Overwhelmed and yet curious

It’s late in the afternoon as I sit in my office typing this.  It’s snowing, a little, outside, and is bitterly cold.  I’ve spent the lion share of my day driving all over the fucking place, and in a moment I will have to make a phone call that I don’t really want to make, but you know, that’s the price of doing business.

 I saw Jumper over the weekend, and more on that in a moment, I also got an interesting email from an old friend from Highschool late last week, again, more about that in a minute.  I also have almost finished my own read-through of Paradox Magic, and I have to say, perhaps because no one else will, that it is a damn fine book – not perfect, not yet, but really pretty good.  I’m amazed at just how much magic the main character uses and the ways he uses it.  I’m pretty impressed with myself, as you might be able to infer.  Anyway, on to the other things I mentioned.

Jumper was a fun movie.  It wasn’t great, it suffered a bit from a story standpoint, and the motivations were a little wonky, the dialogue was actually pretty good, and the girl from the OC (who played Summer, I’m ashamed I know that) was pretty hot.  The directing and effects were in-fucking-credible!  Teleporting has really never looked so cool.  I was a little dissapointed in Samuel L. but I’m always a little dissapointed in him.  He is cast in movies now so that he can play Samuel L. and doesn’t appear to try to hard to act, particularly not in the pop-corn munching movies I’ve seen him in lately.  His character in this is rather like an evil, although still snide, version of the character he played in XXX, which is just a bit out of place.

Hayden Christiansen was pretty good, and only did his whiny Darth Vader voice for a moment.  As my wife pointed out, he grew up “hot”.  I’m not going to get into my problems with the plot or motivation or whatever, frankly because I don’t want to devote that much time to it, and because if you go to that particular movie expecting perfection in those areas, you’re destined to be dissapointed anyway.  It’s not an art movie, it won’t win any awards for best screenplay or best actor, but it’s not supposed to.  If you want to see a movie like that, well, you were in the wrong theatre.  Like I said, it was fun, and that was enough. 

As for my friend, Andy, and his email.  Andy is an artist, and a damn good one.  He has always dreamed of drawing comic books.  This works well considering one of my life long ambitions is to write a comic book.  So, Andy has been working on an Original Graphic Novel (what we nerd-like people refer to as an OGN, yes, I know, we’re very imaginative) which you can check out at: www.usna.ca, there’s sample art and a brief story synopsis and so on.  Anyway, USNA looks cool, and Andy’s art is looking incredible.  I can’t wait to see the book all done.  And that is sort of what the email was about.  It seems that Andy will be finished his current commitment around about the time that I should be done editing Paradox, and he is looking to colaborate with someone on a comic book project all his own (USNA is in conjunction with his uncle, who wrote the story) and he wants his collaborator to be me.  He had some ideas for the book, and I have “signed on” to flesh out the story and deliver the script.  Can’t talk to much about it yet, but I’m excited to see what happens with it.  Working title (in my head, I haven’t even told Andy this yet) is Ursa.  First chapter working title is “Cold Dawn.”  I will have more to say about this as the months go on.  So, go check out USNA, and then think about the titles.

 That’s it for me, I’ve gotta get out of here.  Later folks,

-m

Harlan Ellison on the WGA Strike

I’m reposting something that Harlan Ellison, sage sci-fi writer and member of the WGAw wrote on his semi-private message board.  I haven’t heard the details of the contract yet, but apparently, he isn’t happy about it.  I respect him as a writer and I’m a huge fan of his work.  I don’t know if it’s as bad as he is making it sound, but I don’t think he’s full of shit either.  Read on if you’re interested. 


HARLAN ELLISON ON THE WRITERS STRIKE SETTLEMENT

YOU HAVE MY PERMISSION TO RE-POST THIS ANYWHERE:

Creds: got here in 1962, written for just about everybody, won the Writers Guild Award four times for solo work, sat on the WGAw Board twice, worked on negotiating committees, and was out on the picket lines with my NICK COUNTER SLEEPS WITH THE FISHE$$$ sign. You may have heard my name. I am a Union guy, I am a Guild guy, I am loyal. I fuckin’ LOVE the Guild.

And I voted NO on accepting this deal.

