Thursday, June 30, 2005

Klaw on Voices

A nice bit of good press for me: Locus Online has just published Artistic Insights: A Review of Two Non-Fiction Titles by Rick Klaw, which reviews two non-fiction SFnal books, one of which is mine.
Each interview is preceded by a brief introduction from Blaschke. The interviews often have unique quirks and associated stories associated. In these pieces Blaschke, laments the inherent problems with email interviews, mentions his love of the comic book character Green Arrow, and chronicles Harlan Ellison's generosity. His forewords offer a glimpse into the role of an interviewer in relation to the subject and eventual publication.

Now Playing: The Smithereens 11

Am I missing something here?

Being a journalist myself, I've been following this story with all the fascination of watching an ongoing train wreck in slow motion: Time Inc. will hand over subpoenaed notes--Reporter threatened with jail over story on leak of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity. For those of you who don't remember, this case revolves around a CIA agent's cover being blow in the media--supposedly by the Bush administration as retaliation against the agent's husband, who was and is a harsh critic of the Iraq war.
Time Inc. said Thursday it would comply with a court order to deliver the notes of a reporter threatened with jail in the investigation of the leak of an undercover CIA officer’s name.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan is threatening to jail Matthew Cooper, Time’s White House correspondent, and Judith Miller of The New York Times for contempt for refusing to disclose their sources.

It is, of course, illegal to compromise an agent, the identity of who was a classified secret. It harm's America's interests, and puts that agent and agent's family in jeopardy. But I am utterly and totally flabberghasted and the vehemence investigators are going after these Time reporters--since they aren't the ones that broke the story or revealed the agent's identity!
Meanwhile, columnist Robert Novak, who was the first to identify CIA officer Valerie Plame in print, told CNN he “will reveal all” after the matter is resolved, adding that it is wrong for the government to jail journalists.

Novak, who has not been held in contempt, has not commented on his involvement in the grand jury leak investigation.

So essentially, what we have here is conservative columnist Robert Novak, a staunch supporter of the Bush administration, who by all accounts aided and abetted this felony by publishing this classified information, illegally given to him by a "leak" is not being prosecuted or threatened with jail time, even though he is the first-hand source, the epicenter, if you will, of the whole scandal and illegality. Instead, the investigators are targetting reporters who merely followed up on the story, one of whom never even wrote or published an article:
Cooper wrote a story subsequently about Plame. Miller did some reporting but did not write a story....

Robert Bennett, representing Miller, told the judge in asking for more time that “it’s a big step to put two people in jail who have committed no crimes.”

So explain to me what I'm missing here, because right now it looks as if the administration is bending over backward to protect Novak, who has proven himself to be a loyal footsoldier...

Now Playing: Dire Straits Money for Nothing

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

This is just too cool

What an age of wonders we live in. Dust devils on Mars. Whoda thunk it? Screw downloading the new Star Wars movie or War of the Worlds, the MER Spirit dust devil movie page is what the internet was created for!

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

The lengths I go to...

I'm a neanderthal when it comes to computers and programming, and that includes blogs and HTML. As I couldn't figure out what was causing the glitch that caused the long scroll in posts, I abandoned my efforts to solve the problem. Instead, I found a new blog template. For two days I've been locked in mortal combat with it, and have managed to beat it into a reasonable facsimile of my blog. There may be bugs that crop up, but for now it looks to be a slight improvement over my previous template: to wit, the page doesn't spill over the right side of the screen anymore. Hip hoorah.

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

On writers and workshops

Sunday's writers workshop started out promisingly. Despite the extremely late night before, what with all the suite parties and good skiffy conversation, I managed to make it on time for the 9 a.m. start, in somewhat coherent fashion. I brought along copies of the Turkey City Lexicon and Vonda McIntyre's guide to manuscript preparation to hand out. It wasn't long before I felt I'd made a faux pas, as out of the half dozen folks assembled, two were Clarion grads and the rest seemed to have a bit more experience than I'd anticipated. Fortunately, only one already had copies of both, so the handouts were greeted with much interest.

The stories themselves were surprisingly competent overall. Nothing was publishable at this point, but a couple of them impressed me with distinctive voices right off the bat, and two others had the germs of good stories lurking beneath some superfluous verbage, and might emerge after some serious rewriting. There was one story, however, that was downright bad. Horribly over-written, every sentence had at least one "eyeball kick" which was bad enough, but then there was the "idiot plot" elements, the complete disregard of rational science and an utterly passive protagonist. Those weren't the worst of sins, however. The worst were the cliches--the maverick scientist that nobody listens to, and the evil child with superhuman powers that might as well have been named "Bill Mumy" from that old Twilight Zone episode It's a Good Life.

Now, the trick with writers workshops is to weigh the critiques before making any changes. What works for one reader may not work for another, and the author must judge which one understood more clearly what said author was attempting to accomplish with the story. Get 10 people reading the same story, and you can get 10 different opinions on what works and what doesn't--many of them diametrically opposed. I've seen this many times at Turkey City. What should raise red flags for the author is multiple readers of different tastes and opinions identifying the exact same problems in a story. This is what happened Sunday at Armadillocon. Six people all were tripped up by the cliches, bad logic, worse science and purple prose. How should an author respond to such comments?

Well, if you're this particular author, you start out by declaring everyone in the group morons. Then you insist that every "problem" with the story is there by author intent, and that cliches sell--that editors want cliche stories, because readers are familiar and comfortable with them. Jeff Goldblum's wacky scientist schtick is what made Jurassic Park and Independence Day mega-million-dollar blockbusters--precisely because that character is cliche. And, since that bit of unassailable wisdom wasn't enough to drive the point home, the writer goes into a spiel about how the workshop wasn't what they expected--they were looking for advice on how to get the story sold to major markets, not petty negativity. As proof, this professional author ("professional" being stressed repeatedly) who only sells stories for money, began challenging the group's credentials. "How many of you have even made a professional sale?" When several hands went up, the stakes were raised: "Were they professional markets? Have you made more than 40 sales? Well I have, so I think I know better than you what editors want." I declined to enter into this literary pissing match, because this boorish fool was beyond any help or reasoning. But I had my suspicions.

Later, during a Q&A with the convention's GoH, boorish "professional" writer let slip the URL of their website whilst bragging about an upcoming short fiction collection being published by a "small press." A check of said website effectively confirmed what I already knew: all the short fiction sales bragged about earlier were in fact to obscure, non-paying e-zines. I think I recognized one that offered a quarter cent a word. The forthcoming collection isn't from Publish America or iUniverse, which surprised me a bit. The publisher isn't that far removed from the bottom of the barrel, though, and if the writer sells more than a dozen copies to folks who aren't blood relatives, I'll be more than a little taken aback.

And, lest you think I'm withholding names to protect the guilty, let me assure you I'm not. It's true I don't generally engage in online mudslinging, but in this case I'm so annoyed at this boorish writer that I'm not about to give them one iota of free publicity. Simple morbid curiosity would drive a few people to said writer's site, and my penance would be unfathomable were I responsible for even one misguided soul wasting money on this hack's ballyhooed volume of drek. So there.

