CategoryIdeas

Is This The End Of Self-Publishing Comic Books, Or The Beginning?

Print on demand and digital publishing have reduced much of the cost of self-publishing practically anything, including comics. So in many ways I’ve been thinking that comics self-publishing is just getting started.

But Kim Thompson of Fantagraphics, in an open letter to Dave Sim had this to say:

The dynamics of the marketplace have changed so fundamentally that something that made (relative) sense 20 years ago doesn’t necessarily make sense today. The market has turned decisively against pamphlets and against self-publishers, and that’s just a reality. The battlefield is littered with the corpses of self-publishers. A sensible person adapts to reality.

(via Metafilter)

This is at least partially a bit of trolling on Thompson’s part. Actually, it might be 100% trolling. But I can see the point.

In the print world, at least from my perspective, trade paperbacks are winning (though I’ve read they’re not yet ready to replace the income generated by producing “singles,” at least for major publishers). Book store distribution is key and while you can do this as a self-publisher, publishing companies, even small ones, are at an advantage.

And for digital comics, there remain advantages to being part of a publisher there as well. From a Prism Comics article on comics being rejected by the Apple App Store:

Even if a creator happened to have the technical proficiency to write her own comics app, going from iBooks to a boutique comics app is hardly ideal for a small publisher or self-published creator. You have no opportunity to reach readers unless they specifically look for comic books; you don’t benefit from the browsing and search traffic on the larger store and your books won’t appear in searches.

There are various ways self-publishers can get into comics-centric apps for the iPad and other mobile devices, but being published by a Marvel or a Dark Horse seems like a bigger advantage than ever — in a comic store, there’s more of a chance of someone who normally buys only form the big two serendipitously discovering a self-published comic. But if they only have the Marvel and DC apps on their iPad, that’s all they’re going to see.

This is all on my mind because I’ve been thinking for some time now about publishing online comics through Technoccult. Not my own work (though if I ever thought I had anything good enough, then maybe), but works by others looking for an audience. But I’m not sure if the world needs yet another online comics publisher. With the plethora of creator-owned publishers out there (Image et al), and the boom in digital publishing, how many people who should be published are still not being published? I’m wondering if there mightn’t be some other way I could contribute to comics publishing, such as syndicating other works.

My Hypothetical Batman Reboot

I saw Dark Knight Rises yesterday. I liked it, but the politics don’t sit well with me. As Grant Morrison has pointed out, Batman is a very odd sort of fantasy – a billionaire who wears a rubber suit and goes around beating up poor people.

I’m not going to spend time over analyzing the newest film, and the Batman mythos in general. Instead, inspired by Aaron Diez’s Hypothetical X-Men Reboot and China Miéville’s Rejected Iron Man Pitch, I decided to think about what I would do if I were to give Batman a complete reboot. Here’s what I came up with. This is, of course, not authorized by DC Comics or Warner Bros or anyone else.

Continue reading

Are We On the Verge of the Next Psychedelic Explosion?

DMT the Spirit Molecule
The cover of DMT: The Spirit Molecule

I’m reading Grant Morrison’s Supergods right now, and I’ll probably have more to say on it in the future. But I’ve just passed a part in the book where he talks about the Sekhmet Hypothesis, and wanted to get some thoughts down right now.

The gist of the Sekhmet Hypothesis, as explained by Morrison, is that every 11 years culture shifts as sunspot activity waxes and wains. At one pole is “hippie” culture characterized by longer pop songs, longer hair baggy clothes, psychedelics and an emphasis on peace and love. At the other pole is punk culture, which is characterized by shorter pop songs, short hair, tight clothes, stimulants and an emphasis on anger and rebellion.

Update: Iain Spence, the originator of the Sekhmet Hypothesis and author of a book on the subject left a long comment that’s worth reading. It appears, first of all, that Morrison’s punk/hippie description of the hypothesis is much oversimplified (or perhaps I misunderstood his interpretation of it, this is like a game of telephone – if you want the real scoop on the hypothesis, go to the source). Second, Spence has updated the hypothesis having admitted that he was wrong about the solar cycle aspect of it, among other things.

