Saturday, July 31, 2004

More on Apocalypse

The revisions continue at a steady pace. I'm finding that I'm having to recast certain key sequences to maintain consistency between the old and the new. Nothing too terribly taxing, but the process is taking a bit longer than I'd hoped. A sampling:
At once the Martian started forward again, more purposeful this time. Its broad wingfins carried it smoothly forward with continual undulations. It stopped less than half a meter from Jönis, extending its puckered trunk out like an offered hand. It gloop glooped softly at him, encouraging.

Jönis shuddered. He shifted the buckyblade with his fingers, wondering if the Martian might bleed to death with a simple puncture. Or did they have blubber? Could the blade reach deep enough to draw blood?

Now Playing: Modest Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition

I think it's el chupacabra!

Lots of fun going on in Elmendorf this week. Elmendorf being a tiny town southeast of San Antonio. It seems that a rancher started losing a bunch of chickens to predation, and shot this critter:

Mangy coyote or mythic sucker of goats?

In the first San Antonio Express-News article on this pressing issue, one federal wildlife biologist dismisses it as a coyote with mange:
Wildlife biologist Brian Mesenbrink, with the San Antonio office of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, saw the pictures and declared it was a coyote with mange.

Mesenbrink said the Elmendorf area has a heavy concentration of coyotes.

"The mange is caused by parasites that infest the skin of the coyote and end up killing it," he said. "I know the Elmendorf area has a lot of coyotes and I am pretty sure that's what it is."

But that thing doesn't even remotely look like it has coyote bone structure. And it's only 20 pounds, which is very, very small for a coyote. It looks more like an unholy Dr. Moreau cross between a possum and a kangaroo. I'll give him the mange, though. That's mangiest looking thing I think I've ever seen. My first thought when I saw it was "That's a chupacabra!" And you know what? Chupacabra is so much fun to say and to write, I'm gonna stick with it no matter what anyone else says.

Of course, it gets better. In an Express-News follow-up story, speculation runs rampant on the creature's true identity. One fellow insists it's a coyote-hyena hybrid. One kid thinks it's a blue duiker. Now, while I'll grant that there is a certain deer-like quality to this thing's appearance, and primitive cervids do indeed have tusks, this most definitely isn't a duiker, muntjac or any other small deer or antelope species. It has toes, for one thing, where deer and antelope have hooves. And they don't eat chickens, either.

This is such a melon-scratcher that MUFON is showing interest. Locals say it's the biggest excitement to hit Elmendorf since the Alligator Man shot himself:
According to legend, Ball, also known as the "Alligator Man," kept a pond of seven pet alligators near his tavern. When workers at his tavern began disappearing, townsfolk speculated he had killed them and fed their corpses to his alligators.

"When he was called in for questioning he pulled out a gun and shot himself," Nancy DeLeon said. "The story of Mr. Mcanally's creature is right up there with that one now."

Boy oh boy, how I do love living in Texas! Long live el chupacabra!

Now Playing: The Vaughan Brothers Family Style

Friday, July 30, 2004

Better angels of our speechwriters

John Kerry's speech impressed me last night. It was much more dynamic and forceful than I thought him capable of. It served notice that not only would the Democratic nominee defend traditional party issues like education, health care and the middle class, but challenge the Republicans on their "home turf" issues as well. I don't think I've ever seen so many flag-waving veterans outside of a 4th of July parade before. But one line floored me. Maybe it was a throwaway bit. None of the major media outlets have brought it up, but for me, it was a full-bore body blow to the gut of the policies of Bush and his supporters that have completely alienated me from this administration:
I don't want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side.

Kerry only devoted one single paragraph of his speech to religious issues, but those were extremely powerful words. I have a huge problem with hypocrites who wrap themselves up in Jesus and use the Bible to justify unbridled arrogance. Kerry made it forcefully clear that he does, too, and used the greatest Republican's words to make his point. Bravo.

Now Playing: Altan The Best of Altan

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Winston cover gallery

Lookie here what I found. I swear, there's something on the web devoted to everything. In this case, it's a cover gallery featuring the retro-cool illustrations from all 35 of those classic Winston Science Fiction series juveniles. Some of the covers are mediocre, true. But some have that quality of breathless excitement you seldom see these days, even if the modern artists are more technically accomplished.

And the authors who wrote these books! Lester del Rey, we already talked about. But Arthur C. Clarke, Poul Anderson, Chad Oliver, Donald Wollheim, Ben Bova, Jack Vance... wowsers! It's enough to make me want to become a collector. As if my bank account could stand it!

Now Playing: Jiggernaut In Search of More

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Apocalypse revisited

One of the stories I have to rewrite is a novelette I wrote a couple of years back title "In the Second Year Following Apocalypse." I workshopped it with Slugtribe, and while it got positive responses, it was obvious significant rewriting lay ahead. Which for some reason I simply could not do. Every time I turned to this story, I locked up. Maybe I wasn't ready to revisit it. I dunno.

But today, driving home from work and thinking about interviews and novel projects and various other things, several scenes popped into my head, unbidden and fully formed. Holy moley! These were scenes that went where none existed before, and clarified some existing scenes that needed attention. The long and short of it is that a story already 13,000 words long is likely to be significantly longer, but hopefully better as well.

The important thing is that the words are flowing. That's wonderful, considering how much a struggle writing's been of late. To celebrate, I'm going to share a sampling of tonight's labors:
“Everyone here infected, feraler. We all dying. This shit killing us,” she said, grabbing his sleeve. “Cure me or kill me. It don’t matter. Just make the rot stop.”