Now Playing: Electric Light Orchestra Afterglow

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Books in the Barrio revisited

I missed this story while in Houston, but think it's still worthy of pointing out after the fact. Hard to believe that it was just a year ago that I wrote about the new Waldenbooks opening in south San Antonio, but a year it's been since the Books in the Barrio project bore fruit. And wow, what do you know--the people in south San Antonio are buying books now that they have a bookstore!
For more than six years, South Side residents fought to get a bookstore so they wouldn't have to travel to the North Side for reading material.

Last June, their hard work paid off when Waldenbooks moved into 3,000 square feet of space at South Park Mall. And during the store's first anniversary celebration Thursday, a Waldenbooks official said sales have exceeded projections by more than 21 percent.

"A year later, this has been a great success," said Lidia Castaneda, district manager of Borders Group, which owns Waldenbooks. "We can tell others this has been a profitable endeavor. It's a shame we don't have more (bookstores)."

Castaneda said the company hasn't given up on the South Side and could plan a freestanding Borders a year or so from now.

That just goes to show that if stores pay attention to their customer base rather than faulty "common knowledge" they can build up successful businesses. Who cares if the majority of people in south San Antonio are Hispanic, folks who supposedly don't like to read? A quarter of a million potential customers are still a quarter of a million potential customers. There's a tremendous literary heritage in Latin America, and that extends beyond Cervantes and Marquez. With talk of a full-blown Borders superstore floating around now, it appears that the Borders group has finally figured that out.

Now Playing: Various artists Dr. Demento 20th Anniversary Collection

Blogger hijinks

I swear I didn't do anything to my template coding last week. Scout's honor. But, you may well be asking yourself, why is it that either the text of the blog entry, or the "Posted by..." tagline at the end is appearing waaaaaaay down the page, after the end of the links sidebar to the right? I do not know. The problem manifests itself differently in different browsers, but there is definitely a glitch at work somewhere. I've got a call in to Blogger tech support. We shall see what comes of it.

Now Playing: Tears for Fears Tears Roll Down

Monday, June 27, 2005

Back from Apollocon

In all honesty, I've been back since yesterday, but I've been too tired to post anything. The con was small, but well-attended and filled with enthusiasm. I have it on good authority that it exceeded all of its attendance goals, so the coffers are full of silver and next year should be even bigger and better.

One unfortunate thing I realized upon my arrival was that I wasn't listed as a guest either in the program book or various other sundry places. This was, of course, off-putting, as the reason writers attend these gatherings is to generate more name recognition. Fortunately, I was listed on the programming schedule--only the schedule they gave me, and the one they gave to everyone else didn't necessarily agree. Ever. It didn't take long for everyone to figure out I was there, however, and once things got rolling inertia kicked in and a good time was seemingly had by all.

My first panel on Friday, "All I Needed to Know I Learned from Asimov: The Influence of the Great Masters," was much fun, as these kinds of panels always are. Heinlein dominated the discussion, but we argued Asimov and Clarke as well as a bunch of other names both well-known and obscure. I was seated next to Bradley Denton, who's a lot of fun to be seated next to, and we ended up spending most of the rest of the con in each other's orbits. Exhausted from staying up late the night before, watching the Spurs' victory celebration, I ended up throwing in the towel and heading off to bed at 10 p.m. I am a wuss.

Saturday was quite busy, starting with "Mass Audience and Growing Popularity," discussing how the continued mainstreaming of SF and fantasy is affecting fandom, cons and literature. It was another panel I shared with Brad. Next, I headed to my autographing, where I signed no books but did add my signature to a shirt and program book for the charity auction, and had much interesting conversation (mostly ranting about the rotten luck Terry Gilliam has had when dealing with Hollywood over the years). "Making Hard SF Look Real" was a great panel as well, one in which I made the startling discovery that the first science fiction novel Alexis Glynn Latner ever read was the same one that was my first novel as well: Battle on Mercury. Too weird!

During the Saturday Night Show, I was a volunteer for the "Skip Thruster" old time radio show, which mostly served as a platform for Selina Rosen to show off her killer Swedish accent. I was late for the "What SF Should Be Movies?" panel, but made up for it by bamboozling the audience with a strange trio I think would make great films: Poul Anderson's Tau Zero, the afore-mentioned Battle on Mercury and (wait for it) William Hjortsberg's Gray Matters. I was late because all the parties on the 7th floor were happenin' shindigs, with lovely flowing beverages, and Brad Denton present for all sorts of scintillating conversation.

Sunday, after the writers workshop, I wrapped things up with the "Animals in SF/Fantasy" panel, again featuring the illustrous Brad Denton, plus Julia Blackshear Kosatka. Again, an interesting, stimulating discussion that was well-attended. The writers workshop was interesting as well, but that deserves an entry of its own. But I definitely plan on making Apollocon again next year.

Now Playing: The Kinks The Kink Kronikles

Friday, June 24, 2005

Well, wasn't that exciting?

Spurs win game 7, capturing their third NBA title in 7 years. Very good news, indeed. That was one heck of a rubber match--I remember watching the Rockets slug it out with the Knicks back in '94, and this one was much the same. Very fitting for a series that started out with four blowouts. I'm just glad they don't have to play Ben Wallace again--that man is a monster in the paint. Detroit's got a rugged team, and I wouldn't be surprised in the least if these two teams meet again in the finals next year.

I'm a little miffed at Duncan being picked MVP. Yes, he had the numbers. Statistically, he was the best player in the series. But if you look at the actual influence he had on the various game outcomes, it's obvious he had sub-par performances in game 3, 4, 5 and 6. Ginobili stumbled in games 3 and 4, but had a tremendous game-changing influence in the other contests. He was the breakout star of this series, and probably deserved the MVP nod. But the Spurs spread around the heroics so much that it's hard to say there was a clear-cut favorite. I mean, Robert Horry saved the entire series in game 5 for San Antonio. How do you weigh that?

In any event, it's a pity I'm leaving for Houston tomorrow. There's not a city in North America that knows how to party like San Antonio. They throw a fiesta at the drop of a hat: "I hear they got a new stoplight on Nacogdoches Avenue. Whoo hoo! Break out the margarita machines!" I'm watching the news as I type this, and Interstate 37 is backed up, bumper-to-bumper, as pretty much everyone in the city tries to cram into downtown and the Riverwalk at the same time. And they'll do it all again on Saturday for the victory parade. Whoo hoo!

