Thursday, September 30, 2004

A Crisis of Identities

Now up at RevolutionSF are my reviews of Brad Meltzer's Identity Crisis 2-4 out now from DC Comics. As usual with my reviews, I kind of amble around as I discuss a variety of issues tangental to the story itself. I suppose I'm not the reviewer for you if you're looking for a short, pithy, thumbs-up-or-down evaluation. Here's a taste:
About the time graphic novels and collected trade paperbacks began to dominate comic publishers' bottom lines, the industry witnessed the rise of what has been termed "decompressed storytelling." What that means is that stories that could be adequately told in one issue are stretched and padded to fill two or three issues. Or, more likely, a two-issue story now drags out to six issues in order to fill out a trade edition. At the same time on television, the X-Files was making a killing doing essentially the same thing — spinning out a conspiracy mystery each week, with agents Mulder and Scully coming tantalizingly close to the answers but never quite learning anything.

Believe it or not, I actually turned in these reviews within a week of the comics hitting the streets. Real Life intervened, however, keeping them from being published until now. Such is life. If you're interested in charting my reaction to the series from the start, you can go back to my Identity Crisis no. 1 and start from there. Chronological order counts for something, you know.

Now Playing: Fleetwood Mac Behind the Mask

Book inches closer to reality

Did some more work on Voices of Vision via email with the folks at Nebraska. It's interesting how the process works--it's not what I expected, but then again, I'm not entirely clear what my expectations were. Blurbs of endorsement from Brad Meltzer and Robin Hobb have been added to the cover copy. Some minor changes to the text have been made, and one significant error that crept into the copy during the process was caught and fixed as well.

Nebraska's spring catalog will be issued in December, and contain a listing for my book, designated "A Bison original." Neat-o. Also, they've completely revamped the University of Nebraska Press website, and Voices of Vision is now listed amongst the other Frontiers of the Imagination series titles. It's something of an ego boost to see my humble book sandwiched between Pierre Benoit's The Queen of Atlantis and H.G. Wells' In the Days of the Comet. Fun stuff.

Now Playing: Electric Light Orchestra Balance of Power

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

More X-Prize excitement

SpaceShipOne flew today, and preliminary results say the flight cracked the 62-mile altitude required to qualify for the X-Prize. But like the ship's previous flight, that pesky "unexpected roll" disrupted the carefully choreographed launch:
SpaceShipOne appeared to go into an unexpected roll and shut down its main engine just after it started, following the high-altitude drop. Commentators in a live webcast were concerned.

"It appeared there were some wrinkles" near the apex of the flight, said webcast commentator Jim Scott. It was not yet clear what the problem was, however.

The first roll, months back, was dismissed as an easily-correctable glitch. This one hints at a pattern. I sincerely hope they can get it fixed in time for a safe turnaround flight on Oct. 4. To win the $10 million prize, they have to launch again within a two-week period.

Win or lose, however, Scaled Composites already made back a nice chunk of their development costs with the recent licensing of the technology by Virgin Galactic. The going ticket price of $200,000 per is still out of my price range, but if economics of scale ever get it down to the $200 range, buddy, I'm there!

Now Playing: Eric Clapton Live at Alpine Valley

Sky Captain redux

Went to see "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" again last night, with the family. Lisa wanted to see it with me the first time, but Calista and Keela opted for "Princess Diaries 2" instead. Regal Cinemas in San Antonio was offering free tickets with a donation of food to the local food bank, so we took a bunch of boxes of mac & cheese and got in pretty darn cheap. It was a madhouse. Half the city seemed to have turned out to take advantage.

I actually enjoyed the movie more this time than the first time I saw it. I wasn't as stressed with the urge to not miss anything. I just let it wash over me, and was able to enjoy a lot of subtle touches and details that got lost in the sensory overload the first time around. It's still not a perfect film. I'm not even sure if it's in my top 10, but I enjoyed the heck out of it. Lisa liked it too, saying it was a lot of fun. Calista wasn't sure if she liked it or not, as there was a distinct lack of child protagonists and talking animals in the film. She did allow that it was exciting, and thought the scenes where the air planes convert to submarines and go underwater were "cool." Keela fell asleep.

As we were leaving, two men ahead of us were complaining that it was a dumb film, and that the folks waiting to get in to the next showing shouldn't waste their time. Some people Just Don't Get It, and it's pretty clear you can't reach them. But it's still sad that a film as fun and original as Sky Captain is struggling so at the box office.

Now Playing: The Rutles The Rutles

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

And you can get Kirkus to review 'em!

As if vanity presses and editorial scammers aren't successful enough, now we have the Washington Post encouraging would-be writers to bypass professional publishing houses and throw their money away on self-publishing:
If you're telling yourself for the 57th time, "I could write a book," but you don't have a direct line to the editors at Random House, it may be time to consider self-publishing. Don't knock it: James Redfield's "The Celestine Prophecy" and John Grisham's "A Time to Kill" started this way.

Of course, what they fail to mention is that for every "A Time to Kill" there are a hundred thousand other self-published books that came out stillborn, gathering mold and dust in basements and garages across America. And the article breathlessly insists that self-published authors must shell out the big bucks to ensure their book gets noticed by the masses:
Make no mistake: All this will be costly. Steve Boorstein, the Bethesda-based host of the syndicated radio show "The Clothing Doctor," says he spent $7,500 on the first printing of his book, "The Ultimate Guide to Shopping & Caring for Clothing." That covered the initial print run and paid for an illustrator, a PR firm, an editor, a designer and a self-publishing consultant, he said.

This, of course, ignores the fact that most first-time novel advances hover in the $5,000 range. How, pray tell, is the self-published author going to break even, much less make any money on the deal?

I once tried to start a writer's group while I lived in Temple. It was an ill-fated, painful experience. One "writer" refused to bring any written copy to be critiqued, because her writing was so personal to her and she couldn't bear to have anyone see it. But her husband told her it was great, and since the major publishing houses were a big in-crowd scam, they'd decided to pony up several thousand dollars and publish it through a vanity press. You tell me what's wrong with this scenario. The family is willing to empty the ol' piggy bank to produce a bunch of unedited, over-priced novels that will be locked away in their garage because the writing is so "personal" she couldn't bear to have even her writing group see it. This is the point where I begin banging my head into the wall. When I tried to point out the flaws inherent in this course of action, I was patronizingly told I'm naive and don't really understand how publishing works.

Fortunately, I don't have to rant about the Washington Post article (aren't you happy). Instead, Nick Mamatas does it for me with his blog entry How To Lose Your Money And Waste Your Time. Kudos go out to Bookslut for starting me out on this tear.

