Friday, December 30, 2016

"Interstellar: The Science and Secrets of Solar Systems", from NatGeo, could show more extrasolar planets

“Interstellar”, besides being the name of a 2014 Christopher Nolan movie, is now the title of a glossy coffee table booklet, "Interstellar: The Science and Secrets of Solar Systems", by Patricia S. Daniels, for National Geographic and Times Books, 112 large pages.

The booklet comprises five chapters: “Children of the Sun”, “Rocky Worlds”, “Ringed World”, “Small Worlds”, and “Foreign Worlds.”   The material on the Sun warns us that the average Earth temperature will rise normally to 110 F in half a billion years because the Sun slowly brightens, dwarfing global warming.  And Earth probably faces an extinction-causing asteroid hit every few million years, and will need to develop the technology to deflect them.

Rocky Worlds has a spectacular mural of the volcanic surface of Venus, and says that it is very likely briny water can flow on Mars today.  The ringed worlds gives some attention to Jupiter satellites Europa and Ganymede, and thinks it is likely that some sort of life could evolve in them similar to ocean life near volcanic vents on Earth. It does not pay much attention to Titan, which has real geography.

It does give a lot of attention to Pluto and Charon and small planets beyond, in the Oort cloud, which extends almost half way to Alpha Centauri.  The section on extrasolar planets is a little disappointing.

National Geographic has a several-part “Life Beyond Earth” series free on YouTube, which is well worth investigating further.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

How do some authors sell 100 million books are more?

The Style section of the Washington Post today (Wednesday, December 21, 2016) has a long article about selling books, “Publishing’s 100 million book club: The secret to the success of writers such as Rowling, King and Coelho”.  The online version title starts with “meet the writers…”

Several aspects to this scale of commercial success seem significant.  One is that these writers simply have fans, and aggressively cater to them.  Another is that they have a sense of “what other people want” (to follow some old Writer’s Digest advice).  It’s interesting that they are willing to make their heroes somewhat flawed and vulnerable.  That’s in comparison with my own manuscript (“Angel’s Brother) where there are two heroes, one a middle aged man pretty much in mid-summer of life, and the other a college student who seems a bit like Smallville’s “Clark Kent”, or at least someone who seems much closer to “perfection” than others.  (Some other lead characters that I like are the teen pianist Ephram from WB’s “Everwood”, the young filmmaker Danny in the film “Judas Kiss” or both protagonists of “The Dark Place”, or maybe someone like Cobb in “Inception”.  Some writers have ghostwriters who write for them (without recognition).  But that makes me wonder what it would be like to write for a soap opera.

In the trade publishing business, remaining on the mid-list is no good, and big publishers of fiction often wonder if big selling first novels can lead to track records.
I recall reading Dean Koontz, “Midnight”, in the early 1990s, with a conspiracy theory of “monster” takeover appropriate for the technology known in the 80s.  The world hasn’t gone that way.
One of the biggest problems with big political thrillers is that history often doesn’t go in the direction fiction authors expect.  Irving Wallace’s “The Plot”, which I had read in the Army in 1969, never got off the ground as a promised movie (despite the outstanding setup of major international characters in the opening chapters, one of whom made obesity into a virtue) because the Soviet Union fell apart sooner than expected.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Bronx librarian brings children's books to homeless shelters

Here is an NBC News story about Colbert Nembhard, manager of the Morrisania branch of the New York City Public Library,  He brings children’s books to homeless shelters in the Bronx.

The video link, with Lester Holt interviewing  is here. (It won’t play with https turned on.)

The New York Times has a similar story Nov. 24, 2016 by Nikita Stewart here.

This is a genre I’ve never entered, but I keep getting emails for children’s books to review.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

"The Ultimate Guide to 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story'" from Entertainment Weekly (sold in supermarkets)

Supermarkets are selling “The Ultimate Guide to ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’”, 96 pages, glossy paper, published by Entertainment Weekly as a “Collector’s Edition”.

