Thursday, June 30, 2005


Comics and Cross-pollination

There's something strangely recursive about this. Tom De Haven, author of the Derby Dugan trilogy of comics inspired literary novels, does a sort of Kavalier and Clay take on Superman himself. Taken along with Jonathan Letham's first foray into four color comics with next year's Omega the Unknown, and Michael Chabon's ongoing The Adventures of the Escapist from Dark Horse comics, it would seem there's more cross-pollination between comics and "literature" than there may ever have been before.

Between comics and the worlds of television and film, too, there's quite a bit more back and forth than I can recall happening before. In the last few years folks like Joss Whedon, J.M. Straczynski, and Kevin Smith--all of whose work in tv and film shows the definite influence of comics--have turned their hands to writing comics, albeit with mixed results. And David Goyer, who started out as a screenwriter, then wrote comics for a while, and now primarily seems to write screenplays based on comics, is one of the key players responsible for the success of Batman Begins, arguably the best comics-inspired film to date. And there's Butch Hartman, who after the success of his kid's cartoon series The Fairly Odd-Parents, launched Danny Phantom, probably the purest example of the superhero genre on television ever that wasn't based on an already extant comic property. And there's that Pixar movie The Incredibles, which did okay at the box office, if I recall correctly. At the same time, it seems that comics, at least the American superhero-genre element of things, is becoming ever more insular, isolated, and niche.

(Grant Morrison has expressed an interesting theory about the hermetic reasons behind superhero movies based on comics. He argues, seemingly only half-jokingly, that the fictional genre of the superhero is in the process of becoming sentient. He points out that the superhero has its roots in the pulps of the thirties, and that when the writing was on the wall that the days of the pulps were numbered, the superhero jumped ship and migrated into the healthier medium of comics. In the last few decades, as the comic market has withered on the vine, the superhero has been in the process of migrating first to the television screen, and then to the silver screen. Eventually, Morrison says, superheroes will migrate from the movie screen into the real world, and that's what things really get interesting.

I've said for years that sooner or later superhero comics would go the way of epic poetry--there'll still be a few people creating them, a few people willing to buy them, and a bit of money to be made from selling them, but they won't impact the larger consciousness at all. And I think we may be getting there sooner rather than later. Comics properties are making the leap to television (Smallville, Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans, The Batman, et cetera) and to film (Batman Begins, Fantastic Four, the Spider-man films and the forthcoming Superman Returns) with some success, both commercially and critically, but there hasn't appeared to have been an attendant increase in sales for the comic book incarnations of the same. There's a little money to be made in superhero comics, but primarily by selling more and more to the same dedicated core audience.

I suppose, put in those terms, that much the same thing has been happening to prose science fiction for some time now, hasn't it? Popular culture, in many ways, is science fiction these days, to the extent that it's hard to remember a Big Summer Blockbuster in recent years that wasn't science fiction. And yet, rare is the science fiction title that sells even a significant fraction of best seller numbers.

So it isn't that the majority of people aren't responding to the basic ideas in superhero comics, or in prose science fiction, since they happily gobble them up in other formats. But they don't seem to want to take them in print form. The explanation that people always seem to invoke in these sorts of discussions, at this point, is the old saw, people-just-don't-read-anymore. Maybe, and maybe not. But kids sure do, and it only takes a quick stroll through the young readers and teen sections of any book store to see that a lot of the fiction in those markets would comfortably fit within the genre-confines of either prose science fiction or superhero comics. So is there some hope for the future?

To return to the concept of cross-pollination that began this formless ramble, most of the really interesting stuff being done with the superhero genre these days, in comics, books, and film, is by creators who grew up on a steady diet of comics and who now, once established, are telling really great superhero stories in whatever medium comes to hand. The same is arguably true of science fiction, which has certainly seen something of a renaissance in television and film in the last few years. So if today's kids are getting a constant diet of superheroism, science fiction, and fantasy, through the media of print, film, television, and games, it could mean for some interesting stuff being created a few decades from now.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Amazing Screw-On Head

I'm not sure if this has been announced previously or not, but it's news to me. Mike Mignola's other comic, "The Amazing Screw-On Head," is coming to a television near you soon. Details at Sci Fi Wire.

