Don’t Lose Your Phreadz

I’ve been meaning to give the video blog thing a go for a while, but my new involvement in the ‘closed beetroot’ testing of Kosso’sPhreadz’ has given me the boot up my butt I needed to get me started.

Phreadz has appealed to me as marketeer, as retailer and as customer; it illustrates how well constructed something can be when it’s strategised from the outset with a clear model in mind. I can’t offer you insight on its technical expertise – but, in this concise overview of my initial thoughts, I can explain why I feel it’s had such a strong impact.

The relevance of Phreadz to a retail business is tied up in its use of channels – of course – in the same way that online retailers channel their products into departments, and their newsletters into demographic relevancy. We all know that successful marketing is about targeting your information – and here is a way that we can do that within a video forum.

Tightly streamlined, and moving ever-forward >>

http://www.youtube.com/get_player

One of the marvelous things about social media is that you never cease to break new boundaries – wherever those boundaries may be for you personally, they’re still there to be broken.

I guess that’s called making phread-way?

The Curious Incident of the Fan in the Night-Time

Last weekend, I was flying company colours at Orbital, the UK’s annual science fiction and fantasy convention – the first time in 14 years I’ve re-entered fandom.
Attending an sf con was like putting on old shoes. I know this world as intimately as FP’s demographic – I understand it, have lived in it and it holds no shocks for me. (Oh all right, it was great!)
Nothing had changed since 1994.
Four days’ heavy trading and four nights’ heavy drinking, though, showed me something curious: –
There were almost no younger fans. When I say nothing had changed, I mean it – the same people, now in their thirties and forties; dressed in the same costumes, only with a little more curve to fill them.
The biggest EasterCon in 20+ years – and I could see no Next Generation.
My Boss, Jon, noticed it; loudmouthman, decabbit, rnalxander and I drew many conclusions and my friend Liam Proven, long-time sf fan, has watched it happen round him.
The initial explanation is obvious – oh, they’re ‘on the web’. Fans don’t need to meet Bill Gibson, they can read his blog; they don’t need books for escapism, they can play Second Life. If they want conversation, it’s on a forum; signatures, they’re on eBay.
If traditional journalism is threatened by the common blog, then the fanzine is in serious trouble. Perhaps the novel itself is nearing its closing chapters.
Following that thought, since joining FP I’ve watched sf and fantasy explode through the covers of the paperback and become multi-format, street-smart and cool. Buffy, Battlestar, comic-book blockbusters, Doctor Who – Heroes! – these aren’t just for geeks any more. In television and cinema, nostalgia is the new cutting edge. FP rides this wave – the Megastores shine bright on the high street. But what does it mean for fandom?
My friend John Rivers has been a Who fan many years; he knows the young fans are still out there. New mass credibility means they don’t need to attend the generic sf con; creations like Who and Star Wars are so TARDIS-vast that they offer a whole agenda of their own events.
Like all communities, it’s become big enough to fragment – and it takes a powerful traction beam to pull the pieces together.
Orbital, as well as a central location, offered a guest list that should’ve been that traction. Neil Gaiman alone has enough presence – and the Dream Master was accompanied by the vision and humour of Charlie Stross, the radical brilliance of China Miéville and the sweeping imagination of Tanith Lee. Between them, they cover every angle and appeal to every corner of the Multiverse.
But they were not – quite – enough.
Why? Certainly they’re not accountable – their talks and panels were thought-provoking – even controversial – and their social presence always an amusing fan-magnet – if you didn’t find China in the disco, you’d find Charlie in the bar. To me, Orbital’s guest list shows that genre writing is changing, that fantasy and sf boundaries are being blown back. Evolution prevents stagnation and the genre adapts.
And, as writing adapts, so does format – the genre moves from paper to small screen and big, and more work is issued on the web. Ant Miller, my brother-in-law, commented that Cory Doctrow now publishes nothing on the printed page.
And, as format adapts, so fandom must move with it. If the classic EasterCon is to embrace a younger generation, it needs to stop reading books in a quiet corner. Its eyes and arms need to open wide and embrace more formats and different kinds of creativity. From anime and manga to film and television, from virtual publication and freedom of information to the wonders of live video-streaming (thanks, Nik!), it needs to become forward-thinking.
After all, hasn’t that always been the point of ‘science fiction’?

MonQee MagiQ

And then, there are the times when it works.

Even at an EasterCon, a six-foot woman with a wacky plastic MonQee draws attention.

Spending his days at the front of the Forbidden Planet stand and his evenings escorting me to bars and parties, MonQee rapidly became a vortex of attention. Creepy-cute and sinister with his white body and featureless face, everyone wanted to know what he was, and why I was carrying him. I found myself being smiled at, stopped and spoken to all over the hotel.