Jönis nodded. He thought about the alien spores, focused on the feraler nanobots massing in his bloodstream. Destroy the anomalies. Seek out the different, the foreign, the alien, he thought, praying the chemical signals would be enough to focus the nanobots. That they wouldn’t view her as the anomaly. Sterilize. Purify.

He cupped her breast in one hand, laying his other on her shoulder. Her ruined flesh tore and collapsed under his gentle touch. Horrified, he poured his power into her.

She screamed.

Now Playing: Monks of the Benedictine Abbey el Calcat A Treasury of Gregorian Chants

Yes, I'm going to read it

In answer to the unspoken question out there, yes, I'm going to read Battle on Mercury when it comes in. I know this is a dangerous proposition. You can't go home again. I grok the concept.

The Golden Age of science fiction is 12. Or 7-9 in my case. Star Wars bit me bad when I was 7, and absolutely nothing else SFnal worth watching came out after that with the exception of Battlestar Galactica, which I watched religiously. Still have most of the novelizations as well. But depravation of good SF on TV or the movies drove me to get my fix elsewhere. In third grade--this would be 1978--I had my first science class with a chapter on the solar system in the science book. There were glossy cutouts of the planets above the lockers in the back of the room. This might be the first time I ever read anything in a textbook because I wanted to. I couldn't wait until we reached that point in the book, because I was brimming over with questions. Naturally enough, the teacher skipped that chapter because it wasn't important.

But the local library had a surprisingly good section on natural science, and a good kid's section as well. I read a bunch of those, learning about Mars and Venus and the other planets (actually, learning a lot of outdated information--Pluto was still described as being larger than Mercury in most cases, and Venus and Mars were described as potential abodes of life). But the science books held my interest until I stumbled across Battle on Mercury, which came about because I was actually trying to find a space science book about that planet, if I remember correctly. From that point I devoured all the Danny Dunn and Mrs. Pickerell books available at the library, and somewhere in there discovered Tolkien, Clarke and Asimov. And the Science Fiction Book Club.

Do I expect Battle on Mercury to be the revelation it was a quarter of a century ago? Of course not. One of the best things about it is that it reminds me of a George Pal movie--but that's also one of the drawbacks. It's certainly dated, in a Flash Gordon lever-switch controls sort of way, with slide rules instead of calculators. You know the drill. It's unabashedly 50s chauvenistic, with men being the only proactive characters and women hovering worried in the background. And since I read it without too much trouble at a time before I became a voracious reader, I suspect that its prose is spare and simple at best. But the plot is solid, the action dependable and a great deal of creativity is on display. The science is wrong, simply because we know a lot more about that world now, but it isn't bad science. I really don't know of many other Mercury-themed novels out there, or even short stories. When I read it this time, I'll be doing so with an eye toward technique, style and structure.

And you know, if anyone from the del Rey estate happens to be reading this blog, I'm more than willing to put in some serious man-hours on developing a screenplay based on Battle on Mercury to dangle before the Hollywood film factory. And I work cheap, too.

Now Playing: Various Artists The A to Z of Fantasy TV Themes

Bujold interview is finished

Well, I finally got the Lois McMaster Bujold interview completed last night and sent it off to Lois for her review. She writes back to say she's happy with it overall, but that yes, there are some trouble spots she agrees need a bit of touching up. Which she'll be glad to do, but not for a week or two.

Bujold fans, take heart, as this is good news: The reason for the delay is that she's in the middle of page proofs for The Hallowed Hunt. The big delay is over, and the third volume in the Chalion series will likely be on the shelves inside of six months.

Now, the only interview I have remaining on my plate is the Jacqueline Carey one I did back during Aggiecon. If I can get that one out of the way before Armadillocon next month, I think I'll be in good shape as long as I remember to avoid doing any more interviews.

Now Playing: Fleetwood Mac Tango in the Night

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

BATTLE ON MERCURY, or, Victory is mine!

I win! I win!

The crown jewel in this instance is the 1953 Winston Science Fiction novel Battle on Mercury, written by Erik van Lhin. You might know van Lhin better by the other name he wrote under, Lester del Rey.

Just look at that glorious cover and tell me how anyone with even the slightest thrill of adventure in their soul could resist it? It's got everything you could want: an exotic, alien world; a robot; a couple of guys in space suits; an all-terrain rover; electrical, ball-lightning aliens... Jumpin' jehosaphat--this is the greatest George Pal movie never made! There are even rocket ships in the book that are dead ringers for those elegant spacecraft in the classic Pal flick When Worlds Collide.

I've long thought that this book would make a good movie. It's got a thrilling man-against-nature plot. There are rivers of molten lead. There are rocket ships that crash in spectacular fasion, and deadly solar storms. The only major change would be relocating the setting from Mercury to some hypothetical alien world, because the crux of the plot rests on the 1950s belief that Mercury was tidally locked with the same side facing the sun at all times. Which is a spectacularly cool concept, but one that just isn't valid anymore.

In any event, I've got that sucker now. As soon as the book comes in, I'm getting a print of the cover blown up to poster size and hanging it on my office door. You know, to remind me of from whence I came (I've already got the Star Wars "D" one-sheet, so we're covered on that front!).

Now Playing: Various speakers Democratic National Convention

We have a decoy!

This is great! Another first edition of my Holy Grail book has just gone up on eBay, with an obscenely low opening bid and a "Buy it now" price slightly lower than my opening bid on the book I'm going after. The new object of desire looks like it might even be in a shade better shape than the one I'm bidding on.

So why am I so happy? Because my book comes with a dust jacket. The new one doesn't. That makes all the difference in the world to me (trust me on this--you'll understand later), but perhaps not to others who may be in the market for this particular book.