Now Playing: Electric Light Orchestra Afterglow

The delicate art of book blurbing

Tish Fobbin, one of the marketing folks at Nebraska, has provided me with the preliminary descriptive jacket copy for Voices of Vision. This was unexpected, as I've gathered from other writers that often the first inkling as to what the jacket copy will say about said book comes when the contributor's copies arrive in the mail. So I have been afforded the happy opportunity to review the sales pitch in advance and offer my comments. Take a look:
Voices of Vision
Creators of Science Fiction and Fantasy Speak

By Jayme Lynn Blaschke

As the world around us becomes more fantastic, and science itself more surreal, the realms of science fiction and fantasy become correspondingly both more bizarre and more relevant. Voices of Vision offers a rare look into the inner workings of this realm and into the very thoughts and methods of those who make it tick: editors and writers of science fiction and fantasy, and creators of comic books and graphic novels. In wide-ranging interviews that are by turns intimate and thought provoking, irreverent and outrageous, Jayme Lynn Blaschke talks shop with some of the most interesting voices in these genres as well as the people behind them, such as current Science Fiction Weekly and former Science Fiction Age editor Scott Edelman.

Writers such as Robin Hobb, Charles de Lint, Patricia Anthony, and Elizabeth Moon; Neil Gaiman, Brad Meltzer, and other revered authors of comic books and graphic novels; and icons such as Samuel R. Delaney, Gene Wolfe, Harlan Ellison, and Jack Williamson talk to Blaschke about what it’s like to do what they do, how they work and how they started, and where they think the genre is headed. Editors like Edelman discuss their publishing philosophies and strategies, the origins and probable directions of their magazines, and the broader influence of such ventures. For devoted reader, aspiring writer, and curious onlooker alike, these interviews open a largely hidden, endlessly interesting world.

Jayme Lynn Blaschke is a public-information specialist at Texas State University–San Marcos and the fiction editor of His interviews have appeared in Interzone and The Chronicle.

Overall, I believe it reads fairly well. Even better, it is an accurate description of the contents of the book, and doesn't misrepresent what the reader will find therein (although, I suppose, mis-interpretation is still possible. If someone expects this to be a step-by-step "how-to" book, they'll be disappointed). My one real suggestion--which Tish has already agreed to make--is substituting "Gardner Dozois" for the second "Edelman" reference. The reasons are obvious: 1) We want to get as many names on the cover as possible, to increase the potential appeal; 2) Edelman has already been reference strongly in the preceeding graf; 3) Dozois is about as well-known as an editor can get, via his many years helming Asimov's and publishing his Year's Best Science Fiction anthologies. It's simply a sound strategic move.

As I give it more thought, I'm also going to ask that "The Chronicle" be changed to "The Science Fiction Chronicle." I believe the name change of that magazine was ill-advised, and more people recognize the original name than the current one. Seriously, anyone reading the jacket copy in Houston, for instance, is much more likely to think I've written for the Houston Chronicle. Ditto for Austin, San Francisco, etc.

Now Playing: Counting Crows August and Everything After

Monday, September 27, 2004

One Who Walked Alone

Lisa and I watched The Whole Wide World last night (yes, I occasionally take breaks from writing to do other stuff). If you're not familiar with it, the film covers the final four years of pulp writer Robert E. Howard's life. Based on his sometime-girlfriend Novalyne Price's memoir One Who Walked Alone, the film takes its name from a Howard friend who introduces him as "The greatest pulp writer in the whole wide world."

I'm not the Howard buff like my friend Mark Finn, so I can't comment on the accuracy, but I really am moved to get the book the film was based on and read more about this man's tragic life. The movie simply feels authentic. There's not a plot to speak of, rather, the film unfolds into a series of events that dovetail into the next until the end is reached. Pretty much the way things work in real life. And I have to give a hearty recommendation to the attention paid to the period details in this film. For rural, 1930s Texas, they hit the nail on the head. This isn't a John Ford western with Monument Valley in the background. There are intermittent forests, miles of cornfields, old sharecropper shacks... They nail it. In fact, for a while I was convinced they'd filmed on location in Cross Plains, since I've been through there several times (never had a chance to stop at the Howard home, unfortunately) and the setting looked the part. So it came as only a mild surprise to read in the credits that it was filmed in Austin (the Paramount Theatre), Bastrop (my wife's hometown) and Bartlett. Actually, Bartlett was the least surprising of the locations. That tiny town has a vintage "main street" that has been used in quite a few period films, notably the Robert Duvall picture The Stars Fell on Henrietta. Lisa and I know these places fairly well, so we're going to watch the movie again and try and place all those locations that felt familiar when we saw them the first time.

But anyway, the movie is good. And tragic. Watch it when you get a chance.

Now Playing: Creedence Clearwater Revival Chronicle

Sunday, September 26, 2004

There and back again

Made it to College Station and back in one piece. Ivan turned out to be something of a dud, drizzling intermittently around my destination but little beyond that. I found some good reference material at the Cushing and Evans libraries, but a couple of books--ones I'd really planned to lean on heavily--were not to be found. Their database said those two hadn't been checked out, but they weren't in the stacks where they were supposed to be. Bother.

For happy news, we turn to the homefront. Lisa, on her evening walk, stumbled upon two pepper plants that had been discarded in a big construction dumpster down the street. These were mature plants in five-gallon pots, maybe three feet tall. And covered with tiny bright red peppers. One produces peppers a little over an inch long, the other a bit smaller, and egg-shaped. I'm not sure what specific cultivars they alre, although I've seen similar types before. A quick taste test confirmed they're both suitably hot. The plants have now been adopted, watered and their viable peppers harvested for future salsa use.

Now, I must bid adieu for the night, as I have copious amounts of writing to do.

Now Playing: Nothing

Friday, September 24, 2004

Jayme vs. Ivan

Right now I'm in the midst of readying this week's fiction for posting on RevSF, which will be the conclusion of our "Herman Melville Month." It's a good deal of fun, but the coding is tedious.

After that, I'll be hitting the web to do some more preliminary research for my "Giants" and "Insects" encyclopedia entries. Mostly that entails identifying articles and essays from various sources, so I can make the most of my limited time at Texas A&M's Science Fiction and Fantasy Collection at the Cushing Library tomorrow. Which I'm certain will be great fun, as the undead hurricane Ivan should be spawning significant rainfall in the area of College Station at the time of my visitation.

Other than the hurricane, this trip should actually go more smoothly than my last encyclopedia-driven trek. Mainly because I got smart and figured out that both Extrapolation and Science Fiction Studies have online sites with extensive indexes. Those are the preeminent academic journals dealing with science fiction and fantasy theory, criticism and research. To further improve upon matters, I've discovered that Science Fiction Studies has archived almost the entirety of its content online for easy access. Joy! Bliss! There's fascinating reading in there, but had I figured this out a few months back, it would've saved me a great deal of extra effort.

