Wednesday, March 28, 2007



Okay, I'm out the door in the next few minutes to head to Toronto, and this year's World Horror Convention. If you'll be there, you can most likely find me somewhere drinking.

I'll be back next week, bleary eyed and fatigued.


John McCain Supports Gay Marriage

This is awesome.

The folks behind John McCain's MySpace website had their hand virtually slapped for using an image file lifted from someone else's server this morning when the guy they were lifting it from (Mike Davidson, the CEO of NewsVine) decided to teach them a lesson by replacing the image with an alternative one.

NewsVine designed the free MySpace template that McCain's campaign was using. NewsVine allows anyone to use the template, as long as they use their own image files and give NewsVine credit. McCain's campaign didn't do either.

The new image read, "Today I announce that I have reversed my position and come out in full support of gay marriage...particularly marriage between passionate females."

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


At Loose Ends

Tomorrow I leave town for Toronto and the World Horror Convention, having just returned home on Sunday night from a three day "camping" trip to Oklahoma with Georgia and the extended Roberson clan ("camping" here being more poetic than anything, since we got to bed down every night in airconditioned cabin with running water and a fridge). Georgia stayed home from preschool yesterday, getting over a bug or forest allergy gunk or similar, and tomorrow's pretty much a write-off, spent packing and getting things in order to leave town for six days, before driving to Dallas to drop Georgia off with my folks, so that Allison and I can board a plane at the crack of ass o'clock on Thursday morning to head for Toronto. So today I had to myself, to do... What? Well, I caught up on email, for one. Looked at my notes and materials for Iron Jaw and Hummingbird, which I'll be plowing into next week. Looked at my notes being about the extent of my involvement with project today, since there didn't seem much point in working up a head of steam for only a few hours work.

Instead, I went to three different bookstores looking for Diana Wynne Jones books, and came home with the second Chronicles of Chrestomanci omnibus, Howl's Moving Castle, and Deep Secret, all of which I'll be taking on the plane on Thursday, along with Margaret Cheney's Tesla: Man out of Time. I've read three of Jones's books since last week, and I'm on a serious Jones bender. I'm trying to figure out how it is I've never read her before, but glad that I've finally started. The Chrestomanci stuff is great, hitting a great many of my buttons (alternate history, parallel worlds, etc), and is really influencing the development of The Pursuit of the Lily Stargazer in unexpected ways.

Speaking of Lily Stargazer, I've just about worked out that the black hats (or at least the obvious black hats) will be Commandant Gallowglass and the crew of the Fuliginous Wraith, an airship. And at the end of the story, when Jim Taylor, Lodestar Sara Jewel, and the neuter Seer Carnadine IV escape from Gallowglass's clutches after seeing the plans for interdimensinoal conquest that the spy Aleister stole from the Flying Cathedral, I'm thinking the airship Wraith will explode quite impressively. But maybe not.

Monday, March 26, 2007


Marshall Rogers RIP

Newsarama is reporting that comic artist Marshall Rogers has died at the age of 57. Along with Jim Aparo and Neal Adams, he was one of the seminal artists on Batman in the 1970s, and was my personal favorite of the bunch.


Venture Bros. Season Two DVD teaser

Check out the teaser for the Venture Bros. Season Two DVD that was screened a few weeks back at the New York Comic-Con. Pure awesome.


Stardust trailer

The "official" trailer for the forthcoming Stardust flick, based on Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess's illustrated novel of the same name, is online. I remember quite liking the story when I read it years ago, but don't remember many of the details. This trailer, though, makes the movie look terrific, and I think this may merit a rare trip out to the theater for us, rather than waiting for the DVD. Really promising.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Codex Seraphinianus

Eddie Campbell points out that someone has posted the entirety of Luigi Serafini's Codex Seraphinianus on Flickr. What's the Codex Seraphinianus? I didn't know either, but I'm wondering how I went this long without hearing of it. Here's John Coulthart's description of the Codex from his essay on the topic:
"The Codex Seraphinianus is unique in placing its invented world centre stage and, even more uniquely, purporting to be a product of that world itself. Its creation seems the inevitable result of a trend of fantasy writing that delights in invention purely for its own sake, particularly invention that goes to great lengths to seem authentic or authoritative, academic even. The great precursor here is Borges’ short story ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’ which relates the invention of a Britannica-style encyclopedia describing with the greatest detail and authority a completely fictional world. Typically for Borges (as for Harrison), the story is also a commentary upon this kind of invention, as well as the effect it can have on our “real” world—for Borges and Harrison reality is more mutable than people like to think. Luigi Serafini takes the whole game a very difficult step further, by creating a complete work which describes his own fictional world in detail, with numerous colour illustrations and the whole written in a completely invented language and alphabet."
Looks like print copies can be had here, and I'm strongly tempted to pick one up. This stuff looks fantastic.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Masked Avenger Studios

Searching for something else entirely, I stumbled upon Masked Avenger Studios, and just lost half an hour digging through their designs. Pure awesomeness. And check out their blog for more recent work.

The design work and the comic stuff are all terrific, but it's the sculptures that really zing. This is a personal favorite:

How cool is that?


Destination Prague

Big Finish has posted the cover and TOC of their forthcoming Doctor Who anthology, Short Trips: Destination Prague, edited by Steven Saville. This was something of a childhood dream come true, getting to write an adventure of the Fourth Doctor and Second Romana, and involved going back and watching loads of terrific Tom Baker episodes as "research."



Happy Persian New Year, folks.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


A Hard Day's Night of the Living Dead

Pure awesome...


Napoleon's Conquest of England

Jess Nevins has found another gem.

How awesome is this?
A French painting, circa 1805, of a potential invasion of England. France is on the left, England on the right.

A few things to note: the troop-carrying balloons, the manned war-kites acting as aerial defense, and, of course, the Channel Tunnel, dug by the French and giving infantry, cavalry, and artillery access to England.

In all, a rare case of early 19th century painted science fiction.
Too early historically to be part of The Great Crosstime Airship Race, but I think it'll likely be somewhere in the backstory of Capitaine J. Verne.


Batman versus Superking

(via) Now I realize what society is missing, and can never have.

A team-up between Adam West and Andy Kaufman, facing off against Jerry Lawler. Can't you see it?

Here's what YouTube has to say about this clip, if it isn't self-evident.
A possibly inebriated Batman (Adam West in cowl and sweats) visits the WHBQ studios in Memphis while in town for a boat show or something. He's there to confront the EVIL King of Memphis, Jerry Lawler, who comes out dressed as Superking.


Catch Up

Yesterday felt very strange, the first day I didn't do anything on End of the Century in a long, long time. I spent yesterday catching up on correspondance and such, read a bit, and then today reviewed the copy-edited manuscript of the expanded Set the Seas on Fire, reviewed the page proofs on a cool thing I don't think I can mention yet, and got back up to speed on Iron Jaw and Hummingbird, which is mostly written and completely outlined, and which I'll be finishing the next few weeks. Figured out a few more cool things about The Pursuit of the Lily Stargazer in the car, stuck in traffic after picking Georgia up from school (finding a way to slot two more half-ideas from other notions into the plot, and discovering that they fit nicely).

I've been switching gears from one project to the next, which usually involves reading quite a bit in a short amount of time. So yesterday I finally had a chance to sit down and read all of Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls, which was every bit as strange and transgressive as I'd anticipated. Then, inadvertently grinding my mental gears, I read Diana Wynne Jones's new novella from Firebird, The Game (I thought for sure I'd read some of Jones's stuff years ago, but looking over her list of published works, nothing is ringing a bell, which means I might have confused someone else's novel as hers), which I thought was a charming little story, sort of a mash-up of Zelazny's Amber stories with Robert Holdstock's Mythago stuff, with something of the flavor of Madeleine L'Engle. Having recognized another gap in my education, this afternoon at Half Price Books I picked up the first of Jones's Chrestomanci books, Charmed Life, and started reading it during my walk, and I'm digging it so far.

