Sunday, March 01, 2015

Hollywood Witches Skewers Liberal Diversity Hypocrites

The 2015 Academy Awards once again exposed Hollywood's hypocrisy on diversity. The film industry has a long history of promoting diversity on screen -- but only as a message, not as an actual practice. As a random example, consider the 1980 TV-movie, The $5.20 an Hour Dream. In it, Linda Lavin (TV's Alice) fights sexist bosses and co-workers for her right to do "a man's job" on a factory assembly line.

The makers of that film likely felt a smug pride in berating manufacturers for their unequal hiring practices. And a sense of moral superiority in belonging to the more enlightened entertainment industry. Indeed, Hollywood has been so prolific in fighting prejudice (on screen) that it's hard to list every film and TV episode with an equal opportunity message. Norman Lear made a career of producing "liberal message" sitcoms in the 1970s-1980s.

But that's okay. The message -- that one should provide equal opportunity to all job-seekers, irrespective of race, religion, ethnicity, sex, or age -- is right and proper. The problem is that while Hollywood loves to wag its finger at all those other "bigoted" businesses -- which are nearly always depicted as being run by snotty, blue-blooded WASPs -- Hollywood has yet to practice what it preaches.

According to the AP's Jake Coyle, "[T]he academy is a reflection of the film industry; it can only reward the films that get made. What this year's all-white acting nominees did was lay bare the enormous, hulking iceberg of the movie business' diversity problems." And NPR's All Things Considered adds, "If you want an accurate picture of ethnic and gender diversity in the United States, don't look to Hollywood."

Both articles cite the 2015 Hollywood Diversity Report prepared by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. But this is only the latest in a long line of dismal Hollywood diversity reports. In 2000, the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute released a report with the self-explanatory title: Still Missing: Latinos In and Out of Hollywood.

I know about that report because I cite its statistics in Hollywood Witches, my satirical novel about Tinseltown's hypocritical hiring practices. In Hollywood Witches, a New Age coven infiltrates the studios, seeking control of the industry by hook or by crook -- or more specifically, through sex and black magic. Once in power, they will impose hiring quotas so that the industry "looks like America" on both sides of the camera. Coven leader Diana Däagen even has some programs on her Mac custom-designed for just that purpose: Glass Ceiling 4.0 and Bean Counter 2.1.

Diana Däagen is a villain. Her plans require widespread blood sacrifice to succeed. But like all great Hollywood villains, she has a point. There is method to her madness. When she states her case (as all great villains do before launching the final stage of their Master Plan), she cites hard facts and makes valid arguments. Hollywood does discriminate. Despite the usual boilerplate about "equal opportunity" on studio stationery, nepotism and cronyism rule the day.

And it's even worse behind the camera than on screen. Audiences will notice if there's no color on screen, but they never see who's writing and producing (or not) off camera.

The current controversy regarding the 2015 Oscars has focused mostly (albeit not exclusively) on the lack of diversity on screen. But Diana correctly understood that Hollywood will never achieve real diversity until there is diversity among the gatekeepers doing the hiring -- the agents, managers, producers, TV show runners, and studio bosses. Give the devil her due.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Tabloid Witch Award Screenings at Loscon 41


It's that time that of year again, time for Thanksgiving -- and Loscon!

As usual, Los Angeles's annual science fantasy convention will be convening over Thanksgiving weekend, at the LAX Marriott Hotel. And as is often the case, I'll be screening past Tabloid Witch Award winning horror films there.

I'll be screening the following horror films on Friday evening, November 28, from 8 p.m. to midnight, in the LAX Marriott Hotel's Saddle Brook Room. The schedule is as follows:


short film block: 8 - 10:00 p.m.

Psychic Sue -- A phony psychic meets a real ghost. Horror comedy.

Timothy -- A children's TV show rabbit turns out to be...not nice. We always knewBarney the Dinosaur and the Teletubbies were evil. Grisly dark comedy.

The First Step -- A young girl in a new house hears a monster creeping up the stairs.

Za Edgara (aka To Edgar) -- How Edgar Allan Poe got so weird. Animation.

