Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Molly Ivins, RIP
Molly Ivins was made of awesome, and she'll be missed.
The Day's Progress - Wednesday Edition
27,297 / 100,000
Today's brief sample comes in the middle of an action sequence, wherein Artor and his gang face off against a mysterious Huntsman and his pack of hounds. While the rest of the crew fends off the dogs -- who are completely white, but for the tips of their ears, their claws, and their teeth, all of which are blood red -- the young Galaad finds himself facing down the Huntsman, who carries a strange sword that seems to glow red, and which is said to be able to cut through anything. Luckily, Pryder comes to Galaad's rescue, onto to find his own sword cut cleanly in half.
Galaad may have shouted out, but in the aftermath he wasn’t sure if he had, or what he’d said if so. He could only watch with horror as the Huntsman raised his blade a final time, Pryder helpless before him, the gelded stub of the spatha in his hands. In the instant before the red blade fell, the Huntsman locked eyes with Pryder, and seemed to hesitate.
The blow never fell, but the Huntsman backed away, and while his face was still frozen like a death-mask, the corpse-white flesh immobile, his eyes seemed in that moment to burn brighter, flashing red.
Pryder scrambled back, for the moment not questioning this unexpected reprieve, holding his sheered-off sword before him like a club.
The Huntsman stood still for a moment, regarding Pryder, and then lowered his red blade, its point to the icy ground. He opened his mouth, as if to speak. Instead of words, though, a strange series of noises emerged, each distinct utterance something between a click and a whistle, that taken together sounded to Galaad’s ears like, “Tekel lili.”
All around them, the melee came to a sudden halt, as the white hounds froze in place, and turned their baleful red eyes towards their master.
National Gorilla Suit Day!
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
The Doctor's Girls
Doctor's Girls by *mimi-na
The artist, Amy Mebberson, has a new series forthcoming from TokyoPop, Divalicious! (with the obligatory exclamation mark, naturally).
Michael Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road
Though dedicated to Michael Moorcock, and with the hint of Robert E. Howard's Solomon Kane in the early scenes of this first installment, it so far most resembles Fritz Lieber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories. Based on the press release I found, it appears that the novel is set to run in fifteen serialized chapters.
The Day's Progress - Tuesday Edition
25,114 / 100,000
A bit north of five thousand words today. It's looking like the book might be a little longer than expected, which would mean I'm not the quarter done that the word count would suggest, but pretty far along, at any rate.
Today's writing was devoted entirely to a banquet held at the court of Geraint, the king of half Dumnonia. Midway through an otherwise pleasant meal, Geraint explains why everyone in town has taken to sleeping inside the security of the great hall, in a giant unending slumber party.
All around them came the susurration of whispers as those gathered in the hall heard the words of their king and queen. Some made the sign of the cross, while others moved their fingers in ancient pagan sigils meant to ward off unkind spirits. Fear was evident on every face, young and old, man and woman. Fear of this Huntsman.
“You mentioned such earlier,” Artor said. “What kind of man is this hunter to inspire such fear?”
“Not a man at all, some would say,” Enid replied, arms wrapped tight around her infant son.
Geraint nodded. “Or if he were a man, at some point, that hour has passed. Mayhap he was tossed up from the grave, or else from beneath the waves. He is said to have the coloration of corpse-flesh, hairless, and with dead-seeming red eyes, and does not speak, but lets the barking of his spectral hounds instead give voice to his wrath.”
“It is said...?” Artor repeated, suspicious. “Have you not seen him yourself, then?”
“Only from a distance,” Geraint answered, with evident gratitude. “But some of our people have been fortunate enough to flee his presence, and carry back to us more detailed descriptions than long sightings would allow.” He shook his head, ruefully. “Those that have stood their ground, and faced the Huntsman’s red sword...” He trailed off, eyes shut.
“What?” Bedwyr asked, mouth hanging open, eyes wide. “What happened?”
Geraint took a deep breath and let out a ragged sigh. “The Huntsman carries a sword, whose blade is the red of the hellfire with which it sometimes seems to glow. And when this blade meets flesh or iron or wood...”
He paused, turning his head away, as if he could escape the sight of the memories which sprang before his mind’s eye.
“We have found the Huntsman’s victims in the following mornings, or rather what is left of them. This red sword of his cuts through anything like a hot knife sliding through warm butter, severing heads from shoulders in a single clean sweep, or hands from arms, or feet from legs. Not hacked and chopped, like a woodsman and his axe, but single strokes, clean through.” He shuddered at the memory.
New Cover Story Review
There are over one hundred and sixty full-color paintings in Cover Story: The Art of John Picacio (Mon-keyBrain Books, hardcover, $39.95, 200 pages, ISBN 1-932265-16-3), and every one of them is practically worth the price of admission solely on its own. But in addition, you get innumerable B&W sketches, Picacio's insightful commentary, and a full interview with the artist. I call this the best bargain in art books to come along in a while.Thanks, Paul!
You've seen Picacio's art if you've so much as stuck your head in a bookstore over the past five years or so. He's provided cover images for everyone from Silverberg to Moorcock to Pohl, as well as a host of newer authors, such as Justina Robson and Dale Bailey. His covers all leap off the page with a bright palette, iconic tropes, and sophisticated compositions, often featuring layered planes of images. But he also does full-blown moments of frozen narrative, such as his cover for the first volume of the Adventure anthology (page 133). Some of his most striking work involves Cornell-style shadowboxes (one weighing forty-five pounds when completed!). In all cases, his art reflects immense thought, taste, and intelligence. He's able, as John Clute says in a blurb, not only to "illustrate" but to "illuminate" a work. This book, designed by Picacio himself, is a wonderful compendium that succeeds in illuminating a career that is barely begun but already rich with accomplishment.