Now Playing: Clannad Rogha: The Best of Clannad

Monday, July 26, 2004

Chain reaction

I'm still high bidder on that one particular book over on Ebay. Which makes me exceedingly happy. I go back a couple of times a day and gaze longingly at that glorious, pulp SF cover. Not much longer now before I find out if I get to keep this one for my very own.

Of course, that book spawned an itch I wasn't prepared to scratch just now. I've always thought about doing SF or fantasy young adult novels, simply because not many people are writing YA SF, and also because it strikes be as a good way of developing a loyal readership--cradle to grave, so to speak. It certainly seems to be working for that Gaiman fellow.

But I always said I wouldn't write one just to write one. That I'd have to have an idea that drives me to do it. If you'll remember, I've had some ideas fermenting for a while regarding a story set on the planet Venus. Well, this book I'm bidding on stirred up all sorts of nostalgic thinking, and before you know it, those random Venusian set pieces and snippets of scenes and themes began to accrete into a full-blown story. Characters and everything. And since it's set on Venus, I've got to do research because that world is even more bizarre and alien than Mars or Europa (and my science is going to be correct, by golly. No "steamy jungles" for me!). There are two science-heavy books out now that cover the crunchy facts I need in great detail: Venus II: Geology, Geophysics, Atmosphere and Solar Wind Environment from the University of Arizona Press which is 1300-plus pages long and retails for $110, and The Planet Venus from Yale University Press, which retails for $75. Ouch. No light reading there. So I go over to the Half Price Books location in San Marcos just to see if they have anything remotely relevant I can grab for a few bucks, and guess what they happen to have on the shelves? Both books. For a combined price of $30. It must be cosmic inevitability. I simply must write this book now.

Now Playing: The Beach Boys Made in U.S.A.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Seeing sunspots

The sky was overcast with a layer of thin clouds/high fog this morning, which did a good job of almost, but not quite, blotting out the sun. It served as a good light filter, and as I was driving in to work, I could clearly see (without going blind) a cluster of dark sunspots on the surface of the sun. It looked like a blunt apostrophe just a hair's breadth above the exact center of the solar disc. It was a spiffy-keen sight, because really, how often do you get to see sunspots with the naked eye?

Now Playing: Christopher Franke Babylon 5 vol. 2: Messages from Earth

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Composer Jerry Goldsmith has died

This came as a surprise to me, but CNN is reporting composer Jerry Goldsmith had died at the age of 75. I didn't even know he had cancer. To me, he always seemed like one of those composers that would stick around forever. Like Henry Mancini. Only like Mancini, Goldsmith proved to be merely mortal.

Science fiction geeks will mourn his passing as the man who composed the film scores for Planet of the Apes, the Star Trek films, Total Recall, The Omen and a host of others. There's a story how, during the run-up to the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the director called him in and made his rework the score, because it was lacking... something. Goldsmith was frustrated by this, but halfway through the score he realized he hadn't written a fanfare--no bold, daring "Where no man has gone before" statement in the music. So he wrote one, and it proved so popular that it evolved into the now-familiar theme from Star Trek: The Next Generation. His Planet of the Apes soundtrack, with the groundbreaking, discordant elements, proved to be so influential that to me, at any rate, it symbolizes the SF soundtrack of the 1970s. Before John Williams added the sweeping hero movements to the SF toolbox with his Star Wars work, almost every SF film seemed to feature a score that shamelessly swiped from Goldsmith's Apes work--and that's not necessarily a good thing.

He also did iconic music for Patton, The Waltons and many other movies and television programs. I like a lot of his work, dislike some, and felt that over the last decade he lost some of his creativity when composing--some of his film work sounded more by-the-numbers than inspired.

Believe it or not, my favorite Goldsmith soundtrack is Gremlins 2. Of course, I love that movie to death. Like the film, Goldsmith took the original theme and went new places with it. Turned it up to 11, so to speak. The music literally sings chaos and mayhem, while never losing its footing. The whole disc is like that--I simply cannot imagine anyone conducting these movements without having a big, goofy grin on their face. Goldsmith had to have had a great deal of fun composing this music, because the joy and exuberance comes through in every measure.

Now Playing: Jerry Goldsmith Gremlins 2 Soundtrack

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Fort Monmouth calling

Interesting stat of the day from my traffic tracker. Someone on post (I'm assuming) at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, Googled me and visited my site just after 8 a.m. this morning. "Jayme Blaschke" isn't a name someone's simply going to search for at random, so I figure it's got to be someone who knows me, or at least knows of me. But the only person in New Jersey I can even remotely claim to know is film director Kevin Smith. Somehow, I doubt the man behind Jay & Silent Bob is going to be Googling me from an army base.

Someone from Austria dropped by as well, but as there are a bunch (relatively speaking) of Blaschkes in the land of the Hapsburgs, I don't find this nearly as odd as the New Jersey thing. Am I weird, or what?

Now Playing: The Kinks Schoolboys In Disgrace

The curse of eBay strikes!

I don't know what prompted this, because my memory is a blur. But I innocently ran a Google search on one particular hard-to-find item that I've been coveting for years, and lo and behold, there's one on eBay right now.

Okay, it's a book. Not just a book, but the book that got me hooked on science fiction. I read it after Star Wars had piqued my interest in all things science fictiony, and since there were no worthwhile movies or television programs out to give me my fix, I eventually turned to book--voraciously. I checked it out of the little Nesbitt Memorial Library the summer of 1979. It was the first "big" book I ever read--big being defined as one more than 100 pages long with small text and few illustrations. Looking back, I'm amazed that they stocked such a blatantly SF book. I checked it out half a dozen times, and read it incessantly. I went back a few years ago to look for it, but it'd long been cleared out, disposed of in some book sale I suppose.