Now Playing: ZZ Top Antenna

Thursday, September 23, 2004

I feel a great disturbance in the Force

Anyone familiar with the science fiction scene around Austin will know that Bruce Sterling has been at the epicenter of all worthy happenings since there were enough happenings to be considered a "scene." He is an institution. The Mighty Bruce is akin to the Godfather of all things SFnal in Texas. Where other great writers have passed on (Chad Oliver) or moved away (Lew Shiner, Howard Waldrop--tho Howard got smart and came back), Bruce has been the great constant, the "e" to Austin's "emcee squared." So it was with no small degree of shock that I received the following via email:
I have been asked to join the faculty at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. I have accepted, and will become a Californian academic in January. I'll also be escaping the Austin cedar season by spending November and December in Europe. Basically, I'm leaving Texas.

Whoo. This feels like a seismic shift in the firmament. Bruce will no longer call Austin home, and instead hang his hat on the Left Coast. I mean, really. The time zones are all wonky out there. That just ain't right. Even the Santa Barbara Freebirds World Burrito has a Bizarro world feel to it.

I make no claim of being close, personal buddies with Bruce, but he throws fantastic parties. He can discuss Bollywood movies with an evangelical fervor. He's provided me with great writing criticism--sometimes acerbic, often scathing--at Turkey City. In short, his departure is a tremendous loss for Austin's SF community. California should count itself lucky.

Now Playing: Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble Live at Alpine Valley

Screw that lame Ender's Game movie!

Brace yourselves for the Broadway event of the century: The Last Starfighter: The Musical!:
According to production notes, "In a small town nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1983, Alex Rogan is about to discover the adventure of a lifetime. An 18-year-old with an uncertain future, Alex becomes the master of a video game only to discover that Centauri, a huckster trying to save his vulnerable galaxy and make a little money in the process, put it on Earth as a testing ground. Centauri offers Alex membership in an elite cadre of space pilots charged with protecting the universe. Alex must find a way to reach his potential, while a great danger looms out in space, waiting for him."

I swear, I can't make this stuff up. But I really have to question why a Broadway adaptation and not a sequel? After all, the Ko-Dan Armada had been wiped out by Alex's timely application of the Death Blossom, but the nefarious Xur had escaped to scheme another day. Can't you imagine the glory of him prancing around the stage crooning "I'll have my revenge! My revenge! My revenge!"

Sure, the computer graphics were impressive for the time, but you have to wonder when the macguffin hinges on a Hollywood analog of the old Tailgunner arcade video game (a cool java version can be played here). It didn't help matters any that the novelization was more entertaining than the movie. But hey, throw in a couple of show tunes, and the sky's the limit!

Now Playing: Clandestine Music from Home

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Hiya there! Remember me? is a temptation I have not yet succumbed to, although it gets tempting every so often. I'll head over there every six months or so when I think about it, and browse my old high school's listings, looking for folks I haven't seen in a decade or more. My graduating class from high school totaled a pitifully small 88 students (I had labs at A&M with more people attending!) and it's quite disconcerting to run across a name I don't recognize.

I'd actually email some of these folks to say "Howdy" is it didn't cost so much. They're asking $50 or so for a two-year subscription, which is a lot to pay for access to an email addy that's as likely to be abandoned because of spam as not. There's a three-month subscription for considerably less, but still. Classmates also informs me that 15 people have looked up my profile in the past few months, but tellingly, none of them paid the registration fee to email me, either.

Instead of paying and then emailing people I once knew, I hit Classmates' "Request this person's profile" button. That supposedly sends the person in question an email saying I'm desperately interested in finding out this, that or the other about them. Boy, a bunch of people are gonna be scratching their heads today, wondering why Classmates is suddenly hitting them up with requests! If any of them google their way here, now they know.

Now Playing: Various Artists The Blues Brothers Soundtrack

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Blogs behaving badly

Some readers have dropped me emails pointing out that Blogger is not letting them leave comments. Just so nobody feels singled out and slighted by Blogger, it's not letting me leave comments, either, although it still deems me worthy of posting. The issue has been raised with tech support.

Now Playing: Billy Joel Rarities vol. 3

All reviews have the untainted credibility of Kirkus behind them

Just saw something somewhat distressing in Publisher's Lunch, an email newsletter I subscribe to. It seems that the august pages of Kirkus Reviews has decided that standards are overrated, and is trying to cash in with it's new Kirkus Discoveries program.
Kirkus Reviews is putting their 71 years worth of "credibility, integrity, and pedigree" up for sale to "self-published, e-published and POD authors. Any publisher seeking greater exposure for a title can gain awareness through our network of influential readers and buyers."

Under a new program called Kirkus Discoveries, authors and publishers are invited to "commission a review," for $350. Those reviews will be displayed at (which currently points to the main Kirkus home page), and "the best submissions" also will get included in monthly e-mail newsletters.

Call me crazy, but it seems the only thing Kirkus is discovering here is a new way of generating revenue streams. They're also starting up another pay-for-attention program called "Kirkus Reports." I seem to remember something similar to this having a specific name associated with it... oh, yeah. "Paid advertising." I'm certain people are going to be lining up to read these new publications, the same way they're lining up to buy iUniverse titles.

Now Playing: Billy Joel KOHUEPT

Monday, September 20, 2004

Any review is a good review, right?

I'm not sure what to make of this. There's a review of Shooting Star Comics Anthology no. 5 up at Cognitive Dissonance. Johanna isn't too kind with her overall assessment of the issue, but her assessment of my story is something of a mixed bag:
The next piece has a painted dragon talking to itself, partially in French, while it fights a dinosaur. I don't think I'd ever see something like this anywhere but a comic. It's a noble failed experiment by Jamie[sic] Lynn Blaschke and Lori Krell.

Actaully, I'm not convinced it doesn't work. Sure, it could've worked better, but there were some communication issues between myself and the artist that diluted some of the story's impact. But if Johanna didn't think it worked, that a valid criticism. Am I disappointed? Sure. But I've had worse reviews and got over them.

What juices my spirits, though, is her assessment that it is a "nobe failed experiment." In my book, there's no shame in that. I set out to set myself apart from the superhero crowd with my first published graphic narrative, and I think on that count I've succeeded. There isn't anything else out there like Dracosaur. I found a great artist to illustrate the piece, and even if the story doesn't work for readers on a basic level, at least it leaves an impression.

I've got some more proposals in with Shooting Star right now, and have a number of plot lines sketched out that continues the Dracosaur story in strange and unexpected ways. I believe that I've got a better grasp of the author-artist partnership now, and a clearer view of what works and what doesn't in the graphic format. Hopefully, I'll get a chance before long to put that to the test, and create a story that is a noble experiment that succeeds.

Now Playing: Berlin Philharmonic "The Ring" Without Words

Author complains he almost sold a story--two shots and a beer chaser

I don't have much of a sweet tooth, so I don't buy candy that often. Today, though, I picked up a packet of gummy worms because, well, they're fun to play with when I eat them. But I left them in the car, in the sun, and now they are the most disgusting, sticky mess you could imagine. So instead of posting something substantive here, I'll instead point everyone to the author drinking game.