Okay, I'm off to make Georgia's dinner. Dinosaur nuggets tonight, I think.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Bloglines Blues

There's a scene early in Charles Stross's Accelerando in which Manfred Macx loses his future-glasses, and with them access to his email, schedules, software agents, et al. He essentially gets effective amnesia, unable to remember any of the things he had his agents and applications remembering for him.

I feel that way today. Bloglines hasn't updated my feeds in several hours, and I suddenly can't even remember what blogs I read, much less where to find them. Yeesh...

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Batmen of All Nations

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.

That's *my* Batman.

Written by Grant Morrison
Art and cover by J.H. Williams III
The Batmen of All Nations reunite for a weekend of fine food and nostalgia, but an unexpected visitor has other plans for the gathering. Batman, Robin, and the rest of the Club of Heroes find themselves trapped and at the mercy of a dangerous madman on the Island of Mister Mayhew!
On sale June 27 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US


The Mindscape of Alan Moore

Man, check out the gorgeous design and art that John Coulthart has done for the forthcoming Mindscape of Alan Moore DVD release.

Friday, March 16, 2007



Amid over at Cartoon Brew points to a new trailer for Pixar's forthcoming Ratatouille, which has footage not seen before now (and Chinese subtitles, to boot). For the first time, I get what the film is about.

It's Cyrano de Bergerac, but with cuisine being the object of affection, instead of Roxanne. The talented but ugly (and not exactly hygienic) rat must team with the more acceptable but talentless chef, their strengths complementing one another's shortcomings. Brilliant.


New Doctor Who

Here's a little good news for you Doctor Who viewers.
The BBC Press Office have released details for the first episode of the upcoming third series, confirming that it will be broadcast during the week beginning 31st March.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


The Frog Princess

(via)Honestly, I am unjustifiably pleased by this news.
The Walt Disney Co. has started production on an animated musical fairy tale called "The Frog Princess," which will be set in New Orleans and feature the Walt Disney Studio's first black princess.

The company unveiled the plans at its annual shareholders' meeting in New Orleans.

John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Disney and the Disney-owned unit Pixar Animation Studios, said the movie would return to the classic hand-drawn animation process, instead of using computer animation that has become the industry standard. He called the film "an American fairy tale."
We're big Pixar fans out our house, but through introducing Georgia to the classics we've rediscovered our love for the cell-animated masterpieces that made Disney great, from Snow White and Cinderella through to the renewed vigor of the nineties with The Little Mermaid, Beauty & the Beast, and so on. The fact that in their upcoming pisstake on the fairy tale princess genre Disney had to subcontract the brief 2D animated opening to an outside firm, having fired all their own animators, was a real disappointment. The announcement that Lasseter is bringing Disney back to what made them in the first place is incredibly heartening.


You Need This - Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight

This is simple. If you've watched Joss Whedon's seminal Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, you need to pick up the new Dark Horse Comics series. It's scripted by Joss Whedon, and picks up right where the final broadcast episode of season seven left off (hence the series name, "Season Eight"). Dark Horse has previews of the first few pages online. The first issue is out this week, and isn't as good as I expected. It's better.

Now, if you haven't seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer, what the hell is wrong with you? Go get the DVDs, watch them all, compulsively, over the course of a few days (stopping along the way to watch the equivalent seasons of Angel), and then go read the comic.

Honest, I resisted watching Buffy for years, largely because of mistaken conceptions about what it was, based on the name and other factors. I was hugely wrong. It really is one of the best things ever. (And, for my money, Angel is even better, but that's the topic of another post.) If you've denied yourself the pleasure this long, you're in for a real treat, if you'll only give up this needless resistance.


Senator Biden's Plan

On the floor of the Senate yesterday, Senator Joseph Biden spelled out what he feels is wrong with the president's strategies in Iraq, and what he plans to do to fix it. Short answer: "Federalism"


RevolutionSF on Mark Finn, Redux

Oh, it also appears that RevolutionSF has reviewed Mark's Blood & Thunder, extremely favorably.


RevolutionSF on Mark Finn

Now RevolutionSF is getting into the act, with their own interview of Mark Finn. And yeah, he talks about that Robert E. Howard guy some more.

I've told Mark that I think there should be a Mark Week every year, just like Shark Week, but with Finn instead of fins. What do you say, folks?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Alex Toth Rocks

I'm just saying.


The Day's Progress - Wednesday Edition

End of the Century, she is done. I have only to do a last read through, check for any last typos or gaffs, number the chapters and send it off to my long-suffering editor, who's been waiting for this thing since the end of January.

Zokutou word meter
166,388 / 166,388

Longer than I'd expected, but not as long as I'd feared. It is longer than my last two novels combined, though, which is some kind of accomplishment, I think.

No samples. Too many spoilers.

I'm off to have a glass of wine and watch Rome.


Chang’e 1

If it was a snake, it would have bit me.

How did I miss the fact that the name of the "Lady in the Moon" in Chinese mythology, whose namesake is the new Chinese lunar orbiter, is "Chang’e" or "cháng é" (嫦娥)? It isn't pronounced just like the English word "change" but sure as hell looks the same on paper, doesn't it?

I'm going to be using this somewhere. Sucks that my rule for Celestial Empire stories is that all the proper names are translated into their English equivalents ("Fragrant Harbor" for Hong Kong, and so on). Of course, come to that, as near as I can tell "cháng é" translates as "The Beautiful Cháng", so maybe there's some juice there, after all.


Field Rider

I think this is a fascinating idea.
Future spacecraft may surf the magnetic fields of Earth and other planets, taking previously unfeasible routes around the solar system, according to a proposal funded by NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts. The electrically charged craft would not need rockets or propellant of any kind.

Mason Peck of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, US, has received a grant to study the idea, which is based on the fact that magnetic fields exert forces on electrically charged objects.

He says a satellite could charge itself up in one of two ways – either by firing a beam of charged particles into space, or simply by allowing a radioactive isotope to emit charged particles. The charged satellite would then be gently pushed by Earth's rotating magnetic field, enabling it to change orbit and even escape to interplanetary space.
I tinkered around with electrodynamic tethers early last year, trying to work out a near-future space survival story using them, but couldn't make it come together to my satisfaction, and end up shelving it unfinished. There's a lot about these "field riders," as the article calls them, that's similar in concept.

The only problem with this, from a fiction standpoint, is the amount of time involved.
Tethers may prove hard to control, however; and both tethers and sails would have to be huge – measuring at least 20 to 30 kilometres, says Peck. "We're proposing something much lighter and smaller." He thinks he can get similar performance with a stocking about 2 or 3 kilometres long, and because it could be made from lightweight carbon fibre, it would have a mass of only a few kilograms.

The force it produces would be far too low to actually launch a spacecraft through the atmosphere – that would still be the job of a conventional rocket. After reaching orbit, his present design would be off to a slow start, taking about a year to escape the Earth's gravity.

But once away from Earth, the field rider could travel to its natural home: Jupiter, which has a magnetic field vastly stronger than Earth's. Peck suggests future missions to Jupiter could use its field as a brake, reducing the mass of propellant needed and saving money.

