While my internet fast continues…
Massive spoilers behind the cut, but let me summarize things quickly up front in a spoiler-free fashion: Season one is even better than I remember, with a few small missteps. The arc-long mysteries (Who killed Lilly Kane? Who raped Veronica on the night she was drugged?) are complex enough for the TV format but not as in-depth as you’d find in a novel. They’re also handled with more sensitivity than I would have expected from TV. It works. The short, episode-long mysteries are well-handled, varied enough to stay interesting, and humane.
But the real strengths of the show are the performances, especially Bell’s and Colantoni’s, and the way the relationships between the characters are handled. If you haven’t watched the show yet, you really should. The discs are on Netflix and WB is hosting the episodes online (provided you live in the “correct” parts of the world”. The pilot is a little heavy on the flashbacks, but the complex setup is necessary. Stick with it.
Let’s do spoilers: more »
making books personal The outside world: internet publishing the boy TV
by Harry Connolly
1) I am not and have never been a Night Shade author, but it’s been widely known for quite a while that the publisher has been in trouble and has been working with SFWA to do right by their authors. Word about the new deal they’re offering authors has finally gone public in a public post (now deleted) on Jeff VanderMeer’s Facebook. For the click-phobic, NS intends to sell their contracts to another, more stable publisher, and not all of the contract terms are 100% wonderful.
What little I know about it is all second-hand, but a number of authors, VanderMeer included, want NS to revert the rights to their books before declaring bankruptcy. Unfortunately, that won’t work. The right to publish books is the only asset a publisher has and bankruptcy courts don’t play along when an entity sheds its assets right before telling their creditors they’re going belly up. In fact, it’s fairly common for publishing contracts to have a clause in them that would revert all rights to the author in the event of a publisher bankruptcy, but those clauses are typically overruled in bankruptcy court.
As far as getting rights back from a publisher swirling the drain, that last link is worth reading through to the end. I am not a lawyer, but it seems like a good place to start before getting actual legal counsel.
If there’s one thing I know about a terrible, messy situation like this, it’s that the proposed deal will be a benefit for some and a misery for others, depending on whether books have been turned in, how much money is owed, etc. Night Shade authors are getting together in a closed forum to discuss the issues and I wish them all the luck in the world. None of this is easy.
2) Writing has been at a near standstill while my kid is sick. He had two straight days of vomiting and was finally able to keep down a fair quantity of fluid last night. Today he’s still sketchy but basically okay. I’m glad the Cartoon Network has added so many of their shows to Netflix. We’ve also been watching the Naked Gun movies and, when his belly hurts too much to laugh, the most recent NIKITA tv series.
Of course, the real crime here is that he has no interest in superhero shows, so I still don’t get to watch Justice League, Batman Beyond, or Brave and the Bold. Man, the sacrifices we make for our kids.
3) Speaking of a sick kid, I spent an hour this morning at the grocery store hunting up bad tummy foods like oyster crackers and ginger ale, but one thing I couldn’t find was syrup of coke. All the stupid crap my grocery carries, but I can’t find the one thing that really settles an upset stomach? I left the supermarket confident that I could find a recipe online, and I did. Too bad I don’t keep lavender, star anise, citric acid, etc, etc around the place.
4) This post about humanities PhDs taking a third grade reading comprehension test is right on. When my kid was in kindergarten, they had those silly letter ratings on books. Most of the kids were reading books from A – D mine was reading books rated S. Sounds pretty advanced, huh? Except not, because he was only five and his reading comprehension wasn’t strong enough. Yes to the words. No to the sentences and paragraphs.
The worst thing was reading the teacher who thought kids ought to stay within the stupid letter rating, never going forward or going back. My own kid loves both Ready Player One and Ursula Vernon’s Dragonbreath books. He reaches for more adult fare when he wants to stretch himself (he just bounced off The Road which I knew would be tough sledding). And the idea that kids shouldn’t reread a book they love is poison.
No really, that’s what he said! Good thing he was joking.
If you’re one of those people who have been going around the internet posting comments, tweets, and status updates like “Who’s this Veronica Mars? Kickstart me some more SERENITY!” you should probably click that link up there. He’s not planning to Kickstart a new Serenity movie because he’s tied up for the next several years with commitments, not to mention the commitments the actors have. Plus yada yada budget etc. Give it a quick read.
After that, you should read this post by LEVERAGE co-creator John Rogers, cleverly titled Veronica Mars Kickstarter Thoughts. If you want analysis from someone who is inside the TV business, Rogers is the guy to turn to right now. Until it was cancelled, Leverage was the only independently-owned TV show in the U.S. market, and he has a lot of insight about the nature of non-studio funding, whether Warner is taking a risk by giving the go-ahead, and much more. That’s worth reading.
