Wednesday, May 31, 2006



I am unaccountably obsessed with Toomorrow at the moment. I've had the soundtrack playing on my desktop for much of the afternoon, as I fine-tune the first of three parts of the space opera, and I have a real yen to see this turkey of a film, now.


Lil' Batman in "Hidden Demon"

If you ask me, I hope Hiatus Week on Dave's Long Box never ends.



(Via Jeff VanderMeer) I'm not sure where it comes from, as it's not part of any of the three series aired, but here is a nifty little short film featuring Bernard from Black Books, in which he reacts to a publisher's rejection letter. Every writer has had at least one of these moments, at some point in their careers.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Venture Bros.

I've flogged this before, but I will again. Unless you're drowning in self-hatred, you owe it to yourself to pick up The Venture Bros. - Season One on DVD. Now shipping, now in stores.

I assume the image above comes from the DVD. It's clearly Bill Sienkiewicz rocking it Robert McGinnis style, and is ganked from series creator Jackson Publick's LJ. Which is, of course, where one can find tasty treats like this teaser for Season Two.

There's a lot of horrible and shit in the world at the moment, and it doesn't look to be getting better any time soon. Isn't it nice to know there's something like Venture Bros. that can offer a brief antidote to all of that?



This is my week for postcognition, outside scoop action. Two years ago Michael Chabon wrote a terrific essay called "A Woman of Valor", all about superheroines, and I just now stumble across it. Chabon focuses here on Jack Kirby's Big Barda, erstwhile commander of the Fighting Furies and wife of Mr. Miracle, Scott Free. His comments on Barda and her fellow superheroines are right on (with one exception: not all the members of the Legion of Super-Heroes were goyim; though it wasn't "revealed" until later, Gim Allon was definitely Jewish. Hell, he was raised on a kibbutz!). Like Chabon, I've never really grokked Wonder Woman, as much as I've tried, and even the more successful interpretations of the character (and I'm thinking in particular of George Perez's post-Crisis run) have had to dance pretty fast to make sense out of her strange mix of elements, with varying degrees of success.

I spent the last week (and all weekend) doing the final edits and layouts on Peter Coogan's Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre, and consequently have beeb thinking quite a lot on the subject. Not, of course, that a part of my brain isn't always thinking about the subject...

Monday, May 29, 2006


Five Friendlies

I somehow missed this the first time around, but a discussion on the Barbelith Underground about the Grant Morrison-conceived Great Ten mentioned the Five Friendlies, the official mascots of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

"Designed to express the playful qualities of five little children who form an intimate circle of friends, the Five Friendlies also embody the natural characteristics of four of China's most popular animals--the Fish, the Panda, the Tibetan Antelope, the Swallow--and the Olympic Flame."
I am alternatively transfixed and terrified by these little bastards. And am I the only one to get a definite Apocamon vibe off these critters?


The Great Ten

There should be a rule. From now on, all new superheroes must be conceived by Grant Morrison.

Immortal Man in Darkness. Ghost Fox Killer. The Accomplished Perfect Physician.



The Doctor and Rose, BFF

I've finally worked out something that's been nagging away at the back of my head for the last year or so. As with many thinks that occupy my attention for any length of time, it's to do with Doctor Who.

Now, when the first Doctor (as portrayed by William Hartnell) appeared on the scene, he was in the company of his granddaughter, Susan. After Susan was left behind in the 22nd century after foiling the Dalek invasion of Earth, many other companions joined him in his travels through time and space. A common reading of the role of the companions is that they stand in for his lost granddaughter; and while all of the companions have not been girls and young women, in all but two instances I can recall the principal companion was young and female (the exceptions are the brief period in which the 4th Doctor travelled alone, and then the period in which he travelled with Adric... but then Adric was pretty feminine, then, wasn't he?).

From the beginning, the Doctor related to the companion as a grandfather would to a child, certainly. When the role passed to Patrick Troughton, a younger man than Hartnell, the Doctor seemed a more avuncular figure, more uncle than grandfather, but still an older relation.

As the years passed, and Doctors came and went, the actors playing the role trended younger and younger, but still the Time Lord remained an avuncular figure in the company of young female companions. But there was never the slightest hint of anything... sexual.... about the relationship.

With the arrival of the 8th Doctor in the Fox made-for-tv movie, everything almost jumped the rails. Paul McGann and Daphne Ashbrook (who played brief companion Dr. Grace Halloway) were close contemporaries in age, though their characters were still separated by a gulf of centuries, and the uncle-companion code broke down. Instead, this was a man and a woman, and things went so far afield that the Doctor actually kissed his companion. Yikes!

Who fandom, I understand, didn't like that so much. So it was probably just as well that there were no further televised adventures of that particular Doctor-Companion arrangement. Things could have gotten much ickier from there.