My reasons are good, and they are plentiful; Patric Verrone will be saddened by what I am about to say; long-time friends will shake their heads; but this I say without equivocation…

THEY BEAT US LIKE A YELLOW DOG. IT IS A SHIT DEAL. We finally got a timorous generation that has never had to strike, to get their asses out there, and we had to put up with the usual cowardly spineless babbling horse’s asses who kept mumbling “lessgo bac’ta work” over and over, as if it would make them one iota a better writer. But after months on the line, and them finally bouncing that pus-sucking dipthong Nick Counter, we rushed headlong into a shabby, scabrous, underfed shovelfulla shit clutched to the affections of toss-in-the-towel
summer soldiers trembling before the Awe of the Alliance.

My Guild did what it did in 1988. It trembled and sold us out. It gave away the EXACT co-terminus expiration date with SAG for some bullshit short-line substitute; it got us no more control of our words; it sneak-abandoned the animator and reality beanfield hands before anyone even forced it on them; it made nice so no one would think we were meanies; it let the Alliance play us like the village idiot. The WGAw folded like a Texaco Road Map from back in the day.

And I am ashamed of this Guild, as I was when Shavelson was the prexy, and we wasted our efforts and lost out on technology that we had to strike for THIS time. 17 days of streaming tv!!!????? Geezus, you bleating wimps, why not just turn over your old granny for gang-rape?

You deserve all the opprobrium you get. While this nutty festschrift of demented pleasure at being allowed to go back to work in the rice paddy is filling your cowardly hearts with joy and relief that the grips and the staff at the Ivy and street sweepers won’t be saying nasty shit behind your back, remember this:

You are their bitches. They outslugged you, outthought you, outmaneuvered you; and in the end you ripped off your pants, painted yer asses blue, and said yes sir, may I have another.

Please excuse my temerity. I’m just a sad old man who has fallen among Quislings, Turncoats, Hacks and Cowards.

I must go now to whoops. My gorge has become buoyant.

Respectfully, Yr. Pal, Harlan Ellison

(this is presumably copyright (c) The Kilimanjaro Corporation)

There you go, all his rants.  Repost this if you like, I think he’s really pissed and wants everyone to know about it.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you, and for those of you who hate this stupid holiday, you can blame Geoffrey Chaucer (yes, that Chaucer) for our romantic entanglements being linked to this Martyred Saint.  You can also blame some stupid American for inventing the mass-production of Valentine’s cards (before that they were just handwritten notes), and most of the other big business involved in the whole thing only dates back to the 1980’s or so, so ignore the chocolates and diamonds and all the other crap we’re supposed to hand out today, if you want to.  The tradition is only 25 years old. 

Anyway, on to other things.  Yesterday was the best day in history for views of this Blog, 10 whole people showed up.  That is pretty fucking awesome.  It’s sad that 10 people makes my day, but it’s better than none.  Whether any of those people come back to read more, who knows?  But at least they were here. 

Got some more feedback on Paradox Magic yesterday as well.  My best friend Troy finished reading it (this doesn’t seem as monumental as it really is, you’d have to know Troy and know that he doesn’t normally read anything, but is really big on Book on Tape (or CD) as he is a truck driver… Anyway).  He really enjoyed the book, particularly the huge fight at the end of the thing.  He had some other feedback and I think still prefers my first book more, he said this one, and I’m paraphrasing here, seemed like too straight a shot from beginning to end, there’s less extemporaneous stuff going on in the background.  Now, that was partly done on purpose, I wanted to write a simple book that was easy to grasp as a whole.  But, I think I may have gone a little too far, so I’m hoping adding the shorts about the magicians and fleshing out the female lead a bit more will help with all of that.  Also, I made a ton of typos (“of” instead of “or” hte instead of the, you know, the usual stuff when you’re typing 80 words a minute for 109,000 words) which really pulled him out of the story, so I have to go back and really watch for that the next time through.  My grandfather (also a writer) and my dad both finished it as well, I’m really excited to see what they think of the whole thing.  Even, and this is huge, my mom started to read it.  She hasn’t read anything I’ve written that was longer than 5 pages in years, decades almost.  I can’t wait for her to get to the bad ass stuff.

Other than that, I’m looking forward to this weekend, Shanna and I are going to see a movie (either Jumper or Definately Maybe), and I think we’re going down to see her parents on Saturday.  We haven’t seen them since Christmas, so it should be a nice visit.