Jupiter could also be used as a staging post for the rest of the solar system, since a spacecraft could in theory make sharper turns using the giant planet's magnetic field than it could with a simple gravitational slingshot.
A year to escape Earth's gravity? Yikes! Won't be zipping off to Jupiter and back in your field rider for a quick vacation, I shouldn't think...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


The Day's Progress - Tuesday Edition

Okay, really close to the end now. Unfortunately, the next few scenes promise to be extraordinarily difficult to stage-manage. Yeesh. At this rate, it'll probably be Thursday before I'm done, unless tomorrow turns out much more productive than I'm guessing.

Zokutou word meter
156,580 / 150,000
No sample today, since everything in today's writing would be too spoilerific.

No, I lie. There is one bit I can share, but it doesn't really give a feel for what the rest of the chapters were like. But it does show a bit more how Alice's pop-culture soaked mind works.
This looked like the scene where the two characters who have been growing closer to each other, all along, finally bond, trapped together in a confined space for a long amount of time. This looked like that scene, but it wasn’t. Alice and Stillman were in the closet, in the dark, for long hours, but they weren’t Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole in a closet in How to Steal a Million, or Loni Anderson and Frank Bonner in an elevator on WKRP in Cincinnati, or John Ritter and Don Knotts in a meat locker on Three’s Company. They were a teenage runaway epileptic and a self-professed former spy who lived in a hole in the ground.

Alice realized that they might just have discovered all of the common ground they were going to find. There might not be any more possible avenues for connection. The gulfs that separated them—in age, in experience, in temperament—might be insurmountable, after all. There was no way of telling.


Liam Lynch's This Town Sucks

It turns out I've been a Liam Lynch fan for years, but it took a visit to his IMDB listings to discover it for myself. I watched Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny last night for the first time, loved it (naturally), and then watched the supplemental stuff. The director, Liam Lynch, was responsible for MTV's Sifl and Olly Show, directed Tenacious D's "Tribute" video, loads of other videos, Sarah Silverman's "Jesus is Magic" concert film, and loads of other stuff I've enjoyed over the years.

Oh, and he's a musician, too.

Visit his website for loads more goodness, including his cover of the Doctor Who theme (mp3 link), among many others.


IROSF on Mark Finn

The Internet Review of Science Fiction has just posted a lengthy interview with my pal Mark Finn. (It's free, but registration is required to access.)

Gee, do you suppose he'll mention that Robert E. Howard guy at all...?


Bender's Big Score

Terrific news, for everyone who doesn't hate goodness.
Starting in 2008, 16 new episodes [of Futurama] are being produced which will also be turned into four direct-to-DVD movies. The first --FUTURAMA: BENDER’S BIG SCORE -- will be released December 2007.
There's more goodness in the interview.

Monday, March 12, 2007


PW on the Shade

Publishers Weekly has done a terrific piece on our pals at Nightshade Books, Jason Williams and Jeremy Lassen. Rock on, guys!


The Day's Progress - Monday Edition

Monday's are always a little sucky, and today was no different. The writing was easy enough, but when it was all said and done I'd finished far less than I thought I would. I think it's just getting up to speed after the weekend. My nightmare schedule would be writing every other day, going fallow in between. I don't think I could work that way. As it is I don't write for weeks or months at a time, outline like crazy, and then write at a white-hot intensity for a short amount of time. I'm on day one of week eight of this project, and just crested 150K. That makes this novel not only the longest thing I've ever written, but nearly as long as my last two projects combined. And it's almost done. I swear!

Zokutou word meter
150,602 / 150,000
I'm coming down to the finish line on this one. I've got all the pieces on the board and have been knocking them over, one at a time. Today I got Stillman and Alice into the Glasshouse, and I'm about to lay all the cards on the table. It looks like it wouldn't be unreasonable to assume I'll finish by Wednesday or Thursday at this rate. A handful of short scenes interspersed with a few long ones, and that'll be that.
It was late afternoon, Monday. The Corvette SS was safely back in the inconspicuous garage above, and Stillman and Alice were down in the derelict Underground station, digging through antique electronics that hadn’t been cutting edge since before Alice was born. And this was what Stillman wanted to use to help them break into Iain Temple’s Glasshouse.

Stillman hooked up a computer the size of a car motor to an electrical outlet, and then balanced an ancient monitor on top, the white plastic of the casing gone sickly yellow with age. Fishing a loop of phone cabling from a filing cabinet drawer, he plugged one end into a modem the size of a typewriter, and spliced the other into a thick bunch of cabling that snaked along the wall.

There was more than just antique electronics in the storage tunnel. While Stillman swore beneath his breath, trying to bring the ancient computer back to life, Alice picked around through the confusion of odds and ends piled haphazardly all around, idly.

There was what looked like a rifle, but at the end of the barrel was a kind of dish, like a satellite receiver, and from the stock hung a cord connected to a bulky metal box, with straps so it could be worn like a backpack.

“Enfield Sonica,” Stillman said, when Alice held it up for inspection. “Sound weapon. Fires concentrated bursts of sonic vibration.”

Alice returned the contraption to the pile. The next thing she picked up looked like a flare gun, a bit bulky pistol, but had rammed into the barrel what looked to be a miniature collapsed umbrella with its fabric missing.

“Ah, harpoon pistol.” Stillman nodded. “Fix a line and it can be used for grappling. Hand on to that, will you, love? Might come in handy.”

Alice shrugged, and tucked it into the pocket of her leather jacket, handle first. Next she picked up a silver disc. It was about two feet in diameter, a couple of inches thick, and surprisingly lightweight. It shone like silver, untarnished and unmarred. On the back was a loop of the same material, evidently a handle of some kind, though a bit wide for Alice to hold comfortably.

“Don’t know what that one is, actually,” Stillman said, mopping beads of sweat from his brow. “Back in ’67, they were rebuilding Mark Lane station—they called it Tower Hill by then—and put about that they’d destroyed the last remains of the old Tower of London station. Which, as you can see”—he waved his arm, indicating the tunnel—“wasn’t exactly the case. More like the old station was more heavily fortified, and wired up to the new communications grids.” He bashed the thick bunch of cables on the wall with a wrench. “Anyway, when they were doing the tunneling, they dug up some old bits of Roman pottery, some stuff that dated back to the time of Boudica, and that disc you’re holding. The MI8 boffins never were able to work out who’d made it or when, out of what materials, or for what purpose. Couldn’t be cut by diamond or laser. Odd that, mmm?”

Alice shrugged, and tossed the disc over her shoulder, to land clattering on the pile behind her. “You about finished with this stuff, yet, or what?”

Stillman grinned. “As a matter of fact...”

He stabbed a rocker switch on the front of the monitor, and the screen buzzed noisily to life, green letters dimly visible on the grey-black background.

“Now,” Stillman said, cracking his knuckles like a concert pianist. “Let’s see what we can find out about this Glasshouse, shall we?”


AI, Attorney at Law

Lou Anders sent this little gem, found on Wired.
A web-based "expert system" that helped users prepare bankruptcy filings for a fee made too many decisions to be considered a clerical tool, an appeals court said last week, ruling that the software was effectively practicing law without a license.
My question is, how would a bit of software get a license, anyway?


Work in Progress meme

I thought I'd trot out that "work in progress" meme that everybody is doing.

Turn to page 123 in your work-in-progress. (If you haven’t gotten to page 123 yet, then turn to page 23. If you haven’t gotten there yet, then get busy and write page 23.) Count down four sentences and then instead of just the fifth sentence, give us the whole paragraph.

As I haven't yet shuffled the three threads together, there are actually three page 123s in the current w.i.p., End of the Century (well, two and a half...). Here they are.

From "Twilight":
“Nothing,” Gwrol finished for him. “It was as though we passed through nothing.”

