The biggest news of the day (well, for me at any rate) is that my e-books are now finally available at Barnes & Noble. You can find the full list here – individual links will also be added to the individual book pages in the next few days. What is more, I have also added a Retailer page listing all the places where my books are available to the menu bar.
And now for some links:
The Atlantic has an article on the crisis of the Belgian comics industry and attempted countermeasures. Now Belgian comics played an important part during my teenaged years (my Dad used to work in Rotterdam and since my Dutch wasn’t so great, comics were all I could read), so my initial reaction was “What crisis? What are they smoking?” Though to be honest, the Belgian comics I loved during my teens – not just TinTin and Spirou, but also Suske an Wiske, Blake and Mortimer, Corentin, Bruce J. Hawker, Yoko Tsuno, Franka, Natasha, Rik Ringers, The Red Knight, De Geuzen, Michel Vaillant, Aria and many more – were often decades old by the time I found them. And while a visit to a comic shop during my last visit to Belgium two year ago had me going home with a bunch of intriguing new to me comic albums, I have no real idea whether the creators of those comics are Belgian, French or Dutch. And come to think of it, I never did. Stylistically, I differentiated between Franco-Belgian-Dutch comics on the one hand and American comics on the other and manga as a third big group, once it became available. Still, Belgium was always the comic country for me (even if I subsumed the occasional French or Dutch comic under Belgian comics) and I love the fact that their ministry of culture has a Comic Book Commission.
Also at The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers some insights on the link between masculinity, vulnerability, fear of rejection and ridicule and misogyny using the works of Raymond Chandler as an example. Found via Jay Lake.
Now personally, I don’t find vintage Raymond Chandler nearly that bad with regards to background noise misogyny, homophobia and casual racism (though it’s been a while since I last read Chandler). It’s there of course, but there’s stuff out there that’s much much worse. Nonetheless, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ observations about male vulnerability are spot on, speaking as someone who once had to break up a fight between two 13-year-old boys that broke out because one boy had caught the other masturbating in the school toilets and then had to inform the entire school about that discovery.
Regarding Marlowe’s legendary invulnerability regarding the charms of the many femme fatales he found himself faced with, German singer Heinz Rudolf Kunze already caricatured this in his song Finden Sie Mabel (Find Mabel) way back in 1986 (the YouTube clip is from 2009 though). The song is narrated from the POV of a man who hires Marlowe to locate his missing girlfriend Mabel and who wishes he could be invulnerable like Marlowe “just for one night”, though he knows he will inevitably fall for the charms of the treacherous Mabel once again. It’s a brilliant song, particularly since you don’t known who’s the more pathetic figure – the narrator who will be cheated and robbed by Mabel once again (and knows it), because he’s too much in love with her, or the cold and distant Marlowe who never had such feelings in the first place.
At the Guardian, Adam Roberts offers his list of the best science fiction works of 2012. So far, so unremarkable, if not for one name popping up on the list, namely that of German writer Juli Zeh. Now Juli Zeh is a frequent guest in cultural programmes on German TV and her novels are extensively reviewed. However, so far no German critic seems to have cottoned on to the fact that Juli Zeh writes SF, at least on occasion. Even more remarkable is that the novel Adam Roberts recommends is not Dark Matter, Juli Zeh’s most SFnal novel about quantum physics, parallel universes and time travel, but her dystopian novel The Method (Corpus Delicti in German).
Finally, there have also been two deaths which will affect anybody who watched TV in the 1970s and 1980s.
German cartoonist Wolf Gerlach died aged 84. German TV viewers will mainly remember him as the creator of the Mainzelmännchen, six happy cartoon gnomes who starred in short clips broadcast inbetween ad breaks on the public TV station ZDF. However, Gerlach also created similar ad break cartoon characters for other TV stations such as Ute, Schnute and Kasimir for the WDR, because German law required that public TV stations clearly differentiate between ads and editorial content and those little cartoon clips were a way of saying “This is an ad”. And just for fun, here is a compilation of old Mainzelmännchen clips on YouTube. If anybody wants to know what they looked like in context, here is a complete mid 1980s ad break with Mainzelmännchen. Is it me or does the model in the Fewa washing powder ad bear an uncanny resemblance to Peri from Doctor Who?
Finally, actor Larry Hagman also died last week, aged 81. Pretty much everybody will immediately associate Hagman with J.R. Ewing from Dallas, the part that made him a worldwide star. However, I saw him first as Major Tony Nelson from I Dream of Jeannie, astronaut and hero of a paranormal romance long before it was a genre, which always coloured my view of Dallas. Because here we had the Man from Atlantis, which had always freaked me out as a young kid, in the one corner and Major Tony Nelson himself in the other – three guesses whose side I was on. This is a common pattern BTW, because not only were the “villains” in those big budget 1980s soaps inevitably the most memorable characters – who could ever forget J.R. Ewing, Alexis Morell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan (yes, I had to look that up), Angela Channing and Richard Channing? – but they were also inevitably the characters I latched on to and adored (and in the case of David Selby’s villainous Richard Channing from Falcon Crest has a huge crush on) when allowed to watch “adult TV” is a kid in the 1980s. There’s a lesson for writers in this: Make sure that “Good” is not bland at best (Bobby Ewing, Krystal Carrington) and unlikable at worst (Blake Carrington whom I fucking hated) unless you want audiences to sympathize with your villain, particularly if the villain is the coolest person in the book/film/show.
Because J.R. Ewing was such a marvelous character, it is easy to forget that Larry Hagman was not really the Texas Republican oil baron he played on TV, but a man who supported numerous charities and was a proponent for renewable energy.
In memory of Larry Hagman, here is a clip that few people outside Germany will have seen, namely Larry Hagman in his J.R. persona doing a cameo appearance on the German soap Lindenstraße and encountering Mother Beimer, a character who is about as iconic for the Lindenstraße as J.R. is for Dallas. There’s plenty of in-jokes here, e.g. that Mother Beimer’s second husband (whose name I have forgotten – been a while since I watched) asks J.R. whether he wants a ticket to Denver (where rival soap Dynasty was set) or that the young female clerk (no idea who this character is – she wasn’t in the show back when I used to watch it) is the only one who recognizes Larry Hagman/J.R. and is in fact a huge fan of his – alas, as Tony Nelson.