After I’d shamelessly accosted the first few authors, the snowslide rapidly became an avalanche. Saturday morning, Loudmouthman took some MonQee footage in the Dealers’ Room – and we gathered quite an audience. Saturday night, the rumour went round the Scandinavian Party that ‘you were no-one at EasterCon unless you’d signed the MonQee’… and then the authors and artists started looking for me.

MonQee was in the Con newsletter; they gave him his own membership. MonQee was in control tower central to meet the Guests of Honour before the Opening Ceremony. As MonQee continued his tour, he gained more fans, more signatures and more credibility.

And more humour.

Charlie Stross – quite unashamedly – signed MonQee’s arse. China Mieville sewed his lips together; Neil Gaiman gave him an eye – which freaked fans out for the rest of the Con. Bryan Talbot drew him a full back patch and Dave Devereux went where no pen had dared go before and signed his groin.

A full set of MonQee pictures can be seen on my Flickr page.

Exhausted from partying, MonQee is home, safely tucked up in his box awaiting forthcoming FP signings and his invite to the Arthur C Clarke Awards. More of his adventures will come.

For now, I would like to thank: –

Chris ‘Fangorn’ Baker

Tony Ballantyne

Chaz Brenchley

Holly Black

Ed Buckley

Paul Cornell

David Devereux

Brianna Flynt

Neil Gaiman

Amanda Hemingway

Tanith Lee

Tom Lloyd

Kari Maund

China Mieville

Andy Remic

Justina Robson

Mark Robson

Geoff Ryman

Sarah Singleton

Charles Stross

James Swallow

Bryan Talbot

Freda Warrington

Liz Williams

and

Frank Wu

MonQee’s travels continue: there will be more!

Whither Bartemkin: What Happens When It Goes Wrong?

The saying goes: you learn nothing from success.
In the UK, the wooden ship of my reckless marketeering has a rocket-powered propulsion system. Take away the Forbidden Planet brand; row the same ship into a much larger, faster marina… and Bart, apparently, loses his head.
It seems the dynamic fusion of art toys with social media will wait for another day.
The idea’s sound – see Phil Campbell’s wonderful shots of his signed Thor helm – but its execution? Needs the right arena.
This weekend, this rocket-propelled ship powers into waters where it’s very well known – along with a rabble of my colleagues, I’ll be at Orbital, the 2008 EasterCon, selling three years’ worth of signed books and goodies to the voracious fanboy public.
Guests of honour include Neil Gaiman, Charles Stross and China Mieville; there will be many other authors and artists there who’ve wielded sharpies for FP in the past – and know a thing or two about wacky art.
I’ve secured a new urban vinyl toy, larger than his Bart predecessor as I have a lot more time, and a far better unity of concept with market. Everything else remains the same – the idea of auctioning a one-off, totally unique art toy, a piece of urban vinyl history, will go ahead as planned – it’ll just take a little longer.
And that’s a good thing – time to learn, think and strategise and time to build a proper story.
As to Bart? Sadly returning home in an in a(u)ctionable condition, he’s enjoying a happy retirement. He’s sitting on my desk in my bedroom as my personal folly; I’ll make a donation to the Frozen Pea Fund myself for my mad-eyed souvenir.
Thank you to adelemcalear and colleencoplick, and to philcampbell and documentally for their performance as Norse Gods – and to all the people who put pen to plastic.
And keep an eye open – more art toy wackiness will ensue!

Eat My Shorts: Art, Bart and Frozen Peas

This weekend, Bart Simpson is gatecrashing SxSW.
Sneaking out of Forbidden Planet, he’s hitched a lift with philcampbell to take ambassadorial advantage of adelemcalear and collencoplick. Yes, my Twitter budz are guerrilla marketeering for FP – and cash-raising for the Frozen Pea Fund.
Any Brit will tell you: FP are the cutting edge of new toys and trends. Bart stands 10” tall, is made from pure white vinyl and represents the perfect fusion of the urban Art Toy sensation with the massive pop culture credibility of The Simpsons.
He’s as hot as toys can get and he’s coming to a SxSW bar near YOU.

When you see him, please take a moment and marker pen and sign him.
The more signatures Bart collects, the happier he gets – and the more funds he’ll raise for the Frozen Pea Fund when loudmouthman and danacea put him up for auction!
Please remember that, being Bart, he likes attention – as he tours the event, collecting signatures, doodles and reputation, his progress will be photographed, blogged and recorded. Each person who signs him will be remembered and thanked… and the more names, of course, the better his sale will be.
Watch this space for Bart’s continuing adventures!