Sunday, December 31, 2006
I lost almost half of 2005 to general suckiness, managing in the remaining seven months to write two novels and three short stories. While 2006 was immeasurably better, as years go, I was only able to write a few hours a week for the first eight months, and so fared only slightly better.
Further: Beyond the Threshold 80,000 words
X-Men: The Return 72,000 words
"The Famous Ape" 6,500 words
"The End of Now" 3,000 words
"The Jewel of Leystall" 5,000 words
"Elvera" 3,300 words
Total new words written in 2006: 169,800
That's just a shade less than eleven thousand words more than I wrote in 2005 (the two novels, though both considerably shorter, were written entirely in this calendar year, while last year's books were both partially completed in earlier years). The rest of my writing time was spent working on End of the Century and the expanded Set the Seas on Fire, both of which won't be done until after the new year, and so will be counted towards next year's annual output.
So how about my other part-time jobs, publishing and parenting?
Wearing my editor/publisher hat, I managed to give birth to six books this year, Cover Story: The Art of John Picacio, The Man from the Diogenes Club, Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre, The Hollow Earth, Blood & Thunder: The Life and Times of Robert E. Howard, and Cross Plains Universe: Texans Celebrate Robert E. Howard. For those keeping score at home, that's one art book, one short story collection, one biography, one novel, one nonfiction survey, and one anthology. Say what you will about MonkeyBrain, but we tend to cover the map.
Finally, how did I do on the parenting front? Well, I have the cutest, smartest kid on the planet. So how do you think I did?
Friday, December 29, 2006
Happy Hollow Days
I'll probably be back to something like normal posting next week, but I'll also be putting nose to grindstone to finish work on two, count them two novels by the middle of February, so then again I may continue to be a bit derelict, after all.
This last year was immeasurably better than 2005 (which is damning the year with faint praise), and I've high hopes for 2007. I got some terrific news a few days ago that I won't be able to share for a few months, but suffice it to say that I'm ending the year on a high note. We've squared away the MonkeyBrain Books lineup through 2008, and I'll hopefully have time to put together a formal announcement about the forthcoming titles in the next few weeks (and post something to the MonkeyBrain announcements mailing list, which I've embarrasingly never done to date). And just to cap the year off nicely, here's a brief note from Publishers Weekly about one of our recent offerings:
"Mark Finn quietly and expertly demolishes a number of misconceptions about pulp icon Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) in Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard, which looks at Howard as a populist writer whose dyspeptic view of civilization was forged in the corrupt Texas oil boomtowns in which he grew up."I'll likely not post again until the new year, in which case I wish everyone the happiest of new years.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Timmy Gromp Saves Christmas
In December 2001, I wrote the following bit of nonsense for our "holiday issue," clearly the result of watching far too many stop-motion animated specials as a kid. I was reminded of it the other day while watching Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer with Georgia, and figured I might as well inflict a Timmy Gromp story on the world again, for old time's sake.
Timmy Gromp Saves Christmas:
The Final Installment
What has gone before…
Timmy Gromp, a seemingly normal American boy, has been recruited by the Council of Holidays in the effort to save Christmas. Santa Claus, beloved icon of the season, has been taken prisoner by the Anti-Claus, his nemesis and opposite number from an alternate dimension of pure evil.
Aiding Timmy in this effort is Denny S. Hopper, renegade member of the Easter Bunny Corps, who sees this mission at his one last chance at redemption. He is small, but has a big heart, and a motorcycle, and a gun.
In our last installment, Timmy and Hopper were hot on the trail of a supernatural fish with the powers of locating the Anti-Claus’ secret lair: the magical Rankin’ Bass. Unfortunately, the Fishing Chimps, minions of the dark one, beat them to the prize, hooking the Rankin’ Bass and spiriting it away before Timmy and Hopper could react.
Now, south of the border in
“I don’t know, Hopper,” Timmy said, “it’s beginning to look like there’s no hope.”
“Pshaw,” Hopper answered, slamming a clip into his semi-automatic pistol with a satisfying click. “There’s always hope.”
“But Christmas starts in just a few hours, and we don’t even know where Santa is being held prisoner!” Timmy was getting agitated, jumping up and down and turning several shades of red.
“There’s always options,” Hopper said, sighting along the pistol’s barrel. He held his short arm out extended, pointed towards the far horizon, and then swung his aim in a slow arc to the west. The bunny paused when his aim tracked across Timmy, and seemed to mull something over before swinging his arm a few degrees further to the west.