The booklet has a preface (“A childhood dream, realized”) by director Gareth Edwards, but most of the content is authored by Anthony Breznican.

On pp 24-29 there is a detailed “Star Wars” franchise timeline, which places “Rogue One” just before the time of the original 1977 movie. The “rebellion” has a female general Jyn (Felicity Jones), who is described as the kind of revolutionary young woman that might have been in the People’s Party back in 1972 when I collided with that group.  Earlier, the federation had become militarized, first with conscription and then by creating clone or robot soldiers. 

On p. 70 there is a “Cosmic Cartography” map of the “Galaxy” with the Key Planets (about 20 of them) without a clear indication of what stars the revolve around. There are galactic regions like “The Core”, “The Colonies”, the “Inner Rim”, “Expansion Region”, and “Mid Rim”.   There are routes on the diagram that make it look like a board game template (like “Global Pursuit”).  Planet seem to have single ecosystems (some may be tidally locked).  Much of this new movie happens on a newly introduced “tropical paradise” planet called “Scarif”.  On p. 68 there are typical scenes from some of the planets, starting with the richer “core worlds”.

Of course, there’s no way you could develop a political organization among different worlds in a “Hyperspace” (around different stars) without breaking the speed of light barrier, with warp drives or wormholes (or The Alcubierre Drive ).

The timeline is helpful in my contemplation of my own novel manuscripts, as what is now “Angel’s Brother” is a contracted story (from the viewpoint of two particular characters, Randy and Sal), extracted from a much longer narrative originally called “Brothers”.  At one time (in 2004) I had designed a “Hauge screenplay analysis” (here ) from the viewpoint of each of the major characters and place them on one Access database.  The “Star Wars” story line seems to have been developed along a similar technique.

I had strung together narratives called “Brothers Prequel”, “Rain on the Snow”, and “Tribunal and Rapture” (all on one Access database), from which I extracted my current 27-chapter novel manuscript. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

"Nick Denton, Peter Thiel, and the Plot to Murder Gawker" (Vanity Fair "booklet")

This isn’t a whole book, but it probably deserves to become one (like for a high school English class book report).  That is, the Vanity Fair "Hive" article (Holiday, 2016/2017) by David Margolcik, “V.C. for Vendetta”, a title based on the 2006 WB movie (“V for Vendetta” about an overthrow of a future dystopian British state).  The alternate title on line is "Nick Denton, Peter Thiel, and the Plot to Murder Gawker".

But this is about the odd legal battel between two similar personalities:  Peter Thiel, and Nick Denton.  Thiel helped bankroll (Terry Gene Bollea) Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker, which has now driven Gawker under, more or less.   I had covered this in some detail on my May 26, 2016 posting on the “BillBoushka” blog.   The magazine cover asks “what does Peter Thiel really want?” without telling.

The site is still there, as a blog, that ends with the shutdown of Aug 2016.

Both Denton and Thiel are gay, and both are libertarians.  So this sounds like the bitter battle between the GOP last spring.  Thiel could have been disturbed by Denton’s “outing” him in 2007; even then, things weren’t quite as open as they would get under Obama.  Or Thiel might not have liked the coverage of the straight-white-Asian-male world of Silicon Valley.

The article gets into the subject of crushes on straight men (a subject of filmmaker Jorge Ameer).

But Thiel  (who spoke at Trump’s convention as a proud gay man worried about bigger problems than bathroom bills in North Carolina) has a possibly critical contribution to make to the new Trump world.  He gives scholarships to entrepreneurs to skip college (which he sees as a scam to create student debt).  One of these went to Taylor Wilson, now 22, who built a fusion reactor at 14 and whose ideas could save the power grid from solar storms or terrorists some day.  However determined Trump may be to save jobs for coal miners in his base and help oil industry profits (which have helped me), Trump needs to listen to Thiel and Wilson, if he doesn’t want an enemy to make America small again. (See Clynes book review Dec. 14, 2015).

