Sam Harrelson

We are such stuff As dreams are made on




The shift from blogs to email newsletters

Ironic that you’re reading this on my blog…

Almost every writer or artist I know has a newsletter. One way to understand this boom is that as social media has siloed off chunks of the open web, sucking up attention, the energy that was once put into blogging has now shifted to email.

— Read on www.wired.com/story/future-book-is-here-but-not-what-we-expected/




Was Writing Developed by Poets, Priests, our Accountants?

Fun read:

As a writer of nonfiction, I can’t help but love writing’s roots in enumerating concrete objects and reality itself. The textual analyst part of me loves how Mesopotamian tokens were wrapped in clay envelopes after being impressed on the soft exterior – perhaps clay-wrapped tokens of meaning give rise to the notion that text is both a surface and an interior, and that that’s what leads us to talk so relentlessly (in English and other languages) about what is ‘in’ a given text. The poet in me wants to repurpose the heavy thumb of authority’s use of writing on behalf of the powerless. The linguist in me recognises the cognitive significance of the layers of writing’s invention, none of which the brain was evolved to do specifically but with which we have co-evolved. And as a partisan of text, I know its deep history won’t ever be erased.

— Read on aeon.co/essays/the-roots-of-writing-lie-in-hopes-and-dreams-not-in-accounting




Wizarding School Locations from Harry Potter (or Love Letters to My Kids)

“The map above shows the locations of the 8 Wizarding schools that have been revealed so far, that exist in the Harry Potter universe.”

Source: Wizarding School Locations from Harry Potter – Brilliant Maps

I’ve always loved maps and map-making. As a kid, I filled notebooks with imaginary island countries or continents (and their cities) on alien planets. My favorite cartoon was Tailspin because of that fantastic rock formation that ringed their island. Many of the framed pictures in my office (and our home) are maps or geography related now.

My favorite class in high school was my 9th Grade Geography class. I rocked that class and I’d quit my job today and go get a degree in Geography or Cartography if I had any real guts (follow your passions, kids). Maps are time machines. They take accumulated knowledge and transport ideas into the future. They are magical and products of our best hopes (or deepest sins).

Brilliant Maps is one of my favorite sites on the web, and I highly recommend / warn you view it (serious rat hole timesuck if you’re being “productive”).

I try hard to let my daughters and my son develop their own interests and not over-influence their choices in life (well, besides Star Wars but that’s a given). I see my 8 year old constantly observing me and picking up my copies of X-Men trade paperbacks that I “casually” leave on our coffee table after reading, and my 5 year old asking what show I want to watch on Netflix. I see my newborn son tracking me with his eyes and watching my hands fly across my clickety clackety keyboard (as MH calls it) while he fights a nap as he lays on his playmat and I sneak in some work at my desk. It’s inevitable we heavily influence our kids’ choices, of course. I just don’t want to ever be that parent reliving my glory days on the baseball or golf team through them. I want them to discover agency and identity in a positive way that feels so hard to create in our over-protective-surveillance-bubble-wrapped-life that we’ve created with our mobile phones and low attention spans. Don’t get me started on GPS devices.

One of the things I secretly hope all three of them really come to discover, value, and have a life-long obsession over are maps and geography.

So, if you’re reading this MH, LC or Jr in some future time (I wonder what device my kids could possibly be reading this text on in, say, 50 years… I bet it’s some sort of a neural network link where you can dip into the stream of history and experience any recent time / place / event virtually as if you were there… possibly even talk to a person who is “dead” but very much alive in the digital universe… weird… and yes, I have a “digital death plan” in place to have this site and many other things I manage keep going in the unfortunate (?) event I kick the bucket unexpectedly) after I’ve recycled my atoms back to the universe, I hope you like maps as much as I do. You’ll find some of my favorite books on the “maps” shelf on one of our bookcases and there are some hidden surprises in there for y’all.

Otherwise, if you read this and I’m still a breathing entity…stay away from my books and go get your own from the library.




2015 and the Return to Long Form

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It annoys me beyond belief when people tell me our podcasts “should be 20 or so minutes” on Thinking.FM

All-day podcasts and brick-sized books. Or, why 2015 was the year the long form fought back | Books | The Guardian: “There is something almost inexpressibly appealing about this, in an era when almost all other content – articles, podcasts, videos, TV shows – arrives doing jazz hands, anxiously soliciting the reader’s or listener’s or viewer’s attention by means of outrageous headlines or self-conscious gimmicks, in a determined effort to make things seem more interesting than, on inspection, they turn out to be.”

