Tuesday, August 30, 2005

On being a copy editor

Lucy Snyder talks about what it's like to be a copy editor and what you have to do.

Newspapers often have a hard time retaining copy editors, which doesn't surprise me given my own experience. The pay was practically nil, you got little appreciation from the other staff when you did your job properly, but if you messed up and overlooked something, you got your butt chewed out.

Welcome to my life. Actually, it's not so bad and I usually thrive on deadline pressure. Give me too much time and I waste it. Still, any 9 to 5 jobs open and I'm listening.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Brothers Grimm

Gwenda Bond calls Brothers Grimm a "terror of mediocrity." That's too bad, I disagree. I thought it was fun and exciting and filled with interesting turns on Grimm fairy tales. It also had the single creepiest scene having to do with the gingerbread man I've ever seen.
In her defense, the movie did have a near-Hollywood ending and was nowhere near the brilliance of Terry Gilliam's best films (Brazil, Twelve Monkeys), but that in no way means this was a bad film. I had a great time.
The movie gets a rotten rating of 38 percent at Rotten Tomatoes. So more than a few people agree with Ms. Bond. Although, I might note that most of the bad reviews still say nice things about the movie. For instance, here's Roger Ebert:

Terry Gilliam's "The Brothers Grimm" is a work of limitless invention, but it is invention without pattern, chasing itself around the screen without finding a plot. Watching it is a little exhausting. If the images in the movie had been put to the service of a story we could care about, he might have had something. But the movie seems like a style in search of a purpose.

My recommendation is go see it for yourself. But maybe read a few reviews first to decide if it's your type of film.

Fatness in fiction

Interesting post at Emerald City about using fatness as shorthand for evil in stories. Being a person of somewhat larger than average size (how's that for a euphemism), this concerns me a little when I read a story.
As Cheryl Morgan points out, fatness used to be an easy way to show a character was rich and a boil on society. Today, such a rich person -- say, Paris Hilton -- would most likely be rail thin and carved to "perfection" with plastic surgery.
I couldn't name any recent fiction that featured a main character who was both overweight and heroic in some manner. (I don't mean the traditional sense of daring-do hero, I just mean a character who tries to do the honest, right things.) I'm sure there's some out there, just not many.
Why hasn't this idea changed?

Personal news

There is only one piece of news that I care about right now -- I'm getting married! I proposed to my girlfriend on Saturday and she said yes. I'm a very lucky and happy man. We're planning a November wedding next year.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Finishing Touches by Thomas Tessier

Thomas Tessier has a short column about horror and why he wrote "Finishing Touches," his new book from Leisure, but a book originally released in 1986. Nick Mamatas has reviewed the book. Here's how he sums it up:

At $6.99, and including as a back-up feature the novella "Father Panic's Opera Macabre", Finishing Touches deserves a place atop your commode in the bathroom, if not exactly on the shelf of the best books of the year.

Bookgasm likes it with some reservations:

Tessier’s TOUCHES is a disturbing work and not a predictable one. It will keep you reading, even if the third act is quite anticlimactic and the ending an illogical jumble. The first-person narrative is unremarkable, but that just makes the twists all the more shocking. And the man clearly knows how to write a sex scene, as demonstrated every few pages.

Editor Ellen Datlow has "Finishing Touches" on her Scary Books List (a list, she points out, which needs to be updated.)

Rambles also reviewed "Father Panic's Opera Macabre" in its original incarnation (it is included in the Leisure version of "Finishing Touches.)

Father Panic's Opera Macabre is my first exposure to Tessier's writing and, based on the strength of his build-up and the dramatic execution of his prose, I'm sure I'd like to see more. But Opera Macabre, unfortunately, rushes to the final page and skips whole chapters in the process.

I've only read Tessier's novel "Fogheart" and feel about it the way Mamatas does about "Finishing Touches," it's a good novel, but probably not a great one.

Go read

There's good fiction out there on the Web:

M Rickert's new story Anyway is up at the always reliable SciFiction. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but it's getting rave reviews and I've enjoyed her many stories in the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. But don't take my word for it, read what Matt Cheney has to say about her story Cold Fires. You can also read an interview with M. Rickert at Ideomancer.

