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  • 31 March, 2009

    R. Crumb to Publish a Satire of the Bible

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 8:28 am permalink

    From the Guardian.uk:

    The famously subversive US cartoonist Robert Crumb has announced the completion of his long-awaited take on the Book of Genesis.

    The acclaimed satirist revealed on his personal website that he had finished the project, which is out this autumn, and which his UK publisher is predicting will “provoke the religious right”. Four years in the making, Crumb worked from the King James Bible and Robert Alter’s translation to reinterpret the Book of Genesis, from the Creation via Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to Noah boarding his ark.

    This sounds like fun. Must keep it in mind.

  • 24 March, 2009

    NEWW weekend.

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 4:55 pm permalink

    This past weekend I got to go to the first ever New England Webcomics Weekend. I packed a change of clothes and Adriano in a rental car on Friday morning and drive up to Northampton, Mass:

    The main attraction of NEWW was, of course, the creators themselves, and many were in attendance, signing books and sketching for their fans. Among them were Steven Cloud (and beard) of Boy on a Stick and Slither; Emily Horne and Joey Comeau (who is hilarious in person) of A Softer World; Danielle Corsetto of Girls With Slingshots; the ever-effusive Spike of Templar, AZ; Chris Hastings of Dr. McNinja; Jeph Jaques of Questionable Content; Scott Kurtz of PvP; David Malki! of Wondermark; Kris Wilson of Cyanide and Happiness; and a surprise appearance by Randall Munroe of xkcd. Honourable mention goes to Anders Loves Maria’s Rene Engström, who made it out all the way from Sweden (yes, I had a fanboy moment, so sue me). To a person, all these creators were extremely gracious and funny, and certainly imbued the con with an intimate and friendly atmosphere.

    More at Tor.com: New England Webcomics Weekend 2009.

  • 4 February, 2009

    Look ma, I’m in the trade rags!

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 11:41 am permalink

    A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Publishers Weekly about Tor.com‘s comics content. The piece featuring the interview has now gone live—just in time for Comic Con! If I remember correctly, I think I may have been misquoted at the end where I talk about “…the creative-commons inspired Cory Doctorow-ish kind of ethos,” but it’s more of a mash-up of things I did say anyway, so no harm done. Anyway, go check it out.

    Tor.com Offers New Sci-fi and Fantasy Webcomics

  • 8 January, 2009

    I shall be bloviating at NY Comic Con

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 4:27 pm permalink

    One of my goals for this year is to not let The Sleekness lie fallow, and one of the ways I’ll be achieving that is by stealing from myself: I’ll be doing a lot of cross-posting from my blogging (such as it is) on Tor.com. To wit:

    New York Comic Con (Feb. 6-8) has published its schedule of events on its site. Check out the full list of panels and talks here, and start planning your weekend. Tor.com is holding a panel (moderated by yours truly—yeah, somebody was clearly off their meds when they approved this), focusing on online fiction and the changing role of traditional print publishers on the internet. More or less. Your mileage may vary. We may just end up talking about medieval siege engines or something.

    Regardless, if you’re in town for the con, do drop by and say “hi.”

    Tor.com—NYCC programming schedule goes live, or: I’m in way over my head.

  • 26 December, 2008

    On the Publishocalypse

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 1:02 pm permalink

    Salon.com’s got a nice post-game on the Publishocalypse that went down earlier this month in Jason Boog’s “Read it and weep.”

    Who will survive publishing’s Ice Age? Undoubtedly, the companies that can command developments in the impending digital book revolution.

    Well thanks, Captain Obvious. The word “book” in the phrase “digital book revolution” is unnecessary—the so-called digital revolution is upon, above, behind, around, inside, between and [insert more prepositions here] us, and it affects everything. To think that printed books are somehow immune to the sea-change that the information economy is imposing on our society is silly and near-sighted, to say the least.

