Blockheads – or Bust!

English: Diagram of venture capital fund struc...

English: Diagram of venture capital fund structure for Venture capital (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just read a report from ReadWriteWeb.com (“Growing Your Business in the Modern Economy: 6 VCs Weigh In”) about what venture capitalists look for in a start-up. I like reading such reports because they remind me why I stopped working for businessmen – I used to watch The Apprentice for reminders but Trump decided to go all political on us. Mainly, communications from capitalists – and nowadays they are all venture capitalists – spell out what is so ultimately FUBAR about their way of doing business.

The paper’s writer makes it clear how VCs see themselves:

One gambles with the expectation of loss, and the delight of having cheated expectations when one wins. Taking risks, on the other hand, comes with the expectation of success. If you fail, it often means that the risk was not properly managed.

In other words, VCs see themselves as different from ordinary gamblers. No Gamblers Anonymous meetings for them! They only put their money down for 100% Guaranteed Winners! This is the mindset of the Bain Capitalist – that frat boy who is gonna turn his daddy’s millions into billions.

In fact, one of the investors the writer consults speaks to that type of greed:

When we spoke to institutional investors, the biggest challenge for their portfolios was growth. Their challenge was getting that 50x to 100x they could get when they bought Symantec or McAfee or Microsoft or Apple.

Ah, the budding Mitt Romney thinks to himself, if only daddy had bought one of those companies. I would already be rich beyond my wildest dreams of avarice!

I like to call people who think like the target audience of this report The Blockheads, the “risk”-taker who has to convince himself that his bet isn’t a bet at all but a Sure Thing – because the imagined rewards are so big. It’s the mindset of the publisher who will only option a book if she thinks it will make her as much money as optioning Stephen King or J. K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer – had she done so. It’s the mindset of the “fan” who chooses which movie to watch based on its expected box office receipts – and thinks a film is good because it made over $100 million its first weekend. And The Blockhead is the VC’s investor of choice because he’s stupid enough to believe anything providing he’s told he’s not stupid at all. That’s really what he’s investing in – someone to tell him he’s smart and a winner, but if you have to give someone money to tell you that… well, you figure it out.

(Not that I think I’m smarter than they are. No, not at all.)

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More zombies

The zombies are coming after me again! Since writing my first “zombie” post I’ve had two encounters with zombies.

First, the other night I had a “zombie story” dream. This particular zombie dream was similar to others I’ve had: There was an adorable preschool boy who was a zombie, and his parents were anguished because of it. They could not kill him – could you kill your own son? They wanted to comfort him, and in the end they did. Yes, it meant he would bite them and they would also be zombies, but he was their little boy!

Then I woke up and realized two things:

    It would make a compelling story.
    It would never be sold because editors only publish “plucky survivor” zombie stories.

See? Sort of the opposite of the “elusive room” dream, where you search and search for a room in a dream that you can easily find in real life. My “adorable zombie” story works in dreams but selling it as a concept is elusive.

Then I came across this offer to take one of my photos and re-design it into a zombie photo. Perhaps not in time for Valentine’s Day, but ideal for any couples occasion. Again, this disconnect between people’s fondness for “adorable” zombies when there’s no market for a story about one.

Why won’t agents and publishers consider a novel with zombies as protagonists?

My favorite zombie

I’ve had zombies on my brain for a while now, ever since I read World War Z (which I recommend, by the way). Before this I had been avoiding zombies: I have NO interest in horror films (they give me nightmares!) and zombies had only really existed as films before Brooks.

I’m now infatuated with them in a small way. I watched a few films: Shawn of the Dead (because Simon Pegg was in it) and Night of the Living Dead (to sample some George Romero) and even White Zombie (to get a feel of the racist-plantation zombie movies, which came in handy when Herman Cain began making “plantation” references), but zombie films still aren’t that interesting to me.

I find it frustrating how films treat zombies: they either show them as slaves or as objects of fear and revulsion.

Zombies as slaves don’t come up much anymore, but they are a part of the lore. They were the original zombies, fresh from the plantations of Haiti (that evil place where slaves held the only successful rebellion against their white owners which could only have happened if they were zombified – oooooh!). But the zombie as object of fear and revulsion is more popular right now – and it’s such a limited trope!

Take the Romero zombies, for example. In order for the “plucky survivors” to outwit the “zombies,” the zombies are presented as very slow and very stupid indeed. Nevertheless, the non-zombies are just slightly-less stupid, slightly-less slow and a lot weaker and frailer, because otherwise why would our plucky survivors be in any danger?

Literary Agents are now actively looking for zombie books to sell to publishers, but the books they want are ones that feature the “plucky survivors” model that George Romero and Max Brooks favor. Publishing follows the trends set by films – and book sellers want to cash in on the audience they might capture when the film version of World War Z (starring the hottie Brad Pitt!) is released than with the Brooks book – which has been out for several years now and is sort of “literary” besides.

I’m sure the agents will find plenty of such zombie books to publish (there are already several out there) and, according to my online zombie group for writers, more than enough writers eager to write such “zombie vs. plucky survivalist” books.

But is that all there is to the zombie infatuation – plucky survivalism?

In several cities people participate in “zombie walks.” Many thousands dress themselves up as zombies and shamble down a street.

No one dresses up and participates in a “plucky survivor” parade.

One of the more popular songs/videos in history was “Thriller” – a song featuring zombies, not “plucky survivalists.”

Isn’t the zombie genre missing out on an audience of people who identify more with zombies than survivalists?