Monday, 30 July 2007

Books Disguised as Cigarette Boxes.

Sure, it's a gimmick but it's a pretty gimmick! Books made to look like cigarette boxes:

As one habit dies hard, another takes hold.

The ban on smoking in public places comes into operation in the UK on July 1, 2007. Tank is launching a series of books designed to mimic cigarette packs –
the same size, packaged in flip-top cartons with silver foil wrapping and sealed in cellophane.

TankBooks pay homage to this monumentally successful piece of packaging design by employing it in the service of great literature. Cigarette packs are iconic objects, familiar, tried and tested, and over time TankBooks will become iconic objects in their own right. The launch titles are by authors of great stature – classic stories presented in classic packaging; objects desirable for both their literary merit and their unique design.
Conrad, Hemingway, Kafka , Kipling, R. L. Stevenson and Tolstoy all get their smokes. Not bad.

Via Notebookism.

Interview with Neil Gaiman.

Everyone's favourite urban fantasist, Neil Gaiman, talks to TIME magazine about his recently made Stardust movie, fame and the upcoming Watchmen movie:
It's all fairly win-win for Gaiman. If Stardust becomes the next Princess Bride, then hooray, and if it doesn't, it's back to cult figurehood. "Five years ago, I was absolutely as famous as I wanted to be," he says. "I'm now more famous than I'm comfortable with." In a genre like fantasy, the relationship between artist and fan is a fragile, intimate thing, and in some sense Gaiman is still that nerdy public school kid. He's leery of selling out to the popular crowd. "I have really mixed feelings about the coming Watchmen movie," he says, "because I keep hearing that it's going to be really good. And part of me is going, I don't want a really good Watchmen movie! I want my graphic novel!"

Friday, 27 July 2007

Still on the ArtRage rush...

Woohoo! I haven't felt like this with drawing since primary school! I don't want to sound like a cheesy advert but I can't help it--ArtRage made me fall in love with drawing all over again! *heart heart*

I so want a Wacom tablet now. Drawing with a mouse (and a crappy one, at that) is going to give me RSI if I keep up this pace!

J.K. Rowling On What's Next For Her.

USA Today has an interview up with J.K. Rowling which discusses what is next for her after Harry Potter:
"I think that there will be some disappointment if I don't write another fantasy," she says. "But I must admit, I think I've done my fantasy. To go and create another fantasy universe would feel wrong, and I don't know if I'm capable of it."

She wants to take off "lots" of time to spend with her family. But good news, Potter fans — she's writing.

"I'm sort of writing two things at the moment," she says. "One is for children and the other is not for children. The weird thing is that this is exactly the way I started writing Harry. I was writing two things simultaneously for a year before Harry took over. So one will oust the other in due course, and I'll know that's my next thing."
She's also happy to discuss about the ending of the latest Harry Potter, but thankfully, they've sectioned off that part of the interview to a different page. I doubt our local papers would have that sort of consideration.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Fun with Oil!

I don't have one drop of art talent in my blood but that's not about to stop me exposing the innocent world to my masterpieces!


As you can see, I've been messing about with ArtRage. Look out art world! Here I come! Now to get one of those Wacom tablet thingamajiggies.

Payless Warehouse Sale! Again.

Venue: 2nd Floor, 3K Sports Complex, Subang Jaya
Date: 3 - 5 August 2007
Time: 10:00am - 7:00pm

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Made in China, Read Worldwide,

Time to drag out The Unbearable Lightness of Being again if you want to break into China:
"Milan Kundera was the most successful Western author in China. That's what the Chinese were interested in because they could relate to it. They relate to times when nobody was allowed to be happy."
All this and more in Made in China, Read Worldwide.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Upgraded!

I've finally upgraded to the newish Blogger. I decided I wanted some of those nifty widget action for myself, but that meant having to chuck out my previous blog template. No matter. That template was getting old. I first started using it more than 2 years ago (in another blog) and it was getting a little stale (and the css behind it was getting clunkier and clunkier).

I've decided to go for a more Spartan feel. It'll do. For now.

Monday, 23 July 2007

A Novel in Two Weeks.

