To idle is to work on meaningful and varied projects — and also to take it easy. If you’re interested in my 2013 projects, please keep reading; otherwise, don’t! The title of this series of posts refers to this self-proclaimed idler‘s hypocritical inability to take it easy.
THE UNBORED PROJECT
RADIUM AGE SCIENCE FICTION
SAVE THE ADVENTURE
THE HERMENAUTIC CIRCLE
TAKING IT EASY
THE UNBORED PROJECT
Late in 2012, Elizabeth Foy Larsen and I published UNBORED (Bloomsbury), a 350-page collection of activities for kids aged 8–13 and their parents. UNBORED was designed by Tony Leone; and it was beautifully illustrated by Heather Kasunick, Mister Reusch, and Chris Piascik. As of this date, we’ve sold some 40,000 copies of the book!
Why do I refer to “the UNBORED project”? Because it’s more than a single book. This summer, for example, our team released a British edition of UNBORED. And during 2013, Elizabeth and I wrote and edited not one, but two 176-page paperback spinoffs. This winter, Tony and co. will design and illustrate the two books.
So… coming in Fall 2014 from Bloomsbury: UNBORED GAMES: Serious Fun for Kids! [The cover sketch above is speculative; the actual cover won't look like this.] And coming in Spring 2015: a best-of UNBORED collection! We’re also getting ready to pitch a third spinoff book — which, if Bloomsbury takes it, will appear in Fall 2015.
2013 was a great year for the UNBORED project. In January, UNBORED was a national bestseller in independent bookstores; and it reached #1 on Amazon in the following categories: Family Activity Books, Crafts & Hobbies Books, and Parenting Books. On the design front, UNBORED was included in the 2013 Regional Design Annual issue of Print magazine, the 2013 International Design Awards issue of How magazine, and the 2013 American Institute of Graphic Arts’ Best of New England Show. Also in 2013, UNBORED even made it onto New York Magazine‘s iconic Approval Matrix — and in the best part of the quadrant, too: at the “brilliant” end of the despicable/brilliant continuum, and smack dab in the center of the highbrow/lowbrow one.
Publishing UNBORED in 2012 led to many fun new opportunies in 2013. For example, I was a guest on MAKE Magazine‘s Maker Camp videocast this summer. See below:
There will be a lot more UNBORED action in 2014.
I’m a semiotic brand and culture analyst. Since 1999, I’ve consulted to brands and marketing agencies on the question, not of what brands mean, but how they mean — i.e., what complex networks of signification make brand communication possible. The categories I’ve analyzed most frequently include: alcoholic drinks, automotive, banking, confectionery and snacks, corporate image, cosmetics and beauty products, health and pharmaceuticals, household maintenance (i.e., laundry detergent and other cleaners), non-alcoholic drinks, personal effects and toiletries (i.e., deodorant, razors, shaving cream, fragrance, facial tissue), and social/cultural trend-spotting.
This past year, I’ve continued to do analysis in the areas of alcoholic drinks, confectionery and snacks, cosmetics and beauty products, and social/cultural trend-spotting; and I’ve branched out into savory foods, mobile telephony, and nutritional supplements. Semiotics-wise, I’ve got big plans for 2014.
HiLobrow’s publishing imprint, HiLoBooks, serializes obscure but amazing science fiction and adventure novels here at HiLobrow — and it reissues some of these in beautiful print editions — complete with new introductions. I’m HiLoBooks’s editor and publisher. Our books’ beautiful covers are illustrated by Michael Lewy and designed by Tony Leone. The vision and publishing acumen of Richard Nash makes it all possible.
I’m thrilled with the five books we published in 2013. These titles have until now been overlooked by all but the most scholarly of sf history exegetes. Also, two of this year’s authors are among the only female sf authors of the early 20th century! I’m very grateful to Erik Davis, Astra Taylor, Annalee Newitz, Gary Panter, and Mark Kingwell for their brilliant introductory essays; and also to China Miéville, Benjamin Kunkel, Jonathan Lethem, Alexis Madrigal, and Jeffrey J. Kripal for their enthusiastic blurbs.