Golden Age (animation, that is)
I dig them all, but my favorites are probably Kongobot...
Antsy and the Bugaboos...
and the Sketch Towers overview.
But they're all terrific. Head on over and see for yourself.
Here is some news for all the Henson fans in the proximity of Anaheim, CA (or those willing to make the journey) -- The Jim Henson Company's puppet improv group is planning to bring the "Puppet Up! - Uncensored" improv stage show to The Grove of Anaheim for a "one night only" performance on Sunday, March 4, 2007 (at 8pm). Ticket go on sale on February 3rd – more information on tickets and the show can be found here.The Puppet Up tv special that broadcast a couple of months ago was just terrific (and if you don't believe me, you can watch some clips here... supposedly, though I can't seem to get them to load, so maybe you can just watch this instead). So terrific I've been loathe to delete it from my Tivo, so it just sits there at the bottom of my list of saved programs with a few toddler music shows Georgia outgrew years ago but I haven't the heart to erase.
If you're anywhere in easy travelling distance to Anaheim, or will be in the area the first weekend in March, I highly recommend checking it out.
Virtual Book Tour
Monday, January 29, 2007
The Day's Progress - Monday Edition
20,046 / 100,000
Today's writing was mostly onboard Artor's captured longship, brief episodes in which Galaad gets to know the captains a bit better, ending with their arrival in Dumnonia, at the court of Geraint.
Here's a bit of business with Galaad's sword, which has seen better days, and the twins from Gwent, Pryder and Gwrol.
“It is a... well-traveled sheath,” Pryder observed. Then, with considerable effort, he tugged the blade free and held it aloft.Of all the Arthurian knights in End of the Century, these two diverge the farthest from the traditional view, at least at first glance. But it all boils down to my opinion that there is a lot of "twin confusion" in the Mabinogion, and in particular in the story of Pryderi/Peredur. In Pwyll Lord of Dyved, Pryderi is originally named Gwri Golden Hair by his foster parents, on accouint of the color of his hair. Only when he is reunited with hsi parents is he given the name Pryderi. In the Mabinogion story of Peredur Son of Evrawg , Peredur meets an old man with two sons, one yellow-haired and one auburn-haired (the old man proves to be his uncle, making these his cousins). Later, in the Circular Valley, he meets a great hoary-haired man, in the company of two young lads, one with yellow hair and one with auburn, with knives with hilts of walrus ivory.
Seen so soon after the flashing brightness of Pryder’s spatha, Galaad’s sword seemed in even poorer repair than ever. The leaf-blade was black with rust and pitted with age, the leather wrapping on the hilt frayed and loose.
“Oh, no, no, no,” Pryder said, shaking his head sadly, his expression like that of someone witnessing an unfortunate accident or an untimely death. “That’s... that’s just...”
“That’s criminal, is what that is,” Gwrol said.
“Yes.” Pryder nodded in rare agreement with his brother. “This isn’t a sword, boy. This is a relic.”
“Perhaps it should better have been buried with your grandsire after all, eh?” Gwrol reached out and, heedless of any danger, ran his finger down the length of the blade’s edge. He held up his fingertip, unscathed. “It’s as blunt as a baby’s ass.”
“That’s ‘smooth as a baby’s ass,’ imbecile,” Pryder said, scornfully.
As a sidenote, in the Annales Cambriae, the later (possibly historical) figures Gwrgi and Peredur are brothers. And finally, in many of the romances, Gawain's nicknmae is Gwalltafwyn, which means "hair like rain," and is translated as "Golden Hair."
Percival is a literary descendat of Peredur, who himself was originally known as Pryderi. In End of the Century, I'm taking the tack that the character's original name was Pryder (or "Care"), and that he wasn't once known by a name beginning "Gwr-", but rather had a twin brother with that name, whose hair was blond where his is dark. This blond-haired "Gwr-" was the original of Gawain. I've chosen to call him Gwrol, which means "Courage." Having twins named Care and Courage allows me to do a bit of Odd Couple with them, with a touch of the Smothers Brothers tossed in for good measure.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
China Mieville Super-Spectacular
That's right. This is an issue devoted to specing out the world of China Mieville's Bas Lag in terms of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.
This makes perfect sense, after a moment's consideration, since China had always been upfront about the influence that role-playing games have had on him, and on the development of Bas Lag in particular.
"I quite often buy and read game manuals because I am interested in the way that people design their worlds, and how they decide to delineate them."Nevertheless, there's something about seeing the influence running the other way that gave me a moment's pause. Afterwhich, of course, I became instantly and deeply jealous.
Here's the issue's contents, ganked from Jeremy's post:
Dragon Issue #352How awesome is that?
24 Jan 2007
The World of China Mieville
by Wolfgang Baur
Explore the intriguing and fantastical world of China Miéville with an interview with the author himself and in-depth D&D conversions pulled right from the pages of Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and The Iron Council.
Bas Lag Gazetteer
Travel from the city-state of New Crobuzon to the mysterious lands of High Cromlech, from the ship-city of Armada to the deadly Gengris in this expansive gazetteer.
The People of Bas Lag
Four new player races, including the cactacae, khepri, vodyanoi, and the tortured remade.
Monsters of New Crobuzon
From the deadly slake moth to the incomprehensible weaver, this bestiary reveals eight new monsters of Bas Lag.
