Last Friday, author Perry Moore was found dead in his West Village apartment: “Perry Moore Dies at 39.” He was best known as a producer for the Chronicles of Narnia series, but he also wrote the award-winning YA superhero novel HERO, which was expected to sprout a sequel.
I loved Moore’s account of what inspired him to write the novel. In a 2007 NYT’s article, he explained that he was so affected by Marvel Comics’ decision to kill off NorthStar, the only gay character in the X-men series (or elsewhere), he undertook a one man social action, inserting post-it notes into bookstand comics with messages like: “Can a superhero be gay?” and “Ask yourself: Equal Rights?”
His novel was a more conventional endeavor to change the comic industry’s portrayal of gays. A self-described lifelong comic ‘geek,’ Moore especially wanted his book to reach young readers, struggling to come out, as he once was himself.
HERO was published in 2007, but I just caught up with it last summer. It was at first a wee difficult for me to get into—not being a fan of comic-genre zaniness—but the sweet coming out story at its center, and equally sweet romance sub-plot, won me over. I also appreciated that the superhero Thom Creed is a jock with a decidedly non-jockish power: he can heal wounds and mend broken bones by touch. Subverting the hetero, masculine archetype makes me smile.
The other news that caught my interest this week is international, mega-bookseller Borders filing for bankruptcy and announcing the closure of 30 percent of its stores.
For several years, Borders has been in steady decline, for many reasons, given balance in MSNBC.com’s “Borders’ Loss May Be Others’ Gain in Book Wars.” Michael Norris, an industry analyst, calls Borders’ string of market and management-related wounds a case of “Murder on the Orient Express.”
At first glance, it’s the story of ‘brick and mortar’ booksellers being unable to compete with on-line sales and e-products, dynamics that were factors, but there’s also the impact of the economic downturn on retailers generally to consider. And some have pointed to the company’s ineffective business model, such as this interesting perspective by former employee Giles Hash.
What does this mean for authors? Not much, and everything seem to be the popular answers.
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and independent bookstores shouldn’t have much of a problem picking up Borders’ customers. Print sales are declining, but e-books are exploding. How much the latter compensates for the former is a question I was unable to answer from my one week research stint. It’s clear that profit margins are lower for e-publishing, but many e-books are share-protected, leading (possibly?) to more individual readers making purchases.
The undisputed losers are the publishers. Some are owed as much as 40 million by Borders, and with their debtor in bankruptcy, they might be lucky to recoup two-thirds of their debt. Sucks for them, and the impact trickles down—fewer and lower advances for authors, greater risk aversion, and an increased burden on authors to promote their books. Though these trends have been in play for quite awhile.
Finally, the biggest joy of running a website is receiving fan mail, most of which, it turns out, comes with hyperlinks to male enhancement pills and creams. Here’s an unexpected treat from last week, in response to my post on Groundhog Day.
“I just installed an in-wall computer in my bathroom with a pull out keyboard tray and, with all do respect, this is the first blog I read while taking a number 2. This is getting bookmarked because it will always have a place in my heart, and bathroom. Thanks for the great read.”
Thank you, “Darline.” Glad to be of service.