For the better part of a decade, the Who franchise lay a-moldering in the grave, and then the Russell T. Davies-helmed series featuring the 9th Doctor and his companion Rose. Christopher Eccleston is quite a bit older than Billy Piper, so the old Uncle-Companion structure could have worked, but it never quite seemed to fit. There was something else going on here, and I couldn't quite put my finger on it. It wasn't a romantic relationship, by any means, still purely platonic, but in interviews Davies and the other writers talk quite openly about the characters being "in love." So if the Doctor isn't Rose's grandfather, or uncle, or lover, what is he?

This year, David Tennant took over the role, Doctor number ten, and he's had more than half a series worth of adventures with Rose. Their relationship is similar to that of Rose's with the 9th Doctor, but not quite the same. And still it doesn't seem to fit any of the traditional models.

Last night, we watched the seventh episode of Doctor Who Confidential, the ongoing documentary series that accompanies the new Doctor Who. Mark Gatiss, who narrates the documentary series and who is the writer of this week's episode, "The Idiot's Lantern," was featured, along with commentary from series-helmer Davies. In speaking about the Doctor and Rose, Gatiss and Davies, who are both openly gay, each mentioned something about how much fun the characters were having on their adventures. Davies, in touching on this point, described the two as "best friends."

And then I twigged just what the Doctor and Rose were to one another. The Doctor is a gay man, and Rose is his best friend, a heterosexual woman. I mean this metaphorically, of course, as I don't think the Doctor is actually sexual in the least, but where the previous Doctors have been "uncle" or "grandfather," figuratively and not literally, the 9th and 10th Doctors have been "gay man/best friend."

So much of the relationship makes sense to me, now. Of course they love each other, but in very different ways. Rose loves the Doctor, and if she had her way would have him as a lover, but she knows that isn't possible, and is happy to have him as a friend however she can. And the Doctor, who can't possibly have any sexual interest in Rose, is closer to her than to any other living person, and loves her more than he loves anyone or anything else.

This sheds interesting light on the role of Captain Jack--openly bisexual--and of Mickey--Rose's straight ex-boyfriend--in the series, each of them standing between the two, complicating the politics of the relationship. I'll have to think about that a bit further.

I'm not sure that this is something that Davies intended, when he developed the characters, and whether--assuming that this is a legitimate read and not a question of fannish over-analyzing--this was unconscious.

Sunday, May 28, 2006


John Carter, Immortal

A lot of the reviews of Paragaea: A Planetary Romance cite Edgar Rice Burroughs's Barsoom stories as an obvious inspiration. And they're not wrong. When writing Paragaea, I had sitting on my desk the first copy of A Princess of Mars that I ever bought, the Del Rey edition with the Michael Whelan cover, to remind me what flavor I was trying to capture. Which is not to say that my book is a pastiche in any way--I couldn't write like Burroughs if I tried--but that I was trying to capture a certain animating spirit that seems to drive so much of what ERB wrote.

In any event, the reviews have reminded me of the one aspect of the Barsoom stories that continues to puzzle me. It comes early in A Princess of Mars. After a foreword by "Edgar Rice Burroughs," in which he describes his memories of and later meeting with his "Uncle Jack," John Carter's own first person narrative begins with the following paragraph:

"I am a very old man; how old I do not know. Possibly I am a hundred, possibly more; but I cannot tell because I have never aged as other men, nor do I remember any childhood. So far as I can recollect I have always been a man, a man of about thirty. I appear today as I did forty years and more ago, and yet I feel that I cannot go on living forever; that some day I shall die the real death from which there is no resurrection. I do not know why I should fear death, I who have died twice and am still alive; but yet I have the same horror of it as you who have never died, and it is because of this terror of death, I believe, that I am so convinced of my mortality."
I stumbled over that bit when I first read it, two and a half decades ago, and I still stumble over it now. If you've ever read the Barsoom stories, you know that this odd little tidbit about John Carter is never mentioned again. He is an amnesiac immortal! Or if not immortal, at least arbitrarily long-lived. What the hell is that about?!

There have been a lot of fan opinions floated over the years, to explain who and what John Carter is. Philip Jose Farmer advanced the theory that Carter was Norman of Torn, the hero of ERB's Outlaw of Torn. Peter Coogan contends that Carter is Phra the Phoenician, from Edwin Lester Arnold's novel of the same name. Both are fine ideas, and fun speculations. But what could Burroughs himself had intended?

So far as I know, there's no record of what ERB had in mind when he included this odd aspect in Carter's character. But then, I'm hardly a Burroughs scholar. Am I wrong? Is the answer hidden somewhere, in ERB's notes and letters? Does anyone know?

Saturday, May 27, 2006


Eighth Wonder

Ever read the Jackie Harvey columns in/on the Onion? "The Outside Scoop"? The running gag is that Jackie is always a bit behind the times, and so his rumor column is always full of old news, poorly comprehended. (There's a comic fan blog that follows much the same pattern, which I track in my bloglines feeds, largely for the entertainment I get from seeing how long it takes these guys to post "news" items.)