The Ecology of the Yrthak, Volo's Guide, Dragonmarks, Class Acts, First Watch, Savage Tidings, comics—including the Order of the Stick—and more!
Saturday, January 27, 2007
This clip is from the 1965 Bollywood film Janwar. The plot description sounds pretty familiar from other Indian films I've seen, which often seem to revolve around families, problematic unions, and class/caste concerns, with occasional musical number. This time out, though, the usual song and dance routine has a decidedly Liverpudlian flavor.
IMDB has this to say: "A band with the name "Ted Lyons & His Cubs" also appeared in "Gumnaam" (1965) performing the song "Jaan Pehechaan Ho" that Enid is seen dancing to in "Ghost World" (2001). Here, the band wears Beatle wigs and performs the song "Tumse Hai Dil Ko". The music bears more than a slight resemblance to "I Want to Hold Your Hand" by the real Beatles."
Friday, January 26, 2007
The Day's Progress - Friday Edition
15,370 / 100,000
Still managed a bit more than my daily goal, which puts me ontrack to finish "Twilight" by the end of next week, unless the scenes start to run longer than expected. Then I'll take a couple of days to shift mental gears and start working on "Jubilee".
A brief sample, that mixes a bit of geography and history with a choice scatalogical metaphor.
By midday, they’d reached the mouth of the Tamesa, with Bedwyr and Caius pulling on the oars on the port side, Gwrol and Pryder pulling on the starboard, and once they were past the estuary and into the open waters of the channel, the sails were unfurled, the oars shipped, and the longship steered to the south and east.
Galaad had never been to sea before. He’d never been near a body of water larger than a lake, for that matter. And so the fact that he could see nothing to north but water and more water was more than a little unsettling. He found himself sitting more often on the starboard side, watching the rocky shore drift slowly by. It seemed to tether him, to give him some sense of perspective, though it did nothing to calm his roiling stomach, or the tamp down the bile that kept rising in his throat.
“That’s Cantium,” Lugh said, pointing to the land. “Keep an eye out for Saeson ships, if you’ve a mind to. They live on the island under Artor’s sufferance, but there’s nothing to say they wouldn’t take the chance to test their mettle if they spotted the High King sailing by on a winter’s day.”
“S-Saeson?” Galaad’s eyes widened.
“Aye.” Lugh glanced at Artor, and then back to the shore. “We couldn’t manage to push the whoresons off the island entire, and had to leave clumps of them stuck to the shores in the south and east like balls of dung on the hairs of your arse.”
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Things to Come
And hey, scientists with giant bubble helmets in future-planes. Who doesn't love that?
Now look. Someone has gone and put the whole dang thing on the internet!
The Day's Progress
10,985 / 100,000
A place had been made for Galaad at the palace. Formerly the room of a high-ranking slave or household servant, it had evidently stood unused for sometime, if the dust lining the mantle and eaves was any indication. But it was dry, and warmer than the outdoors, and for that Galaad was thankful.
When it came time for the evening meal, Galaad was made welcome in the kitchen while the High King and his captains dined in the audience-hall. The meal was meaner than he might have expected in the home of the Count of Britannia, the stew more like a watery broth, but there was hard-crusted bread and watered-down wine, and the cook, maid, and scullions were pleasant company. One of the servants had skin the color of honey and a kink in her hair, suggesting something of Africa in her ancestry, and another had the olive complexion of a Scythian. Galaad was surprised to find that another had the coloration and accent of a Sais, though she insisted that she was not one of the Saeson, but was from a place she called Geatland. Galaad was soothed by this, until the cook pointed out with a wry smile that the Saeson leader Bödvar Bee Hunter had himself been a Geat. After that, Galaad ate a bit more warily, keeping watch on his tablemates.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Beginning of End of the Century
I've stayed out of this whole "fast writing"/"slow writing" farrago, since neither really describes the way I work. I have a strange process, which I usually call "Measure Often, Cut Once." End of the Century is a case in point. If things go as planned, I'll have the manuscript done and ready to send off for my editor's review in another five weeks or so. But the actual writing represents only the last, and shortest, stage of a lengthy process. I started noodling with the idea of the novel a bit over five years ago, started making notes a couple of years later, and started researching and assembling an outline last spring. So what does it matter that writing 100K or so words of finished manuscript takes me four or five weeks, when I spent ten months or more putting together the 20K word long outline that forms the story's skeleton?
The only advantage to my way of working is that different projects can overlap, so long as I'm at different stages of each. My brain isn't big enough to allow me to write two books at once; however, with only a little effort I can outline one project while writing another, and researching and note-taking can be done anytime. I started the research for End of the Century while writing Further: Beyond the Threshold last spring, did the outlining while writing X-Men: The Return last summer, and did some final tweaking to the plot last month while writing the expansion chapters of Set the Seas on Fire. At the moment, while writing End of the Century I'm fiddling around with the outlines for Iron Jaw & Humming Bird and The Dragon's Nine Sons. And later this year while I'm writing those, I'll be researching and outlining the next projects, whichever those turn out to be (most likely Firewalk, but don't quote me on that).
In any event, here's the meter for the day. I did 3,497 words today, which tacked onto the 3,222 I managed to do in my two partial days previously brings the total to 6,719.
