Jason Henderson's FB Feed

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

These students wrote me letters about Alex Van Helsing. What they wanted to know surprised me.

A few weeks ago I received an email from Laurel O'Boyle, a 7th grade English teacher in Michigan who said the class was reading Alex Van Helsing-- and that several of the students had become really enthusiastic, and did I mind getting some student letters, and would I answer them?

I said I would love to get student letters, and I'd make a valiant effort to answer them. So herein are the letters from Ms. O'Boyle's 7th Grade English class.

What they wanted to know surprised me-- why vampires, they'd ask over and over. And why do the vampires wear white? And most of all, why do vampires on a college campus wear T-shirts that say "Meat is Murder." Yes. The most constant question was why vampires would wear an old The Smiths t-shirt

I loved these letters and I'm very thankful. 

Thanks guys for making my week!


Thank you so much for taking the time to read the following letters. I thought it would be easier to send them all to you. I am pleased with the questions and predictions some of my students made. I hope you enjoy them as well.

I had them do two things in their letters, write a prediction of what the next book will be about (they know there are more books, but they haven't looked at them yet) and ask you any questions about Vampire Rising that they had.



Dear Mr. Jason Henderson
               This book was very interesting. It kept me thinking through the whole book. I predict that in the next book the whole Van Helsing family will start vampire hunting, I predict this because in the book it said that “the Van Helsings use to hunt vampires.”
               I have a few questions. Why is everything at the vampire school white? Why do their shirts say “meat is murder”? Why did you choose vampires and not skeletons, zombies, or something? Why didn’t you say anything more about Alex’s family?

Garrett Bowen
Thanks Garrett! Well, you’re right about one thing—Alex’s family will be seen more in Book 2 and beyond. In Book 2 his parents actually show up, while in Book 3 his sister Ronnie helps out a lot, although she does it by remote, through Skype, basically. Ronnie has her own comic book, by the way: Sword of Dracula. And now I’m pitching some new novels starring Ronnie.
The vampires who have shirts that say “meat is murder” wear them as a joke—the vampires just think it’s funny. That’s actually a T-shirt you used to see on campuses a lot.
As for what kind of monsters—basically, in this universe we can have any kind of monster, but the vampires are the most dangerous, because they’re the smartest.

Dear Mr. Henderson

               I really liked how you took the time to write these books for people to read.  I liked how much action you put in this book.  You added a lot of missions for Alex to do, and you had Mr. Sangster help him through most of it.
               Now I have a few questions for you.  Why were the vampires wearing white at the school but the guards were wearing red?  How did you come up with all the cool characters and scenes in this book?
               In the next book I think Alex and Sangster will find Claire, and they will melt Icemaker; I further predict that Alex, and Sangster will get in a fight with Icemaker and kill him. I predict this because Sangster and Alex don’t like Lord Byron, so they won’t have to see him and fight with him anymore.

Ashley Albert
Saranac Community Schools
Hi Ashley!
I had the vampires wear white because in many cultures it’s the color of death. Also I just thought it would look cool.
How did I come up with these characters? Any time I start a book, I try to think of what characters would work well, what’s missing? For instance, Alex needed some friends, and then I just thought of what kind of guys would be fun for him to hang out with, and Paul and Sid were born.
Your predictions have a lot to do with Book 3, actually, hint hint… 

Dear Mr. Jason Henderson
From reading the first novel to your books Alex Van Helsing, I have made some predictions about your next book.  In my mind, I can see Claire rising, and becoming the leader of Scholomance, making other vampires rise from the dead. I believe that Paul and Sid will embark on the journey with Alex to save more captives in the Scholomance.
Some questions I have about Vampires Rising are: Why do the vampires wear all white? And is Icemaker really frozen or is it a trick?.
Sammy Eyestone
                                                          Saranac Community Schools

Sammy! Excellent predictions, but no comment. These answers will be given, though! And yes: Icemaker is truly frozen—but will he stay that way?
Dear Mr. Jason Henderson,
               I’ve really never written a letter to an author before.  You must take my word for it, you do a dang good job at making a vampire book.  I kind of bet, your book was better than Twilight.  Your book has a lot of details about the characters.  I must say I really loved your book.  If I had to rate it, I would rate it a 10/10.  It was a real adventure about vampires.  Some parts of the book got me to the edge of my seat.              
               I am predicting after the book that the Blob that Mr. Sangster was talking about will appear at Glenarvon Academy and work with Icemaker when he will be thawed.  I believe Alex’s family will appear. 
               My questions are:   why are the vampires dressed in white?  Why are they wearing “Meat Is Murder” t-shirts?  Where did you get the idea for Icemaker? Why did you choose Lake Geneva for the setting of this story?
                                                                                                                        Maverick Musser