Now Playing: KSAT 12 Spurs post-game report

Thursday, June 23, 2005


I'm heading out to ApolloCon in Houston this weekend. I know most of you faithful readers aren't regular con-goers, or live in the Houston area, or care anything about me beyond my chupacabra and Demi Moore pictures, but anyone going will be able to catch me at the following panels:
  • Friday 6-7 p.m., All I Needed to Know I Learned from Asimov: The Influence of the Great Masters
  • Saturday 3-4 p.m., Speculating Gods: Religion in SF/F
  • Saturday 4-5 p.m., Making Hard SF Look Real
  • Saturday 11-Midnight, What SF/Fantasy Should Be Made Into Movies?
  • Sunday 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Writers Workshop

Now Playing: The Eurythmics Greatest Hits

Reviewing Howl

For those of you interested in a more verbose elaboration of my assessment of Howl's Moving Castle, you'll be happy to know that my over-written review is now online at RevolutionSF:
The movie opens with the eponymous castle of the title parting the mists of the Waste in a simple, yet breathtaking introduction. The castle doesn’t do anything in this opening sequence but move, but boy, how it moves! A complex conglomerate of disparate parts working together in a frenzy of kinetic energy, the castle is almost Rube Goldbergian in its complexity, setting the stage nicely for the rich tale of magic to come.

Of course, it's not until now that I realize I've used "complex" and "complexity" in the same sentence. Boy, I really suck as a writer sometimes. Just substitute "convoluted" or "multi-faceted" in there somewhere and it should come out okay.

Now Playing: The Vaughan Brothers Family Style

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

How numbers lie

Yesterday, June 21, Gibberish hit an all-time traffic high with more than 800 unique visitors. That's eight-FRELLIN'-hundred people that read my cyberspace ramblings. Cool, huh?

Not really. At least 95 percent of them were looking for pictures of our old buddy, el chupacabra or Demi Moore naked. This vast (and growing) amount of irrelevant traffic flow is really starting to make me all nervous and stuff...

Now Playing: Marvin Gaye Command Performance

How not to become a respected author

For the last year or so, word of an aspiring SF author by the name of "Robert Eggleton" has been circulating through writers' grapevines. This writer, you'll notice, shares a name that is quite similar to Bob Eggleton, the famous genre artist. They are not one and the same, although Robert doesn't make this clear in most of his emails--and emails he sends.

Robert has been emailing his novel--unsolicited--as an attachment to unwitting and unsuspecting writers everywhere. He started out with fairly high-profile authors, and has apparently just now worked his way to the bottom of the barrel, moved said barrel and dug down a few feet to find yours truly. The email I got was essentially a variation on those others have gotten, opening with complimentary small talk and then asking for a critique/review/blurb of said novel. How is this wrong? Let me count the ways.

First off, boys and girls, never, ever send someone an unsolicited attachment, especially one that's larger than 1 meg. Clogging someone's inbox is a fast way to endear yourself to them, youbetcha. If you really want to make them remember you, send your magnum opus to authors who specifically tell you not to, out of the fervent belief that said manuscript's sheer brilliance will show them the error of their ways. And above all, if one of those hoity-toity literary snobs decline the singular (or in this case, plural) honor of reading your work, send them a snide and bitchy message telling them what weasle-brained hacks they really are. If anyone calls you on such boorish behavior, you can simply explain it away by claiming naivety (but never let on to the fact that way back when you began your email campaign, at least one writer took it upon themselves to explain to you why this was an unprofessional way of going about things, and why you shouldn't continue these antics. The advice, obviously meant to keep your work languishing in slush piles, should be immediately discarded).

What we have here, sadly, is yet another case of a would-be literary Wunderkind wanting to cut to the front of the line, because they're far too intelligent and talented to fight their way up through the much and the slime of slush like everyone else. If Wunderkind could just find that one patron, that one kindly writer willing to pass along the secret handshake, then all the doors of publishing riches would immediately be flung open to him and life would be peaches and cream from then on. The trouble with these Wunderkinds is that they've already got it figured out in their heads, and no matter how one tries to point out the fallacy of such thinking, the only thing that's accomplished is that said newbie grows more and more convinced that the veteran writer is a selfish obstructionist, more threatened by the newcomer's talent than anything else.

It also doesn't help when Wunderkind opens his/her letter to a multiple-Nebula-Award-winning author by saying "I don't know who you are or have read any of your stuff, but here's my book you need to read." Writers talk amongst themselves, and that kind of dirt travels pretty fast. I'm just saying, is all.

Now Playing: The Eagles Their Greatest Hits

Monday, June 20, 2005

Oh yeah... Father's Day

Father's Day went off without a hitch. The girls took me to luch at a chinese food restaurant we frequent, and I ate too much of their seafood offerings. Calista loaded up on sushi, maintaining her position as the most sushi-obsessed six year old I know. Then we went and saw Howl's, which you already knew.

The presents were altogether unexpected. Not that I was surprised about getting some--one thing this family likes is giving presents--but the actual items themselves were unanticipated. Calista and Keela had made porcelain tiles with a colorful painted handprint on each one, from each of them. I was informed that some convincing had to be made to get Keela to give her's to me, as opposed to her original plan of giving it to the Easter Bunny. So now I know how I stack up in my youngest daughter's hierarchy of "people and mythical creatures to give stuff to." Keeps me humble. Calista gave me a small star-shaped pillow she made all by herself, using some leftover poison dart frog material from one of my convention vests. She cut the cloth and stitched it and stuffed it herself, informing me several times that it took "two whole days" to complete. It is, without a doubt, the most gloriously colorful poison dart frog pillow I've ever seen. And then they gave me the tent. A huge, cool and entirely unexpected tent which proved almost--but not quite--too large to set up in the back yard amongst the trees and swingset. I'm taking the gift as a not-so-subtle hint that the girls want me to take them camping sometime soon. So, Canyon Lake will be playing host to us before too long. Until then, we contented ourselves by roasting marshmellows on the gas grill, tossing the burnt ones to the appreciative beagles.

Now Playing: Pat Benatar Best Shots

Random spiffiness

Mark Finn, that longtime Austin fixture boasting uncanny ape-mimicking abilities beyond those of mere mortals, has won a pair of honest-to-Crom Robert E. Howard literary scholarship awards. Normally I'd say something nice and congratulatory at this point, but with Finn I fear he'd lose all respect for me and start referring to me as a "touchy-feely, girly-man wuss." So instead, I offer a hearty "Up yours, Finn!"

Some of you may remember that I'm fiction editor at RevolutionSF, where, on occasion, craziness strikes me and I actually publish fiction by folks both more talented and prettier than I am. The most recent short story up is Suburbia Deserta by Chris Nakashima-Brown, which is a heapin' dose of slipstreaming goodness. This opinion is confirmed by no less an authority than Bruce Sterling, who gosh-wows about it on Beyond the Beyond. We've never been Slashdotted, but now we can claimed to be Wired.

Now Playing: Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel Plays Live

To Howl or not to Howl?

Saw Howl's Moving Castle yesterday with the family. As I expected, it was not Spirited Away good. It was, however, Castle in the Sky good, which is pretty much what I was hoping for. All in all, it was a well-done, entertaining movie--pretty much what we've come to expect from Miyazaki.

