Thursday, January 29, 2009

Brains! Brains!

New Feature. I just released a minor feature, a new meme "Dead or Alive?" which breaks down your LibraryThing authors by whether they're dead, alive or unknown. Check out mine or go to your profile and select "Memes" to find yours.

The information is based on the various authors' birth and death dates in Common Knowledge. It works pretty much as you suspect. People with death dates are dead. People with birth dates only are alive, unless they'd be over 100. The rest are unknown. The system tracks when you use it, so I can add some statistics on whether your authors are more or less dead than others' authors.

UPDATE: For clarity, you can change authors by going to their author page and editing in a birth or death date. For now, organizations are identified by being of the gender "n/a."

New Books. I need no segue to mention two books I recently discovered. The first is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies from Chronicle Books, due out in April. According to the description:
"Pride and Prejudice and Zombies -- Pride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen's beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. Complete with 20 illustrations in the style of C. E. Brock (the original illustrator of Pride and Prejudice), this insanely funny expanded edition will introduce Jane Austen's classic novel to new legions of fans."
It's an amusing idea. Taking on classics from a different vantage point has been done many times—think Wide Sargasso Sea, whose heroine is the "madwoman in the attic" of Jane Eyre. Others have have done prequels and sequels to famous works; at a low-point of my youth I read the entirety of Heathcliff—The return to Wuthering Heights. But has anyone taken the full text of a classic and inserted scenes of an entirely different character? The possibilities are endless. It's the tragic story of star-crossed lovers set against the backdrop of 16th-century Verona—and an alien invasion! (Working title: Romeo and Juliet and Aliens).*

Another good titles is Jailbait Zombie by Mario Acevedo, picked up by Sonya at the recent American Library Association meeting in Denver. According to Sonya's friend, another zombie-lover (but not literally), Zombie Jailbait "isn't as good as the author's Undead Kama Sutra," an assessment that brings into high relief the problem with comparatives.

* I'm looking for other good titles. There is, of course, the moving story of two parents locked in a tragic custody battle over their young son—and stalked by a killer from another planet (Kramer versus Kramer versus Predator), but the movie is better known than the book.

UPDATE: A commentor points out All the World's a Grave by John Reed, piecing together Shakespearian lines into a new play. The granddaddy is Pingres of Halicarnassus' lost reworking of the Iliad, inserting a pentameter of his own creation between Homer's hexameters (here). Those aren't quite what I'm talking about.

Hat-tip to Lux Mentis for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Labels: , , ,


Blogger Unknown said...

Looks like the Title on the page needs to be corrected (currently says "You and None Other".)

1/29/2009 2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about All the World's A Grave, by John Reed. He has patched together lines from Shakespeare's plays to make a brand new play!

1/29/2009 2:16 PM  
Blogger Lilithcat said...

I can add some statistics on whether your authors are more or less dead than others' authors.

Tim, I have visions of partially dead authors (zombie authors?). Or were they prematurely buried?

1/29/2009 2:39 PM  
Blogger Kirsten said...

Zombie Haiku: Good Poetry For Your... Brains. Quite a clever little book, particularly enjoyable while playing Zombie Fluxx.

1/29/2009 2:53 PM  
Blogger biblioholic29 said...

I have to admit, I've tried several times to read P&P and couldn't get past the third page. Zombies might just be enough to get me through it finally!

1/29/2009 3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P&P w/Zombies:

Dead Chick-Lit ?

1/29/2009 3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wonder if an author is listed as dead, but you know for sure they are alive? Or the unknowns, there are a bunch there that I know for sure are alive.

1/29/2009 3:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to update the CK for my unknown authors and found out that the one author in my collection I knew personally is dead. Huh. :(

1/29/2009 3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do you get an "author" to register as "not a person"? Is there a field in CK that I've missed?

1/29/2009 4:13 PM  
Blogger Lorin said...

Is this an elaborate plan to get us all on an update CK kick? You know seeing all those unknowns is going to get to me!

1/29/2009 4:21 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

LT nearly just made me have a heart attack.

I looked to my "dead" authors and saw Rick Riordan there. No! He can't leave us hanging with Percy and Annabelle and the rest of the demigods in eternal waiting!

I rushed to see when he had died and looked at his CK article. Someone had put in 'Not Dead' for his date of death. Phewwww.

1/29/2009 5:43 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I see some authors on the "Unknown" list that I know are still kicking.
Is it possible to make changes?