So it would go:

  • 1966: LSD, psychedelic rock, hippies, happenings, peace and love.
  • 1977: Punk, new wave, shaved heads, cocaine, rock shows, nihilism.
  • 1988: Rave, long electronic dance tracks, shoegaze, Brit pop, MDMA, “Peace, Love, Unity, Respect.”
  • 1999: The Matrix, nu-metal, emo, screamo, cutting going mainstream, Red Bull, Starbucks, cocaine and meth making a come back, 9/11, Law & Order.
  • 2010: Avatar, Alice in Wonderland and the “dandyishness” of the vampires of Twilight and True Blood (not sure I swallow that last part).

I could add the surge of mind fuck movies in the 90s, and their come back in the 10s, but as some readers pointed out in my earlier post on the subject, those types of movies didn’t entirely die out in the 00s. Also:

  • The 60s were also marked by outrage and protest, some of quite violent. A lot of hippies and mods wore tight clothes.
  • The late 70s and early 80s also had disco (and later house), psychedelic post-punk, butt rock, epic metal etc.
  • The 90s had the Rodney King riots, gangsta rap, Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, plenty of metal, the militia movement, hyperviolent video games and movies.
  • Rave didn’t completely die out in the 90s, instead it turned into teknival with a strong emphasis on the hippie-ish psytrance wing. Burning Man grew larger than ever. Not to mention Massively multiplayer online role playing games and Second Life. Tool put Alex Grey’s art on their album cover and his career exploded. Daniel Pinchbeck sold a bazillion books. And what about the popularity of bands like Radiohead, Coldplay and Muse? A bit more underground, but what to make of doom metal, dubstep and BPitchControl, or the hipster cred of Arthur Magazine?

It’s really hard for me to accept that “punk” is the opposite of “hippie.” The 60s counterculture wasn’t always peaceful and non-violent, and the punks, with their love of Jamaican music, antiwar songs and their vegan and vegetarianism were a lot more hippie-ish than many gave them credit for.

And yet…

It’s hard, given the number of exceptions to the formula, to swallow the idea that there’s a real, society-wide pull between punk and hippie every 11 years. Others have critiqued historicity before, and I don’t need to go there.

But there may be pattern of rising and falling tides of psychedelia, perhaps accompanied by a sense of optimism and energy that eventually dissipates. The 60s had acid, the 90s had ecstasy. And I’m hearing that DMT is becoming a common strong street drugs these days, and the new cool thing to listen to is apparently the sound of a modem slowed way down. We could be in for some weird times indeed.

Labeling/Rating System for Scientific Studies

Typically, science journalism covers new studies that have not yet been replicated with very little to indicate that this is really a fairly preliminary result. Sometimes these studies have very small sample sizes. Sometimes they’re sponsored by organization that have a vested interest in a particular outcome. Still, the findings get repeated as fact, sometimes to be contradicted later.

This can lead to a general distrust in science, as well as a confused public.

So here’s my idea: I’d like to create a labeling system, somewhat similar to the warning labels on video games and so forth, that could be used to provide some context for writings about scientific studies.

-Small sample size
-Medium sample size
-Large sample size
-Potential conflict of interest
-Unreplicated study
-Study replicated: *** Times

Once a system was worked out, I’d pay someone to design icons for the labels. The *s could be replaced with some sort of graphic.

I’d use the system at Technoccult, obviously, but release it to the public so that other bloggers and journalists could use it as well. Publications could put them at the beginning of articles about studies, or incorporate it somewhere into the design to tip readers of easily and prominently as to the status of the study.

The Dream of the 90s is Alive in Hollywood

Limitless

The late 90s had a string of interesting movies that made one feel… strange. The Matrix, Magnolia, Being John Malkovitch, Fight Club, American Beauty. Hell, even the Truman Show fit this mold. I call ‘em mind-fuck movies. They aren’t necessarily great movies, and those brought-up on a steady diet of weirdness probably wouldn’t be moved by them. But each one played with reality and identity, invoked paranoia in and interesting way, and/or made the mundane seem strange by zooming in a bit too close.