Also online is "The Language of Moths" by Christopher Barzak. It's a touching story about growing up, autism and talking with insects. (Found via Jeff Ford's blog.) I read the story when it first appeared in Realms of Fantasy magazine, which doesn't get enough acknowledgement for the good work it does. Realms was where I first read authors like Tim Pratt and Jay Lake. Also, Gahan Wilson's column introduced me to many of my favorite writers, including Jeff Vandermeer.


Jonathan Strahan has answered my question: What is a novelini?

Apparently some guy, Adam Engel, has decided to create 20-page novels and call 'em 'novelini'. I love it. It sounds like a cool new marketing term for 'short story', and I hereby dub it so.

Here is an Adam Engel novelini, Man in the Black Suit. And here is Adam Engel's Web site, where he spells it novilini.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Jeffrey Ford blogging

Jeffrey Ford now has a blog called 14theditch on LiveJournal. It already has great stuff on it like a short story What's Sure to Come and his thoughts about Rudyard Kipling. I can't wait to read "The Girl in the Glass," but "The Sunlight Dialogues" seems to be taking up my whole life.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Amazon sells short stories

Amazon's new "innovation" is fascinating. They are going to be selling short stories for 49 cents each. Authors already involved include F. Paul Wilson, Jack Dann, Gardner Dozois, Joe Haldeman, Kim Stanley Robinson, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Lucius Shepard, Robert Silverberg, and Michael Swanwick, and those are just the ones I'm interested in. I must admit though, Amazon Shorts is a stupid name. Also, can anyone tell me what a "novelini" is, because I've never heard of it. Get your shorts here.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Link on writing

At Maud Newton's blog, Stephany Aulenback interviews Kelly Link. Link's interviews are always interesting and this one is great, filled with lots of details about her writing life.

Writing is a conversation. (I’ll probably say this again at some point.) I need to be reading in order to be writing. This year I’ve typed out a couple of stories by other writers, partly for work-related reasons, but also so that I could get a closer look at how other writers put sentences together. How they structure a plot. I was typing out stories by writers who write very differently from me, and I loved doing this. I’d never looked at other people’s work so closely, or had so much admiration for how a sentence or a paragraph or a scene is constructed. It was a way to slow down my reading speed, and I also found that after I’d been typing out someone else’s story, it felt as if there was less of a barrier when I sat down to do my own work.

Everything the woman does, from her short story collections to her editing work to Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet are great. If you haven't gotten into this stuff, you should.

Review of The Girl in the Glass

January Magazine reviews Jeffrey Ford's "The Girl in the Glass."

As the mystery twists through Schell's investigations, Ford develops a version of the Frankenstein myth. What he shows is that every generation remakes the monster, playing both with a physical construction and a mental one.

Related: Barnes & Noble is sending my copy of the book now. So I guess there wasn't any delay. All the better. But it makes me wonder what Ford is working on now that's keeping him off his message board.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Captain Beefheart, horror movies, Buckethead and the kitchen sink

I really do love it when my weird, obscure obsessions come together. First, today, I find out that Gary Lucas has a blog. For those of you who haven't hear of Lucas, he was a guitarist in Captain Beefheart's Magic Band in its last version, the one that recorded classics like "Doc at the Radar Station" and "Ice Cream for Crow." He has since had a career playing guitar solo and with people like John Zorn and Jeff Buckley.
Then I find on his blog that Lucas was friends with Bill Moseley. Moseley is a horror film actor who first came to my attention as Chop Top in "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2." His latest film is "The Devil's Rejects," which is directed by Rob Zombie. Lucas's blog item is basically a review of that film (he didn't like it much.) He also talks about how he and Moseley ran a horror film society called Things That Go Bump in the Night at Yale in the early 1970s.
Two other interesting things about Moseley, he's a Connecticut native (just like me!) and he has worked with guitarist Buckethead (not like me). Buckethead (yes, the guy in the KFC bucket who was in Guns N Roses for a short time) is also a favorite guitarist of mine. You can also check out Moseley's truly bizarre Web site, Chop Top's BBQ.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Remember, no matter where you go... there you are

If there are any Buckaroo Banzai fans out there, you should know that Moonstone Books is planning a Banzai comic book. You can see a preview of the artwork here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

"No Frills" generic books

At Look What I Found In My Brain!, Lucy Snyder remembers generic books.

