Monday, 30 January 2012

The Vampyre

Nowadays mainstream bookshops seem to have a whole section devoted to vampire novels, which usually seem to be some form of undead Mills & Boon. Like many classic monsters the vampire comes and goes in the night, waxing and waning in popularity. Where did the vampire fiction genre come from?

Many would say Bram Stoker's Dracula, published in 1897 (download the novel at the excellent Project Gutenberg site, as text or audio file). However, the first novella which established many of the vampire-in-fiction tropes was The Vampyre, published in 1819 by John Polidori. It featured an aristocratic vampire (Lord Ruthven) with a bestial interior: an irresistible seducer of women and immortal corrupter of morals.

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Friday, 27 January 2012

Friday, 20 January 2012

Chips on a Friday


The smell reminded me of greasy chips and greasy chip lives, fat-spattered gowns, asking for the scrapings for 20p and covering them with vinegar and tomato sauce and thinking it was a treat from Charlie's Chippy. Friday night occasional treats too, and the inevitable dilemma: what to have with the chips? Fish, sausage, cheese and onion pie, or steak and kidney pie? And what to go on the chips: gravy, beans, mushy peas, or curry sauce? That was old me in Urmston, but I remember walking past Charlie's years later, towards the park, newly veggie and being more interested in the health shop than Charlie’s chips (the health shop’s gone now; so has the park; Urmston’s shit nowadays), and it was obviously a new life for me, something I wasn’t used to, because I was thirsty and bought a carton of chocolate milkshake in the health shop, but nearly gagged when I tried to drink it, it was so thick and clotted and curdle-gelid, and my friend agreed it must be off; but then I noticed it wasn't milkshake anyway, it was ‘chocolate dessert’, some kind of cold custard, and it reminded me that there was lots to learn, and what you grow up with doesn't amount to the whole world of choices that exist.
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Monday, 16 January 2012

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

"Would you like your e-books with or without DRM, Sir?" Piracy, profit, publishers, progress and paranoia


Sales of e-books continue to rise. New formats of e-book reader keep being released. But that's enough good news. Instead let's talk about DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) again, since I've read a number of relevant articles recently. As a re-cap, I have discussed it in the following blog posts:
I've given examples of authors who have views on the subject which are similar to mine in the past, and I came across another recently, Harry Freedman in his article Why I'm Not Worried by E-book Piracy. I don't agree with every point, but it is certainly true that the 'threat of piracy' is a red herring in most cases, a distraction. It leads to money being pumped into new DRM systems and creates a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby more and more people are put off the castrated legitimate offering. The ultimate twist is that DRM doesn't work at all in the way it is intended to, since all DRM can be stripped out, whatever the media; yet the more complex the DRM is - in order to try and prevent that - the more complications it causes for customers, and the more money has to be spent on it, like an arms war that cannot be won. This cartoon backs up that point in a humorous way. One of the things I love about indie outfits (whether game makers, musicians, or writers) is that they often avoid including DRM, meaning the experience of buying from them goes much more smoothly, and I am left with the desire to continue to support them. I think this is a large factor for many would-be purchasers. After all, DRM says, "I don't trust you". It is an awful statement to begin any relationship with. Have you ever been in a shop where they watch you like a hawk? How does it make you feel? What about when you go into another shop where you're trusted, with a 'take a penny, leave a penny' pot, where they don't mind if you pop back later with the 10p you were short of? I know which shop I would prefer to go back to. Publishers should focus on the customer and getting their books into as many hands as possible, not lock their doors and refuse to go out in case someone robs their house.

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Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Animal Kingdom (film)

Ben Mendelsohn and Laura Wheelwright as 'Pope' and Nicky

Animal Kingdom is an excellent, tense and believable film, and is well worth watching if you want to try to analyse how the emotional effects are achieved with subtlety. The characters retain interest and complexity, and observing the way they disintegrate under pressure is compulsive to watch, accompanied by mounting unease and horror. It is a realistic portrayal of normalised deviancy, and Ben Mendelsohn's character of 'Pope' undergoes a riveting gradual transformation from the least scary character into a figure of nightmare via a horrifying and (probably) unexpected twist. All writers can learn from good writing in any media, so don't discount close observation of a film as being a good source for analysis.
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