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, 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.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Verizon Wireless Truly Sucks

I've written before about my problems with Verizon Wireless and how much they suck ... and suck ... and suck and really and truly suck.

Most (though not all) of my problems with Verizon were billing related, their robots automatically charging me for services or time that I never used.

Then, after long waits on their automated customer service line, Verizon would promise to credit me the full amount -- and then not do it.

So I canceled all of my Verizon Wireless accounts last August. I haven't had a cell phone since then. Which is good, considering that cell phones cause cancer. (Yes, they really do. Truly, they do.)

Now -- after not hearing from Verizon for nearly one peaceful year! -- Verizon has begun emailing me a "monthly bill" of $46.62.

Verizon is truly retarded! I have no wireless account with them. Yet they keep on billing, long after I've kicked them out of my life.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Ray Bradbury, RIP

I discovered Ray Bradbury in a trash can. On my way home from grammar school, I saw that someone had discarded some yellowed, worn 1970s paperbacks. I salvaged all the true ghost stories and horror fiction anthologies. One Berkeley paperback contained Bradbury's "The Small Assassin," the tale of a mentally mature infant who plots his mother's murder. (Think of The Family Guy's Stewie.)

People forget that Bradbury, known for his science fiction, was also a horror writer. With "The Small Assassin," I became a lifelong Bradbury fan, whatever his story's genre.

I first met Bradbury in 1992, at a Malibu, California book-signing. (His, not mine). He loved my trash can story. One would expect the author of Fahrenheit 451 to rejoice at people rescuing any books from landfills, incinerators, or recyclers.

Read the rest of my article in the Hollywood Investigator.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What Does It Mean to Be Published?

Back before Kindle, before print-on-demand even, the public derided self-publishing as vanity publishing. Vanity books were not real books. Vanity authors were not real authors.

To be published -- to be truly published -- required more than having a book in print. It required that an objective third party had invested in printing your book. A commercial publisher believed that your book was entertaining or interesting enough to find favor with the paying public.

Commercial publishers are motivated not by vanity, but by an objective calculation of how much a book is worth on the market. Self-publishers call these people "traditional publishers," as though self-publishing is new and ground-breaking. It's not. Self-publishing is not ground-breaking. And "commercial publisher" better describes non-vanity publishers than the term "traditional publisher."

If your book was printed by a commercial publisher -- an objective third party who risked his own money to publish your book -- then you, the commercially published author, derived prestige and status. The public admired you for overcoming the hurdle of an objective third party.

By contrast, if an author self-published, that meant the book was printed solely because of the author's faith (i.e., his vanity) in the book's merits. And because every mother believes her child to be beautiful and gifted, however ugly and stupid a child may be, the public was rightfully skeptical of self-published books. Which the public called "vanity books."

Vanity were not real books. Vanity books weren't published, they were printed. They sat stacked in cardboard boxes, unsold, in the author's basement or garage.

Read the rest of the article.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Celestine Prophecy: Old Socialism for a New Age

I'm not a big admirer of the New Age. My Hollywood Witches satirizes, among other targets, La La Land flakes and their silly infatuations with New Age make-believe.

The New Age movement is a blend of self-obsession, self-delusion, squishy-Left politics, greedy scam artists, second-hand cafeteria spirituality, and pseudoscience -- with many practitioners embodying all of those seemingly contradictory traits.

The dreadful Celestine Prophecy -- a huge bestseller in the 1990s -- is a good example of New Age nonsense. I reviewed the book in 1995. That review is now reprinted at the Weekly Universe.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Jonathan Frid, RIP

I just learned that Dark Shadows actor Jonathan Frid has died at age 87. The Chicago Tribune reports:

"Jonathan Frid, star of the original 'Dark Shadows,' died of natural causes in Canada last Friday (April 13) at the Juravinski Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario.

"Frid was best known for playing Barnabas Collins on gothic soap opera 'Dark Shadows,' which aired on ABC from June 1966 to April 1971. The character of Barnabas appeared a year into its run on TV and catapulted the show's popularity.

"Frid did not do much acting other than in 'Dark Shadows' and did not have an acting credit since the 1974 film 'Seizure' until he filmed a cameo for the 2012 release 'Dark Shadows,' which features Johnny Depp as Barnabas."

Well, that's not true. Jonathan was a seasoned stage actor long before being cast as Barnabas in Dark Shadows. He went on to do much stage work after Dark Shadows, notably his one-man-shows.

I interviewed Jonathan in 1986. He was gracious and kind, even buying me lunch and inviting me into his home. At that time he lived in an apartment in New York City.

I returned a week later to see Jonathan's one-man-show, which he performed in his apartment for select fans. He normally changed his show's contents every few months, pre-testing new material before his fans.

Much of Jonathan's show consisted of him reading short-shorts, so I lent him a copy of Fredric Brown's Nightmares and Geezenstacks, which is filled with excellent short-shorts. Jonathan liked some of Brown's tales, and would have liked to incorporate them into his show. But due to copyright considerations, he couldn't do so without permission.

I was honored to have met and interviewed Jonathan Frid, and will continue to admire the body of work he left behind.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Myth of True Communism

When my anti-Communist satire, Vampire Nation, was first published some dozen years ago, I began receiving complaints from self-identified Communists.

A common theme arose among their emails and postings. They said that I had misrepresented Communism, because Communism as historically practiced was not True Communism.

They claimed that True Communism was beautiful and wonderful and full of warmth and peace and love for all humanity.

I replied to their arguments with an article (which has now been reprinted) that I called: The Myth of True Communism.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

I Am to Sit on a Horror Film Festivals Panel

I have been invited to sit on a panel about Horror Film Festivals at the 2012 World Horror Convention, to be held in Salt Lake City, Utah, on March 29, 2012, at 4 p.m.

Actually, I pitched this panel idea last December, so it was only natural that I be included once the panel was approved. Also, I did write Horror Film Festivals and Awards, so (hopefully) I do have some knowledge about the subject.

The other panelists are Blake Casselman, Stephen Graham Jones, filmmaker Jonathan Martin, and Mario DeAngelis.

I'd suggested Casselman and Martin for the panel. Their presence too seemed only natural. Casselman is running the WHC's film festival this year. Martin is a Salt Lake City native whose An Evening With My Comatose Mother played at many horror film festivals last year, including my own Tabloid Witch Awards.

It was through the Tabloid Witch that I learned about Martin, his film work, and his home town, though I've yet to meet him in person. I'm looking forward to that, since, it turns out, Martin and I share a strong interest in Romania. (It being the locale of his documentary, I Am from Nowhere: The People History Ignored, and of my novel, Vampire Nation.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I Am Nominated for a Rondo Award

My newest book, Horror Film Festivals and Awards, has been nominated for the 2012 Rondo Hatton Horror Classic Awards.

The nomination is for their "Book of the Year" category.

The Rondos are a fan award. Anyone can vote for the winners online.

My previous book, Horror Film Aesthetics, was likewise nominated for a Rondo last year. It didn't win, and I don't expect to win this year. But as they say about every award, "It's just an honor to be nominated!"