That's how I feel about movies now, all the time. I am the outside scoop. In the two-and-a-half years or so since the Georgia Monster came along, Allison and I have only been to the theater a handful of times at most. In our first years together, we would go to see first run movies at least once a week, sometimes more. This year, the only times we're likely to get to the theater will be for Superman Returns and Cars. Compounding the issue is the fact that we cycle through so many DVDs from Netflix that they've clearly "throttled" our account, so that we have sometimes quite lengthy wait times until in-demand flicks are sent our way.

As a result, last night was the first opportunity we had to watch Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Eighth Wonder of the World. And I'm sure that the whole world has been waiting in breathless anticipation since last year to finally learn my opinion, right? The verdict? It fucking rocks.

I read a lot of reviews of the flick when it came out last year, both those of professional critics and of bloggers and such. And I'm surprised that so few seem to have mentioned how absolutely convincing the evocation of early 30s New York was. The first few minutes, with quick aspect-to-aspect transitions between the vaudeville performers and the sorry state of the Depression-era streets, were just spectacular.

And I disagree with the (very) common sentiment that the film is too long. Aside from the subplot of Mister Hays and Jimmy, which was too long and went nowhere, the rest of the setup is absolutely essential. The problem, I think, is that this is a movie to be watched on DVD, at your leisure, and not trapped in a theater seat. A constant refrain about such blockbusters is that they must be seen on the "big screen." Well, I've got a condition commonly referred to as "tiny tank," and if I don't have the latitude to get up every so often and empty my bladder, the biggest screen in the world is a pretty moot point. Watched in hour long chunks, roughly broken out as "New York to Skull Island," "On Skull Island," and "Back in New York," the movie seems in fact a perfect length for the story its telling.

Jackson may be a pioneer in what is essentially a new form: the home theater epic. There have been other examples of multi-hour epics before, of course. Krzysztof Kieslowski comes to mind as an obvious precursor; while a theater-goer could conceivable sit in a cinema seat for the four-plus hours it would take to watch Kieslowski's "Trois Couleurs" sequence, something like his "Dekalog" (originally made as a TV miniseries) can really only be watched in stages. Lord of the Rings shares with Wagner's Ring cycle, it occurs to me, the limitation that it can't possibly be watched in its entirety in a single viewing (unless in some some of masochistic marathon sitting, but even then twelve hours of Middle Earth is a lot to take in over the course of a single day).

I suppose, though, that things like Deadwood really belong in this category, too, don't they? Series that share elements in common with standard serial fiction--episodic chapters--and with traditional film narratives--beginning, middle, end--such that they seem to fall between the stools, neither fish nor foul. And allowing those sorts of television serials into the mix really means that this sort of thing has been going on for a good long while. Which wouldn't make Jackson much of a pioneer, and instead he'd be working in a long tradition. And which means I'm just talking a bunch of shit, when you get right down to it.

Look, you have to give me a bit of time to recover, is what I'm saying. It's been less than twelve hours since I saw a 25-foot gorilla in the most complicated fight scene this side of Jackie Chan with three-count-them-three dinosaurs. It's going to take a while to recover from that...

Friday, May 26, 2006


Electric Velocipede #10

Electric Velocipede number ten is out. If the news that it contains new stories by Jeffrey Ford and Richard Bowes isn't enough to sway you, check out the full table of contents, as something there is certainly likely to ring your bell. John Klima may well be the hardest working man in zine-ville, and he's certainly not a man you want to piss off at three o'clock in the morning, believe you me. Send him money, both so he can continue to produce one damned sexy zine, and so you aren't forced to see the dark side of Klima for yourselves...


MonkeyBrain Books site update

Something screwy happened to the index page of the old MonkeyBrain site, throwing up trojan error messages on some systems, so I took the opportunity to junk the old frames-heavy version and redo the thing from the ground up. My web fu is pretty pedestrian, so don't expect too much, but the new site is now live. I'll be fiddling with it in the days and weeks to come, but this should serve in the interim. I've stolen... erm, "borrowed"... some best practices I've seen on other publishers' websites, including the new MonkeyBrain announcements email list, but if anyone has any suggestions on what could be done better (except for things like "FrontPage is for simpletons," which I know, and I'll keep using it anyway, thanks), please let me know.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Cover Story: The Art of John Picacio

Paul Goat Allen's review of Cover Story: The Art of John Picacio is now online at Barnes & Noble's website.

Boris Vallejo. Michael Whelan. Frank Frazetta. Todd Lockwood. Picacio deserves to be included in this elite list of extraordinary speculative fiction artists. But Cover Story confirms that he may be the best there ever was. A must-have for art connoisseurs as well as fans of science fiction/fantasy, this book proves that John Picacio is, simply put, the Picasso of speculative fiction.
Couldn't have said it better myself.



Scientists at Duke and Rutgers have advanced an actual falsifiable experiment that could potentially prove the Randall-Sundrum braneworld model of 5-D spacetime. It's all to do with primordial black holes and interference patterns in gamma rays from other galaxies, and I'm sure I'm understanding only a tiny bit of it, but it's a pretty cool idea. We've got only a year or two until their predictions are proven or disproven when the Large Area Space Telescope comes online (assuming that the budget doesn't get cut in the coming months by legislators desperate to give the appearance of doing something).

