The Last Book Scout…

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The world of the book scout is a changing landscape.  The very technology that seemingly threatens to submerge it has recently switched polarity and infused it with an unexpected resurgence.  The renaissance may be short lived, as the overall trend has shown book scouting to have gone from a popular pastime to an obscure practice.  What was once a busy profession abounding with hordes of enthusiasts, has turned into an archaic vocation kept alive by a handful of skilled connoisseurs.  Recently however, they have been joined by an influx of pickers armed with digital scanners, smart phones and online book selling savvy.

An old school book scout would scour classified ads for estate sales, garage sales, library sales and yard sales, paying particular attention to how they each were worded.  He, or she was wary of ads using the word “treasures” which translated to “junk” and kept a sharp eye out for buzz phrases like “English grad student moving” or “Philosophy professor passed away” which could have spelled pay dirt.  Armed with a vast knowledge of books from a lifetime of reading and a finely tuned intuition for locating quality print, they set out for these sales.  The goal: to unearth gems among the rubble, to buy them cheap and then sell them for profit.

One such man is none other than author Larry McMurtry, who explains having embarked on a career as a novelist in order to support his book buying habit.  He is the central figure in the upcoming indie film by Studio Seven7 Films called Books: A Documentary.  The film by Sara Ossana and myself tells the story of the three hundred thousand plus, of Larry McMurtry’s antiquated acquisitions that were auctioned off in August of 2012.  The event, which lasted just two days, was aptly named The Last Book Sale.  This historic occasion marks the culmination of forty years of Larry’s work as a book scout, and two thirds of what was amassed, being released back out into the world.

The auction no doubt drew book scouts cut from the same cloth as the proprietor of the four Booked Up storefronts in Archer City, Texas.  However, there was also a new breed of book buyer lurking about among the paperbacks and first editions.  The 21st century literary curator still combs through the classifieds for listings of book sales, but they rely more on technical gadgetry than upon applicable knowledge to cull profits from the piles of pages.  They use a handheld electronic scanner to weed through many volumes in one day, looking for titles that can be sold for profit.  Their scanner runs a book’s UPC code across a snapshot of the Amazon catalog.  The software then calculates the book’s worth.  Books with a high value are bought if a low price can be arranged and then re-sold online.  Many rare books are pre-UPC, where scanning a code is not an option.  In this case, they then pull out a smart-phone, loaded with latest apps and booked marked websites, and with a few clicks, now has all the information needed.

Similar to the world of baseball, an old-school scout would simply have taken the findings, cross referenced with years of gut instinct and stuffed notebooks, to bookstores or private collectors they had built relationships with over the years.  The new school scout harnesses the power of the internet, which although impersonal, has not necessarily cheapened the trade.  Online book reselling is highly competitive because there is money to be made.  This current model is a recent improvement on what was being done just a few years ago.  Before electronic scanners, new school book scouts had to use their cell phones to call friends or partners who were waiting at computers to look up titles that may have been valuable.  This resurgence in the popularity of old books is a refreshing development.  Perhaps the digital world will not yet fully render the analog world of information obsolete.

However, this begs the question: what improvements on the current strategy might the book scout of tomorrow employ?  Perhaps tomorrow’s book scout will find a title, scan it and take a picture of it all at once.  They could then post it online, find a buyer and collect the money digitally before ever paying for it and leaving the store.  Perhaps when teleportation is an everyday practice the process will go one step further and the scout will beam the book over to the buyer right then and there.  Sounds like a plot to a futuristic novel…

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Top 5 Must-See Sci-Fi Film Adaptations

NASA's Cassini spacecraft captures Saturn's rings and our planet Earth and its moon in the same frame. Image Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captures Saturn’s rings and our planet Earth and its moon in the same frame. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

On July 19, something Earth-shattering happened!  NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, located in Saturn’s system, captured color images of Earth and our moon, nearly 900 million miles away.  So, why is this such big news?  Not only was this the first time Cassini’s high-res wide angle camera clearly captured the Earth and the moon, it was also the first time Earth’s citizens were given advanced notice about the picture being taken.  More than 20,000 people, from all around the globe waved to Saturn at the same time!  Isn’t that just out of this world?  Now that you’re in the mood for some of your own space adventures, check out our top five films Science Fiction films adapted from books!

