Monday, October 31, 2005
World Fantasy Convention
I'll be in the bar.
See you there!
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Another Adventure Review
Favorable mention is made of stories by Kage Baker (whose "The Unfortunate Gytt" is one of Nick's Recommended Stories for the month), John Meaney, Chris Nakashima-Brown, Paul Di Filippo, Kim Newman, Neal Asher, and yours truly. He concludes:
"Thrilling adventures, these? Certainly, on both naive and sophisticated levels."Can't ask for fairer than that.
Friday, October 28, 2005
George Takei comes out
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Enter Mike Allred. His Madman was one of the best things to come out of independent comics in the nineties, and his Atomics is sorely missed around our household. But aside from the wacky two-part team-up between Superman and Madman in the late nineties, he hasn't really gotten a chance to play around with the intellectual property sandbox that is the DC Universe. There were rumors for years about his "Batman-a-go-go" project, but while a few images leaked out, the book itself never saw the light of day.
And now, there is Solo #7. The idea behind the Solo title is to turn a particular artist loose on the DC Universe, letting them do stories featuring DC characters (In continuity? Out of continuity? Who cares?) in their won idiosyncratic styles. Undoubtedly the best in the series yet, barring the splendid Darwyn Cooke entry (whose own New Frontier is the best miniseries DC has produced in years). Colored by Allred's wife Laura, with some of the chapters co-written by his brother Lee, Allred's Solo is a love song to the DC Comics of the sixties and early seventies. "The Doom Patrol Vs. The Teen Titans" was letter perfect, down to the pixilated colors, and even featured Batmite and Zook in starring roles (with a surprise guest appearance by damn-near the whole Legion of Super-Heroes in the last panel). I thought "Batman-a-go-go" (a reworked version of the original project, perhaps?) went way too far in proving its point about grim-and-gritty superheroics, but I can almost forgive it, just to see Alfred the Butler looking like Alan Napier again (and I suspect that the reason that the issue was released with Wonder Girl doing the Batusi, instead of Batman as in the original solicitation, was that Allred's Batman came off looking a bit too much like Adam West, and they might have run into some likeness issues). The Hourman story was just fun, and the last chapter was a nice little paean to summer afternoons spent with a big stack of old comics, complete with the Mad Mod!
So if you've any affection for silver age DC comics, pick up Solo #7. And if you've never read one of Allred's own books, they're well worth seeking out, too. Though the front page of his website seems to be give over entirely to his current straight-faced adaptation of the Book of Mormon (!), thanks to the wonders of Google you can still see a complete cover gallery of all his super-groovy comics. They're the ginchiest!
Update 10/28/05: Heidi MacDonald confirms that licensing rights were indeed the reason the Batusi cover was nixed (and hints at some editorial friction, as well).
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
The Open Library
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Monday, October 24, 2005
Self Publishing, the Downside of
MonkeyBrain Books in Publishers Weekly
Friday, October 21, 2005
To date, higher dimensions are purely theoretical, so far as I know, though everything in physics from Einstein's theories of gravity as the curvature of spacetime forwards relies upon them, in one way or another. And physicists have been using the additional of extra spatial dimensions to make equivalent seemingly disparate equations as far back as Kaluza and Klein in the '20s. And for just as long, genre writers have been milking the notion for as everything they could. Hell, even H.P. Lovecraft got into the act with "Dreams in the Witch House." (Sidebar: Of the many network television "alien invasion" series that have premiered this season, the only one I'm still watching is CBS's Threshold, largely because when they namechecked Kaluza-Klein in the first episode, referring to a hyperdimensional object, they got the physics right, or near enough to count for network television.)
As much time as I spend mulling over higher dimensional objects, though, I find it almost impossible to hold them in my head. I think you've got to have a much more solid grounding in mathematics than I have to really conceptualize them. That's why things like this are nice. It's a new sculpture at Penn State, depicting the three-dimensional shadow of a four-dimensional "octacube." There's a shockwave animation of an octacube's shadow in motion here.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Britain's Greatest Hero
Recently, McNeil announced that she would no longer be producing individual issues of the comic. She'll still be producing the trade paperback collections, typically released to coincide with San Diego Comic Con, but from this point onwards she'll be serializing the stories a page at a time online. For free, because she's cool like that.