    The question isn’t so much the “what”—it’s the “how ” of the matter that really has a lot of people stumped. For what it’s worth, I don’t disagree with Boog: the real winners here will be the small, agile shops. Hopefully the indies, like McSweeny’s, and Subterranean Press in the SF/F world, but also (and I admit I’m slightly biased, because well, I’d like to keep my job for now, thanks) small spinoffs from large, corporate publishers like HarperStudio and Tor.com.

    Working in publishing, being relatively new to it, and being involved in one large publishing corporation’s efforts to make sense of this series of tubes, I have some thoughts about how things should maybe play out in order for publishers to adapt to modern times.

    On the role of the Publisher

    I think publishers (and editors) need to start thinking in slightly more media-agnostic terms, and they need to embrace the opportunities afforded by being shoved into the digital age (sometimes kicking and screaming, sometimes not), where your cost-per-unit is not dependent on bulky, expensive, and wasteful physical manufacturing processes (which, in essence, is what commercial book-printing is). While there are other costs associated with eBook production that may not be evident at first look (especially at the onset), electronic always trumps physical when it comes to the accessibility of the means of production.

    Additionally, I think fiction editors need to look beyond the novel—or even the book as we know it—as the final product of their efforts. To paraphrase a co-worker, the truly great editor is an advocate for his authors and their ideas, and I think that this advocacy needs to extend into as many realms as necessary. Upon acquisition, an editor should ask themselves not what kind of book should this piece of intellectual property become, but whether it should become a book at all! Should it instead be an information-dense website; or a live-action movie; or a serialized, episodic narrative on the internet (see how far I’ll bend over backwards to not say “TV show”?), or a video game; or a presentation (think Al Gore); or a work of graphic narrative; or an animated movie (these last two most definitely NOT being the same thing)? Once the editor and the author have decided what this piece of IP should be, media-wise, it’s then the editor’s job, with the backing of the publisher, to find the correct producers for that idea, be they printers, eBook-makers, film-makers, game designers, comics artists, etc.

    On books, specifically

    As a book lover and collector, I do think there will be a space for printed and bound books for a long time to come1. I just think that it will be a very limited market: for people who like books as objects, for art or photography books (including graphic storytelling), or beautiful collections.

    On the technological side, however, things are moving fast. People are starting to read on their iPhones and other smartphones, the ePub format is gaining some serious traction, and devices like the Kindle and the Sony Reader are also becoming more sophisticated (think about the current iteration of the Kindle and similar devices as the same as the 13-inch, black and white tube television prevalent in the fiftes ans sixties). I wouldn’t be surprised to see colour, increased resolution, and maybe even rudimentary animation on eInk technology by the end of 2009, at least in proof-of-concept form.

    This very well may be wishful thinking, but my vision for a holistic book publisher of the future is one which concerns itself with both the analogue and the digital life of a work of fiction, and works at or around three editions of a work that probably need to be published at the same time—this whole business of waiting a year to publish a mass market edition of a book is nonsense in a digital world.

    1- Premium Printed Edition—The first edition would be a physical object: a beautifully-designed Premium Printed Edition, exquisitely-printed, bound in small numbers, destined for a small market of higher-end customers and collectors—much like music and movie boxed-sets.  Accompanying this tome would be a Unabridged Digital First Edition, which would include any multimedia elements that make up a part of the book (such as embedded movies, music, maps, illustrations, etc); as well as ancillary material that is not necessarily part of the book itself (think documentaries on related subjects, interviews with the author, etc). This would sell for a premium price, let’s say $50-$602.