6,719 / 100,000
It was late morning when Galaad first caught sight of the city, looming in the east. The trip from Glevum should have taken six days, but with the winter’s cold, it had taken him nearer ten. Ten days of icy bridges over sluggish streams, the ground hard and cold beneath his thin woolen blanket at night even when he went to the trouble of clearing away the snow, freezing rain sometimes falling from the unforgiving gray skies, and harsh winds blowing when it didn’t. Had he ridden, he’d have made the journey in a fraction of the time, but he’d not been on a horse since the accident, and couldn’t conscience doing so now.
Many of the hobnails from the soles of his caligae marching boots were missing, knocked loose and left along the roadside as signs of his passing, and those areas of his feet’s skin not already thickened with calluses were now blistered, bloody, and tender. His left knee was swollen and sore, from a fall two days before on an icy patch of road, but while the joint did not have a complete range of motion it could support his full weight, though lances of pain shot up and down his leg when he did, so that he was able to continue, though with a pronounced limp.
The bundle on his back was lighter, if nothing else, now that he’d eaten nearly all the supplies of food he’d brought with him from his home in Powys, though of course that meant that had he not reached his destination soon he’d have begun slowly to starve. But it was a point not worth dwelling upon, so Galaad pushed it from his thoughts.
Galaad had never before been this far from home. He’d been born in the municipality of Glevum in the kingdom of Powys, twenty-one years before, and had seldom strayed far from the banks of the river Sabrina. The western kingdoms had been largely spared the ravages of the Saeson invasion of Britannia, so that throughout most of his childhood, Galaad had known peace. By the time he was a full adult with a child of his own, the rest of the island knew peace as well, and had one man to thank for it. But as Galaad’s steps had brought him further east, the more he saw upon the land the scars of the Saeson occupation.
In much of the west, the old order of the Romans had remained. The towns still survived, though their populations diminished, tenants paid landlords, community farmlands were tended. But as Galaad had walked through regions where the war with the Saeson had been close at hand, it was clear that the public authority had collapsed. Towns stood abandoned, farms gone to seed and houses left to the elements. The remaining Roman nobility had fled across the channel to Gaul, ahead of the advancing Saeson hordes, while the peasantry had retreated to the rural areas of the west, watched over by former town magistrates who now styled themselves as landholders and kings.
But one man was bringing order back to the island, restoring authority and the rule of law. The same man who had driven the Saeson back to their huddled enclaves in the south and east, and established his court in the former Roman capital that lay between, to hold the two groups of Saeson apart and to act as a bulwark against them for the rest of the island.
If any would know the meaning of Galaad’s strange visions, the young man was convinced, it would be he. Perhaps then the phantom that haunted him could be laid to rest.
Limping, his feet blistered and bloody, his legs and back aching, Galaad approached the high city walls with a prayer in his heart. At the end of a long journey, he had finally reached Caer Llundain, home of the Count of Britannia and victor of Badon, the High King Artor.
Galaad, for his sins, did not know that his journey was only beginning.
The piece closes with a quote from Paul Davies, who extends the notion quite a bit farther.
Paul Davies, a theoretical physicist at the Australian Centre for Astrobiology at Macquarie University in Sydney, suggests another possibility: The universe might actually be able to fine-tune itself. If you assume the laws of physics do not reside outside the physical universe, but rather are part of it, they can only be as precise as can be calculated from the total information content of the universe. The universe's information content is limited by its size, so just after the Big Bang, while the universe was still infinitesimally small, there may have been wiggle room, or imprecision, in the laws of nature.At the heart of End of the Century is a bit of retrocausality very much in this vein (though not at this scale). That my admittedly wonky interpretation of physics is being echoed by Davies, at least in part, is very gratifying.
And room for retrocausality. If it exists, the presence of conscious observers later in history could exert an influence on those first moments, shaping the laws of physics to be favorable for life. This may seem circular: Life exists to make the universe suitable for life. If causality works both forward and backward, however, consistency between the past and the future is all that matters. "It offends our common-sense view of the world, but there's nothing to prevent causal influences from going both ways in time," Davies says. "If the conditions necessary for life are somehow written into the universe at the Big Bang, there must be some sort of two-way link."
All Hail the Komodo Messiah
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
That's *my* Batman
As I've said before, there are Superman People and Batman People. But I think it's a bit more complicated than that. Perhaps Superman and Batman occupy opposite ends of a spectrum, and we fall somewhere in between. Because while I'm not usually a big Batman fan, there is a Batman for me, we just haven't seen him in a while.
See, I grew up reading reprints of old DC comics from the forties, fifites, and sixties, whether in the pages of the DC Blue Ribbons Digests, or in hardcover collections, and I pored over encyclopedias like The Great Superman Book (and I greet with excitement the news that DC is starting to reprint the Fleischer encyclopedia series, starting with the Batman volume in just a few months). So even though I was reading comics in the seventies, in the days of the serious Denny O'Neill Batman that others love so much, the Batman I came to know was the one who routinely fought aliens, or travelled through time, or peered into the future to see what his distant descendant the Batman of the Future was doing. This was a Batman who seemed to fight crime because it seemed like a fun thing to do, and who spent a lot of time smiling.
Morrison's first arc on Batman, "Batman and Son", seemed like good, goofy fun to me, even if other's didn't agree. And what I liked best about it was that there were hints, here and there, of my Batman. And if this interview with Grant Morrison is any indication, it looks like we may be seeing more of him again pretty soon.
“I was going to kill the kid [in Batman #658], but I just couldn’t do it,” Morrison admits. “He ends up playing a big role because I really like the character.Batman of the Future. See, that's where I came in.
“Issue #666 [in the summer],” he laughs, “is Damian grown up as Batman of the future fighting the Anti-Christ.”