Now Playing: John Cougar American Fool

Friday, June 17, 2005

Howl this weekend

This weekend, fate willing, I'll be taking the girls to see Howl's Moving Castle. Note that I'm going to see Miyazaki's latest before I see Batman Begins. There's a reason for that. Other than Terry Gilliam, I can't think of another filmmaker who I more look forward to seeing new material from. And I'm not someone who would be considered a hard-core anime fan.

Jaquandor over at Byzantium Shores was kind enough to point out an excellent article regarding Miyazaki in the New York Times (well, he pointed out the article existed--his link was bad, but I was able to find it on my own). One of the things that stand out for me in Miyazaki's films was touched on here:
It is not that Mr. Miyazaki's films are pessimistic, exactly; being fairy tales, they do arrive at happy endings. ("I'm not going to make movies that tell children, 'You should despair and run away,' " he said.) But the route he chooses toward happiness can be troubling, perhaps especially to an American audience that expects sentimental affirmations based on clear demarcations between good and evil. The division of the world into heroes and villains is a habit Mr. Miyazaki regards with suspicion. "The concept of portraying evil and then destroying it - I know this is considered mainstream, but I think it's rotten," he said. "This idea that whenever something evil happens someone particular can be blamed and punished for it, in life and in politics, it's hopeless."

I'm not one who goes in much for black-and-white worldviews. Polarized heroes and villains aren't something that appeal to me in fiction--be it stuff I'm writing or reading. That's probably another reason I'm so disillusioned with the political climate in this country as well. But Miyazaki know that outside of, say, a Hitler or Stalin, three-dimensional antagonists in reality and fiction alike are more complex than your standard-issue Evil Overlord. The predominant color in any person's soul is some variant shade of gray, and that richness gives a fresh vibrancy to the films of Studio Ghibli.

Now Playing: Cyndi Lauper Twelve Deadly Cyns...and Then Some

Well, this is cool

There's a review of Voices of Vision up on the new edition of SFSite. What's more, it's a good review, which is the best sort of review to get. Warms the cockles of my cold, black heart, it does. Here's a taste:
Blaschke's style and questions indicate that he conducts intensive research prior to his interviews. He isn't interested in asking the standard questions which his subjects will have heard so many times before, but rather trying to delve into new territory. Even more importantly, Blaschke listens to his subjects' answers and is able to ask intelligent follow-up questions and tailor the interview topics to those answers on the fly.

It's nice to see someone point to that, as I always try to research my subjects beforehand (mostly by reading existing interviews, so that I don't simply repeat the same old, same old questions). But when you do as many interviews as I have, there is still that element of second-guessing that creeps in. When I'm interviewing someone like, say, Jacqueline Carey, I find myself worrying that readers are going to cry foul because I reuse a question I posed to, say, Walter Jon Williams five years earlier. But it's nice to see someone else dismissing those concerns, even if they persist in lurking in the dank, dark recesses of my mind.

Now Playing: Greg Kihn Kihnsolidation: The Best of Greg Kihn

Thursday, June 16, 2005

When will I learn?

So San Antonio goes up 2-0 in the NBA Finals, and I post about how I'm shocked at the mediocrity of Detroit's play. That'll teach me ever to feel the slightest bit sorry for an opposing team. The game tonight started out ugly and proceeded to get even worse. What is it about my blog jinxing my teams?

At the rate things are going, after Sunday Detroit will have a 3-2 lead in the series.

Now Playing: Spurs vs. Pistons Game 3 carnage in progress

Ahead of the curve

Calista has recently figured out that she is wholly capable of writing stories. Possibly this comes from the fact she's seen that her dad writes books and such (wow. Talk about corruption of the innocent). She's taken to writing them on the computer (again, like dad) and they all boast creative spelling and a breathless, one sentence per page narrative drive to them. No bloated James Michener, she.

At any rate, I am pleased to report that she has invented the surprise ending. Well, maybe not the surprise ending so much--she saw the Neverending Story the other night, and the ending hit her like a lightning bolt to the head. But she took the concept and ran with it, writing a story about a mother cat that had kittens... only the mother cat wakes up and realizes it was all just a dream! I'm so proud. On the evolutionary journey of a writer, my oldest daughter is already the storytelling equal of half of Hollywood. "Only a dream" is a significant milestone in any writer's development. And to think she's not even in first grade yet!

Now Playing: Supertramp The Autobiography of Supertramp

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Brothers Grimm! MirrorMask!

I'm a huge fan of Terry Gilliam, and have been extremely frustrated these last few years, what with the implosion of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote and the bizarre delays on his Brothers Grimm film. Yes, he's working on Tideland currently, which looks to be quite interesting, but what's gotten me excited today is that there is finally a Brothers Grimm trailer online!

First, I have to say I love the lush Gilliam setpieces, costuming and sense of quirky menace that permeates the trailer. I'm not so certain of the more contemporary bits of dialogue, and the use of CGI effects in a Gilliam film just feels wrong on every level (honestly--the bit with the frog. Who here thinks a Gilliamesque animatronic wouldn't look a thousand times better?). I'm also worried about the release date--August 26. August is the ass-end of the summer movie season, the traditional dumping ground for films studios have invested a lot of money in, but comparatively little faith. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was pushed back in similar fashion--and shared a similar budget, around $70 million--and bombed horribly. Coupled with a probable lack of ancilliary tie-ins and previous release delays (Grimmm was pushed back from an originally-planned summer 2004 release, mind you) and I fear we've got the makings of another Gilliam movie I'm going to love to death, but will be shunned by the public at large (Baron Munchausen, anyone). And don't discount the fact that Gilliam is likely to be competing with himself--Tideland has a "late 2005" release date pencilled in as well. sigh

In other groovy, genre-oriented movie news, there's finally a real, full-length trailer up for MirrorMask, that visually dazzling collaboration from Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, courtesy of the Jim Henson Company. This project started as a kind of Labyrinth-style direct-to-video effort, with a miniscule budget (reportedly a mere $4 million). But McKean's visuals and style were so dazzling that the Hensons worked out a theatrical distribution plan. Which is good. I've been reading MirrorMask: The Illustrated Script Book and have found it intriguing. It's very Gaimanish, if you're familiar with his work, particularly Coraline. But there's a definite Henson vibe running through the script (and trailer) not to mention a certain Terry Gilliam sensibility (tho not much of the Gilliam mayhem which always makes things so interesting). I'm looking forward to this one, and expect it to be a big success if only because its small budget practically guarantees it. But I worry (as that is what I do) that this worthy film may very well overshadow both of Gilliam's upcoming releases. Which would be a real same. I've already seen where people are dismissing Grimm as a Van Helsing ripoff, which troubles my soul in more ways than you can possibly imagine...

Neil Gaiman is posting that the U.S. release date for MirrorMask is September 30, about a month after Brothers Grimm comes out. When I first saw that, my initial reaction was negative, as I mis-read it as coming out the weekend after Grimm, thus ensuring the two movies would cannibalize each others' audiences. Thankfully, that's not the case. The bad news, of course, is that August and September are still cinematic wastelands that studios banish otherwise worthy films to. Think of it as Friday night on the Fox network.

