Going on the Account: Arrrrr! Esssss! Teeeeee!…..

As part of the news about SoapNnet becoming Disney Junior, there was passing mention about this new channel becoming the home of the new educational series JAKE AND THE NEVER LAND PIRATES.

On the one hand, having a pirate version of Dora and Diego teaching kids how to play with each other sounds laudable on the surface.  And I’m sure as heck not going to discourage people from creating pirate properties, no sir.

Then again, what better way to get kids to learn teamwork than having them go on the account out in the playground or park?  And do we really need to see Disney’s version of Captain Hook and Smee as stand-ins for Swiper and the Bobo Brothers?

Can tell I have a kid much…?
And for the extra-observant amongst you, anyone else on seeing the characters mentioned above started to notice something as of Part the Two Hundred Twenty Fourth…?

Going on the Account: Lights! Cameras! Dust Jacket Blurbs!

It’s been pretty quiet amongst the pirates; a news search online gets you more hits about the folks from Pittsburgh than those from Somalia.

It got so quiet, it became hard to miss this article in the NY TIMES about the 2010 Moby Awards for book trailers.

Yes, trailers.  For books.  With categories for low budget / indie books.

Like this one…

Lord almighty, how in the hell do I keep up with this?  It’s tough enough that I have to do all the marketing for the book I’m also writing by being my own press agent, taking on a one-man publishing enterprise while doing the father and husband gig and the job (FNORD), as they say in Austin…

And now I, the sole publicity department, have to contract out this dinky little production company, the one consisting of me, to do some film to get people interested in the book?  (I’m not sure I have the liquid capital needed to hire a professional shop for this, sorry.)  And if I’m doing a short film that highlights the book, isn’t the inevitable question going to be, “Hey, why not make a small screen adaptation?”

Is there a chance we’re losing sight of something here?  Maybe that we’re tying in McLuhanesque ‘cool’ media to ‘hot’ media with potentially self-defeating results, or that there’s a reason writers usually don’t star in their own screenplays.  (And no, you should not throw Matt Damon and Ben Affleck at me; you know where their true allegiances lie…)  And maybe if I was writing something so small in scale that the usual Sundance nominee would look like THE TEN COMMANDMENTS by comparison, then it might be possible, but c’mon!

Seriously, I draw pictures about as well as the Deepwater Horizon draws oil to the surface, so animation’s out for me.  Closest we could get would be with simple modeling tools, which means I could do a scene where the Casa comes down on the Gale using two Lego ships in the bathtub.  And yeah, typing that sentence is as lame as imagining it…

But over and above this sense of being shoved aside by a marketing trend is the futility that seems inherent in the task, going back to a point made earlier.  Once you find that you need visuals to promote words, you set yourself up for limiting your output by having to keep in mind, “Would this make a good YouTube upload?”  When the Buggles sang “Video Killed the Radio Star,” there was more than just flippant irony being presented; the effects of MTV on the music industry have been rehashed quite often, and serve as a warning for the folks who are excited about using video to promote books.

Already there are clear delineations between writing prose and screen writing, in terms of what works in one medium versus the other.  If we blur that further, where what goes up on screen well needs to be an essential component of the prose, we’ve ceded the medium and abandoned it.  And if all writing is writing for the screen, we end up with a much poorer, shallower body of work we can point to.

If anyone were to film a scene from the novel, it’d have to be someone other than myself.  I’d not say no, though I’d give fair warning as a I do above as to what’s involved here…

Going on the Account: A Tale of Two Justices

Sometimes the dichotomy can be striking.

On the one hand, Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse pled guilty to hijacking the Maersk Alabama last year, and is looking at a minimum of 27 years for the two charges he pled on.  (He was facing six counts, but as part of the plea deal four were dropped.)  His mother, as would any mom out there (I hope), is pleading for leniency for her son, stating that what happened to her baby was too harsh.

Then again, Jay Bahadur pointed out (via the BBC) that the ten pirates repelled after trying to storm the Moscow University, who were released after the attack due to “insufficient legal grounds” for a trial, were condemned to a rubber boat with no navigational equipment and left to the mercy of the Indian Ocean, most likely to die at sea.  Looking for mercy from the Indian Ocean is a lot like looking to get Geena Davis to sign on for a sequel to CUTTHROAT ISLAND; given a choice, I’d put the better money on being in the dingy…

Two radically different ways to deal with pirates; only the luck of the draw in choosing whom to go after sealed these crews’ fates.  Such is how Fortuna dances with pirates…

Going on the Account: These Waters Be Full of Sharks…

So I’m reading io9 again (where I comment regularly, so if anyone wants to see me make a fool of myself in front of an even wider audience, grab the popcorn…) and come across this article about Peter Riley’s UNIVERSES.

What catches my eye about this is that here’s another author who is sharing his novel for free, an SF tale involving alternate universes.  The reason io9 gives this mention is that the author is offering prize money for readers that follow the tale and answer questions that he’s posting about the tome.