Oh, that’s so kind! Thanks Maverick! My gosh, I am thrilled to be compared in any sense with Twilight. Okay: I have no plans yet for The Blob (but you should check out that awesome movie with Steve McQueen), but your other guesses aren’t far from wrong. See above for comments on their white clothes and ironic t-shirts.
I chose Lake Geneva for the very reason Sangster is lecturing on it—Lake Geneva is where the great Romantic writers gathered to start Frankenstein and the early vampire novels. Since Alex Van Helsing is in a world where books really matter, Lake Geneva was a really important place to be.

Dear Mr. Henderson,
I like your book Vampire Rising. It was very interesting because it had a lot of action and I like to read books like that.
I think that in the next book the Scholomance is going to attack and try to get Icemaker back.
I was wondering why there were shirts that said “Meat is Murder” on them. It confused me because vampires drink blood and that kills.
I hope to read another Alex Van Helsing book.
                              Caitlynn Woodward
 Thank you Caitlynn! And I promise you, I think the later books are even better at balancing story and action adventure. At least I tried to do that! And yes, see above: the Meat Is Murder t-shirts are ironic.
Dear Mr. Henderson,
I liked the book; it was very good with detail. I liked all of the action about the vampires.
I think in the next book there will be more people, like Alex’s mom, and Icemaker will be thawed by the vampires.
A couple of questions I have are: Why did Alex go in the cave by himself? Why did Mr. Sangster not tell Alex why it takes so short to heal his leg?
                              Blake Patrick
 Hi Blake! Stay tuned for more hints about Sangster. But why did Alex go in alone? Because he thought it was the only way to get his friends back, and that’s what heroes do. Without that there wouldn’t be a book!
But to let you in on a secret, in an early version, Alex went in with Agent Armstrong.

Dear Mr. Henderson,
I loved your book Vampire Rising. I hope there are more books about Alex. Your book is the best I’ve read this year.
I predict that the next book is going to be about vampires and more about Alex’s family. I also think that Icemaker will get unfrozen in the next book.
My questions are why do the vampires wear white and how did you come up with the characters?
                              Autum Rogers
Autum,  so far there are two more books, and with any luck more to come!

Dear Mr. Henderson,
You are a great book writer. I enjoyed your book.
I think what will happen in the next book is: Alex and Mr. Sangster will go on another adventure. It will have to do with Claire and Icemaker. Claire is a skeleton and becomes a vampire person. Icemaker is going to unfreeze. Icemaker and Claire are going to hunt Alex down. Alex gets caught. His friends Paul, Sid, and Minhi get Mr. Sangster and try to save Alex. Those are my ideas for the next book.
My questions for you are: Where did your ideas come from for writing this book? Is the ice dog (revenant tracker) going to be in the next book? Is Mr. Sangster a part of Alex’s family, like his uncle? Why were different vampires wearing read and white?
Mykal Palmer
Wow, thanks Mykal! Your guesses are strong—in the very next book, we dive more into Alex learning to be a spy. But the heaviest stuff about Icemaker, Claire and more comes in Book 3!
Sangster is not part of Alex’s family, though—he’s what we call a mentor, someone who helps you and in many ways can become like family. Thanks!

Dear Mr. Henderson,
I loved your book and its action.
I predict in the next book, Icemaker will come back and kill Sangster because Sangster was the one who helped keep Icemaker from resurrecting Claire again and from killing Alex.
Why doesn’t Minhi fall in love with Alex in the book? Why did you choose to start with action instead of Alex waking up in his bed?
Sincerely, your biggest fan,
Christian Laney
 Christian, Hm. Why doesn’t Minhi fall for Alex? I’ll bet Alex asks that question every day. And in Book 3 he kind of asks it out loud.

