literature is a bit too conservative, I mean the concept of a book or publication. Literature has always been slow to react, as we saw with the Big 6's hesitance towards eBooks. And even though we're somewhere in the transition from print to digital, I don't think the eBook will ever save literature, so to speak. I've come up with 3 ideas for literature to save itself, or otherwise it might contribute to it's own death.
From day one, we learn plagiarism is a big no-no. Likewise, we tend to dislike anyone who "borrows" our hard work, whether in the case of a story or a witticism.
But can someone borrow just a little and get away with it?
For instance, music producers tend to pay an "homage" to other artists by sampling their tracks. We've seen in the past how record labels can sue each other for sharing too much of the same work. Does the same rule apply to literature?
There's a good chance this post will piss a lot of people off. See, this one is all about publishing - what it is and it isn't. It's no secret that No-Injury Policy is self-published, but trust me, there's a great deal of trepidation as I type this sentence. See, self-published works often procure the curious eye and the furrowed brow. Self-publishing is said to be for the impatient, the lazy, and the worst of writers. But ever wonder who says such things? Consider this: I, like many authors, have a dream of one day being part of either Random House or Penguin Group. That means you made it, right? If you guessed "yes", the you really need to keep on reading.
When expectations are high, money is tight, love is tainted and stress is ubiquitous, the citizens of Chase County will do anything to make sure they survive. From the deconstruction of a town to frivolous intercourse with strangers, No-Injury Policy explores the dark depths of human nature when social pressures peak.
No sooner than the meek taste retribution, however, they encounter the demons that have aided authority figures to the top - demons that refuse to lose control no matter what it takes.
No-Injury Policy is the 1st short story collection by C.M. Humphries, showcasing seven of the eeriest tales from every town in Chase County: Raven's Crook, Lovington, Lakeside, and Long Brooke.
Following along as I provide a snippet of each story in the collection. If there's a picture to the left of the premise, that means I blogged on a topic from the story. Be sure to check them all out.
Let's face it, we're part of an interesting historical period. Or several. There almost seems to be an ideological Civil War taking place within the United States, one that might determine what is right, what is acceptable, and what is illegal. No matter what your stance is on an issue, you probably realize it's important to stand up for what you believe. However, let me suggest that you spend a little more thinking than acting.
(BLOG ETHIC NOTE: You might notice I use "they" instead of "he" or "she" in many of my posts. This is an effort to remain gender-neutral and a choice of craft I implemented during linguistics courses at Ball State University,)
The reason show is more of focus than tell in a story is all due to the way we perceive information as human beings. Interestingly enough, Amanda Davis, a Byrn Mwar student, wrote, "It's become clear to me that humans' primary sight organ is our brain."
Even the recent democratic speech made by Bill Clinton tried to apply this notion. Rather than making promises to change America, he spent time getting the audience to visualize the democratic plan step-by-step with actual facts and practical explanation. Whether you side with democrats isn't relevant in order to see the way Clinton came off more emphatic and believable than any of the other speakers for any side of the presidential race.
If you apply this theory to the page, you'll quickly realize why certain books entertain and inform better than others. Sure words can be written on the page that tell the story. With a little more craft, a great description can provide an excellent visualization of geography and set the tone. But what's more effective, is constructing a story in a such a way that the reader can relate to multiple layers of the story, especially a character's actions - what a character does without much explanation.
In No-Injury Policy, I strive to showcase stories that rely more on character interaction than anything else. I haven't neglected eloquent description, and sometimes a little tell sets the scene like the beginning to a theater production. But if a character does something, then it's important that they don't need to say why. It should be obvious. And as for the things said character does, readers should be able to think, "Yeah, I thought about doing something like that before."
The general concept is to set characters in pressing social constructs (that nature of trangressive fiction) and have them live out the reactions we all wished we could live out. One example is the story "Sleep" from No-Injury Policy. In this story, a character named Adam Hope is a recent graduate/writer (how creative of me, right?) who is pressed by the norm of finding a "real" job. In short, he loses a lot of sleep while trying. We've all been in situations during which stress kept us wide awake through the night.
