Thursday, April 26, 2007

Firmin by Sam Savage

"Sometimes the books were arranged under signs, but sometimes they were just anywhere and everywhere. After I understood people better, I realized that this incredible disorder was one of the things that they loved about Pembroke Books. They did not come there just to buy a book, plunk down some cash and scram. They hung around. They called it browsing, but it was more like excavation or mining. I was surprised they didn't come in with shovels. They dug for treasures with bare hands, up to their armpits sometimes, and when they hauled some literary nugget from a mound of dross, they were much happier than if they had just walked in and bought it. In that way, shopping at Pembroke was like reading: you never knew what you might encounter on the next page -- the next shelf, stack, or box --and that was part of the pleasure of it."

I just finished reading "Firmin," from which this passage was taken.

I first heard about the book thanks to the Lit-Blog Co-op (you can read what they have to say about it here.) I read a couple of the posts about the book and went on to other things. It was only a few weeks ago, when I saw the book at Barnes & Noble in the staff recommendations with a 10% discount sticker on it that I thought: well this might be worth a try.

The book is the story of a rat, Firmin, born in the basement of a used book store in Boston's Scollay Square. The square is only a short time from being bulldozed and covered in concrete. In the short time he has, Firmin discovers books and writes his own in his head (he can't speak or write, so this is the only way he can do it.) He desperately wants to reach out to humans, he wants to communicate. His efforts to cross that gap make up the majority of the book.

The story is all about the love of books and how it can both make one feel more in touch with the world while, at the same time, increasing one's alienation.

I knew I would love the book when I got to the paragraph above. It reflects some of my same feelings about used books stores. (I imagine it's a pretty common feeling among book lovers.)

This was Sam Savage's first novel. He's got to be in his late 40s, at least, which makes me selfishly happy. You can hear an interview with Savage from The Bat Segundo Show. He sounds like an interesting man. You can also check out his Web site, The Old Rat, which includes some poetry and other writings.

Two movies born from Japan

Trailer for the film All Gods Children Can Dance. It's based on a Haruki Murakami story from "After the Quake."

Trailer for "Paprika," the new anime by Satoshi Kon. Kon is the creator of "Millenium Actress," "Tokyo Godfathers" and the TV anime "Paranoia Agent." From the trailer I have no idea what is going on, but after his other films I have all confidence that it will be worth seeing.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Faust on writing or "Does this novel make me look fat?"

Back in the comments on an earlier post, I asked Joe Clifford Faust whether he started out writing shorter works or novels when he was getting started writing. He turned this into an interesting blog post and I promptly forgot to mention it here. So I'm correcting that now. Check out Faust's post called Size Matters. He talks not only about his start in writing, but also the advantages and disadvantages to the different sizes of story. Here's a quote:

I know this belies all of our notions of bigger is better, but bigger is also harder, but that's the way it works with writing. Bigger is easier because the smaller you get, the more important each word becomes. It has to bear a greater weight, a greater burden, and must be sufficiently powerful to contribute in the most efficient way possible.

Therefore, at one end of the spectrum you have the novel, which allows you to stretch out with words, with story, with subplots and characters and place and theme. It's a leisurely walk in the park. Wordwise, then, a novel is easier to write than a play, which is easier than a short story, which is easier than poetry, which I suppose is easier to write than something like a tombstone epitaph. And note that by the time you get down to writing poems, you're the watchmaker, sweating over every word with a pair of tweezers and a jeweler's loupe, praying that what you're assembling will keep time and have the desired impact.

As for me, I'm still trying to work on short stories, though maybe I should go back and read my three Nanowrimo "novels" and see if there's anything salvageable from any of them. I'm thinking probably not, but it never hurts to look.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Call of the Weird by Louis Theroux

I hadn't heard of Louis Theroux when I was sent this book. Subtitled "Travels in American Subcultures," the book is actually a followup to Theroux's work on documentaries and TV series like "Louis' Weird Weekends" and "When Louis Met..." I've since found a few things on YouTube. Theroux is charismatic and funny. In his shows, he seems to let the people he meets just be their odd selves without trying to force funny into the situation.