It is, of course, brilliant. Not that the idea is all that original--I've thought up some variations in the midst of questionable books myself. But these folks go all-out. I mean, a Babysitter's Club drinking game? That's just wrong on so many levels...

Now Playing: Billy Joel & Elton John Face to Face in Tokyo

Sunday, September 19, 2004

I wanna live in the World of Tomorrow

I saw Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow yesterday. No, it doesn't live up to the hype. Yes, it's still a whole heck of a lot of fun, and I can't wait to see it again. It helps if you go into it expecting to see one of those old Republic serials, a la Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. My review of Sky Captain is up at RevSF:
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

It works. And how. Furthermore, there is no way Sky Captain could work in any other form. This is a movie that is literally luminous, with lush visuals firmly anchoring the story in the retro-futuristic art deco world the 1930s should have been. From the opening scenes, with the Hindenburg III cruising in to New York to dock with the airship mooring mast atop the Empire State Building, it's clear this is a world apart, a sepia-tinged dreamland steeped in a deep love for the Golden Age of Hollywood. The only film that comes close to encompassing that same atmosphere is 1991's sadly underrated "The Rocketeer," and Conran has acknowledged that earlier film's influence. While the two pictures share the same general conceit-—how our past should have been-—they approach that idea from radically different directions. Whereas "The Rocketeer" strove for verisimilitude and interwove the fantastic as tightly as possible with the everyday reality of history, Sky Captain discards reality entirely and rebuilds the world from the ground up, opting instead for a science fiction fantasy world of breathtaking beauty and texture. It simply feels right.

Also, I have a new music review up over at Green Man Review. I used to do quite a few music reviews, but have gotten away from them of late. This is my return to the form. Anyone who has a love for the old Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns or Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" will want to check out my review of Andean Fusion's Andean Sounds for the World vol. VII. It's a disc I listen to a lot.

Now Playing: Kirov Orchestra White Nights: Romantic Russian Showpieces

Friday, September 17, 2004

Birthday recap

The girls had a "surprise" party prepped for me when I got home yesterday--with streamers and such decorating the front door--so I was obligated to act suitably surprised when they jumped out from behind the furniture. The cake had far too many candles, giving off the heat of a small blast furnace, and to top it off the candles were the ones with sparkler wicks that simply refuse to go out when you blow. Great fun for all. Keela (the youngest who got me the infamous Supergirl panties for Father's Day) gave be a big bag of candy corn, proudly informing me that they were "carrots." The girl loves her vegetables, eh? Calista got me a shirt she picked out herself, and it's pretty obvious she has more fasion sense than I ever did. Lisa got me the Wonder Woman season 1 DVD boxed set. The girls, predictably, are going nuts over it, wearing tiaras and spinning around like dervishes. It's been years since I last watched the show, and I'd forgotten how cornball it was. The acting is marginal and the plots paper thin. But Wonder Woman fights Nazis every episode, and you've got to love that. And there's such a gosh-darn earnestness to the series that makes it loveable despite its faults. I found myself sitting through all the episodes watched so far with a goofy grin on my face. And, as expected, the girls went through the roof when Wonder Girl made her appearance.

Seriously, in the entirety of super-hero casting, has a better move ever been made than to make Linda Carter Wonder Woman? I mean, yeah, Tobey Maguire is close to perfect as Peter Parker and Christopher Reeve is downright iconic as Superman, but neither of them come close to filling out a bustier like Carter. Paradise Island, indeed.

Now Playing: James Horner The Rocketeer

I'd say it'd be "waxing"

My review of Robert Silverberg's collection Phases of the Moon: Stories of Six Decades is now live over at To say I like this book would be a gross understatement. Seriously. I haven't been this blown away by a collection since I can't remember. Here's a sample of my giddy musings:
It reads not so much like a single author collection, but rather an anthology giving a historical overview of the evolution of the genre spanning six decades. Every story here could have a different author's name on it. The ease at which he shifts perspective and approach, changes the very rhythm of his sentences, the selection of words is nothing short of amazing. Each story reads as if it sprang from a different mind, flowed from unrelated fingers onto pages separated by not only miles, but lifetimes.

The amazing thing is that I've read a lot of Silverberg's short fiction (none of his novels, oddly enough) so I knew how good a writer he could be. And I was still caught unawares by the sheer excellence of his writing. Mr. Silverberg, of course, may feel free to slip a large envelope filled with small bills under my door at any point...

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

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Diez y Seis

In observance of Mexico's independence day, I shall celebrate by stumbling into middle age. I'm considering a line of sporty new walkers, but I hear that the purchase of a wheelchair entitles one to a free knitted shawl. Decisions, decisions. There is hope for me, however. This morning, Calista informed me "Daddy, you're not that old."

For my birthday dinner last night (yeah, last night. We wanted to beat the expected rush) the family paid a visit to The Magic Time Machine. Good fun and good food. I had the terriyaki salmon. Our waiter was Ace Ventura. He and Lilo, of Lilo and Stitch fame sang a snarky version of "Happy Birthday" to me. On the way home, Calista opined that while it was a good choice on my part, she's still going to Chuck E. Cheese's on her birthday...

Now Playing: Billy Joel River of Dreams

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

VoV street date (sort of)

I've been in contact with Beth Ina at the U of Nebraska Press, and finally have some tentative dates for the release of Voices of Vision. Very tentative. As in they're essentially stuck on the calendar with Post-It notes right now. But if the universe cooperates, the books will be rolling off the press and into their warehouse in February, with the book shipping nationwide in early April. This works well, because it gives me the opportunity to launch the book at Aggiecon 36, an appropriate venue, as Aggiecon initially put me in contact with the writers set, and a Cepheid Variable-sponsored writers workshop planted the very first seeds of competence in my otherwise excreable prose. So I hope to have some sort of special event to mark the occasion. We shall see if the publishing schedule remains firm, or floats around in the coming months.

But why worry about the uncertainty of street dates? Why not head over to Nebraska's website right now and place your pre-order for Voices of Vision now, so you don't have to worry about those silly details?

Now Playing: Aerosmith Greatest Hits

Meet my newest, favoritest author

Confession time: I haven't read any of China Miéville's work. None of it, although I've heard so many raves in the last couple of years I fully expect to devour King Rat, Perdido Street Station and the rest in due course. So why is Miéville my newest, most favoritest author? Because of his new interview up at RevolutionSF, where he shares this sage insight:
RevolutionSF is one of the Web sites I think is doing a great job with cutting-edge sf, so I'm very flattered you all want to chat.