Finder is really one of the best things ever, and I can't recommend it highly enough. The new storyline starts off here, but McNeil has put the complete text of the first chapters of earlier arcs online as well. Dream Sequence is one of the best virtual reality stories I've read, while Talisman is a splendid meditation on creativity and book-lust (a page from the story hangs on my wall, and I pass it every day on the way to my office) that should be required reading for every book lover. And people who still dismiss the medium of comics as inherently juvenile, like this jackass from the Village Voice, should be forced at gunpoint to read the first few pages of King of the Cats.
Go. Read great comics. For free. (And then send McNeil lots and lots of money.)
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Warriors, come out and play
(Allison, just we both saw the commercial for the game, pointed out, "Well, it's really just a video game plot anyway, right?" Right.)
I've already decided that my next novel project (following on the heels of Paragaea, set entirely in a fabricated world, and Fire Star, with its complex alternate history, deep and wide), whatever it turns out to be, will be set in contemporary America, featuring characters that all speak the same language, preferrably English. (I want to be able to write a line of dialogue without having to translate ideograms. Is that so much to ask?!)
And, ideally, the next project would be built around topics I've already researched, at least in part, so I wouldn't have to start from scratch. As illustration, I provide this, a quick snap shot of all of the books I read, in whole or in part, in researching Fire Star. There were a few others, borrowed from libraries or friends, which aren't in these piles, but this represents the lion's share of the reading I did.
Please, somebody! Stop me before I research again!!
More on Torchwood
Monday, October 17, 2005
TIME Magazine's "All-Time 100 Novels"
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Saturday, October 15, 2005
Scotty, the Beaming-Up of
"Evidently 'Star Trek' actor James 'Scotty' Doohan took the catchphrase 'beam me up' very seriously -- his cremated remains will be launched into space in accord with his last wishes. Commercial space flight operator Space Services Inc. will launch the late actor's remains into space aboard its Explorers Flight on December 6, a company spokeswoman said on Friday."
Friday, October 14, 2005
More Morrison Crazy Talk
'Hypertime' was the name Mark Waid gave to a concept of cosmic geometry I'd come up with, one bleary night in San Diego - given that the DCU has a Time LINE, the idea started as a consideration of what might exist beyond the Time Line, on the Time PLANE, or even in the mysterious Time CUBE . The theory allowed every comic story you ever read to be part of a larger-scale mega-continuity, which also includes other comic book 'universes' as well as the 'real world' we live in and dimensions beyond our own. It was also about how the world of fiction relates literally and geometrically to the world of 'reality'. Some of its basic features have even been echoed in current cosmological ideas emerging from the field of superstring research and M-Theory. Skip the rest of this answer if you can't be bothered with crazy talk.
We all live in Hypertime - in our 3-Dimensional level of Hypertime, which can be seen as CUBE TIME in relation to the DCU's LINE TIME, we can pick up comics and leaf through them, flipping in any direction - 'time traveling' back and forward through the 'continuity' like some new Doctor Who! I have a suspicion, based upon experience, that in HYPERCUBE TIME, there exist intelligences who stand in relation to our 3-D universe as we stand in relation to the 2-D universe of our comic book, film or TV heroes and who can leaf through our lives and times with the same ease we can leaf through Superman’s history but that's just me.
And think about the emotional experience of reading comics. Nothing but ink on paper, right ? Yet people fall in love with Jean Grey and threaten to commit murder in her name! People cry when Ted Kord gets shot dead! As we all know, inert drawings and words on a page can produce an absorbing, often addictive, unfolding illusion of life, movement and even personality but surely the reader's 'experience' of the 'story' in a comic is actually a hologram - a virtual reality generated by the overlapping of multiple human consciousnesses - 'creator' consciousness interfacing with 'audience' consciousness through the medium of print.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Probably the largest debt I owe to Jess was my introduction to the character of Sexton Blake, years ago, when I first started reading his Fantastic Victoriana site (the seed from which the towering oak of his encyclopedia grew). Well, it looks like I owe Jess another debt, since this morning I came across a recent post of his on a mailing list, pointing out Mark Hodder's updated Sexton Blake site. Previously consisting primarily of a bibliography, the site has since been expanded to include story summaries, illustrations, and--best of all--dozens of complete stories in downloadable PDF format (including the installment that introduced Zenith the Albino, the amoral Blake nemesis who was the inspiration for Michael Moorcock's own amoral albino, Elric).