I noticed recently that former GLIL (Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty, quite active in the 1990s) president Rick Sincere has a book review blog (he talks about Jimmy Fallon and ought to track Jimmy Kimmel too).  A posting in 2014, mentions a book by Stephen Snyder-Hill, “Soldier of Change: From the Closet to the Forefront of the Gay Rights Movement”, Potomac Books.  I immediately ordered the paperback.  Apparently it covers the war in Iraq during the last days of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”;  some may be concerned about the conclusiveness of the repeal because of proposed Defense Secretary Mattis’s comments in his “Warriors and Civilians”.  I’ll review  Hill on my Wordpress blog soon.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

"Unprecedented" The Election that Changed Everything", from CNN

Today, I walked in on Politics and Prose (on a visit to the Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria) just in time for a CNN panel on the new coffee table book by Thomas Lake, edited by Jodi Enda, with a Foreword by Jake Tapper, and an Introduction by Douglas Brinkley.  The full title is “Unprecedented: The Election that Changed Everything”. The book came out less than 30 days after Trump's upset electoral win, which CNN called at 2:48 AM EST Nov. 9.

There appear to be 19 chapters, ending with “Trump’s America”, 288 pages published by Melcher Media (ISBN 978-1-59591-096-7).

The last chapter does a number on Obama’s “Yes I can” by retorting, “You can’t vote for a man who boasts about sexually assaulting women” and who has his finger on an imaginary red button.

On p. 259, the book blames the result on the erosion of the supremacy of straight white men, to identity politics, with advances for so many groups, whereas old-fashioned men who have kids, and work for a living stay in place or lose out, yes, as their jobs are sent overseas.

The earlier chapters also explore the implosion of the GOP, and the inability of conventional candidates to hold off Trump because of their “common decency.”

Trump is characterized as vulgar and secular, and not a social conservative.

Amazon sells it for $26, but this local bookstore was charging full list price of $40, although membership discounts are possible.  This reminds me of the days when some people paid list price for records and I didn’t.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Could Trump's anti-fetish over outsourcing labor affect print-on-demand books?

I have wondered if the Trump presidency could affect on-demand book publishing companies.

Many of these companies do a lot of the set-up overseas in countries like the Philippines (with whom UA relations are strained now), to take advantage of cheaper labor  This may be comparable to tech companies using labor in India or eastern European countries.

Printing, however, is still largely done in the US, because it is relatively light in labor demands and because physical books are then shipped.  Printing companies are common in the Midwest, and in the Shenandoah Valley and in Piedmont (like in North Carolina).
Trump is likely to penalize companies who set up new operations in low-labor cost less developed countries (by definition, including China and Mexico, with whom Trump has a fixation, even though China is well developed, with its low wages).  I don’t expect him to interfere with operations already outsourced in the past.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Virginia school system bans "Huck Finn" and "Mockingbird" over supposed racial slurs

Bad boy Milo Yiannopolous (Breitbart editor, banned from Twitter, etc, and rather like Shane Lyons in "Judas Kiss" although the actor who plays that character is a great person) has noted on his own Wordpress blog site that a country on the Virginia shore (the isthmus below Maryland, Accomack county) has banned both "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee and "Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain aka Samuel Clemens, post here. What about "Tom Sawyer".  I read that in 11th grade.  I read Huck in college freshman English.

I reacted with a comment pointing out a passage in "Huckleberry Finn" in Chapter 8, Page 6, according to Spark Notes (which literature teachers view as a source of cheating). It's the passage where Jim says, if you have hairy arms and a hairy chest, you will be rich.  It sounds like a substitute for being a Caucasian male (even if you look at the old World Book Encyclopedia article on race, where Caucasian body hair is "profuse" and all other races is "sparse").

Milo, by the way, says he has given up smoking by sheer will power. Good and virtuous for him.

It's worth noting that Atticus Finch, the lawyer who loses the case defending Tom Robinson, was mentioned as a major judicial influence by the federal judge who presided over Timothy McVeigh's trial (link). The character however shows racist tendencies anyway in the shocking sequel (but written first) "Go Set a Watchman" published in 2015.