Category Archives: Uncategorized

57% of American teenagers are media makers

From Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture : Media Education for the 21st Century.

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What does it mean to live in a world where 1 in 5 people are bloggers? That’s the world we are entering according to a report of the MacArthur foundation. And it certainly tallies with my own experience of working with teenagers. It can only represent a massive step forward for humanity on every level. But so many of the current generation of creators that I talk to welcome this news with skepticism and dismay. “They can’t be any good” or “How do I make a living with so many people working for free?” Well suck it up people. There’s a generation coming through who think of the creative skills previously owned by an elite of professional creators as nothing but the basic entry criteria to life in a participatory culture. And that means rethinking every single assumption we have about how our creative industries work. Take copyright as a singular example. What is the purpose of enforcing copyright on your book when there are so many books being written that they become as common place as speech? You may as well enforce copyright on your status updates.

Read the full MacArthur foundation report.

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Hepworth Sculpture Garden

There is a conflict being played out in the Hepworth Museum. The entrance space is occupied with a display on Barbara Hepworth’s life, each major step in the process of her growth as an artist expalined and illustrated. It was a process of discovery and loss, the apparent permanence of her sculpture contrasting the transient nature of her relationships and life, which ended in a fire in her studio.

The museum occupies the house and studio where Hepworth lived and worked. It is a clean and crisp white space, laid out much like a gallery of her work, but there is still much evidence of the artist – pieces of her furniture, her mantelpiece still in place.

(As I write a middle aged Yorkshire couple have stormed through the main gallery, looking cursorily at the pieces whilst muttering ‘It escapes me’. Likely not an uncommon response to Hepworth’s abstratct style. They do not give a lot away, and there is very little or no meaning for the mind to latch on to. But if you can manage to stop thinking for a while and let your consciousness take them in, their real beauty starts to appear. Watching the other visitors is always half the fun of galleries and museums for me. The responses to art are as revealing as art itself, from the knowing nods to the angry frowns.)

The sculpture garden itself is a zen Buddhist paradise. Hepworths monolithic forms are so fascinating to the eye that a few moments gazing brings on a trance like state of wonder, accompanied by the ever present screaming of the gulls that saturates St Ives.

(The gulls are in no way adorable, being thuggish creatures that only let the human population alone because we are bigger than they are. If I ever need to put myself in the mind of a pterodactyl, I will think of sea gulls.)

All of the sculptures have large signs nearby shouting PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH. All of the comments left by children say such things as, ‘Dear Miss Hepworth. I love the scultures but was terribly tempted to climb all over them!’ and it’s not just the kids, wherever you look you see hands being consciously restrained from touching the appealing stone and bronze surfaces.

At the far end of the garden is Hepworth’s main sculpting studio, which has been preserved untouched for over 30 years, although from it’s cleanliness we guess someone hoovers out the cob webs now and again. The artist might have just stepped out for a few moments to by a new chisel.

But how long can these sculptures, finished and half finished, remain preserved? What catastrophic event will bring time back into this space? Or will it be a thousand small events, each chipping away another piece of the whole. The life that created these sculptures was as transient as all lives. They came from that place of imagination where nothing is the same from one moment to the next. And yet here we all are, desperately trying to cling on to these things.

Which might all just be a roundabout way of saying I think they should give over a few of the big sculptures for kids to climb on.

A strange Sunday

Sunday was one of those days when all I could seem to do was lounge on the sofa and read, in that semi-dream state where words mingle with reality. In the morning I took a sojourn among The Sea Kings of Mars thanks to Leigh Brackett. I have had the Fantasy Masterworks volume of her stories for some years, and was two thirds of the way through the titular story when I realised I had read it before. Later that afternoon, having had a nice chat with Garth Nix at World Fantasy, I returned to Sabriel and as with all good books, found a little more than I had the last time I lost myself in its pages.

I’ve been listening to audio and video recordings of Australian aboriginal speakers for the story I am researching. I would love to find a phonetic transcription so I can see the dialect represented on the page. If anyone knows of such a thing, please let me know. I’ve also been reading about the Stolen Generations. I’m wary of touching on a subject like this without any personal connection to it, but the story has taken me there so I think I have to trust it.

Stories in dreams and dream time stories. A strange Sunday.

Gemmell Award Winner

Andrezj Sapkowski has won the innugural David Gemmell award for Fantasy fiction (Fantasy with a big F, as the organisers say).

There is a lot to like about the Gemmell’s. I loved David Gemmell’s novels as a teenager and was sad when he passed away. I can really enjoy a rollicking good heroic fantasy, mark my consistent praise of George R R Martin as evidence. And any award that harnesses popular opinion and gets 10,000 votes for its shortlist deserves mighty praise. Continue reading Gemmell Award Winner

To self publish or to not

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about self publishing recently. I’ve been considering two projects that might be described as self publishing. And I’ve been looking at how self publishing fits into my professional life as a literature development worker. And I’ve just been following a thread incited by a Facebook status update from Mary Robinette Kowal on the brutal existence of self published authors at conventions. Basically, I think its time I put some of this into words.

Continue reading To self publish or to not

NaNoWriMo 2008

After much prevaricating I’ve arived on the eve of NaNoWriMo 2008 undecided about whether to take part or not. I made it to 24,000 words in 2006, then skipped 2007. But should I throw myself off the cliff and try again in 2008? There are many arguments for and against but after much consideration I’ve decided that…

…screw it…I’m in!

I will be working on The New Age, an epic of chaos magic in an alternative Britain shaped by a magical revolution in the Elizabethan age. Extracts to come…maybe.

End Game Extract

An extract from the opening of my new story, End Game. If anyone wants to help by offering feedback on the full story it is in the next post, password protected. Drop me a line and I will forward a password. damiengwalter@gmail.com

*****

Harvard names it a low risk run once too often. The fence makes his fat lipped grin as Spaceman memorises the number at a glance. He should take a walk up Main Street, get lost in the plate glass maze of store fronts and rich women, he knows it. But work is work, and besides, he always gets a game on when he visits the Algerian.

Spaceman steps off the tram two stops early, skips across four lanes of traffic and the central reservation, expert navigator of this outpost of the monoculture, this anyplace cloned from the flesh of London, New York, Beijing. He comes up on the tower from behind, sliding in through a fissure in the rusting chain-link.

They answer the buzzer fast. The Algerian and his boys toke hard and sleep late, but this morning the door opens quick. They do not even ask his name. Spaceman’s feet go heavy like lead. He could be standing on the surface of another planet, mass three times as great, weighed down by a crushing gravity. A girl shoulders her way out of the tower, pushing a buggy in front. Spaceman looks at a baby swaddled in pink, bright and grimy nylon. The girls eyes return him a dead addict stare. No more thinking Spaceman, time to go to work.

And he is through the door.