Now Playing: Berlin Best of Berlin 1979-1988

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Gary Westfahl has emailed, bearing information. It would appear that The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works and Wonders has a for-true publication date of September 30. It also has a somewhat garish cover, which looks like this:

Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works and Wonders

For those of you keeping score at home, I wrote five of the entries, including Giants, Insects, Superman, Clifford Simak's City and the Wonder Woman TV series. They were fun to do, if labor-intensive. And you (or your local library) can score your very own edition of the massive three-volume set for the low, low price of $349.95. Let's take a look at the official Greenwood Press description, shall we?
The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy
Themes, Works, and Wonders

Works of science fiction and fantasy are enormously popular among students and general readers. The combined effort of some 150 expert contributors, the 600 entries in this comprehensive encyclopedia discuss pervasive themes in science fiction and fantasy and give detailed attention to selected novels, films, and television series. Accessible to a wide range of audiences, this reference is destined to be a favorite resource for anyone interested in fantasy and science fiction. While other references provide relatively brief entries, or offer essays on a limited group of writers, this encyclopedia gives extensive treatment to the most important themes and works of science fiction and fantasy across a range of media.

Gary Westfahl, and internationally recognized authority on science fiction and fantasy, has coordinated the effort of some 150 expert contributors. In addition, the project was shaped by an advisory board of some of the most distinguished names in the field, including:
  • Richard Bleiler
  • John Clute
  • Fiona Kelleghan
  • David Langford
  • Andy Sawyer
  • And Darrell Schweitzer.

The first two volumes of the encyclopedia discuss themes, while the third volume examines classic works.

Volume 1
Included in this volume are 200 alphabetically arranged entries on such themes as:
  • Androids
  • Black Holes
  • Curses
  • Dinosaurs
  • Dragons
  • Feminism
  • Ghosts and Hauntings
  • Imaginary Worlds
  • And many more.

Volume 2
This volume includes alphabetically arranged entries on 200 additional themes, such as:
  • Lost Worlds
  • Mad Scientists
  • Monsters
  • Politics
  • Prehistoric Fiction
  • Race Relations
  • Religion
  • Sexuality
  • And many more.

Volume 3
200 classic works of science fiction and fantasy are given detailed consideration in this volume. Alphabetically arranged entries include:
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
  • Brave New World
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Doctor Who
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • Frankenstein
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • And many more.

  • Includes 400 entries on themes.
  • Includes 200 entries on classic works.
  • Covers literature, film, and television.
  • Employs the talents of roughly 150 expert contributors.
  • Overviews canonical and contemporary works.
  • Entries on themes define and discuss the theme, relate it to works of science fiction and fantasy, and cite numerous resources.
  • Entries on works provide critical information and discuss central themes.
  • Provides an alphabetical list of entries.
  • Lists entries grouped in topical categories.
  • Entries are fully cross-referenced.
  • Includes a detailed index.
  • Offers a selected, general bibliography of major works on science fiction and fantasy.
  • Numerous quotations from classic works highlight themes in science fiction and fantasy.

  • Students writing essays on particular texts will welcome the extended entries on individual works.
  • Students writing on themes will enjoy the thematic entries.
  • Helps students understand and critique canonical works central to the curriculum at all levels.
  • Helps students analyze popular literary works, films, and television series.
  • Aids students in comparing and contrasting different works.
  • Entries serve as models for student analysis and writing.
  • Encourages student research by citing numerous works for further consultation.
  • Fosters an appreciation of reading and explication by exploring works popular among students.

Canonical works of science fiction and fantasy are central to the curriculum, while more popular works are being taught with greater frequency and often appear on summer reading lists. The format of this encyclopedia makes it an essential tool for students writing thematic essays, and teachers will also value it as guide for planning lessons. In addition to high school libraries, public libraries supporting student research or book discussion groups will welcome the lucid, thoughtful essays in this encyclopedia.

Now Playing: The B-52s Time Capsule: Songs for a Future Generation

Monday, June 13, 2005

That CarrollBlog thingy

I'm telling you, if you're not reading Jonathan Carroll's blog you should be. There are no earthshaking revelations going on there, no political rants, no quirky links of the day. Most of his posts are pretty terse, actually (as opposed to my decidedly non-terse ramblings). But damn, if he doesn't have a way with the written word. He can post a two-line entry about stepping on a wad of used chewing gum and make it both poetic and poignant. I step on chewing gum, and I'm lucky to even be coherent.

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

I think they threw a rod

What's the deal with the Detroit Pistons? They looked simply awful in their 97-76 shellacking at the hands of the Spurs in game 2 last night. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. In between Eva Longoria blowing kisses at Tony Parker and Bruce Bowen throwing down treys, the Spurs played some truly inspired basketball. They made steals. They hit free throws (!). They shut the Pistons down completely, making them look like the worst elements of the Washington Generals and the New York Nationals combined. And seemingly anything the Spurs threw up went in the basket. Entering the fourth quarter, Manu Ginobili hadn't missed a shot--small wonder then that the crowd started chanting "M-V-P!" when Manu left the court near the end of the game.

One real annoyance, tho. I've read in the Detroit press insinuations that Ginobili isn't really any good. That he's merely a "Larry Bird," ie that if he were black, he'd be just another role-player. One article went so far as to attribute his popularity to the desire for all the redneck racists in America to have a "great white hope." Which is offensive on the surface of it, but downright ludicrous beyond that. Ginobili is an Italian surname, sure. But the man's from Argentina, you morons. He's Hispanic. He's Latino. And he's insanely popular in San Antonio because of it. But to slur him as a "great white hope" is one of the most wrongheaded, backwards-thinking examples of stupidity I've seen rear its microcephalic head in the NBA in a long time. Well, at least until the owners impose a lockout this summer.

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

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Book signing mayhem

I had a book signing last night at the San Marcos Hastings. Were I one to take stock in omens, I'd have skipped it, as in the process of driving across town from the university to the store, I ran over a nail (or maybe a railroad spike--the freaking hole it left was huge) and abruptly developed a flat tire. So, neither here nor there, I had to change the tire. My PT Cruiser is a fairly new vehicle to me, remember, and I'd never changed a tire on it before. I think Chrysler takes delight in all the bizarre ways to arrange things on their autos. This one--if you can believe it--has plastic lug nuts bolting the hubcap to the wheel's lug nuts. It's a truly freakish design, one that forces the hapless tire-changer to do twice the work before the tire can be removed. That's the second-longest it's ever taken me to change a tire. We won't speak of the longest.