Truly, this is a man who's got his head screwed on right! He's actually one of the names on my short list of authors I'd like to interview, but as my self-imposed moratorium on interviewing takes root, it's looking more and more like that won't be happening. Still, interviews such as this one by Andrew Kozma are a lot of fun in their own right. Especially since he brings out insights from Miéville I doubt I'd have gotten:
I think you've put your finger on something very important, which is the confidence to not feel you have to explain everything. You can never, possibly, depict a whole world, so you shouldn't bother trying. And the hinted-at detail, which then isn't fleshed out, can be enormously useful as a way of instilling a kind of culture shock in the reader, which is a technique I like very much. I often mention things in passing. They may get fleshed out later, but it's not to be expected. Partly that's because in some cases I don't know the answers myself. Usually though I do, but I just don't want to lay it out, because it would be banal to spell it out. I think that refusal to explain everything ironically gives you a feeling of a fuller world.

Interestingly enough, this is the same point I find myself making (far less eloquently than Miéville) in my commentary on submissions to RevSF, and also during the Armadillocon writers workshop. I face this problem myself in my own writing too often--how much do you explain, how much do you take on faith the reader will twig onto? I describe it as "trusting the reader to connect the dots." Implying a cultural trait or odd environmental reality is more effective than explaining it in many cases. That makes the reference more mysterious, more intriguing and more exotic for the reader. In speculative fiction, that implied reality takes on phenominal proportions in the reader's mind that often times the author cannot match. In all honesty, how many of you were sorely disappointed once Fred Pohl finally introduced the Heechee? Detailed explanations simply bog a story down in many cases, and has its own entry in the Turkey City Lexicon which is pretty self-explanatory: "I've suffered for my art (and now it's your turn)."

Miéville's obvious good taste in fiction aside, this interview moves him up several spaces on my radar. He says all the right things (these being defined as things I wish I'd said in such a clever fasion, had anyone taken the time or interest to ask me), and the next time I'm at the local Hasting's I'll see what they've got in stock.

Now Playing: James Horner The Rocketeer Soundtrack

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

War of the Worlds (Hollywood style)

Every so often, a story comes along that restores my faith in enthusiasm, creativity and artistic vision. SF Crowsnest is reporting that Pendragon Pictures has trumped Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise by wrapping production on their period-set take on the H.G. Wells novel, The War of the Worlds:
In news fit to set Steven Spielberg's hair on end, Pendragon Pictures has just announced the completion of principal photography on their take of H.G. Wells' The War Of The Worlds. Set in Wells' intended turn-of-the-century English locale, the movie is the world's first authentic adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic 1898 novel.

The live-action production, lensed in complete security under the cover title The Great Boer War, taking two and a half months to complete on location in England and the Pacific Northwest. The picture wrapped almost three years to the date when Pendragon's original updated version of War Of The Worlds was shut down due to the events of September 11th.

I remember when Pendragon first started talking about this project--they had a website with some nifty concept artwork displayed. This was, oh, back around 1998-99 or so. They had trouble getting the film off the ground because there were competing projects floating around at the same time, including an animated movie and a musical stage production(!) not to mention Steven Spielberg's undying interest. Well, the production art is nowhere to be found, but Pendragon has published movie stills on the official website. I'm jazzed about this film. Firstly, the original novel was an attack on British imperialism. As much as I love the George Pal version, moving the timeframe up to modern day simply loses the resonant undertones that made the original so effective. The germs defeating the Martians in the original was a lesson in the follies of hubris. In modern versions, it's simply deus ex machina. Besides, we've already had a contemporary War of the Worlds remake. It was called "Independence Day" and people still complain about the dumb writing that stitched together all those killer special effects sequences. But it was, in effect, an unabashed remake of the George Pal movie.

I can't wait to see the Pendragon film. Hopefully, Spielberg's people won't bury these guys in frivolous lawsuits between now and then. Yeah, color me Pollyanna.

Now Playing: Melissa Etheridge Never Enough

They call me MISTER Encyclopedia

Somehow, without ever actually saying I would do so, I am now committed to writing two more entries for the Encyclopedia of Themes in Science Fiction and Fantasy. I sent Gary Westfahl an email asking for more information. He replied saying the assignments were mine. Now, I know I could get out of it by writing him back and saying "Hell no," but that's not the kind of guy I am. And I was interested in doing a couple more entries--if I wasn't, I wouldn't have replied to Gary's original email.

So now I have the topics of "Giants" and "Insects" to write. Giants was actually one of my first choices way back when this whole exercise started. I expect the research will be frustrating, but fun. Giants are ubiquitous in mythology, after all, but not nearly as common in fantasy and science fiction proper. Suggested works to reference are Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, Swift's Gulliver's Travels, the Xena and Hercules TV shows and the Harryhausen Jason and the Argonauts. Interesting mix, there. I expect I'll also reference Land of the Giants and Donaldson's Thomas Covenant books as well. Of course, there's no way I can't include "Attack of the 50-Foot Woman." There are several other works that come to mind, but I'm interested in what you blog readers think would be an indispensable giant-containing work to include in my research?

Ditto for Insects. That one was actually was a lark on my part. I suppose I only put it down because ants played such a large role in my research for my entry on Simak's City. Other suggested works to reference include Alice in Wonderland, Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, Heinlein's Starship Troopers and James White's Hospital Station. I think the "Alien" films have to go in there as well, since that creature's biology is based on an amalgam of insect types on Earth. The same arguement could be made for the alien hunters of the "Predator" films, but the distinctions are more subtle and more difficult to convey in the limited space of the article. But I will definitely reference "Them," which is one of the greatest giant-nuclear-monster-mutation movies ever made, and probably Mothra as well, because you can never get enough of that giant, Godzilla-fighting moth. What other science fiction or fantasy pieces give the creepy-crawlies starring roles?

Now Playing: Vivaldi Concerto in C for Two Trumpets

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Beaches and encyclopedias--what a combo!

Today was devoted to a family excursion to the beach, Port Aransas to be precise, the place where they have that great sand sulpture competition in the spring. We'd planned on making regular trips this summer, since New Braufels is only a two-and-a-half hour drive from the coast, but rainy weather and other commitments kept us from going. Today was essentially our last open weekend before winter. Turned out to be a great day to do. I don't know if it's because of the lateness of the season or the 9/11 anniversary, but there were very few people out. No waiting at the ferry, no crowds at the beach. The sky was sunny, the temperature only got up into the high 80s and the water was the clearest I've ever seen the Gulf. The girls had a grand time collecting little clams and fish in buckets of water, and playing in the waves with a boogie board we bought to mark the occasion. Great fun was had by all. Lisa and I reaffirmed our desire to some day have a second home on the coast.

Upon my return home, I find an email from Gary Westfahl waiting for me. You may remember that I did three entries for his Encyclopedia of Themes in Science Fiction and Fantasy earlier this year, which were both a great deal of fun, as well as a tremendous amount of work to put together and get right. Well, it turns out that there's a few (make that more than a few) entries that have become "newly available" because those previously assigned to write them backed out on the assignments in one way or another. Westfahl is appealing for some noble soul to step in and write a bunch of them.

