Filed under: Art, Astronomy, Fireworks, Music, NASA, NPR, Science, Space, YouTube | Tags: art, fireworks, Jerry Lee Lewis, jim downey, music, NASA, NPR, science, Solar Dynamics Observatory, space, www youtube
Via NPR, this gorgeous, stunning vid:
And while I think the music they use is wonderful, I think they missed an obvious choice …
Filed under: NPR | Tags: All Things Considered, art, blogging, Burr Oak, Communion of Dreams, feedback, jim downey, NPR, WIlliamson Oak
Well, this afternoon NPR’s “All Things Considered” had a good piece about the tree, and the drought. And already I’ve had people ask whether it was the same one I had written about/used for the cover of Communion of Dreams.
Yup, that’s the same one. Here’s from the NPR website:
Compare it to the image at the top of this blog (or on the cover of my book), and you’ll see it is the same tree, though a decade or so has had some impact on what it looks like.
But then, none of us looks the same as we did ten years ago, so …
Filed under: Art, Augmented Reality, Connections, Feedback, General Musings, Predictions, Publishing, Science Fiction, tech, Writing stuff, YouTube | Tags: architecture, art, arts, blogging, Communion of Dreams, construction, D. Westry, feedback, jim downey, literature, painting, predictions, Science Fiction, Scrivener, St. Cybi's Well, video, writing, www youtube
A number of friends and others have asked me how the writing is going on St. Cybi’s Well. It’s a natural question, but it’s a little hard to explain. Here’s the gist of what I have been telling people:
Using the Scrivener software, it really is a different process than what writing Communion of Dreams was like. It’s less linear. But it’s more balanced & comprehensive. Let’s put it this way – I have components now done in all 19 chapters of the book (plus the prelude). Some of it is just landscape descriptions, drawn from my previous travelogues. Some of it is character sketches. Or specific scenes. Or notes about something which needs to happen. It’s different. It feels more productive. But it’s kinda hard to explain.
This morning, after I got up at 3:00 for physiological needs, as I was trying to get back to sleep I was thinking more about this (well, and thinking through some scenes for the book — I do a lot of that in the middle of the night), and I came up with a couple of analogies which may help non-writers understand what the different processes are like.
First is constructing a building. Writing Communion, the metaphor would be that I picked a nice location for my building, leveled the ground, poured a concrete pad of sufficient size, and then started building a brick wall on one corner, working my way around the entire pad brick by brick as I went, making determinations as to locations of doors and windows and whatnot according to a rough plan I had in my head. Once the exterior wall was completed, I put a roof on it, then proceeded to do much the same process inside the building for interior walls and all that, using the mostly set exterior as a hard limit to what could be done internally.
With St. Cybi’s Well, the metaphor would be that I went to an architect/engineer, and did all the design and layout of the building in advance. Before a single footing was dug, or materials ordered, I knew pretty exactly how I wanted the entire thing to look. Then once all that was sorted, the actual construction was done entirely differently. Footings were dug, concrete poured. Then a steel framework was put in place for both the interior and exterior walls, and roof trusses positioned. Once this internal skeleton was finished, then I would start to put up sheathing material for the walls and roof, proceeding to finished surfaces.
See the difference? One feels almost organic, and makes sense to the outside observer from the very start. The other feels a little more arcane or artificial, and it isn’t obvious what the finished product will look like until well into the building process.
OK, let’s try another metaphor: art. Specifically, painting.
Some artists work in a way which seems natural and obvious. They pick a subject, usually do some rough sketches on their canvas to help get all the elements sorted out & proportioned. Then they’ll start to apply pigment according to their particular style or technique. Some of which may be a little hard to understand for a casual observer, but the basic process makes sense — you can see the different aspects emerging organically.
But there are artists who work in a completely different way. They have a concept in their head, and will proceed to do a series of fairly random strokes of paint. Each stroke is crucial, each one in the perfect place, but the end result isn’t clear to the observer until the final moments, when the last few elements are done and suddenly the artist’s vision breaks through. Like this:
Now, don’t try to over-think these analogies, or to take them too literally. They’re just intended to help illuminate some of the differences in process between this current novel, and the last one.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to work on my building.
Filed under: Art, Book Conservation, Connections, SCA, tech, U of Iowa Ctr for the Book, YouTube | Tags: art, Bill Anthony, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, calligraphy, Getty Museum, illumination, jim downey, Legacy Bookbindery, manuscript, medieval, SCA, video, www youtube
This item from the Getty on making illuminated manuscripts is making the rounds among my friends who are into things medieval. It’s relatively short, quite good, and covers the basics nicely.
But I particularly wanted to share it because when it gets to the bookbinding part (at about 4:30) it shows my bookbinding mentor, the late Bill Anthony, doing the work.
Bill was one hell of a craftsman, and a better bookbinder than I’ll ever be. No, that’s not false humility — I’m now just a few years younger than Bill was when he participated in making this video. But at that point in his life he had been a bookbinder for more than 40 years. I’d have to continue to work at it full time for at least another 20 years to have the same time in harness. And since I’m distracted by writing and other things, well, it’d probably take another 40 years to even have a chance to achieve the same level of proficiency. But that’s OK — I’m happy with the choices I’ve made, and the things I have accomplished (and still hope to accomplish).
Anyway, I wanted to share this.