The bunny finally stopped when the pistol was pointed at an ancient and weather beaten telegraph pole, on which was stapled a faded sheet of paper.
“POW,” sounded the pistol, and a shot thunked into the pole at the dead center of the paper.
“Perfect example,” Hopper said, and turning started to walk off down the road.
Timmy Gromp was confused. He called after the bunny to wait, but the bunny walked on. Timmy ran over to the telegraph pole, and squinting tried to read what he could of the faded text. It was all in Spanish.
“Dang it,” Timmy said. “Isn’t anything in
Leaning in, ignoring the text, Timmy saw crude drawings of giant men with strange masks covering their faces, with only little holes cut for eyes, nose and mouth. The men wore skin-tight trunks and high-laced boots, and seemed to be trying to hurt each other.
This was all pretty confusing for Timmy. He just wanted to be back home, icing cookies with his parents and looking forward to the presents he’d get the next morning on Christmas day. Of course, since his parents had decided that it was the spirit of giving that really counted, and not the actual act itself, Timmy’s gifts had seen something of a decline in quality. This year, far all he knew, he’d might have gotten just a picture of a toy cut out of a catalog. Last year, after all, they’d only given him a toy’s empty box, which they’d got from the neighbors after they’d given the toy inside to their own little boy.
Still, it had to be better than this.
Sighing, Timmy shoved his hands deep into his pockets, and scuffed his feet down the road after the bunny.
“I don’t think this is going to work, Hopper,” Timmy whispered.
“Trust me, kid,” Hopper answered. “Look, if I’ve learned anything from my years as a symbolic pagan holdover representing a secular holiday with tenuous ties to a religious celebration, it’s that people will believe what you damn well tell them to believe. People are sheep, kid.”
“O-kay,” Timmy said, unconvinced. “But I still think…”
“Dónde está el Polo Norte?” said the giant man in the red suit behind them.
“Uh, we’re here, champ,” Hopper replied, chewing on the end of his cigar. He waved a stubby arm in a wide circle, indicating the show covered hills, the big inviting house and the workshops, from which streamed an army of elves and reindeer, bearing down on them.
“Bueno,” the giant man answered, taking a step forward.
“Hopper,” Timmy protested, “he doesn’t really look very convincing. I mean, he’s still wearing that mask, and I don’t think that Santa Claus normally carries a bottle of tequila.”
The fake white beard had been glued inexpertly to the bottom edge of the giant man’s red and black facemask, which he had refused to remove for any reason. In the chill wind of the North Pole, the strands of artificial hair were starting to freeze up and break off, leaving only a fringe of wisps and glue on the fabric of the mask.
The elves and reindeer had gathered in a circle around the trio, Timmy, Hopper, and the giant man. They waited eagerly, looking at them with breathless anticipation.
The giant man raised his muscled arms over his head.
“Claus,” Hopper whispered furiously behind his hand, nudging the giant man in the leg.
“Si, si,” the giant man added. “Yo soy Santos Claus.”
There followed a protracted silence, as the assembled elves and reindeer looked at the giant man in the mask and the ill-fitting red suit with mouths hanging open.
Timmy began to suspect that this was going to be his last Christmas, even if it wasn’t for everyone else.
Suddenly, and without warning, the elves erupted in a spontaneous cheer, and swarmed around the giant man with hugs and smiles, while the reindeer leapt into the air and danced swirling loops overhead.
“Come on, Santa,” one of the elves said, tugging at the giant man’s huge hand. “We’ve got to get this show on the road, Christmas starts in just a few minutes.”
“Bueno,” the giant man said, and allowed himself to be slowly dragged to the waiting sled by the elves.
“I don’t believe it,” Timmy said.
“It’s like I told you,” Hopper answered, lighting another cigar, “people are damned sheep, and elves and reindeer are no different.”
“So that’s it, then?” Timmy asked. “But what about the real Santa Claus?”
“Shhh,” Hopper hissed violently. “You want to get us lynched?” He paused, and then added, “Don’t worry, kid. I’m sure someone’ll rescue him sooner or later. For now, just be content in the knowledge that the holiday is saved, I get to keep my job, and you get to go home, right?”
Hopper laid a stubby arm across Timmy’s shoulder, and blew out a smoke ring that hung overhead like a wreath.
“God bless us everyone one,” Timmy said sarcastically, without a trace of sentiment.
“Yo tambien,” Hopper answered, smiling.
The sleigh, loaded down with holiday toys, lifted uneasily off the snowy ground.
