Sunday, December 16, 2007

Why So Serious?

You're just a freak, like me.

The writing is very slow and frustrating. Lots of thinking and figuring. I write fast, but I take time to gather material. Everything becomes material. Filtering becomes an issue. Add to that I desperately need a title for this novel and nothing seems to work. My head has been ringing with headaches for days.

I went to see I Am Legend on Saturday, and while not legendary, was very good. The cinematography of abandoned NYC was extraordinary, and featured the best CGI work I've ever seen in any film. The movie went back on itself in the end, but Will Smith was excellent and understated in what was essentially a one man play.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

It's What Day Already?

Somehow it's December 9th. Somehow it's December. I shouldn't be surprised because of all the snow and ice on the ground. Writing has been good but slow. I go in spurts. I wrote a new short story, which I'm letting marinate for now, and I'm about 80 pages into the novel (91 or so if you count stuff I've generated - scraps of fabric I'll hopefully be able to use later) which I should be very happy about, considering. I'm in a thinking/considering/exploring phase and generally I don't get a lot of pages down during these periods. I don't outline, I discover things as I write and this is the downside of doing that: sometimes you hit a dead end and have to turn back and go the other way. Best to explore all paths, though.

I saw The Golden Compass yesterday. I was really looking forward to it, and it was entertaining in a general epic fantasy kind of way, but the script rushed through just about everything. It's far too talky (show don't tell is a good thing, sometimes). Major plot points come about either in asides or are left off the screen altogether (the film literally just ends - and despite having Lyra telegraph the next movie, it does not inspire the same narrative momentum or anticipation The Fellowship of the Ring did, surprising, considering how desperately New Line wants this to eumlate LOTR). Dakota Blue Richards, who plays Lyra, is a real find and carries the movie single handedly on her shoulders. David Craig and Nicole Kidman are fantastic, but basically have glorified cameos, Craig in particular. Eva Green pops up as a sexy ancient witch, but she's fleeting, too. They excised, ironically. all of the religious subtext that Pullman crafted into the book, leaving the film without the same urgency or certainty the books have. I only imagine this will get worse as the films go on, if they do, seeing how the trilogy only becomes more and more polemical toward organized religion.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Kat Speaks

Follow this to hear Kat read an excerpt from her new and groovy new novel The Secret History of Moscow.

I'm up to 67 pages in the novel, and was thunderstruck yesterday by an idea for a short story. I sat down and wrote most of it in one sitting, and then realized on my walk downtown, hey, this could be a really cool novel, too. Hard to make work, but really cool.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

50 Pages (And Counting)

Actually 57! That's how far I am into the new novel. And I'm excited because I haven't written a new novel in oh, two years. It feels like going out on that first date with someone new, after you've been out of the game a while, and it's good. It works. You click. This book is clicking for me right now. There's a lot I'm still sorting out, but that's normal (it's been so long since I wrote something this involved that I have to remind myself, it's normal). I remember now the thrush and the thrall of a first draft. The blind confidence (I can do whatever!). I've spent so much time writing and rewriting the Big Damn Epic, I got lost in the woods. I focused on short stories for long time, and then found out what I already knew, which is that I'm a novel writer, not a short story writer so much.

But here we are. Back on the road.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Pushcart


"Keeping Up Disappearances"
, a story of mine which appeared in Issue 19 of Storyglossia back in April, has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. My thanks to Steven McDermott for taking a chance on the story and all his support not just for me, but for the other nominees as well.

Support your writers!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sands of Time



Beach erosion in Wales turned up this incredible find, a WWII era P-38 fighter that ran out of gas and ditched on the beach 65 years ago.

Rocky planets are forming in the Pleiades.


Oh, and support your writers:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I Live There



The Japanese recently sent a space probe to the moon, and slapped a HD camera on it, which has snapped some spectacular pictures of the moon and the earth as well. This is a link to a mini-movie of the probe's very low pass over the lunar surface; it's extraordinary to watch how much the surface changes in this little segment, considering how bland and uniform you might think the moon looks from here.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Secret History of Moscow

Go buy my dear friend and unbreakable pillar of support Kat's shiny new novel The Secret History of Moscow right now on Amazon!

