Friday, December 18, 2009

Change the world

Henry Jenkins has just blogged about how fictional, fantasy worlds can change... well, the world.

"The idea may seem radical at first -- breaking with the largely rationalist drive of most contemporary activism. We have had less trouble accepting the premise that works of realist literature -- Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Jungle, The Grapes of Wrath -- can become the focal point for movements for social change than we have buying the idea that fantastical realms may do so, even though there is a long history. As someone who has spent much of my life in fandom, I have long seen examples of science fiction inspiring fans to rally support around NASA and manned space flight, say, or more recently, slash fans being moved to actively engage with issues of concern to the gay-lesbian-bisexual-transsexual community or to join fights against censorship and for free expression."

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Paddington Bear weighs in on immigration policies

In the UK, Michael Bond has spoken out about the treatment of refugee children. In a letter to the PM, Paddington notes: "Whenever I hear about children from foreign countries being put into detention centres, I think how lucky I am to be living at number 32 Windsor Gardens with such nice people as Mr and Mrs Brown. Mrs Bird, who looks after the Browns, says if she had her way she would set the children free and lock up a few politicians in their place to see how they liked it!"

Literary Ghettos

Just read a great blog post via one of Neil Gaiman's tweets. Julian Gough is reflecting on a review for The Opposite House, noting of the reviewer, herself an author of literary fiction:

"She really thought that her stablemate at Bloomsbury was probably "the first to contend" that migration "afflicts no one so profoundly as the gods". And editors and sub-editors had let this stand. Which means that nobody involved in the whole process was aware that Neil Gaiman had spent nearly six hundred pages, in his novel American Gods (which is not "literary", nor published by Bloomsbury), writing about nothing but how migration profoundly afflicts the gods."

Gough's point is that literary fiction exists in a ghetto, but there is little recognition of this. Writes Gough: "most SF reviewers are also stuck in their ghetto: and most crime reviewers: but they at least know they live in a ghetto, and that what they read is a genre. The problem with the literary novel is that it is becoming a genre again, and doesn't know it."

Just something to muse upon when considering the study of literature.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Holidays!

I've just gone on leave and since I'm already thinking about how I can fit Princess Leia's hair buns into my chapter on fairy tale hairstyles, I thought I'd leave you with one of my favourite seasonal treats, "Happy Life Day." And if that weren't enough to entertain you, there's always the Star Wars Christmas album, snippets available here.

Have a good Christmas!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Something to astonish

I've seen quite a bit of book art popping up, but this video, passed on by a colleague, is incredible. Trust me, click the link.

One of my other favourite links to amazing art made from books is here. The Alice's Adventures in Wonderland page, with cut out table and Alice, is beautiful.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Jingle Bells and Hellboy

I'll shortly be going on research leave. For the first half of 2010, I'll be working on a book. As I begin to pile up all the books and articles I need - into truly terrifying stacks that begin to sway when a breeze strikes them - I'm also taking a little time to enjoy myself now the marking and paperwork is subsiding.

I've discovered Hellboy. I like Hellboy. I saw the first film on the plane while flying to a conference in the UK. It was a guilty pleasure. I've just started reading the comics. My favourite so far is the pancakes comic. Someone actually tattooed it on their leg. I don't love it quite that much, but I can applaud the decision! I love the mix of paranormal activity and myth with a little fairy tale thrown in. I love the design of Hellboy too, with his sanded off horns and little legs.

The Dark Horse site for Hellboy at the moment has a rather cheery Christmas theme, too.

Speaking of comics, have a look at the Lovelace and Babbage comics from 2D Goggles if you haven't already (I have linked them earlier). They're brilliant. Lovelace is - in terms of actual history - the daughter of Byron. She's a fascinating math whizz. She inherited her talent from her mother, Annabella, known as "the princess of parallelograms" by Bryon.

One of my favourite entries from 2D Goggles concerns the reality of fashion in their time. Ada doesn't look quite the intrepid mathematician in that get-up.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fancy an Austen first edition?

Possibly the place to start isn't Emma, which just recently sold for $104,500. Here's a blog post about the auction of Jane Austen's novels.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The future of booksellers

I found a really thoughtful piece on Boing Boing today about the future of bookshops. It's worth clicking through to Clay Shirky's original essay too, titled "Local Bookstores, Social Hubs, and Mutualization."

What particularly struck me were Cory Doctorow's thoughts on bookshops printing Google Books on demand:

"I can even imagine the profs across the street producing annotated versions -- say, a treatise on Alice in Wonderland with reproductions of ten different editions' illustrations and selling them through the store's printer and shelf-space, restoring the ancient bookseller/book-publisher role."

Not only is there a satisfying link back to the heady days of publishing in the 17th and 18th centuries, but the idea of producing my own annotated versions of Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or Basile's Il Pentamerone for students. Imagine. Books especially designed for the students doing my courses! How amazing would that be? One step up from the unwieldy unit guides. [Just been pointed out that I can... now all I need is the time to figure it out and produce it...]