And now for something completely different (and not Monty Python either). A quote from my favourite dystopian writer, J.G. Ballard:
The one thing I wanted to do was to be able to give up my job as an editor of a scientific magazine so that I could write a decent novel, to think about where I was going as a writer. We’d moved to Shepperton in 1960, and I had this tremendously long railway journey in the evenings, coming home from work; there were all these small children running around, I was absolutely exhausted. The future looked extremely dismal, professionally speaking; I’d been writing short stories since 1956 but I felt I was getting nowhere. I needed a break. I didn’t want to begin lowering my sights and begin churning out novels that were partly serious — you know, money spinners. I had two weeks’ holiday — I think my wife suggested it: why don’t you, just for the hell of it, write a novel in two weeks? I’d always been intrigued by the idea of writing a novel very quickly and I still am. I’d like to be able to write a novel in three days. So I sat down and wrote The Wind From Nowhere, in literally I think 10 working days. I set myself a target of something like 6,000 words a day, which I kept up for 10 days. I didn’t make very much money from it, but I made enough, straight away, to be able to give up my job. Soon after I wrote my first serious novel, The Drowned World.
Taken from The Corridor interview with J.G. Ballard, posted up at The Ballardian.

"Always the tone of surprise."

Probably my favourite quote from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows! But I think Ron said it already in previous books? I forget.

I've just only finished reading it... and I thank J.K. Rowling that my faith in her all these 8 years was not in vain. Thank you for such a satisfying ending.

All these years, I've faced Harry Potter launch days with both longing and trepidation. Longing because, well, the obvious. Trepidation, not because of who might die, but who might spoil the book for me. Let's get this straight. I HATE SPOILERS. It doesn't matter if the book or movie doesn't really hold much interest in me, I just hate knowing something I shouldn't be knowing until I see or read the story myself. That's just me. Other people won't mind of course.

For me, it's the thrill of enjoying the story, the hows and the whys. I enjoy finding out for myself both the means and the ends if the story, the cause and the effect, without finding out from an external source. This is why I engage in a Harry Potter non-stop sprint to the end every time a new book comes out. I don't even like this horrible rushing through a book, I prefer taking my time, chewing each tasty morsel, savouring every word. But I always do the mad rush in the case of Harry Potter because I'm always scared that some moron in the newspaper, internet or in the office, heck, even on the street or LRT, might spoil something, however minor, for me. This is even more important to me, because I've been waiting for the ending( and the minor details that lead to that end) for a goddammed eight frickin' years, and no way I'm finding out but from the book itself.

Two types of people annoy me in this situation: the rabid Harry Potter maniac, and the constant basher. The first because they are unbelievably pedantic and would discuss spoilers in a public forum without due warning; and the latter, because all they want to do is bash Harry Potter non-stop, citing that Neil Gaiman/Robin Hobb/Philip Pullman/Lemony Snicket/etc. is better.

To the latter: Dude. It's a personal opinion. There is no "better" series or author. Just enjoy what you like, convert other people into believers of your cause if you want to, but man, don't diss what other people like.

To the former: Screw you. It's people like you who create people like the basher. You fawn over Harry Potter like it's The Greatest Ever, and when newbies to the series realise it's not as great as you made it out to be thanks to you hyping it so much, they go blind to the good parts and annoy everyone about how everything else is soooo much better.

Okay, rant over. Actually, all I wanted to say was I liked the book. A lot!

Me, my brother, and L in MPH 1U at 7am, surrounded by an almost non-existent crowd. Kino and Borders? Fools!

Friday, 20 July 2007

Local Bookstores Refuse to Sell Harry Potter 7!

Controversy! It seems our local bookstores have been getting the bad end of the stick:
KUALA LUMPUR: Four major bookstore chains -- MPH, Popular, Harris and Times -- have confirmed they will not sell Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows in protest against selected hypermarkets being given hefty discounts to sell the book.

The recommended retail price of RM109.90 is being violated by hypermarkets advertising and selling it at RM69.90, they said.

The four chains, with a total of 100 outlets nationwide, said they were protesting the indiscriminate price discount and wanted to show customers that they were not "blatantly profiteering" from them.

Officials from the four bookstores held a meeting at 4pm Friday to announce their stand.

They said they were also cancelling all promotional events associated with the release of the seventh and final Harry Potter novel, and apologised to their customers. However, the said they would honour all pre-orders.

Author J.K. Rowling has said that two major characters would die, which has increased the buzz over the book's release.

Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows goes on sale nationwide from 7.01am tomorrow.

Malaysians in Space.

I'm in my science fiction phase right now and currently my reading time is consumed by nothing but sf. If I'm not reading sf (right now: J.G. Ballard's short stories) then I'm reading about it. I've been spending most of my online browsing on sf-related forums like The Chronicles Network, sf-related blogs like David Louis Edelman's blog, and have even been dropping by the local SF watering hole.