From "Jubilee":
“You’ll have to forgive our rude manners,” Blank said, and presented one of his calling cards. “My name is Sandford Blank, and this is my companion Miss Bonaventure. We are consulting detectives, assisting the police on a matter most grave.” The barely audible thrum pulsed beneath his words, to no apparent effect.

From "Millennium" (though actually page 23, as I'm not yet to 123):
No choir of angels. No pink light striking her forehead and imparting holy wisdom. No flock of ravens and no gem and no mysterious guy with the ice-chip blue eyes. No fate, no destiny, no message, no meaning.


Ark II

Okay, look at this, a writeup about the 1930s Anartarctic Snow Cruiser.

Here's a cutaway...

Now, tell me that isn't this...

I have inordinately fond memories of this show, but I tried watching an episode a few years ago on a grainy VHS tape, and was profoundly disappointed. I've just discovered that it's out on DVD, though, so maybe I'll lower my expectations, have a couple of drinks, and get it from Netflix. I mean, come on! It's about a team of young scientists and their superintelligent chimpanzee, who roam around a post-apocalyptic wasteland, dropping science on everyone they meet. And a rocket belt! What's not to love?

Sunday, March 11, 2007


The Bathroom Sessions

I love me some Barenaked Ladies. Thanks to Elizabeth Bear, I now know there's even more of them to love.

Check out the dozens and dozens of clips the band has posted to YouTube, the most recent of which are the "Bathroom Sessions," Ed Robertson in a bathroom with an acoustic guitar. On this clip, he gets a little help...

Pure awesome...

Saturday, March 10, 2007


The Pursuit of the Lily Stargazer

Well see, now I'm torn. A few weeks ago, I called my shot, and said that the next project I'd start after finishing The Dragon's Nine Sons would be Firewalk, an urban fantasy of sorts. Then today, while watching Georgia play with the trains at the Barnes & Noble this afternoon, a number of half-ideas slotted together in my head to make one idea, and suddenly Firewalk has competition. This one would be a YA, while Firewalk would be for an adult audience (but not, you know, adult...), so that might be a mitigating factor. I'm not sure. I won't reveal too much about it now, but in the interests of shot-calling, I will share the title.

The Pursuit of the Lily Stargazer
The Great Crosstime Airship Race

being an account of journeys
through space and time
by James Bellerophon Taylor, Esq.

How's that? Too short?

Friday, March 09, 2007


Human Jumbotron

(via) Don't be surprised if this image shows up in Iron Jaw and Hummingbird (not the specific North Korean propoganda, but the idea of humans as pixels in a giant display). Watch to the :40 mark to see what I'm talking about.

Oh, dang. "Embedding is disabled by request." Alright, then, make with the clicky.


Burton's Batman in Five Seconds

(via) It is what it says.


The Day's Progress - Friday Edition

A fair amount of ground covered today. I'd have been stoked to do another six hundred words and end the week at an even 30K in five days, but it just wasn't in the cards.
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
145,060 / 150,000

Today's sample is from the early part of the day's writing, since the later sections are all too spoiler-heavy. In today's thrilling episode, the narrative paraphrases Bob "Bobcat" Goldthwait in Savage Steve Holland's One Crazy Summer, one of the finest movies ever made.
There was always one kid, in every grade school class, who called their teacher “Mom.” It seemed an inescapable fact of life. And that they would then be known as "the kid who called the teacher Mom", for the rest of the school year.

Alice hadn’t been that kid, but she’d sat next to him once, and had joined in with the others in teasing him mercilessly.

She hadn’t thought of that kid in years. But when she opened her mouth and almost, but not quite, called Stillman “Dad,” she couldn’t help but remember him.

“What’s that, love?” Stillman was fixing them breakfast. To get a proper start before they hit the road, he said.

Alice had just been about to ask him something about their plans, but every memory of what’s she’d been about to say was driven from her memory as soon as she uttered the “Da-“ syllable. She thought about playing it off, calling him “Daddio” like some hipster doofus from fifty years before, like Marty McFly in Back to the Future, but didn’t have the heart to try.

“Nothing,” Alice said, shaking her head.


A World of Supermen

One of the first MonkeyBrain Books titles was Matt Rossi's Things That Never Were, a genius collection of little gems, each of them packed with ideas, as dense as the heart of a neutron star. I think the book probably deserves the status of "cult classic." While a steady seller, it hasn't sold as much as some of our other titles (though far better than some), but it seems everyone who reads it raves about it. Myself included.

Rossi's still out there, though now in the wilds of Canada, as I understand it, and still dropping science on us, from time to time, on his livejournal. Like today, when he unzips his forehead and lets spill some genius thoughts about the importance of Superman in Earth's history and future.
Was just making a post over on Seebelow when it occured to me that one of the most interesting implications of the Morrison run on JLA was that Superman is affecting the morphic resonance of the entire human race; that by being present on Earth, the last son of Krypton has fused the Kryptonian morphogenic field to that of the Earth. We know that a morphic field is, in effect, a kind of 'conceptual web' that surrounds and infuses everything, from a housefly to a rock to a thunderstorm. The morphic field of 'rock' and the morphic field of 'mountain' would be interpolated because mountains are generally made of rocks, although one could have a mountain of ice (and in this fashion the morphic fields of 'glaciers' and 'mountains' interpolate). Borrowing a concept from David Bohm we're left with the implicate and explicate orders, the backstage of reality where all ideas and concepts exist in timeless simultaneous interpenetration. Introjecting into the explicate, the world we all live in with its time and its space, these interpenetrating ideas interact with each other and create inter-relations that then feed back into the implicate... events in the now creating interrelations that existed before they happened.

Now, as a result, Superman's existence on Earth has created an interpenetration between Krypton and Earth, between Kryptonian and Human, and this interpenetration introjects back into the implicate palimpest that underlies and supports existence. Because in the 20th century a Kryptonian would exist on Earth, at the dawn of time the morphic field for 'kryptonian' and the one for 'human' are already interpenetrated, interpolating one another, informing one another. It's possible that Kryptonians look like Humans because of this. Furthermore, it's possible that humans are becoming more like Kryptonians because one is among them, like a solution shocking into crystals because a seed crystal was dropped into the mixture. The convolutions of continuity aside, Superman's arrival on earth changes the reality set, it casts shockwaves fore and aft in time. A son of Colu would love a kryptonian in the future, so a robot spawn of Colu steals a city from Krypton in the past. A Daxamite strikes a god with his burning eyes in the future, and that selfsame Daxamite is cast into limbo to live long enough to see it.

Comes the Superman, and the world changes, and changed to herald his coming. A cop dies and God raises him up again. An orphan refuses to accept his pain and loss. An isolated island of Amazons finally chooses a champion to challenge the outside world, one carved out of clay. Train lanterns burn with emerald fire, a man outruns a bullet, a tomb opens and Order comes forth in a golden helm. A dead prince learns to fly again. Shockwaves, forward and back as the implicate order is etched with a new pattern and that pattern bleeds, and every single human being born on this little blue and green ball orbiting a yellow star is now linked inexorably to an order of being that evolved on a titanic ball of rock just shy of stellar mass orbiting a star so weak it was almost burned out.

To fight Mageddon, the Purple Ray touched our morphic potential, and what did it find? It found a world of Supermen. By coming here, the son of Jor-El changed us, and by being sent here, he changed them. And not just us and them: even down to our very worlds, our weather systems, our biospheres, everything. There is a morphogenic field for every one of those individual things, and each links to the others, and now all of those fields and super-fields are linked across the inky vacuum of space and the void of time by the simple act of an immigrant traveling from that world to this one. In the implicate order, the concepts of 'Krypton' and 'Earth' and all their attendent subconcepts interpolate and are introjected, now sisters, into the explicate. By sending his son here, Jor-El was sending a leaf cutting, a seed, an arc in microcosm.