However, Hope is sickened by the expectation of having a great career right off the bat. The thing is, he's not alone. The rest of Long Brooke can't sleep, and soon they'll all going to show society just what they think. The idea of demonstrating our angers and frustrations to someone or something pressing is a dream for many of us; therefore I hope many of you will enjoy the tale. Admittedly, the story's a little off-the-wall.
It's this kind of retaliation that I think makes a good story. A character is in an extreme version of everyday life, faced with crushing social constructs, they want to break free, show people what they think of their norms, and pursue a vocation they truly enjoy. In most cases, a character who acts out the way we all think about doing is always the protagonist in our eyes.
Occasionally the bad buy will make us cheer on the inside, but that doesn't mean the character is the antagonist. He could simply be the anti-hero, or he could be the antagonist in the literal sense: The opposing force in front of a hero's goals. Then again, every protagonist is someone else's antagonist.
The same argument could be made for recent college graduates. You spend four years deep in ideology and practice, but once there's a taste of the real world, things change. Some of us live out our dreams. Some of us keep trying. And the weaker of us simply gives in. As the butler from "No-Injury Policy" says, "You're too young to understand now. You might say you would't do things just for money, but when you're an adult you'll be surprised at what you won't do for money."
Of course, the longer you live, the more you'll become for which you'll become responsible. In this sense, priorities need to be made in order to fulfill those responsibilities, but the dream still lives on somewhere. And this is where a good story comes in: It can at least allow us to imagine the things we always wanted to do. It only makes sense a good story can relate to us in such a manner.
While I aim to have my characters live out our best and worst ideas, it's important to note they are all "manning up." This is the difference between a great speaker and mumbler. It's the difference between a good character and a flat one. And it's crucial to real-life. In college, you learn all the things that are important to you. In some cases, you might even have a strong sense ethics. Unless you act out what you know, the information can dry out and render itself useless.
If you wish the world would operate a different way - a better way - practice that method in front of it in a manner is relatable to many, one which they can support. You might just be the catalyst for revolution.
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Earlier last week I was terrified to hear the iPhone 5 announcement. While Apple mentioned the retina display, the longer screen, Siri, it's light weight, and better resolution, no one really cared. People were all in line waiting for the release date to be announced. (By the way if you pre-order, the ship date has been pushed back.) Did you know Apple doesn't like to use the correct smart phone jargon? Their LTE software is being called "Ultrafast Wireless". Wow.
Now, it's not the fact that the iPhone isn't a huge improvement that bugs me. Personally, if you're excited about the new phone, be excited. It's hard to be excited these days, right? But the thing is, why the hell is anyone excited about the release date of a $300 phone? What other product doesn't need to introduce itself or convince consumers that it's worth buying?
Apple reps could have taken the stage and said, "We went back to our roots by making the iPhone the same size and weight as the original iPod, only it has the screen of the second gen. Oh, and the plastic mixed with the glass case smells like shit," and people still would throw their hard-earned money at Apple.
It beats the pinwheel.
To be clear, this isn't Apple-bashing (or is it mashing?). This is just a guy seeing such a wicked end to consumerism. Look, money exists. Even as an idealist, I get it. Money buys things. People with money can buy very nice things. I get it.
But should we beg a company to announce its next "slight" upgrade? Also, are we trusting smart phones too much?
To show you where I stand, I still have an old 3GS because it was $50 around the time my last phone broke. Admittedly, the iPhone is pretty cool, and I use it All.The.Time. For my next phone, I've been thinking of an Android, but the one fear settling at the back of my mind is how many viruses could infiltrate one of those phones. Then again, I don't look at porn on my smart phone, so I should be safe.
And there's my trust as a consumer. As long as I don't do anything wrong, I should be safe with a freakishly expensive phone. As for Apple users, most people will agree they like Apple products for all kinds of bullshitty reasons, especially the fact that Apple cannot be brought down by a virus.
Well, that's actually wrong. According to this Telegraph article, Apple dropped their "virus immunity" claims back in June of 2012. While I attended Ball State University there was a major OS virus break out. Just last April, I major Trojan invasion occurred under the guise of an Adobe Flash Update.
Computer viruses aren't the fear for me here. Apple isn't the only phone I'm talking about; it's the easiest example. When personal computers started to end up in nearly every home in America, there were major hacks. There still are major hacks. Apple or PC, every so often, there's a major cyber attack. My fear is that smart phones are at their peak, and soon they will all be hacked too.