MORE INFO ABOUT THESE & OUR OTHER TITLES: Visit the HiLoBooks homepage.
Here are our 2013 titles:
William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land (April; Introduction by Erik Davis). “For all its flaws and idiosyncracies, The Night Land is utterly unsurpassed, unique, astounding,” says China Miéville. “A mutant vision like nothing else there has ever been.”
J.D. Beresford’s Goslings (June; Introduction by Astra Taylor). “At once a postapocalyptic adventure, a comedy of manners, and a tract on sexual and social equality, Goslings is by turns funny, horrifying, and politically stirring,” says Benjamin Kunkel. “Most remarkable of all may be that it has not yet been recognized as a classic.”
E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man (September; Introduction by Annalee Newitz). “Edwin Vincent Odle’s ominous, droll, and unforgettable The Clockwork Man is a missing link between Lewis Carroll and John Sladek or Philip K. Dick,” says Jonathan Lethem. “Considered with them, it suggests an alternate lineage for SF, springing as much from G.K. Chesterton’s sensibility as from H.G. Wells’s.”
Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage (October; Introduction by Gary Panter). “Like Colson Whitehead’s Zone One without the zombie camp and idiom, Theodore Savage is a dark, strange, and cruelly contemporary tale of The Ruin and the post-apocalyptic condition that follows,” says Alexis Madrigal. “The book makes a spirited argument against science and machines, disputing itself viciously to the last word.”
Muriel Jaeger’s The Man with Six Senses (December; Introduction by Mark Kingwell). “The first attempt to extrapolate the hypothesis [of ESP] carefully and painstakingly,” says The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, “and to conclude that it might better be reckoned a curse than a blessing.”
I’m proud of everything that HiLobrow published in 2013. Click here for an overview.
Two series that I edited this year made me particularly happy:
This summer’s HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM series includes the following posts, among many others: LUC SANTE on Spoonie Gee’s “Spoonin’ Rap” (1979) | DALLAS PENN on Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” (1979) | DJ FRANE on Blowfly’s “The Incredible Fulk” (1980) | PAUL DEVLIN on Jimmy Spicer’s “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” (1980) | DREW HUGE on Grand Wizard Theodore & The Fantastic Five’s “Can I Get a Soul Clap” (1981) | DOUGLAS WOLK on Busy Bee’s “Making Cash Money” (1982) | PHIL FREEMAN on Malcolm X with Keith LeBlanc’s “No Sell Out” (1983) | FRANKLIN BRUNO on hip hop’s dance crew The Lockers.
Also in 2013, we added another 150+ posts to the ongoing HILO HEROES series. (Click here to read the rondel I wrote celebrating thirteen of those HiLo Hero items, and thanking our many talented contributors.) Newly inducted heroes in 2013 included: Antonio Gramsci, Vito Acconci, Derek Jarman, David Graeber, Shepard Fairey, Cindy Sherman, Jonathan Lethem, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, Severo Sarduy, John Fahey, Hester Lucy Stanhope, Gilbert Hernandez, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, The Iron Sheik, Bayard Rustin, Yoko Kanno, Allan Kaprow, Dennis Ritchie, Věra Chytilová, Tommy Cooper, Tod Dockstader, Thomas Frank, Jay DeFeo, Crystal Skillman, Jane Digby, Joe Meek, Leonora Carrington, Gustave Le Rouge, Biz Markie, Afrika Bambaataa, Bruce Sterling, Katia Krafft, John Waters, Kaz, Lars Von Trier, Keith Haring, Delia Derbeyshire, G.K. Chesterton, D.M.C., and Chuck Barris.
In 2014, I hope to announce that talented book designer Jacob Covey and I have found a publisher for the HiLo Heroes/Generations book project that we’ve started brainstorming.
SAVE THE ADVENTURE
Late in 2013, I helped the Brooklyn-based bookstore Singularity & Co. run a successful kickstarter for a new digital book club. Early in 2014, Singularity & Co. will launch the SAVE THE ADVENTURE club — which will be dedicated to acquiring the rights to and digitizing great adventure novels. I’m SAVE THE ADVENTURE’s founding editor.