But it doesn't stop there. Morrison goes on to name check my single favorite bit of Batman-lore, swept under the rug and largely ignored in the last few decades.
From the Batman of the future, Morrison will segue into the Batmen of the past, a.k.a. the Batmen of All Nations, a.k.a. the Club of Heroes, an international team of Batman-inspired heroes who debuted in Detective Comics back in the 1950s.You hear that everybody? The Batman of All Nations.
“To me, it’s just what would have happened if these guys had been around and the stories of them had been getting told all through the ’80s, so they’ve been through deconstruction and reconstruction,” the writer says. “It was kind of neat looking at what could go wrong with Batman. The Italian guy who was a mature type film hero has become this big, fat guy who loves eating and trades on his past glories as The Legionary. The Knight and The Squire are still active but it’s a grownup Squire and The Knight has his own Squire. The Gaucho has become a serious Argentinean superhero who is well respected—he’s the real deal. Wingman, who Batman trained in the past is now really pissed off, and doesn’t want to admit that Batman ever trained him because he wants to make his own way.
Who were they? Well, only the coolest crew of international crime fighters you could find, and everyone of them inspired by the Dark Night Detective himself. Don't believe me? Check it out.
Back in 1955, Batman got together with a bunch of heroes who were inspired by his example -- each with an appropriate bit of localization -- and formed "The Batmen of All Nations."
Who can't love that? An Italian crimefighter called the Legionnaire? A French crimefighter called the Musketeer? A British Knight and a South American Gaucho? I mean, how did they come up with such original characters?
But being a generous sort, Batman didn't hog all the international goodness for himself, and so in 1957 the group was renamed "The Club of Heroes", and Superman was invited to take part in the fun.
(The following year, Green Arrow, no doubt feeling snubbed that he hadn't been invited to join the Club, went off and formed a group of his own, "The Green Arrows of the World." But really, that's just kind of sad...)
In the years that followed, the Batmen of All Nations/Club of Heroes would be largely forgotten. They'd make a brief reappearance in the days following the Crisis on Infinite Earths, a handful of appearances in the pages of Infinity, Inc and The Young All-Stars, but retooled by Roy Thomas and JM Lofficier to remove any reference to the Dark Night Detective (instead, they were a sort of proto-Global Guardians, inspired by the WWII exploits of the JSA). And in the Kingdom Come miniseries, Mark Waid and Alex Ross introduced "The Batmen of Many Nations," a group of future heroes inspired by the present-day Batman, including the Cossack (from Russia), the Samurai (from Japan), and the Dragon (well, you get the idea...). But as nice as these little nods were, they weren't the Batman of All Nations I remembered. Where was the Knight? Where was the Gaucho?
A couple of years ago, there was a little glimmer of hope. Grant Morrison, in the first arc of JLA Classified (which served as a handy prologue to his Seven Soldiers), introduced readers to the new Knight and Squire. The Knight, briefly glimpsed in an issue of JLA Morrison had written a few years before, was revealed to be the Squire who'd palled around with the Club of Heroes in the old days, now grown up, who'd taken over the mantle of his father and predecessor. The new Squire was a cocksure, tech-savvy teenage girl, naturally. Along the way (and right before opening up his "Sci-Fi closet", in which he stored all the wacky gadgets that would upset his friends in the Gotham City Police Department), Batman shares a brief reminiscence with Alfred the Butler about the good old Club of Heroes. Then he hops into his flying saucer and heads off to Pluto.
This was more like it. This was the Batman I remembered.
And now, if that interview with Morrison is to be believed, we're about to see more of him. With the surviving members of the Club of Heroes in tow (though perhaps a bit worse for wear), to boot. I know that Batman-purists probably won't be happy about it, preferring their Caped Crusader a bit more down-to-earth, a bit more street-level. But if it means that Batman is going to hop into his flying saucer, check out the doings of the Batman of the Future, and pal around with the international heroes inspired by his example, all the while with a smile on his face, then I'll happily be along for the ride.
Friday, January 19, 2007
The Knights of Prosperity
The show's worth watching for the opening credits alone, with the Shaft-esque theme song. Couldn't find the opening online, but did find a longer version of the theme song in a music video promo for the series. Recommended for anyone who's been enjoying My Name is Earl, whose audience this is clearly shooting for.
PJF in Starlog
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Spirits of the Upper Air
Jess talked a bit about this early 20C Chinese science fiction (complete with airships and subservient European states) here:
"In this tale, Europe is a Chinese colony and it describes the Chinese government’s suppression of an uprising planned by European "restoration" rebels. The Chinese Emperor orders the generalissimo in charge of Europe, Wen Suchen, to suppress the rebellion with flying warships. Generalissimo Wen not only conquers all seventy-two European nations but continues on to the moon and Jupiter as well. The most marvellous part of this tale is that Jupiter is described as being covered completely with gold and abounding with flora and fauna–the perfect destination for migration. Wen is then appointed Governor of Jupiter. From then on, the means of communication and transportation between Earth and Jupiter is, naturally, by flying ship."If you don't think that I'm going to use this stuff, whether in a Celestial Empire story or elsewhere (and at the moment, I'm thinking it might fit better in The Great Crosstime Airship Race), you're nuts. This is gold!