And apparently, Theroux likes a lot of the people he meets. That is the inspiration behind the book. He decides to take a "Reunion Tour" of people he met on his documentaries. He travels around the country trying to find the people he once talked to and see where they are now. He looks for Thor Templar, the UFO believer who claims he's killed 20 aliens. He looks for porn star J.J. Michaels. He talks to Ike Turner and pimp/rapper Mello T.

In many cases, these people have moved on. J.J. Michaels is working for Boeing and no longer does movies, though he still keeps a box of his films in the basement and says he'd like to do it again. Thor Templar has changed his name, dropped UFO business and is now selling items for "technoshamans." Theroux reunites with an Aryan Nations member he had bonded with over "Are You Being Served." The racist had been kicked out of the club for some obscure reasons. He meets with a former prostitute who's now found god, but still considers going back to the business.

In all his stories, there seems to be a theme of fantasy meeting reality. People seek out a fantasy, or follow the fantasies in their head, and later find out that the world is not always accepting or tolerant of their views. Many of these people find their worldviews don't hold up to the test, yet they blithely continue believing.

In the foreword to the American edition, Theroux says his aim is different from those authors who seek to follow, in Garrison Keillor's words, "the classic Freaks, Fatties, Fanatics & Faux Culture Excursion beloved of European journalists." He hopes to go more in depth, to see how people's lives turned out. I'm afraid he didn't entirely succeed. The book still seems like a tourist's view of typical American crazies and loudmouths. But what does save it is Theroux's actual interest in these people. He might think they are funny or crazy, but from his words you can see that he actually feels for them. He wants them to do well, to make a little corner of the world for themselves.

The book is a charming travelogue of unusual people encountering a more bland world. It doesn't offer profound insights, but it does offer a good time.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Houdini's greatest escape!

The only proper way this news event should end is with an empty casket.

And just to make this worthwhile, this page has pictures of Houdini's water torture chamber, the one everyone thinks he died in.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A great film about fungus

ScifiJapan takes a close look at Matango (aka Attack of the Mushroom People). As they point out, the film can be looked at as an allegory for drugs or capitalism, but it's much more than that. It's a good movie that cares about its characters, even though most of them are unlikeable, and makes the situation feel real, despite the rubber mushroom suits.

It's one of my favorite movies. With this film and Gojira, one can see that Ishiro Honda is a great, and criminally underrated, director.

Also at the link is the full text of William Hope Hodgson's "The Voice in the Night," which was the inspiration for the film. I would also recommend picking up the Matango DVD, which has some great extras including a story read by the screenwriter.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by Paul Malmont

I wish I hadn't waited so long to read this book. Professor Hex pointed it out to me way back in April of last year. Just from the description alone it has all kinds of things I like: pulp writers, Chinatown, rip-roaring adventure and fun. Now that I've read it, I can say it lives up to the hype.

The book concerns a moment during the pulp era -- the late 1930s, I believe -- when Walter Gibson had shown the Shadow not to be Lamont Cranston, when Lester Dent and his wife were desperately trying to have a child, when L. Ron Hubbard was head of a New York pulp writer's association, when H.P. Lovecraft was on his deathbed and when Chester Himes, Louis L'Amour and Robert Heinlein were working odd jobs and travelling the country. Slowly, all these pulp writers, and many more, are brought together to face the peril of the title.

I think I love pulp writers as much as I do their characters and stories. I've read a biography of Dent, a collection of essays on the "Pulp Masters," and Gruber's "The Pulp Jungle." It's all exciting stuff. From reading all these stories and essays (as well as other reading from the time), I think I have a pretty good sense of the era and the characters involved. And Paul Malmont let me feel like I was right there in it. I could smell the cigarette smoke and taste the beer at the White Horse Tavern as Emile Tepperman and E.E. "Doc" Smith talked in one corner and Hubbard harangued Gibson for advice. He hits the spots that are legendary in pulp history: the Automat, the Street & Smith offices, Astounding magazine and John Campbell.

