Maddd Science

Serialization: It's the coolest. It isn't just a narrative trick popular in pulp fiction and Wattpad fanfic. Prestige podcasts and TV love relying on it, too.

The Making of Binge-Worthy Serial Narratives, From “S-Town” to “Framed”
Ricki Morell, Nieman Storyboard

America’s love of television binge-watching has reinvigorated a literary form, the serial narrative, with a history that dates to Dickens and Homer. Nonfiction serials have animated screens, radios, and even daily newspapers.
Long-form serials run counter to the super-short tweeting and microblogging trend. But it’s not the length that makes a serial enticing, it’s what Indiana University journalism professor Thomas French calls “the enforced waiting.” This “to be continued” approach draws in readers using the classic tools of storytelling craft that focus more on creating narrative tension than on conveying information.

"The enforced waiting" is also what I call the day-long delay in this newsletter, which was supposed to go out on Sunday. Sorry about that, all. I'm juggling some evolving job duties, and leaned on the three-day weekend to get around to writing this. Moving on:

Serialization is so popular today, it's even popping up where it doesn't belong: Here's the latest move in the slow-but-sure dissolution of any boundaries between the definitions of movies and TV shows.

The key to a successful Netflix movie: Make it a TV show (and put "fucking" in the title)
Josh Modell, The AV Club

It can’t make the argument, like so many prestige-TV series do, that it should be ingested as a “10-hour movie,” because in this case, it would just be asking you to treat it as a two-and-a-half-hour movie—what most people just call “a movie.”

Speaking of successes:

Fire and Fury is out of stock everywhere. Blame a Depression-era publishing policy.
Constance Grady, Vox

In 2014, the two best-selling books of the year were true cultural events: The Fault in Our Stars, which sold 1.2 million copies over the course of the year, and Gone Girl, which sold just under a million.

The third-best-selling book of the year? Awful Auntie, a children’s book that sold just over half a million copies.

Which means that the difference between the third-best-selling book of the year and the No. 1 best-selling book of the year can be more than 500,000 books, an increase of 100 percent.

Women SF Illustrators Of The 1960s/70s, Part V: The Eerie Figures Of Marcela Cordescu
Joachim Boaz, Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations

The Romanian graphic artist Marcela Cordescu produced a fascinating series of SFF covers from the 1950s-70s. [...] Many of her covers graced editions of Vladimir Colin’s (her husband) SFF works. I came across her eerie figures researching the publication history of the French SF author Gérard Klein—a collection of his short stories appeared in Romania with a Cordescu cover in 1973.

Trump, Oprah, Zaphod Beeblebrox: Why We Love Celebrity Overlords
Jess Zimmerman, Electric Literature

Zaphod has more charisma than Trump and less poise than Oprah, but as politicians they’re three of a kind: They’ve been rocketed to power not by their background in statecraft, but by their inescapable celebrity.

In the case of Oprah and Trump, this is due to a major flaw in American politics known as “the American people.”

One of my takeaways from this next article is the impact that past decades of pop culture have on today's pop culture. The phenomenon might be peaking, given the cultural fragmentation creating by the wider variety of internet niches. I kinda hope so: Shows like Riverdale and Star Trek Discovery often just feel like compilations of references, cameos and stunt-casting specific to their genres (teen dramas and past Star Trek shows, respectively).

Why Do Cartoon Villains Speak in Foreign Accents?
Isabel Fattal, The Atlantic

But Gidney and Dobrow’s findings suggest that there’s something more specific at play than a general American bias against foreign accents. They said that the use of German, Eastern European, and Russian accents for animated villains is likely reflective of America’s hostility toward those countries during World War II and the Cold War. They have continued to find these same accent trends through the past few decades, even as the political and social climate changes and the nation’s zeitgeist is marked by different ethnic and global tensions.

Congratulations on making it this far down my newsletter! Your reward is being the first to know that I'm now a Forbes contributor. See, job duties, I told you.

I'll be attempting to cover the business of books and storytelling. Here's my first reported piece:

How Indie Genre Fiction Ebooks Are Thriving Online
Me, Forbes

In the indie ebook world, the genre is king.

According to a 2017 Author Earnings report, over 70% of all genre fiction consumer purchases — the "overwhelming majority" — are now in ebook format. Of these ebooks, most independently published ones have a larger market share than traditionally published ones when broken down into genres: Self-published romance, mystery, horror, science fiction and fantasy all sell better from indie authors or Kindle imprints than they do from traditional publishers.

Video: Staccato Panels in Comics | Jim Steranko & Captain America
Here's an underrated YouTube channel: This guy picks a specific storytelling trick used in comic books to analyze each week. My only complaint is that sometimes he points out something that seems really obvious, but I guess people also say that to Sherlock Holmes whenever he explains something in depth, so it isn't the worst problem to have. Here's an episode on how Jim Steranko visually builds and releases tension that examines a 1969 Captain America storyline.

Next Week on Maddd Science: Fanfic

Header image: "early," by Daniel Williams. I actually picked this out as a representation of modern Hollywood serialization before I realized this newsletter was going to be a day late, so enjoy that irony.

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