Curb Your Enthusiasm…

This happened last night. The key moment begins at 2:34:

UPDATE (May 7, 2014): The video’s no longer available for public viewing. Perhaps NBC realized it was providing free advertising for the items showcased in this skit. Into the memory hole it goes. You’ll have to take my word for it now.

Christian spec-fic novel Amish Vampires in Space gets a cover shot and mention on national television from a big-time celebrity on an American cultural institution, The Tonight Show. This is a good thing, right?

Well, it was 25 seconds of a five-minute comedy spot called “Do Not Read,” sandwiched between “Cooking the Dutch Oven Way” and “Stylish Napkins.” It was a punchline, not a promotion.

C’mon, Fred, lighten up. There’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Amish Vampires in SpaceMaybe. The book was flashed to an audience of millions, and Mr. Kimmel didn’t really say anything bad about it. Besides, It’s a foot in the door to begin a conversation, something like, “Did you see that crazy Amish Vampire book on Kimmel last night?” “Yes, and I’m so glad you asked…” Even Twitter scammers began using the title to attract hits on their tweets, so it’s gone viral, after a fashion.

Folks in the Christian spec-fic community were understandably jazzed: Finally, we got noticed. We’ve arrived. We’ve stepped onto the cultural stage. It would have cost thousands of dollars to buy a promotional slot on that show. That kind of free advertising is a gift.

But when I put the manner of the debut together with the response, I felt a little sad. It was like somebody at the cool kids’ table noticed us, and it made our day. “Hey, nice jacket, dweeb!”

Are we so desperate for attention that a talk-show gag feels like affirmation? We’ve been ignored for so long inside and outside the Christian community we’re excited to see this book presented as a joke, in the company of items emblematic of the worst products of American mass-market publishing.

ascsKerry Nietz is a fine writer and deserves wider exposure. His Freeheads series is a wonderful example of original science fiction written from a Christian worldview that defies conventional wisdom and expectations. Amish Vampires in Space, despite its notoriety, was orphaned in the sale of Marcher Lord Press because the new owners decided it didn’t fit their publishing vision, so I’m sure Kerry appreciates any public buzz at all about the book.

There’s certainly lemonade to be made from this lemon, and I admit It was cool to see a book written by someone of my acquaintance on television, whatever the circumstances. What would genuinely excite me would be a follow-up invitation for Kerry to appear on the show to talk about Amish Vampires in Space. Instead of the message, “Don’t read this book, it’s a joke,” we’d get, “Creative guy with a sense of humor wrote an interesting story.” That would be the sort of arrival on the cultural stage I could celebrate without mixed emotions.

Or, we could accept Jimmy Kimmel’s offer at the end of the video and send him more Christian spec-fic to lampoon in “Do Not Read” before anybody else gets the idea.

There’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?

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6 thoughts on “Curb Your Enthusiasm…

  1. Jimmy Fallon has the ability to make me laugh even when I disagree, like a good comic. I don’t think there’s anything more or less to think on the subject, except that we should all get him a T-shirt.

    1. Looks like he’s getting a nice bounce in sales from the buzz, and I think his response to the whole thing has been brilliant. Sort of a bemused shrug-of-the-shoulders and more good humor: http://www.nietz.com/AViS_pose.htm .

      He’s also sending Kimmel a thank-you note and an Amish Vampires in Space t-shirt. I think there’s a decent chance this wasn’t the last mention we’ll see.

    2. I think if there’s a lesson in all this, it’s that even negative publicity can be turned around with an intelligent response. The best answer to comedy is almost always to roll with it and play along. You’re no longer an object of ridicule, you’re part of the act, and at that point, you’ve taken control of the message. If Kerry and his fans had ignored this or responded with angry rants, they would have looked silly. Now they’re pumping this opportunity for all it’s worth. Well played.

  2. >> The best answer to comedy is almost always to roll with it and play along. You’re no longer an object of ridicule, you’re part of the act, and at that point, you’ve taken control of the message. <<

    Good point. I've still to read the novel, but I've read enough about it to know it's not a joke. Kimmel just wasn't that funny in that skit anyway. Not sure if this segment is working for him.

    1. It’s still on my “to read” list, too. From all accounts, Kerry told a serious story, not a spoof or parody. The cover image is brilliant, but it gives the opposite impression, and the marketing from the outset felt like a bait-and-switch to me–not a technique I’m comfortable encouraging.

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