And before you ask, sorry, no; I got a family to feed in a bad slowly improving economy…

What strikes me about the piece are both the stated intents of the contests, and the commentary this has generated.  Riley has admitted that the main intent was to draw enough interest in the work through the giveaway / dialog that he hopes will “stir up interest on the Internet in order to get the book ultimately noticed and published.”

To which the commentators logging in at io9 with reactions to this state…  Well, having been to Mr. Riley’s London, ON, and met nothing but nice folk up there, I have to assume that none of these writers live in his postal code…

Frankly, it’s a nice idea, trying to get folks to draw enough eyes to monetize the work through having someone else get interested in republishing it, but it’s not likely.  Most publishers won’t do reprints of stuff that’s online, unless there’s a better gimmick than reader contests behind it.  Celebrity for a major endeavor comes to mind, which is easy to get if you star in a blockbuster film or blow up a city, both of which are harder than they sound…

And there’s also the whole question of audience fatigue to consider as well; would a reader shell out for a bound edition of the same work that’s been available for download?  Should a writer put his or her readers through that?

I’ve always been a big believer in giving the audience a reason to put up with you.  It was hearing that the Beatles were told to “Mak show!” in Hamburg, ultimately giving them the discipline and drive toward their later triumphs, that impressed on me the bonds that tie the artist and the audience, and it’s something I’ve never forgotten.

Which is why if this work comes out in a hard format, it will not just be printouts with a cover on them.  I may tighten the chapters from 300 one-pagers down to a more manageable few with the cliff hangers blended out to make the pieces into bigger chunks (and probably end up by doing that cut 15% or so of the word count).  I’d also try and add something that would not be on the site, like maps, deck plans, some other illustrative matter if some of the talented folk I know who are better artists than I can be intimidated convinced to contribute.

Then again, I could always stick to the other plan:  Offer this novel through this outlet, and be willing to provide other work for professional consideration to other outlets while using this as my “portfolio,” my proof of myself.

Your thoughts?  I’d love to hear them, and unlike Mr. Riley, I’m from New York, so don’t feel shy about saying what you want…

Going on the Account: Flying False Flags Ne’re Did That Much Good…

My thanks to Bilge at bilgemunky.com for sending out a link to this story loaded with incredulity:

During a press conference, First Admiral Datuk Anuwi Hassan of the Royal Malaysian Navy made the following statement concerning acts of piracy off Sandakan:

“There is no piracy in our waters unlike in the peninsula; they are only sea robberies,” Anuwi said, before adding, “piracy and sea robberies have two different meanings; the people have been quoted wrongly.”

Excuse me?

I’ve seen plenty of acts of trying to ignore the facts to make something go away, from old Soviet declarations of non-personhood to “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job,” but this just shoots to the top of the list right there.  The idea that you can re-classify a pirate out of existence and make them go away with a thesaurus is at best laughable, were it not fatally delusional.  A pirate by any other name would still be just as dangerous; if you cross them, do they not shiver your timbers?

Let’s get one thing out there right now:  Piracy is one of humanity’s oldest professions.  It may not be the oldest, but it comes pretty close.  To claim that the act of seizure during transport is not piracy is as ludicrous as finding euphemisms to soft-pedal those professions older than piracy…

(And yes, I do think the definition ‘seizure during transport’ allows you to legitimately call hacking and illegal downloads piracy in the true sense of the word; in an environment that requires data to move from node to node and accumulate value in its transport, the seizure of same is no less piratanical than the actions of Calico Jack or Abdi Wali Abdulqadir Muse.)

Piracy has been with us from the earliest of days.  Piracy was practiced by the Sea Peoples, the naval barbarians swooping down on the classical world at the time Troy fell, who may have become the Philistines when they made landfall and beached their craft in the Eastern Med.

It was Anatolian pirates that seized Gaius Julius (not yet Caesar) and taught him to appreciate going after your enemies with overwhelming force.  It was the piracy practiced by the Norse as they went fara í víking that shaped northern Europe for a thousand years after the last longboat went to sea.

It was the Barbary pirates that encouraged the merchants of Europe to try sailing west if they wanted to get to the Spice Islands.  It was the Brethren of the Coast that brought representative government and venture capitalism to the New World.  It was out of privateers hired to refrain from wanton piracy that the United States Navy was born.  And it is off the coast of Somalia that we are reminded how ingrained piracy is in our bodies and souls.

And there will be pirates tomorrow, when climate change disrupts American agriculture and buccaneers based in Buffalo ply the Great Lakes to claim Canadian beef shipments meant for luxury export to the Russians.  And they will be there the day after tomorrow, when human sub-aquatic colonies built to escape the harsh conditions on land are in danger of submarines seizing transports for their cargos to end up either for sale on the black market or to help abandoned landlubbers.

And they will be there the day after that, sending sorties into low-earth orbit to intercept valuable shipments from privatized bases on the moon and asteroids.  And they will be there a few weeks later on, waiting in the Oort clouds of the stars we visit just as ships move from near-light speed to grab their contents.  And even well after that, there will be pirates in the deep black between galaxies, on station constantly like spiders in their webs, waiting with patience for morsels to come close enough to jump on.

Pirates: Get the hell use to them, damnit!  They ain’t going nowhere!