This is tremendous good fortune for me. I'll be finished with Fire Star in another week or two, and then will spend the rest of the year finishing some other projects I've had on the back burner for some long while. Then, in the new year, I plan to start working on End of the Century, the next installment in the ongoing Bonaventure-Carmody sequence. One of the principal characters in the novel is Sandford Blank, the Victorian-era consulting detective introduced in the pages of Here, There & Everywhere (who is inspired by Blake, among others), and another is Monsieur Void, the Ivory Mandarin, who is a kind of mash-up of Zenith and a few other villains. When I start in on End of the Century in earnest, Hodder's site is going to come in very handy.
So thanks, Jess. Again!
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Some pretty amusing Post-Henson, Post-Richard Hunt, Statler and Waldorf (performed by Steve Whitmire and Dave Goelz, respectively), doing snarky Ebert-and-Roeper-esque movie reviews, featuring little bits of Pepe the King Prawn that are worth the download time. And hey, they're free!
My favorite bit so far is Waldorf, speaking about the metafictional nature of the recent Bewitched, where the actors in a film-remake of the tv series assay the roles of actors in a film-remake of the tv series: "It's a case of art imitating... well, something horrible."
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Dexter, Jack Orphaned
Tartakovsky's Dexter's Laboratory was always amusing, and his Samurai Jack was an often sublime bit of poetry written in balletic violence, but his Clone Wars animated series was probably the best the franchise has ever been, the original features included. With that in mind, the following tidbit was welcome news:
"After 14 years in TV, I was burned out and wanted to express longer stories and experience them with an audience," Tartakovsky said of the new venture. "We'll do family comedies, but we also really want to push action-adventure beyond where it has been."One of the most refreshing things about last year's The Incredibles was that, at its base, it was a terrific, no-apologies-needed-or-offered straight-ahead action film, that just happened to have a lot of laughs and moments of familial sentiment mixed in. Animation is, as so many have pointed out but which so many American viewers have yet to grasp, a medium and not a genre. Everything animated, whether with computers or by hand, need not have songs, cute characters, and storylines that only appeal to the youngest possible members of the audience.
I look forward with eager anticipation to seeing what sort of features Tartakovsky produces, with the resources of a well-funded studio at his back. Could be interesting...
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas
I've been absolutely buried the last few weeks, trying to finish Celestial Empire: Fire Star, but having a nineteen-month old daughter means that I have enforced periods of rest, for which I'm grudgingly grateful. We play around, roll on the floor, drink juice, and stage massive games of hide-and-go seek in our small kitchen, and when it's time to rest for a while, we hit the Tivo or the DVD player and see what we've got to watch. Lately Noggin's new Jack's Big Music Show has been a real hit, but unfortunately only four episodes have been aired in as many weeks, and we've seen each of them many, many times. The same can also be said for the other perennial favorite, Play With Me Sesame, every episode of which we must have seen now at least a dozen times. Luckily for me, the copy of Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas that I ordered a few months back arrived last week, and so we were able to introduce a bit of variety into our afternoon.
Amazon is selling the title at their standard discount, which means you can get it for 8 bucks and change. A bargain, no question. I watched the show a dozen times on HBO as a kid, and I really wanted to have it in Georgia's library for when she's older. She and I just watched it over the weekend, and it really holds up well. Made right before The Muppet Movie, with most of the same cast and crew, it was really a trial run for a feature. Paul Williams on the score, Jerry Juhl on script, all of the regular Muppeteers--Henson, Oz, Jerry Nelson, Dave Goelz, et al--in the cast. The supplemental stuff is great, too, with a full hour of new documentary featurettes, some truly hilarious bloopers with Jerry Nelson and Frank Oz, and a spate of alternate and deleted scenes, by which one can chart the slight differences between this release and the original HBO broadcast (less the absence of Kermit the Frog introducing the story, since he's now been sold off to Disney), the primary difference being that this version is longer by a few minutes, with more verses in most of the songs.
Any child of the seventies and eighties who saw this in their youth owes it to themselves to pick it up, and anyone who hasn't seen it is in for a distinct treat. I've been whistling the tune to "Brothers" nonstop for the last two days, and I don't mind at all. It's served to push out "Miaow, Miaow, Says The Dog Mel" for a few minutes, at least, and that can't be a bad thing at all.