There was something about those movies, and the feeling that they transmitted, that’s been lost in the past decade. But I think it might be coming back.

It seemed at first in the early 00s that the mind-fucking would continue. There was Vanilla Sky (which was actually based on a late 90s Spanish movie), and Philip K. Dick was finally getting his due. But most of those Dick adaptations sucked. With few exceptions the 00s were dominated by realism, bromantic comedies, superheroes and sequels (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind stands out, but it seems a little too sentimental to qualify as a mind-fuck movie) . My favorite movie of the decade, Children of Men, was hardly a mind-fucker.

Actually, the 00s will probably be more remembered for its TV series than for its movies. We’ll remember shows like Deadwood, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Dexter and Mad Men. But great as these shows are, they are hardly mind-fuck material. Lost should have been the ultimate mind-fuck epic, but it ended instead in disappointment. (I haven’t watched all of Battle Start Gallactica, but I could see someone making the case that it should qualify for the mind-fuck category. If so, it’s the exception and not the rule.)

Maybe it was 9/11, Bush Administration and the wars. Maybe it was Hollywood’s risk-adversion. Whatever it was, that surrealist buzz fizzled.

But there’s a slew of new movies coming out of Hollywood that remind me of that 90s vibe. It may have started with Inception, and there are others coming up that look like they will break the 00s mold. Movies like
The Adjustment Bureau (yet another Dick adaptation), Limitless (which looks like a Scientology metaphor) and Sucker Punch. I’m not saying any of these will be good. In fact, I’d bet against it. But each one seems like it could be a story arc or plot line from The Invisibles. I’d say that’s a step in the right direction.

Mind-fuck might be too strong a word for this new crop of Hollywood movies. I’m thinking the term “neuro-film” might be a better fit.

Whatever you call it, here’s to hoping for a better decade.

Hypersigils reconsidered

Lain

Above: a still from Serial Experiments Lain

I’ve been thinking recently about Grant Morrison‘s “hypersigil” concept, but considering as not an occult/magical practice, but as as a cybernetic phenomena.*

It started as a conversation between my friends Nabil Maynard and Amber Case on Twitter on the subject of Serial Experiments Lain (which I haven’t seen). Amber said:

There were a ton of parallels between that show and my life, especially now, where my online presence affects offline interactions. [1]

My online presence actually creates who I am. It’s a machine that produces my identity and exists outside of me. [2]

That reminded me of hypersigils. Morrison explained hypersigils thusly:

The “hypersigil” or “supersigil” develops the sigil concept beyond the static image and incorporates elements such as characterization, drama, and plot. The hypersigil is a sigil extended through the fourth dimension. My own comic book series The Invisibles was a six-year long sigil in the form of an occult adventure story which consumed and recreated my life during the period of its composition and execution. The hypersigil is an immensely powerful and sometimes dangerous method for actually altering reality in accordance with intent. Results can be remarkable and shocking.

Experiment:

After becoming familiar with the traditional sigil method, see if you can create your own hypersigil. The hypersigil can take the form of a poem, a story, a song, a dance, or any other extended artistic activity you wish to try. This is a newly developed technology so the parameters remain to be explored. It is important to become utterly absorbed in the hypersigil as it unfolds; this requires a high degree of absorption and concentration (which can lead to obsession but so what? You can always banish at the end) like most works of art. The hypersigil is a dynamic miniature model of the magician’s universe, a hologram, microcosm, or “voodoo doll” which can be manipulated in real time to produce changes in the macrocosmic environment of “real” life.

-“Pop Magic” by Grant Morrison from The Disinfo Book of Lies, pg. 20. (For more information, listen to Morrison’s talk from DisinfoCon (also available on DVD)

Invisibles

Above: an image from The Invisibles. The character in the center wearing a suit is King Mob, the character from Invisibles that Morrison identified himself with. Below: a photograph of Grant Morrison from his web site.

grant morrison

There has been extended internet-drama on occult sites regarding what does and does not count as a hypersigil. I think Morrison is clear that the hypersigil takes the form of a serial narrative – whether that be a comic series, a movie trilogy, a series of songs or albums, or what have you. But others have made a compelling argument that the definition needn’t be so limited. Nick Pell, in his essay “Beyond the Sigil: Creating YR own Mind Viruses” in Magic on the Edge, makes a compelling case for this, using Shepard Fairley‘s “Andre the Giant has a Posse” and “Obey Giant” campaigns as examples of other types of extended, non-static sigils.