    2- Unabridged Digital Edition—At the same time as the Premium Printed Edition is released, you release that Unabridged Digital Edition that you included with the Premium Printed Edition as a stand-alone purchase, priced at around $10-$20 bucks. I think this price range is justifiable for a first electronic edition that is chock-full with additional elements that you don’t have in a regular, printed edition of a book. Additionally, buying this edition automatically entitles the buyer to download future, updated editions of the same book, either for free, or for a ridiculously low fee (I’m thinking like a dollar). Once you start including multimedia content with a work of fiction, and packaging it all together in an attractive way, editions become version numbers, and books truly become software in an ideological sense. This changes the work of an editor and an author: if an author so chooses, their work is never finished, and the author retains a very accessible way of adding, amending, and otherwise iterating on a previously-published work in a timely manner; likewise, an editor becomes even more of a shepherd, and the act of editing a book can become an ongoing curatorial pursuit. But I digress. Moving on…

    3- Abridged Digital Edition—Still at the same time as the Premium Printed Edition and the Unabridged Digital Edition are released (remember, staggered publishing is for suckers in the digital age—you only need to walk Canal street on a movie’s theater release date to see the DVDs on display, and the fallacy in that model), you release the Abridged Digital Edition at mass-market prices: Say, $2-6 bucks, tops. This Abridged Edition is just the plaintext of the work in question—well-designed, nicely typeset, but no multimedia, no maps, no art, no entitlement to future iterations, no nothing. Words on a screen. Hell, if it were me, I’d offer this edition as a free download.

    An aside: While incredibly nifty technology, I see Print-on-Demand as a stopgap measure between the phasing out of mass markets and trade paperbacks, and the true ubiquitousness of e-reading, so it doesn’t really fit in this model.

    As it becomes more and more obvious that digital is the way to go for publishing (not that it ever wasn’t, really, it’s just that the big boys are now actually altering course on their big boats), many ideas will hit the market, and many will die before a successful model is found. This, I think, is a scheme that could be sustainable, and embraces the best of both the digital and the analogue worlds. Would it work? Is it too simplistic an approach? Is it going too much against accepted practices in the publising industry? Does it leave too many people that now depend on the infrastructure surrounding printed books out in the cold? I don’t know. What do you think?

    1 At least until people around my age all die off—children nowadays are consuming most of their media via digital interfaces earlier and much more often than before. I would be very surprised if a thirty-year-old of 2030 has a problem with reading off a screen, like many of my contemporaries do.

    2 All dollar values are purely off-the cuff, and more meant to reflect a relative pricing scale for different editions, than reflect any real costs associated with publishing—I’m just sayin’. A formal P&L is not part of this excercise…yet.

  • 28 October, 2008

    On Tor.com: A Closer Look at Watching the Watchmen

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 3:38 pm permalink

    My close reading of Watching the Watchmen is up on Tor.com, for those interested. I really enjoyed this book, especially considering that I was very skeptical as to its value, in light of the excellent Absolute edition of this seminal work. Go, take a look-see.

  • 28 August, 2008

    New SF/F cover Review

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 8:48 pm permalink

    Over on Tor.com: Soon I Will Be Invincible

    And on The New Sleekness: More hand-waving.

  • 28 July, 2008

    Comic Con debrief, and An Unexpected Personal Day

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 1:31 pm permalink

    Comic Con is now over. It was fun, and hectic, and full of work, and some booze, and lots of cool, cool people. One of the highlights for me, as with Comic Con New York, was to meet so many awesome people who I either know only through IM or Twitter, or who I don’t know at all, but am familiar with their work. Among the former group, Tobias S. Buckell (one of our writers at Tor. Go check out his work now, you won’t be disappointed) and I found that we have even more in common than we thought before we met face to face and had a few drinks. Among the latter, I got to meet Charles Stross and Vernor Vinge, two of my favorite authors. Additionally, Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders from io9 turned out to be some of the coolest, most gracious, fun, and genuinely kind people I’ve met here. I’m honored to have them as colleagues.

    And then there are the illustrators. I’ve met and gotten to know many people whose work I’ve admired from afar for a very long time, such as Gregory Manchess (whose demo was fascinating. Watching him work is awe-inspiring), Jon Foster, Terry Moore, Donato Giancola, Dave Palumbo, Rebecca Guay, Dan Dos Santos, Todd Lockwood, and Stephan Martiniere; and have found them to be wonderfully witty, gracious, intelligent, and incredibly interesting, to a person. As I sat at a hotel lobby bar last night, having a beer with all these cats (and trying not to nod off due to lack of sleep), I couldn’t imagine that I could be luckier. Who would have thought, five years ago, when I was grinding through and drowning in the advertising world, that I would be sharing good times with the very same people I’ve admired from afar since I first went to college, waaay back in 1998?