Time to get back to whatever it is I’m doing, see you all on the other side of this darkened tunnel of a day.

-m

Steve Gerber Died…

early Sunday morning (or late Saturday night).  He was a comic book writer, and you’ve all heard of him, or rather, you’ve all heard about his most famous creation, Howard the Duck.  To say he was disheartened to be known chiefly for this (admittedly absurd) creation would be to misunderstand Steve.  He loved the duck, loved him.  He fought legal battles for most of the 80’s trying to get ownership of the duck.  Howard was his voice, he was Steve Gerber, and no one ever wrote him better than Steve did.Howard Runs for PresidentSadly, to the vast majority of people on this planet, if they have heard of Howard at all, he is a joke from a bad movie produced by George Lucas (yes, that George Lucas).  I have to say, I always thought Howard was a joke that I didn’t get, and that’s true.  Howard is as old as I am, and he was written by a man who hit his prime in the seventies.  While I was busy being born Steve Gerber was using an anthropomorphic (look it up) duck to engage in biting social commentary.  In issue 8 of his original series Howard ran for President, and his remarks are as fitting today as they were thirty years ago.  But that’s not why I’m writing this.

I did find Steve Gerber on my own, in something unconnected to the Howard the Duck mythos.  In the mid-nineties Steve wrote a comic called Nevada, about a Vegas showgirl with a pet Ostritch.  It was outrageously funny, and cosmic in scope, and showed that same ascerbic wit that he was famous for.  It was a story that might normally have been set in LA or New York or London, but this one was in Vegas (where Steve lived) and was awesome just for that.  Of course the half naked pictures of showgirls are what got my attention (I was fifteen maybe), but the writing is why I stayed.  Sadly, Nevada never really found the audience it deserved, but I still remember it fondly, and in some unconscious way, I think it may have influenced Paradox Magic, which is even stranger to consider. 

I’m sorry Steve died.  I’m sorry I’ll never have the experience of discovering something new he had written, or reading his blog during the odd bit of downtime I might have.  He was an unsung giant among comic book creators of his generation, deserving of a place next to Dave Cockrum, John Byrne, Chris Claremont (he was way better than Claremont) and the host of writers who have followed him. 

Steve died from complications of pneumonia while waiting for a lung transplant in Las Vegas.  He was a legend he never made (which makes sense if you’ve ever read the real Howard the Duck stuff) and he will be sorely missed.

May he rest in peace, and may his family find some consolation in the knowledge that he touched tens of thousands of people across three or more generations with his writing. 

To Steve…

-m

Gong He Xin Xi

Welcome to the year of the Rat. 

I have been doing a lot of research into classical Chinese Tao mythology of late, even watched Crouching Tiger again last night, and since this is Chinese New Year I thought I would tell you all why.

When Shanna read Paradox Magic she told me she wanted to know more about the characters that make up the magic council (of sorts, it’s never called that in the book).  To facilitate this I had to figure out who they were.  Shiang (in the first draft) is actually going to be Lu Dong Pin, one of the 8 Immortals of Taoist tradition, because he works the best and is the best known of those mythological figures.  This cleared up a couple problems I had with some of the later story bits, and also means I can start to do a couple of the edits that I knew needed to be done. 

For one thing, I am going to write a short story style introduction to each of the seven characters who make up the council.  For Lu Dong Pin that meant figuring out who he was, and what he is described as doing.  For the record, he was a dragon slaying mystic with a magic sword or jian, who achieved enlightenment after turning his back on his noble class family and chose to follow one of the other immortals around.  He was also a drunk and a womanizer, who did not want to die until he had helped every human on the planet to achieve enlightenment.  So much of this resonates with the rest of the text of Paradox Magic that is is perfect.  I love when stories like this come together.  I’m going to write the first draft of a story about Lu Dong Pin tonight, and go over where to put it into the text later, while I’m revising the rest of the story.

For the record, all the other magicians ***SPOILER ALERT*** will be as follows:

Book – Merlin
Jack – John Dee
Crowfeather – Raven
Medici – this is the only one I don’t know yet
Blackstorm – Is a bit of an amalgam of English Faerie stories
Shiang – Lu Dong Pin
The Ancient – well, you’ll figure him out, really.  He has no direct ties to existing characters, but is an archetype in and of himself.

