BOOK NEWS – DRUNK SLUTTY ELF AND ZOMBIES

Just a quick note.  DRUNK SLUTTY ELF AND ZOMBIES has been uploaded to IngramSpark.  It can now be ordered from the 40,000 platforms, including thousands of brick and mortar bookstores that IngramSpark spark!

Just a note of explanation – IngramSpark is to print books what Amazon is to Ebooks. They’re a giant publisher and distributor, hosting many titles, and providing services to small and independent publishers.  Getting onto IngramSpark is potentially a major breakthrough.

Does that mean I’ll be getting into real bookstores?  Probably not. The economics don’t quite work.

Basically, physical bookstores operate on a rip and return basis.  They order books, they try to sell them within a specific period of time. If they don’t, then they just rip off the covers, send them back, junk the rest and only pay for what they’ve sold.  Believe it or not, that’s the way it’s been working for a hundred years, and it’s been working fine… mostly. It’s the operating mode for books, magazines and newspapers.  And it works fine for big publishers, dealing in substantial volumes.

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TINY PLASTIC MEN – JUST GO WATCH IT

Tiny Plastic Men scores AMPIA award nominations | National Screen Institute - Canada (NSI)

I’m a horrible person. I freely admit that. But I’m not horrible all the time. I have moments when I’m even okay to be around.

And when those moments happen, you’ll find me searching for the gently quirky, the strange, the oddball. All those hidden treasures and diamonds in the rough we all go blasting past, on our way to our busy lives.

Which brings me to Tiny Plastic Men, a very quirky, very fun little television series that deserves cult status and a lot more attention than it seems to have gotten.

Tiny Plastic Men is about three guys who work in a little independent toy company, Gottfried Brothers. Gottfried isn’t Mattel or Lego, but by God, they’re in there giving it their all, from board games, to action figures, to video games and somehow, they’ve managed to care themselves a niche.

Our heroes are three peons who work in the testing department: Crad, played by Chris Craddock — the everyman of the group, middle aged, divorced, burnt out, anger issues and yet somehow struggling to get by and be a decent person while pining for his boss, for whom he nurses a crush; October, played by Mark Meer, who starts off goth and gets seriously weird, and Addison, played by Matthew Alden, a kind of stereotypical lovable lunk of a manchild. Rounding out the cast are Alexandra Gottfried, played by, Belinda Cornish, daughter of old man Gottfried, and a piranha in a woman’s body, who Crad pines for. Beyond that, there’s a revolving cast of recurring characters.

Given that this is a show about three buddies working as product testers in some second string toy factory, you shouldn’t expect this to be your regular sitcom about people sitting around their apartments or having real jobs in the real world. There’s a basic silliness to the premise, a bit of surrealism, a bit of absurdity, a lot of off the wall stuff. This is not Friends, trust me. It’s not even the Big Bang Theory.

In fact, I don’t think that there’s anything quite like it. The closest I can come to is a sort of Earthbound version of Red Dwarf or perhaps a more insane version of the IT Crowd.

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THE FALL GUY STUMBLES

The Fall Guy: Ryan Gosling & Emily Blunt, Two Forces Of Barbenheimer, Get A Thumbs Up In Test ...

So, I watched the Fall Guy, starring Ryan Gosling, and a bunch of other people I don’t really care about, and I came away … “meh.” Not even “Meh!” Just… “…meh…”

I kind of wondered why. It had all the ingredients. A bankable star, big set pieces, charismatic leads and supporting crew, a story. But oddly, I felt unmoved.

In some ways, I think I was hoping for something akin to “The Stuntman.” If you haven’t seen it, go find it. Basically, the Stunt man is about some shlub, he’s escaping prison or something, and he stumbles into a movie set, and ends up in the middle of some hair raising stunt sequence where he’s scrambling, terrified for his life, as everything goes to hell around him, until suddenly the Director yells ‘cut!’

Seems that the movie has lost a stunt man, he died or something, and our hero is thrown into the wild world of movie making, struggling through ridiculously contrived and impossible stunts, as a Godlike Director harangues everyone. Brilliant film. I want to go watch it now.

Then I think there’s an old Burt Reynolds movie, Hooper (guessing) about a stuntman. In it, Reynolds plays a stunt man, slowly wrecking his body, as he commits to increasingly dangerous stunts, second guessing his life, coping with rivals, trying to build a relationship and struggling with a callous director. I don’t know that it’s briliant, and there’s a lot of Burt Reynold’s being Burt in it. But there’s also something genuine in it, perhaps Burt had some resonance and insight into the tough guy stuntmen doing risky, reckless work that makes it worth a watch. That seemed more affecting than the fall guy.

But this? It just never really engages. For a movie about movie stunts, there’s remarkably little engagement. We never see the intricacies of how stunts are pulled off, the meticulous care going into an effect, the degree of planning, or the degree of genuine risk. We mostly just see stunts. But we know they’re all stunts, even when they’re played for real, so it kind of falls into this uncanny valley of artifice.

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AI IS “NICE”

Robots | Amazing stories, Science fiction illustration, Science fiction magazines

That’s not a compliment. It’s a deception. AI is programmed to be ‘nice.’ It says ‘excuse me’ and “i think what you’re looking for’ and “oh sorry.”

It engages in what amounts to calming, engaging, non-confrontational, obsequious language.

That’s not real. It’s not even AI. There’s no real special programming involved in saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me.’