The eBay listing included an image of the well-preserved dust jacket cover. Boom! The exact same retro-cool cover that sucked me in the first time I saw it, and prompted me to overcome my fear of big books. I felt that same gosh-wow flutter in my stomach. That cover promises amazement contained within. And it hasn't lost anything in the intervening years.

What's even more amazing is that this book appears to be in excellent condition, is a first edition, and is priced well below what ratty second-editions go for on ABE. I have, of course, placed a bid, which is why I'm not telling any of you which book it is. I'll go into detail if and when I win. Of course, if that happens, I'll have to explain the bill to Lisa...

Now Playing: The Kinks The Great Lost Kinks Album

You can smell Alaska burning from here

Last night after work, we packed up the kids and headed into San Antonio to the Witte Museum for their current display of the Hertzberg Circus Collection. The haze in the sky was quite dominant, and unfortunately, one we've gotten used to in recent years. If it's summer, Mexico must be burning. Slash and burn agriculture is such a joy. And environmentally friendly, too! That's been the case the last two times soot darkened our Texas skies... but not this time. No, now we have to contend with huge wildfires in Alaska and Canada (which have already burned 3.6 million acres) sending smoke into South Texas. I suppose I'll just hold my breath for the next month or so.

The circus collection itself was fascinating. The miniature carriage and other memorabilia from General Tom Thumb. Broadsheets for the infamous Feejee Mermaid and other sideshow attractions. Incredibly detailed scale models of various turn-of-the-century circuses that took up entire rooms. Costumes and guns from Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, as well as glass targets used by Annie Oakley (well, obviously not used, since they'd be little more than shards). Lots of neat stuff, but ultimately we felt the show was somewhat lacking--then we found out that only a quarter of the collection is on display, because the Witte doesn't have room for the rest. Interesting.

When we got home, I managed to transcribe a few thousand words from the Lois McMaster Bujold interview. I'm finding myself hating the transcription process more and more. It's just so unbelievably tedious. Mind-numbing, even, particularly in those places where the words jumble together and are well nigh impossible to distinguish. The good news is that if the fates are kind, I'll have the transcription completed tonight, and maybe a good bit of the final edit done as well. Then only the Jacqueline Carey interview will remain on my to-do list. Whew! No more interviews for me for a long time, that's for sure...

Now Playing: The Kinks Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, pt. 1

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Step in line to take your turn at Old Tingo's Penis!

I've got a new story up on RevSF, one that I take a certain perverse pride in. Geoffrey Landis, best known for his hard science fiction work, does something 180-degrees removed from his previous work with Old Tingo's Penis. I love the voice, the story, the mood... pretty much everything about this story works for me, which is why, when I read it upon original publication in Interzone several years ago, I knew I had to get it for RevSF. Mission accomplished. Enjoy!

Now Playing: The Pretenders The Singles

Monday, July 19, 2004

The Moon and the Marathon

Since the embargo's now past, I can share what I've been working on the last two weeks. It's being picked up all around the world by various media agencies. Just this morning I got requests from German and Dutch newspapers, plus a reporter from Reuters left a message for me to call her back. The following is the official Texas State University and Sky & Telescope release on the Marathon research, as written by yours truly (have I mentioned I love my job?):
Texas State astronomers unravel Marathon mystery

SAN MARCOS – On Aug. 29, a field of runners at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, will retrace one of the most famous runs in history. But it is a team of researchers half a world away in Texas that shed new light on the origins of the legendary race.

In “The Moon and the Marathon,” published in the September 2004 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine, Donald W. Olson, a physics and astronomy professor at Texas State University, and his San Marcos colleagues Russell L. Doescher and Marilynn S. Olson present astronomical evidence to show the commonly accepted date of the famous battle and ensuing run may need to be reconsidered.

The legend was born in 490 B.C., when a lone runner raced some 26 miles from the battlefield to Athens to bring word of the Greeks’ victory over the Persians at Marathon, and to warn the city of an impending invasion from the sea by the Persian fleet. His mission accomplished, the runner collapsed and died.

This melodramatic death has proved problematic for historians over the centuries: Why would an experienced, long-distance runner collapse when thousands of amateur runners successfully compete in marathons worldwide? The answer lies in the phases of the moon.

“The Greek historian Herodotus provides precise descriptions of the phase of the moon near the time of the Battle of Marathon,” said Donald Olson. “These are the key to dating the battle and the Marathon run using astronomy.”

When the Athenians first learned of the Persian army’s landing at Marathon, city leaders dispatched a messenger to Sparta, 150 miles away, to plead for military aid. The Spartans promised to help, but explained that because of a religious festival their army could not march before the next full moon--six days away. Judging that the festival was the Karneia, the 19th-century German scholar August Böckh carried out a series of astronomical calculations to determine the date of the Karneian full moon, and determined that the Battle of Marathon took place on Sept. 12. Böckh relied on a reference from Greek scholar Plutarch that equated the Spartan month of Karneios with Metageitnion, the second month of the Athenian year.

“We realized that the previous method of dating, using the Athenian calendar, had a serious flaw,” Olson said. “The Karneia was a Spartan festival, so the analysis should be done in the Spartan calendar.”

Although the Spartan and Athenian calendars were similar in that they were both lunisolar--following the lunar cycle, but making adjustments to stay in step with the solar year--they were not identical. The Athenian year began with the first new moon following the summer solstice, but the Spartan year apparently began with the first new moon after the fall equinox. Further, in 491-490 B.C., 10 new moons occurred between the fall equinox and summer solstice instead of the normal nine, resulting in the Spartan calendar’s running a month ahead of the Athenian. If the Texas State researchers are correct, the Battle of Marathon actually took place on Aug. 12, 490 B.C.

