Happy 4th of July, 2013

Dear Flakes,

Here we are again at the 4th of July. I’d just like to take a moment to thank you all for coming to the table, reading, commenting, and discussing our ideas with us at Eat Your Serial. The idea of discourse, discussion, and expression are at the heart of American liberties and to be able to do so freely, and to have robust conversations is our ultimate goal in sharing our ideas with you. Thank you for your part in our experiment of First Amendment execution, but beware…you’ve only emboldened us to go bigger, and “go west” (at least as far west as one can go on the internet. Expect fireworks from us in the near future to rival the Macy’s show that some of you will certainly be witnessing tonight through various means. The execution of our rights is our honor and duty, and any open discourse we can have in large groups helps us all to grown and understand the multifaceted prism of ourselves. Our growth as a company, as well as your support is invaluable whether you agree with our writers or disagree–the more you come and read, and comment, and share the better off we all are. In this age of deep political divides, hard party lines, and victory-without-compromise mindsets in our American government and in national conversations it is important that we remember that only through interaction, and only with open minds can we truly learn from each other and move forward in a mutually beneficially and decidedly positive direction. At Eat Your Serial, whether we disagree about Man of Steel or Affirmative Action, we’re glad to openly share our perspectives and offer them to you. It is a particular point of pride and accomplishment whenever we get a comment, like, follow, or share in social media or on our posts because we know that you are interacting with our thoughts and either endorsing, challenging, or engaging their content. But beware, Dearest Flakes, as your interaction with us only emboldens us to think bigger, go harder, and share more–and have no fear that is exactly what we intend to do. As we continue to build our American Dream at Eat Your Serial, have no fear, we intend to explode with new ideas, thoughts, projects, and initiatives. Big things are on the horizon and we hope that you will forge our new frontiers with us.

While you are gathering with your friends and loved ones on this day, please know that our thoughts are with you and we are wishing you a happy and safe celebration. For our part, we will be reflecting on everything we have and how much more we have to give to all the important and not so important conversations in the world.

We’d also like to take a moment to remember those who gave their all so that we can execute our important freedoms–your sacrifice has added to your immortality, as you are inextricably linked to the execution of our most basic and fundamentally important rights.

Happy 4th of July, and God Bless America

Brandon Melendez

CEO

Eat Your Serial, Inc.

Questioning the Legitimacy of Online Publishing and Blogging

 

Sometimes people look at me funny when I tell them that I am a published writer. Not so much about my book Ten Years Gone: Pomp and Circumstance (though they do question my credibility with I tell them it’s only available digitally and not in traditional print), but rather when they find out that my regular publishing come through a variety of online outlets in the form of blogs. Some people end to regard the blog as a somewhat wistful, or perhaps sophomoric, and certainly unprofessional outlet. Most hardly consider syndication or regular publication in online outlets such as Eat Your Serial to be as credible as a traditional column in a printed publication; at least most of the old guard who are unwilling to see the trends in publishing and reading. To them, a blogger is probably a man in his 40s who never left his mother’s basement and argues incessantly about how far it would take to travel from the Holodeck to Engineering on the Enterprise E, or a teenager keeping all their angsty poetry and punctuationless tirades about their math grades on Facebook—but blogging and online publication is a lot more viable than that, much more diverse than that, and requires a lot more craft than that.

Recently, in a conversation I was having with award winning blogger Marc Polite, I came to the realization that I am no longer a neophyte blogger, simply dabbling in the world of digital print on the side while I try to break into the world of traditional publishing. Rather, I’m the CEO of a digital publishing house, and the Editor-in-Chief of a high volume, content rich web-based magazine (as well as a contributor to Marc’s own well regarded website). I am a full-fledged professional in the world of blogging, and I hadn’t even realized when, or even that, it happened.

Surely when I helped to found Eat Your Serial, I knew that I’d be published in digital media, but as I became more involved in the company, as I transitioned through the many stages of becoming part of the new guard of publishing, I found that the venue became more-and-more legitimate; not only to me, but to the world and its readership. The dissemination of information through the internet has become not only a fact of life, but the way of life in a very short amount of time. In 1995 when I got my first AOL account it was novel, a luxury, almost like a highly affordable toy (provided you had the expensive interface)…but now, the world has developed and evolved in such a way that you need to have internet access. You need it at home, you need it on your phone, and once Google Glass drops you’ll probably need it in your face for the rest of your life. Since the internet is the accepted primary vessel of information, then why are people so quick to scoff at online publishing and blogging?

Personally, I’ve taken up the mantle of “blogger” as a badge of honor. I take pride every time and every site my words are published because, I’m an egomaniac, and also because “screw you, I’m published”.  I find however, that many people both in mainstream life and in academia are slow to accept this as credible publishings like the ones in journals and magazines of yore. Though, for the life of me I cannot imagine why. How many newspapers and magazines are abandoning print in lieu of web-based or digital based publication? How many more ebooks were sold in 2012 than traditional print books? How many more people were able to express their viewpoints to the world and share ideas freely, and without discrimination? Ah ha.

That’s that one I think. You see, the world of publishing used to be (and still is in many ways) a very exclusive club. It still is. You still need to be accepted, you still need to be vetted, you still need to apply and pitch yourself to companies that are established, or transitioning from the old guard that have high esteem and respect. It is just as competitive (or maybe even moreso) to be published in the New York Times blog as it is to be published in their Op Ed section. The problem is, there are far more options now. The route to self-determination via self-publication in venues like iBooks, Amazon, Smashwords, and through publishing houses like Plympton and Eat Your Serial that deal in digital products is scary for those unwilling to accept change. They discredit it because it is accessible. Perhaps, they assume, that everything will be garbage, useless, trite, and crap once the exclusivity has been removed from the equation. But there has always been crap, and always will be crap and as for the “exclusivity of quality” to the print medium, I dare any of you to go pick up a copy of Twilight of 50 Shades of Grey and then discuss the quality of exclusivity.