I like sf because it's speculative; it's a vision into the future, predicting what could be, what should be, what shouldn't be. The stories might take place in a totally different place and era, but the themes are universal. On the surface, Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein is a story about a spacewar against evil insect aliens, but underneath the pyrotechnics it's also a right-wing tract about the responsibility of going to war (it was written when the US was in Vietnam). William Gibson's Neuromancer and Neil Stephenson's Snow Crash are arguably responsible for predicting cyberspace and virtual reality worlds like Second Life. George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four warned us about a future where we could lose our basic human rights and freedom. Good sf doesn't just predict, but speculates and contemplates decisions of the present. In short, good sf are stories that really reflect about our condition now.

So I've been thinking: What would Malaysian sf be like? Now that we have our own National Space Agency, our own Angkasawans, our own Islamic Guidelines for Praying in Space, surely now is the perfect time to cultivate our very own science fiction? Obviously, we don't have much of a sf scene in Malaysia at the moment. My knowledge of Malaysian sf is sadly limited to some short stories in Dewan Kosmik (the local science magazine published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka), the two dismal XX Ray movies (one a retelling of The Invisible Man, the other a time travel adventure set in the glory days of the Malacca Sultanate), and lastly, an anthology called Epidemik. Not much to go on, and the examples I've provided are immature efforts at best. (I'm also aware of Faisal Tehrani's effort, 1511H: Kombat, but I haven't read that yet.)

What we really need is something that can truly rock the boat. Something really--forgive the pun--out there. It not only has to be outstanding when compared to other local literature-- literary or mainstream--it also must be able to stand up when compared to the Western heavyweights. (A bit of science-fictional speculation and some long-shot wishing here, but bear with me please.)

What can Malaysian writers contribute to the sf world? Well, for starters, we've got a lot of interesting local issues that crop up from time to time. I've already mentioned the praying in space thing. Did you know that Malaysia has a space policy? Did you know that even though we do have a policy, those lazy scientists (or most likely, the politicians) in the Space Agency haven't really drafted it out yet, even though they have a basic idea of what might be in it? The shrewd Malaysian sf writer would know that he doesn't need to wait for those sloths, he can just draft one up himself, and use that as a springboard for his stories. After all, what is sf if it doesn't fill in the holes?

Here's another cool idea. Now that we *cough cough* know we're *cough cough* an Islamic State *cough cough*, what would Malaysia be like 30 years from now if it really becomes a true Islamic State? A Utopia or a Dystopia? Religion as political means to hang on to power? That's just for starters. What if this "Islamic State" Malaysia (utopian or dystopian, you, the writer, decide) already had an advanced space programme that could send Angkasawans to the moon? What if some Malaysian ulamas wanted acknowledgement of the ultimate proof of the authenticity of the Qur'an by proving that Muhammad (pbuh) really did split the moon and ordered these lunar-based Angkasawans to conduct geographic tests on the moon? What would be the truth? Would the truth matter?

Another thing to ponder upon: does anyone realise our neighbour down south might one-up us in the very near future in the space stakes? Singapore is building a spaceport complete with facilities for sub-orbital space flights, parabolic flights, a space camp for children, a full-day astronaut experience for adults, and an authentic VIP astronaut training facility. What if they succeed? What if they don't and we do? What if some future Malaysian Prime Minister got on a kiasu streak, and decided that he would convert KLIA into a spaceport?

There are a lot of things going on in Malaysia that has so much science-fictional potential. I just feel it's such a waste no one seems to be taking this chance to write The Great Malaysian SF Novel. I would write it, but I'm busy writing The Great Malaysian Fantasy Novel(s). Perhaps I'll write my thoughts on the potential of the Malaysian Fantasy scene some other time.

Open Call for KL Stories!

Looks like Eric will be busy with his editing cap on:
MPH GROUP PUBLISHING is pleased to announce an open call for submissions of short fiction and creative non-fiction for an anthology tentatively entitled Urban Odysseys: KL Stories. We aim to publish the anthology in 2008, depending on the number of submissions that we receive.

The theme of the anthology will focus on life in the city, specifically Kuala Lumpur, with writings that show images of the new juxtaposed against the old, urban living with contrasting bright lights and shadowy realities and other short fiction or creative non-fiction which best encapsulate the spirit of the national capital. This is not a travel book but an anthology of literary writings about the city.

