Cartoon Gravity 19

News and musings and some really great music.

I had a whole thing written for this and it was so boring, even I couldn't bring myself to send it out.

So let's lean in to the news part of the newsletter.

I'm on the back half of the fourth season of the Lovecraft Investigations now. It always seems to be news to someone that there's going to be a fourth season, no matter how many times, and in how many places, I bang on about it. I suppose this is just an artefact of online life - author Joe Hill recently launched his Substack and his first post was about the trials and tribulations he'd been through writing his new novel, how long it was going to take and when it would be published. And the VERY FIRST comment under the piece was from someone saying "Any news on the new novel?" That's an extreme example, and Joe did well not to hunt this person down and murder them.

Underlying this though, is a curious phenomenon. Yes, it's tempting to get frustrated that people aren't paying attention., But maybe they are, and there's just so much information flying around out there that yours gets lost in the noise sometimes. This is a useful train of thought for anyone who's trying to plug their album/book/podcast etc. We get self-conscious, we assume that, because we see all of our own posts, that we're saturating (and therefore boring/alienating) our audience. But actually, a lot of successful online campaigns are such because they are purely attritional. Maybe too much is not enough.

Take the Remarkable tablet as an example. I am writing this very post on one, with their excellent new Folio Keyboard. I absolutely love this thing as a distraction-free gizmo on which to make notes, read and edit scripts, and, now that the keyboard exists, write things. If I look at Instagram, the Remarkable promotional pieces appear to take up a clear 50% of my feed. It's a classic example of over-saturation. If I didn't love this thing, I would absolutely hate it by now. And yet I wonder how many ads and reviews and promotional videos it took to tip me over into buying one? I know it took a while, and the final persuasion actually came from a friend who had bought one, but what made her buy it? How many ads did she need to see? I doubt it was just one, or even five or ten...

And even now, with what I would perceive to be a ludicrous amount of awareness for Remarkable out there, I bet there are some people reading this who are hearing about it for the first time.

Maybe too much is not even enough?

So once again, and in that spirit, the next series of Lovecraft Investigations is called "The Haunter of the Dark" and it will allegedly be out on BBC Sounds in October this year. The episodes are shorter this time, which is a challenge, and the writing of it is damn near killing me right now. But I think it's good, and I'm taking the opportunity afforded by the original story to retread some old Pleasant Green ground in a new way.

I may as well also take this opportunity to mention that we're currently approaching cast for what will be the first Pleasant Green movie (I know, right?) I'm not going to say yet what it is or who is in it or... Well, anything actually. But we're hoping to make it at the top of next year and I'll keep you posted when there are any details that I can safely share without jinxing the whole thing.

I have also started a Substack which is all about writing. It's called Development Hell and it also includes the Development Hell Writing Course, which is a subscription thing that I am getting a kick out of writing and might soon expand out to include a little audio as well - interviews and such.

In addition, there is now a Pleasant Green blog, which is a fiction exercise, expanding the world of Pleasant Green and digging deeper into some of the stuff that is referenced in the audio shows (and the forthcoming MOVIE!!!)

As a Writers Guild of America member, I am on strike right now. I'm not a natural militant, but the way the streaming services especially have been treating writers these past few years, and breaking the business to boot, is reprehensible and something needs to be done. I don't think this process is going to be either short or painless, but I do think it's necessary. There's a limit to how many times these guys can blow hundreds of millions of dollars on unmitigated pieces of shit like (fill in any number of blanks) and still claim to have no money. You don't have to be Karl Marx to appreciate that insisting on the wholesale ownership of a writer's copyright without giving that writer any share whatsoever in the profits you make from their work is exploitation, pure and simple.

For a much more fun explanation of the issue, here's Snoop Dogg:

In a nutshell (and forgive me if my understanding is simplistic) while authors and playwrights own their copyright, it was decided a while back that movie studios, who are spending tens or hundreds of millions of dollars on a project, "needed" to own the copyright to an idea in order to safely protect their investment (I have quarrels with this argument, but that ship sailed a long time ago). In order to compensate the creators for that loss of copyright, the studios and networks agreed to cut us in for a share of the profits, so if the movie or show we wrote is successful, we get to share in it. What was subsequently carved out of that deal was online use, because when the carve-out happened, "online" meant putting trailers up on You Tube and the argument was that this was marketing material and therefore it would be unfair for the studios to have to pay us in order to market the stuff that we created. This was not an unreasonable point. And then along came the streamers, and because of the online carve-out, they currently get to own 100% of our creation WITHOUT having to cut us in on the profits they make. But this isn't marketing any more, this is distribution. These guys (and they are almost exclusively guys) are taking home millions of dollars in bonuses and their companies are valued at billions of dollars, and they are not paying to use the thing that they are selling. And they won't even discuss it.

So fuck 'em, we're on strike.

The new National album, came out a week or two ago and that has caused me to go down a rabbit hole of related projects. I've been a fan of Aaron Dessner for some time. In addition to his work with The National, he has produced albums for, among others, Sharon Van Etten (Tramp) and Taylor Swift (Folkore and Evermore). On the Swift albums, he brought in Justin Vernon as a guest artist and he has a side project with Vernon called Big Red Machine.

Big Red Machine's latest album is called "How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last". It features collaborations with Anais Mitchell, Fleet Foxes and Sharon Van Etten, and it's the best thing I've heard in ages (as well as including what might turn out to be my favourite ever Taylor Swift song). Do yourself a favour and take a listen.

Last night, I went to the launch party for Nick Harkaway's new novel "Titanium Noir" . The book only came out yesterday, so I haven't finished it yet, but it's Nick Harkaway doing Chandleresque dystopian sci-fi, what's not to like?

And finally, fans of stop motion animation and fans of folk horror can both get their jollies from this short, written by Bec Boey and directed by Joseph Brett.

Fuck it. Send.