But I persevere, and arrive at Hastings sweaty and panting right at 6 p.m., as my signing is scheduled to begin. The staff takes no notice of me. The table and books are in position, as they should be, so I quickly set out my reading list flyers, business cards and stand-up of my book cover. Then I duck into the restroom to clean myself up and change shirts. I get back to the table and Nick, president-elect of SFFS is waiting there, ready to take about Star Wars, Babylon 5 and, of course, my book. We jaw for a while, and he buys a book. Smart kid, that Nick. My boss, Mark, shows up a little later with his wife, Diana. With the Spurs in the NBA Finals, Diana made a bunch of voodoo religious icon candles for the folks in my office, and I congratulated her on the success of said candles in the Spurs' game 1 victory. We trade insults for a while, then they buy a book. Smart boss, that Mark. More people come by, some interested in the book, some not. I pass out more reading lists. One girl, probably age 12 or so, asks if I know a particular motivational speaker who has a book out. I admit that I don't, so this young girl explains the guy's entire spiel--how he survived drug abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, tickle torture, nails raking across chalkboards... I was growing more than a little uncomfortable at this kid's increasingly gruesome descriptions of the subject matter, and would have shooed her away had she not been so gosh-darn earnest about the whole thing. She hoepfully asked once more if I might know him after all, and after I again confirmed my ignorance, she thanked me kindly and skipped along to the music section.

At this point I look at my watch. I've been here an hour and a half, and still nobody from the store has spoken to me, or, as far as I can tell, even glanced my direction.

A woman buying a copy of the latest Raymond Feist fantasy for her son asks what I'm doing. I explain the whole signing scenario, and she happily buys a copy for her son (obviously a big genre fan). I happily sign it. A little later she returns with the teen in tow. We have a nice talk, and they take reading lists with them. Another woman shows up and takes a great interest in my book and reading list. She's read a bunch of the folks on my reading list, and we have a long talk about Samuel Delany that veers across Gene Wolfe and Jack Chalker. She's shocked when I tell her Chalker died of heart failure a few months back. She's doubly shocked when I repeat the sad news for Andre Norton. She's intrigued when I tell her about Armadillocon, so I give her contact information and the dates for the con. I suspect she'll have a blast if she goes.

I sell a few more books, pass out more reading lists. Nine o'clock hits, and I gather up a handful of the remaining stock and shelve it in the science fiction section (Hastings has been putting my books in the "local authors" kiosk, which is a worse ghetto than the genre shelves). I break down my display, gather my things and leave the store--all without a single employee approaching me or saying a single word to me the entire time I was there. Weird. But despite the oddities and setbacks of the signing, it is easily the most successful one I've had to date. Go figure.

Now Playing: The Kinks The Kink Kronikles

Dragon Page radio

Okay, I'm new at this radio biz game. So sue me. Turns out that when they told me we'd "tape live" they meant the interview would be conducted in real time, with sound bumpers and all that jazz. But it wouldn't be broadcast at that time. Instead, it's put to bed in advance, to be packaged in their overall show which will be sent out over their various syndication conduits for broadcast the week of July 4-7. So all you folks who don't have the whole Podcasting schtick figured out yet have a three-week reprieve.

My actual interview segment was nine minutes long. The rapport I had with Michael and Evo was pretty good, I thought, and they seemed to like me. At least I didn't make a bigger fool of myself than I usually do (but I suspect I babbled--I always babble). They also had me cut a four-minute segment on "The Business of Writing," focusing on how writers should prepare themselves for interviews, be they print or live. It's a new segment for them, and they aren't all that clear themselves on its structure and content, so I'm afraid I probably fumbled around early on. But I finished strong, and they sounded happy with it, so who am I to second-guess anyone?

Just to let you guys know, at 2 p.m. Central Time today (Saturday), I'm to be interviewed by the fine folks over at the Dragon Page science fiction radio show. It's a weird and wonderful setup they've got: they've syndicated in top markets like Roswell, available via podcast and streaming over the Internet, and now coming atcha from space courtesy of XM Radio. Their website is if anyone is interested in hearing me make a complete fool of myself.

Now Playing: Aerosmith Pump

Friday, June 10, 2005

Curiouer and curiouser

I've mentioned here from time to time the curious anticipation I have for the Pendragon Pictures version of War of the Worlds. This is the long-delayed, modestly-budgeted project that was shot in secret over in Britain while the Tom Cruise/Steven Spielberg big-budget actioner was still ramping up pre-production. The thing that sets the Pendragon film apart is that it is reputed to be a faithful period-piece adaptation of the famous H.G. Wells novel. Production stills have looked quite nice, but the online trailer that I've seen reminds me a great deal of the stodgy old "Masterpiece Theatre" productions on PBS. The look in the trailer is static and shallow, the scene framing pedestrian, and the special effects a good example of "reach extending grasp." Even so, I'm still more interested in this one than the Spielberg version for several reasons: 1) Spielberg's film is contemporary, a setup we've already seen with Independence Day, itself a shameless rip-off of the original George Pal theatrical version of War of the Worlds; 2) after the excruciatingly trite and nonsensical cop-out ending from Minority Report, I simply do not trust Spielberg and Cruise as filmmakers anymore; 3) the invading Martians aren't even from Mars.

There have been constant rumors, from the start of the Pendragon effort back in 2000 or so, of running legal battles with Paramount, which is producing the Spielberg version. This is stupid, mainly because the novel is public domain and Paramount has no claim to exclusivity, but I don't doubt it's true since a favorite ploy of major corporations is to bankrupt smaller competitors with baseless lawsuits. Originally intended for theatrical release, the Pendragon film now looks to be straight-to-video fodder, but that, apparently, hasn't stopped the mud-slinging.

On Amazon right now, the War of the Worlds DVD has a genuine flamewar going on in the customer reviews section. Amazing, first of all, how many people got ahold of said release prior to it's June 14 release date. My book's been out for close to four months now and all I have are two reviews on Amazon--one by my wife, listing the table of contents. The second, and more curious element here, is the striking number of "reviewers" who have only one review on Amazon--that for the Pendragon War of the Worlds. For the third part, the reviews are suspiciously either-or: A five-star masterpiece or a one-star disaster. Were one a cynical sort, one might suspect that the higher ratio of negative reviews stems from the fact that Paramount has more employees than tiny Pendragon. But gosh, a big studio would never, ever stoop so low as that. Right?

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

Go Spurs Go

I've been pretty quiet about the NBA playoffs because of the debacle against the Lakers last year, but I have to say that last night's 84-69 game 1 victory over the Pistons was edgy and dramatic. No, it wasn't a dazzling offensive fireworks display, but man, what spectacular defense! Slam dunks are cool, I'll be the first to admit--Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson sparked the Spurs with one early on, but it was his three rebounds and three blocked shots (!) in a mere six minutes that makes the mind boggle. The Big Dog actually played defense! Rejections, blocks, steals and all those "boring" defensive moves make for a hell of a lot of drama and excitement. I'm not the world's biggest basketball fan, but even I can see that. It makes me wonder what other people are watching. Maybe they're celebrity watching. D.J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince were in the house, along with Eva Longoria, Tommy Lee Jones and George Strait. Heck, there was even a Phi Slamma Jamma mini-reunion with Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. That was cool.