What I respect is that they manage to make the plot sound rather pedestrian, given the nature of the book: "Set in the Civil War era, Screw-On Head centers on the exploits of a robot secret agent (Giamatti), who works in secret at the service of Abraham Lincoln and battles those who threaten our civilization." All true, to a point. But it tends to obscure the fact that the robotic secret agent is just a "screw-on" head, and that his adventures are little bits of Dadaist genius. I'm heartened that Bryan Fuller, creator of the excellent Wonderfalls and Dead Like Me, is onboard as executive producer and scripter. This could actually be good.

Monday, June 27, 2005


Another New Review

This one from The Seattle Times, part of an overview of recent alternate history titles, including Jon Courtenay Grimwood's Pashazade and Ben Jeapes's The New World Order.

The reviewer, Nisi Shawl, has this to say:

With Chris Roberson's "Here, There & Everywhere" (Prometheus, 285 pp., $25) we come to the place where alternate history and science fiction completely overlap.

Replete with references to Visser wormholes and Wheeler's "many-worlds" theory, "Everywhere" illustrates one way of resolving the paradoxes inherent in time travel. There are millions upon millions of possible worlds, and you can visit the past or future of any of them — except your own.

Roberson's heroine, Roxanne Bonaventure, a scientist's daughter, discovers an odd artifact while walking in the woods one day. It looks like a bracelet, but when she slips it on her wrist, it acts to take her into what she comes to call "the Myriad." The worlds within the Myriad include the Mesozoic, the year 30,000 B.C., the fictional lives of Sherlock Holmes and Elizabeth Bennett, or anywhere else she desires to go. An introductory section in which a reporter catches her changelessly cruising through decades of Beatlemania explains the book's title as well as the reason for the chapter headings ("Day Tripper," etc.), but does nothing to make the book cleave together as a whole.

And Roxanne's musings on her failure to find an enduring feminist-Utopianist timeline ("In the vast majority of instances ... the only power that men possessed was simply that which the women allowed them to have") make it obvious that Roberson-via-Roxanne is not speaking for any victims of rape who may read this book. He does, however, provide an intriguing glimpse into the twists and turns of one of science fiction's favorite forms.


Sunday, June 26, 2005


New Review

A new capsule review of Here, There & Everywhere in the pages of the Dallas Morning News:

"Roxanne Bonaventure discovers as a young girl that she has the gift of being able to time travel. A mysterious old woman visits Roxanne and gives her a wondrous device known as the Sofia.

With the Sofia, Roxanne is able to journey anywhere in time and space. She can also explore parallel worlds, viewing endless possibilites and permutations of her life and the way it might have been. Despite such gifts, Roxanne is unhappy. She searches for stability and for somewone to share her life with.

Chris Roberson has written an emotional, affecting novel that plucks the heartstrings while entertaining the reader."

-- Steve Powers, Dallas Morning News, June 26, 2005


Wednesday, June 22, 2005


WorldCon Schedule

This morning I received my final programming schedule for Interaction, this year's WorldCon in Glasgow, reproduced below. As someone who's spent entire conventions not leaving the hotel bar, this seems like a pretty full boat. Between this and next year's World Horror Convention, for which I drunkenly volunteered to handle programming (but a drunken promise is still a promise, after all, so I'm committed), I think I'm paying off some kind of karmic programming debt. Still, there are few things I like better than getting up in front of folks and shooting off my mouth (which, to be honest, is primarily what I've been doing in the hotel bar all these years, anyway), so it should be a fun time.

Thursday 2:00pm
Autographing (1.5 hrs)
Juraj "Mad" Maxon
Janet McNaughton
Chris Roberson
Amy Thomson

Friday 11:00am

James Barclay
Frank Borsch
Paul Cornell
Chris Roberson

Friday 3:30pm
Reading (0.5 hrs)

Chris Roberson

Saturday 11:00am
From Spider-man to Justice League: A Look at Recent Comic Dramatizations
Daniel Dern
Scott Edelman (M)
Tom Galloway
Simon R Green
Steve Nagy
Chris Roberson
Comic sales aren't what they were 20 years ago, but in other media,
comic characters are doing very well indeed. Recent superhero movies
such as X-Men, Spider-man, and Batman Begins, are the best such
films ever. Recent animated series, including the current Justice
League, are also excellent. Comics universes portrayed in film and
on TV.