Remember yesterday when I talked about ALL THE SHIRTS (limited-edition!) the VM people would have to deal with? Kickstarter fulfillment companies.
And, naturally, everyone is jumping up to say what shows should be next on the Kickstarter auction block: Chuck. Pushing Up Daisies. Sarah Connor Chronicles. Terriers. Deadwood.
Personally, none of those shows appealed to me in a serious way, so I’ll be waiting for that THUNDARR reboot.
Okay. Unless something very interesting happens, I’m going to lay off the TV Kickstarter posts for a while. I’ve got to steal time for my books at some point, right?
Currently I’m over 100K words on THE WAY INTO MAGIC, which is the sequel to THE WAY INTO CHAOS. I’m writing it as one long story, which is probably dumb, but there you go.
My life is incredibly dull! Good thing the internet is full of fun stuff.
I wanted to do a little followup on the Veronica Mars Kickstarter. Yeah, they made goal. You can see the current numbers below.
Hey, you could even click on it to toss in a few bucks. I did.
But that isn’t to say that I think the setup is problem-free. I mean, there are issues and it does no one any good to gloss over them.
For example, at the time I’m writing this, Rob Thomas et al are going to have to make and ship over 40,000 “limited edition” T-shirts. That has to happen even if not one more person makes a pledge. They’re also looking at 4500 signed (by the cast) movie posters so far. You want to talk about signing your name seven thousand times (which is the limit for that reward)? I sure wouldn’t want to do it.
So… yeah. That sort of order fulfillment could be a huge drain on time and resources, even if you bring in a couple of out-of-work people (or actors, even) to handle it for you. He’s going to need his own clothing unit. And assuming they max out the poster reward (which looks pretty likely) and that it takes five seconds to sign one poster and move to the next, each actor is looking at over nine and a half hours to sign them all.
No writing hand was made to handle all of that. Just one hour would bring on cramps.
But that’s minor stuff. A great many people have been complaining that this project is just a way for a major corporation (in this case, Warner Brothers) to crowdsource production costs for their new movie. Is this the wave of the future? Will studios “hold their properties hostage” until the fans pony up?
It’s doubtful. The Veronica Mars Kickstarter is doing very well because it has a solid fan base. Also, it’s first. There’s a power in novelty when you’re asking people to give you money, and if it keeps happening again and again, there just won’t be much buzz around it.
Unless it’s THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN. Thundarr will always get buzz.
I can certainly see studios and production companies turning to crowdsourcing to decide if they want to re-up for another season, or bring the old gang back for a movie. Loved VR-5 and want to bring it back? Throw money at the Kickstater! and if it doesn’t happen the studio doesn’t have to be bad guy any more. They can just say: “The fan base wasn’t there. We only made 48% of goal.”
As for turning to fans for money that studios could put up themselves, the studios already do this in spades. They make foreign rights deals, they bring in outside investors, etc. It’s always been a part of doing business.
The big difference is that those investors get actual cash money once the film makes a profit. Fans, not so much.
Would I like to see that changed? Yeah, absolutely, but it’s not as simple as it sounds.
About ten years ago, my buddy and I were planning to make a movie. It was going to be a solid horror film–scary but not stupid–and we hoped it would open some doors for us. (Spoiler! It didn’t). As we were planning it, I did some research on how producers raise funds.
It turned out that there were all these restrictions on where the money could come from and who could donate. As I recall (a decade later) the budget would have to be split into X number of even pieces and each donor would be limited to that amount. There were more rules, too, and they were complicated and annoying. That’s when I realized I was a novelist.
(Digression: How it came out: The director sort of pushed me, the writer, out. He got the money from somewhere. The movie was seriously flawed and went nowhere. The script wasn’t my best but it is online: pdf or shitty html. It’s not my best work)
The point being, there are very strict rules around asking people to invest in your project for a cut of the profits.
However! The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (aka the JOBS Act) which was signed into law last year, contains provisions for crowdsourcing an investment in a company, not just in a particular project/product. You can read a description of the law here but just to touch on a few issues, investors are limited to 5% or 10% of their annual income, companies must use an established third party to run things, a great many disclosures are required, and the goal is $1million or less, so it’s not going to work for television anyway. While the law was passed last year, the crowdfunding part is not yet active because the SEC hasn’t finished drawing up a set of rules yet.
So, yes, a corporation is offloading a sizable part of their costs on this project to the fans, but they offload costs as a part of their every day business, and there’s no legal framework in place to allow the fans to invest directly. They only have the option to pledge for rewards, which is essentially preordering the end product, plus swag.
Will this become the model of the future? I doubt it, but even if it did it would be a terrific hedge against piracy and a fine reason to ditch DRM (not that there aren’t already many, many reasons to ditch DRM). Companies wouldn’t have to worry so much about their product being torrented if the true fans had already chipped in.