In capturing the time period, the book reminded me of Jeffrey Ford's "The Girl in The Glass," which is set in in the 1930s, though it is mainly focused on Long Island. It also reminded me of the pulps themselves, especially in the later "episodes" when Dent and Gibson subtly take on the characteristics of their famed characters, the Shadow and Doc Savage.

And it's not just the feel of the era. Malmont uses history throughout the story both as background for the events and as plot points. The beginnings of the Japanese invasion of China affect both the story and Chinatown. A huge unity parade plays an integral role, and though I haven't looked it up, I'm sure that parade happened almost exactly as Malmont describes it.

I can't wait to see what Malmont does in the future. For now, I think I'll go read some Doc Savage.

Black Gate and Sword-and-Sorcery

Black Gate magazine now has a blog and Howard Andrew Jones opens it up with a post on Sword-and-Sorcery. Of course, the genre interests me. I wrote up an entry about it at Encyclopedia Fantastica recently. In that entry I said:

Too often, the term Sword and Sorcery is used to describe epic or high fantasy,
those stories more influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien's work. Sword and Sorcery's root
texts are the work of Robert E. Howard, especially those stories about the
characters Conan and Kull. (In fact, some consider the Kull story "The Shadow
Kingdoms" as the first example of true Sword and Sorcery.) Unlike Tolkien's
work, Howard's stories are tied to single characters and rarely feature a
clear-cut morality. In fact, Conan's tales stem from Howard's belief that
barbarism will triumph over civilization, which is inherently decadent. Conan,
himself, often does things that are less than heroic (see The Tao of Conan for
more details on that.)
It could be argued that the gray morality of much
Sword and Sorcery is a defining feature of the subgenre. It also puts the lie to
the phrase "heroic fantasy," often used as a synonym for Sword and Sorcery.

Jones offers a different view on how S&S differs from epic fantasy. He puts it down to pace. He sees epic fantasy as fantastical travelogues, while S&S is more about a "somber, headlong drive."
It's an interesting take and I think pace is certainly among the defining characteristics of S&S. I think, however, it's only one aspect of what makes up S&S. But Jones isn't advocating a one-note genre either. His whole post -- which also talks about the influence of role-playing games and offers some recommendations of S&S authors -- is a thoughtful take on the genre. I'm looking forward to what else he has to say. (Jones has also had a few things to say in the past at, where he used to be editor.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A new Weird Tales

Weird Tales is getting a redesign and has a new editor. They're making an effort to buy fiction more on the cutting edge, more truly weird stuff. They want to be in the spirit of the original magazine, not a rehash. To get people to try it out, they making a special subscription offer of 6 issues for $12.

I've had a subscription to "The Unique Magazine" for several years now. I've enjoyed it, but I can't say any of the criticisms of it are wrong. Its pages have been filled with stories meant to duplicate the original magazine rather than follow its spirit. Even its covers were most often reprints of pulp covers. There's nothing wrong with this, necessarily. They often got some good stories and in some cases managed to get more surreal writers like Thomas Ligotti. But it wasn't the first magazine I looked to if I wanted to find something truly "unique." I'd be more likely to look online or read the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

I've never read the Silver Web, the magazine the new editor, Ann Vandermeer, published. From what I know of it, it focused on horrific and surreal stories. Should be interesting to see how that outlook translates to Weird Tales. I'm already interested in some of the stories in this next issue, stuff by Caitlin Kiernan, Richard Parks, and apparently seven new writers. I can't wait to get the new issue and see where it leads.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Escape from Remakes

Why in the hell does anyone need to remake Escape from New York? (Link found at Gamera_Spinning) The movie still works great on DVD, it has a sequel made, what?, 10 years ago. For god sakes, Kurt Russell could still play Snake Plissken if they wanted to make a third one. Just check out the clips from Grindhouse and tell me it's not true. When will Hollywood give up all these remakes? Original ideas are good, use them!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Encyclopedia Fantastica and Sword and Sorcery

Paul Jessup has started a new wiki, Encyclopedia Fantastica. Here's what he says about it on the homepage:

A literary resource for Fantastic Literature in all its guises. This wiki-based Encyclopedia is meant to create discussion and arguments of intellectual merit within the fantasy community. Inside you will see ideas explode, terms implode, and criticisms argued and debated.