“Cómo se dice ‘jolly’?” shouted Santos Claus down to Hopper and Timmy.
“Ho ho ho,” Hopper shouted up as the sleigh lifted into the skies.
“Si, si,” Santos Claus shouted back. “El Ho, El Ho, El Ho.”
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Brian K. Vaughan gets Lost
Will the real Stan Lee please stand up?
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Mark Finn Feature
John Picacio Interview
Friday, December 15, 2006
The Zero Room team felt that the time was right for a new approach to Trek. The setting is the year 2528 and the Federation is a different place after suffering through a devastating war with the Romulans 60 years earlier. The war was sparked off after a surprise attack of dozens of ÂOmega particleÂ detonations throughout the Federation creating vast areas which become impassible to warp travel and essentially cut off almost half the Federation from the rest. During the war the Klingon homeworld was occupied by the Romulans, all of Andoria was destroyed and the Vulcans, who were negotiating reunification with the Romulans, pulled out of the Federation. The setting may seem bleak and not very Trek-like, but that is where the showÂs hero Captain Alexander Chase comes in. Relegated to border patrol, Chase is determined to bring the Federation (and a ship called Enterprise) back to the glory days of seeking out new life and new civilizations.I've said before that I'd prefer to see Trek moldering in the grave a while longer before we got another iteration, but I also think that the only way to move Trek forward is to move it forward, which is the core concept of this pitch. And what's not to love about these retro-ish designs?
I remain cautiously optimistic about JJ Abrams's new Trek flick, though perhaps less optimistic than I might have been had I not seen the last season of Alias, but I must admit that I find the idea of seeing the future of the Trek franchise a more attractive notion than simply revisiting its past once again. As anyone who saw them can attest, Genndy Tartakovsky's Clone Wars shorts were the best the Star Wars franchise ever got. Could the same thing happen for the Trek franchise, as well, if this new series were to get the greenlight? I certainly wouldn't complain.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Lasse Gjertsen, Animation School Dropout
More awesomeness here.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
WSJ on REH
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Breakfast of the Gods
I'm reminded a bit of James Sturm's The Cereal Killings, but where Sturm's story was a gritty, noir-ish story of murder reminiscent of Watchmen (that just happened to feature breakfast cereal mascots), Jones's story is a blood-thirsty revisionist crossover epic in the vein of Identity Crisis (that just happens to feature breakfast cereal mascots).
Either way, Breakfast of the Gods is a little bit of genius, or inspired lunacy, or both. Well worth checking out.
Monday, December 11, 2006
"Shaka, when the walls fell"
Suffice it to say that the episode might not work as well as I thought it had. That said, the discussion of Tamarese-A and Tamarese-B touches on the one nagging nitpick I'd always had with the episode, but he goes further into examining the theoretical workings of the Universal Translator and what it suggests about functional mechanical telepathy. An interesting examination well worth checking out.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Martin Nodell - RIP
A few years ago I was fortunate enough to meet Marty and his wife Carrie at a comics convention in Dallas, and to hear him tell a hotel suite full of awed fans (many of them long established pros) the story of Green Lantern's creation. I passed up the opportunity that weekend to buy a sketch from Marty, and have regretted it ever since. He was a gentleman, incredibly gracious, and indirectly had a bigger impact on my childhood than he could ever know. I'm incredibly grateful to have had the chance to meet and talk with him.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Research, or Plagiarism
"“If it is sufficient to point to a simultaneity of events to prove plagiarism, then we are all plagiarists, and Shakespeare is in big trouble from Petrarch, and Tolstoy stole the material for ‘War and Peace,’ ” wrote the Australian writer Thomas Keneally, the author of “Schindler’s List.” “Fiction depends on a certain value-added quality created on top of the raw material, and that McEwan has added value beyond the original will, I believe, be richly demonstrated.” If not, Mr. Keneally added, “God help us all.”"Check out the scan of Thomas Pynchon's (typewritten) letter in response to the whole sorry business.
I can't imagine that these "charges" of plagiarism will have very much sticking power, but as the authors who have written in support of McEwan have suggested, if by some stretch of the imagination these sorts of similarities were considered plagiarism, I can't imagine that any work of fiction based on anything but the personal experiences of the author (or perhaps wholly invented secondary worlds, though maybe not even then) would escape the charge.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Thundarr the Barbarian
Man, I loved this show. I was soaked to the bone in it. It permeated by DNA. How do I know? Well, last year, shortly after I turned in Paragaea: A Planetary Romance to Lou Anders, I thought about the fact that I'd just written a 100K word novel about an post-historical Earth-like world, centered around a smart woman who knows all about science, a heroic male who prefers to solve his problems with a sword, and a big catman who's quick to anger and doesn't like water. And then I realized that I'd just spent a large chunk of my life reinventing Thundarr the Barbarian.
