In this episode, Rob and Don sit down with comedian Kevin Doak to discuss comedy and the nerdly arts. The trio debate which superhero you want to have over for dinner, why the Walking Dead needs more laughs, and the depressed turnout of Batman v. Superman. All this, and why Shawn of the Dead is the most realistic zombie movie ever, is waiting for you in this, the 25th episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.
One of my favourite manga of all time is the manga Bakuman, a fantastic story about two young Japanese comic book artists who are trying to make it into the big leagues by the creators of the famous manga Death Note. Although I use the word fantastic to describe it, there are no fancy elements present in the story, is a very realistic take on what it is like to become a manga artist in Japan. In many ways, is similar to Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, the greatest book on comic book art ever written, except that this time it’s in the form of a fictional story. Bakuman itself is an exploration of both the business and the creative side of selling Japanese comics, and it is both educational and enthralling. I have read the whole series of 20 volumes through about six times, and will probably continue to read it again once a year because I always get something out of it and find something new with each read through.
I bring this up, because I recently stumbled across a podcast that reminds me a bit of Bakuman, it is called the Part Time Writers Podcast and is a chronicle of two part-time writers, Chris and Lee, who are trying to become a full-time writers in the course of a year. The podcast itself, which is 100% real, is their weekly journal of their efforts to become successful writers, and is a story in and of itself. Although the protagonists of this particular story are a little bit older than the teens of Bakuman, and not trying to get into traditional publishing, they still have to struggle with many of the same creative and business issues that the young heroes of the manga do. Perhaps, this is why find it so interesting to listen to, and it has become one of my favorite podcasts listen to each week.
Now, I may be a bit biased because I’m quite fond of the superhero genre, and their first effort is to try and write a superhero series. But, the two of them do make a pretty engaging pair, as they have different backgrounds and different perspectives on the writing and the approaches that they have to take to get their books out successfully to their target audience. I have to say, as a part-time writer myself, I’ve learned quite a bit from listing to the two of them and find it fascinating to hear their discussions and their ideas, and then to watch them try out those ideas and sometimes fail and sometimes succeed. I also find the two of them quite inspiring, as they generally keep a very positive attitude towards their work, and are willing to try new directions and try new things when plans go awry.
This particular experiment started in January 2016, and is still going on right now, being a little over two thirds finished. Although, I suspect (spoiler) that they will probably end up doing the podcast for more than a year for many different reasons.
So, if you get a chance I would highly recommend checking out this podcast. I started listening to it for specific episodes about specific topics, but if I were to try again I would probably just go back and start with the first episode and work up from there. Unfortunately, iTunes doesn’t seem to have the first seven episodes and starts with episode eight on its feed. However, I believe you can get those first seven episodes from the show’s home website if you want to listen to them. You can still get quite a bit by just listening to individually targeted episodes, and really you can drop in anytime, but if you want to get involved with their story and understand truly what’s going on it helps to start from the beginning or close to it.
In this episode, Rob and Don interview Scottish science fiction writer Gary Gibson about his career, writing Space Opera, and why Science Fiction has become boring. All this, and why Zardoz is a classic film, in this episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.
In this episode, Rob and Don discuss the cons of becoming a professional writer (or artist). While the internet is filled with people telling you that you’re one Kindle book away from quitting your day job (mostly by people selling writing how-to advice and services) Rob and Don look at some of the cold, hard costs and challenges that come with trying to write for a living. Along the way, they discuss ways to overcome those challenges and make yourself a better writer if you’re determined to follow the hard road. All this, and a heaping helping of Dinosaur Porn are waiting for you in the 23rd episode of The Department of Nerdly Affairs!
Closing Music: Ode to Joy performed by Oliver Eckelt
In this episode, Rob and Don are joined by music historian Richard Moule to discuss their mutual love and admiration for the musical art form known as Heavy Metal. The trio trace Metal’s history and inspirations, and talk about how metal became THE nerdly music of choice. All this, and why Death Metal is really redneck music, here for you in this episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.
In this episode, Rob and Don sit down with comic artist and director of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble animated series Tim Eldred to discuss his career in the comic book industry and how it led him into the world of animation. Along the way, they discuss Tim’s advice for aspiring comic book artists, why getting your work done on time is crucial for a career in the comic book industry, and why the secret to successful media production is to have a really big raft! All this, and a look at Tim’s new project Pitsberg, are waiting for you in this episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.
In this episode, Rob and Don are joined by their friend Chad Hicks to discuss their love of Tabletop Role-Playing Games. The trio explore the history of TRPGS, and talks about their own experiences and growing up playing these games. Along the way, they discuss the appeal of Gamma World, point based vs. random character creation, and their love of Superhero Gaming. All this, and the future of TRPGs are waiting for you in the 20th episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.
The Independent newspaper had an interesting piece today about a pair of researchers (Penguin UK editor Jodie Archer, and associate professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Matthew Jockers) who have spent the last 5 years using computer algorithms to analyze 20,000 books looking for patterns that make best sellers stand out. The result is a system they claim can predict bestselling books by an 86% margin, which is pretty good.