The story? Lu Shi'e's Xin Ye Sou Pu Yan (1909). A shame it will never be translated--I think it'd make for fascinating reading, if only as a counterpoint to the Victorian colonialist sf.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
New Paragaea Review
Marvelmen, Section Zero, and Me
"Twice I've tried to interest Marvel in series that would feature these monsters and misfits. The first was the Marvelmen— a Challengers of the Unknown-type group who fought giant monsters. The second was a Giant-Man pitch that would have had him involved with adventures so out-there that even his fellow super-heroes didn't believe him— in other words, tall tales (appropriate for a giant, I thought) or Tales to Astonish— and a lot of the stories would have involved the Marvel monsters. I actually wrote and got paid for a plot to the Giant-Man story before Marvel decided it wasn't really their cup of tea.And then, in response to another reader's comments, he goes on to say...
1) The Marvelmen would have had their origins in the early 60s, allowing me to do period stories, but would have also had a modern version of the team. I recycled this approach when Tom Grummett and I created “Section Zero.” As for art— hard to say. I think a lot of artists today would do killer versions of the classic Marvel monsters, and I'd love to see 'em, so maybe there would be some way to set up a comic with a lead story by one recurring artist and self-contained back-ups by a rotating roster. If there ever was a Marvelmen comic. Which there probably won't be.This is interesting to me for a couple of reasons. First, because it prefigures so much that I dig about Agents of Atlas, as well as covering much the same ground as Roger Stern's similar concept "Monster Hunters", which came in between. But second, and foremost, this Marvelmen pitch was clearly the precursor to Kesel's later Section Zero, which he created with Tom Grummett.
2) I created the Marvelmen in 89 or 90. I was trying to ride the coat-tails of Marvel's Monster Masterworks trade paperback, and even pitched the idea to the editor of that book— Marc McLaurin. With the assumption that the only Marvel monster stories most readers would be familiar with would be the ones in that trade paperback, the Marvelmen were characters from stories reprinted there: Lewis Conrad from TABOO, the scientist from SPORR, and Chan Liuchow from FIN FANG FOOM. There was also one MarvelWOMAN, but I created her new since I didn't know of a Marvel monster story where a woman was the hero. (Are there any?)
Section Zero was part of the abortive Gorilla Comics line, and only ran for three issues. At the time, Kesel described the book as "Jack Kirby does the X-Files," and had this to say about Section Zero itself:
The team is led by the smartest woman in the world. Her name is Doc Challenger. She belongs to a long lineage of adventurers. Her right hand man is Sam Wildman, who’s our loveable rogue character. Everything comes effortlessly to Doc Challenger and everything is a struggle for Sam. He can’t walk across the street without getting beat up by ninjas. That’s the sort of life he leads. Adding spice to the relationship is that they are ex-husband and wife. As the series progresses, we’ll learn more about the backstory there. There’s also a childlike alien being named Tesla who has vast, vast, vast powers but, thank God, he only has the mentality of a 6-year-old, otherwise he’d be running the world. We also have a 14-year-old Cambodian boy who has one of those cursed tattoos. You know all about those! If he rubs this bug tattoo on his arm, he becomes a bug boy character for exactly one day, so his name’s the 24 Hour Bug. He gets a big bug head and these big bug arms grow out of his back. Obviously, he’s not really thrilled with this power. It’s not a power that really wins the girls. That’s kinda where we start and we move off from there. There’s a few other members who’ll join the team as the 6-issue mini-series progresses. It’s one of those stories that starts out pretty small. There’s some sort of animal or creature killing sheep in the Australian Outback, and they go to investigate this. But as it often happens in comics, this is a small pebble that creates massive ripples. By the end of the mini-series, nothing is the same.With someone as obsessed with Wold Newton-type stuff as I am, Challenger and Wildman were names to conjure with. The clear suggestion in Section Zero is that Doc Challenger is the grand-daughter of Arthur Conan Doyle's Professor Challenger. And with that being the case, how much of a leap would it be to assume Sam Wildman is some relation to James Clarke Wildman, Jr. (better known as Doc Savage)? There were scattered references to challenging the "unknown", and facing the "fantastic," which served not only to evoke the Jack Kirby series Challengers of the Unknown and the Fantastic Four which served as the comic's inspiration, but also offered the tantalizing suggestion that the Section Zero teams in past decades might have themselves served as the "real world" inspirations for the "fictional" teams Kirby and collaborators depicted in the comics. (That makes sense in my head; does it make sense out in the world?)
In the end, unfortunately, the series only ran for three of the projected six issues, along with a five page preview that ran in another title. And while in those issues we only got the barest glimpse at the backstory Kesel and Grummett had worked up for the team, it was clear fairly quickly that I was reading too much into off-hand references, and that the series would have headed in very different directions than I'd originally anticipated.
So the comic in my head was nothing like the one that I ended up reading. So what? In a writer's world, nothing is wasted, not even idle thoughts. I had just started work on one of the early Bonaventure-Carmody stories, those featuring J.B. Carmody and the team at the Carmody Institute, and as those stories developed, bits and pieces of the thing I'd thought Kesel's book was going to develop into crept in, gradually. I liked the idea of making a character's figurative antecedents his literal ancestors, which is how J.B. Carmody ended up being the grandson of the very-James-Bondish Jake Carmody, the grandson of the somewhat Doc-Savage-like Rex "King" Carmody, and the great-nephew of the vaguely Tarzan-esque Lord John Carmody. The Bonaventure side of the family (the "B" in "J.B.") developed later on, along somewhat different lines. And in short order JB Carmody's story resembled not at all the idea I'd originally had in mind for it, either. And so it goes...