Friday, October 07, 2005
A Serious House on Serious Earth
I remember liking Arkham Asylum when I read it in college, while recognizing that it was more than a little overwrought (but then, how much of the good stuff in those post-1986 years wasn't?). I didn't find it the morass of overblown symbolism and narrative confusion that many apparently did. For my money, that prize went to Morrison and Duncan Fegredo's Kid Eternity, which in three prestige format issues kind of followed the same pattern as the Matrix films would later--excitement after reading the first installment, and the feeling that we were seeing something really new and important; cautious optimism after reading the second, not sure if the creator's could pull it all together in the final act and make the story sensible; and disappointment in the final bit when, sadly, it became clear that they couldn't. At a signing once I asked Fegredo about some of the more perplexing elements of Kid Eternity and, with a rueful laugh, he said that only Grant knew for sure what the hell was going on in the story. For my part, I understood that Morrison was using the character of Kid Eternity to examine the notion of "chaos magic," as championed by folks like Peter Carroll, but even that "skeleton key" wasn't enough to help me decode just what was meant to be happening in the story.
In any event, I'm intrigued by Morrison's off-handed comment about how he conceives of the character of Batman now, as Neal Adams drew him, "the hairy-chested globetrotting love god of the '70s stories." I can't help but picture Bruce Wayne with generous sideburns, dressed in a white suit, his wide-collared black shirt open to expose a bat-shaped medallion against his hairy chest, glowering across a crowded Monacco disco at the pale-skinned, green-haired dude in the green and purple suit, wide-brimmed hat, and platform shoes who has just cruised into the place, a wicked smile on his face and a dangerous-looking woman on either arm.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
It's always hard to tell whether a series will be good based only on the first issue (though you can almost always tell whether it will be bad from just a few pages), but after reading only the initial installment I'm planning on coming back for more, and I recommend picking up the first issue, at least. Speakeasy, who also publish the admirable Rocketo, may have another hit on their hands. And a super-sweet Darwyn Cooke cover can't hurt.
I'm a mite perplexed, though. Mishkin is clearly the creator of the property, but the indicia introduces some confusion. The book is copyrighted by an outfit called Hawke Studios. According to this interview with Hawke Studios's Adam Fortier, who is also the head of Speakeasy, Spellgame is one of three creator-owned books being produced by the studio. But in this interview, the book's editor, Chris Stone, in saying that there was never a question of Mishkin moving on when other "creative changes" were made to the book, suggests that there could be a question of Mishkin moving on, which wouldn't be possible if it were a creator-owned title. Hmm...
Barsoom, baby! Barsoom!
From Sci Fi Wire: "Jon Favreau (Zathura) will direct the upcoming film adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' story John Carter of Mars for Paramount, Variety reported. "
I thought Favreau's Elf was absolutely charming, and I'm holding out hope for Zathura. His screenplay for Swingers is, of course, a personal favorite. But I'm not sure if his is the first name I would have associated with John Carter of Mars. Hell, I'm not sure his name would even have been on the list. But he's definitely surprised me before.
I haven't had much confidence in this production since the beginning, based on some insider stuff I've overheard. When Kerry Conran was attached, I thought it would at least have an interesting visual component. It's impossible to second guess why Conran is out and Favreau (reportedly) is in--and it seems a bit late in the day for the box office receipts of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow to have been a deciding factor--but I have my suspicions, none of which inspire confidence in the finished product. Franchise films, historically, have done well, both commericially and critically, when a director with a singular vision was allowed to make the film they had in mind without a lot of interference from studios and producers. Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings. Sam Raimi's Spider-Man. Bryan Singer's X-Men. Any film with revolving directors indicated a creative environment in which the director is a hired hand, and someone else is in the driver's seat.
It's too soon to guess what sort of sf adventure film Favreau would direct. Perhaps Zathura will provide a few clues. But, honestly, at this point, I wouldn't bank any amount of money on a John Carter of Mars film actually being made. Counting Robert Rodriguez, who was reportedly involved with John Carter early on, the project has already gone through three directors in development, and the film hasn't even moved out of pre-production yet. I can't help but remember the Jon Peters-produced Superman project of the late nineties. How many screenwriters and directors did that go through, before eventually dying on the vine? (Superman Returns is a real dark horse long shot, as far as quality goes, isn't it? Bryan Singer at the helm, as a director and producer, but with Peters still attached as a producer, who from all reports single-handedly sunk all prior attempts to return the character to the screen with his creative "direction"--No flying; no traditional Superman costume, since that would be too "gay"; and a fight with a giant spider a must. I'm hoping that Singer, and quality, wins out, but I'm not holding my breath.)