Previous writers have noted that Athens’ average maximum temperature during September is approximately 83 degrees Fahrenheit, but moving the Marathon date back just one month has a dramatic effect. The average August afternoon temperatures along the marathon route range from 88 to 91 degrees, with temperatures as high as 102 possible near Athens. The astronomical calculation therefore suggests an explanation for the death of the runner: such conditions could lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke in even a trained athlete.

Now Playing: Gustav Holst The Planets

Saturday, July 17, 2004

In blackest day, in darkest night, no evil shall escape my sight

The Apocalypse is upon us. Ain’t It Cool News is reporting that Jack Black has signed on to play the title role in a zany, madcap feature film version of Green Lantern.

Dear god in heaven. This is simply wrong on so many levels. I'm literally nauseous.

This is going to be the most wretched abomination in the history of wretched abominations. This, my friends, has the unlimited potential of making the forthcoming Catwoman film look like Schindler's List in terms of quality. What a repulsive, wrong-headed, abysmal studio decision. I'd thought the "wacky ring creations" approach with the Bugs Bunnies and falling "Acme" anvils dead and buried a decade ago.

Remember the awful Marvel sell-out films of the 70s and 80s? Where they made the Red Skull Italian and gave Captain America a plastic motorcycle windscreen to act as a shield? Welcome to the new DC, which makes us long for the halcyon days of those quality Marvel adaptations.

It's long been an ambition of mine to script a good long run on Green Lantern, and actually write it as a SCIENCE FICTION title, ala the Lensmen, rather than the "superhero in space" retread it always seems to revert to. I guess I should put those ambitions on hold now, since DC always forces its comics properties to comform to any movie or television project. Witness the Teen Titans or Birds of Prey.  This move is going to kill the title dead faster than you can say Howard the Duck: The Movie.

Now Playing: The Timelords The History of the Jams aka The Timelords

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Jenna Lewis? There ain't no justice!

How is it that a marginally attractive woman can have Playboy fling wads of cash at her while an explicit video of her wedding night sells like hotcakes online for $40 a pop (suspicions are that she is selling it herself) simply because she chose to starve on an island and swat tropical chiggers for a month in hopes of winning $1 million on Survivor? Jenna Lewis has the most charmed life out there--she has stretched her 15 minutes of fame into a lucrative cottage industry. All because she's a pseudo-celebrity. Heck, I couldn't pay people to look at naked pictures of me. Am I envious of her low standards and opportunistic windfall? Darn straight.

Last night, while Lewis was probably reclined in some luxury condo somewhere, sipping daiquiris and counting her money, I was slaving away at my computer, doing my darndest to adhere to my writing commitment made here yesterday. What did I accomplish? A thousand words or so transcribed on the Lois McMaster Bujold interview, plus I completed a pitch for a 64-page one-shot graphic novel, which I submitted to my good friends over at Shooting Star Comics. The good news is that they haven't rejected it yet. They've even made some noises that could roughly be interpreted as "This could be interesting." Which is encouraging, but not as encouraging as someone offering me ten thousand bucks to take off my clothes would be. Drat.

Now Playing: Franz Schubert Classics

This land is MY land!

Hee hee hee. I don't normally post this kind of thing (well, okay, the Monty Python FCC Song--I'll give you that) but this has got to be one of the funniest web parodies ever. The premise may sound lame, but the execution of the George Bush/John Kerry duet of "This Land is Your Land" by Woodie Guthrie has to be seen to be believed. Ah, Bill and Hillary, still affectionate after all these years...

Now Playing: Eric Clapton Final Concert 24 Nights

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Ever feel over-extended?

I finally finished the Paul Dini interview last night. I have literally been working on it for months. Not continuously, mind you, but months nonetheless. I sent the proof off to Mr. Dini around midnight for his review. And I'm thinking, "All this effort, and I'm not even going to get paid for it." It's an 8,000-word interview that will likely run in two parts on RevolutionSF. I wanted to do the Dini interview, but didn't have a dependable comic market to sell it to, and my regular SF markets that pay were iffy. Hence, it's a freebie for RevSF.

And I realized I'm doing lots of freebies. Not as many as a few years ago, but every book review I write entails no compensation, unless you count the review copy of said book. And even the things I do get paid for don't net me that much, normally. I've got interviews with Lois McMaster Bujold and Jacqueline Carey waiting my attention. Combined, they'll probably bring in a few hundred dollars or so. A few more if they're repackaged in another collection ala Voices of Vision. The income from my nascent comics career is negligible, and my short fiction income is only marginally better. I'm getting some small degree of attention as fiction editor at RevSF, but again, there's no income there. And it's a major time-sink as well. To put things in perspective, I haven't posted an update to my onetime major hobby site The Unofficial Green Arrow Fansite in more than eight months.

I have two solid short stories started that need completion, and two other strong ones that need ruthless rewriting. And I haven't been able to get around it those tasks because of my other projects, much less start some of the other short stories clamoring in my head to get out. I am sincerely starting to wonder if "Hannibal Crossing the Rockies" will ever see the light of day. Writing reviews (which keeps my name in circulation) and interviews (which brings in dependable cash and offers some networking potential) are both time consuming, and are cutting into my more important fiction writing time. I think my only option, if my career is ever going to rise above this holding pattern it's in, is to swear off interviews and reviews as soon as my current commitments are fulfilled. And once the current four short stories have been suitably attended to, swear off short fiction as well.