That’s just idiot coding, building obsequious tropes designed to give the impression of a friendly, slightly submissive, inoffensive, eager to please personality. Seriously, just pick out a couple of hundred mildly ass-kissing vague phrases, sprinkle them in to pop up randomly at appropriate places, and you have a simulation of a friendly helpful personality.

It’s so insidious and so simple that I’m stunned that all those automated customer service phone menus that we get stuck with, instead of real people haven’t been programmed with. But then again, those automated menus aren’t there to really help you, but to stream you, and if necessary get rid of you.

It’s definitely not real. There’s no actual personality, no actual identity, there’s no morals, ethics or judgment. It’s just a guise, wrapped around an AI interactive program, to enlist our sympathy and emotional engagement.

The problem with this fake ‘niceness’ is its seductive. We find ourselves trusting it, because it seems careful, because it seems to be earnestly trying its best, because it seems likable.

Me, I don’t trust nice. You k now who is ‘nice’? Predators. Con men. People who lie. People who want to sell you junk. People who want things to you that maybe you don’t want to give them. People who will hurt you.

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KEYCON WRAP UP

Well, that’s over with. I’m surprised by how exhausted I was. Dealing with humans really drains my battery.

I’m happy to say, no one was bitten. Well a few people were bitten. Actually a lot of people were bitten. Honestly I was like wolverine at an all you can eat buffet. But it’s okay, because everyone was fine… most people were fine… a lot of people survived the amputations and emergency triage… there were survivors. Anyway, the outbreak was contained, and or will be contained, or could be. Look, if you’re in Saskatchewan, there’s nothing to worry about, for a while. And anyway, if you’re in British Colombia, you’re safe behind the mountains, and you can escape overseas.

So it’s all cool.

On a serious note: I did the Dealer’s Room experience, many thanks to the unstoppable Casia Schreyer and Scarlett Kol, who let me share a table. I spent most of my time hiding out behind the table, a nine inch space because both Scarlet and Casia are supernaturally slender and Casia can achieve two dimensions if she holds her breath. It was great working with them.

It was good, we each sold a bunch of books. Talked to book lovers occasionally. R.J. Hore was there selling his books. We visited back and forth. I also dropped by and said hello to the two other book sellers. Nice people.

Reflections on the Dealer’s Room experience? It was definitely a nice networking experience and getting to know Casia and Scarlett., and talking shop with them and R.J. I hate to be the neophyte know it all, I might have some small ideas for doing it.

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TORONTO INDIE AUTHOR CONFERENCE

Well, the first annual Toronto Indie Writer’s Conference has come and gone. There will be one next year, and I’m signing up for it the minute they hang out a shingle.

It was great! 

Most writer’s conferences tend to focus on craft – how to write, what to write, the political and social issues of being a writer, the technique, and sometimes the fun stuff.  It’s all very literary.

This was about Trade – how to do a Kickstarter, the techniques of Facebook ads, that kind of thing.

We do get a bit of that in occasional panels at regular conventions – but usually it’s a group of people who are very experienced on the panel talking shop with each other. It’s like listening to a lively discussion in Greek.

This, on the other hand, was really focusing on working trade issues, mainly single presenters, exploring topics at skill levels in systematic ways. It was fascinating. Of the eight sessions and four round tables, there wasn’t a single dud in the bunch. Everything was useful or interesting, even if I didn’t necessarily understand it or wasn’t in a position to take advantage of it.

Honestly, some of it, was just totally above my level, I could barely follow along, but even then, it was good – If I couldn’t handle it now, I picked up enough to have some idea of how to learn, and the feeling was that I could master it eventually.

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CONVENTIONS UPDATE

All right, so tentative convention scheduling happening.  I’m mainly doing this for myself, so I can keep track.
TORONTO WRITERS WORKSHOP – April 5 and 6, Toronto – Been there, done that, did the follow ups.
INDIE WRITERS CONFERENCE – May 4 and 5 – Happening in Toronto this weekend. Basically, there to learn about marketing and career development.
OHIO WRITING WORKSHOP – May 10 and 11 – Online pitching.
KEYCON – May 17 and 18, Winnipeg – Looks like I will be doing a few panels –
Do Books have a Future,
* Twilight of Echelon with Robert Pasternak and others, Saturday 3:00 pm
* Do Books Have a Future, Saturday, 8:00 pm
* Reading, Sunday 1:00 pm
* Alternate History, Sunday 3:00 pm
NASFIC – July 18-21, Buffalo, New York. Submitted for lots of programming, stay tuned.
WHEN WORDS COLLIDE – August 16-17, Calgary – Good news, I have been accepted as a programming panelist. Being run by a new bunch. Much harder to get in. Stay tuned.
WORLD FANTASY CONVENTION – October 17-20, Niagara Falls, Can. Programming not open yet.
CAN-CON – November 1-3, Ottawa. Programming not open yet.
That’s about it. If Fanquest is happening in Winnipeg this year, I might try for that.  Or if something comes up.  I’ve also volunteered to do presentations and workshops for  the MWG.  At this point, I’ve done three Presentations for the MWG and Writers organizations in Toronto and British Colombia.  Well, if nothing else, I’m putting a lot of time and energy into pretending to be a writer.
I think that’s going to be enough. Next year, maybe just a couple of conventions, tops. Worldcon in Seattle, and maybe one or two others.