"Here are the scary numbers: Cyberattacks on mobile phones rose by a factor of six this year, according to Intel (INTC, Fortune 500) subsidiary McAfee. Four in 10 mobile users will click an unsafe link on a smartphone this year, according to Lookout Security." - CNN.
With computers, people feel a lot safer knowing they can control the performance of their machine. For instance, to avoid viruses, check out the details of every site, link, or email before you click, download, or open. For me, even if a site is said to be legitimate, I won't click on anything if it looks like a 5th grader made the site with Paint.
However, on mobile sites, what looks legitimate? Every site with a mobile option is usually plain and clean. This makes it easy to click the wrong link. Soon enough, you're phone could be invaded. And let me ask you, how do you update your anti -virus, -spyware, and -malware software manually on your phone?
Perhaps all of this is a little Y2K in nature, but I'd be curious to see if anyone else agrees. I don't suspect people will like this article if they just forked over some big bucks for the 5.
Do You Think We Trust Smart Phones Too Much?
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There's no reason to despise Young Adult novels simply because they're geared towards teens. In fact, there have always been Y.A. novels (remember good ol' The Perks of Being a Wallflower or Flowers for Algernon?). What should be a concern, however, is the way Y.A. books could affect the way our youth will read in the future.
Apples to Bookworms
I'll reiterate so there's no confusion: I don't mind Y.A. novels. Granted Twilight, The Hunger Games, and Harry Potter allusions bore me to death at times, all of the Y.A. series have been crucial to literature in the last 20 years for two main reasons:
1.) Y.A. books, especially fiction, have inspired more teens than ever to read. In fact, since 2007, teens have dominated certain markets which were normally ruled by 20- to 40-year-old women.
2.) Literature, especially genre fiction, needed a fresh look. Let's face it, Vanilla Ice was cool before he wasn't, right? Dean Koontz used to be as much of a household name as Stephen King and has holds as many, if not more, titles to his pen name, yet I encounter countless individuals who've never heard of the guy.
What I want to focus on is the first part - how teens are gobbling up Y.A. literature.
One post started by Andrew Karre claimed Y.A. was a disruptive force in literature akin to Apple's presence in the last 10 to 20 years. This is an interesting point. In short, a disruptive force or technology is a game changer. For instance, the way we consume technology has completely changed since the emergence of superfluous iSomethings.
Our technology is mostly for consumption now. As I've mentioned before, eReaders in the form of tablets can be more a distraction than useful tool. It's like if you could open a print publication and Skype at the same time. Even more interesting is a concept not fully explored in Karre's article. He states we have a new look on literature like we do with cell phones since the iPhone. These game changes aren't necessarily "bad", but they shake things up. If you're in doubt, my argument alone should serve as some evidence that Y.A. and Apple have both caused a stir.
While I like Karre's viewpoint, I want to explore deeper into the aforementioned comparison.
The Counter Culture Paradox
I think Y.A. literature has the ball in its court, but it's not passing when it knows it can make a 3-pointer.
Let's digress for a moment. Remember MTV when it was full of Beavis and Butthead episodes between music videos? Remember the MTV-sponsored Sprite commercials?
What happen was MTV and Coca-Cola were partnered in youth-centered social venues and certain promotions. They did substantial research, which included face-to-face interviews with their teenager consumers, and found direct advertisements didn't work. That's when they started using celebrities and sport stars to advertise in the most anti-advertisement way. In a strange sort of metacommentary, the advertisements made fun of the way people advertise, while still advertising.
Teenagers dug this concept. It was new and interesting. It responded to their views on the topic of blatant advertising. However, after awhile, teenagers became wise to their act and the above-mentioned practices became too common and fake to say the least.
This is my fear with Y.A. There's nothing wrong with a story that targets a younger audience or simply has a lot of young characters, themes, motifs, etc. The problem is the marketing.
We've all beaten vampire novels to death with our new-found stigmatization. It seems from readers to publishers, everyone is sick of monster-based melodramas. Nevertheless, more and more keep becoming available. Before long, Barnes and Noble Showrooms might have to add on a vampire wing.
