Thursday December 31, 2009
The last day of the year. A bad day for work—where is everyone?—but a good one for taking stock. The 2009 bottom line? My e-books have been downloaded more than 3,000 times this year, half of those downloads coming in the last four months. I’m confident that, with current and new projects, I will distribute 10,000 e-books in 2010, but I’m hoping for 20,000 or more. 3K isn’t a huge number, but if I were a start-up literary magazine, I’d be happy with it. And come to think of it, I guess that’s what I (and a lot of other writers) have become. But that’s just the numbers. Here are the highlights of the, um, content.“The Arab Bank”
A short story set in Cannes during the Cannes Film Festival that utilizes Google Maps and Street View. Because of its relationship to a real place and event, I thought it would be fun to serialize the story during the festival, so I released installments—with notifications via email, RSS, Twitter, and Facebook—each day from May 13 to May 24, 2009. Top Novellas
Blogger John Madera asked a bunch of writers to name their favorite novellas. Here’s what I had to say. Interview at Small Stories
An interview about my 2006 e-book collection Single and “The Arab Bank.” “You Are Not Going to Be Famous”
In July, the Post printed this updated version of my Adult Education talk “You Are Not Going to be Famous” in its Sunday op-ed section. You can see the video of the original talk here. “Christian and Me”
A video based on my talk from the October 7, 2009, installment of Adult Education—wherein I consider the respective careers of myself and my astrological twin Christian Slater.Cassingle
My latest e-book, released in November, includes stories that originally appeared in McSweeney’s, Fence, Bridge, and Twelve Stories—plus “The Arab Bank.” Review of Cassingle
In Toronto’s Eye Weekly, Brian Joseph Davis writes, “As for the future of publishing, it won’t entirely look like Hanas’ experiment in free, but it will look more like it than not. At five stories and 33 pages, Cassingle is aptly titled and rather witty. A combination of original works and stories that have appeared in the likes of Fence and McSweeney’s, it is a good introduction to Hanas’s perfectly designed, well-tuned and aerodynamic tales. … No matter the cut, this is writing that speaks American, in all its complexity.”Fictionaut Five
Earlier this month, I answered a few questions about writing (and golf) at Fictionaut.What’s ahead in the new year? I have a few stories making the rounds that will hopefully find homes — plus a couple on blocks in the garage — as I continue to putter my way toward a full-length story collection. In the spring, I’m hoping to serialize a novella-length work, although the technical and creative ambitions are such that I’m scared to say much more about it. In April, I’ll be joining Brian Joseph Davis and Richard Nash for a reading and a chat about digital publishing at McNally Jackson Books in Manhattan. That’s all I can discern from here. See you … tomorrow.
Wednesday December 23, 2009
I don’t know if it’s because it’s the end of the year or the end of the decade or the end of publishing, but I’ve been thinking a lot about things that are no longer with us. Not important things — just websites and brands and failed technological solutions. Things like the CueCat.
Who can forget the CueCat? Nine years ago it was going to save publishing (just check the Romenesko logs) by allowing people to scan bar codes in newspapers and magazines and access websites and online coupons without using a keyboard. And it was shaped like a cat. This, of course, was a colossal failure. (I dropped the “C” word in the #ebooksummit hashtag last week to see if anyone remembered this debacle. Either a) no one did, b) people remembered but dared not revisit the folly, or c) they found my use of the hashtag for retro-fail gags obnoxious, which I can respect.) Joel Spolsky’s reaction to the device said it all. “The number of dumb things going on here exceeds my limited ability to grok all at once,” he wrote in 2000 (the “grok” really gives it away, doesn’t it?). “I’m a bit overwhelmed with what a feeble business idea this is.”
But a business it was, for awhile. Forbes, Belo-owned papers like the Dallas Morning News, and even Wired were all in. And now you can’t even get a yuck off of it in a hashtag? Now that’s failure. I note it only because it’s funny — I’d forgotten that it was actually shaped like a cat — and because it serves as a cautionary tale. All kinds of scanners and readers and augmented-reality apps are again taking wing (and more than their share of hype), and — as Spolsky noted then — it’s difficult to see what problem they solve. Typing is just not that difficult. And there might be a form-factor message here for the e-reader market as well. Just because something displays books doesn’t mean it has to look like one, no more than the CueCat needed to look like an actual cat.
Tuesday December 22, 2009
The Merritt Parkway, known to many Americans as a speed trap for David Letterman, has coursed for 69 years through southwestern Connecticut, linking what are now some of its toniest suburbs to New York. But after being added this month to the World Monument Fund’s list of most endangered sites, the four-lane, 37.5-mile road is enjoying a newfound status — alongside such treasures as the tombs of Egypt, France’s chateaux and Machu Picchu in Peru. [via articles.latimes.com]
I remember the way the Merritt appeared to me when I first drove on it a few years ago — with its unique, architectural overpasses and winding rights of way. Beautiful, but a tad smug. Being added to the World Monument Fund’s list can hardly help, and there’s something about a highway with its own preservation society that offends my Midwestern sensibilities.