Stories must be original, between 3,000 and 5,000 words and must not have been previously published. We invite submissions from both emerging and established writers. Stories for children are not eligible for this compilation. Manuscripts must be edited, typed double-spaced with 12pt font and e-mailed to mphpublishing@mph.com.my. Please include your name, address, telephone number and e-mail address. You may submit as many stories as you wish. Faxed or handwritten submissions will not be entertained and manuscripts will not be returned. We will contact you only if your short story has been selected for inclusion in the compilation. Writers whose submissions are selected will be expected to work with the editors to fine tune their stories.

Deadline: 30 November 2007
Payment: A small flat fee and two copies of the anthology

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Michiko Kakutani Reviews Harry Potter 7.

That damned Michiko Kakutani from the New York Times has managed to snag a copy of Deathly Hallows before its release and had time enough to read it and give a review within one day! Warning! Minor spoilers contained within. (Why! Why did I click and read it! Sob sob sob)

Jane Austen Deals with Rejection.

We've seen this before. Person sends manuscript of a classic work to literary agents, touting it as an original work. When it gets rejected, everyone is amused. I know I am!

From the Daily Mail:
Mr Lassman, 43, submitted opening chapters of three of Austen's classic works - Northanger Abbey, first published in 1798, Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Persuasion (1818).

He typed them out himself, and signed them Alison Laydee after Austen's early pseudonym A Lady.

To offer a few more hints, he called Pride and Prejudice 'First Impressions', the original title for the story, and wrote a return address of the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, where he works as the director of the Jane Austen Festival.

In response, the literary agency Christopher Little, which represents JK Rowling, said it was 'not confident of placing this material with a publisher.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Good News!

Hurray~

Interview with Faulks. Sebastian Faulks.

Entertainment Weekly grills Sebastian Faulks on being the new Bond author, his new Bond book, Devil May Care, and David Craig's take on the franchise:
Oh, he was certainly a lot tougher than Roger Moore, who was very soft. You felt that if you punched Roger Moore in the stomach it would be like punching a bag of marshmallows. And Fleming does stress the cruelty of Bond, particularly in the early novels. I think that was one of the things that made the creation appealing and rather shocking when it first came out. But if you actually analyze the way that Bond behaves, both towards his enemies, and towards women, it isn’t actually a sadistic or unnecessarily cruel. He only kills in self-defense, or if absolutely necessary for his mission. Although he is an incurable womanzier, he doesn’t actually treat the women badly. In fact, he frequently falls in love with them and is jilted by them sometimes.
I totally agree. Roger Moore was such a total wimp, I'm perplexed as to why he survived being Bond for seven films.

George Lazenby is the best Bond evah!!!11

Monday, 16 July 2007

The Man Behind the Magic.

Sure, the marketing monster that is Harry Potter owes its existence to J.K. Rowling, but its success can also be attributed to her literary agent, Christopher Little:
Throughout the canny construction of 'Brand Potter' - books, films, video games, and now even stamps - one figure has been ever present, like a shadow glimpsed in the cloisters of Hogwarts school.

This enigmatic but utterly crucial influence is Christopher Little, literary agent, fierce protector of Rowling and, thanks to the boy wizard, now a millionaire many times over.
Perhaps the luckiest literary agent ever.

Tintin and Herge...Those Racists!

There seems to be quite a fuss being kicked up in the UK over Tintin in the Congo portraying blacks in an unflattering light:
A Commission for Racial Equality spokeswoman said: "This book contains imagery and words of hideous racial prejudice, where the 'savage natives' look like monkeys and talk like imbeciles.

"How and why do Borders think that it's okay to peddle such racist material?

"Yes, it was written a long time ago, but this certainly does not make it acceptable. This is potentially highly offensive to a great number of people.

"It beggars belief that in this day and age Borders would think it acceptable to sell and display Tintin in the Congo."
What I'm wondering is... why kick up a row now? Tintin in the Congo isn't a recent publication. It was first published in 1930s for god's sake! A lot of materials at the time had racist contents. Tintin in the Congo was just a reflection of the zeitgeist of that era.

And why all this harping about Tintin? Everyone knows Asterix is ways better! Pfft!

J.K. Rowling Hints At Harry Potter Date Rape.



Man... the last book is gonna be so exciting! ^_^

What's next in science fiction?

David Louis Edelman, author of InfoQuake, wonders whether we've reached a saturation point in sf. Has it come to the point that we're all kneedeep in technological marvels that nothing in future sf can really excite us like it used to?