So! As I mentioned earlier today, I backed the Kickstarter for the Veronica Mars movie, although I probably shouldn’t have. Not because I think there’s something wrong with a WB property being crowdfunded, but because money is tight and KS is a luxury item. I may cancel sometime in the next month.
Which should not be taken as condemnation of the project itself, of which there has been plenty.
This article by Richard Lawson in the Atlantic Wire seems like a good representative sample of the bullshit people are saying about who ought to crowdfund and when it should be seen as unseemly. Have a quote.
But here in the bourgie, comfy confines of wealthy Western society, we’re talking about people like the indie musician Amanda Palmer, who raised $1.2 million on Kickstarter to make and distribute a folk album. That’s all. Amanda Palmer, who is married to successful author Neil Gaiman and has been a prominent musician for a decade or so. Handed $1.2 million because she asked for it. People are free to spend their money however they want, but there’s something so unseemly about the asking, isn’t there? Maybe that reaction is owed to some overly reserved New England quality in me that I should fight against, but I can’t help but feel that Kickstarter campaigns for stuff like this, that is stuff people are having no trouble selling elsewhere, are a bit gauche. Plus it’s too easy.
Of course he has to take a nasty sexist dig at Amanda Palmer. Of course he has to mention that she has married comfortably (The article is obstensively about Rob Thomas’s project, so where’s a mention of his wife? The article fails to mention if he even has one.) Supposedly, Palmer is so successful that she has 100K laying around to fund her studio time and if she doesn’t, well, isn’t she a big enough name to get that money from record companies?
That money comes with strings attached, you say? Awful, debilitating strings? Apparently, that’s a bonus; we wouldn’t want things to be “too easy.”
Let’s consider the Veronica Mars movie: Maybe it will suck or be vaguely disappointing. That first season was so great while the second and third were a bit of a let down.
But the article writer above barely touches on that. His point is that this movie is a Warner property. They own the rights and will distribute the movie once it’s made. Since that’s the case, isn’t it kinda gross to be asking fans to front the money?
I’m going to step up here and say “Not at all.” Here’s why:
Warner does have control of the Veronica Mars IP, and they have no plans to a) do anything with it or b) surrender it to the original creator, Rob Thomas. It’s just gathering dust. After there was no interest in the season four promo video, the show was dead.
That’s why this Kickstarter makes sense: Fan support can make this happen. What’s more, fans want to be a part of it.
Would I be happy to see gross points in the reward levels? Shit yeah. Is having Rob Thomas and Kristin Bell follow me on Twitter for a year for $400 kinda tacky. Sure, I guess. Do I think they’re doing something really cool with this project? Absolutely.
Lawson doesn’t like the idea of seeing money talked about publicly. He wants artists to raise their money from “proper backers and investors” behind the scenes so he doesn’t have to see art mixed with commerce in such a public way. There’s a laundry list of why this is stupid, beginning with the fact that “proper” investors have already shown their disinterest, continuing through the idea that fans are “improper” backers, and finally ending with art and commerce have always been mixed who the fuck are you kidding?
It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that making things is difficult, especially when they require a large capital outlay. I’m pleased to see a movie like this crowdfunded successfully (or it will be at this pace) and I hope to see more.
According to Twitter and other sources, there was some ugly, obnoxious shit aimed at the little girl who was nominated (weirdly, getting an “account suspended” page on that link), plus general awfulness. Apparently, it’s still going on, if you’re willing read the comments. Yeah, comments are ugly but it’s also a sign of who we are.
I’m not sure what’s supposed to be the point of making nasty remarks about the actors and directors whose work has been nominated. Puncturing the pretensions of people who make art? Please. It’s art, it’s supposedly the pinnacle achievement to win this sort of recognition, and generally-speaking people have to do great work for years to get to this point.
There’s this idea that the Oscars need to be entertaining for the masses, which I guess means taking digs at people.
Whatever. It’s just another set of awards, which means it’s pretty much meaningless except to those who are deeply invested in it. I just wish they didn’t judge the value of the ceremony by the ratings, and try to drive ratings with shitty behavior.
In other news, I was unusually active on my blog this weekend. To link back:
Why Libraries Still Matter: I respond to That Article.
EMP Followup I heard back from the Experience Music Project about PanelFail.
In which I deny my son an Xbox . My kid wants to play All The Games, but I expect something more from him.
Okay. Writing to do.
As per annual tradition, here’s the full version of Chuck Jones’s 1971 animated adaptation. It’s got more ghosts per frame than pretty much any version, and my favorite Marley ever.
Plus it’s stylish as hell.
Stupid iframe embedding had better work, but if it doesn’t you can watch it on YouTube.