Dear Mr. Henderson,
Your book was very interesting. I really enjoyed reading this book. Where did you get inspired to write a book about vampires? Also, I liked how creative you were in this story. Where did you come up with all this? Like, did you make it up, or did you read it somewhere?
I liked how you left it a mystery what will happen in the next book. I predict that Icemaker will return in the next book. Will Claire rise in the next book? Will Sid, Minhi, and Paul become agents like Alex?
                              Sara Pardo
 Sara, thanks so much for your kind words—I just really wanted to create a whole world of action and mystery that was similar to adventure stories I read and loved when I was young. So this world is really our world, just with a lot of monster literature underneath it.

Dear Mr. Henderson,
               I love your book.  I have a few questions about Vampire Rising.  Where did you get your inspiration?  Why is the grass white in the Scholomance?  Why is the book based in Europe?  Did you base it there because of your own interest in Lord Byron?  My prediction for the next book is that Alex will be back and this time, there will be a zombie apocalypse.
                                                                                                                                                      Joe (Stan) Collins

Stan, I actually have a proposal for a zombie apocalypse book with Ronnie Van Helsing, so who knows!
The grass is white at the Scholomance because everything down there is plum wrong.

Dear Mr. Henderson,
I like the book Vampire Rising.  It was a very action filled adventure.  I would definitely like to read the second book.  I predict the second book will be about demon werewolves. 
Why did you choose to write about vampires?  Why is the Scholomance under water?
                                                                                                                                                      Nick Nelson

Nick, thanks so much! The Scholomance is under water because it’s a great place to hide!

Dear Mr. Henderson,
               I think Alex is going to take out the Scholomance and beat the new vampire leader in the next book. I think the next book will be good. I like the creativity in the book. My question is, why do the vampires wear “meat is murder” shirts? Did you plan on Sangster being a vampire since he healed so fast?
The book was great. Thank you.
               Lucas Holtforth
Lucas, see above about the shirts—but Sangster has his own secrets. By all means read on!

Dear Mr. Henderson,
I loved your book Vampire Rising. It was a good book to read and I don’t like to read very many books.
I predict the next book will have Icemaker’s followers find where Icemaker is frozen and unfreeze him by breaking into where he is at. They will kill everyone in there guarding Icemaker, except one to tell Alex what happened. Alex will be a full agent and he will be training Paul to be an agent. Minhi will get bit and turn into a vampire. Alex will get his butt kicked by Minhi with her moves. In the end Minhi will be turned back into a human.
How did you come up with the characters Minhi, Sangster, Alex, Sid and Paul? Why did you pick vampires for Alex’s enemies? How do you like your book?
               Ashley Dulyea
Ashley, ooh, your questions about Icemaker lend me to say, just get to Book 3… thanks so much!

Dear Mr. Henderson,
I think Alex is going to destroy the Scholomance and the new vampire leader. I also think Alex, Minhi, Sid, and Paul are going to find Claire.
I didn’t understand why the vampires wore white and not red and black, because in most books they wear red and black. Why did you have them dress like that?
               Taven Haskins
Taven, thank you so much! And I had them wear white because it is the color of ghosts and death.

Thanks everyone!

Friday, March 14, 2014

To Save Copyright we Must Kill It (And Raise It Anew)