origin_283789943 Voyage Dans La Lune (A Trip to the Moon) (1902)

Inspired by Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and H. G. Wells’ First Men in the Moon, Voyage Dans La Lune is considered the first science fiction movie ever!  The film is a light-critique of the conservative scientific community of its time.  Although it is a silent film, the imaginative technology speaks volumes for the time period.  The 14-minute movie was created by Georges Méliès, who is credited as the screenwriter, lead actor, director, set and costume designer, photographer, and producer of the film.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Based on Arthur C. Clarke’s short story, The Sentinel, 2001: A Space Odyssey is widely considered to be one of the greatest and most influential films ever made.  Known for its scientific accuracy, special effects, and minimal dialogue, the film includes elements of evolution, technology, artificial intelligence and extraterrestrial life.  After the film was produced however, Arthur C. Clarke published a novel under the same name of the movie, so make sure you read the short story first.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916)

In 1916, the first feature film version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was created by Stuart Paton based upon another one of Jules Verne’s works, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.  This deep sea adventure proved to be groundbreaking with its underwater photography by the George M. and J. Ernest Williamson brothers.  For its time period, the film was quite elaborate, paving the way for countless adaptations of the classic novel.

Minority Report (2002) & Oblivion (2013)

In the world of science fiction films, Tom Cruise has certainly made his mark.  In 2002, he portrayed Captain John Anderton in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report.  This slick neo-noir sci-fi film was based on The Minority Report by Philip K. Dick, who also penned Total Recall.  Both the film and story explore the possibility of free-will, questioning if the future has already been shaped/determined in advance.  While the short story depicts Anderton as the 50-year old balding, out-of-shape, New York police officer creator of Precrime, Spielberg wanted the film to focus on “fifty percent character and fifty percent very complicated storytelling with layers and layers of murder mystery and plot”.  We think casting Tom Cruise in the revamped, younger, journeyman character role was the perfect choice in successfully bringing this story to the big screen.

Oblivion Storyboard by Phillip Norwood. Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Oblivion Storyboard by Phillip Norwood. Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

We had to add the recent Tom Cruise film Oblivion, co-written, produced, and directed by Joseph Kosinski to our list as an honorable mention.  The film is based on Kosinski’s graphic novel of the same name, which follows one of the last drone repairmen stationed on Earth.  Jack and his mesmerizing partner, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), are tasked to work as a team in maintaining the autonomous drones that defend the various sea based fusion power stations from those looking to destroy them.  While Jack and Victoria have had their memories wiped clean for security purposes years before, Jack’s recurring dreams of worlds past, feed his curiosity of a world that once was.  When a pre-invasion American spacecraft crashes, Jack is forced to question his own knowledge of who he is and their purpose on Earth.  If you are a fan of 1970s science fiction films, Oblivion is a must-see.

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)

Written and directed by Michael Radford, Nineteen Eighty-Four is based on George Orwell’s novel of the same name. The story takes place in a dystopian 1984, in a totalitarian superstate called Oceania in London.  Orwell’s fictitious world is very well-known and the film received widespread positive critical reaction for it’s cinematic representation of the classic novel.

During the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII on January 22nd 1984, Apple Macintosh launched what has been called by many as one of the most influential commercials of all time.  From the minds of Steve Hayden, Brent Thomas and Lee Clow, Apple’s 1984 embraces George Orwell’s novel, depicting an unnamed heroine sprinting through rows and rows of mindless marching minions, hypnotized by their ruling “Big Brother.”  As you can see above, despite the ever-changing world of cinematic special effects, ever the commercial holds up.

If you’ve seen any of these films recently or have a sci-fi adaption that we’ve missed, we’d love to hear about them on our Facebook page.

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kickstarter-logo-lightAdditional photo credits: x-ray delta one via photopin cccdrummbks via photopin ccPaulgi via photopin ccjohnrobertshepherd via photopin cc

The business of imagination

A life long Connecticut resident, Brian Trent, was born in Waterbury CT, once nicknamed ‘Brass-City’ for it’s manufacture of watches and clocks through the first half of the 20th century.  Since his earliest memory, Brian has had a life long fascination with discovering how the world and space ‘tick’.  A passion, he most likely picked up from spending time his family, also science fiction fans.