The purpose is debate and knowledge. Consider this a community resource, a scholarly adventure.

Inspired, I went over and created an entry on Sword and Sorcery. I've been reading a lot of S&S lately and thinking about what makes it work. I'm sure I've written something in there that will make me groan later, but I'm hoping it can get some people talking about the genre and thinking about what makes it work. I'd love to see a revival of S&S that created more interesting settings and characters.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Gruesome legends read in my childhood

I'm so excited. I think I've just found something from my childhood that I've been seeking for years. When I was in my early teens (maybe 13), I went to a Polish festival and picked up a book filled with the folk tales of Poland. I remembered they were a little gruesome, but fascinating. I have no idea what happened to the book over the years.

In one of my Google searches for this book, I finally think I've stumbled on one of the tales from it. In fact, I may have found the book. It's called "Legends of Poland: The Legend of Popiel and the Mice." The book is part of a series of "Legends of Poland." The art looks somewhat similar to my memories and the tale was definitely one I read. I remember the book being a collection of stories, but it's quite possible my memories are faulty and it was a series of books instead.

The story is about King Popiel, a Polish king who is incompetent. His own family tries to have him killed. Afterward, Popiel is convinced by his German wife to kill his uncles and dump their bodies in a lake. It was done, but the people revolted and Popiel and his wife escaped to their tower on a lake. But Popiel couldn't escape. Rats and mice rose up from the lake and ate through the tower to devour the royal couple.

You can find out about the legend at the Wikipedia entry. Here's a Czeslaw Milosz poem called "King Popiel." There's a film from Poland called "When the Sun Was God" that features Popiel as a main character.

Apparently, there is an old ruin in Poland that is called the Mouse Tower and is supposed to be the very tower Popiel was killed in (though historians doubt it.) For more on that structure see The World According to Google and here's a Polish flicker photo of the tower.

During my searches I found this other tale of a Mouse Tower. This time it's a Bishop Hatto on the Rhine who is devoured by rats and mice. Here's the horrible climax to this version:

They were in at last, and sprang at him fiercely.... He beat them off by the score; he trampled them under his feet; he tore at them savagely with his hands–all to no purpose; he might just as well have tried to beat back the ocean. The rats surged against him like waves breaking on a cliff, and very soon the Bishop was overwhelmed in the horrid flood. Little was left to tell of the tragedy when his servants plucked up courage to enter the building some days later.

Here's a Wikipedia entry on that version of the legend.

I tell you, I love this stuff. Half-remembered things from childhood lead down interesting pathways.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Enter the Groovy Age

The Groovy Age of Horror is a fun blog I found a while back and have been enjoying immensely ever since. Curt is reading through tons of trashy paperbacks from the late '60s and early '70s that are helping him create his own aesthetic. He's using that knowledge to write a novel (potentially a series of novels in the best trashy paperback tradition) and has blogged a draft of it at Night Falls on a Fairy Tale.

Anyway, this week Curt started his first contest. He wants people to write a Nazisploitation nanofiction. This sounded like a ton of fun, so I submitted a story that has been posted as Entry 9. My little scene isn't nearly as lurid (or NSFW) as some of the entries, but I hope it's fun. It was to write! Give it a try. Curt's also looking for fan art entries. Chip in and do your best nasty, sleazy Nazi fiction (or art) for the Groovy Age.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Bigfoot vs. Steve Austin!

No Fear of the Future has posted a YouTube video of the Six Million Dollar Man vs. Bigfoot! It's brilliant and everything I remembered from childhood. Sasquatch is a big hairy, fanged monster! Bigfoot pulls a tree out of the ground to fight Steve Austin! Steve pulls Bigfoot's arm off! And, while it's not explained in the video, Bigfoot is controlled by aliens! Go watch it, it's great!