That’s why I published a series of posts dedicated to great adventure novels from the early 19th century through the Eighties (1984–93). The series culminated in a list of 200 of my favorite adventures; as well as 250 of my second-tier favorites, which you can peruse via the following posts: Best 19th Century Adventure (1805–1903) | Best Nineteen-Oughts Adventure (1904–13) | Best Nineteen-Teens Adventure (1914–23) | Best Twenties Adventure (1924–33) | Best Thirties Adventure (1934–43) | Best Forties Adventure (1944–53) | Best Fifties Adventure (1954–63) | Best Sixties Adventure (1964–73) | Best Seventies Adventure (1974–83).
I also organized my overall list of 450 top adventures into the following sub-genre lists: 101 Science Fiction | 70 Crime | 65 Fantasy | 60 Espionage | 40 Atavistic & Historical | 25 Frontier & Western | 20 Avenger & Artful Dodger | 20 Apophenic & Treasure Hunt | 20 War & Ruritanian | 18 Picaresque | 11 Robinsonade & Survival.
PS: My post on the Top 101 Science Fiction Adventures also appeared at io9.com.
In 2013, I co-hosted the BoingBoing.net podcast GWEEK several times. Mark Frauenfelder is GWEEK’s host, and he invited me to join him on the following episodes: GWEEK 081 with Kevin Kelly, GWEEK 087 with Josh Gosfield and Camille Sweeney, GWEEK 103 with Ben Winters, GWEEK 104 with Andy Ikhnato, GWEEK 111 with Clive Thompson, GWEEK 117 with Kevin Kelly, and GWEEK 122 with Danny Hellman.
In March, I spoke on a panel at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference in Boston. The panel, which was organized by Mira Bartók, was titled “Finding Money, Time and a Place to Create: Upbeat News in a Down Economy.”
I was asked to speak about how Rob Walker and I sneakily turned eBay into a literary publishing platform — as part of our 2009–2010 Significant Objects project. Thus, although our Significant Objects book was published in 2012, its reverberations were felt in 2013.
Fantagraphics’ 2013 collection The Daniel Clowes Reader republishes a 1999 Clowes interview I did for my zine Hermenaut; it’s now being touted as “Clowes’s definitive discussion of Ghost World.” I also wrote a new essay for the Reader: “Against Groovy” locates Clowes as a thinker and writer within a specific generational context: the Original Generation X, key members of which embrace anti-boomer ferocity, anti-hipsterism, apocalyptic fantasy, and trashy messianism.
My UNBORED coauthor, Elizabeth Foy Larsen, and I have continued to write about parenting and education for — among other venues — Slate (e.g., “How to make screen time family time”) and HuffPo (“The power of ‘making’ in the classroom”). Also in 2013, I was interviewed by FamilyFun Magazine on the topic “How to create creative kids”. Excerpt: “You don’t want to be the over-involved parent, on the one hand, or the slacker parent on the other. Creativity is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. If you’re a little helicopter-y and do the prep work — but then leave your kids alone — creativity will happen.”
For the UNBORED blog, I listed my favorite YA and kids’ novels of… 1963.
Here are a few of my 2013 posts for HiLobrow.
I added several installments to my SHOCKING BLOCKING series, which analyzes the movement and positioning of actors in movies. This year, I wrote about blocking in Roger Corman’s A Bucket of Blood, Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop, Bernard Rose’s Candyman, Don Siegel’s Escape from Alcatraz, Jared Hess’s Nacho Libre, Allan Arkush’s Rock’n’Roll High School, and Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.
The following 2013 HiLo Hero items are mine: S. Fowler Wright, Abraham Merritt, John Taine, David Lindsay, J.D. Beresford, Gérard de Nerval, Cicely Hamilton, Murray Leinster, Gustave Le Rouge, William Hope Hodgson, and André Gide.
I wrote an installment — on Wuf Ticket’s “Ya Mama” — in the HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM series.
I added four installments to my series of generational periodization posts: ORIGINAL PROMETHEANS (born 1785–94), IRONIC IDEALISTS (born 1775–84), ORIGINAL ROMANTICS (1765–74), and PERFECTIBILISTS (1755–64). Which wraps up the series!