Somebody to Love-- A lonely man rescues a beautiful corpse...but women are all the same!

The Heebie Jeebies -- A mother's terrifying bedtime tale...or are Heebie Jeebies for real?

The Stomach -- A tormented medium hosts spirits in his stomach. Bloody British horror.

The Fear Box: 666 Telemarketing -- Telemarketers really are from Hell.

Ticket to the Haunted Mansion -- It's only a show...it's not real...it's only a show...right?

Lancaster Square -- A woman hears a baby crying...but where is the baby?

Filmmaker's Q&A

feature: 10:30 p.m. - midnight

Tympanum -- A family man finds a portal in his own apartment. A portal leading to...another planet? Another time? Another dimension? 

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Self-Published Authors: It's Not About the Money

Does self-publishing a book make one into a real writer? That is, professional author? Or is a self-publisher merely a vanity author?

The outside world may not care about such definitions, but as self-publishing became ever cheaper and easier over the past 15 years (due to print-on-demand, distributing those POD books via Amazon, and finally Kindle ebooks), writers have hotly debated who is a professional.

Only professional authors are permitted to join many writers' organizations, so defining a professional is not an entirely fanciful past-time. It has real world consequences.

Richard Lea observes, in Britain's The Guardian newspaper [January 23, 2014], that most self-published authors not only don't earn much money from their books -- they also don't think it's relevant to defining a writer.

I found this excerpt especially interesting:


[T]he self-publishing revolution has allowed "hundreds of thousands of voracious readers with a dream of writing a novel" to write books "out of love and passion, just like a kid goes out and dribbles a basketball for hours every day or kicks a soccer ball against a garage wall". But over the past few decades we wouldn't have called these people "writers" any more than we would call that kid in the back yard a footballer. If all it takes to be a writer is to stick your work online then we're all writers now.

In the old days things were much clearer. All you had to do to call yourself a writer was publish a book, which meant you needed someone else to publish it – and someone else to buy it.


Read the full story here.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bogus Amazon Reviews

As an Amazon Vine Voice, I take pride in my Amazon reviews. I am thus especially disgusted by bogus "reviews for hire."

I found the below ad on Criagslist, which takes bogus reviewing to new depths. "Reviewers" are hired to post pre-written reviews. That's right. These phony slimebag "reviewers" don't even bother to write their own lies.

I suggest that Amazon (and Yelp -- I've seen ads for bogus Yelp reviewers as well) should engage in sting operations. Respond to these ads, try to find out who's posting bogus reviews, and delete all their reviews.

Here's the Craigslist ad (contact info not included):


We are a literary marketing company that helps authors/publishers increase book sales.

We are looking for individuals who can boost the positive "Amazon book review" postings on selected titles. You will be given the reviews. No need to do any writing. The books are of all genres, but some are erotica so you should be fine with that. You must have an active Amazon account (meaning having purchased anything from there) and a computer with a unique I.P. address (no Kindles/phones, etc.).
 
Need a handful of people to post reviews on about 10 books/day (should take less than an hour total). You will be paid $5/book ($50 total/every day). Payment is by Paypal on a daily basis.

Serious responses only. This gig starts right away.

Please provide your email as the system here keeps sending replies to junk mail. Thanks!


You can find some tips on how to spot a fake review on this site and on this site.

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Friday, January 10, 2014

The Quarterly Review Interviews Me


Canadian writer Mark Wegierksi interviewed me for the Quarterly Review, during which I mostly discuss the creative process and themes behind my novels.

 You can read Wegierski's article here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My Horror Panels at Loscon 40

I'll appear on five panels at Loscon 40, on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the Thanksgiving Day weekend, in Los Angeles, CA.

Although Loscon is a mostly science fiction/ fantasy convention, they've been expanding their horror events over the years. Four of my five panels are horror-oriented. They are:


* Humanizing Our Monsters

Vampires, werewolves, zombies, demons, serial killers. All have starred as sexy and dangerous, but ultimately misunderstood heroes and protagonists, of their own stories. What is it that drives us to give humanity to the manifestations of our darkest fears? Panelists: Jenna Pitman (m), Barbara Hambly, Julie Sczesny, E.E. King, Thomas M. Sipos. Friday, 8 - 9 p.m. Scottsdale Room.