We (I think unfortunately) gave in to the loud minority on Thinking Religion, but I still very much personally enjoy the flexibility and personality of long form podcasts. And books. And blog posts. And thoughts.

Despite our newfound digital souls, we’re rekindling the notion that not everything can or should be “bite sized” to satiate our digital materialism.




“Reading of many books is a distraction.”

Keep in mind…

Focus Fracas – The Chronicle of Higher Education: “We talk a lot about distraction, but the way we tend to talk about it suffers from historical amnesia. Since the invention of writing, people have warned about its supposedly harmful effects. Socrates thought it would weaken readers’ memories. ‘Be careful,’ Seneca warned, ‘lest this reading of many authors and books of every sort may tend to make you discursive and unsteady.’ In his Moral Letters to Lucilius, written between AD 63 and 65, Seneca touches on a condition that today might be diagnosed as attention deficit disorder. The ‘reading of many books is a distraction,’ he cautioned, that leaves the reader ‘disoriented and weak.'”




Wait, it wasn’t handed to King James directly by Moses??

“An American professor happened upon a manuscript by one of the Bible’s translators at Cambridge, a discovery that may shed light on how the translators worked.”

Source: Earliest Known Draft of King James Bible Is Found, Scholar Says




Michigan Bookstore Offers Refunds For “Go Set a Watchman”

“Brilliant Books compared Lee’s new book to James Joyce’s Stephen Hero, a book that was never pitched as a mainstream novel.

Hero was initially rejected, and Joyce reworked it into the classic Portrait,” the store explained in its statement. “Hero was eventually released as an academic piece for scholars and fans—not as a new ‘Joyce novel.’ We would have been delighted to see Go Set A Watchman receive a similar fate.'”

Source: Michigan Bookstore Offers Refunds For “Go Set a Watchman”

Wait… large publishing houses have no sense of decency anymore? I’m shocked!




‘Go Set a First Draft’

gosetawatchman

In one of her last interviews, conducted in 1964, Lee said: “I think the thing that I most deplore about American writing … is a lack of craftsmanship. It comes right down to this — the lack of absolute love for language, the lack of sitting down and working a good idea into a gem of an idea.”

A publisher that cared about Harper Lee’s legacy would have taken those words to heart, and declined to publish “Go Set a Watchman,” the good idea that Lee eventually transformed into a gem.That HarperCollins decided instead to manufacture a phony literary event isn’t surprising. It’s just sad.”

Source: The Harper Lee ‘Go Set a Watchman’ Fraud – NY Times




The problems with ebook subscription models

Way more people watch TV and movies and listen to music than read books or magazines. That’s why we’re starting to see that Netflix is Netflix, Spotify is Spotify, and ebook and magazine subscription sites are, well, something else.

Source: What Scribd’s growing pains mean for the future of digital content subscription models » Nieman Journalism Lab

You have to be careful of those romance novel readers.

I’ve been fascinated by the concepts of ebook monetization since self-publishing and ebook publishing became a bona fide option for mainstream publishers and authors. It’s one of the reasons I’m excited about what Merianna is doing with Harrelson Press and the ultimate direction we’ve mapped out there (more on that later).

However, it’s clear that a subscription type model from Scribd aren’t the best way forward. The ebook industry is a weird and complicated beast as companies from Google to Apple to Amazon have discovered in their various attempts to become the “Netflix” of this respective market.

Regardless, publishers are going to be the ones that have to change and adapt to make sense of this newish form of reading and producing/consuming content. We’ve seen how the music industry seemingly collapsed during the last decade when singles become the prime selling vehicle, replacing albums. Now, we’re seeing a period of consolidation by the major labels and partners such as Apple or Spotify to allow for the labels to make the most profits from agreements while artists are paid fractions of a cent per streamed play. That will change as artists figure out the game and we see more Taylor Swift’s pushing their weight around the industry.

I don’t think we’ll see a similar contraction / consolidation in the book publishing universe because the tools for making and consuming books are more democratized and the industry is ripe for disruption.