This past April, Brian Trent was honored by Writers of the Future in Hollywood for his story “War Hero”.  We asked him to write about his experience.

Trent-BlogI had been writing stories since childhood, scribbling adventure tales on stacks of yellow legal pads. For my sixth birthday my parents bought me a typewriter (a metallic blue Brother 11) and my way of thanking them was to incessantly pound out stories late into the night like an over caffeinated drummer. Then I’d mail these stories to prospective magazines; since my penmanship resembles a cross between drunken cuneiform and double-exposed Chinese calligraphy, I can’t be sure how many ultimately reached their destinations.

Flash-forward to 2012. I wrote “War Hero” on my computer, which is quieter than my typewriter and doesn’t jam if I type too fast (although most of the white lettering has long since worn off of the keys; I still type like other people drum.) I mailed the story to the Writers of the Future Contest, one of the most prestigious competitions of the genre, and waited. Half of the struggle in this business is learning to wait.

In December, I get the phone call: “Mr. Trent? I’m calling to let you know that your story has just been selected as a winner in the 29th Annual Writers of the Future Contest.”  Ah! I could finally justify to my parents the many nights I kept them up with the clack-clack-clack of my typewriter!  In April, I was flown out to Hollywood, taken through an exquisite week-long writing workshop, met the luminaries of the field, and got to give an acceptance speech.

I first sat down to write “War Hero” in order to explore an idea:  If minds can be uploaded and downloaded at will, how does that change the face of war?  What if the war criminal you’re tracking can literally be anyone, and you’re never really sure if you’ve eliminated the last copy?  To be sure, mind-uploading is a theme I’ve explored before (Apex Magazine’s latest issue features my story “A Matter of Shape-space” which also tackles this prickly issue) but “War Hero” took the concept and galloped straight into an especially grisly lair of ideas.

Whether grisly or not, ideas are the fuel behind all fiction.  Ideas are what kept my six-year-old self up late at night, hammering out tales of exotic places and possible futures.  Ideas are what books communicate across generations and civilizations, from stone tablet to electronic tablet, from yellow legal pad to whatever we’ll be using tomorrow.  What WILL we be using tomorrow?

Time to explore another idea…

Brian Trent
Read War Hero – Here
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Must-see adapted movies coming in 2014

FB-Blog-2014-Coming-soon2014 will be here before you know it.  Check out these must-see movies adapted from your favorite books!

PADDINGTON BEAR – November 26th, 2014
Remember reading about that adorable English teddy bear’s adventures?  Adapted from Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear, comes a live-action film that you won’t want to miss.  And it’s true, the man most know as “House” will be the voice of Paddington Bear himself.

THE HOBBIT: THERE AND BACK AGAIN – December 17th, 2014
The third, and final, installment of The Hobbit, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel, will definitely be a popular holiday movie next year.  After such stunning graphics and beautiful cinematography in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, we all have big expectations for the final film!

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART ONE – November 21st, 2014
Even though The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is still on its way to theaters, Mockingjay is a film eagerly awaited!  Without spoiling the story, you won’t believe what Katniss Everdeen’s done.  So, around turkey time, watch out for the first part of the third, and final, installment of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games Trilogy.

THE MAZE RUNNER – February 14th, 2014 (Yes, that’s Valentine’s Day)
James Dashner’s The Maze Runner is the first book in a post-apocalyptic trilogy for young-adults.  Although the movie’s expected release date is Valentine’s Day, do not walk into this one hoping for kisses and candy.  Directed by Wes Ball, this science-fiction mystery drama thriller will be one to see in the theaters.

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR – August 22nd, 2014
Do you remember seeing Sin City in 2005?  The classic film noir never had a sequel.  Until now!  Coming in 2014, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, will finally continue the story with many recurring actors from the first film.  Including: Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Mickey Rourke, and more.  The film has been adapted from Frank Miller’s graphic novel by the same title.  And SINce you have some time to KILL, why not read it first?

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