Naturally, they’re releasing what they learned in their upcoming book The Bestseller Code (and probably marketing their software to major publishers as we speak) however they did release a few interesting tidbits from their research:
“Novels with high or low emotions tend to have a stronger chance of hitting the [bestseller] lists and staying on them.
A couple of pointers from the findings: real people are more appealing to readers than fictional being, so stay away from Dwarves, unicorns, and elves as main protagonists. Those characters who appeal the most are also more likely to “grab”, “think” and “ask”.
The words “need”, “want” and “do” are twice as likely to appear in bestsellers, while the word “okay” appears three times as much. Words like “love” and “miss” appear more often in successful books, apparently appearing three times for every two in lesser selling books.
So, basically, people like reading about other people they can relate to, and stories where the main characters are active and pursuing goals (especially relationships) are what readers want. Now, the word “okay” is an interesting bit, and my interpretation on that is that readers like books written in colloquial and easy to understand language. It may also be a side effect of most bestsellers being modern thrillers and romance novels, so “okay” turns up in modern dialog a lot.
It will be interesting to see the results of this research, and how far it can go. Of course, the publishers would eventually like to have machines churning out their bestsellers like widgets, but I doubt that will happen anytime soon. Also, it will mean a bunch of books which don’t fit the formula will never get the chance to reach a wider audience, because 86% is not 100%, and many good books could fall between the cracks if publishers start using this to cut costs and be lazy.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Kung Fu puppetry of Taiwan, but little did I know that I wasn’t the only one who’d taken an interest in Taiwan’s Wuxia puppetry- Japanese writing star Urobuchi Gen (the man behind Madoka Magica, Psycho Pass, and Fate/Zero) had also taken an interest in Pili Puppetry form. In a twist of fate, Pili was also looking to work with him, and as a result of that partnership- Thunderbolt Fantasy (Toriken Koki), a Japanese-Taiwanese hybrid TV series was born! (You can hear about this story in full in the Episode 0 special on Crunchyroll.)
I only heard about this show a week ago, and when I did I got pretty excited. I’ve never been able to watch a Pili series before, much less one as it aired, and this one was being simulcast with English subtitles on Crunchyroll. Thus, I eagerly waited for July 8th, when the first episode would air, and couldn’t wait to watch it last night when it popped up on the list.
So, how was it?
In short- as awesome as advertised!
I’ve seen clips of Pili shows, and even watched Legend of the Sacred Stone, but this was a whole other level. The puppet-work is amazing, the story and characters are engaging, and the craftsmanship in everything is a sight to behold. I couldn’t believe how into it I got, and by the end of the episode all I wanted to do was watch more!
In the Episode 0 (Making-of), the Japanese partners talk about how they were on set in Taiwan and the wonder of watching a piece of wood and cloth come to life the moment a human hand was put inside. I haven’t seen it done in person (although I’d like to, someday) but I can completely understand what they meant, as you literally forget you’re watching puppets at times because of the way they move and act. It really does take the magic of puppet theater and bring it into the 21st century.
The story at first blush is fairly standard. A great evil lord is trying to get his hands on mystical artifact, and killing everyone who gets in his way, which leads him into conflict with our heroes. Like I said, standard. But given Urobuchi’s reputation as a writer (it was written by him, but produced by the Taiwanese) I suspect there will be some nice twists coming that take it in a different direction. Not that it matters, because this story isn’t about the plot but the characters and action, both of which will keep you watching.
One thing I did like about this show is that each character has a different voice actor. In the original Taiwanese Pili shows, there is just one person doing the voices for all the characters, which is fine, but having a full cast allows each character to have a bit more life to them. It adds to the immersion, and I liked the voices they chose. One weird thing is that the English subtitles use the Chinese names, while the Japanese actors are using the Japanese names. It does make it more authentic, but it makes it a bit harder to remember everyone’s name since you’re hearing and reading different names.
In any case, Episode 1 has garnered 5/5 stars on Crunchyroll (with 123 votes) and I suspect it will be cult hit here and in Japan. (It’s only disadvantage is that it came out the same week Pokemon GO! launched) I hope so, because it really deserves the attention, and I’d like to see them do more in the future.
Want to check it out?
New episodes air on Crunchyroll each Friday evening starting July 8th (July 16th if you have a free account and are delayed a week), and I strongly recommend you do so. You might watch to watch Episode 0, which is available for everyone July 8th, and includes a preview of the show in the last five minutes.
In this episode, Don and Rob discuss North American TV animation, tracing it from its roots in the 1950s to the rise of Saturday morning television and its eventual evolution in the age of Netflix. Along the way, they spend time with Huckleberry Hound, The Flintstones, Josie the Pussycats, the Micronauts, and Goober and the Ghost Chasers. All this, and why Fred and Barney sold cigarettes on air is waiting for you in this, the 19th episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.