Fewer people remember that, for a very brief period of time in the white-label heyday of the early 1980s, someone attempted to market generic genre books.

Yes, completely generic paperback books. They had a plain white cover with just the title in black block lettering: ROMANCE or SCIENCE FICTION or HORROR or WESTERN.

The funny thing is I do remember these. I never saw them in a store, but I remember a TV news show doing a feature on the books. I must have been 10 years old. Even then, I asked myself "how can a book be generic?" Of course, I know better now. There's many ways books can be generic. But to sell them as such is a bit much.
I remember this particular news show because I remember visiting my father in Long Island. His house was filled with "No Frills" items. I'd go in the bathroom and there would be a white tube with a blue line that said "Toothpaste" and somewhere along the side "No Frills." Items like that seemed to be from another universe. My house was filled with frilly items like Crest and Scope. So when I saw the TV story, I paid attention.
The only reference I can find to the books is a cached page from Kathmandu Books:

The ''No Frills'' series was a collection of generic books issued in a plain white cover with black writing. The series was put together by Terry Bisson, and this particular volume was written by John Silbersack. A near fine copy in wraps with a short closed tear and corner crease on the back cover.

I don't know anything about Silbersack. A Google search shows him to have been an editor and to also have written a few media tie-ins, including "Buck Rogers: Rogers Rangers." Terry Bisson, on the other hand, is a well known science fiction writer. His Web site mentions that he created the "No Frills" line in 1981, but gives no further information.
Does anybody know anything more about these books? I'd love to have an image of one.

Science fiction lists

I don't know much about this Phobos Entertainment, but I enjoyed looking over their 100 Science Fiction Books you just have to read! list. Mostly because I read many of the books here (although I don't agree with the placement.) Here's their top 10:

1. Childhood's End Written by Arthur C. Clarke
2. Foundation Written by Isaac Asimov
3. Dune Written by Frank Herbert
4. Man in the High Castle Written by Philip K. Dick
5. Starship Troopers Written by Robert A. Heinlein
6. Valis Written by Philip K. Dick
7. Frankenstein Written by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
8. Gateway Written by Frederick Pohl
9. Space Merchants Written by C.M. Kornbluth & Frederick Pohl
10. Earth Abides Written by George R. Stewart

They have descriptions with each book. Here's the one for Childhood's End:
Before you praise Independence Day for menacing Earth with city-sized flying saucers, credit Clarke’s Overlords for paving the way in Childhood’s End. This meditative novel is somewhat short on space battles and malevolent aliens, but makes up for it in the end when mankind takes that final, staggering evolutionary leap. An amazing read.

They also have a list of 50 science fiction films you just have to see. The top 10 there are:

1. Star Wars Directed by George Lucas
2. Metropolis Directed by Fritz Lang
3. Forbidden Planet Directed by Fred M. Wilcox
4. Invasion of the Body Snatchers Directed by Don Siegel
5. The Fly Directed by David Cronenberg
6. The Thing Directed by Howard Hawkes & Christian Nyby
7. The Thing Directed by John Carpenter
8. The Empire Strikes Back Directed by Irvin Kershner
9. The Matrix Directed by Andy & Larry Wachowski
10. Godzilla Directed by Inshiro Honda

While I would quibble with some of the placement of movies, they do have many movies I enjoy (and I do appreciate Godzilla being in the top 10.)
Anyway, these lists are good fun if you're bored and want to argue with someone about why your favorite book/film wasn't included.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Here's some links of interest:

Friday, August 05, 2005

"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture"

Edward Champion takes a look at the 33 1/3 series of books about great rock and roll albums. I previously read two of the books, "Piper At the Gates of Dawn" and "Forever Changes." The first looks at every detail of the album's recording. The second put the album in a social and literary context. I liked the second one better.
Looking over Ed's reviews, I would be interested in reading "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" (mainly because it's such a great, weird album) and "Born in the USA" (based more on what Ed says about it.)
I would have been interested in "Music From Big Pink" until I read the excerpt. It's a novella in which Big Pink plays an important role, but the writing didn't grab me. Besides, if I want to read about the Band, I can always go re-read Mystery Train.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

SciFi, Battlestar Galactic and respect

Interesting article from Newsday about science fiction looking for respect on television. Here's the lead:

Rodney Dangerfield was wrong. It's sci-fi TV that don't get no respect.