Filed under: Amazon, Art, Arthur C. Clarke, Book Conservation, Connections, Feedback, Isaac Asimov, Kindle, Marketing, Music, Predictions, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction, Writing stuff | Tags: aesthetics, Amazon, art, Arthur C. Clarke, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, Isaac Asimov, jim downey, Kindle, literature, Moody Blues, music, predictions, promotion, reviews, Science Fiction, Stephen King, writing, www youtube
So, a couple of things to share this morning …
One, the decision has been made: we’ll be going with a design for the leather bindings which includes raised cords on the spine. In terms of the response I got from people, it wasn’t even much of a competition — “cords” were the favorite almost 10 to 1.
But that doesn’t mean that the book has to have an old look. Not at all. I’m playing around with some design ideas which will incorporate the cords, but which will feel more modern. Watch for some preliminary posts on that in a couple weeks.
Two, if you are expecting to get a leather-bound copy of Communion of Dreams, but haven’t yet told me of your color preferences, do so soon. Further, if you didn’t get a confirmation response from me acknowledging your choices, then please contact me again. Because I had something of a book conservation emergency drop into my lap 10 days ago, things have been delayed a bit — but I’ll still be ordering leather and starting on those bindings before the end of the month. Please don’t delay.
And three, there’s a new review up on Amazon you might want to check out. Here’s an excerpt:
this book is very well worth your time if you love classic sci-fi. i would say that so far it is a combination of arthur c. clarke, isaac asimov, and a little stephen king. not too shabby for an unknown author. not sure if this is a series, and don’t want to ruin anything for myself by finding spoilers in reading others’ reviews. i’ll finish this book first. that may be soon- already lost most of a night’s sleep reading it. this is an original alternative universe, populated by humans and their robots, being created here; that is why it reminds me of asimov.
As always, I invite you to produce your own review, rate the book or other reviews, or just leave a comment in any reviews which particularly engage you. And you don’t have to do so only on Amazon — if you participate in another venue where such a review or recommendation would be appropriate, the help is always appreciated.
One final note: yup, the writing is proceeding apace. More on that later.
Filed under: Art, John Scalzi, Promotion, Publishing, Society, Writing stuff | Tags: art, blogging, direct publishing, exploitation, free, jim downey, John Scalzi, Nate Thayer, predictions, promotion, publishing, The Atlantic
Nine years ago, as I was in the process of closing down my gallery of fine art, I wrote the following in response to a query from a local restaurant owner who was looking to offer our artists the “exposure” of hanging their art on her walls:
Having free art to hang on your walls in order to entice people is a great idea. It would be the same thing as getting local musicians to come perform during all your hours of operation for no pay, with the excuse that they’re getting “exposure” and can put out a tip jar or maybe schedule paying gigs – and you won’t even ask for a percentage of the cut! Such a deal! Or to get it out of the realm of the arts, what would you call an employer who “allowed” workers to slave away for no compensation other than the chance to sell their services to some other potential employer when they were noticed for how well and hard they worked? And what do you think that would do for the level of wages in the community?
Folks, this is exploitation, nothing more. It’s using artists for your own personal gain.
I suppose I should have had the prescience to see the coming storm of internships, but back then I wasn’t as cynical as I am now.
Because the truth of the matter is that this sort of thing has almost become routine. Companies hold “competitions” for new logos and other graphic design needs, with the hook that winning such a competition will give the designer “exposure” and a chance to *maybe* do some other actual paid work for the company later. The Huffington Post was built on a model of not paying for content from most of their writers, but rather providing them an outlet for “exposure.” It’s become such a routine practice for online publications to ask for free content that best-selling author John Scalzi posted a bit of a rant back in December about the requests he gets.
Well, two days ago veteran journalist and multiple-award winner Nate Thayer got a query from the Atlantic Magazine to re-purpose a longer article he had published elsewhere. Thayer was open to the query, right up to the point where the Global Editor said that they wouldn’t pay for the piece, but rather it would be good for Thayer because of the “exposure”. Thayer blogged about it, including his email correspondence back and forth with the editor so that the entire horror show unfolds before your eyes. Thayer’s basic reaction is best summed up by this passage:
I am a professional journalist who has made my living by writing for 25 years and am not in the habit of giving my services for free to for profit media outlets so they can make money by using my work and efforts by removing my ability to pay my bills and feed my children. I know several people who write for the Atlantic who of course get paid. I appreciate your interest, but, while I respect the Atlantic, and have several friends who write for it, I have bills to pay and cannot expect to do so by giving my work away for free to a for profit company so they can make money off of my efforts.
The whole thing has gotten a fair amount of attention online, and generated a lot of fairly predictable discussion. Including taking Thayer to task for publishing the emails as well as his audacity at taking umbrage at being asked to provide his work for free.
My reaction to this is best summed up in Scalzi’s two final points in his rant:
9. If this is your cue to complain about how this makes me an asshole, ask me if I care. Go on, ask!
10. But now that you mention it, saying “fuck you, pay me,” to you does not make me (or anyone else from whom you are hoping to extract actual work from without pay) the asshole in this scenario. It makes me the guy responding to the asshole, in a manner befitting the moment.
It’s one thing to be asked to contribute work to some charity. Or to participate in writing for a blog or website which (intentionally) isn’t generating income for the owners. It’s another matter altogether to be asked to give away your work (creative or non) to benefit a for-profit business. That’s called exploitation.
And calling it exploitation doesn’t make you the bad guy.