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Today in publishing and literature: National Novel Writing Month improved its production by 274 million words this year, a new comic book price record, and the case for science fiction that thinks small.

  • National Novel Writing Month ended at midnight last night. If the 2011 competition doesn't yield the great American novel or tween lit blockbuster, it won't be for lack of effort. According to organizers, this year's collective word count was 3,073,176,540, a 274 million word improvement on last year's total. [GalleyCat and]
  • The news that Deadwood creator David Milch and HBO reached a deal for Milch to develop series and movies for the network based on the works of William Faulkner was a puzzler, since so many of Faulkner's works seem not just unfilmable, but unscriptable. The good news for Milch is, he'll have plenty of elliptical options to choose from. According to The New York Times, Milch's production company negotiated "for months" with the author's literary estate, ultimately agreeing to a far-ranching deal where Milch, with inout from a member of the estate, can "choose from 19 novels and 125 short stories by Faulkner that could be adapted for film or television. HBO has the right of first refusal, and they'll probably get plenty of use out of it. [The New York Times]

  • A near-mint copy of 1939's Action Comics No. 1 -- Superman's debut -- has become the first comic book to break the $2 million mark at auction. The previous record of $1.5 million was set last year on the same issue. The new buyer's identity wasn't disclosed, but he's getting the last "9.0"-grade copy of the comic left in circulation. Nicolas Cage owned another one, but it was stolen from him in 2000.  [Comics Riff]
  • Science fiction has always had a soft spot for bleak, horrible futures where everything's crowded, the weather burns your skin, and nobody uses conditioner anymore. The settings and beginnings are familiar, but The Guardian makes the case for the genre is at its best and most prescient when it ditches stories told "a macro scale" and deals with "personal freedom, and the discipline required to attain it" in the not too-distant future. The novel that gets singled out for doing this Maureen F McHugh's China Mountain Zhang, "among the most prescient SF novels of the last century" because of the way it deals with the rise of China, says The Guardian's Damien Walter. [The Guardian]

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