However, for purposes of this essay, I’m only going to consider “hypersigils” as narrative works- but I do want to consider narrative beyond strictly fictional narratives. For example, one can create a narrative in a personal blog or Live Journal or their Twitter or Facebook updates.

After suggesting a connection between hypersigils and cybernetics, Nabil replied:

The number of ways that hypersigilism applies to the internet/cybernetics is kind of staggering when you think on it. [1]

Think about something as basic as a myspace/facebook profile, the choices we make defining the online persona [2] which creates a manifest change in the offline world. [3].

The things we choose to place on the internet reflect and magnify the awareness of self to ourselves and those around us. [4]

hypersigil feedback

Above: a diagram I made illustrating feedback loops of perception in hypersigils

The way I see it, the online persona, fictional self, or avatar one creates can create feedback loops to reinforce behaviors and perceptions and have a create significant “real world” changes in a person’s life over time. In the case of Grant Morrison, he was also shaping his persona in the letters column of The Invisibles, in interviews he gave, and his public persona at comic conventions.

Nabil says: “I know of one person who used net-anonymity to explore gender before pursuing changing gender IRL.” [1]. I suspect that’s rather common. Also, to go back to my interview with Amber from last week, in which she gives advice to liberal arts majors looking to establish a career outside academia:

Create an online presence that is ubiquitous and enjoyable to interface with. Let it be known who you want to be. Put that on your business card and on your social profiles.

Which, of course, is exactly how she came to be a “cyborg anthropologist.”

So I find myself wondering: what is and isn’t hypersigilic activity online (and off?) Is creating an avatar on an MMORG? If so, what about playing a character in a pen and paper role playing game?

I think it depends on the role of online and offline feedback involved – if playing a character (online or off) changes the way you think of yourself and *especially* if changes the way OTHER people think about you, then yes – I think it does.

*There was some discussions on cybernetics and complex adaptive systems and the occult at Esozone: The Other Tomorrow lead by Joseph Thiebes, deadletter b, Wes Unruh, and Edward Wilson but I missed them. I suspect the overlaps have been discussed elsewhere, if the curious reader wishes to look.

See Also:

The Other Tomorrow Manifesto

Hypersigil, Hyperstition, or Simply Interesting Living?

Biopunk: the biotechnology black market

The word biopunk has been bandied about for some time now. Google already has over 1,000 results for a search on the term. R.U. Sirius wrote a piece in Rolling Stone a couple years ago about the possibility of garage biotechnologists, a movement he called biopunk. But I’d like to throw a new meaning for the concept out there: the near future (already here?) biotechnology black market.

The biotechnology market has already captured the imaginations of the business world. For the past few years it’s been hyped as the next big thing, the new dot-com bubble. For instance, Paul Allen wants to turn a neighborhood in Seattle into a biotech industry fueled urbanist utopia.

Ample private and federal investment is being poured into biotech research, but I expect U.S policies banning cloning research and limiting funding for stem cell research will effectively limit the U.S.’s role in biotechnology development. Less restrictive policies and/or cheaper labor will give Europe, Russia, and Asia advantages in the global biotech industry.

But other factors will drive an underground biotechnology market: the crippling expense of prescription drugs, health insurance, malpractice insurance, and student loan debts.

Chemistry students have been making money manufacturing LSD, MDMA, and other illegal drugs for years. But the demand for black market prescription drug clones could create a new use for the college chemistry lab. Imagine thousands of undergrads manufacturing HIV meds and other expensive drugs for cheap underground resale.