1/29/2009 6:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A variant on this is 'Great Collaborations That Never Were (But Ought To Have Been)'. One I always fancied from the realms of science fiction and fantasy was Robert E. Howard and David Brin's "Conan the Postman"...

1/29/2009 7:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marlyn, as the original post says, it's all based on CK. Anyone with a birth date less than 100 years ago and no death date is considered "alive". Therefore, there's not much you can do for an author you know to be alive but for whom you can't track down a birthdate.

(Making up false birthdates just to put someone in the "Alive" category is a Bad Thing. Don't even think about it.)

1/29/2009 7:44 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I second the comment that this is a great incentive to contribute to Common Knowledge records. In fact, one almost might suspect the meme was designed specifically for that purpose... hmmm.

1/29/2009 7:49 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

We need to dream up other weird memes to get data. For example, to get place-of-residence data we could do a CK-Google Maps mashup showing which of your authors would die in a thermonuclear exchange.

1/29/2009 7:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


How do you get an "author" to register as "not a person"? Is there a field in CK that I've missed?

Gender. Filling in "n/a" classifies someone as "not a person". (Note that there is an "Other" option, so this doesn't render androgynous people nonpersons.)

1/29/2009 8:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely the obvious title for the Romeo & Juliet & Aliens book is "Star-Crossed Lovers"?

1/29/2009 8:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely the greatest story never told would have to be that of the educated mercenary who tried in vain to save some part of the Library at Alexandria, "Conan the Librarian"!

1/29/2009 10:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely the greatest story never told would have to be that of the educated mercenary who tried in vain to save some part of the Library at Alexandria, "Conan the Librarian"!

1/29/2009 10:46 PM  
Blogger pechmerle said...

It should be possible to put "living" in the date of birth box, when we know that to be true but don't know a precise date of birth. That would be more info than "unknown" conveys.

And in fact, if you put "deceased" in the date of death box, the algorithm will accept that and change the author's status to dead.

Moral: It's easier to be dead than alive on LT.

1/30/2009 4:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A cunning plot to make me update the CK for my authors. So how do any make the zombie list? Or are those the writers who come up with those word verification thingies?..

1/30/2009 12:50 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Neat feature - I bet you could use the same setup to build a "Male or Female?" page with relative ease.

These pages have the side benefit of subtly encouraging CK data population.

1/30/2009 5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know how publishers sometimes continue to bring out books in a series under the original author's name after his/her death (not unfinished manuscripts with co-author's name, or same series name with change of author, but pretending it was written by the original author)?
Those should be labeled zombie. How do we work that?


1/30/2009 7:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

showing which of your authors would die in a thermonuclear exchange.

They wouldn't die, they would just enter into an eldritch undead state an acquire a burning appetite for BRAINS!!!

1/30/2009 11:24 PM  
Blogger Nora said...

It would be fun to have a link on the "dead or alive" page that ranks the authors by age.

1/31/2009 2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So is it kosher to add an approximate birhtdate (year only with question mark) for an author I know- and know enough about to confidently be correct within a couple of years?

1/31/2009 9:26 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Yes. I'd write "c. XXX"

1/31/2009 9:44 PM  
Blogger Dena said...

Yesterday I added a few "c. XXX"'s in the birth date field as per Tim, and they switched to alive right away, but when I checked them this morning all the birthdate fields were empty again and the author's status was back to unknown (e.g. Susan Elizabeth Phillips). So the "C. XXX" doesn't seem to be working.

2/02/2009 2:02 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Hi, which authors? Did you literally type XXX? I meant to add an approximate year. Members may have killed your edits on that account.

2/02/2009 6:06 PM  
Blogger Dena said...

I was being overly literal and typing "c. xxx". What would really be useful is a blanket way to say "I know for a fact that these authors are alive, but I have no idea when they were born". The LOC authorities don't have birth years for quite a few authors, and I know some people don't want their age known at all, but they are definitely alive.

2/03/2009 7:33 PM  
Blogger spiffycat said...

How about a category for an author that starts out a zombie and scooches over to the 'alive ' column. Michael Finkel after having disgraced himself concocting a story for the NYT magazine, morphs from a cold and dead writer into one alive by befriending a murderer who assumed Finkel's identity while on the run. 'True Story" by Michael Finkel, Harper Perennial, 2005.

2/03/2009 8:23 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home