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Just Doing My Bit

You can go here for the full explanation, but all I've got to say on the matter is this: Barbara Bauer.


Batman: Year One Hundred

When DC gets around to publishing the inevitable trade paperback of Paul Pope's Batman: Year One Hundred, don't ask any questions. Just buy it. Fuck Frank Miller. Pope's Dark Knight is the real deal.

Now, if Pope can just find time in his schedule to finish THB, all will be right with the world.


The Myth of Superman

Neil Gaiman provides a solid essay on the topic of "The Myth of Superman" as a sidebar for a feature on Singer's forthcoming film in this month's Wired Magazine. The shared credit with "a senior editor at Wired" suggests to me that this is actually a phone interview edited and reformatted into essay shape, but it's still worth reading. Gaiman hits the high notes, and probably doesn't say anything about Superman that comics cognoscenti won't have heard a million times before, but it's all worth repeating in front of the unconverted, and I'm sure some of them must be reading Wired.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


BTVS - Season Eight

It's been a while since the new Dark Horse Comics Buffy the Vampire Slayer mini-series was announced, and Joss Whedon was always reported to be involved, but the latest news is that Whedon is even more involved than I'd anticipated. Apparently, he'll be scripting the six issue series himself, which will function as a canonical "Season 8" of the Buffy, picking up where the series finale left off. But since we've already gotten hints as to what the characters were up to, in the final season of Angel, does this mean that the Immortal will factor in here somewhere?


Black, White, and Gray

I didn't realize it until just now, but there may be a little of Steve Ditko's Mr. A in my nineteenth century consulting detective Sandford Blank, who dresses entirely in gray, and whose calling card is a blank, featureless white card. Not that Blank is an objectivist, far from it; if anything, he's a reaction to the kind of philosphy which permeates Ditko's later work.

Blank's a strange character for me. He's not at all the character I thought he was, when I first wrote him a few years ago. As time went on, I gradually began to realize just who he really was, and what he's really about. Very little about him is revealed in the "Nowhere Man" chapter of Here, There & Everywhere, but End of the Century will clear up the mystery surrounding him once and for all.

Monday, May 22, 2006


Shatner Sings to Lucas

(via Walter Jon Williams) As if "Shatner Sings" wasn't enough, they gild they lily with "To Lucas."



Sunken Cities

Atlantis was real. We all know that, right? The island of Thera, known in modern times as Santorini, was wracked by a volcanic eruption in the fifteen century BCE, which has been proven to my satisfaction to have been the inspiration for Plato's tale about the sunken island kingdom. (Of course, for the purposes of fiction, I tend to prefer a civilization of superscience on the continent of Antarctica.) Well, now the Egyptians go and find another sunken city. This one's Roman, and is historically far too late to have had any influence on Plato, but it does suggest that cities sunken beneath the waves of the Mediterranean may be a bit thicker on the ground than I might have guessed. Or, erm, thicker on the seafloor, as the case may be.

Oh, and the Bermuda Triangle? Nothing more than the periodic eruption of methane hydrate fields beneath the ocean floor. Crop circles? Hoaxers with boards. Bigfoot? John Chambers in a suit. Lock Ness Monster? The wakes of boats passed out of sight, or a dinosaur toy on a float. Any other questions?


Happy Accidents

I love the internet. A few years ago, I included an offhand reference in my novel Cybermany Incorporated to a secret British intelligence agency, MI8, operating in the 1960s. Diana Bonaventure was one of the agency's operatives, and in the chapter in question she came into contact with her American counterpart, Jake Carmody, agent of Bureau Zero. Like MI8, the Bureau "handled matters unsuited to the customary intelligence channels, matters that would either pass unnoticed by more conventional operatives, or else drive them stark raving mad." (This is the Diana Bonaventure, incidentally, who appears briefly in the first chapter of Here, There & Everywhere.) Familiar territory, and I don't kid myself I'm even among the first few hundred to have mined this particular vein. Kim Newman's Diogenes Club was an obvious inspiration, and Charles Stross's later Laundry stories captured much the same vibe.

In any event, Stillman Waters, one of the supporting characters in the forthcoming End of the Century, is intended to be another operative of MI8. It occurred to me this morning, though, while walking my daughter, that I'd been a callow, ignorant kid when I coined the name of the agency, thinking it amusing to think there'd be an intelligence agency two steps beyond MI6, three steps beyond MI5. I'd done some cursory research at the time, which suggested that the sections of Military Intelligence stopped at six, but never delved into it deeply. So I figured I'd check before I got stuck too deep in writing the new book.

Well, it turns out I was wrong, and that there was in fact an MI8 in the days of WWII (and, in fact, sections all the way up to nineteen, at least, with lettered sections beyond). But the remit of Military Intelligence Section Eight, listening for enemy radio broadcasts--signal intelligence, essentially--actually fit well into the backstory of my secret agency, and served to provide a nice bit of historical grounding. Some research turns up the fact that MI8 was headquartered in Devonshire House in Piccadilly in the war years. I recognize the name, but don't know too much about it.