Krypton is our future, and we are Krypton's future.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Superhero on TCJ's Best of 2006 list

Peter Coogan's Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre, made it onto The Comics Journal Best of 2006 list, selected by Kent Worcster.
Finicky, dogged and stubbornly indifferent to historical context, Peter Coogan has nevertheless written the best book to date on superhero precursors, supervillain archetypes and the crucial distinction between superheroes and mystery men.


The Day's Progress - Thursday Edition

A bit of a slog today, cramming a lot of information into a very small space, but I managed to get all of the clowns into the car in the end, and they're not showing signs of popping out just yet.

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138,969 / 150,000
I'm having to resist the temptation at this point to include all sorts of superfluous backstory and frippery that's not relevant to the story at hand, since I'm moving into parts of the story which touch on much bigger parts of my fictional universe, but which are of only incidental important. The perfect example is Bureau Zero, the secret agency of the US government tasked with handling all of the not-natural stuff. They're featured briefly in Cybermancy Incorporated, and are a major part of a forthcoming Bonaventure-Carmody story that's so far only in a notional state. But they're useful in End of the Century only as a name-check, and little more. Then there's the Elizabethan occult secret agency, the School of Night, and their operatives Lord Strange's Men, later known as the Strangers. The Strangers are kinda mentioned in "Jubilee," but only indirectly. So in a pocket history of matters occult, Stillman Waters name-checks both of these other agencies, but beyond mentioning that Bureau Zero got its start as part of the American Post Office Department, and that their offices are still located beneath the Old Post Office Building in Washington, he doesn't go into further detail.

But oh, I wish he could...
“So let me get this straight. Not only are there ghosts and ghouls and monsters and such, but there are secret agents who keep tabs on them?”

“Well, not precisely, love, but that’s the general gist of it, I suppose.”

“And the secret agents got their start eavesdropping on Nazis' phone calls?”

Stillman laughed, and took a sip of his coffee. “You think that’s bad, you Yanks have your own bunch who muck about in the dark corners, but they were originally part of the Post Office!” He set his coffee cup down, and took a long drag of his cigarette. “My hand to god, if you believe that sort of thing. The offices of Bureau Zero are still under the old Post Office Building in Washington.”

Seeing Alice’s expression, Stillman crushed out his cigarette in the ashtray he’d dug up, and continued, somewhat more seriously.

“Look, don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about fantasy here. What I’m saying is that there is often a verifiable phenomenon behind supposed supernatural occurrences. If you dig deep enough into myths and fairy tales and legends, like as not you’ll come up with something really going on back there that doesn’t fit with the everyday view of things. And it is supernatural, but only in the dictionary definition of a realm or system higher than nature. There are worlds beyond this one, love, other planes of existence that sometimes intersect with our own. And it’s guys like me who see that those intersections don’t mean curtains for the rest of you.”

“And it was the Nazis that discovered this, I take it?” Alice was sobering by the minute, but finding this no easier to swallow.

“Well, no. That is, they did, but others already knew. See, there’s always been guys like me, standing at the borders. Back in Queen Elizabeth’s day there was the School of Night, John Dee and that crowd, that had worked it out from first principles. They had their own agents, Lord Strange’s Men, who came to be known as the Strangers further down the line. There’s your Bureau Zero over in Washington, who’ve been knocking about since the early 1800s. The Soviets had a mob of them, as did the French in the old days. As did the Chinese. There’ve never been too many, you understand, on-the-job mortality being pretty high in this business, but we’ve always been around.”

“So why don’t people know about this stuff?”

“Well, it was my job to see that didn’t, wannit? Which isn’t to say that stories don’t leak out, here and there. But most people just believe what they want to believe, so it’s pretty easy to pass off a projection from a faster universe as swamp gas, or a probe from another continuum as a weather balloon, if need be.”


Why I don't watch Heroes

I’ve just written a long-winded, self-important rant in email to Lou Anders and Sean Williams, and figured I might as well inflict a version of it on you nice people, as well.

It began innocently enough with Sean asking me and Lou what we thought of an element of the most recent episode of Heroes.

Now, what you may not know about me is that I don’t watch Heroes. I watched the first episode, and quickly decided it was Not For Me. I thought the writing was sloppy, the ideas half-baked, and the plot extremely poorly worked out, among other sins. (I’ll give just one example: Just what time is it, anyway, when a mother in America is getting her kid ready for school in the morning, and the Japanese office worker who’s paying her online to take her clothes off in front of a webcam is at work with the sun shining outside? Hmm?) Other people liked it? Fair enough. To each their own.

But it didn’t stop there. See, everybody on the planet is watching this show, it seems. Everyone in my family. All of my friends. It sometimes seems that everyone whose blog I read is following it, too, posting comments and reviews about the most recent episodes every week. And lots of people I know have been after me to watch it (Finn, I’m looking at you), pointing out that the pilot wasn’t all that great but that the show got better as it went along.

Back to my email. In this innocent exchange, Lou happens to mention this fact, and reminds me that I’ve watched other shows that had not-so-great pilots but went on to be watchable. To which I responded with this long-winded, self-important rant about Heroes and Lost and television series in general.

And, because I’m convinced that everyone simply has to know about my every stray thought, I’m quoting the relevant sections of the mail here.
Enterprise had much more than just a stinky pilot. It sucked for a *long* time until it got good. The difference there was that I stopped watching it after the first few episodes for the same reason you did, but years later happened to watch the *last* episode, just to see the franchise put to bed, and it was AMAZING. [NOTE: I'm actually referring to the next to last episode here. I like to pretend the last episode didn't happen.] So there I knew that despite a rocky beginning, the show found its feet and ended up terrific. We went back and watched from the beginning, knowing there'd be a pay off at the end.

Now, we did something similar with Babylon 5. Both Allison and I had watched early episodes and stopped watching quickly, though she held out much longer than me (this was before we met). Years later, after hearing everyone bang on about how great it was for so long, we decided to give it a shot, and watched through to the end. Now, again, that's a show that was pretty damned rocky at the beginning, had some consistent flaws throughout, but got better, only to end on kind of a shaky note. It was a show where the *point* of us watching was the over all arc, not the individual moments. And the first few seasons were not so great, the middle seasons were good, and the last season was not so great.

When JJ Abram's Alias started a few years ago, I said at the time that it was either genius or a pile of shit, but I couldn't tell until I saw how things worked out. As it happens, it was a pile of shit, but it took all the way to the LAST episode to find out. It was a show driven by the big, underlying secrets, and in the end, it turned out that the show runners didn't have a fucking clue.

I'm still watching Lost, because so far the series gives every indication that the runners know exactly what's going on. A lot of viewers are complaining that the secrets are being revealed too slowly, but I think on the level of the individual episode it's one of the best things on, in terms of character and writing, and when the secrets *are* gradually revealed, they're internally consistent.

Now, if someone had told me years ago that they'd peeked into the future and seen that Alias *was* a pile of shit after all, I'd have happily stopped watching it. I wasted hundreds of hours on that tripe, thinking it would all make sense in the end. Similarly, after watching at least two or three seasons of Smallville past the point I should have stopped, I'd love to be able to go back and save myself the trouble.

X-Files is famous for being a show that hinted a deep, big mysteries that its show runners weren't equipped to deliver on. Again, show that I didn't watch at first, got dragged into by everyone banging on about how great it was, then gave up in disgust when it became clear it was a pile of shit. Hundreds of hours wasted.