Clueless reviewers, plus Girl in the Glass

I'm rather astounded. This reviewer at 3AM magazine seems to believe that Jeff Lint was a real person. That's just hilarious. I mean, the cover of the book at the site says "Steve Aylett's newest novel" right on the cover. Even if it didn't, how would anyone believe half this stuff really happened? A series of books about a belly? Later rewritten as about jelly? A man who delivers all his manuscripts in a dress? I mean, yeah, I suppose they could happen. But you might think to question it if you kept getting so implausible no?

It got to a point where I thought the reviewer was playing her own metafictional game. Then she says: "The life and times of Lint are communicated, in a round about sort of way, and the book is educational and, in parts, mildly funny." Educational?

Lint is a good book, by the way. I laughed out loud through most of it, though I must admit it does get a little tiresome before the end. The chapters on Star Trek, comics and animation are all classics.

I found the link on Jeffrey Ford's blog. Which reminds me, the Nebula awards have been announced and Ford's "The Girl in the Glass" is among the novel nominees. Now, I love the book, absolutely, and I would like to see it win all the awards it can (it's already won an Edgar Award for best paperback original), however, doesn't it slip past the Nebula awards' reason for being? The rules state: "Works must be in either the Science Fiction or the Fantasy genres. The Nebula Awards® Report (NAR) Editor will decide the eligibility of a questionable work, subject to appeal to the SFWA Awards Rules Committee." I don't think you can really say this book is science fiction or fantasy. Well, maybe a little fantasy, if read in a certain light. But having said that, I love the book, it deserves awards and attention, so go "Girl in the Glass"!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Colossal squid! It's big.

I haven't written about giant squid in a while, so here's a link to a newly caught colossal squid, which is apparently like a giant squid, just heavier. (via Boing Boing)

Nostalgia central

Chris Roberson and I are having an interesting conversation in the comments here about TV shows and cartoons of the late '70s and early '80s. If you remember shows like Thundarr, Blackstar, Jason of Star Command, Isis and Greatest American Hero, please join in. In the meantime, here's a little inspiration:

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fantastic Voyage cartoon

Here's the opening to one of my favorite cartoons I watched as a kid. I love the groovy music and oddball cast (Guru!) and I remember the show was very tense because their clock was always counting down.

My other favorite was "Journey to the Center of the Earth," but I can't find anything on YouTube about that.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Jason of Star Command

Jason of Star Command is coming to DVD in May. This is kind of exciting, if a little weird. I watched the show religiously when I was really young. I used to wake up at ungodly hours of the morning on Saturday to see it. Now, I remember almost nothing about it. There were two little robots and there was some kind of rock-covered spaceship, or something. And there was a bad guy. That's about it.

So now, the show will become available again and I'm faced with a dilemma: Do I watch it again and risk losing my good feelings about the show? Anytime I see a show from my childhood that I've completely forgotten, I wonder if it will hold up to the pleasant memories I have for it. For instance, years ago I bought a VCR tape of "Battle of the Planets," an animated show I loved as a child. Even now, I can think of the show I thought I watched when I was a kid and how cool it was. There were superhero-type characters, an evil villain with secrets, and cool science fictiony vehicles, especially the Phoenix. But then I saw it. So much time was spent on an R2-D2 clone with tiny wings that narrated the whole show. And Casey Kasem's voice was all over it (not bad in itself, but it's hard to make a character come alive when it sounds just like that top 40 guy.) The animation was poor. And it was just generally horrible.

I don't expect Jason of Star Command to be very good. It's going to have poor TV special effects. It's not going to take many risks and it's sure to have a moral at the end of every episode. And I'm sure those two little robots I liked so much as a kid will be annoyingly cutesy.

But there's always a chance I will like it anyway. Like Land of the Lost. It's totally cheesy, but it still maintains charm. And its general weirdness keeps it entertaining. But it's got dinosaurs and sleestacks. I don't think Jason of Star Command has anything so cool (and no, James Doohan is not cool enough.)