Saturday 12:00 noon
New Writers & the Campbell
Jay Lake
David Moles
Chris Roberson
Stanley Schmidt (M)
Steph Swainston
What is the John W. Campbell Best New Writer Award and what has it
meant to these finalists and winners? Learn where these writers
started and where they've gone since.

Saturday 2:00pm
Who Do You Trust? Adama or Roslyn: Military vs. Civil Authority in the New Battlestar Galactica (1.5 hrs)

Melanie Fletcher
Christina Hansen
David D. Levine
Jim Mann (M)
Chris Roberson
The conflict between military and civilian authority can be seen in
the world around us, and sometimes it is portrayed in SF. The panel
examines this conflict, a key element in the new Battlestar

Saturday 3:30pm
The Middle Book Problem in the Trilogy (1.5 hrs)

James Barclay
Terry Brooks
Juliet E McKenna (M)
Katya Reimann
Chris Roberson
One person of our acquaintance actually read the third book of a
trilogy before the second and didnÆt notice; Dave Langford once
said that the middle volume advances the plot about as far as the
average glacier gets beteween breakfast and elevenses. Why and what
can we do about?

Sunday 11:00am
Have the Tolkienistas Misread Tolkien?
Esther Friesner
Robin Hobb
Chris Roberson
Justina Robson (M)
A lot of fantasy that is apparently derivative of Tolkien is
searching for an object of power to make everything right. Whereas
the entire point of Lord of the Rings is that if anyone has the
object of power then everything is wrong.

Sunday 1:00pm
Re-examining Lucas' Vision: Star Wars in Its Various Forms

Kevin J. Anderson
Craig Miller (M)
Chris Roberson
James Swallow
Eldon Thompson
The Star Wars saga is complete. Lucas tried to do something
different with this media franchise: the books, comics, Clone Wars
cartoons, and games were part of the cannon. Some provided valuable
background to the films, filled in key events, and were even
referenced in the films. How well did this work?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Hidden Arrow

Wow. I've probably glanced at the FedEx logo at least a handful of times every week for the last ten years, and I never once noticed this. At least, not on a conscious level. An intersting, if brief, interview with the logo's designer, Lindon Leader of Leader Creative.


War Of The Worlds, done right

Ian Edginton and D'Israeli, the geniuses behind Scarlet Traces (which takes place in an alternate history, shortly after the events of H.G. Wells War of the Worlds) have completed the circuit now with an adaptation of War of the Worlds itself. The pair are also at work on a sequel to their earlier effort, entitled Scarlet Traces: The Great Game, which I suppose is a sequel to a sequel to Wells' story... or something like that. All of which is a tonic, ready at hand, in the event that the forthcoming Spielberg flick is a disappointing as it threatens to be.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


NPR's Summer Reading Picks

Here, There & Everywhere has been included in the "Summer Reading Picks" of NPR's "Talk of the Nation." Steve Bercu, owner of Austin's BookPeople and Publisher's Weekly 2005 Bookseller of the Year, had this to say:

Schoolgirl Roxanne Bonaventure meets a dying old woman who gives her a strange bracelet that allows her to travel through time and alternate histories in this rollicking debut novel.

It is a rare author who can take the 'science' part of science fiction so seriously yet not sacrifice a great story or compelling and well-realized characters.

This is extraordinarily flattering. I sense either the hand of Peggy Hailey or Mark Finn in this, both friends and advocates of my work, as well as BookPeople employees. If I have either of them to thank for this, well, thanks!


Accelerando Now.

Go. Read. Buy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Public Broadcasting Under Fire

Public Broadcasting Targeted By House of Representatives:

A House subcommittee voted yesterday to sharply reduce the federal government's financial support for public broadcasting, including eliminating taxpayer funds that help underwrite such popular children's educational programs as 'Sesame Street,' 'Reading Rainbow,' 'Arthur' and 'Postcards From Buster.'

In addition, the subcommittee acted to eliminate within two years all federal money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting -- which passes federal funds to public broadcasters -- starting with a 25 percent reduction in CPB's budget for next year, from $400 million to $300 million.

I try to take solace in the fact that Newt Gingrich tried much the same thing ten years ago, but I find that my fears are a bit more resilient than my hopes.