Here's my current philosophy on such things. If a show that appears to trade on big mysteries doesn't, from the first episode onwards, have a) terrific writing, b) great characters, and c) clear evidence of a well-thought out and internally consistent structure, I'm likely going to give it a pass. BSG is a show that trades on big mysteries, and met all of those criteria at the beginning; if the (c) category had been as shaky when the show originally aired as it is now, I might well have stopped watching, but as it stands (a) and (b) are still good enough to keep me watching. Lost hits all three marks, dead center, and so I keep tuning in. What soured me on Heroes immediately was that the writing in the first episode was embarrassingly bad, I didn't find any of the characters original or compelling, and the hints at the big mystery weren't enough to sell me on the idea. So I gave it a miss.

I'll make you Heroes viewers a deal, everybody I know that's been trying to get me to watch it. If, years from now, when Heroes finally wraps up and airs its final episode, the consensus among viewers is that the showrunners *did* know what they were doing all along, and the mysteries when revealed are internally consistent and clever, all along the way, then I'll get the DVDs and give it a shot. But at this point I'm hedging my bets, and taking it on faith that, like Alias, like X-Files, like Smallville, et cetera, et al, that when its said and done there'll have been some good episodes, maybe even good parts of seasons, but in the final summation the shows will have ended up closer to the shit end of the scale than genius. I'm happy and willing to be proved wrong, but I'm not going to invest the hundreds of hours to find out for myself. I'll let someone else be the canary in the coal mine!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Puppet Up! Online

The Muppet Newsflash is reporting that Puppet Up!, the Henson Company's terrific improv comedy troupe, is doing new segments that TBS will be hosting on their website. Hurray!

Check out the show page for info, or go straight to the videos. (The website is kind of screwy, and seem to be doing a number on my browser, but with enough time everything opens as it should.) There are two sketches posted now, and new material will be posted every Wednesday, 30 sketches in all.

Okay, I'm off to watch puppet improv.


The Day's Progress - Wednesday Edition

Another good day. Laid in almost all that remains of Alice's backstory, except for a reveal further down the line, brought the talking raven onstage, and introduced Stillman Waters. Got to the part where he explains the secret history of occult spies in the 20th Century and decided it was time to call it a day.

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132,924 / 150,000

(Shh. No one tell my editor, but I just had to nudge the goal-posts out a little more. But I don't think it's going to end up much longer than 150K. Honest!)

One of the nice things about writing something more or less in the modern day, as I mentioned yesterday, is getting to use contemporary references. I wanted to get across that Stillman Waters looks like Michael Caine, at about age fifty. Solution? Simple. I just say he looks like Michael Caine. Problem solved...
Alice ran as fast as she could, but given how drunk she was, it probably wasn’t very fast. She wasn’t sure where she was going, didn’t even know what she was running from, just that she had to get away.

She rounded the corner at the end of the street, and plowed right into somebody.

Whoever it was that Alice had run into was surer on their feet than she was, since they were still standing when she rebounded and fell sprawled on the pavement.

“Hey, watch it!”

Alice looked up from the pavement, breathless. There was an old man standing over her. Old as in fifty, not one hundred.

“You okay, love?”

The guy looked like Michael Caine in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, but talked like Michael Caine in Hanna & Her Sisters. Naomi had always had a thing for the actor, and Alice must have seen every one of his movies growing up.

The guy reached out a hand to help Alice to her feet, and she couldn’t help but think he looked familiar somehow, beyond the resemblance to her grandmother's favorite actor.

Alice looked at his proffered hand like it was a dead fish.

He chuckled. “Don’t worry, love, I won’t bite. Trust me, you’re not my type.”

The guy pulled Alice to her feet, and she got a better look at him. He looked a little less like Michael Caine than she’d though. He was wearing a gray suit that had seen better days, his shirt open at the collar with no tie, and over this a ratty looking trench-coat.. Blonde hair gone to gray, a week’s worth of beard on his chin. But his eyes. His eyes, they were the color of the iceberg in the nighttime shots of Titanic, ice-chip blue.

Ice-chip blue eyes.

“Still waters,” Alice said, scarcely above a whisper.

The guy narrowed his eyes, and regarded her with surprise and suspicion. “Yeah, my name’s Stillman Waters. Who told you that?”

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Little Pitchers

Over the weekend we were tooling around in the car, listening to Lily Allen's new album, when we realized that Georgia was in the backseat singing along with the chorus to "Alfie", word for word. If we hadn't been wearing seatbelts, we'd have fallen out of our seats laughing.


The Day's Progress - Tuesday Edition

Getting up to speed. This last section is the easiest going, which is as planned. The other week I was moaning to my editor Lou about having to look up references for everything in "Jubilee," and couldn't describe what a character was wearing without checking out sites on Victorian fashion to make sure that I wasn't making some anachronistic gaffe.

Now, I'm writing about a girl from Austin who goes to London in 2000, and if I want to say that she's wearing a Ramones t-shirt and jeans, I can just say "Alice was wearing a Ramones t-shirt and jeans." I don't need to cite sources, or try to figure out when the brassiere was invented (as early as the 1880s in France, if I recall correctly, though not commonly adopted until the early 20C). At most I need to check to see whether the pop culture references in the narrative are anachronistic, but then I just need to visit IMDB and I'm through.

It's bliss...

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126,285 / 140,000

Covered a lot of ground today, including bringing Roxanne Bonaventure onstage for a brief appearance. The story doesn't really begin in earnest until tomorrow, when the ravens start talking to Alice and Stillman Waters comes on stage. This first 10K words is basically just setting the stage, and gradually introducing Alice and her backstory.
Alice’s arrival at the London Eye was something of an anticlimax. If she’d been expecting the heavens to open up and a host of angels to descend, she was disappointed. Not that she had, of course. But still, something a little dramatic would have been nice.

Instead, she’d stood in one line to purchase her ticket—seven pounds, or about eleven dollars American—and then gone to stand in another line to wait her turn. And waited. And waited. And waited.

It was some hours before her turn came around at last, hours of shuffling forward slowly, with a pair of German tourists in hiking boots and brightly colored t-shirts in front of her, bandanas tied jauntily around their necks, and a group of London schoolchildren behind her, kept in line and more or less in control only by the sheer force of will of the teachers who were with them, one at either end of the group, merrily carrying on a conversation at the top of their lungs over the shouting of the kids, pausing occasionally to bark reprimands at this kid or that for cutting up, or for stealing each others action figures or whatnot. Finally, she mounted the ramp that zigzagged back and forth, carefully watched over by a guy in a uniform, but Alice couldn’t tell if he was a cop or a security guards, not that it mattered. Then she and the German tourists and half of the school kids, accompanied by one of the teachers, where ushered into one of the glass-and-steel pods. They looked less like pillbugs up close, and more like some impossibly large lozenge. But more distressing was the fact that the things didn’t stop moving. The wheel kept on turning, slowly but inexorably, and as the pods slid by the deck the doors opened, the people onboard jumped off, the people waiting on the deck jumped on, the doors closed, and the pod climbed back up into the sky.

Now Alice started to worry about falling. There was maybe an inch of daylight visible between the edge of the deck and the pod, so it wasn’t likely that she could fall through, but if anyone could manage to do, it was Alice. Maybe she’d suddenly shrink down to the size of the action figure between one step and the next, and find herself plummeting through the gap and out of sight. She’d fall into the green-grey waters of the Thames, and that would be that.

But she didn’t shrink to the size of an action figure, and she didn’t fall through the gap, but jumped onboard the pod, and when the door slid shut behind her she finally started breathing again, and her pulse started to slow, if gradually.

Then the wheel turned, and the pod climbed into the sky.