Kurt Sutter, creator of the TV series Sons of Anarchy, has posted an article at Slate on the need for a dialogue around copyright, and it's worth reading.
3.No one benefits from piracy except the criminals and the portal that opens its doors to them. Stealing content may feel like a win, but supporting piracy will ultimately diminish the quality of the content you’ve come to love and depend on. Google and the other copyright killers will tell you the opposite to assuage your burden of guilt and theirs, but again, it’s in their best interests to do everything and anything that serves their current bottom line.
Sutter calls for a dialog between the various parties with a stake in copyright law, from the Googles of the world to the content creators (and, I might add, derivative content creators like fanfic writers,) to subscribers and viewers. You know where I would start? Personally I think we need to reform the Copyright law to allow for stronger protection in exchange for a shorter copyright period.
Copyright in America, as my first year copyright professor taught me, is not inborn. It is a government-granted limited-time monopoly on an intellectual work, granted as an incentive to create more work. You create work, you exploit it, it goes out of copyright for the greater good (because your government-granted monopoly lapses) and you create more work. Copyright is a balancing act between incentives for two goods: a robust public domain and a robust creative output. We do have piracy and I have written about it before. I think most of the policy arguments in favor of piracy are self-serving and disingenuous.
Current copyright law encourages piracy and needs to be reformed But current copyright law encourages piracy because it protects copyright for too long at the expense of the public domain. Currently copyright protection extends for life plus seventy years. We've decided as a society that we need a government-granted monopoly on our work, but seventy years past our mortal lives is absurd and does not benefit society at all, because it starves the public domain. There is no meaningful argument for that length save greed. I think we can find a better number.
Copyright law needs squatter's rights Currently there are vast seas of creative work locked up in copyright limbo because it can be difficult to locate the rights holders of each. This means that works that should be in the public domain are stuck or "orphaned" and cannot be used, copied, derived from or otherwise exploited. There have been bills to address this but as of now, there is no way of freeing orphaned work. Personally I think we should pass a squatter's rights law, allowing for an "open and notorious" use of orphaned work. For instance, I might publically announce that I'm going to base a new novel on an orphaned novel published in 1979. We need some means for the owner to come running and license the work to me, or cede the work to the public domain. Laws have been proposed to deal with oprhaned works but none so far has passed.
Copyright owners should avoid being jerks about minor derivative works like fanfic. Because you look like a fool when you do that. We should not antagonize the fans, and in fact they bring great conversation to the enjoyment of works by adding to them with fanfic, videos and more. We need to have a better attitude about minor copying. In other words, we need to aggressively grow the definition of fair use.
In exchange for these reforms, internet providers should be willing to help block piracy. And I mean it-- if I learn someone is offering free copies of my book, I am utterly fine with reducing their computer to molten slag, but I'll be happy if we just made life a little more difficult. That should be the deal: reform copyright to be less stringgent and quit coming off like thugs, and in exchange, let's crack down on the kind of sharing that will ultimately mean no more Sons of Anarchy at all. The task of reforming copyright is hard, but it is hard because it is worth it. Many worthwhile things are hard. We can and must reform copyright before we those who create are unable to keep creating.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Oscars Prove that the Internet Can Channel Your Rage into a Working App in Nothing Flat

Nothing was supposed to go haywire at the 86th Academy Awards, but when it did, an app was born.
With 40 million people worldwide watching the March 4th telecast, organizers attempted to learn from last year's debacle-- an awful lot of people were offended by pretty much everything that came out of Seth McFarlane's mouth-- and chose instead the queen of daytime inoffensiveness, Ellen DeGeneres. ("DeGeneres," Salon.com said, "has styled herself as the safest thing going.")
And safe it was, until John Travolta spoke, introducing Broadway star and Frozen theme belter Idina Menzel as (apparently) "Adele Dazeem."
As Broadway.com put it: “Who the Hell is Adele Dazeem?” This was a shock. Little girls and Broadway fans the world over went ballistic. And they had a reason: Menzel gave a rattled performance of Oscar favorite “Let it Go,” visibly unable to shake the insult.
Within hours of Travolta’s mistake, Frozen fans had transformed discontent into creative mockery aimed at Travolta. Thousands of tweeters started making up their own "Travoltified names" before one comedienne, @alysemigran, tweeted "I wanna put my name through the John Travolta name generator." 
The first versions were strictly proof-of-concept: Bustle.com provided detailed written instructions to creating a John Travolta version of your name (example: 1. FIRST SYLLABLE OF YOUR FIRST NAME: PICK YOUR FAVORITE GREASE SONG). E’s Vulture provided a similar on-paper-only solution ("for double vowels and double consonants, drop one/ Feel free to add a "p" to the end.") But all of this amounted to what in the world of the Internet meme passes for an RFP. 
By Monday afternoon just such a generator had been created: Slate magazine published a link to a fully-functional web program that would transform your name into its John Travolta pronunciation. (In the interest of disclosure, my name became "Jackson Hargision.")
There it was: from outrage to app in less than 24 hours.
The Slate "Adele Nazeem Name Generator" proves how much internet-based technology has come to augment our enjoyment of broadcast entertainment. A decade ago, we would have sat at our Oscar parties and joked among ourselves. Five years ago we would have posted on our Myspace about it. Last year we would tweet about it-- now we tweet out a link to a dynamic piece of entertainment. We the audience have seamlessly integrated ourselves into the event experience. In fact, without Travolta's flub, you would have less of an event to participate in.
This morning, an app developer heard a cry of the heart from angry fans and created an instant method for them to participate, and although thousands are enjoying it, almost no one notices how revolutionary it is. The Adele Nazeem Name Generator is just the latest proof that internet technology has enabled us to shape live events as much as we are shaped by them.

Let's see what Travolta makes us do next!