History of Paperbacks

Maddd Science

I was recently researching the 21st century's history of paperback books for a new project, and figured I'd let you all in on a couple of the most useful articles I found on the subject. Here's Andrew Liptak's overview.

The Rise of the Paperback Novel
Andrew Liptak, Kirkus Reviews

This was a sea of change for the science fiction world. During the mid-20th century, authors made the technological leap from traditional pulp magazines to the longer paperback novels. This shift shouldn’t be discounted: the jump from one to the other represented a major change in how science fiction was written, purchased and consumed.

While I was researching, I found the first edition of Fahrenheit 451 to be a tipping point for sci-fi paperbacks, as it helped launch Balantine Books and its sci-fi-heavy publications. A few days later, I found this serendipitous We Are The Mutants article:

First Editions of Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’, 1953
K.E. Roberts, We Are The Mutants

So Fahrenheit 451, while critical of the “chewing gum” or “paste pudding” culture of post-war America, defined in part by “the pumping hands of publishers,” would not have existed without it. Ian Ballantine was not a science fiction “fan” in any sense of the word, unlike Donald Wollheim; he was a publisher, and his only concern as such was to sell quality books and legitimize the paperback medium.

Here's a great article to read if you feel underqualified to write the technical aspects of a story: Turns out film and TV writers are just terrible at it too, so you'll fit right in!

The bodyguard should be a woman: what TV dramas get wrong
Interviews by Daniel Lavelle, The Guardian

My first “Aargh!” moment was when a forensic scientist held a strip of paper with a barcode on it up to the light and announced: “Wait a minute – I recognise that DNA profile,” then went to a rolodex and pulled out the exact barcode match for the villain. Case solved. Leaving aside that the DNA database contains several million profiles and would require a rolodex the length of three doubledecker buses, DNA is not stored as a barcode.

As a fan of unapologetic B-movie genre films, I'm proud to say that I have picked the correct ones to see in theaters so far this year (The Meg, A Simple Favor) and the correct ones to avoid (Skyscraper was just too schmaltzy). Here's something about a couple fun ones and how they folded social media into their stories.

And Then There Were Vlogs: How ‘A Simple Favor’ and ‘Searching’ Reimagine the Mystery Movie With a Modern Twist
Jane Hu, The Ringer

Given the paranoia around webcam hacking and our digital footprint, it’s perhaps no surprise that so many of these cross-media movies have tended toward the dark web. Bo Burnham’s recent Eighth Grade considers the more sincere side of vlogging, but other films this summer, such as Sorry to Bother You and The First Purge, explore the underbelly of online video culture. And two new missing-persons crime thrillers, Searching and A Simple Favor, borrow the screen logic of social media to reshape the visual language of the classic mystery movie.

Prepper culture: Stronger than ever in 2018.

The Road, A Quiet Place, and the golden age of prepper pop culture
Clayton Purdom, The AV Club

One of the most anticipated games of next year is The Last Of Us Part II, a sequel to 2013’s brutal story of a man and a young woman making their way across a decimated United States. You spend most of that game rummaging through abandoned shopping malls and water-logged suburban homes for needles and glue, evading fellow scavengers as much as monsters. A whole subgenre of so-called survival games has arisen, each of them plopping a poorly prepared survivor in the middle of a forbidding wilderness full of murderers competing for the same supplies and shelter. This once-niche genre—codified by 2013’s austere, punitive DayZ—has exploded in 2018 thanks to titles like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and its mega-popular cartoon copy Fortnite.

What Would It Be Like if a Super Hot Rock Star Fell in Love With You?
Rebecca Onion, Slate

These novels go back and forth between slobbering over fame and money—descriptions of fancy hotel rooms and special snacks flown in from Paris abound—while also arguing that fame and money aren’t everything. And isn’t that how we all feel about it?

Just watched Murder Party on Netflix and will probably watch Jeremy Saulnier's latest there, too, even if this review dampens my enthusiasm a bit. I really like the director's stripped-down action thrillers, and this article's a great introduction if you aren't familiar with him.

A Land of Wolves: ‘Hold the Dark’ and the Horror of the Great Outdoors
Adam Nayman, The Ringer

Between its missing-child set-up, spooky folk-horror interludes, overarching sense of existential dread, and intermittent bouts of almost unbelievably brutal violence — including an extended shoot-out that evokes The Wild Bunch by way of John Woo and probably won’t be topped in terms of grim, lethal choreography anytime soon — there’s no question that Saulnier’s latest goes hard.

And because this newsletter's basically 90 percent movies now, here's something about So I Married an Axe Murderer.

How So I Married an Axe Murderer Wrecked One Writer’s Vision, Lost Several Stars, Bombed at the Box Office, and Became a Classic Anyway
Maggie Serota, Spin

We know how this story is supposed to go. A writer with an original vision, and a Hollywood machine that tramples on it. A supremely confident young star who swings his weight around in order to get his own way. A niche highbrow comedy remade as a mass-audience product. So I Married An Axe Murderer should stink. Despite Myers’s presence, it bombed at the box office, and perhaps because of him, it was panned by many critics. (Roger Ebert called it “a mediocre movie with a good one trapped inside, wildly signaling to be set free.”) But by some miracle—perhaps the perfect alchemy of Fox’s cleverness and Myers’s undeniable screen-stealing power—Axe Murderer is actually fantastic, the kind of late-blooming movie that spawns endlessly repeated catchphrases and packed screenings years after its release.

Thing I Wrote Recently: Is Retro Horror Fiction Making a Resurgence?
I got to hang out with Grady Hendrix during the Seattle stop of his book tour last week. It was a good time, and I spun out a Forbes article on it, because apparently my idea of work-life balance is to do both at the same time.

Thing I Wish I'd Written: This Vulture article on how audiobooks took over the publishing industry.
I've been writing about how big audiobooks are this year, but I missed the influence Audible had on the medium.

Next Week on Maddd Science: Wattpad

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Header image: 'Witnessing the harmony of people and machines,' by Daniel Williams.

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