Alice thought about pictures she’d seen in books of medieval engravings of the wheel of fate, which never stopped turning. In the pictures there was always a king sitting at the top, thinking that he would never fall, and some poor bastards being crushed underneath. But the pictures also showed that some schemer was on the side of the wheel heading up, and some unfortunate soul was on the other side heading down. The lesson of the wheel was that it kept on turning, no matter what, and that today’s king could be tomorrow’s poor bastards crushed underneath. Which meant, by analogy, that Alice was on the way up, right? So what happened when she reached the top of the wheel? And, more worrying, what happened when she started to come down again?

As it happened, she needn’t have worried. Nothing happened, not going up, not at the top, not coming back down. It took half an hour for the wheel to make a complete revolution and the pod door to slide back open again at the deck, but in all that time, all Alice could see was the city of London. And the German tourists and the half-complement of school kids with their teacher. But mostly London.

No choir of angels. No pink light striking her forehead and imparting holy wisdom. No flock of ravens and no gem and no mysterious guy with the ice-chip blue eyes. No fate, no destiny, no message, no meaning.

The German tourists were first off the pod, eager to soldier on to some other tourist destination, and the teacher had to struggle to herd all of her charges off the pod. Alice was the last onboard, standing at the edge of the pod, watching the deck slip slowly by. The people running the Eye kept shouting at her to step off and onto the deck, pointing urgently at all of the passengers waiting on the other side of the deck to get on, but Alice found herself frozen, unable to move.

Was she not on a mission? Not for god, or the Queen of Faerie, or space aliens, or future super computers? What if she didn’t have some special destiny, but was only a mixed up eighteen-year-old runaway who was off her meds, confused and alone in a foreign country?

In the end, two of the attendants stepped into the pod, gently but firmly took hold of Alice’s arms, and dragged her off onto the deck, just in time for the rest of the passengers to get onboard. The attendants told Alice not to worry, as they ushered her back to the ground, saying that it happens from time to time, that people get a bit locked up trying to get off the wheel. But Alice knew better. She wanted to tell them that just as the wheel of fate never stopped spinning, no one could ever get off, not really. No one got off alive. But she was pretty sure that they wouldn’t understand.

Monday, March 05, 2007


The Day's Progress - Monday Edition

Lost a few hours of work this morning to taking Georgia to the pediatrician (another ear infection, nothing serious), and then another hour to figuring out things like what the weather was like in London the last week of June, 2000. But after breaking for lunch I was able to dive right in, and wrote the first 4K words or so of "Millennium", the last section of End of the Century.

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119,912 / 140,000

Thursday of last week I went through and fleshed out my outline for "Millennium," and then on Friday I did a bit of research and then spent a few hours at a coffee shop, trying to work out the last couple of problems with the plot. Around three-thirty on Friday afternoon, the skies opened up and an inspiration particle hit me like a ton of bricks (with apologies to Terry Pratchett), and I realized that there was a simple and elegant solution to both problems that also improved my epilogue a hundredfold, and gave me resolutions for the arcs of two characters that previously had just kind of shuffled off stage at the end, unresolved. I suddenly switched over from "Oh, god, this isn't working" to "Hey, this could work!", and I got really excited about where things are going.

Today I started writing "Millennium" in earnest. This last section is set in 2000, and is for all intents and purposes the modern day. Having adopted a kind of rough hewn prose for the "Twilight" section of sub-Roman Britain, and a more baroque and somewhat florid style for the "Jubilee" section in Victorian London, I'm going for a much looser style in these modern sections, as will be apparent.

Today's sample is the opening scene of "Millennium." It is what it says.
The guy behind the counter wouldn’t stop giving Alice the stink-eye.


“Alice Fell.” Like it wasn’t on her passport, right there in his grubby mitts.

“And how old are you, miss?”

“Eighteen.” Again, like it wasn’t there in black and white.

The guy pursed his lips and nodded, looking thoughtful. Alice got the impression he thought she was lying, but really, who would lie about being eighteen? Only a sixteen year old. If you were eighteen, and looked it, you’d lie about being twenty-one. At least you would in the States. But then again, the drinking age in England was eighteen, wasn’t it? So maybe he had a point.

“And is this your luggage, miss? All of it?”

As if he found it difficult to accept that she’d just gotten off a transatlantic flight with no luggage but a ratty little nylon backpack with an anarchy symbol drawn on it in ballpoint pen. She nodded, trying not to giggle. She’s just realized who his accent made him sound like, and found it funny to imagine Sporty Spice with a bristly mustache working the immigration and customs counter at Heathrow Airport.

“You’ve just arrived on Temple Air flight 214 from New York?”

Alice nodded.

“Anything to declare?”

Alice had to actively resist the temptation to say “Nothing but my genius,” like Orson Welles or whoever it was had done. Oscar Wilde, maybe? But then, she wasn’t really much of a genius, so maybe she’d have been better off saying “Nothing but my angst” or something equally self-aware and mopey. As it was, she managed to resist the impulse altogether, and just muttered “No” while she shook her head.

“May I look in your bag?” He said it like it was a question, but Alice knew that if she answered anything but “Yes,” she’d be turned right back around and put on a plane back to the States. So she played along, and nodded.

Here was what the guy pulled out of her backpack, which presently represented everything Alice owned in the world:

A deck of playing cards, wrapped in duct tape.

A library bound copy of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Loooking Glass, stamped property of Grisham Middle School, Austin, TX. (She’d stolen the book from the school library when she was in the eighth grade, but she wasn’t sure what the statute of limitation on library theft was, or what sort of extradition policy Austin ISD had with the United Kingdom, anyway, so she kept the fact that the book was stolen property to herself.)

A trade paperback edition of Mark Twain’s Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc.

A copy of the 2000 edition of Frommer’s London From $85 a Day (shoplifted from the Waldenbooks at Lakeline Mall which, again, Alice failed to mention).

Two t-shirts, one pair of denim jeans, three pairs of socks and three pairs of undergarments.

Two packs of Camel Light cigarettes, one opened and one unopened.

An antique silver match holder, or “vesta case,” engraved with the initials “J.D.” and a stylized dragon’s head, containing thirty-two wooden matches.

A wallet containing an American Express credit card, an ATM card, four hundred and fifty-two dollars in American bills, and seventy-two cents in American coins.


A Ziploc bag containing various toiletries, including toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant.

A half-dozen tampons.

A Diamond Rio 500 Portable mp3 player, with headphones.

Three spiral notebooks, one completely filled, one partially filled, one entirely empty.

Four Uni-ball Vision Micro roller pens, all with purple ink.

A vial containing 125 mg doses of divalproex sodium, brand-name of Depakote, an anticonvulsant, prescribed to an Alice Jean Fell of Austin, Texas.

That, along with the clothes she had on—leather jacket, blue jeans, eight hole Doc Martens, and black Ramones t-shirt—was all that Alice owned in the world. And her nose-ring, she supposed, if someone wanted to get technical. And the ink in her three tattoos. And the platinum filling in her left rear molar.

“Reason for your visit to the United Kingdom, miss?”

Alice shifted her gaze away from the mustached Sporty Spice, trying to think of a convincing lie.


The truth was, she was on a mission from god. Or she was completely batshit crazy. There wasn’t much middle ground. But she was pretty sure that neither answer was likely what Sporty Spice wanted to hear, and that either answer would greatly diminish her chance of walking through the door and getting on with it.

Alice looked up from the counter, and with a smile, said, “Pleasure?”

Sporty Spice narrowed his eyes, pursing his lips again, making his bristly mustache stand out at all angles.