In the meanwhile, the free dissemination of information, and use of information through the internet is a highly relevant security and political matter. What do you do about WikiLeaks? How do we fight CISPA? The internet’s Wild West Days are clearly coming to a close, and it isn’t because blogging and information of the internet is unviable, unimportant, or without value. Just the opposite. Law enforcement regularly check social media, blogs, and other internet footprints of suspects—look how much information was garnered about the Boston Marathon Terrorists just by reading through their internet footprint. This information is real, it is viable, and it is the 1950’s “just add water” dream to the First Amendment, promptly delivered for the 21st Century.

In my college Creative Writing class, blogging is an important component of the course. Students must blog twelve times in 15 weeks because it is a new venue for expression that is part article, part journal, and part megaphone. As more young people become fluent in its use you will see the credibility of the blog skyrocket (admittedly, though, there will probably be more prestigious ones, and others not so much…but this is natural and appropriate). Blogging is powerful, blogging is viable, and blogging is important because it isn’t as exclusive as before. Certainly there is more information to sift through, but ideas and opinions isn’t the sort of soup that gets ruined by too many chefs…it’s more like choosing the best book in a book store—except the store is infinitely large, and the choices are impossibly endless.

So I pose the question to you—is blogging a dirty word in writing? Does the availability of access and the breakdown of exclusivity make it more powerful or less viable? Is it every bit as legitimate as other kinds of publishing?

 

Clearly you know what I think.

 

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Written by: Brandon Melendez

The Orson Scott Card/Superman Controversy Examined and Questioned

As writers and authors it is difficult to remove yourself from the worlds you create. Often times the utopian or dystopian ideals that you set forth into a story are those that you foresee as the most, or least, preferable world possible. The worlds we create as fiction writers are indelibly marked by our own personalities and politics—even our most villainous characters are in some way part of ourselves because they are created in our imaginations. Regardless of this, our works are not reflective entirely of our particular view point—only informed by them. It is, of course possible to write or imagine worlds, people, and scenarios with resolutions that we wouldn’t condone or advocate for in the real world. The beauty of creative writing and fiction writing is that we can build and populate realities that are as based in the real world as we want (or not).

Therefore, this raises an interesting question about the political power of supporting a particular author in regard to whether or not you agree with their actual worldviews, as opposed to whether or not you enjoy their work on its own. Recently, Orson Scott Card—writer of the famously popular Ender’s Game Series—was consigned by DC Comics to write an out-of-continuity Superman story in the relaunch of the title Adventures of Superman and all of fandom exploded in tirade. Card, a Mormon with a pedigree so prestigious that he is actually the great-grandson of Brigham Young, has openly opposed gay marriage in recent years and has historically held extremely conservative views regarding the Civil Rights of homosexuals (which have admittedly been at least revised over the years to keep current with the trends of Constitutionality and legality) that are based in his personal morality and, no doubt, his religious upbringing.

When DC announced the author of this one-shot tale, fans all across the internet swore to boycott the issue and rallied to have the company fire the author from the story. Meanwhile, Card’s novel Ender’s Game is consistently held to be one of the best Science Fiction novels of the 20th century (and considered the best by many), is recommended reading for Marines recruits and Officer’s Candidate School students, and has been adapted into a major motion picture to be released later this year, boasting an all-star cast including Harrison Ford. Where is the boycotting of the beloved Ender’s Game in the face of his never-been-secret views? In the meanwhile the story has been held up as, amidst the controversy, the artist attached to the issue has stepped down leaving the story without an illustrator and the release of the issue—the first in the relaunched series—has been apparently delayed and comic retailers are saying that due to the feedback they will only order the comic on a demand basis.

Are we as readers relegated only to consuming fiction by authors who we philosophically agree with? Are we as authors delegated to keeping our opinions to ourselves in order to be more commercially accepted? Certainly authors like Ayn Rand found a political following (posthumously) in the Tea Party and Fiscal Conservatives with her works, notably Atlas Shrugged—but I thoroughly enjoyed the book while having some issues with its philosophical underpinnings. Likewise for Ender’s Game. It’s a great book and deserves its much-lauded status. In reading Atlas Shrugged I found myself constantly challenging the ideals in the book, and checking them against my own which in turn required me to closely examine the beliefs I held gospel. I found that in reading a story so firmly entrenched in a philosophy that I did not agree with, but was nonetheless well written and well argued with a compelling plot (though arguably the characterization in Shrugged was lacking, and in the case of the protagonist ultimately disappointing) was like having a great conversation, taking a challenging course, and getting swept up in the escapist joy of fiction reading. I liken it to having a debate with a good friend with whom I am completely politically opposed—only in contest can we test the veracity of our own beliefs. Additionally, I have found very little in Ender’s Game that betrays a homophobic tone or even an abnormal amount sophomoric adolescent ribbing.

 

As a Superman fan, a person who enjoyed Ender’s Game, and someone who firmly believes personally that homosexuals deserve the full gamut of civil rights, privileges, and benefits as heterosexuals I find myself wondering “What’s the big deal?” Don’t we suffer as readers and thinkers when we relegate ourselves to have intellectual discourse with those who exclusively agree us? Aren’t we then doomed to never test our opinions and beliefs against opposition, making our opinions all the weaker?

So I turn the question to you—what do you think of the controversy over Orson Scott Card’s issue of Superman? Do you believe we should only support and read from authors and writers we agree with? What do we really look to get out of our reading?

 

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Written by Brandon Melendez