I've much to say on this subject. In my book, Horror Film Aesthetics, I discuss the four appeals of horror. The fourth one I call "Sympathy for the Other" -- when "monsters" are viewed sympathetically (e.g., Dark Shadows vampire Barnabas Collins).



* Science vs the Supernatural

Ghosts or radiation? Mad science or necromancy? Medical malfunctions or immortal monsters? Does science or magic make for a better back drop to illustrate what scares us most? Is it all circumstantial? Panelists: Jenna Pitman (m), Julie Sczesny, Thomas M. Sipos, E.E. King. Friday, 9 - 10 p.m. Scottsdale Room. 



Yes, in Horror Film Aesthetics I break down horror's basic threats into three categories: the supernatural, horror/sci-fi, and the human (e.g., psychos). And I explain how horror overlaps with other genres, such as science fiction proper.



* Horror Literature vs Horror Cinema

Short horror works equally as well as a story or film. But horror novels and feature length are different monsters all together. What makes the novel different than a movie? Is one more frightening than the other? What do each of them get right? What do they get wrong? Panelists: Jenna Pitman (m), Thomas M. Sipos, Donald F. Glut, Tom Khamis. Saturday, 8 - 9 p.m. Atlanta Room.



In Horror Film Aesthetics I also explain why horror works better on film than on text, whereas the reverse is true of science fiction.



* And the Award Goes to...

All horror fans know that the genre has lost respect in recent years. Once our movies and novels were good enough to be considered classics but now they've been reduced to jokes. When was the last time our genre was been acknowledged by mainstream judges? How can the genre return to its glory days? Is it possible? Jenna Pitman (m), Julie Sczesny, Thomas M. Sipos, Tom Khamis. Saturday, 9 - 10 p.m. Atlanta Room.



I disagree that horror has lost respect in recent years, which I explain in my other book, Horror Film Festivals and Awards. You can also read about that topic in the book's forward, which is reprinted for free on my website.



* Future of Investigative Journalism

The newspapers have been the only institution in society to commit to in-depth investigative journalism, which is sometimes antagonistic to both governmental and corporate power. Now that the print market is imperiled, can bloggers and web-only publications fulfill their role? Richard Foss (m) Thomas M. Sipos, Mike Glyer, Dennis Mallonee. Sunday, 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Marquis 2 Room.



I say much about investigative journalism -- what it is, who's doing it today, its current state of heath -- in my novel, Hollywood Witches.


All in all, I've much to say about all the above topics. Drop in to Loscon if you happen to be in the Los Angeles area over the Thanksgiving Day weekend.

Monday, June 25, 2012

France Bans Book Discounts

Small, independent bookstores in U.S. have long complained that publishers grant deeper discounts to bookstore chains and to Amazon.com, because the latter buy more books. The chains and Amazon then pass these discounts on to customers. This puts small bookstores at a competitive disadvantage.

Of course, the chains are at a competitive disadvantage even against Amazon.

But this disadvantage does not exist in France, which, forbids stores from discounting books beyond 5% of retail price.

According to Angelique Chrisafis, writing for Britain's The Guardian newspaper (June 24, 2012):


"In contrast to the UK's famous three-for-two deals, the French state fixes the prices of books and readers pay the same whether they buy online, at a high-street giant or a small bookseller. Discounting is banned. The government boasts that price controls have saved small independent bookshops from the ravages of free-market capitalism that were unleashed in the UK when it abandoned fixed prices in the 1990s. France has more than 3,000 independent local bookshops and 400 in Paris, compared with around 1,000 in the UK and only 130 in London. But online book giants are still eating into small bookshops, many of which struggle to stay afloat."


According to Wikipedia, this is called France's Lang Law. It was passed in 1981, and extended to cover ebooks in 2011. Similar laws exist in Austria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain.

I love bookstores, but as a reader, I certainly appreciate book discounts. A conundrum.