Alice was sure that the guy thought she was a drug mule or something like that. As if any drug mule worth their salt would show up to the airport with a nose-ring and dyed-black hair, less luggage than most kids carried to a regular day at high school, stuffed into a backpack with the word “FUCK” scribbled in purple ink next to the carefully wrought anarchy symbol. Wouldn’t she be better off wearing a sign around her neck that said, “Please give me the full body cavity search, I’m carrying drugs,” and cut out the middle man?

An eternity later, the guy pulled out a little stamp, carefully lay Alice’s passport on the counter, and after stamping it a couple of times handed it back to her.

“Enjoy your visit, miss.”

Alice stuffed all of her junk into the backpack, slung it on her shoulder, and moved on before Sporty Spice had a chance to reconsider.

She breezed by all of the tourists and businessmen wrestling with their heavy luggage, or waiting around the carousels at baggage claim. She fished her sunglasses out and put them on, and stepped outside. It had been one hundred degrees outside and sunny when she left Austin, the day before. Here, it was sixty degrees at most, about as cold as it got at night back home, this time of year, but just as sunny.

Alice pulled a cigarette from the half-empty pack, and lit it with a match from the silver vesta case her grandmother had given her, just the week before. Last week, she’d been Alice Fell, the girl from that accident no one liked to talk about, finishing up her junior year at Westwood High School, watching her grandmother die by inches.

Now, she was all by herself in London, and she was on a mission.

That, or she was completely batshit crazy. The jury was still out...


Another Man's Treasure

Todd Alcott has posted a terrific analysis of the plot of The Empire Strikes Back, which is inarguably the best of the Star Wars series, and arguably the only good movie of the bunch. (I have a lot of affection for the original Star Wars, but I don't know how much of that is nostalgia for having seen it at the age of seven, and nothing to do with the flick itself; when I watch the flick, I can't get out of my nostrils the plasticky smell of the lightsaber toys that Mattel released the following year, little flashlights with colored filters over the lenses that attached to opaque plastic tubes.)

After Alcott has reminded you just why ESB is such a great film, consider this.
"George Lucas, giving the award to Sid Ganis, who was the in-house publicist on Star Wars: Episode Five - The Empire Strikes Back, said, 'Sid is the reason why The Empire Strikes Back is always written about as the best of the films, when it actually was the worst one.'"
Really, that's all you need to know about why the Star Wars frachise has gone so wrong since 1980. Lucas thinks it was the worst of the bunch, and that the publicist that was responsible for the film's high regard. Why couldn't he have said this years ago, and saved all of us the trouble of even watching the three prequels?

Sunday, March 04, 2007


NYT on Lasseter

Today's NYT has a great writeup on Pixar's John Lasseter, now running the show over at Disney.

Friday, March 02, 2007


Steampunk Magazine

Warren Ellis points to an interesting new PDF periodical, Steampunk Magazine. The first issue is available for free download (and a dead tree version can be had for $3), and contains an interview with Mike Moorcock, among other offerings. I've only had a chance to read the editorial and a bit of the rest so far, but what I've seen has definitely piqued my interest.


The Girl Hawk

I'm pretty sure that Brass Goggles has just pointed out a new crewmember for The Great Crosstime Airship Race, my as-yet-unwritten steampunk multiversal answer to Those Daring Young Men in their Flying Machines that I've mentioned a time or two: Hélène Dutrieu!

Ms Hélène Dutrieu was a Belgian (and later French) speed cyclist, stunt cyclist, stunt motorcyclist(!), automobile racer, stunt driver(!!), wartime ambulance driver, director of a military hospital, journalist and world famous pioneering aviatrix, known as “Girl Hawk”.
More about Mme Dutrieu here and here.


The Prince of Atlantis

Speaking of holes at the bottom of the ocean, in the latest installment of his regular "Comic Urban Legend" column for Comics Should Be Good, Brian Cronin explains that Marvel Comics' Prince Namor was orginally intended as a tie-in to an aborted movie serial.
Ronin Ro describes the situation in his book, Tales To Astonish: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and the American Comic Book Revolution.

In 1936, Republic Pictures answered the successful Flash Gordon serials by launching a serial series called Undersea Kingdom, which told the tale of “Crash Corrigan” taking a “rocket submarine” to the lost city of Atlantis only to become caught up in a civil war.

Columbia Pictures decided to answer this by having their own serial (in Technicolor!) called The Lost Atlantis, which would features as one of the plots a surfaceman falling in love with Atlantis royalty, with the two having a son, who would star in his own spin-off serial called The Prince of Atlantis.

Eventually, though, budgets could not be worked out, and the series was cancelled before the serial ever aired. However, one of the marketing ideas for the comic was to have comic book artist Bill Everett create a comic book serial to tie in to both serials.

Everett did so, and the comic was printed into a promotional giveaway comic called Motion Pictures Funnies Weekly.

However, once the movie was cancelled, so was the giveaway book. Until 1974, most everyone thought that Namor’s first comic book appearance was in Marvel Comics #1, but that very same story appeared in Motion Pictures Funnies Weekly!
It occurs to me that many of the Golden Age characters of Timely Comics (later Marvel) were much more sfnal than their contemporaries at the other houses. The Human Torch was an android, Captain America was the result of scientific experimentation, and Namor was a member of a hidden subspecies of humanity. This at a time when many other heroes got their powers from magic rings, helmets, and belts, or had them granted by supernatural forces like gods or hidden lamas or such (with aliens like Superman and heroes who got their powers from drugs, such as Hourman and the original Blue Beetle being notable exceptions). Come to that, in Marvel's Silver Age the only heroes who have anything that might not be considered sfnal origins are Thor (whose "divine" origins were later given a science fictional spin when the Asgardians were revealed to be merely extradimensional aliens) and Doctor Strange (but there again, his "magic" was involved with trucking with powers in other dimensions and realms of existence, and could conceivably be explained as interaction with spacetimes of differing physical laws). I think that's largely why Marvel's new Ultimates line works so well, which treats all of the characters and concepts as science fiction; they play a little fast-and-loose with Thor, giving the reader the equally valid interpretations that the character really is an Asgardian god, or that he might just be a complete nutter with a high-tech hammer.


Unreal Landscapes

Check out this amazing series of digital photographs of the Chinese landscape, any one of which seems more at home in some imagined sf/f world than the other side of the planet from where I'm sitting.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Don't Piss Off Marshall Brickman

Michael Berry points out this terrific letter to the editor by Marshall Brickman, who co-wrote "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan" with Woody Allen, and wrote and directed "Simon" (a personal favorite), responds to an interview with the gentlemen who has directed a play cowritten by Brickman, who may just have taken a little more credit than was his due...
We can finally put to rest any lingering doubts about who is responsible for the success of our little offering, "Jersey Boys," currently at the Curran Theatre. It is, of course, the director. Le spectacle, c'est lui. I see him now, goose quill in hand, fingers raw, eyes bloodshot from his tireless restructuring of our 72-page "idea."

Would that I had known him years ago so he could have restructured the screenplays for "Sleeper" and "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan" and "Simon" and "Lovesick" and "The Manhattan Project" -- they might have won awards and gained some critical acclaim. Or instructed William Shawn in the proper restructuring of my New Yorker pieces.


Sherlock Holmes, Nexus of Fictional Worlds

Over on No Fear of the Future, Jess Nevins has posted an astounding bit of deductive reasoning to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Sherlock Holmes is the hub around which all fictional universes turn. I'm in awe.


Hole in the Ocean

A few weeks ago it was announced that an underground ocean straight out of Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth had been found. Well today I read that scientists have discovered a huge hole at the bottom of the Atlantic. What are they going to find down there? Atlantis? Hell, no. Pellucidar, brother.

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