In any event, those few issues of Section Zero had a real influence on me, and I was sorry not to be able to see the rest of the story unfold. And now I'm just as sorry never to have seen Kesel's "Marvelmen" idea come to fruition, either. It sounds like it would have been right up my alley.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
You Need This - Agents of Atlas HC
I'd already decided that, if in the inevitable trade had even halfway-decent extra materials I'd probably be picking it up, just to be able to reread the story from beginning to end without having to scrounge around in my office for the back issues. Well, Marvel has released the solicitation for the hardcover, and there isn't any "probably" about it.
AGENTS OF ATLAS PREMIERE HCYikes! The six issues of the series, with all of the text features, plus the online blogs, and the expected character designs and such, and the original comics from the 50s that introduced the characters, as well? That's a lot of material for twenty-five bucks. Start saving your pennies now, folks, because this one is worth picking up.
Written by JEFF PARKER
Penciled by LEONARD KIRK
Cover by TOMM COKER
The spy. The spaceman. The goddess. The robot. The gorilla. During the late 1950s, the U.S. government allowed FBI Special Agent Jimmy Woo to forge a team of unlikely heroes. Together, they stormed the fortress of a criminal mastermind to rescue President Eisenhower – but the group disbanded soon after. Now, almost 50 years later, an unauthorized S.H.I.E.L.D. mission goes down in flames – and from the ashes arise forces from the Golden Age of Marvel! Collecting AGENTS OF ATLAS #1-6 – plus the Agents’ first appearances in stories from YELLOW CLAW #1 (Jimmy Woo; October 1956), MENACE #11 (Human Robot; May 1954), VENUS #1 (August 1948), MARVEL MYSTERY COMICS #82 (Namora; May 1947), MARVEL BOY #1 (December 1950), MEN'S ADVENTURES #26 (Gorilla Man; March 1954) and WHAT IF? #9 (1950s Avengers; June 1978). Also featuring blogs, creator interviews, character designs and other extras!
256 PGS./Rated T+ …$24.99
Locus Online's The Best SF, Fantasy, and Horror of 2006
Monday, January 15, 2007
To Boldly Go...
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Saturday Morning Cartoons
My favorite is episode two. Gopher dam. Heh.
Episode 1: "Joy Ride"
Episode 2: "Initiation"
Episode 3: "Be Kind, Rewind"
Friday, January 12, 2007
RevolutionSF's What Is Best In Life 2006
Jim Henson's Fantastic World
A production of The Jim Henson Legacy and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, the exhibit will include "puppets, artwork, photographs, production documents, artifacts, props and videos."
Ah, but a closer look reveals that the cities listed above are just the first four of ten stops to be announced. So there's still hope! So keep your flippers crossed, folks...
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Peter Coogan Interview
Will the real Lex Luthor please stand up?
For some reason, for the live-action movies, Superman, Superman II, Superman IV and Superman Returns, Warner Bros neglected every possible valid aspect of Lex Luthor. In these movies, Lex is not a scientist, a businessman or a politician. He's a fop, an opportunist and a jerk. Far from being a genius, he's not even bright. His plans are ridiculous, obtuse and fatally short-sighted. He is, in fact, the opposite of a genius -- he is a man who keeps saying he is a genius. He's a blowhard and a poser, vain and obvious, surrounding himself with morons and sycophants to make himself feel smarter. The Lex of the animated show doesn't have a two-bit hussy and a slobbering idiot in a straw boater for a staff, he seeks out and hires the best and the brightest people in the world (a strategy that sometimes backfires for him when they get wise to his plans for universal domination). What does it say if I'm watching the $200-million-plus Superman Returns and I keep wishing I was watching a cartoon instead?Well, yeah, when you put it that way...
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Do *you* have it?
The Simian Dictionary of Sir Richard Burton
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Avatar: The Last Airbender
M. Night Shyamalan and Paramount are planning their own Avatar, a movie based on the popular Nickelodeon kids TV series, Variety reported.The good news is that a feature film will get more attention on the television series, which is honestly the best secondary world fantasy ever produced for television, and arguably the best bit of worldbuilding done outside of a prose novel. Ostensibly for kids aged six to ten, or thereabouts, the storytelling is subtle, layered, and often astonishingly sophisticated (the first brainwashing sequences with the Dai Li, for example, were as good as anything since the original Manchurian Candidate), and compulsively watchable.
The filmmaker has signed a three-picture deal with Paramount's MTV Films and Nick Movies to adapt the animated Avatar: The Last Airbender show for the big screen. He will write, direct and produce the potential kids franchise. The film version will be live action.
The bad news is that the original showrunners, chief among
them headwriter Aaron Ehasz, aren't mentioned anywhere in this press release, but M. Night "Twist-Ending" Shyamalan is. And, while the television series is a gorgeous bit of animation, with clear inspiration drawn from the likes of Hayao Miyazaki, this feature will be live action. Neither of which are encouraging bits of information.
So this feature may well be a disaster. But if nothing else, maybe it'll pull a bit of attention to the fine work taht Ehasz and crew have been doing on the series. A quick check online shows that the first season (or "Book One", as it's called; another nice thing about the series is that the episodes are structured as chapters in a book, and in one instance even as short stories within a chapter in a book) is available in a DVD set, while the second season is available on individual discs. Order them up, or add them to your Netflix queue, and see for yourself. And try not to worry about how much M. Night Shyamalamadingdong might screw the whole thing up...