A bit of googling reveals that Devonshire House refers to a block of offices facing Piccadilly, named for the residence of the Duke of Devonshire, demolished in the 1920s. For 200 years, the original Devonshire House was a fixture of London society life. Then I stumbled upon an amazing collection of photos, documenting the Devonshire House Ball in 1897.

And then I started jumping around the kitchen, waving my arms and shouting like a lunatic. In a good way.

Without going into any spoiler-level detail, End of the Century takes place in three time periods: fifth century CE, 1897, and 1999. Romanized Britons crowd the scene in 498CE; Sandford Blank, Roxanne Bonaventure, Lord Arthur Carmody, and W.B. "Little Bill" Taylor are featured players during the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria; and Samantha Lake and Stillman Waters scramble around the streets of millennial London.

In the outline for the 1897 sections of the plot, there are several scenes involving Victorian-era British socialites dressing up like King Arthur and his knights. This bit was strongly inspired by the photos of Julia Margaret Cameron, possibly best known for her shots she did illustrating Tennyson's Idylls of the King. Cameron had been dead for some time before the events of the novel, but I'd solved that minor difficulty by introducing another photographer who was following her example.

Then the aforementioned googling led me to this photo. Of a British peer. Dressed as a Knight of the Round Table. At a party in 1897. On July 2nd, to be exact.

Have I mentioned that I love the internet?


New Paragaea Review

Paul Di Filippo, already one of my favorite people, provides a glowing review of Paragaea, which serves to prove I was right about him all along.

"Roberson's book is subtitled "a planetary romance" and seems part of a recent mini-surge of such revitalized retro-fictions, notably by such writers as Al Sarrontonio and R. Garcia y Robertson. Prior to this new generation of writers seeking to mine the musty but potent tropes of the pre-Campbell era, old hands like Michael Moorcock and Philip Jose Farmer were the prime upholders and perpetrators of such romps. Roberson has certainly learned a lot from his literary ancestors, and he manages to hit all the high notes perfectly."
Just a couple of weeks ago, I pointed out Paul's review of Joe Lansdale's Flaming London, and mentioned that it was interesting that he'd name-checked the four authors who've had the biggest influence on my development as a writer: Philip Jose Farmer, Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore, and Kim Newman (though I later that week realized that Grant Morrison should really be added to that list, citing four out of five is still no mean feat). That Paul has mentioned two of that list in connection with a book of mine, to say nothing of Jack Williamson, Jack Vance, and Leigh Brackett, is pretty damned flattering. Yikes!


Saturday, May 20, 2006


Flushed Away

(Via Cartoon Brew) In case there were any lingering doubts, the trailer for the forthcoming Flushed Away proves definitively that, yes, the Aardman touch does indeed survive the translation from stop motion to CGI. I was hopeful after seeing the rough tests that were included on the Curse of the Were-Rabbit disc, but after seeing the finished trailer, I have nary a doubt remaining.



I'm always late to the party. How else to explain the fact that, even though Dean Trippe's "Butterfly" was my favorite part of Adhouse Books Superior Showcase #1, I've just now discovered that Trippe has been doing a Butterfly webcomic for months? A splendid paean to and parody of DC Comics' silver age superheroics. Butterfly is the sidekick of the latest Birdie, who is the sidekick of Knight-Bat. The storyline of the webstrip seems to have revolved primarily around Knight-Bat's surprise party for the last few months, with brief appearances by Butterfly's own higher-dimensional imp in training, and a sidetrip to Ice Cream City. And there's even an RSS feed. Awesome.



I love the internet. Both because such a thing as Teen Titans and Legion of Super-Heroes character designer Derrick Wyatt's blog exists in the first place, and because Wyatt uses it to show us this.

Chicken. Themed. Supervillain.


Friday, May 19, 2006


Who's Next

I forgot to mention, in the aftermath of last week's travel, that my pitch to Steven Savile's forthcoming Doctor Who anthology for Big Finish, Destination: Prague, has received the green light. Entitled "The End of Now," it's a brief little romp for the Fourth Doctor and the second Romana in the streets of 30th century Prague. Any project that requires me to rewatch "The City of Death" and "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" as research is aces in my book. (Though for my sins I watched "Battlefield" for the first time last night, a Seventh Doctor outing written by Ben Aaronovitch, the man responsible for two of my favorite Who novels, and I'll confess I had trouble making heads or tails of it. I'm doing a bit of Arthurian-legend-meets-superscience myself, in End of the Century, and was worried that Who had gotten there first; I needn't have worried...)