First, I'm flattered and humbled that he thought my ham-fisted efforts of encyclopedia writing of a high enough quality to include me in this limited appeal. Second, I simply don't have the time to take more assignments on--this would entail another road trip to College Station for research, another looming deadline. I'm still struggling to get the rewrite finished on that unbelievably stubborn "Apocalypse" story, for crying out loud. Not to mention that Jacqueline Carey interview that's not going to transcribe itself. But instead of deleting the message, I keep rereading it. Several of the topics--Giants, Jupiter and the Outer Planets, etc.--are ones I really wanted to do the first time around. It's not easy at all to say "no." Obviously, I'm going to have to give this some additional thought over the next day or so.

Now Playing: SixMileBridge Unabridged

Friday, September 10, 2004

NEWSFLASH! Brutarian is not dead yet!

Brutarian's not dead yet. My query generated a quick response from Dom,
the publication's owner, which I'm posting here with his permission:
I do hope Mr. Stewart is not spreading the rumor that we are defunct as
we are not. Gene and I had creative differences that could not be resolved
and so we had a parting of the ways. Brutarian will continue to publish
until I am dead or in a permanent coma so not to worry.

In the interim, I hope that you will let everyone know that we are more
than alive and kicking and still paying the highest rates in the biz aside
from majors like Time, and Playboy and well, you know those publications
with mega circulations.

If you get the chance could you get the message out to all these sites you
frequent and let them know the situation. Or let me know where to go -
no puns here, not now - and post the announcement.


So, it seems to me that we're looking as something of a bridge burning in
progress. I don't know details, obviously, but the usual "creative differences"
probably came into play.

Now Playing: Rush Chronicles

Wither Brutarian?

Aw, man. This is not what I wanted to hear today:

BRUTARIAN QUARTERLY is now, as of 9 September 2004, defunct as a
professional entity and is reverting to its original self-published
amateur status. Fiction Editor and Art Director Gene Stewart will no
longer be associated with the publication.

The Summer 2004 issue is gravely in question.

Anyone who had a submission accepted for publication in a future issue
should consider any and all agreements null and void and are free to take
their work elsewhere.

The slush pile has been purged and no further correspondence will be
accepted. The web presence is gone, too.

Anyone who has not heard from BQ can assume their submissions are free to
be sent elsewhere.

Please remove BQ from all market listings.


Gene Stewart

To put this in context, Gene emailed me on Tuesday asking if I might have an interview nearing completion they could use in the autumn issue of the magazine. I replied that I had a Jacqueline Carey one that hadn't been transcribed yet, but then pointed out they still haven't run my Peter David interview even though they accepted it almost a year back. And now this.

I find myself wondering if this is, perhaps, a personality clash. Or a business partnership blowup. Dom Salemi's the publisher, and if he and Gene came to loggerheads, well, I can imagine the breakup would be abrupt. Gene's terse, bridge-burning departing statements could be interpreted as such. Note that he pointedly didn't say Brutarian is defunct alltogether. Just as a "professional" market. I'll have to poke around a bit and see if I can get some clarification on the situation.

Now Playing: Mel McDaniel Stand Up

RevSF fiction for September

After inadvertently taking a week off in honor of both Worldcon and DragonCon, RevolutionSF Fiction is back with “Herman Melville Month.” Yes indeedy, our short fiction selections this month feature fish, white whales and even an obscure little gem by the author of Typee himself!

This month also marks the action-packed, all-star conclusion to Mark Finn’s “The Transformation of Lawrence Croft, or, Three Days of the Con-Dorks.” Yes, I know we promised you the conclusion last month, but with a story this good, isn’t it best to savor it as long as possible?

RevolutionSF is the home for unique imaginative fiction.
Fiction at RevolutionSF in September will include:

September 10
"Fish Stew and Other Alchemy" by Bill McKinley **Original Fiction**
"The Transformation of Lawrence Croft, or, Three Days of the Con-Dorks" Chapter 33 by Mark Finn
"Metamorphosis #89" by Don Webb

August 17
"Little Whalers" by Steven Utley **Original Fiction**
"The Transformation of Lawrence Croft, or, Three Days of the Con-Dorks" Chapter 34 by Mark Finn ***THRILLING ACTION-PACKED CONCLUSION!***
"Metamorphosis #90" by Don Webb

August 24
"The Bell-Tower" by Herman Melville **Classic Reprint**
"Metamorphosis #91" by Don Webb

All stories can be read at

Now Playing: The Moody Blues Time Traveller

Thursday, September 09, 2004

More tales of publishing woe

Hey kids! We've got another article to enjoy that regales us with the horrors of book publishing and how the author is victimized. The Education of Stacy Sullivan in the Columbia Journalism Review is actually useful and informative (well, mostly) as opposed to the sob-fest of self-pity that was Jane Austen Doe's article on the same subject.

The article paints a sympathetic portrait. Yes, publishing is dominated by the bottom line and the coddling of bestsellers. But the article doesn't make a scene about publishing injustices, it just notes that they are there and authors have to deal with them. Except... about halfway through the article, after it makes a point of saying the author missed her deadline by two full years, the readers are presented with this "injustice":
Her new deadline was July 2003. After two more years of work, she managed to turn in a sprawling 600-page draft that she hoped her editor would then slice in half. It was all the material she had amassed, including a long digression in the form of a travelogue of her time on the road with the war photographer Ron Haviv. In short, nothing that was ready for publication.

A few weeks later, waiting for a call from her editor, Sullivan got a package in the mail containing her 600-page ramble — copyedited and with an attached index. She panicked. “I had turned in what I thought was a draft and I had gotten back this copyedited manuscript,” Sullivan says. “They were just going to print that. And it was so rough. There was no way.” But the book was already on the conveyor belt. It was listed in the next season’s catalogue and the sales representatives had begun pitching it to booksellers. Everyone, including her agent, told her there was really nothing to be done. But Sullivan insisted they pull the plug. “It wreaked such havoc,” she says. “They had to take it off the production train, where it takes on a life of its own.”

Now for the life of me, I can't imagine why anyone would even remotely consider it being okay to turn in a manuscript that isn't fit for publication. That's freaking prima donna behavior there. Maybe it's my journalism background coming through, where I faced tense nightly deadlines and didn't pass along my story to the editors until they'd been effectively polished. What Sullivan did reminds me of the the passive-aggressive behavior of a woman I used to date, who would secretly devise these bizarre "tests" whenever she thought I wasn't giving her enough attention. Sullivan didn't think her editor was giving her enough attention, so she tested that by turning in sub-standard material. Then threw a fit and cost the publisher much dinero by yanking the book from the schedule when they didn't respond the way she wanted.