    Speaking of luck, my flight back to NYC last night was canceled due to weather, so I’m ‘stuck’ in San Diego until tonight. This means that I get to go to the San Diego Zoo later on in the day, as I’d originally planned to do before the Con started, but didn’t have the time. Even better: I get to go with a bunch of the aforementioned illustrators. Life works out, sometimes.

  • 20 July, 2008

    It’s go-live time for Tor.com

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 12:12 pm permalink

    The not-so-super-seekrit project that’s been sucking down so much of everyone’s time over at Tor Books finally goes live today. Tor.com is a new science-fiction and fantasy themed community site, where a whole lot of luminaries from the SF/F fandom community will be contributing content about ‘Science Fiction. Fantasy. The Universe. And Related Subjects.’, as the tagline says.

    Tor.com started as a glimmer in the eyes of Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Irene Gallo, and Fritz Foy, over a year ago. With the design direction of regular badass Jamie Stafford-Hill, they’ve been working tirelessly, quietly, and sometimes not-so-quietly on it since. Tor.com will feature original content from some of SF/F’s most talented voices, such as John Scalzi, Charles Stross, and Cory Doctorow; as well as blogging from both genre authors and genre fans (including yours truly). It also features a kickass gallery of SF/F artists, with work from cover artists, game designers, conceptual artists for film and TV, you name it. Additionally, the site is a social network, so you can create a profile and connect with artists, writers, and fellow fans.

    As launch date loomed closer, and it came time to recruit bloggers and beta testers, pnh and Irene approached me to see if I would be interested in contributing, to which I replied “Yeah!”. Once they realized that launch date would be the same week as Comic Con San Diego, and that they’d need people there to cover what is probably one of the largest fandom events of the year, Irene popped into my office and asked me if I wanted to go to Comic Con, to which I replied “Fuck yeah!”.

    So I’ll be going to and blogging from Comic Con San Diego this week. Don’t hate me too much.

    Aside from reportage, I’ll also be posting about other SF/F-related stuff on Tor.com, including a regular column which was originally planned for this site. A while ago, the crew in the art department at Tor realized that there really was no SF/F-specific book cover review blog out there, and we felt there should be. After all, SF/F book design is a very particular thing: we are much more illustration heavy than other genres, we have a particular visual language and ideosyncracies that may be beyond (or beside) the scope of traditional book cover reviews. I shot off an email to my co-workers proposing to start something up, and it became incredibly obvious that the perfect home for a feature like that would be Tor.com. So there you go. Here’s a link to the initial post for that, outlining all the ins-and-outs of how it’s gonna work.

  • 1 July, 2008

    Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 11:30 am permalink


    Teaser from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog on Vimeo.
    I can’t wait to see this. The fruits of extra-curricular (as in, not within the studio system) efforts from Joss Whedon during the writer’s strike, Dr. Horrible promises to be the beginning of a slew of independent productions from established old-media talent, taking their toys and playing elsewhere, away from the profit-crazed monolith that is Hollywood. The plan is to release three episodes for free streaming on July 15th, 17th, and 19th. They’ll keep them online for a short while, then take them down in order to sell downloads and an extra features-packed DVD. Sounds like a good idea to me. From the Dr. Horrible youtube site:

    The story of a low-rent super-villain, the hero who keeps beating him up, and the cute girl from the laundromat he’s too shy to talk to. Featuring Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Horrible, Nathan Fillion as Captain Hammer, Felicia Day as Penny and a cast of dozens.

    Fillion. Whedon. The intertubez. Doogie Howser. Full of win. The cast and Whedon will be on a panel at Comic Con San Diego later this month, I’m going to try to catch that, and grill ‘em with questions. In the meantime, here’s a fansite which has been keeping everyone up to date on Dr. Horrible-related happenings.