Thursday, May 18, 2006


The Fate of the Artist

Anyone who ran into me at WHC last Friday might have noted that I was a bit distracted, at least for the first few hours of the day, my nose buried in the pages of Eddie Campbell's latest opus, The Fate of the Artist. A tour de force that pushes the medium of comics in more directions than any other single work of recent years I can recall (up to and including photo comics--fumetti!), The Fate of the Artist is an autobiographical story in which the author does not appear. The role of "Eddie Campbell" is portrayed by an actor, Richard Siegrist, while Campbell's daughter herself is presented in a series of photographs, accompanied by a typewritten transcript of a taped interview. A brilliant portrait of life with a creative personality, warts and all, the book is insightful and often fall-down funny. Anyone who's read Campbell's other autobiographical work--in particular the Alec strips--will find more to love here, and anyone who knows Campbell only through his collaborations with Alan Moore owes it to themselves to see the man working on his own and without a net. A virtuoso performance, and arguably Campbell's best work yet.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Jack Staff

Do you hate goodness? No? Then as I've told you before, you need to be reading Paul Grist's Jack Staff. As near as I can recall, we saw only three new issues in calendar year '05, and we're five months into '06 with, heretofore, no sign of another.

Well, issue number ten just came out today, and it's a beaut. Don't believe me? See for yourself.

I hadn't realized it until I read through this latest installment, but Jack Staff has been an enormous influence on my more recent projects, which likely won't be apparent to anyone but me.


A Monkey's Uncle?

I've said it before, I'll say it again: "God, Schmod! I want my monkey-man!"


Less is More

My obsession with all things Pixar is well documented, and so naturally a new interview with John Lasseter is going to catch my attention. And, as always, the Pixar head doesn't disappoint, but has cogent things to say about the business and creative sides of the storytelling craft:

"There's that funny saying: 'I'm sorry this letter is so long, but I didn't have time to write a shorter one.' And it's so true. My older brother Jim, who passed away six or seven years ago, was a brilliant interior designer who studied Japanese design. What he loved about their approach is that they'll design something and then they take away until they can take away no more. We have adopted that same philosophy here in our films."
This is something that I've recognized in my own work, over the course of the last few years. It first came to my attention at the Turkey City writers workshop, when Ellen Datlow told me that a story of mine had "too many words." I didn't know quite what that meant, but a short while later Harlan Ellison called with a critique of the second chapter of Any Time At All (the original version of Here, There & Everywhere), and pointed out just which were the words I didn't need. In the years since, my writing has become more and more streamlined, my short stories progressively shorter. It isn't that I'm consciously decreasing the length of the stories, it's that I'm gradually learning to use only the words necessary to tell the story.


Jesus Christ, Superman

I dig the poster, but the religiosity of the pose, just a few degrees away from the crucifixion, is just a bit much.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Beam on down, baby.

Spock's crib. Yes.


New Paragaea Review

Paul Haggerty has reviewed Paragaea for SfRevu and seems to have enjoyed it.

"Paragaea is an old tale told to a modern audience. It's a classic John Carter of Mars type tale set on a strange alien planet, with strange new creatures both hostile and friendly. It's got heroes and monsters, swords and guns, high technology and low. At the core is a small plucky cosmonaut desperate to fulfill her mission and report back to her superiors after her ship is plucked out of orbit and deposited on the not-quite Earth named Paragaea."


Monday, May 15, 2006



After spending the weekend in San Francisco at the World Horror Covention, and having an absolutely awesome time with the usual suspects (the Locus gang, the Night Shade posse, the Tachyon bunch, God Emperor Picacio, the Emerald City Empress, the Borderlands crew, the inestimable Gorinsky, etc) and distant friends (Kim Newman, Stephen Jones, Tony Richards, et al), and spending time with loads of great new folks (John Pelan, David Thomas Lord, Michael Rowe, Chris Golden, Jim Moore, and too many others to name them all), I'm glad to be home, if only to have a couple of months to recouperate from the three days and four nights of abuse I've heaped on my body. This may have been the first convention I've attended in seven years in which I actually discussed writing with other writers, having interesting conversations on the topic of craft and technique with Lee Thomas and Jay Lake. The food was great, the drinks never ran out, and I smoked a lot. I'm not an avid follower of the horror genre, as much as I read it as a kid and in college, but the amount of common ground I share with so many of the attendees means it hardly matters. I'm really hoping I'll be able to make it to Toronto next year, for a few more days of fun and abuse.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


The League of Heroes

Xavier Maumejean's The League of Heroes is one of the best books you've never heard of, I'm guessing. Originally published in France in 2002, it was made available for the first time in English in 2005 by Jean-Marc Lofficier's Black Coat Press, a small press specializing in French genre fiction in translation, particularly French pulp fiction. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll point out that I've written stories for both of Lofficier's Tales of the Shadowmen anthologies, which are packed full of French pulpy goodness.

The League of Heroes starts deceptively simple, presenting the vintage pulp-esque adventures of a very Victorian, very British Doc Savage-type called Lord Kraven who, along with Sherlock Holmes and Lord Greystoke and spymaster Phileas Fogg, protects the British empire from the machinations of the rebel Peter Pan, whose otherworldly realm of Neverland invaded Kensington Gardens during the reign of Queen Victoria. Characters from fairy tales and Victorian fiction rub elbows with historical figures, often overlaid one atop the other (rebel Indian prince Sindbad takes the role of rebel prince Nemo, facing off against loyal British privateer James Hook, and so on). Then, in the second section, everything becomes a bit more complicated, as we're introduced to the Old Man who may have merely dreamt all of these fabulous adventures, living with his son-in-law and daughter in late sixties London, disconnected from the world around them. Similar inversions and reversals continue through the later chapters, until all the walls collapse in a mind-bending final reveal that caught me completely by surprise.