If there's one lesson to be learned from this tale of woe, it's a pretty basic one: Don't turn in anything to your publisher you wouldn't want to see in print. Yes, you may not feel your manuscript is the best that it could be, but it has to be the best that your ability allows. If the editor can help coax you to better prose, so much the better. But you can't bank on it, and in this case it's pretty obvious that Sullivan expected the editor to do a lot of her work for her, and that's just not going to happen in this day and age, especially with non-fiction.

Now Playing: The Police Message in a Box

There is nothing--NOTHING--you can't find on the web

So I'm doing some online research on that classic of Japanese cinema, King Kong Escapes, for a story I figure to be starting on in a week or so (hey, nobody can accuse me of not going the extra mile for my fiction) when I stumbled across this:

Gorgosaurus, King Kong, Mecha Kong

Is that cool or what? It's a diorama, customized from several hard-to-find resin model kits from Bandai. The artist, Matt Evangelista, documents the process with a variety of photos on the site. And what a site it is. Look at this one:

Mothra Larva, Anguillas, Godzilla

There are scores of incredibly detailed vinyl and resin models displayed at the site, which is, to the best of my reckoning, a sort of Japanese Kaiju Museum created and maintained by fans of the giant monster genre. I was quite surprised at how much Ultraman content the site has. Many of the giant monsters are unfamiliar to me, which leads me to believe that they are mostly Ultraman opponents from the weekly TV series run in the U.S. back in the 70s (think Power Rangers without the teenagers and animal-themed robots). There are a good deal of Toho's Godzilla-related creations represented as well, but it was somewhat odd the complete lack of Gamera characters. Sure, many of the Gamera films were bad, even by giant monster movie standards, but the designs were interesting, and I'd have expected someone to work up something at least for the three recent Gamera films. Enjoy!

Now Playing: The Monkees Then and Now... The Best of the Monkees

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Top this, if you dare!

If you've read Gibberish for any length of time, you'll probably have twigged onto the fact that I get a kick out of whining about almost selling every story I send out. The "close but no cigar" factor, I suppose you could call it. I know many starting writers out there would love to get personal rejections, and I appreciate the attention, truly I do. But sometimes "almost selling" reaches comic proportions. Lest you think I exaggerate, I offer a sampling from my most recent flush letter:
Jayme, it's terrific to see something new from you, as always--especially when it's a piece this strong...

This is a really great tale--fast paced, exciting, with a great plot & a terrific opening. I was especially impressed with the well-realized setting & the intriguing main character.

Exciting, eh? That's what I thought. But then it goes on for half a page explaining that no, they're not going to buy the story. Granted, concrete reasons are given for the decision, so it's not wholly arbitrary. Rather minor points, actually, one of which could be cleared up with a modest rewrite. The second, well, the nature and structure of the story precludes any real changes in that area, but I could at least address it superficially here and there.

And no, after reading the rejection many, many times, I can't interpret it as a subtle request for a rewrite and resubmission. It reads pretty cut-and-dried. But that hasn't stopped me from shooting off an email to the editor asking point-blank if they'd like one. I don't expect them to say yes, but hey, I'm not that big of a fool.

Now Playing: Queen Greatest Hits

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Let's get contemplative!

There is an interesting article up over at Library Journal which has the unfortunately lame title of Sci-Fi 101. Yeah, like that moniker conveys any useful information at all. What the article actually discusses is a focused study giving insight into what draws patrons to the genre of science fiction, as well as what drives them away.

There is a bit too much space devoted to stating the obvious, such as the fact some readers use the term "Sci-Fi" to include fantasy as well as science fiction proper, while others view one sub-genre or another as anathma. Wow. Some SF readers are snobs about fantasy, and vice versa. Big surprise there. Yes, I know the target audience is for those librarians and related folk unfamiliar with even the most basic conventions of the genre, so sue me. The article makes up for the kindergarten approach, however, when it examines the questions of why readers continuously return to the genre, and why some eventually abandon it:
Satisfied readers will keep choosing sf, and a solid strategy may keep a reader turning to the genre even when it is no longer satisfying. The main reason people abandon sf is saturation owing to increased reading experience.

More than any other genre, sci-fi delicately balances between being familiar and being new. Too much "new" is inaccessible. Too much "familiar" fails to provide the desired reading experience. The balancing point is unique for each reader and likely changes over time.

Highly experienced readers may become saturated with sci-fi or a particular sci-fi story type. Once saturated, readers find a story type predictable or no longer experience a sense of "difference." A saturated reader may abandon the story type for a while, or forever. Readers who are switching strategies for book selection within the genre are in a similar position to an emerging reader of sf: they need to learn new strategies for selecting books, to expand their domain knowledge. They may need to rely more on external sources for recommendation, or find new sources. This is a readers' advisory opportunity.

I'm not sure I agree with this assertation in whole, despite the fact that I can see the contention reflected in my reading habits to a significant extent. At one time in my life, I read Big Fat Fantasy voraciously, but other than the Harry Potter books and an occasional re-reading of Lord of the Rings, I avoid the form now. Saturation. Ditto with urban fantasy. The same applies to specific authors. In high school, Arthur C. Clarke was my favorite author, and I devoured everything I could of his. Then, perhaps, I overdosed. It didn't help that books by him, such as 3001 and Rama II just weren't very good. Greg Bear rose to the top of my reading list in college, and I hunted down almost everything he'd ever written, even the out of print books like Strength of Stones. I loved them. Then his work grew more inaccessable to me. Stuff like Queen of Angels was a struggle, and I abandoned Slant halfway through. I backtracked, and read his Star Trek novel, Corona in hopes of finding a simple, intelligent, adventure story. Instead, I found a case study in uninspired writing.

On the other hand, the opposite doesn't necessarily hold true. I read Neville Schute's On the Beach on my own in high school and thought it amazing and brilliant, but never had any inclination to seek out his other work. In college, I read Bones of the Moon by Jonathan Carroll and was amazed, but it's only in the last few years that I've been moved to seek out his other work. Each of his novels prompts the same reaction: "That was very good. But I don't want to read something else by him right now." Ken McCloud's Cassini Division literally had me giddy, flipping pages like mad because I was so engrossed in his story. It was probably my favorite novel of whatever year it came out. But I've yet to read anything else by him, and haven't bought Cosmonaut Keep or any others.

I wonder why I've avoided these writers whose work I've loved? Nearest I can figure, it might be some kind of subconscious risk aversion. Since the first book of theirs I read was so good, other works can't help but disappoint. Silly and illogical, yes. And I'm not convinced that is an accurate reason for my behavior any more than the reasons stated in the article are. But my reading patterns are oddball, no doubt about it.

Now Playing: Emerson, Lake and Palmer Return of the Manticore

Friday, September 03, 2004

Bestsellers guaranteed!

Since my Aggies were humbled and humiliated by the Utah Utes last night and looked more lost and confused than Billy Graham at Dragon*Con, I won't talk about that debacle here. Let us never speak of it again.