And you know what? I didn't mind that a bit.
Truly Scary Poppins
Watch BSG Tonight
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Well, I could begin to tell you, but I began to tell Allison already, and she got bored with it so quickly that she threatened me bodily harm, so it's probably best I don't...
Damn. I really liked that basilica, too.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Scalzi interviews Stross, and Occult Spies
I just finished the novel this morning, after rereading The Atrocity Archives before Thanksgiving to get back up to speed. My brain's in my head a little sideways at the moment, in that I've been working on the bit in End of the Century about an operative of MI8, a British secret service who deals with matters beyond the ken of regular folks... which is an idea I introduced in a Bonaventure-Carmody story back in the old Clockwork Storybook days, around the same time that Atrocity Archives was being serialized in Spectrum SF, a few years before I had a chance to read it. Problem is, Stross is treading very similar ground to what I'd worked up, but does so in a way that makes me look like a piker.
Admittedly, it's an idea that others have used before -- Kim Newman's Diogenes Club stories spring to mind, and I suppose the BBC is getting some mileage out of it with Torchwood, as well -- but Stross's Laundry and my MI8 are pretty close neighbors, up to and including both having roots in the WWII-era doings of the Special Operations Executive.
I like my own little occult spies too much to cut them loose, though, so they stay in the picture. But I don't kid myself that they're anywhere near as clever as Bob Howard and his crew at the Laundry. I'm reminded of Thomas Pynchon including a note in Gravity's Rainbow exhorting readers to check out Ishmael Reed's Mumbo Jumbo if they want to learn about African-American secret societies. I don't think I'd go quite as far as to put a foot note in End of the Century, but trust me when I say that if you want to read about occult secret agents, Charles Stross is the guy to go to.
All of which is a roundabout way of saying, go check out the interview, already!
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Fantastic Victorian review
"When it comes to the nooks and crannies of fantastical literature, critic and scholar Jess Nevins has already proven himself a fount of erudition and charm, with two sparkling books that annotate the work of Alan Moore: Heroes & Monsters (2003) and A Blazing World (2004). But his latest volume, the work of many years, blows these two admittedly capable books plain out of the ocean. The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana (Monkey Brain Books, hardcover, $50.00, 1010 pages, ISBN 1-932265-15-5) is nothing more nor less than an instantly indispensable part of any serious fan’s reference shelf.""Instantly indispensable." I like that.
Amid's right, though. Scary Poppins is a much better title.
Monday, December 04, 2006
Literary Day Camp
I would have flipped my lid as a kid if I'd been able to spend a week at a camp devoted to Anne McCaffrey's Pern books, or Richard and Wendy Pini's Elfquest, or something like that. Or Edgar Rice Burroughs's Barsoom? Forget about it. (Though I imagine they wouldn't have been able to follow a strict Barsoomian dress code, come to that...)
Last June, Austin's BookPeople hosted an innovative program: Camp Half-Blood. The week-long day camp for children, inspired by Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, took its name from the "half-bloods," the children of Gods and humans who populate the novels. A total of 55 kids attended from such far-flung states as New York, Colorado and Iowa, and even Greece, and inquiries came from England and Japan.
The event was such a success that its organizer, BookPeople's children's outreach coordinator Topher Bradfield, is now planning eight more. The first, based on The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, is scheduled for December 26–31. Camp Spiderwick will be followed in 2007 by camps based on Half-Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer (March), Abarat by Clive Barker (August), the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix (October), the Charlie Bone books by Jenny Nimmo (November), Babymouse by Jennifer and Matt Holm, and Bone by Jeff Smith (both December). And Camp Half-Blood will return for another run in the summer.
So if you'd been able to spend a week at a literary day camp as a kid, what book or series would have been its inspiration?
Friday, December 01, 2006
What's next? Inky finally avenging the deaths of Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde in the maw of that carnivorous yellow bastard?
SCIFI.COM Holiday Gift Guide
Cover Story: The Art of John Picacio
by John Picacio
Picacio's glorious artwork is instantly recognizable, a fusion of old-fashioned handicraft and computer savvy. This career survey collects scores of his best images, from covers for Silverberg, Moorcock and others to examples of his private fine art. Picacio's relative youth ensures his best is yet to come! $39.95