At some point in the book each of these characters will have a short story about them, something that makes them more than just cardboard sitting around a seven sided table.  Book’s is going to be cool, I have most of it figured out already, and Jack’s is going to explain how the Royal Sorceror to Queen Elizabeth I becomes the raving madman we see in the book.  At some point the idea that magic costs more than it is worth will be brought out in each of these stories, more to make a thematic point than anything else.  I’m going to try to ape the style of storytelling that would have been common in each of the character’s native cultures.  So Lu Dong Pin will read like a Chinese fable, while Book will read like a bit of Arthurian Legend, and so on. 

What I’m not sure about is how these stories will fit into the overall context of the book.  I don’t want to just stick them all in at once, making some strange glob of non-productive text in the middle of the story, but I don’t want to just put them in at random either.  Those of you who are reading the thing, if you have any suggestions, let me know. 

Anyway, that’s it for now, I’m off to write some short stories, I’ll let you know how it goes.

-m

The Yiddish Policeman’s Union

Alright, did you miss me?

I did more stuff this past weekend, then I think I have in the last two weeks put together.  I finished Yiddish Policeman’s Union, by Michael Chabon, and I have to say, although it was not as good as Kavalier and Clay, it was still a good book.  The last ten pages or so are a bit of a let down, as everything gets resolved and yet unresolved, but that is hardly the worst thing I could say about a 400 page novel.  For most of the book I was engrossed in the characters and the action, and was pulled through the book.  I found the first 50 or so pages a bit of a struggle, but after that it was a lot of fun. 

I have to respect Michael Chabon, if for no other reason then he is a serious writer (read: gets critical praise) who writes incredibly beautiful sentences and is still invested in writing a page turner.  He doesn’t shy away from genre fiction, doesn’t feel it needs or warrants the stigma that the term brings to mind, and that is a thought that makes me happy.  I like genre fiction (although I hate that term), I like plot.  I’m a very plot oriented writer.  I want to immerse myself in a world and feel myself pulled into the action.  I look for writers who mix an affection for plot and genre with the ability to write very interesting language and compelling dialogue. 

That’s what writers like Neil Gaiman and Michael Chabon bring to the table.  They have innovative and interesting ideas, they’re writing about more than just the story they are telling, but the story is still set at the center of it all.  They don’t shy away from writing “genre” fiction, which is good, neither do I.  What I would like to know is at what point did writing science fiction or fantasy or detective fiction or hell, even romance novels become something less than writing general fiction?

I know the standards set for these idioms are somewhat more lax than one might like, hell, I can’t stand most of what passes for fatasy fiction these days, for every George R. R. Marting there are thirty hacks who can barely comprehend English, let alone write it.  And don’t even get me started on Harlequin Romance or the rest of that dreck.  But just because it’s a genre doesn’t mean it has to be bad, does it?  Frakenstien was science fiction before there was such a thing.  John Wyndham and George Orwell wrote science fiction, but it wasn’t called that at the time, it was “Post-Apocalyptic Fiction” or some other ridiculous term that means science fiction but doesn’t have the same stigma. 

So, what do you think?  Is the fact that the overwhelming majority of a given genre is crap mean that the genre itself is crap?  I don’t think so.  I think it makes the gems sparkle all the brighter for surpassing what is expected.  Are critics unfair towards sci-fi fantasy?  Of course, but really, who gives a fuck about the critics?  Does any of this rant change anything or mean anything at all?  Not really. 

Yiddish Policeman’s Union is the latest in a long series of gumshoe detective novels that started with Mickey Spillane and Raymond Chandler and continue even now.  Doesn’t mean it’s a bad book, but does mean that we might need to rethink our own prejuidices against certain types of stories. 

Here is your mission, should you choose to accept it, and as always, you have no choice.  Tell me what you think about any of this.  Tell me what book you think is mis-classed at your local big book store.  Tell me what romance novel you thought was actually worthwhile, what science fiction yarn used the potential of the idiom to transcend that very idiom.  Tell me what books you like, and why, and why they are just as deserving of awards as the latest slice of life semi-autobiographical girl learns the true meaning of life, “fiction.”  Tell me what to read after I’m done with Spook Country (already started) and after I’m done editing the crap out of my own book.

Go forth and bring me new things to read that don’t get the press they deserve.

-m