The Merritt is a boutique roadway that has no analog in the nameless crease between North and South where I grew up (some call it Northern Kentucky). There, you don’t go anywhere if you can’t get there on I-71 or 1-75 — five lanes in each direction, which will still be one too few if an eighteen-wheeler loses its brakes on a harrowing buckle of highway south of Cincinnati, known — I’m not kidding — as “the Cut in the Hill.”
Despite its name, “the Merritt” — which doesn’t even allow trucks — strikes me as pre-meritocratic (and, thus, anti-democratic) institution, a gilded, Incan thoroughfare connecting New York to Yale with a pop-in at the Greenwich money plantations in between. You know where you go on I-71 and I-75? Well you don’t go to Concordia or Iona. (We keep a few B&Bs like these around so Easterners can enjoy four years abroad in the Heartland — Oberlin, Dennison — but these are for show.) No, you go to the Ohio State University or the University of Kentucky, the educational equivalents of the highways themselves — huge, publicly-funded factories where you fight for your education and no one goes back for the reunions except the band and the football team.
In the Middle West or Middle South — oh, I’ll just say it — in America, there’s something a little unseemly about getting sentimental about a highway. A highway! In America, we begrudge paying the taxes to even maintain highways, so we certainly won’t be setting up any societies to preserve them. And that seems right and good to me. Years ago, I was talking to a friend who was ragging on where I was working at the time. I was defensive and he was surprised. “Don’t you know you’re supposed to hate your job?” he said.
I feel that way about highways. We shouldn’t love them, with their inconvenient traffic jams and mazes of orange barrels. We should struggle against them. Man vs. highway. That’s an American story.
Sunday December 20, 2009
I was living in an apartment house above Franklin and Ivar. Things were tough at the moment. I hadn’t worked in a studio for a long time. So I sat there, grinding out original stories, two a week, only I seemed to have lost my touch. Maybe they weren’t original enough. Maybe they were too original. All I know is… they didn’t sell. — Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard (via hinayanabawagan.com)
I love this line from Sunset Boulevard and have always meant to write it down somewhere — so I’m writing it down here.
Thursday December 17, 2009
Whenever I see this sign on the subway, I think: “Wow, what a terrible first line.”
Sent from my iPhone
Wednesday December 16, 2009
I just finalized the line-up for the January 5 installment of Adult Education, when the topic will be "Stage and Screen." Here it is.
Borelli walks us through the oddest headshots and acting resumes from his recent book, Holy Headshot!: A Celebration of America's Undiscovered Talent.
"Conquering the Commercial Audition"
Old Navy and mascara are a commercial actress's best friends. Ad veteran Rosen explains.
"Stage vs. Screen"
You're nobody until the camera loves you. Werthmann considers why people don't believe you're an actor unless you're on TV.
"How to Identify the Great Stout Men of Hollywood"
Can't tell your Edward Arnold from your Eugene Palette? You Lionel Barrymore from your Wallace Beery. Kalan offers a tutorial.
Hosted, as always, by CHARLES STAR.
While I wasn’t actually at MediaBistro's eBook Summit yesterday, I gleaned from the tweets that I was not alone in being surprised to find out that CAPTCHAs — those annoying little words you have to type to prove you're human — are being used to transcribe old newspapers and books for Google, which recently acquired the company that came up with this ingenious crowd-sourcing concept.There is poetry, to be sure, in the fact that you now have to be willing to work for free on the Internet (even if unwittingly) to verify your humanity — since even robots are too smart to join blog farms — but it occurred to me that there might be even greater literary possibilities here. Why stop at a few distorted words? Perhaps we should require customers to write sonnets or short stories or monographs, just so we can be really, absolutely sure that they are human and not machine. And instead of these grainy words, they can be given trending topics out of which they'll be be required to fashion their works. "To help fight spam, please write a novelette about Tiger Woods and mesothelioma in the space provided," a typical prompt might read. Then the work-product would stack up pretty quickly, not like this meager transcription plan. It would fill volumes and shelves and whole libraries that could be merchandised at great profit — even at e-book rates — since it would all be produced free of charge. A special, iTunes-like service could be set up to allow readers to access this vast store of CAPTCHAture at a reasonable flat rate. And if they forget their password? No problem. "Please paste a roman a clef about Barack Obama and vampires in the space below." And the wheel will turn and turn, smoothly and delightfully spam-free. Just a thought.
Wednesday December 09, 2009
I am interviewed today at Fictionaut.com. … Brian Joseph Davis recently wrote a very favorable review of my e-book story collection, Cassingle, in Toronto’s Eye Weekly — a paper-based publication. … The topic of the next installment of Adult Education on January 5 will be “Stage and Screen.” Lecturers include Patrick Borelli, Andrea Rosen, and Colleen Werthmann. The first Adult Ed happened exactly two years ago, in January 2008. I talked about the Chrysler Building.