I'll admit that I don't really understand this move. I understand that some charge that PBS and NPR have a "liberal" bias (which I don't personally accept; a fidelity to standards of journalism and to the truth, yes, but not a bias), but even conservative households watch Sesame Street. Is a bit of political capital, and cutting government spending by a measly 400 million, really worth putting Elmo and Big Bird on the chopping block? The mind boggles.

If you think that a touch of liberal bias is worth the continued existence of Sesame Street, which receives a considerable amount of its funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, write to your representatives today and tell them so. If you don't know the names and addresses of your representatives, you can search for them on the House of Representatives website and the Senate website.


Dalek Found

The long national nightmare is finally over.

Monday, June 13, 2005


Locus Magazine's New And Notable Books

The good folks at Locus Magazine have been generous enough to include Here, There & Everywhere among their New And Notable Books in the June 2005 issue:

Time traveler Roxanne Bonaventure grows up in this episodic SF novel, which plays with genre conventions as the plucky young woman tries to find a place for herself amid alternate worlds and times past and future. Significantly expanded from the 2002 Any Time at All.

Saturday, June 11, 2005



(Found on Boing Boing) What I find most remarkable about this story is not that it's happened. I can see something like it happening in the States and elsewhere. It's that this bit of silliness is being covered nationally by the BBC:

On Thursday, staff found the plunger arm and a ransom note on a doorstep.

The note read: 'We are holding the Dalek captive. We demand further instructions from the Doctor.'

The group, signing themselves Guardians of the Planet Earth, added: 'For the safety of the human race we have disarmed and removed its destructive mechanism.'

Luckily, Colin Baker (the Sixth Doctor, naturally) is on the case, so hopefully the Dalek will be safely returned to his family soon. Our thoughts are with them.

Friday, June 10, 2005



Thanks to the good folks at the Muppet Central website comes the news that the special edition DVD of first season of The Muppet Show is slated for a August 9th release. Since Georgia discovered Sesame Street earlier this year, we've been watching a lot of Muppet film and television material, and I've rediscovered just how talented Henson and his crew were (and still are, if shows like Bear in the Big Blue House are any indication).

"The four-disc collection will hold all 24 season one episodes along with a great collection of bonus features and other goodies that Muppet fans will love. The video is reportedly transferred from their original British (PAL) tapes. Aside from getting a beautiful transfer and mastering of the video like never seen before, the episodes are unedited and will contain the UK skits. It has been reported that Disney worked to secure the needed character and music rights needed to keep the episodes intact."

I've recently learned that nearly all the Muppet back catalog of DVDs and CDs, from before their acquisition by Disney, has gone out of print, including The Muppet Movie, which can't be got for love or money (and which has even gone missing from Netflix's stock). By the time Georgia is old enough really to enjoy this stuff, I want to make sure she's got it available for her, so I've already preordered both the first season of The Muppet Show on DVD and the DVD set of the first season of Fraggle Rock.

My tendency towards obssessive research has reared its head again, naturally, and I've been boring Allison with all sorts of trivia about which Muppeteer provided the voice for which character in which season of Sesame Street, which characters disappeared years ago, never to be heard from again (Sam the Robot, anyone?), and so on.

Now, if the Sesame Workshop (formerly the Children's Television Workshop, prior to their buying out all the Sesame-related Muppets from the Hensons) could arrange for DVDs of old Sesame Street episodes, starting at the beginning and working forward, we'd be in business.



Lou Anders has just posted the cover to the forthcoming anthology FutureShocks, another by the inestimable John Picacio. I'm "and others" (which always brings to mind the "And Puppet Show" scene in Spinal Tap), but I don't mind, since it's really flattering to be included in a lineup like that.


Doug TenNapel is a Genius

Taking a break from the last bits of spit and polish on Paragaea, I sat down and read the graphic novel Earthboy Jacobus, by the endlessly talented Doug TenNapel. I still contend that TenNapel's Creature Tech is one of the best comics, ever, but having read Earthboy Jacobus, I may have to make room at the top. Unlike Tommysaurus Rex, which I enjoyed but not nearly as much, Earthboy Jacobus occupies the same strange space as Creature Tech, all-ages science fiction about family, fate, and faith. TenNapel's politics in real life, like his religious views, aren't my own, but that doesn't get in the way of my appreciating his work as among the best comics being produced in the English language today. Anyone who hasn't read his stuff before owes it to themselves to check it out.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Barnes & Noble Explorations

An interview I did a while back with Paul Goat Allen of Barnes & Noble's Explorations is now online. There's also apparently a capsule review on the B& listing for the book.