I've had various novels languishing at this end for far too long. Voices of Vision is nice, as are the short story publications I land every so often, but if I'm ever going to be worth my salt in this field, if I'm ever going to have a supplemental income that is more than a footnote on my tax returns, I've simply got to get off my duff and commit myself to getting the novel done. There's no excuse anymore. I'm 34 and have farted around far too long.

Let's just see how long this commitment lasts.

Now Playing: Violent Femmes The Blind Leading the Naked

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Chicken pox redux

Little Keela's come down with the pox now. We suspected as much. Last night her eczema flared up, and this morning she developed a fever and nausea. An angry red flare up of eczema. After a trip to the doctor which pretty much confirmed our suspicions, Keela started to improve somewhat. She's now on anti-virals, and the first little pox blisters are appearing on her torso. No telling how severe a case she'll have, but she's starting out worse than Calista.

Now Playing: Gershwin plays Gershwin The Piano Rolls

Monday, July 12, 2004

My Armadillocon schedule

Armadillocon is Aug. 13-15 this year, and once again, I'm a participant. It's at the Hilton North, which is next to Highland Mall and surrounded by lots of fine restaurants, unlike the Omni Southpark, which is a culinary wasteland. I'm supposed to be an editor/critiquer during Friday's writers' workshop, but I haven't heard anything regarding that scheduling yet. But here's my preliminary itenerary:

ArmadilloCon 26 Schedule for Jayme Lynn Blaschke

Welcome to ArmadilloCon 26
5:00 PM-6:00 PM Pecan
Cupp*, Blaschke, Baty
Newcomers are encouraged to attend this overview of our con.  Learn about the must-see events, the must-listen readings, and  traditions unique to ArmadilloCon.

11:00 AM-Noon Maple
Jayme Lynn Blaschke

Fannish Feud
2:00 PM-3:00 PM Hill Country C
Baden, Baty, Trimm, Blaschke, Gibbons
Join the fun at our fans-vs-pros game of trivia.

Drawing Down the Myth
4:00 PM-5:00 PM Hill Country C
Picacio*, Vess, Victory, Blaschke, Fox, Barrett
How we first encountered myth/folktakles/fairy tales and how we  put them onto paper.

Using Myth and Storytelling
1:00 PM-2:00 PM Mesquite
Kenyon*, Marley, Barrett, Blaschke
Myths as springboard for worlds and plot ideas in fantasy  and science fiction. Mythic elements in science fiction.  The Hero's Journey reconsidered. This panel explores  myth as inspiration and diagnostic.

2:00 PM-3:00 PM Dealers' Room
Blaschke, Osborne, Roberson, Williams

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Scratch the Silence

Feed me, Seymore!

I bought a Venus flytrap just a little while ago. Impulse thing. I had a number of them several years ago, and managed to keep 'em pretty healthy, until an unexpected freeze zapped them one day while I was at work and hadn't brought them in. This flytrap is pretty big and heathy, with some of the traps broader than my thumb. It's a nursery-propogated flytrap, which is important, because poachers are causing a good deal of harm to wild populations over in the Carolinas. It's a fun plant to have, and as there's an over-abundance of flies buzzing around our back yard, it's an appropriate plant to have at this time of the year as well.

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Staying Home to Watch the Rain

Saturday, July 10, 2004

About that book I'm publishing

I just realized that I haven't posted an update in quite a while regarding progress on Voices of Vision. Well, you can all sleep soundly tonight: I did indeed get the revisions completed and off to the editors in time to avert their sending Muggsy and Bruno over to break some or all of my kneecaps. Now I get to hold my breath and wait to see what Nebraska's design team comes up with for cover art and such. I lobbied pretty darn hard for John Picacio, but I suspect my pleadings fell on deaf ears. Nebraska's put out some very attractive books, but their Bison Books Frontiers of the Imagination series, which I am of the understanding that Voices of Vision will be published under, has some of the ugliest cover designs in history. They are just unattractive. They're going for a unifying retro theme. Fine, I get that. But it's an ugly retro. Let us all join hands and hope that they decide to break the pattern with my book, since it will be the first non-fiction published under that imprint...

Now Playing: Syd Barrett Barrett

Friday, July 09, 2004

The Last Unicorn

Went to the video store the other night and the girls picked up the new DVD release of the Rankin-Bass The Last Unicorn movie. It didn't revitalize fantasy when it was originally released, but seeing it again made me appreciate it for the honest, solid effort that it was. Peter Beagle's mythic style comes through (since he did the script, that's to be expected) and all in all it's a good film.

Which got me to thinking about some test footage of a computer animated unicorn I saw online a few years back. That great flood of fantasy films that was predicted to hit the market in the wake of Lord of the Rings' success hasn't materialized, so I thought I'd look up the Unicorn flick. Naturally enough, I can't find that CGI footage. But there is a Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn developmental website. There is quite a bit of interesting information there. Peter Beagle is apparently writing the new script--which makes me wonder how much he's going to retain from the first version, and how much he's going to change. Since he's the author, he can monkey with it as much as he likes and nobody can kvetch. Christopher Lee and Mia Farrow--who both did voice work in the animated version--are listed as committed to the new film, although they aren't under contract. Producer Michael Pakleppa co-produced the German version of the animated film. Director Julian Doyle doesn't have an extensive directoral resume--his highest profile project was 2001's Quest for the Holy Grail Locations with the Monty Python troupe, which isn't surprising, since he's worked on such films as Jabberwocky, The Rutles, Brazil and a host of others as film editor or in some other technical capacity.