Throughout the first quarter of the book, reading about Lord Kraven and the rest of the League of Heroes, I thought this was a perfect yarn for any fan of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Moore is one of the writers to whom Maumejean dedicates the novel), and I don't think that's an incorrect assessment. But as the gradual mindfuck of the later sections gradually unfolded, I came to realize it's much more than that. There's something of Philip K. Dick's reality-inversion stories here, and something of the "What-the-hell?" vibe of the last episodes of The Prisoner and, like the stories of Alan Moore which inspired it, Maumejean's novel manages to deliver thrilling adventures while at the same time presenting commentary on those kinds of adventures.

The League of Heroes is a solid read, a load of fun, and much smarter than a simple plot summary could ever suggest. I recommend it highly.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Little, but Golden

(via Cartoon Brew) If there's a kid in your life for whom you have any affection whatsoever, they need this, and shouldn't you be the one to give it to them?

Pixar cross-pollinated with Little Golden Books; what could be better?


Negadon: The Monster from Mars

(via The Beat) Negadon. Oh, yes. Negadon!


New Interview

John Scalzi, author, raconteur, and class act, has done an interview with me for his AOL journal, By The Way. We mostly discuss Paragaea, but touch on things like process, science, and wearing different hats along the way.

In response, Jonathan Strahan, who's one of my four favorite Aussies, comments a bit about Scalzi's new interview feature, and has some nice things to say about Paragaea, to boot.



New Fantastic Victoriana Review

Strange Horizons has just posted a new review of Jess Nevins' The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana by Tim Phipps.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


New Paragaea Review

A new review of Paragaea: A Planetary Romance is up on SF Reviews.

If you're going to write a book with a hero not only actually nicknamed "Hero", but whose full name is Heironymous Bonaventure, and do so with a straight face, then by golly, that book had better be a completely guileless, wide-eyed love letter to pulp adventure fiction of yore, chock full of monsters, lost cities, swordfights, high seas action, hairs-breadth escapes from certain doom, really big scorpions, and chicks who kick ass.

By a happy coincidence, this is precisely the sort of book Chris Roberson has delivered in Paragaea. Had this novel been released 30 years ago, it would've been published by DAW, had a Frank Kelly Freas or George Barr cover, and spawned 38 sequels with titles like Swords of Paragaea. Had it come out 30 years before that, it would've been serialized in one of the old magazines, and you'd have had to hide it from your mom and read it under the covers at night with a flashlight.
Actually, Swords of Paragaea isn't a half bad title...



Writing is not painful

(via Daniel Abraham) Garrison Keillor knows the score.
Okay, let me say this once and get it off my chest and never mention it again. I have had it with writers who talk about how painful and harrowing and exhausting and almost impossible it is for them to put words on paper and how they pace a hole in the carpet, anguish writ large on their marshmallow faces, and feel lucky to have written an entire sentence or two by the end of the day.

It's the purest form of arrogance: Lest you don't notice what a brilliant artist I am, let me tell you how I agonize over my work. To which I say: Get a job. Try teaching eighth-grade English, five classes a day, 35 kids in a class, from September to June, and then tell us about suffering.
Speaking as someone who has written books, but also taught middle school history in a Texas public school, allow me to say, Amen. Anyone who complains about how hard writing is has either never had an actual job, or is selling you a bill of goods. Writing is fun!

Monday, May 08, 2006


Technology Hates Me

I'm being punished for something I've done. That's the only explanation. Yesterday I tried unsuccessfully all day to post to my blog, but Blogger kept kicking back java errors (then, late last night, the post magically went through on their own). Today, my mail server is apparently borked, such that my outgoing mail is taking freakin' forever to go through (but my incoming works fine, as the glut of spam will attest). I'm so damned addicted to electronic communication, of course, that both of these aren't just minor inconveniences, but are more along the lines of Biblical plagues. Yeesh!

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Lost Girls

You need this. If the names Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie aren't enough to convince you, read this.

I read the first chapters a decade and a half ago in the pages of Taboo, and then again when Tundra released them as individual magazine-sized installments. From that small sample size, it's clear that Lost Girls promises to be one of Moore's best works, ranking with From Hell and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen as his best post-Watchmen projects.


Wight On

The multitalented Eric Wight has been involved in some of the best cartoons you've never seen, and his new blog has even more great stuff.

Saturday, May 06, 2006


The Girl in the Fireplace

Clearly, Steven Moffat should be chained to his writing desk and forced to do nothing but work on Doctor Who for the rest of his natural life.