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Thursday, June 02, 2005


New Review

SF Site has posted Steven Silver's review of Here, There & Everywhere, which is slightly different than the review Steven posted a short while back on his site.



Dragon Page's Cover to Cover

The interview I did a short while back with the fine folks at Dragon Page is now available as Podcast and download on their website. We talk mostly about Here, There & Everywhere, a bit about time travel in general, about MonkeyBrain, and generallly just shoot the breeze for the better part of half an hour. It was quite a bit of fun.


Wednesday, June 01, 2005


Book Expo America

If anyone is going to be in the vicinity, I'll be signing copies of Here, There & Everywhere at Book Expo America, Saturday, June 4th from 12-2pm, at Prometheus Books, booth number 3158.



Barring a few minor revisions and tweaks that I'll be doing in the coming week, the monster that is Paragaea: A Planetary Romance is finally complete. Clocking in at just around 107K words, it is the longest single piece I've yet written.

It's had a strange genesis. It started as a much simpler, perhaps even simplistic story in the fall of 2001. The basic story structure was the same, the same skeleton upon which the meat of the story hung, but that nascent version lacked all definition and muscle tone. It was more or less a straight pastiche of Edgar Rice Burrough's science fantasies, on which I was weaned. Then, after I'd written just the first few thousand words, Lou Anders came along and screwed everything up by introducing me to M. John Harrison's Viriconium novels. Once I'd read The Pastel City, I looked with distaste at what there was of Paragaea, put it away, and started making notes about what the story really should be.

I ended up filling an oversized, 300 page hardcover journal with tightly-spaced, handwritten notes, fleshing out the story I'd lay onto the existing skeleton of adventure, mapping out the terrain and then filling in all the corners. Because I have an uncontrollable mania for research, I read piles of reference materials, and watched endless hours of documentaries. From time to time I'd write an isolated chapter from the novel, structured as a stand-alone short story, to submit to various markets, but after I'd done two or three of these and all remained homeless, I moved onto other projects, returning to Paragaea only to add to my growing sheaf of notes.

By the end of 2004, Paragaea existed as a few scattered chapters, a cumulative 24K words, all from the first quarter of the story; a hardcover journal, filled to capacity; and a handdrawn map covered with place names, rivers, mountains, and oceans. The novel was one of several projects that floated around my hard drive in various stages of completion, waiting for me to return to them.

Since he was the one who'd derailed the earlier, more immature version of the novel, it seems somehow fitting that Lou Anders would be the one to rescue it from the oblivion of my C: drive. He'd read a synopsis of the novel in the fall of 2004, and seen one or two of the stand-alone chapters in the months previous. When he was in the process of queuing up the line up for Pyr's third season, Spring 2006, he contacted me to see if the book was available. He didn't have to ask twice. By the beginning of 2005, the book was under contract, and due to be handed in by the first of June.

That, of course, is where the problem came in. With the naïveté that really only descends on us in the first weeks after a New Year's Day, I felt sure that I'd have loads of time in the spring to devote to writing the remaining 80 or 90K words needed to finish Paragaea. Sure, I'd have it done by March, the beginning of April at the latest. No problem.

Then the projects which I should have been able to complete by December managed to linger, through no fault of my own, until the end of February, and within a week of finishing those off I found myself embroiled in a long-running legal dispute, that wasn't finally settled until the last days of May, and which completely ruined my concentration (and my health) for the better part of two months. So it was that I wasn't able to sit down and start writing Paragaea in earnest until the last week of May, and even then for only a few hours a day.

I'm deeply fortunate that, through misadventure, I long ago adopted the adage, "Measure Twice, Cut Once." In the case of Paragaea, having spent three and a half years outlining the plot in great detail, fleshing out details about characters' backstories, and mapping out the locales through which they moved, I'd really measured four or five times before all was said and done, so that when it came time for cutting--erm, writing--it was really all over but the shouting. I'd already done all the above-the-neck work, and all that remained was the grunt work of sitting at the keyboard, all day, every day, and hammering away at the keyboard until the was through.

And now, I'm done. I'm off tomorrow morning for BEA, and next week I'll be back home, hopefully starting work on the next project. I'm looking forward to getting started. Hopefully this one won't take four years to finish!

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