Friday, February 25, 2011

In Virtual Reality, What Can't We Do?

Social networking continues to prove just how powerful it is, more so now in the past few months than ever. When people aren't using it to oust dictators or organize movements, they are using it simply to connect. I have said before that people who scoff at Twitter, or think online-only friends can't have real value, clearly have no idea what social media is, and should therefore not talk about it.

Since I just can't stop talking about Joss Whedon lately, I thought I'd use the latest utilization of the Internet to segue into my topic today. God-among-nerds, Nathan Fillion, recently said in an interview that if won $300 million from the California lottery, then he'd buy the rights to Firefly and distribute it online. Well, the geek world went nuts and a few devoted Browncoats launched this website to "Help Nathan Buy Firefly." Firefly's cancellation is hardly akin to Middle Eastern oppression, but hey, some of us need to create our own problems.

This bit of nerd news does have a point. Cult favorite TV shows like Firefly and Arrested Development have been off the air for over five years, but these shows in particular never seem to have died. This is arguably because of the Internet. Getting canceled these days is not what it used to be. Fans have voices now, and they can mobilize. These are the people who got Family Guy back on the air. Even though I don't watch Family Guy, the impact that had is not lost on me. A network listened and maybe it'll happen again with other cult shows...

... But what about cult books?

Have you ever wondered what would happen if your favorite book goes out of print? Probably not - we live in the age of Espresso Book Machines and ebooks, after all. But what about those pulpy noir paperbacks with the awesome covers that, try as they might, just can't get reprinted. Or what if (heaven forbid!) an agent can't seem to give away those darn ebook rights? There are so many titles that have fallen by the wayside for either being too old, not frontlist-worthy, or the estates are holding them back. What's a reader to do?

What would happen if the social media savvy decided to save books the same way they do for canceled beloved TV shows? Do you think they'd stand a chance? If Margaret Atwood or David Foster Wallace were suddenly pulled from the shelves, would publishers notice a public outcry?

7 comments:

  1. Like everything people powered, it would depend on the size and loudness of the cry. What is the critical mass for a revolution? What was the critical mass to have Betty White host SNL? What was the critical mass to get the original Star Trek back into production? (and that started with one woman. Talk about your butterfly effect!)

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  2. One of my favorite shows of all time was saved by sending Tabasco sauce. Fans are more powerful than they believe. And in the world of social media its easy to find a mass and create a plan.

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  3. I do think a lot of book fans (especially young adults) try to rally for sequels. They fall in love with the characters and only get the one "season." It's something a lot of young readers will ask authors- "are you ever going to write another book about so-and-so?" I wonder how often reader outcries come to fruition in the form of sequels...

    PS- My fiance nearly passed out when he heard Nathan Fillion mention the show. Closet Firefly fan & current Castle fan ;)

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  4. You do bring up a great point. I was crushed when Legend of the Seeker was dropped by ABC and immediately joined in the Saveourseeker campaign. Didn't work, obviously but it was worth a try:p The thing about books is that they pass quietly into the night--and most readers aren't as "aggressive? Outgoing? obsessed?" as most viewers (unless it's harry potter or twilight fans, that is).

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  5. That would be so cool if people on the Internet managed to get a discontinued book republished! One of my absolutely favorite novels of all time is now out of print – although, luckily, I own a hardcover copy: the science fiction novel ENCOUNTER WITH TIBER by Astronaut Buzz Aldrin written with author John Barnes.

    I love FIREFLY, and wish more episodes will be made someday! I saw Nathan Fillion’s tweet about hoping to buy the TV series, and then a retweet about the person raising the money, and then the money being raised. Now, will Fox ever sell the series rights? I hope so. That would be awesome.

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  6. In the article and interview with Nathan Fillion, I noticed that the Science Channel has acquired the rights to FIREFLY and that some extras will be added, including comments after each show by Astrophysicist Dr. Michio Kaku about theoretical concepts behind the show’s science fiction concepts. That’s awesome – Dr. Kaku is really interesting.

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