In 2013, the University of Iowa Libraries acquired hundreds of zines that I’d squirreled away during the Zine Revolution of 1984–93. Also included in the Joshua Glenn Zine Collection: scores of letters sent to me by zine publishers during those years; plus all sorts of ephemera related to the printing, distribution, and promotion of zines — including my own zines, Luvboat Earth and Hermenaut.
Via the 25-part HiLobrow series REGRESSION TOWARD THE ZINE, I bade farewell to my zine collection. PREAMBLE: Introduction; and early pamphleteering | Proto-fanzines; and fanzines from the 1920s–30s | Fanzines from the 1940s–60s | Punk fanzines from the 1970s | The emergence of the zine as we know it! THE 1984–93 ZINE REVOLUTION: Early 1980s zines from the Joshua Glenn Zine Collection, including: Cometbus, 2600: The Hacker Quarterly, CONTORT, The Mark of Cain, Why Do Men Kill Elephants?, Murder Can Be Fun | Queercore and Riot Grrrl zines, including: Teenage Gang Debs, Wandromedia, Holy Titclamps. | 1988 zines, including: Ben is Dead, Kooks Magazine, Kool Thangs, Pagan’s Head. | 1989 zines, including: Baby Split Bowling News, King-Cat Comics & Stories, Dishwasher. | Mike Gunderloy of Factsheet Five explains where the action is, circa 1990. | The secret origin of Luvboat Earth | Pagan’s Head, and the DIY scene in Allston, MA circa 1991 | The zines Rollerderby and Scram | The zines 8-Track Mind, ANSWER Me!, Bananafish, Boiled Angel, Chip’s Closet Cleaner, Crank, Ersatz, FAT!SO?, and Flatter! | The zines Thrift SCORE, Beer Frame, and Crap Hound | The zines Mystery Date, Hey There, Barbie Girl!, and Plotz | The zines Bust, Heinous, McJob, and Temp Slave | Idiot Tooth, Mommy and I Are One, The I Hate Brenda Newsletter, X Magazine | AFTER THE REVOLUTION: Hermenaut‘s midwestern trek; Josh’s Utne Reader gig | Zinesters vs. journalists, a 1996 Q&A with Josh Glenn | Hermenaut‘s S.L.A.C.K.E.R. project | Zine books — a harbinger of doom! | Letters to Hermenaut | Hermenaut snapshots | The final five issues of Hermenaut.
In 2014, I hope to announce the publication of the University of Iowa’s online guide to the Joshua Glenn Zine Collection.
THE HERMENAUTIC CIRCLE
Come on! You know I’m not allowed to discuss the Hermenautic Circle.
TAKING IT EASY
Below: In April, I coached a studio session at NuVu — the Cambridge, Mass.-based magnet innovation center for middle and high-school students. The studio I helped coach was an MBTA Map Redesign Challenge. It was a blast!
Below: In June, my son Max and I rode in a 25-mile bike-a-thon to raise money for one of my favorite nonprofits, Bikes Not Bombs.
Below: Max graduated from elementary school this spring!
Below: My sister Elizabeth’s boyfriend, Ryan, and my sons refurbish a bicycle whose frame we’d trash-picked.
Below: My new brother-in-law, Lawry, helped us build a rocket launcher. My sister Laurie’s wedding was the most joyous event of 2013! Also pictured: Jon Pinchera, my family’s co-conspirator in all endeavors.
Below: My sister Lydia, and her boyfriend Troy, playing one of several games in our family’s ongoing Risk: Legacy tournament.
Below: My brother Matt and my sister-in-law Megan helped us build a bean-bag toss game. By now you will have noticed that I like to rope in family and friends to help raise my sons. It’s one of my top parenting tips.
Below: Lest you imagine that parenting has stopped me from engaging in deconstruction, please note that in 2013 we deconstructed both a TV and a laptop.
Below: In October, my friends Tom and Mandy Nealon, their children, and Jon Pinchera’s sisters, helped me celebrate my 46th birthday. Not pictured, but also present: the other Glenns and Pincheras.