Instead, I'll point out this marvellous piece of writing advice, How to write a best selling fantasy novel. I mean, there is unequivocal brilliance at work here. One glance shows me what I've been doing wrong all these years. I feel so foolish. A wasted life. Here's a small sampling of the piece's sage wisdom:
Bad Expendables.
It will be necessary to create Bad Expendables. These are the orcs, goblins, trolls, dragons, wights or any other creatures that we are happy to kill in their thousands. They are usually black, hairy, sweaty or in some other way unacceptable by middle class Caucasian standards. Often they are deformed, based on the traditional belief that an ugly body reflects an ugly soul. It is our way of doing a service to the sick and disabled by reminding readers that people who are disfigured look that way because they’re evil.

Note that in Fantasy Lands the concept of reform or rehabilitation is unknown. All allies, minions, vassals and instruments of the Enemy must be summarily killed even if they served their master primarily out of fear.

Kudos go out to the Texas ex-pat Bookslut for pointing me in this direction. It made my morning, and should make yours, too. If it doesn't, the terrorists win.

Now Playing: Supertramp The Autobiography of Supertramp

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Paging Ellie Arroway

It looks like SETI@home is finally bearing some fruit. I say "finally" because I'm a fan of instant gratification, not because I believe the project is a failure if alien signals aren't picked up within 30 minutes of the project's launch. But anyway, it looks as if some very interesting signals have been picked up by the grass-roots sky-scanning initiative:
This radio signal, now seen on three separate occasions, is an enigma. It could be generated by a previously unknown astronomical phenomenon. Or it could be something much more mundane, maybe an artefact of the telescope itself.

But it also happens to be the best candidate yet for a contact by intelligent aliens in the nearly six-year history of the SETI@home project, which uses programs running as screensavers on millions of personal computers worldwide to sift through signals picked up by the Arecibo telescope.

I don't believe this is necessarily alien contact. It's a bit too oddball for that, I suspect, although the weakness of the signal and the frequency are curious if it is indeed natural. And the fact that it's not coming from an obvious star system. A dense, hydrogen-emitting body in a tight orbit around a massive brown dwarf is one possibility, with doppler shifting accounting for the frequency drift. Or not. It's just strange all around. It shall be fascinating to watch as this unfolds.

Now Playing: The Rolling Stones Rewind

First SFFS meeting of the semester

Last night was the first meeting of the semester for the Science Fiction/Fantasy Society of Texas State. The first meeting is always met with a degree of uncertainty, because the number of new members who turn out are a barometer of the club's health for the rest of the year. A good infusion of new blood means SFFS will withstand the attrition that inevitably whittle away at the membership as the semesters progress. It's hard to hold events if you don't have the membership to actually do so.

Fortunately, there were close to 30 folks at the meeting, with approximately half of those newcomers. That's a good showing, considering there were a couple of competing events going on in the student center that potentially bled off additional members. And a handful of returning members who are normally involved couldn't make it last night because of scheduling conflicts.

There's another student organizations recruiting event coming up next week which should net the club another half dozen members or so. Road trips to Texas-area science fiction/comics/gaming conventions were discussed. Plans for a trip to the Texas Renaissance Festival were solidified. A call was made for more submissions to the fanzine. Movie night is back, and more gaming events are planned, as well as the annual Halloween Masquerade Ball and various fund raisers. Yeppers, it's looking like this bunch is on top of things.

Now Playing: Pat Benatar Best Shots

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Stevie Austin: We can rebuild her!

Since I haven't posted anything new on the Anansi X-Prize competition in a while, I figured we needed an update. And boy, what an update! The fellow who won the head of the mannequin "injured" in the crash of the Rubicon 1 rocket some weeks back on an eBay auction has dedicated a website to chronicle the mannequin's reconstruction. We have the technology:
Astronaut "Stevie Austin", the brave Test Pilot for Space Transport Corporation (STC), lies severely injured after washing up on the beach minutes after her experimental Suborbital Tourism Vehicle, called RUBICON 1, exploded and
disintegrated while hundreds of feet in the air over the Pacific Ocean.

The brutal explosion happened so fast, Stevie's Space Capsule Parachute System
failed to deploy, causing her doomed Capsule to plummet toward the sea
while spinning wildly out of control.

There's even a movie featured on the site. Great stuff.

Speaking of great stuff, the official X-Prize website has a page with capsule information and links to all the rocket jockey teams formally competing for the prize. There's even one loony group that was disqualified and kicked out of the competition for making repeated outlandish claims. A fun way to waste an hour or four...

Now Playing: Various Sounds of the Eighties

Rice in the mail

"The Year of Rice and Assault" went back out in the mail this morning, first thing. We'll see Shiela Williams' opinion of the piece within a few weeks, I expect. And I expect her opinion won't be so very high. Once she says no, I'm stumped as to where to send it next. Familiarity with the news story I pointed out in my original post on the matter isn't particularly necessary to appreciate (ahem!) the dogmatic absurdity of the piece (for the record, Gordon Van Gelder was familiar with the incident in question) but it certainly helps. So it's not dependent on "Ripped from the headlines" knowledge, but it's not entirely timeless, either. I could send it to SciFiction, which wouldn't buy it, but Ellen Datlow would probably enjoy the heck out of it anyway. Beyond that, submitting becomes even more of a crapshoot. We'll see what suggests itself in the interim.

In completely unrelated joyful news, I've just learned that ADV will be releasing a boxed set of the Shusuke Kaneko Gamera films:
Join Dr. Nagamine, Inspector Osako and the lovely Asagi Kusanagi as they attempt to unravel the mysterious and deadly monster attacks of both the Gyaos and the Legion. With the “help” of the military, the survival of the human race depends on them. And the fate of the world depends on a gargantuan, aeronautic and flamably breathed reptile—Gamera, the guardian of the universe!

Gamera the Complete Collection (SRP $39.98) is a DVD-only release, including three feature length films on three discs housed in a new textured, metallic shell with a zillion extras. Disc 1: Guardian of the Universe in both English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0 language versions with English subtitles. Disc 2: Attack of Legion and Disc 3: Revenge of Iris in both English 5.1 and Japanese 5.1 language versions with English subtitles.

I saw Gamera: Guardian of the Universe a few years back, and found it extremely good and worthy of a good portion of the praise being heaped its way. I haven't seen the other two films, but understand that they are even better. As a kid, I loved watching the old Gamera films such as Destroy All Planets and Gamera vs. Baragon on Saturday afternoons. They were as much fun as Godzilla films, and I probably enjoyed them more since they were more specifically targeted toward kids. And as much as Gamera was a blatant knock-off of Godzilla, the design work and approach still showed a degree of inventiveness and creativity. I still hope to see a Godzilla vs. Gamera film one day, but I'm not holding my breath. Until then, this set will be a welcome addition to my DVD collection.

Now Playing: The Go-Gos Return to the Valley of the Go-Gos