Thursday, November 15, 2007

Looking back at the first year of shocking culture

After writing this column for one year, it’s time to look back and see where some of the past year’s stories stand.

Dec. 7, 2006: I wrote about the newfound respect some science fiction writers, Philip K. Dick in particular, are receiving from traditional literary circles. That trend continued in 2007, when Doris Lessing won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Lessing, 88, is the oldest person ever to win the award. Her long career includes two notable transitions. She went from communist to anti-communist and from “serious” fiction to science fiction.

The latter move upset some critics, among them Harold Bloom, who said, “Although Ms. Lessing at the beginning of her writing career had a few admirable qualities, I find her work for the past 15 years quite unreadable ... fourth-rate science fiction.”

But Lessing is unapologetic. “What (critics) didn't realize was that in science fiction is some of the best social fiction of our time,” she said in an interview.

Good for her.

Jan. 4, 2007: I wrote about the new comic strip “Lio” by Mark Tatulli. Since then, “Lio” has increased its following. It now appears in about 275 newspapers worldwide, including The Daily. And that was enough to get Hollywood’s attention.

A live-action film based on the strip is in development.

Jan. 11: Time magazine named “You” its Person of the Year in recognition of ordinary people flooding the Internet with blogs and videos.

The flood continues, and it may be making its biggest impact in politics, where citizens are bypassing the “old media” to spread the word about their preferred presidential candidates. You get a sense of how revolutionary that is when a “second-tier” candidate like Ron Paul raises more than $4 million in one day when his online supporters stage a fundraising drive.

Feb. 1: I continue to receive e-mail about my column on self-proclaimed psychic Sylvia Brown, who still hasn’t demonstrated anything that looks like real psychic ability. Perhaps that is why she has moved on to write, with the help of “her spirit guide Francine,” an absurd book titled “Secret Societies ... and How They Affect Our Lives Today.”

March 15: Marvel Comics killed off one of its most recognizable heroes, Captain America. He is still dead, but someone else is set to don an updated version of Cap’s red, white and blue costume. I still say the original Cap will return — eventually.

July 12: A cryptic marketing campaign for an upcoming sci-fi/horror film by producer J.J. Abrams (“Alias”) had fans scouring the Internet for clues. As it turned out, the Web sites and, which many thought were promoting the then-untitled movie, were for an unrelated role-playing game.

At any rate, the film now has a name, “Cloverfield,” and it opens in theaters Jan. 18.

July 19: “Harry Potter” fans were eagerly awaiting the final book in the saga while trying to avoid spoilers that had leaked online.

By now, everyone who cares knows who lives and who dies. Also, Dumbledore is gay, but we didn’t learn that until months later.

Sept. 6: I wrote about a study published in Nature magazine, which found that the online encyclopedia Wikipedia is almost as accurate as Encyclopaedia Britannica. A spokesman for Britannica then e-mailed me a rebuttal, which included links to stories critical of Nature’s findings.

“Dozens of the so-called inaccuracies they attributed to us were nothing of the kind; they were the result of reviewers expressing opinions that differed from ours about what should be included in an encyclopedia article. In these cases Britannica’s coverage was actually sound,” Britannica responded.

After reading up on the controversy, I’m siding with Britannica, although I still think Wikipedia is an amazingly successful experiment.

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