They plan to film the movie on location in Wales and Hungary, and the location and set shots on the website are suitably gorgeous. There's a very interesting section featuring the film's storyboards. The pages devoted to concept art are particularly fascinating, as some of the designs (the Red Bull in particular) distinctly look like they were designed by Wayne Douglas Barlowe, one of my favorite artists ever since I first saw is breathtaking Expedition. I haven't found confirmation anywhere that he is involved with The Last Unicorn, but the art is gorgeous, nonetheless.

The only thing on the site that gave me pause was the announcement the production would use trained horses with prosthetic horns to portray the unicorns. Now, I think CGI is way overused by Hollywood these days, but a lithe, otherworldly unicorn almost begs for the Gollum treatment. The test animation I saw a few years back looked very good (there's horse footage on the current site, but I can't download it to see if its the same as I remember). Plus, the last time I saw horses pretending to be unicorns, in the disastrous train wreck known as Legend, well, they were awful. The horns flopped around on the horses' heads. The horses were way too big and bulky. I'm not saying going with real horses can't work, but they really need to pay special attention to the detail on this one.

Hopefully, this thing will go into production like the site says in time for the promised 2005 release date. There's got to be some deep-pocket benefactor out there willing to back this. Where's George Harrison when you need him?

Now Playing: The Kinks Give the People What They Want

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Confronting Bush with fact

Well, it didn't take John Kerry long to respond to Bush's hypocracy regarding John Edwards' experience:
Kerry responded to that jab later in the day at a rally in Dayton, saying Edwards has "more experience and better judgment" than Bush did when he became president after serving six years as governor of Texas.

"It seems to me as if he doesn't have a record to run on, he's got a record to run away from, so he's just attacking everybody," Kerry said.

Not a particularly forceful refutation, and it's buried in this CNN story, but at least they're not letting the other side skew the debate unchallenged. Kerry's been so low-key and inoffensive in his campaign thus far, that I doubt the Democrat spiel will ever get much harsher than this. Which is a good thing--as long as they beat Bush come November.

Now Playing: The Kinks Everybody's in Show-Biz

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Presidential hubris knows no bounds

I don't post much political thought here, because there are a million and one blogs out there that do so more passionately and eloquently than I could. But when George W. Bush questions John Edwards' experience... I'm just glad I wasn't drinking anything, otherwise I'd have one messy computer monitor:
President Bush criticized Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards in his own home state on Wednesday by questioning whether Edwards has sufficient experience to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Edwards is a freshman senator from North Carolina, who broke the Jesse Helms machine's stranglehold on that state. Edwards has been in office a little more than five years, co-authored the Patients' Bill of Rights with John McCain and fought against weakening the Clean Air Act. Edwards serves on four high-profile Senate committees: Judiciary; Small Business; Select Committee on Intelligence; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. The Select Committee on Intelligence is particularly noteworthy, because it deals in large part with foreign affairs and national security, two areas where Edwards' inexperience is most often cited. Bush, in comparison, had been governor of Texas for little over five years when he ran for president. Bush's foreign policy experience amounted to trying to negotiate a settlement of Mexico's water debt in accordance with various Rio Grande watershed treaties--an issue that remains unresolved today. His big claim to fame was pushing through a $10,000 property tax exemption--which was promptly negated by taxing districts raising tax rates statewide to compensate. Aside from that, it helps to understand that the Texas governor is one of the weakest--if not the weakest--executive offices in any of the 50 states. He, and Anne Richards before him, and Bill Clements, Mark White... all of them only rank slightly higher than figureheads in terms of actual power weilded. That's because of Texas' spectacularly bad constitution which succeeds in only one area--limiting the power of elected officials. If you want to get down to bare-knuckled politics, Edwards is far and away more qualified for vice president at this point than Bush was at the same point in his campaign for president. Heck, Edwards today is more qualified for president than Bush was four years ago. For Bush to suggest otherwise leads me to think this administration will be promoting ketchup as a vegetable any day now.

Edwards isn't the perfect candidate. I'd rather his voting trends be more centrist. He is greener than I'd like, and Howard Fineman does a good job of outlining this along with Edwards' meteoric rise in politics. But when push comes to shove, I'd take the green Edwards over Bush/Cheney any day of the week.

Now Playing: Robert Palmer Addictions vol. 1

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

The wine rack project

The other week, what with Sigfreid's diffficulty and other goings-on, I didn't get to post about non-writing projects that keep me from reading innocent submissions in a timely fasion. Woodworking and related home improvement projects is one thing I've found to be relaxing, as an entirely different part of my brain is engaged than is when I'm writing and editing. In the past year or so, Lisa and I have been exploring the world of wines and finding a few varieties we like. When we bought the new house, the open bar space between the kitchen and living room practically begged for a wine rack. Nothing commercially available was suitable for the space, so I decided to build one. The measuring, sanding, sawing and drilling are lost to posterity, but Calista used her new camera to take pics of my installing the slats in the rack in the first photo (screwed in from the sides and glued) and the application of the final layer of wood stain/sanding sealer in the second:

Installing slatsApplying stain/sanding sealer

Once the whole shebang dried, I hand-sanded the whole thing over with 200 grit paper. It's quite smooth and glossy now. And then fastened it above the bar with wood screws, which proved to be easier in theory than in actual practice. But it fit. And doesn't seem prone to collapsing, even with the weight of wine bottles in it. This is a good thing. The third picture shows the wine rack from the living room, and the fourth captures me placing my Bee Rider mead in the rack for aging.