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
4 8 15 16 23 42
(Anyone who isn't watching ABC's Lost is really missing out. Some splendid genre television unfolding here.)
Mohan concludes his review:
Aside from that criticism, I found the book fun on several levels. Roberson seasons the tale with many pleasant tips of the hat to old masters like Heinlein and Bradbury, but the ending is pure, nonironic SF that evoked Clarke and Asimov for me. Roberson is a gifted fantasist (his exceptional short story "O One" from Live Without a Net proves he ain't no one-trick pony) and I certainly look forward to his future stories. Here, There, & Everywhere can be enjoyed as a breezy and light-hearted adventure, an excellent entry in the "Many Worlds" time-travel canon, and a sober examination of loneliness. I recommend it.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Harriet Miers's Blog!!!
Monday, October 03, 2005
I was particularly pleased with the following paragraph. Lou Anders, who is my editor at Pyr, is a splendid writer, a fact about him which most people don't know. A few years ago he let me look at the first chapters of a novel he was drafting, a western by way of the New Weird. When I was queuing up contributors for the first volume of Adventure last year, I insisted that Lou let me run the first chapter as the initial installment of a serial. Though he's published one or two stories elsewhere, I think this may be Lou's first review:
Finally, as seems necessary to truly reflect the spirit of the old pulps, there is part 1 of a serial, Lou Anders's "The Mad Lands, Part 1: The Death Wish." This is a lovely "New Weird Western," complete with a hero saved from the gallows, a mysterious woman, half-mechanical horses, and further oddities. I look forward to future installment.
In his summation, Horton gives the anthology a nice little it of blurbage:
In sum, Adventure, Vol. 1, delivers what it promises, for the most
part. Enjoyable stories, well written, and quite distinctly full of
What editor could ask for better than that?
Postscript: Nick Gevers writes this morning to let me know that he's reviewed the anthology for the November issue of Locus, and included Kage Baker's contribution in his recommendations for the month.
Well, until I saw John Scalzi's post this morning, I thought I was some kind of freak. Well, perhaps we're both freaks, of similar but distinct varieties. John says that he works serially, and that he doesn't start on a new project until finishing the last one. I, on the other hand, have loads of projects in various stages of development, but there isn't a single line written of any of them. At least, not the first line. I have three short stories currently in outline stage, one novel I'm on track to finish before the beginning of November, and two other long projects I've started blocking out (one a space opera, the other a middle readers novel).
My process is a weird one, and I've not yet met any other writer who uses it or something like it (of course, that said, I've not yet met any two writers who both used the same process). I'm definitely of the Measure Twice, Cut Once school, though perhaps it should be Measure, Measure Again, Repeat As Necessary, Cut Once. I outline projects to within an inch of their lives before ever beginning to write the prose itself. I'll typically have a bullet point on an outline for every beat of a story, going so far as to have notes about the content of every bit of dialogue. If I'm writing a short story, I'll outline to the level of the paragraph, so that I know what information needs to be convened in every paragraph before I ever start writing the first line. Novels for me typically require a little less detail on a paragraph by paragraph level, but even so the ratio of words in outline to finished word count is pretty damned high. For example, the last have of Celestial Empire: Fire Star, which I'm currently finishing up, will run approximately 50 thousand words when completed; the outline for those sections is currently about 25 thousand words long.
Ultimately, I think that my outlines amount to a kind of rough first draft, but a draft which is intended for no one's eyes but my own. In the outline, I tend to write almost exclusively in the present tense, use placeholders for characters names (the last chapter of Fire Star, up until last Friday, starred characters named only Grandmother and Grandson), and pay no attention whatsoever to anything but the information content of a paragraph. When I sit down to "write," then, what I'm really doing is simply rewriting a rough draft, concentrating on nothing but the language itself. As a result, I'm able to write really fast, averaging five thousand words a day, but able to write as much as ten or fifteen thousand a day if I'm really hitting on all cylinders; but since this comes at the tail end of an outlining phase that can last for months, my annual output isn't really any higher than that of someone who can churn out two thousand words a day, every day.
Which is an incredibly round about way of saying that, unlike the writers whose blogs I link to above, I have only one first line to put on display. So, not wanting to break the good luck mojo of the chain-letter-like meme, here it is, the first line of Celestial Empire: Fire Star.
"A pillar of smoke rose to the northwest of the city, sign of some distant fire past Kunming Lake."
(A lot of build up for such a sedate sentence, no?)