Sorry, poor book

I love it that Taschen felt able to sticker their inferior books ‘Poor book’.  These often happen, even with the best of intentions.  Could this start a new sticker trend?

– Great idea, impossible to deliver

– Writer changed their mind halfway through; rewrites didn’t cure it

– We told the writer to do it like this

– We really wanted X and this is the closest we could find

– Delivered too late to fix

– Warning: misleading cover

– Warning: totally mis-cast

– We needed a comedy so we’re telling you it is, so even though the jokes are all about suicide and the protagonist (and his dog) die at the end

– We’re afraid to say no to the writer

– We’re afraid to say no to our financiers

– Someone else did this better first

– Warning: do not attempt to apply logic to the plot

– Warning: the trailer is better

– We forget why we bought this in the first place

Next week: stickers inspired by food labelling (plot 30% / descriptions 20% / porn 8% / characters 3% / sentimentality 9% / interesting facts 10% / lame humour 5% / clichés 8% / idiosyncratic additives 7%)

Grande Valse

I’ve been literally running from one meeting to another lately – this business is hard on the shoes – but as today’s much clearer and I’m mulling over two very interesting conversations.

Mike Carey and I had a drink after his book signing last night, and he suggested that genres are over.  These days everything’s a mash-up: House is a medical detective series; Firefly is a science fiction Western, etc.

Certainly it’s a long time since I could pitch a TV series idea without some form of subtext or new angle.   The standard medical drama like Casualty, for instance, is a staple, but once you’ve got one or two of those, you’ve got to do something more interesting.  So you deliver some uncomfortable truths about young doctors, in a comedy vein (Scrubs) or talk about a woman who’s highly capable at work but personally out of control (Nurse Jackie).  Or you refresh it by combining it with another genre.

However, this morning I was talking to another writer, who suggested that once a genre is established, you take it out for a walk, as it were.  Once we’ve got the hang of vampires, we can cope with the variations: vampires in high school; vampires in Regency literature, etc.

Perhaps we’re experiencing a fragmentation into sub-genres; ideas and styles dance with each other as if at a grand ball.


When I was a kid in Canada, cooties were a big social problem.

For anyone lucky enough never to have come into contact with cooties, they’re an imaginary affliction, as undesirable as lice or fleas.  If kids decide another kid has cooties, it means open season on that kid: OK to ostracise them, bully them, etc.  Cooties are really hard to get rid of, once word gets round and there’s a consensus that you really do have them.  You can get immunised by a kind friend with a cootie shot, but life is still dodgy if you’ve been known to have them.

Wiki says most kids over 10 stop using the term, but it’s a concept that never goes away.  It turns into thinking about “us” and “them”; about the human and the sub-human.

Simon Scarrow’s new novel about the siege of Malta in 1565 comes out in a couple of weeks.  Called Sword and Scimitar, it describes a turning point in history where the Ottoman Empire might have conquered Europe.  In the siege, neither the Christian nor Muslim armiess behaved well, and Simon’s thesis is only that the world as we know it could have been very different.

Right now, with religion being such a volatile subject, you can imagine how hard it’s been to arrive at marketing that doesn’t suggest that a whole load of nice people aren’t perfectly good human beings.  You can’t blame people for their forebears.

One of my other clients was fired recently by his publisher.  My job now is not just to find him a good home, but to give him a load of cootie shots so he doesn’t seem “untouchable” by other publishers.  As much as I’d like to think it’s his publisher who’s got the cooties right now, I’m busy burnishing his already-shining qualities as a writer, and throwing over him the mantle of my (hopefully cootie-free) agency reputation.

Forget a cure for the common cold.  Let’s put a whole lot of research behind a cure for cooties.