Dial H: Into You is the first trade paperback I own from DC’s New 52 initiative (though not the first I read). The New 52 was DC’s superhero universe reboot that happened in 2011 in an effort to get new readers. I’m not a huge fan of being reminded how crassly commercial the literature I consume can be, so I haven’t been reading a lot of mainstream superhero stuff recently.
Dial H is not a normal superhero book.
I mean, sure there are cosmic problems which are solved by punching, but China Miéville is writing this book so those problems get weird. Plus the superhero at the centre of it is a Colorado schlub named Nelson Jent who, when he dials H-E-R-O on a payphone, taps into some other universe to become a random superhero for a while. Random superheroes like Boy Chimney (powers of smoke-control and telepathy through pollution), the Iron Snail (heavily armed and power-armoured snail shell and tracks dragged by a ‘roided-out soldier-type), and the Cock-a-Hoop (a giant metal hula-hoop with the head of a rooster).
I like how the book makes a ridiculous concept into a kind of exploration of the universes of weirdness and how they’d intersect with DC’s own universe of “normal weirdness” (with its aliens, magic, unnatural disasters and high-technology). The main story is about learning how to deal with the powers of the dial (which does get disconnected from the payphone) and coming to terms with weirdness. I also really like that his superheroing partner is in actuality a woman in her 60s.
I bought this one because it’s China Miéville doing superheroes. While it’s not as good as a Miéville novel, there’s enough good stuff in here to let me forget that it’s part of a stupid comics event. At least while I’m reading it.
There’s an idea in the social media-verse that “conversation is the content.” That kind of quote makes me angry. In the article linked to (which isn’t specifically about libraries but for other businesses engaging in social media) Christopher Rollyson is talking about marketing and how content doesn’t mean anything when you’re talking about marketing. For him, social media being social is about not outsourcing your social media to marketers because “people can smell manufactured content a mile away,” which is a different thing. I think too many people involved specifically with Social Media! ignore the idea that collaboration about nothing is empty, and having good content is bedrock essential.
Now, Rollyson has a good point, clouded by a stupid italicized quote, especially in the library world. Manufactured content is dumb and nobody wants to waste their time with it. But equally bad is the idea that a library can just be there being social with nothing to talk about. Chatting about nothing, trading jokes like a real person does on Twitter might be engaging but isn’t useful for a library or organization.
I think you’ve got to have cool stuff to talk about before you start a conversation. That’s how you get Rollyson’s “human spark of knowledge and caring.” Maybe that’s just my aversion to small-talk, but if you want someone engaging in conversation on behalf of your institution that person needs something to talk about. Just talking doesn’t mean shit. If you want an audience to return you’ve got to be doing good work (or at the very least spotting good work others are doing and pointing it out) to be talking about.
We’ll be getting into this more in our course when we’re talking about Creation, I’m sure, but the Rollyson article ticks me off because the blueprint for success in social media needs Vision, Strategy, Test and Services (though the services bullet point is so filled with marketing buzzwords I can’t even read it). Nowhere there does he talk about making something worthwhile to be talking about.
That is my biggest problem with social media. Just because “the medium is the message” doesn’t mean that’s a laudable state or that you can ignore your content. It seems that people get so starry-eyed about it they forget that there needs to be good work going on to be promoting.
Chatting and collaborating just to garner retweets, favourites +1s, or buzz in whatever new digital form is empty bullshit that I for one don’t want to be participating in. I’m in a substance business, not advertising, and though we can use social media to promote our items of substance the medium can’t be our goal.
Not woes exactly, just recognitions of some limitations. I run the Teen Book Club and the Teen Manga Club at our branch. Traditionally there’s been a lot of crossover between the two groups, but since I’ve taken over I’ve had total attendance of one person at Manga club over two sessions (it’s probably going to be phased out after I leave this summer). Book Club has had five people in three sessions (including nobody at all this week). Needless to say, it’s not the most wonderful feeling.
The traditional thing to say at our branch is that it’s the area. In suburban wealthy neighbourhoods there’d be more people interested and attendance would be better. More of those kids’d be hustling for scholarships and volunteer hours so Advisory Council volunteering would be more attractive. That’s true to an extent, but there are teens out in our hood that want scholarships. I don’t think our neighbourhood is the sole reason we don’t get people.
The other easy place to lay blame is a lack of promotion. This I’m guilty of. It would be good to market our services more aggressively. I should be better about phoning up our book club members and encouraging them to come to our meetings. But I hate doing that kind of thing. I hate phones in general and the whole, “Please come! It’ll be fun!” kind of spiel sounds so desperate to my ears.
Ideally I’d do stuff that people would be fools not to come to, but I don’t know how to do that. Library school to the rescue? (I don’t think it works that way.)
Okay, I admit, I read the occasional book on writing. How to be a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead passed through my hands at the library a few days ago and looked intriguing, so I requested it myself. Ariel Gore has a zine ethic she brings to the thing which you don’t always see in these kinds of books. Talking about how self-publishing doesn’t equal vanity publishing and all that kind of stuff. There are interviews with a bunch of interesting people (including a fake interview with Haruki Murakami because he doesn’t really do interviews any more) including Ursula K LeGuin and Margaret Cho. Not life-changing, but reading one of these books every once in a while is good for me.