So, maybe when May rolls around I'll try and rent the DVDs. Give it a chance and see what I was poisoning my mind with at 9 years old.

Now, if only someone would put out Thundarr on DVD. That's a show I would pick up without hesitation.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Scent of Shadows by Vicki Pettersson

I was one of 20 lucky people to get advanced reader copies of this book, the first of a new series. Pettersson says the book belongs to the dark urban fantasy genre on her Web site. I didn't know much about that genre by name, but it seems to be linked with writers like Kim Harrison, Laurel Hamilton, Charlaine Harris and others (none of whom have I read or know much about). It's a blending of horror, fantasy and romance elements. "The Scent of Shadows" has a little of all of that, as well as mystery, but I don't think the book would be misplaced if you called it simply fantasy or horror.

The book is the story of Joanna Archer, a young heiress of a casino fortune living in Las Vegas. She has a past marred by extreme violence. The book begins with probably the worst blind date in history. From there, the book moves at a rapid pace, introducing the reader to Joanna's life and then quickly destroying it as Joanna finds out who she really is.

She's a superhero, of sorts. She belongs to a group known as the Zodiac that participates in a war between Light and Shadow. She falls in with the Light side, but in the process loses much that is important to her. (I'm trying to stay vague here, because there are plenty of plot twists and turns that I would rather not spoil.) The new life she is faced with, after the one she has known for 25 years is destroyed, is a great choice on Pettersson's part. Trapped in another lifestyle outside her own experience causes Joanna to know herself better, and the reader right along with her.

The book is at its best when navigating the twists and turns of the plot. Pettersson writes action scenes that could be transcribed directly into a movie with martial arts choreography by Yuen Wo Ping (though Joanna's fighting style of choice is Krav Maga). She keeps those scenes moving quickly without ever losing the reader.

But Pettersson also takes plenty of time to explore Joanna's psyche. In particular, she explores the nature of violence, how it changed Joanna's life and how Joanna has used it since. In fact, for a book about superheros who can't be hurt, the book delves deeply into the effects of violence. Almost every main character in the book has been traumatized by violence in their past, and each of them reacts in their own way.

Pettersson's prose is typical commercial fiction. It hits high points when Joanna unleashes her sharp tongue:

Ajax's reptilian features had rearranged themselves as I spoke, and he now looked like a glowering python. "Thanks for the psychoanalysis, babe," he spat, "but all I really wanted from this weekend were a couple of easy lays."
This, I assumed was where I was supposed to throw my wine in his face. I didn't, though. I like Chateau Le Pin, and took a long, considering slip of the vintage '82 I'd made him buy. "And what? Your mother wasn't available?"

The prose hits low points when Pettersson gives into cliches such as "the hunter becomes the hunted" and probably the most sappy two paragraphs I've read in a long long time:

I stared past him and outside the window, where dawn waited impatiently. "I guess that's how you knew to leave the door open for me."
"Oh, Jo-Jo," he said, sighing sleepily as he gathered me tight to his body. "It was never closed."
Those low points, though, are few and much of the time I was too caught up in the plot to care.

Despite this being the first part of a series (the second book "The Taste of Night" will be out in April), the book manages to come to a satisfying conclusion, while leaving many mysteries and plot threads waiting to be resolved in future books.

If you're looking for a smart, action-packed novel that's not afraid of emotion, you won't go wrong with "The Scent of Shadows."

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

New pulp reprints

Has anyone seen these in stores, repackaged Shadow and Doc Savage novels by Nostalgia Ventures? (Link found at gamera_spinning) I've collected many of the old Bantam reprints of the Doc Savage novels and I have a couple of the Shadow reprint novels (although I've only read "The Romanoff Jewels"), but this is the first time in years that I think they have been in print. (I also have some The Spider reprints, but Nostalgia Ventures doesn't seem to be doing anything with that series.)