See, magic took off again with the Harry Potter series. Then we had Twilight, which to be honest was an easy transition.
Now Y.A. books all seem to be very similar. They all want to cash in on this moment in literary history. From a everything-is-a-business standpoint, it makes sense. But here's what happens:
Too Dark to Read, Too Light to Care
When everyone is trying to push similar fiction onto the market, they have to reach a new extreme. This is nothing new.
The problem is, teens often want to read things that are banned. You've probably experienced a high school library removing certain novels because they were too graphic, violent, etc.
As Y.A. fiction became more popular, the amount of "darker" fiction increased. Take the term to mean whatever you'd like, but simply put, fiction had to be a bit more risque to keep teenagers reading. Then, of course, Y.A. novels like this one, reached a level in which they started being banned.
In this situation, two things happen:
1.) The books available to young adults are too bland and PG to keep their interests. This, in turn, could lead to a disinterest in literature altogether. Let's face it, if you can only consume PG information or 19th Century literature, you might lose your mind or need to take a break.
2.) Our books become cookie-cutter. Think Pokemon here. Damn popular franchise that was ruined by it's own success. The more popular it became, the shorter it's life expectancy became. Twilight is a victim here too. I don't think people would've minded the series until t-shirts latched onto clothing stores like parasites and you couldn't go a day with out someone comparing their significant other to a vampire.
If Y.A. stays tunnel-visioned, then we might see teens turning away from literature again, because most of it is too similar to care or too light to be interesting. Right now publishers have the opportunity to keep things fresh or keep cashing in. I have faith, but then again, remember how traditional publishers originally felt about this whole "eBook" thing? Like that ever caught on.
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Saturation with Ellen Hopkins
Do you think popular media today have an affect on the way literature history of future generations will look back on novels?
For instance, Mary Shelley, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut and many other authors are remembered for their works because of quality and relevance.
Today, many novels have become famous largely due to TV and film adaptations. Do you believe the popular stories of today will be remembered in their initial form or because of their saturation through other forms of media?
I was fortunate enough to ask these questions to Red Fez editor and Literary Underground mastermind Lynn Alexander and New York Times Bestselling author of such books as Crank Ellen Hopkins. Here's what they had to say:
Saturation - Lynn Alexander
Red Fez Editor Lynn Alexander
Unfortunately I think many novels are commercially successful because of the franchise model, and the ability to translate the story elements into marketable merchandise in addition to films. A good example is Twilight because it wasn't just the movies but also the way that stores like Hot Topic were able to blitz the niche market of young readers with merchandise. Walk in at the height and you would have seen DVD parties, t shirts, pencil cases, earrings . . . We saw the same for Harry Potter and now with Hunger Games.
I think that these kinds of novels will be remembered for the trend, less for the novels themselves. I find that many people have not actually READ the novels but it doesn't seem to matter.
Now on the other hand, I think there are novels that will be remembered because of their ideas - helped along by film of course but also helped by the appeal of the concept regardless of form. Think Fight Club. Great novel, great movie. Doesn't matter.
Your question says "popular stories" and if you focus there, then no. I think they will be remembered for their film adaptations and because of the saturation. What is there to really remember about many popular stories? Many are written as though they are intended to be made into movies. Many are terrible, reflect a reading level that is just sad, and probably don't deserve to be remembered.
For those that began as great books that just happened to be adapted, not necessarily as popular but successful, I think some will remember them and hopefully appreciate them in the future. I think of examples like Angela's Ashes but it also depends on the window of time when you say "popular stories of today". Today, literally? Or just modern? Adaptations of Jane Austen or Edith Wharton or F. Scott Fitzgerald or E.M. Forster will likely not change the appreciation for the novels, which are still being read despite their film counterparts. And some novels just seem stuck as novels, in a good way. Toni Morrison, for example.
Painting the Picture - Ellen Hopkins
NY Times Bestselling Author Ellen Hopkins
I think it's unfortunate that future generations will be pushed into digital mediums because of what is happening right now, today. Reading a book, on page, not onscreen, works a part of the brain that may, in fact, become extinct within a few generations. Why do I think this is sad? Because that is the CREATIVE part of the brain.
