March 11th, 2006

ozarque figure

Too much money, too many fans, and other Pseudo-Burdens...

Question from dteleki, in response to my request for help with my episode of Blogger's Block:
"How about asking your readers here for factual news items that could easily be mistaken for sf or satire or both? Items that could serve as a jumping-off point for something. Here's mine, including a hyperlink."

"Gadget Lets Authors Sign Books From Afar LONDON (AP) - Margaret Atwood has had enough of long journeys, late nights and writer's cramp. Tired of grueling book tours, the Booker Prize-winning Canadian author on Sunday unveiled her new invention: a remote-controlled pen that allows writers to sign books for fans from thousands of miles away./Some fear Atwood's LongPen could end the personal contact between writers and readers. Atwood says it will enhance the relationship./"I think of this as a democratizing device," said Atwood, whose appearances draw hundreds of fans willing to stand in long lines for a word and an autograph./'You cannot be in five countries at the same time. But you can be in five countries at the same time with the LongPen.' [...] /She wrote the words on an electronic pad while chatting to Newton over a video linkup. /A few seconds later in another part of the exhibition center, two spindly metal arms clutching a pen reproduced the words onto Newton's book in Atwood's angular scrawl: 'For Nigel, with best wishes, Margaret Atwood.'"
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The suggestion that you might send me "factual news items that could easily be mistaken for sf or satire or both... that could serve as a jumping-off point for something" is ingenious. Brilliant, maybe. For that matter, you might send me factual news items that you'd just like to discuss, whether they could be mistaken for sf or satire or not. Of the one dteleki sent above, I can say only that it's impressive that Atwood has the expertise to invent such a gadget, and I hope her patent comes through speedily. However, because the market is limited to the handful of writers who draw hundreds of fans for book-signings -- and because those fans want the word from the author as badly as they want the autograph -- I'm dubious about the LongPen's prospects.

The item is part of the literature of Pseudo-Burdens, "burdens" for which it's impossible to get any sympathy. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you because you have billions of dollars and looking after that money is such drudgery. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you because you are so stunningly attractive that when you walk into a room people are awestruck. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you because when you do a book-signing hundreds of people come and buy your book, forcing you to sign your name hundreds of times. And nobody is going to sympathize with authors about book tours of the sort for which Margaret Atwood qualifies.

Just try getting sympathy from someone after telling them that you (and in my case, my husband as well) have spent the previous two weeks traveling from city to city under the following three conditions:

** All expenses are paid in full by your publisher.

** You stay every night in a "boutique" hotel and you eat all your meals in their gourmet restaurants.

** You are picked up every morning by a well-trained, indispensable, charming professional escort in a fancy car who drives you around to television stations and radio stations and bookstores and newspaper offices, stays with you every minute, is instantly available for every sort of gofer duty, is responsible for keeping you calm and happy, and returns you to your luxury hotel at the end of the day.

You can't get sympathy for that, although I give you my word that "grueling" is in fact the right adjective. Let me explain....

You can starve to death in a "boutique" hotel, where everything you order will come with a raspberry cocoanut smoked salmon sauce over it, no matter how strenuously you object. Where your request for a salad with "just vinegar and oil" will get a breezy "Oh, I'm sure we can do better than that!" [And where you share the diningroom with people like the woman at the table next to us who complained that it used to be wonderful to vacation in Mexico but "it's totally spoiled now because it's full of Mexicans, everywhere you go!"]

You can turn to stone at your interview locations, where you have to arrive at least 45 minutes before your interview, and much earlier than that if it's television and they insist on doing your hair and your makeup. [I once was promised, when I fought the hair and makeup thing, that I would get "exactly the same makeup we do for Paul Newman."] This, in order to be on the air for one to three minutes talking with someone who has not read your book but may, if you're lucky, have read its cover.

And the hardest part of book touring, hands down, is being excruciatingly nice at all times. You have to be. You have to be nice to your escort, who is working so hard on your behalf, every single minute. You have to be nice to all the people at the interview sites, no matter how obnoxious they are at you. [I kept having to listen to endless hillbilly jokes and bubba jokes, all the while being nice.] You have to be nice to the staff at the boutique hotel, who are doing their best to make your stay "memorable" and usually are succeeding in doing that. You have to be nice to your poor husband, who has done nothing at all to give offense and is in no way responsible for any of your difficulties. You have to be nice to your publicist when he or she calls and tells you that just a "teeny few more" events have been added to your schedule. [Or calls you in Dallas, where you are expecting to go home the following day, after you've already done New York, and tells you you have to go back to New York again because the "Today Show" wants you.] You have to be nice non-stop, because this tour is not a holiday, it's a gig, and it's costing your publisher a great deal of money, and being nice is your duty. Some authors escape this one by establishing an eccentric public persona instead -- Harlan Ellison comes immediately to mind -- but I'm positive that it's just as much work to maintain that persona as it is to be nice.

It's hard. It's grueling. And it's a Pseudo-Burden. Nobody is going to say "How awful -- you poor thing!" except sarcastically.
ozarque figure

Recommended link....

Thanks to today's Internet Scout message, I found the "How Products Are Made" website, at http://www.madehow.com . Where the welcome page opens with:

"How Products Are Made explains and details the manufacturing process of a wide variety of products, from daily household items to complicated electronic equipment and heavy machinery. The site provides step by step descriptions of the assembly and the manufacturing process (complemented with illustrations and diagrams) Each product also has related information such as the background, how the item works, who invented the product, raw materials that were used, product applications, by-products that are generated, possible future developments, quality control procedures, etc."

The site is searchable; it also has alphabet links. I tried the Cs, visiting both "candy corn" and "comic books."