Fact and Fiction

In his latest "Off the Shelf" column for Science Fiction Weekly, a review of Joe Lansdale's much anticipated Flaming London, Paul Di Filippo has some interesting things to say about a matter close to my heart:

It's hard to know where the postmodern urge to appropriate famous fictional characters and blend them with historical personages into new ironic meta-adventures first originated. Mainstream historical novels have always employed real people, of course, as characters. Then, "sequels by other hands" have resurrected famous characters created by, say, Jane Austen or Charles Dickens for extended lives. But the unique mix exemplified in Joe Lansdale's new book probably stems from two genre titans: Philip Jose Farmer and Michael Moorcock. Their efforts to emulate old forms of genre fiction and to create fresh hybrids opened up vast new vistas of collage and pastiche. Second-generation writers like Alan Moore, with his The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Eugene Byrne and Kim Newman, with their Back in the USSA (1997), crystallized the format. In some sense, these romps are alternate histories. But they defy the sober, linear speculations of mainstream counterfactuals in favor of wild effects.
Paul certainly speaks from a position of experience. The stories in his brilliant Lost Pages walk a fine line between plausible counter-factual and the kind of post-modernist play he discusses here, and his contribution to Pamela Sargeant's Conqueror Fantastic anthology, "Observable Things," in which Cotton Mather recounts a childhood encounter with Robert E. Howard's Solomon Kane, is one of my favorite stories of recent years.

One aspect of Paul's review, and the above paragraph in particular, that I find particularly interesting is that he namechecks the four authors I consider to have had the biggest influence on my development as a writer: Farmer, Moorcock, Moore, and Newman. It's little wonder that so much of what I do attempts to "emulate old forms of genre fiction and to create fresh hybrids."

In anticipation of Flaming London's release I picked up the reissue of Lansdale's Zeppelins West a few months ago, and it's next on my To Read pile, right after Xavier Maumejean's strange and fascinating League of Heroes, which covers much the same ground to different effect.


Free Comic Book Day

A lot of them may not be very good, but hey, they're free!

Friday, May 05, 2006


Terry Bisson's "They're Made out of Meat"

I've always found the short story a brilliant little gem, but I just might like the short film even better.


Great Costume!

A bit of Friday hilarity from the good folks who brought us "Secret Wars Re-Enactment Society."

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Science Fantasy

Sean William has some interesting thoughts about the term "hard fantasy," that bring it more in line with my conception of "science fantasy" than the definitions of hard fantasy I've come across previously (which were more like those SAT correlary questions, "hard sf is to sf, as hard fantasy is to fantasy," meaning that it was fantasy that indulged the tropes of epic fantasy to the same exaggerated degree as actual science is indulged in hard sf).

Paragaea is very intentionally written using a lot of the furniture of fantasy stories--talking trees, ancient wizards, hidden underground kingdoms--but recast in terms of plausible scientific rationalizations, which I'd always thought of as a type of "science fantasy." Whether that means it falls under Sean's definition of hard fantasy or not, I'm not sure. I do know, though, that his comments make me more eager than ever to check out The Crooked Letter.


Han Shot First

And now future generations will be able to see it for themselves.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Patroling the Space Lanes

Well, sure, the need for space police is obvious, but the real question is whether they'll be outfitted with Oan power rings or Arisian lenses.


Great Rao

An interesting article on Centauri Dreams about the formation of "super-Earths," rocky worlds five to thirteen times as massive as Earth, around red dwarf stars. Of course, being me, my first thought it this: If life were to arise on a high-gravity world in orbit around a red sun, would the inhabitants wear headbands?


Do you want to play a track?

(Via metafilter) This is the coolest damned website I've seen in ages, and likely the best promo site for a band ever. Be sure to hit "B" and check out the monochrome CRT flicker on the band's bio photo. Awesome.


Write Training

Deanna Hoak has posted the text of an interesting writing chat with Jay Lake, in which Jay shares some very lucid advice for approaching writing the same way one would a sport or martial art, working out different sets of muscles, and the need sometimes to start over when moving to a different skill set (short form to long form, editor to writer, etc). Jay's got a tremendous work ethic, and his advice here mirrors my own experiences (first doing a short-short story a day in my mid-twenties, then doing longer stories one a week later on, then a few novels a year sometime after that). Well worth checking out.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Superman Returns!

Okay, now I'm really optimistic. Much more of the story than we saw in the first trailer, and I'm digging it.


The Legion of Super-Heroes

(Via The Legion Omnicom) What does it say about me, a supposedly grown man, that the most excited I've been in a long while was when I saw this image?

I love me some Legion of Super-Heroes, and even managed to include them in Here, There & Everywhere (I thought they were thinly disguised, but since no one seems to have identified them, they may be better hidden than I imagined).

From the talented folks who created the recently-ended and vastly-underrated Teen Titans for Cartoon Network, which after a so-so first season managed to perfectly translate the classic Marv Wolfman-George Perez era New Teen Titans stories into a 21C idiom, the forthcoming Legion of Super-Heroes similarly promises to capture all of the wonky joy of the silver age Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes stories when it premiers later this year on the new CW network. I mean, come on. Hidden behind Timber Wolf on the right there? That's Bouncing Boy, for god's sake. How can you go wrong with Bouncing Boy?!

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