Also, why don't the future societies in sf indulge in their own science fiction? Says Dave:
Perhaps the universe will one day become predictable enough — perhaps scientific change and progress will be so much a part of us — that looking into the future will just be an exercise of more-of-the-same. I’m not saying we’re there yet, but we might be approaching it. Maybe we’ll have so much of an understanding of the workings of the world that we can’t write anything but what we term the fantastic. In other words, the impossible, the fanciful, the mythic that has no pretension to reality other than a metaphoric one.

Fonts and Your Personality.

It used to be your signature or your handwriting that revealed your personality. I suppose I should've seen this coming:
The Psychology of Fonts, commissioned by Lexmark Printers and written by psychologist Dr Aric Sigman explains how a typeface will significantly influence what the reader thinks about you.

Courier is seen as the choice of "sensible shoes" type of people or "anoraks" and curvy icons like Georgia or Shelly suggest a bit of a "rock chick" personality.
The article goes on to suggest that Richard Branson is a "Verdana" and "using the wrong font may give people the wrong impression about you and could affect decisions that will shape your future."

It also mentions that Courier New is for people who prefer "automaton-like" coldness. What does that say about the editors in the publishing industry who mostly prefer manuscripts in Courier New 12pt? :D

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Hari Kunzru Urges You To Kill Your Babies!

...and gives plenty of other neat advice for aspiring writers. He also talks about the process of writing and what got him interested in reading:
I don't remember *not* being interested in it, so I'd probably have to thank my parents. My grandfather was certainly interested in encouraging me. He gave me "Crime and Punishment" for my ninth birthday.
So there you have it. Want to cultivate a reading habit for your child? Start with the Russians!

I met Hari Kunzru last year and I remember him as a pretty nice guy (and he dispensed some advice for hopeful writers then too!).

I'm feeling a little guilty that I haven't actually read any of his books yet, though they've been on my TBR pile since I met him! I have however read his short story collection, Noise, which was pretty good albeit a spartan mix of sf and weird fantasy.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

The Music of Words.

Haruki Murakami writes on the importance of the influence of music on his writing in The New York Times (might require free registration):
Whether in music or in fiction, the most basic thing is rhythm. Your style needs to have good, natural, steady rhythm, or people won’t keep reading your work. I learned the importance of rhythm from music — and mainly from jazz. Next comes melody — which, in literature, means the appropriate arrangement of the words to match the rhythm. If the way the words fit the rhythm is smooth and beautiful, you can’t ask for anything more. Next is harmony — the internal mental sounds that support the words. Then comes the part I like best: free improvisation. Through some special channel, the story comes welling out freely from inside. All I have to do is get into the flow. Finally comes what may be the most important thing: that high you experience upon completing a work — upon ending your “performance” and feeling you have succeeded in reaching a place that is new and meaningful. And if all goes well, you get to share that sense of elevation with your readers (your audience). That is a marvelous culmination that can be achieved in no other way.
If I remember correctly, Jay Rubin writes more about this in his book, Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words.

Also, I checked out Kinokuniya KLCC yesterday and they're stocked up on After Dark. It even has a 20% discount if you buy it with another book. Good thing too, the slim volume costs Rm69.90.

Now, if only Starmag would publish my review already.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Citation Needed.

Next time a Malaysian politician talks, someone needs to do this.


Viva la Wikipedia revolucion!

Monday, 2 July 2007

Saturday Readings.

The readings went well I think. I read a few pieces that my late friend, Daud Ahba, wrote and the audience seemed to get a kick out of it :)

I don't have a camera, the technophobe that I am, so I roped in my pal Ash to take some piccies. All the following pics were taken by him. You may also remember that Ash was also responsible for drawing my teddy bear logos.

Ash reads some of his humanist poetry which received a standing ovation.

Leon and Chet attempt to hide from the camera behind bottles. I'm sorry Chet, but Leon wins this time round! Better luck next time.

Ted Mahsun shows the awed crowd at Seksan's how to properly tie a pair of Chuck T's, the BEST GODDAMNED SHOES in the multiverse.

Nifty links to check out:
.punoɹ ʎɐʍ buoɹʍ ǝɥʇ sǝʌıʇɔǝdsɹǝd s,ǝ1doǝd ǝɯos pǝuɹnʇ ɐqɥɐ pnɐp ʇǝq ı .oɥ oɥ

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