As for the play of the Spurs themselves, Manu Ginobili (who folks around here have taken to referring to as "Obi-Wan Ginobili") was miserable in the first half, but went wild in the second with his trademark bizarre attacks on the basket. The man's a whirling, hoops-playing, dervish. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, as usual, played their traditional games.

I'm not ashamed to admit I underestimated the Pistons, at least on the micro level. I knew they had a great defense--possibly better than the Spurs' D, although the verdict is still out on that one--and didn't expect an easy series. But I was completely unprepared for the clamp-down, vice-grip they put on the Spurs in the first quarter. They blocked every other shot the Spurs put up. They clogged the lanes. Their abnormally long mutant arms slapped away every third pass. They stole the ball. Swiped the ball. They swarmed the Spurs and locked them up. The first quarter was ugly in many, many ways. But that kind of play takes a tremendous amount of energy to maintain, and the Pistons don't rotate players out much, because they have a relatively thin bench. They slowed in the second and third quarters, as the Spurs were settling down. In the fourth, the Pistons ran out of gas and grew frustrated as the relatively fresh Spurs ran away with the game.

Before the game, I figured on paper that the defenses were even, and the coaching was even. The Spurs, based on the results of the Western Conference Finals against the run-n-gun Phoenix Suns, probably had the better offense. At least they had the potential to score comfortably with wildly different game plans, which is something I don't believe the Pistons capable of. This, I thought, would be the difference in the series. I was seriously questioning that wisdom in the first quarter, but the end of the game seemed to validate my musings.

The Pistons will rebound from the game 1 loss, of course. They're too good not to. They'll lick their wounds and bruised pride and come back with an adjusted plan for game 2. They'll pace themselves. They'll shake up the defensive assignments to try and contain Ginobili. Coach Brown will work the Xs and Os to get the two Wallaces more touches and more points. But I don't think it'll be enough. Before the series began, I figured it would be Spurs in six, and after watching the team rally for victory in game 1, I'm all the more convinced of that prediction. Sweep? No. But six feels right.

Go Spurs Go!

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

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A word of caution to bloggers out there

When you post about off-beat topics--particularly if you include pictures--you might want to look into a crystal ball to make sure that particular subject isn't going to become too popular on websearches. I'm talking about posts, such as my series of musings on el chupacabra, and also bodypainting. The former has generated all manner of Google hits from assorted Germans, Thais, Greeks and Filippinos seeking pictures of the mythical beast, while the latter has attracted legions of folks after naked images of Demi Moore.

Somehow, I don't think my blog is exactly what these people had in mind when they set out on their image quest. Not that I'd complain if they stuck around to read my other posts, or bought my book. But they're just looking at the pictures and surfing on, gobbling up vast amounts of bandwidth (well, maybe not vast, but enough to get my attention). I'm just saying, is all.

Now Playing: Marty Robbins The Essential Marty Robbins

Day late and a dollar short dept.

I'm just looking in the May issue of Locus, and lo and behold I see John Picacio has sold The Art of John Picacio to Chris Roberson at MonkeyBrain Books. By landing such a visionary, groundbreaking and--dare I say it?--sexy talent as Picacio, one can only wonder what sort of incriminating photographs Roberson has in his posession.

Oh, and said issue of Locus features a very good interview with the affore-mentioned Roberson, if you discount the annoying fact that Locus removes all questions from the printed interview narrative, thus making the interviewee sound like a raving, stream-of-consciousness flake. But maybe that's just me.

Now Playing: Hank Williams Jr. Maverick

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Movies I've actually seen!

Well, as I bide my time waiting for Howl's Moving Castle to open in San Antonio on June 17 rather than the expected June 10, I'll give a quick rundown of three films I've actually seen recently.

I actually got to see Kingdom of Heaven in a real-live theatre the other night. Wow. I loved it. Some of the best characters I've seen in a Hollywood movie in a long time, and the storyline was much less color-by-mumbers than I'd have thought. Orlando Bloom was surprisingly good in his role. He was forlorn and gritty rather than the pretty wuss we've seen in his other recent roles. In fact, all of the casting was marvelously non-Hollywood, with great performances turned in across the board. The CGI was unobtrusive. I liked this one much more than Ridley Scott's previously period epic, Gladiator, and I liked that one quite a bit. It's a shame that this one failed at the box office... maybe they should've held it for a December release, to capitalize on the holiday Lord of the Rings demographic.

The other two were DVDs. I finally saw A Series of Unfortunate Events, which was entertaining. The acting of the children was top-notch, and Jim Carrey was Jim Carrey. The production design was a cool, hyper-stylized Tim Burtonish nightmare. All that was good. But something about the movie fell flat for me. Maybe it was too episodic. Maybe the big arson revelation during the finale was far too obvious for me. I just had the feeling that the movie took us on an entertaining and interesting ride that had no real destination, no payoff.

It was a hell of a lot better than Around the World in 80 Days, tho. Geeze, what a stinker. I like Jackie Chan, but this film was a cliche-ridden train wreck in every scene. Just because there are a lot of famous actors making cameos doesn't mean it's any good. Witness Austin Powers: Goldmember. 80 Days was simply mediocre and uninspired on every level. The acting, directing, production design... blah. There are films out there that are far worse, and I can't bring myself to hate it, but it's definitely a prime example of the Hollywood "filmmaking by committee" death knell for a film. Ironic, since this movie was produced outside of the traditional Hollywood studio system. Doesn't make it any less disappointing, however.

Now Playing: Johnny Cash The Essential Johnny Cash

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Return of the carpenter

One of my goals for last week's vacation was to make a good deal of progress on my years-long office bookcase project. Need I acknowledge the ugly truth by saying not nearly as much progress has progressed as I envisioned? Even so, I did manage a little bit of work. The cabinets below are going to comprise the base of the bookcase, and I've since "painted" them with a cherry stain/polyurethane coating.

unfinished Cannon Valley Woodwork cabinets

They still need a light sanding and a sanding sealer coat, but they're almost there. They're also carrying a couple of "unfortunatelys" as well. The four cabinets won't fit in the space I have, because of the 90-degree turn necessitated by using two walls. Which also means I need something for the corner to make things work properly. So I start looking at the area Lowes and Home Depots for something appropriate, and can't find any unfinished cabinetry similar to what I'm using. Everything available is pre-molded oak, and isn't really unfinished at all, but rather "mostly finished" with only the door left to be stained. So, as Google knows all, I did an online search for Cannon Valley Woodwork, the good folks who originally made the cabinets I'm using (remember, this project initially started in Temple, back in 1999 or so). Turns out, much to my chagrin, that Cannon Valley Woodwork filed for bankruptcy in 2000, with their factories and equipment auctioned off a couple of years later. So. I'm most definitely not going to be able to get what I'm looking for at any of the usual building supply centers. These things never can be easy, can they?