Case in point: A vice president in the TV industry recently asked me what TV shows I watch for enjoyment. I mentioned my favorite is "Battlestar Galactica" on Sci Fi Channel. She laughed. I asked if she'd seen it. No, she said, and laughed again. Did she know, I asked, that it's a gritty adult drama of family members and colleagues in deep-rooted conflict not unlike that of "The Sopranos"? That they're part of a civilization struggling not only to survive but to define itself amid messy terrorist warfare? That it explores the values of competing societies that demonize each other's spiritual beliefs? That it's full of gutsy acting by the likes of Edward James Olmos and sophisticated allegory mirroring today's global politics?

She laughed again.

The article then goes on to say how good, how deep SciFi's "Battlestar Galactica" is. And I would certainly agree with that. The show is fighting to get respect among Emmy nominators.
It's a good article, but this annoys me:

"There is this horrible misconception that science fiction is for somebody else, not for me," says Bonnie Hammer, president of Sci Fi Channel and USA, who campaigns daily to convince skeptics that today's TV genre encompasses more than space and special effects. "It's speculative fiction, it's the imagination, it's anything outside what we know to be true, it's the not-quantifiable," she says. In her seven years overseeing Sci Fi programming, its series have been repositioned not as fantastic adventures but relatably soul-driven dramas.

OK, Hammer deserves some respect because at some point she approved "Battlestar Galactica" and "Farscape" (although she also took it off the air). However, this is also the woman who has approved filling up the channel with films like "Boa vs. Python" and "Bloodsuckers," the woman who tries to move the channel away from science fiction much of the time. Maybe if she wants more respect for the genre, she can start seeking out some of the better science fiction movies that are rarely, if ever, shown on TV. Maybe she can commission good scripts for small movies.

Anyway, "Battlestar Galactica" is pretty great. Let's hope it wins some awards. (Link from SciFi Daily.)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Amazing steampunk invention

This thing, Daddy Longlegs, is probably the coolest historical item I've heard of in a year or more. It's a pier that walks on stilts from one place to another at 2mph. It ran from 1896 to 1901. It's the kind of thing I'm amazed was ever created (and worked!) and even more amazed that anyone let it close. I mean, this is an incredible tourist attraction. I wonder what it sounded like? (Link found at BoingBoing.)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Skeptic's encyclopedia

The James Randi Educational Foundation has put Randi's An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural up on the Web. It gives definitions, explanations and sarcasm about everything from Abaris ("Abaris is said to have lived without eating or drinking. This, coupled with the fact that his pupil Pythagoras is supposed to have stolen his golden arrow, must have resulted in a certain dissatisfaction with his life.") to zombie ("The fact that the idea of real zombies has been taken seriously in Haiti can be seen in their old penal code, where it is stated that “the use of substances whereby a person is not killed but reduced to a state of lethargy, more or less prolonged,” falls under the category of “intention to kill by poisoning.” ").
I find the site to be a bit slow loading, but seems plenty useful nonetheless. (Link seen earlier at Beatrice and BoingBoing.)

George Saunders story

I've been hearing about George Saunders and how good his mainstream/slipstream/fantasy stories are for quite a while. Well, I just finished reading "CommComm" in the New Yorker and it fulfills all I've heard about the author. It's a wonderful, tragical, fantastical story. Here's an excerpt:

I go to my room, watch some World Series, practice my PIDS in front of the mirror.

What'’s going on down there I don'’t watch anymore: Mom'’s on the landing in her pajamas, calling Dad'’s name, a little testy. Then she takes a bullet in the neck, her hands fly up, she rolls the rest of the way down, my poor round Ma. Dad comes up from the basement in his gimpy comic trot, concerned, takes a bullet in the chest, drops to his knees, takes one in the head, and that's that.

Then they do it again, over and over, all night long.

Finally it'’s morning. I go down, have a bagel.

Go read it now.