Monday, January 08, 2007
Charlotte Hatherley's Behave video
The March of the Emperor
Banana in the Sky
Happy Birthday, Elvis
I've been to Graceland three times -- the first time as a kid with my family, the second time ironically as a recent college grad laughing at the ridiculousness of it all, and the third time as a thirty year old who'd moved past irony into something like respect. I've listened to countless hours of Elvis music (personal favorite, "Viva Las Vegas"), read a bunch of books about the dude (I recommend Greil Marcus's Dead Elvis highly), and seen loads of Elvis flicks (though not as many, or with as much insight, as Todd Alcott has). I even wrote an as-yet-unpublished mystery novel all about Elvis impersonators (entitled, appropriately enough, The King is Dead), and have a pair of Elvis sunglasses in the glove compartment of my care (you know, just in case...).
Elvis was sheer ridiculousness and pure awesomeness rolled up into one. A prodigious talent consumed by his own banality and then somehow elevated to godhood out the other side. There are times when I think that's something to aspire towards....
Friday, January 05, 2007
Venture Bros. goodness
The Season One box set contained interior art of Bill Sienkiewicz rocking it Robert McGinnis style.
The Season Two set, featuring interiors illustrations by Jackson Publick and design by Duke Aber of Williams street, shoots for a 60s lobby card look. Sexy.
As if that weren't enough, there's loads of great Venture Bros. goodness online:
- An episode breakdown, featuring commentary by co-creator's Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick (and once you're done with that, dig through the archives of Todd Alcott's LJ for some really insightful analysis)
- Doc Hammer's deviantART gallery
- Jackson Publick's LiveJournal
- And a trio of Christmas treats, at reduced post-holiday sale prices (ie. free)
- The Monarch & Dr. Girlfriend covering the Bowie & Crosby "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" in 2004Who can't use a little more Venture Bros. in their life, I ask you?
- The Monarch and Henchmen Nos. 21 & 24 doing a take on Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas" in 2005
- The whole gang together for "Venture Aid" in 2006
Thursday, January 04, 2007
The Voyage of Night Shining White
The book has a nifty cover by Tomislav Tikulin, and a terrifically flattering introduction by John Meaney. But what's the story about, you ask?
In an alternate history dominated by Imperial China, the forces of the Dragon Throne control most of the Earth, and now turn their attentions to the heavens. In the tradition of its great fifteenth century admiral, Zheng He, the Chinese Empire constructs a massive Treasure Fleet. But unlike the dragon boats which coursed across terrestrial seas, the ships of this new armada are ceramic and steel, fuelled by nuclear reactors and spun against tethered counterweights to provide a semblance of gravity for their crews. Rather than sailing to open new trade routes to foreign shores, this new fleet sails interplanetary gulfs, to the red planet fourth from the sun, in search of mineral wealth and territorial claims.It's an alternate history hard sf story of interplanetary survival, centered around the platonic love between a Muslim eunuch captain and the ship's physician. How can you refuse?
The least of the ships of the Treasure Fleet is Night Shining White, one of many water tenders. It will be the last to reach the red planet, and the first to return, its hold emptied of precious water and filled with mineral samples and ores to be milled and studied back on Earth. The ship's captain, a eunuch who has sacrificed much in the service of his emperor, has never ventured beyond the bounds of Earth before, much less in command of a ship and her crew.
Before it reaches its destination, Night Shining White's reactor coolant system fails, and the crew is faced with the prospect of a quick death by runaway nuclear meltdown, or a slow painful demise by radiation poisoning. Their only hope of salvation is the captain, but will his inexperience only ensure their demise?
The Voyage of Night Shining White, published in both trade paperback and hardcover editions, is available direct from PS Publishing, and from various online outlets (Clarkesworld, Shocklines, and Camelot, to name just three).
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
SFRevu Spotlights Picacio
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Who's Not Honoring Me Now?
"I would also be remiss if I neglected Chris Roberson’s genre-bending pulp novel, Paragaea. Part SF, part fantasy, part physics, and part pirate novel, Roberson pulled off a nice trick in this one. I’d love to read more about these people and the strange and familiar world."But even more Pyr titles--and loads of books by other friends of mine--appear on the Barnes & Noble Top Ten Novels of 2006, a list I am not on, with freshmen fantasist David Louis Edelman taking the top spot (that rat bastard!). David's eligible for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer this year, folks, so vote early and vote often. (Anyone that attended WorldCon in 2006 is eligible to nominate, though only attendees of the convention in 2007 are able to vote.)
Before Scalzi reminded me of their existence, I'd seen only a brief clip from Muse's "Knights of Cydonia," but watching it again now it's clear that I didn't stick around half long enough (I didn't get to the holographic band in the saloon, much less the female lead decked out like Wilma Derring in Buck Rogers). Check it out, and I'm sure you'll agree with Scalzi about Muse's bonafides.
My personal favorite SF-inspired bit of music video would have to be Blur's "The Universal." There's bits of A Clockwork Orange in here, but beyond any specific reference, it just feels like a future from an earlier era, like yesterday's vision of tomorrow.
And while not properly science fiction, there's something sfnal about Bjork's "Bachelorette," which may be my favorite video of all time. The discomforture of the boyfriend at the play when he realizes what's happening reminds me of Claudius watching the Murder of Gonzago, not in "Hamlet" but in Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. I'm pretty sure the stage direction isn't in the original play, but in Stoppard's filmed version, during the performance of the play Claudius is watching, the character of the king in the dumbshow is shown a puppet show, a bit of isomorphic mapping in which the levels of reflection keep cylcing down. I feel the same bit of queasy unease watching this video, as the characters push further and further away from reality into deeper layers of fiction, the copies becoming more abstract with each iteration.
So what other sf-inspired music videos am I forgetting? Anyone have any particular favorites?