Now Playing: Jerry Jeff Walker Viva Terlingua

Monday, June 06, 2005

More on Norwood

Warren's papers are in the special collections at the University of North Texas, which he is an alum of, but there's one composition by him that isn't anywhere else other than my head. I doubt if even Warren or Gigi remember it, though it made quite an impact at that writer's workshop:
The Ballad of Caius

Whining away all his life
saved by a ghost with a knife
can't save himself from his striiiiife
Caius the whimpering bumble-boy

It was sung to the tune of "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," and encapsulated much of what was wrong with a short story I had no right to think was anywhere nearly as good as I did. The opposite of good was pretty much the case, in fact. But that silly, throwaway song stuck with me and taught me good things about character and plot and a bunch of other things I did badly. Interesting that now I'm one of the "professionals" sitting in on writers workshops, with earnest would-be novelists committing the same crass abuses to the written word I did back then. I only hope I can offer some suggestions as useful as those Warren gave me--although I suspect I'll take a pass on the singing part.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has an extensive biography up, which I'm reposting a big chunk of here:
WARREN NORWOOD | 1945-2005

Novelist was a teacher and a musician

WEATHERFORD - Warren Norwood, a writer, writing teacher and musician, died of liver disease Friday morning. He was 59.

Mr. Norwood, a longtime employee of Craig's Music in Weatherford, wrote novels, mostly science fiction/fantasy, including Shudderchild, The Windhover Tapes Trilogy and True Jaguar.

Mr. Norwood taught courses at Weatherford College and what is now Tarrant County College about writing and selling fiction.

"What I remember most about Warren was his love of learning," said Shannon Story, a former student. "He was always learning new things and was eager to share his wealth of knowledge with everyone he met."

Another student, Viqui Litman, said: "He was a great teacher. He focused on the nuts and bolts of writing. He was a good critic and gave a straightforward reading."

Mr. Norwood was born Aug. 21, 1945, in Philadelphia. His family moved to Fort Worth when he was 12, and he graduated from Arlington Heights High School in 1963.

While serving in the Army in Vietnam, he earned a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and an Army Commendation Medal.

He learned about Buddhism in Vietnam and continued to practice it, according to his family.

Mr. Norwood graduated from what is now the University of North Texas and was later named an Outstanding Alumnus by the philosophy and English departments.

"Warren was a master of the English language," said Raymond Pritchard, a friend and neighbor. "He was very articulate and could paint a picture with words."

Mr. Norwood's papers are in the Texana Collection of the University of North Texas Libraries.

Mr. Norwood learned how to play the mountain dulcimer in 1987. He was a founding member of the Brazos Valley Dulcimer Friends.

"He loved music and played with Loyd McGuffy and The Country Gentlemen at the Spring Creek Musicals, a monthly performance in the Spring Creek community," said Kenneth Murphree, a friend and fellow musician. "He seemed happiest when he was making music."

There will be a memorial at 7 p.m. July 12 at Craig's Music, 115 E. Spring St. in Weatherford. The service will be Buddhist.

Now Playing: Brian Wilson Smile

Warren Norwood (1945-2005)

Damn. I just got word that Warren Norwood passed away from liver failure on Friday. He was 59 years old.

He was one of the founding members of Los Blues Guys, a rock group that played Texas cons back in the day. He played dulcimer and was fond of playing "Vampires in the Sun," a SFnal riff on "Ghost Riders in the Sky." I've got a signed copy of his last published novel, True Jaguar, which he always joked was less valuable than an unsigned copy. He's probably best known for his The Windhover Tapes series of SF novels, although they're pretty obscure these days.

He was a friendly guy, and a good writing instructor. His novels never garnered the success they deserved. I learned a lot from him--particularly how to take a good ribbing for writing drek, then to respond by writing something much less drekful. We've exchanged Christmas cards with them for years. This world is lessened by his absence.

Now Playing: The Eagles Their Greatest Hits

Awful, rotten, terrible news

Damn. This is really crummy news to start the week with. Warren Norwood, a science fiction writer from Weatherford I've known since 1988 (along with his wife, Gigi), was hospitalized May 24 with liver and kidney failure.

Warren's been battling health problems for years. At Aggiecon 20, there was a charity auction held to raise money to pay for medical bills resulting from cancer treatment, if I remember correctly. He was an instructor at one of the first writing workshops I ever attended back in '89, and a story I'd submitted was written so badly that he wrote a song about it and has called me "Thwack" ever since. Because of his health and other issues, he dropped out of the convention and SF circles I saw him in, until a couple of years ago, when he and Gigi made it to ConDFW one afternoon. They returned this past year as full-fledged panelists, and apparently had a great time getting reacquainted with friends they hadn't seen in a decade or so.

And now this. Damn. Life really sucks sometimes.

Now Playing: The Eagles Their Greatest Hits

Sunday, June 05, 2005

More lame vacation pics

I have to say that I've been very impressed by the quality of photos produced by our relatively low-end digital camera. Even I can occasionally take a shot with it that looks semi-competent. Here we have one of those where Calista and Keela just fell into formation, enjoying the wind and surf on the South Padre beach at sunset.

The girls on the beach at twilight

And for those of you wondering if the girls have a mother or not, rest assured we staged this one specifically to address those doubts. Note the stylish sea shell anklet Lisa has donned for the occasion.

Lisa and the girls on the beach at twilight

One of the many touristy things we indulged in over the week was a boat trip. The reason we signed up was for an "eco tour," in which a net scooped critters up from the bottom of Laguna Madre for the kids to see and learn about before said critters (including crabs, jellyfish, starfish and a stingray this time out) are returned to the wild. Much to our surprise, a dolphin tour was included in the trip, and we floated alongside a pod of Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins for 45 minutes or so, seeing them in extreme closeup. We didn't manage to get many good pictures because of that shutter-delay most digital cameras have, but this one is interesting because it's one of the few moments where a mother and father are visible with their young calf. The calf only appeared a couple of times during our viewing, and this is one of the few instances where the camera snapped at just the right moment.

dolphin pod, with baby

Now Playing: Jen Hamel Fine Small Storm

Back from vacation

Didja miss me? I got back in with the family from our vacation on South Padre Island the other night, and it's taking quite a long time to decompress. It was our first real vacation in more than three years or so, and now we need another vacation in order to recover.

The air conditioner in the minivan started acting up south of Kingsville on the trip down (it's about a five hour drive, and Kingsville is roughly three hours into it) and died completely on the way home. And the engine started overheating. The problem turned out to be a $10 thermostat, which has since been replaced, and everything is back in working order. But that was one miserable return trip home in the South Texas heat and humidity, I can assure you.

The actual vacation part was much more enjoyable, and I'll tell more about it. For now, though, here are a couple of shots from our visit to the Port Isabel lighthouse. That's Calista and Keela at the front entrance (Calista the one who was insistent on making the lighthouse one of our sights to see):

Calista and Keela at Port Isabel lighthouse

And here's yours truly climbing up through the spiral innards of said tower. You would think a pretty white lighthouse like this one would be cool and comfortable inside. You'd be mistaken. It had a great view of the Laguna Madre and Padre Island, though.

Jayme Blaschke inside Port Isabel lighthouse

Now Playing: Brian Wilson Smile