arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Dragon kitten!)
McNally Jackson Bookstore is now printing books.

I am quite literally at this moment having a tea in front of what looks like what would result if Bane from Batman were actually a villainous xerox machine, and he's just bulked up to three times his muscle mass in blocky gray plastic and monitor screens on swivel arms.

There's a dude sitting on the floor opposite, fiddling with a screwdriver and occasionally hopping up to check one of the monitors. Boxes of recycled blank printing paper line the wall under the magazine racks. So clearly this is a brand new thing.

And it is, as I'm sure you're aware, super-exciting. This is it, the future is here! Print-On-Demand publishing is sitting right in front of me. It has a little sign hanging above it what says [For custom publishing, make an appointment with our editor.]

I can see the fantastic future, and it's right here now. As these clunky beasts get faster, cheaper, and easier to run, they get installed in bookstores the world over. Books in the public domain are now only as expensive as the paper they're printed on and the ink they use.

Too, [livejournal.com profile] newsboyhat painted a corporate picture for this: a publishing world in which the companies sell the electronic file of a book like it's a song on iTunes. The bookstore sells a copy, pays the publisher, and prints the book all at once.

Less waste, more choice. Indie empowerment.

Feels good, you guys. Feels right.

Now if the tech guy can just get it up and running.
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Default)

At this point I am near convinced: there is no particular character trait for survival. There is no unique or rare drive that pushes a particular person to live through crisis. There is a natural determination to continue, a desire as much for whatever ideal status quo one adheres to as for life itself, that's common to all of us. There's physical strength and fitness. And then - predominantly - there's luck.

I'm just about to the point of rejecting survival by emotional merit. For every strong kid who makes it there's stronger, more stubborn, arguably more virtuous little bastards who don't.

These authors are talking about the kid characters in their survival stories as clearing the levels of their "real-life" video games. (Present-day fiction.) Press the right buttons, jump with the right timing, and ding! You survived genocide. +10 charisma.

Annoyed. Yes.

Other hand! When they start talking about what they know, i.e. storytelling & its naturally-occurring multiple mediums, and how getting stories through video games and movies and comics is not somehow qualitatively inferior to reading books, as an absolute, they're not utterly hopeless. I suppose.

For The Win

Jun. 9th, 2010 08:54 pm
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Justice for all)
I just consumed For The Win, Cory Doctorow's new 500-page brick, in the space of two days. Economics, online gaming, China, India, and the unionization of the working internet. It's a story of networks and masses, worldwide movement comprised of that everyday man to whom de Certeau's book is dedicated. The individual characters serve to focus the narrative, but they do not consume the story.

The book is a populist fantasy predicated on certain possible, but not probable, conditions for the near future: ever cheaper and faster internet in the poorer sectors of the globe, the establishment of a full class of games with country-size economies (i.e. the existence of a vast market for this specific addiction,) and a relatively even distribution of these games established and sustained across the Pacific Rim.

More importantly – and this is where it falls apart – though his named characters are impressively human, and complex enough to be acceptably mundane, Doctorow's crowd psychology is very elemental and very male-Anglocentric. The NPCs of his tale, so to speak, seem to be hordes of Western-mentality strawmen, mass-produced in the author's mind and shipped off to whatever setting he's chosen to churn out the next chapter. They masquerade as individual Chinese or Indian bit characters, but the [MADE IN AMERICA] stamp is so apparent it may as well be branded on their foreheads.

Factory girls call into a clandestine radio show with scripted-sounding questions, as if in a play with {CROWD:} written before the line. A frightened boy in India argues the dangers of standing up to power, in broad, philosophical, big-picture terms. Doctorow's NPCs aren't convincing as individuals because they're used as indicators for mass attitude; this may be intentional, and doesn't have to be detrimental.

The problem is, I don't believe Cory Doctorow has any idea why his own girl character in that internet cafe in Mumbai wears her hijab pinned at her neck. When he tries to have her explain, she goes for the clear terms of the classically educated, those privileged with worldwide perspective – as if equal rights for workers and equal rights for women always go clearly hand-in-hand, in anyone's mind, around the world, in philosophic purity. This is problematic because he tries to have it both ways: to cast the hijab as an individual decision, but eliminate the girl's individual voice in favor of representing a unisexed crowd. And muting the girl in favor of the whole betrays the author's male voice underneath the avatar.

The male privilege leaks again when Doctorow tries for witty banter; at one point he has his Chinese radio host pat her big tough boyfriend's arm and sassily tell him she doesn't need a protector, as if she's suddenly starring in an American action movie. No girl raised in back-country China or India is going to fit neatly into American fiction stereotype. When this happens in a text otherwise striving so obviously towards authenticity in setting, the whole thing slips. Writing exclusively in dynamic, snappy modern-fiction English is a small excuse for intercultural blinders, but not a good one.

Doctorow's clearly well-traveled. Though I can't speak firsthand to the reality of his factory-class China, his low-caste India was convincing in set and props, local power dynamic and the course of everyday habit. I believed in his Dharavi slums, the dust in the air, the backdrop description of terrible labor conditions that sounded culled from decades of independent muckraking. It's a good book with dense setting and a lucid economic philosophy.

Regarding the econ. Several object lessons in practical microeconomics are presented clearly and with great good humor. Securities fraud has never been so fun to watch. His macro is fuzzier, stretching to metaphors more suited for a stand-up comedy routine. (Please note this doesn't necessarily render them invalid.) The macro, at any rate, is less relevant to the narrative thread.

This book is worth the read solely for the insights on psychology of finance. It's almost a bonus that the thing is actually an epic tale of united masses of gamers kicking IRL ass.


It made me put down The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest. I completely forgot that I hadn't finished that.
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Default)
Picked up Novik's Victory of Eagles on my last day in Delhi, seeing as how it's clearly been far too long since my last dose of Napoleonic dragons. Looks like I'm skipping book 4, but it hardly seems a waste; Black Powder War dragged on, and it seems from a paragraph or two's dramatic summation that the events of Ivory Whatever were nothing especial in detail.

All that said, Novik has reclaimed her place in my heart. Her Majesty's Dragon may be the better book yet, but it's a very, very near thing. )
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Blue's spacing out.)
and I feel really, really good. Damn, it's nice to get 8 hours a night.

Runaways has been pretty reliably fun- I finished volume 4 last week. Want moar. Jack of Fables did not entertain.

Still watching Teen Titans. Avatar goes but slowly, but TT goes down like popcorn and it's just so stunningly well-done. Except for the bits that aren't, but now that I'm on Season 4 I haven't actually seen any of those anymore.

Kingdom Hearts 2 is lovely to watch from the beginning once you've seen enough plot to know what's going on. It's really nice to be living with fellow gamers, and I don't appreciate that fact often enough.

Beat Prince of Persia again, because lol time travel.

ICO is incomprehensible and I can't deal with it for very long at a time. It's beautiful when I can though.

Smith and Wollstonecraft share this annoying habit of blathering on about whatever they feel like without demarcating their main points clearly. Mill is pretty alright though, and what little I read of Toqueville wasn't too bad.

I get to lecture for two hours on knot classification next Tuesday evening. It'll be fun. I'll use colored chalk.

I have gingerbread cookie dough and trufflestuff chillin' in the 'fridge.

I guess that concludes your irregular State of the Lina address. Needs moar language and arting. =/
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Duo: lol uzi)
Marvel's Runaways is good shit.

I want more.

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January 2012

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