Meanwhile, medical school students, un-licensed doctors, or even licensed doctors trying to keep up with insurance payments will be performing a myriad of unauthorized procedures. Genesis P. Orridge could be at the forefront of a movement again. Sex changes are nothing new, but P. Orridge and Lady Jaye’s sex change as installation art project is on the forefront of the body modification movement, which constantly grows more extreme. Face transplants are about to become a reality. But these black market surgical procedures won’t be limited to weird body art projects. Uninsured Americans will be seeking all types of surgical procedures on the black market, and finding students and doctors to perform them will become increasingly easier.

Of course, those policy restrictions will create another biotech black market: clandestine cloning research labs and illegal human testing projects. Illegal human testing is almost certainly already a reality. And even with recent improvements in the job market, there are still thousands of desperate unemployed people to be taken advantage of.

And let?s not forget R.U. Sirius?s frightening prediction from his Rolling Stone article: garage production of germ weapons.

Connect the dots

Anyone thinking what I’m thinking?

Camera phone movie

$200 digital film

Machinima

3D gaming on cell phones

Voodoo

DIY video projectors (or and commercial portable projectors)

Red | Blue

Wireless future

Open Source TV

Audio literary magazine (or: getting in way over my head)

To furthur demonstrate my insanity, I’ve decided to start an mp3 format lit mag.

Obviously, this is still in very early planning stages. The basic idea here is to publish spoken word stories and slam poetry on Mperia. There’s a lot to be worked out still.

1. I’d kinda like to do only stories, fiction and creative non-fiction. But I do like the idea of having lots of stuff: interviews, essays, slam and/or spoken word poetry. If I include poetry, I’d like to have another editor dedicated strictly to poetry.

2. I think it would be fun to have perhaps one track of music per issue. But I’m not sure.

3. There’s the matter of recording standards and so forth. One person I talked to about this wants to include music with his submission. Others probably won’t. Should I prohibit music in order to keep the tracks consistent? Or should I try to compile a large amount of music that the voice tracks can be mixed with so that all tracks have music.

4. Will I take text submissions and try to match them with voice talent? Or only take submissions in which the writer does their own reading? Or require writers who don’t want to read themselves to find their own voice talent?

5. Mastering. I don’t really know much about mastering, or how difficult a process this will be. Is it really necessary for a project like this? Is it such a difficult project that no one would volunteer to do this for free?

6. Money and copyright. Ideally, I’d like to offer most of the money from mperia sales to the writers and voice talent. Keep a small percentage for operational costs. Leave the copyrights to the creators, so long as they agree to a Creative Commons license that allows for the mp3s to be freely distributed. There’s the kicker there, though. I’d like to encourage people to share the mp3s once they’ve downloaded them, maybe even link to free mirros of the tracks. Not sure if anyone would go for this, though.

7. “Cover art” would be nice to have for each issue.

There’s a few lit mags that already publish stuff in audio on the web: here are a few. The Corpse also has an audio section (probably the closest thing to what I’d like to do). But I think this will be something different and new. An edgy collection of works by new and newish writers, purely distributed through audio tracks that can be used anyway the listener would like (on an iPod, on a CD, on their computer, etc.).

So. What do you think?

Gender Magazine

Becca commented on my earlier post about a all-gender gender magazine, “what kind of content, exactly, would fill this magazine, if not academic content? I guess I’m not entirely sure how to make gender issues not be academic. I’m sure there are ways, of course”

The magazine should be analytical, but not academic. I think it’s entirely possible to be one without the other.

A couple things you brought up in your comments would make good content.

An article exploring the different interpretations of the word femenist (which could include a poll as well as person on the streets interviews) followed by a round-table discussion or series of interviews debating whether the word is still valuable and if not, what viable alternatives are.

An article discussing the exclusive nature of many women’s/gender groups and how that can be solved.

Other ideas:

a critique of the stereotypes perpetuated by Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

A discussion of the changing role of the male in societies, the surface of which is only scratched in this business week article about the new gender gap (whether this gap is really as deep as the author of this article makes it out to be, the role of the male – both heterosexual and homosexual – is in flux).

Anyway, I’m not going to have time to do something like this myself. I just wanted to throw the idea out there (partially to see if something like this already existed).

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