What's interesting about these reprints, according to the Web site, is that they include historical information by Anthony Tollin and Will Murray. I know Murray's name as both the writer of many of the Destroyer (Remo Williams!) novels and as a pulp expert. Apparently, Tollin and Murray have also written Doc Savage novels "in collaboration" with original writer Lester Dent. The reprints also have the original illustrations and covers. I'm sorely tempted to pick these up. They are apparently available at Barnes & Noble and Borders.

If all these names (Shadow, Doc Savage, Operator #5) are unknown or confusing to you, get educated at: PulpWiki, The Hero Pulps!, Wikipedia entry, and The Pulp Gallery. For more on The Destroyer see Here's more on the movie Remo Williams.

Most of my pulp reprint needs, though, are usually served by Adventure House and High Adventure magazine. That's how I collected almost the entire "Purple Invasion" stories from Operator #5.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Joe Gill, 1919-2006

Joe Gill, writer of hundreds, maybe thousands, of Charlton Comics died last month, Dec. 17, at his nursing home in Seymour, Conn.

Mark Evanier first reported Gill's death on his blog. The Connecticut Post did Saturday. Evanier's blog talks mostly about his career at Charlton, while the newspaper article gives more information about his life since retirement. I find it touching that the senior center will be mounting his pool cues. The Post had previously done an article on Gill's friendship with Mickey Spillane; unfortunately I can't find it now. Also, I highly recommend Charlton Spotlight's interview with Gill.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Loads of links and more

Arrested Development's Michael Cera gives you his tips to success.

Chris Roberson points out that Avatar is coming to the screen. I've only seen a couple of episodes, but I share Roberson's worries.

Paul Jessup skips the manifesto and creates a subgenre.

Two interviews with Nick Mamatas: Bookslut and Disinformation

Iwao Takamoto has died. I had never heard of him until I read the Boing Boing post, but now I realize he's the creator behind some of the best cartoons of my childhood.

Professor Hex points out this wonderful eBay sale that includes thousands of pulp magazines. Just check out the gallery of images from the sale of Weird Tales, terrific stuff.

And to round out this linkfest, a meme from a while ago. I found it at Myth Happens.

"Listed below are the fifty most significant science fiction / fantasy novels, 1953—2002, according to the Science Fiction Book Club: bold the ones you have read, italicize the ones you started but never finished, underline the ones you own but never started, strike out the ones you hated, and put an asterisk beside the ones you love. "

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien*
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
3. Dune, Frank Herbert
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson*
7. Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury*
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe*
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison*
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
22. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
23. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson (I assume this is for the whole trilogy, I only read the first book.)
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams*
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon*
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith*
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester*
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

In the case of some of these books, the line between liking and loving is very thin. It's interesting that I don't hate any of these books. Though I imagine I wouldn't like it today, "Sword of Shannara" was a pleasant reading experience for me in my early teen years. I'm also pleased to see that I've read the great majority (31) of these books. It gives me a few ideas for rereads later.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

2007: My year of writing, no really

So, about this time last year, I wrote this:

This year, I resolve to write, send out and see a story published. At least one, but hopefully more.

Well, I failed miserably. For the better part of the year, I wrote regularly and even finished one whole short story (and yes, I know that's pretty pathetic.) I did manage to send it out to a friend, who gave me some good advice on what was wrong with it. Shortly thereafter, I was inundated with wedding planning and real estate issues. I'm making no attempt to say those things should have stopped me, only that they did.

My other writing, blogging and journaling, was pretty miserable as well. I was strong blogging at the beginning of the year and faded away. By May, I had completely stopped. Journaling, on the other hand, I kept up regularly up until October. Even then, I'd find the occasional time to slip in a paragraph in a notebook here or there.

This year, I'm making a resolution again. It's not much different from last year, just more specific:

I resolve to write every day with an aim to creating good fiction.

The main difference here is the resolution is all focused on doing the work. Forget anything else until I'm writing regularly and getting better. Besides, I have no control over whether something will be published. I can only work on my own craft until I write things that are publishable.