Wine rack seen from living roomPlacing mead in wine rack

The puttied screw holes aren't quite invisible beneath the stain, and the entire rack turned out several shades darker than expected. But overall, I'm pleased with how it turned out (and yes, I know that wine is supposed to be kept in climate controlled cellars away from light. We’re interested in wine, not obsessed over it). In addition to the mead, it now holds a bottle of Messina Hof white zinfandel simply because it was cheap and not at all bad as far as white zins go, and Dry Comal Creek's red wine III, which I've been wanting to try for a while now. Pretty pathetic selection, actually.

Now Playing: Various Tower of Song: The Songs of Leonard Cohen

Why writers hate editors so

Got an inquiry yesterday from a writer I've published on RevSF before, checking on the status of a story submitted six months ago. Six months? Uh oh. I check, and sure enough, I find the submission buried beneath a pile of other projects. I'd set it aside as soon as it came in so I would give it special attention, you see, and promptly forgot about it. Road to Hell, good intentions, yadda yadda... It didn't help matters any that despite some interesting ideas, the story just didn't work for me. It's easier to plead for forgiveness if an acceptance accompanies said pleadings, as opposed to rejection.

Now Playing: Three Dog Night Joy to the World: Their Greatest Hits

Monday, July 05, 2004

Gateway SA revisited

So many columnists and letter-writers have been bashing the Gateway San Antonio project I posted about back in June, I was moved (as I so often am) to write a letter in defense of the art project. Said letter was published in yesterday's San Antonio Express-News:
When did San Antonio develop such a sour disposition? Ever since the Gateway San Antonio project was announced, it seems that every doomsayer hither and yon can't wait to take cheap shots at it.

The folks grousing that the $9 million or so might be put to better use elsewhere are missing the point that this is a gift — if this project is derailed, San Antonio gets nothing. Nothing, people.

The Gateway San Antonio project would be funky and fun, adding a touch of whimsy to an otherwise bland expanse of limestone cliff.

I have to pity the people who are so wrapped up in their own bitterness that they can't see that.

Jayme Lynn Blaschke,
New Braunfels

Now, I have to point out that the header they gave my letter, "Funky, fun--and free" isn't exactly accurate and casts my letter in something of a naive light. The Gateway SA project landed a study grant of $25,000 from the city a while back to develop this proposal. That probably wasn't very wise of them, and some of the paper's columnists who are rabidly anti-city hall (not entirely unjustified, I might add) jumped all over that tidbit of information. So, ultimately, the project wouldn't be free. But if fund-raising for this project is successful, there is the possibility of the city recouping that money eventually, along with getting that nifty landmark artwork. If the project is killed, as I point out in my letter, the city gets nada.

And some of the objections people are raising--carved squirrels and armadillos? Dangerous distraction? Oy! The San Antonio Zoo is only a few blocks away, people! How hard is it to make the connection? Apparently, very hard indeed.

Now Playing: The Kinks Sleepwalker

Friday, July 02, 2004

RevolutionSF fiction!

I'm putting my editor cap back on for the month of July, with a fantastic lineup of fiction over at RevSF. First, though, in case you missed it (since I was on vacation and neglected to post the June fiction) you might want to head on over to RevSF and check out our recent fiction, in case you haven't already. You'll find an original piece, My Evil Twin, by Steven Utley, as well as two first-rate reprints, Fido is a Loving Beast by Ardath Mayhar and Angelorum Orbis by Scott Nicholson. You can check out Scott's blog, Fresh Dirt, right over there at that column on the right.

Also, in the "Toot my own horn" category, there are two pieces of good news to report. In the Wooden Rocket Awards, RevSF finished runner-up to Science Fiction Weekly in the Best Online Magazine category. Pretty spiffy how our less-than-shoestring-budget operation held its own against the GE megacorporation!

As for the other news, well, I've tracked down the actual Honorable Mentions from Year's Best SF vol. 21. They are Lou Antonelli's Silence is Golden, Jay Lake's Under the Purplefan Trees and Steven Utley's Chaos and the Gods. Go ahead and click on the links to read the story (if you dare!) then come back and voice your thoughts on them in the comments section. That is, if you have thoughts, which I assume you do.

Otherwise, I have a cool and froody lineup of fiction for July, starting with the afore-mentioned Lou Antonelli and ending with the also afore-mentioned Steven Utley. Wow! Three pieces of original fiction this month, plus a reprint that has "Penis" in the title. Is RevSF great, or what?

July 2
"Pen Pal" by Lou Antonelli **Original Fiction**
"The Transformation of Lawrence Croft, or, Three Days of the Con-Dorks" Chapter 28 by Mark Finn
"Metamorphosis #85" by Don Webb

July 9
"Papa Crawler" by Josh Rountree **Classic Reprint**
"The Transformation of Lawrence Croft, or, Three Days of the Con-Dorks" Chapter 29 by Mark Finn
"Metamorphosis #86" by Don Webb

July 16
"Old Tingo's Penis" by Geoffrey Landis **Classic Reprint**
"The Transformation of Lawrence Croft, or, Three Days of the Con-Dorks" Chapter 30 by Mark Finn
"Metamorphosis #87" by Don Webb

July 23
"The Forever Cup of Coffee at Bitsy's Cafe" by Danith McPherson **Original Fiction**
"The Transformation of Lawrence Croft, or, Three Days of the Con-Dorks" Chapter 31 by Mark Finn
"Metamorphosis #88" by Don Webb

July 30
"Pan-Galactic Swingers" by Steven Utley **Original Fiction**
"The Transformation of Lawrence Croft, or, Three Days of the Con-Dorks" Chapter 32 by Mark Finn
"Metamorphosis #89" by Don Webb

All stories can be read at

Now Playing: Andean Fusion Andean Symphony II