Once future generations allow other forms of media to PAINT the story, rather than letting their brains do the coloring in, they will become dumber and dumber. The same entities encouraging this today are helping to defund education. They don't want the workforce to be creative or smart--too much competition.
My heartfelt advice is to fight back! Work the creative part of your brain. Read (print). Write! Educate yourselves every way possible that does not involve some media hack telling you what is "true." Investigate. Learn what is true. Know what? It isn't easy. But if you don't, this planet has a sorry future indeed.
My Final Thoughts
The reason I was compelled to ask others what they thought was because I wasn't sure of the answer myself. I believe in the various outlets for stories, and at heart I root for the story more than I do the form.
However, there's something to be said about written works. As Ellen Hopkins pointed out, it's far more beneficial to process a story than to have it completely spelled out for you. Film and TV tell you what to see, think, hear, and so on. There's very little room for interpretation beyond the weak subtext.
Horror stories, as an example, are much scarier in the written form than up on a screen. In this instance, they use your own fears and imagination to haunt you, whereas film and TV tries to make you afraid of someone else's nightmares. Horror novels bring out your fears and play them against, while other forms tend to focus on the pop-out scare.
An oversight on my part was merchandising. In Lynn Alexander's example of Twilight, it's easy to focus on the books and the novels, but what is sometimes left out of the equation is product. After she mentioned it, I remember seeing the lunchboxes, candy, trading cards, clothes, and many other promotions. Was the book so revolutionary it reached to such heights, or was it all a clever franchise model?
Edgar Allan Poe comes to mind now. Poe made a name for himself as a writer way before anyone adapted his stories into film or used his ideas for plots and video games. When Poe items first came to stores, I thought it was kind of cool. I liked Poe and now I could flaunt such a fact, but after awhile it became too much. It was almost as though to like Poe is akin to loving cliches. Lucky for Poe, he's already cemented in history.
Will the works of our time have the same opportunity to go down in history on merit, or will they become too much of a marketing scheme and fade away?
Since I'm left with multiple theories and no prophetic powers, I leave the question with you. How do you think the constant media saturation of novels will affect they way they will be remembered in the future?
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Is Facebook A Social Horror?
Admittedly, I use social media way more than I should. It comes with the territory of promoting my writing, but I think it's obligating me to something I'm not so certain I want to be doing on a regular basis.
To clarify, I love Twitter. Twitter allows users to completely channel their interests, whereas Facebook can be too broad. For me, I started a Twitter account as a writer, which allowed me to act more like a professional and associate with people who enjoy the same things I do. Even with group divisions, though, Facebook is a great mess.
Some nights I'll be up chatting with readers, writers, and friends while I'm promoting - and well - just hanging out. During those nights, though, I occasionally feel a strange sense of loneliness. But why?
Facebook Tortures You
Studies out of MIT and Harvard suggests we feel productive on Facebook. For instance, when I promote it stimulates me some how, like I'm sharing information on what I am doing with my life. But the truth is, I'm not sharing too much personal information. I'm all shiny and Mr. Writer Pants. What else is going on, though? I'm not going to tell you, and that's part of the Facebook dilemma.
We spend hours skimming through status. We notice some people are getting those great jobs right out of college, or they're always at parties. They look great, are doing amazing things, etc. Their lives are better than hours.
For some reason, even when we recognize the online facades, our minds still feel the stressors. At least, that's one thought.
Facebook is Your Ally
Social scientists,according to this article, suggest there is no such loneliness epidemic due to entities such as Facebook:
"If we turned to historians to measure Americans’ degree of isolation over the centuries, they would probably find periods of growing and lessening social connection. The rough evidence indicates a general decline in isolation. When you think back to, say, a century ago, don’t call up some nostalgic Our Town image (although alienation is a theme in that play). Picture more accurately the millions of immigrants and jobless, farm-less Americans trekking from one part of the country to another, out of touch with family and likely to be trekking again the next year. "
Another part of the study claims we are not locked in our dungeons, observing instances of how our lives could be better; instead, it declares we are networking and keeping up with meaningful relationships.
Overall, there is evidence that shows people turn to new technologies to blame their worries on.
So my question is, WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON SOCIAL MEDIA LIKE FACEBOOK?
Do you think social media are more beneficial than haunting? Are you somewhere in between like me?
Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.