Also dig her thoughts on the origins of the book here.



Thursday, November 08, 2007

So I Guess I Better Update...

Because my friend Mike's wife Becca told me to or else.

The main reason I'm not posting regular is because work leaves me super tired and I'm coming home and working on a new novel. It's slow - slower than I'm used to, which I think is as much fatigue as I've become a very picky writer - but I'm very excited about it. Hopefully I'll have more to say about it in the near future. And hopefully I'll be blogging more regular and not such a wuss.

Beyond that what has me excited is that a solar system very similar to ours has been discovered around 55 Cancri, a sun-like star about 44 light-years away. It has five planets, the most yet discovered around a distant star, and one of them, albeit a gas giant, lies in the habitable zone Earth occupies around the Sun. The sweet thing about the giant is it no doubt is host to several moons like Jupiter and Saturn, some of which would, if rocky, be elegible for Earth-like goodness.

And there's plenty of Earth-like goodness right here because Joss Whedon is coming back to TV. I believe the appropriate word is 'shiny.' It's called Dollhouse and it's got Eliza Dushku. Sadly, it isn't a Faith spin-off, but it's Joss and it's TV which means there is joy in the world. Plus, the Buffy comic book continues to be the best show on TV that isn't on TV.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

E.T.?

So I was walking home Friday night with my cousin Matt and we were looking up at the stars (as I am want to) and pondering the fall constellations like the Pleiades (which with my new glasses I can finally see again) and also Mars, which is brightening. So I look up, directly overhead, and see a group of five distinct lights, oval shaped, pumpkin orange, glowing, absolutely flying across the sky. They weren't airplanes, though they were flying at about cruising altitude. They had no blinking lights, no exhaust trails, and they were much fatter and wider than planes. They weaved across the sky in this bizarre, furious motion. It reminded me of this film I saw of schools of dolphins swimming in the ocean, weaving in and out of each other, breaking apart and coming back together. That's what these did. They did this for less than 10 seconds - they crossed the sky much faster than even the space shuttle or the space station does, and again, these were not either of those - so I would guess whatever they were, they were flying in excess of 18,000 miles an hour, which is the orbital speed of the shuttle.

It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. I spent most of Saturday evening out in my backyard waiting for them to come back, but of course they didn't. I wonder if any else saw them; I imagine anyone in the country at around midnight Friday looking up at the right time would have.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Guess I Should Update...

Ben told me to update and so here goes:

Not a lot to say, except the Cubs won the division (yay) and my friend Amitabh had a short film uniquely titled The Art of Stalking win the award for Best Short at the Boston Film Festival. Congrats to him.

I'm sick and working lots of overtime right now (the perfect combination) but I did FINALLY get new glasses after a years of questing. The stars are now tiny round dots again and not fuzzy halfway hairy things of blue and silver. I'm reading Francine Prose's Reading Like A Writer which is a very good 'How To' book without being a 'How To' book. Her central point in the book is that there is no how-to when it comes to writing. There are ways of seeing, and it's simply (well...) a matter of choice. That's my problem. I cannot choose. I feel like I can deploy a certain style or tactic of writing to one degree of success or another, but I never know what is right for me or the story I'm working on. It results in endless revision and endless second guessing. Part of the problem is I have no one there to act as my conscience. No Spock. No Willow. No Scooby. I'm working in a vaccum as I was before college and I fear the results are essentially the same. The writing is much more skillful and knowing, but it's aimless. I lie awake in worry some nights this whole enterprise will simply wash ashore as driftwood some place in a future of deadening, numbing 40 hour work weeks and nights in front of the TV watching reruns of sitcoms to dull the senses, and I will not know how I got there, or remember what brought me to it.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle

Madeleine L'Engle, the author of probably my favorite book as a kid, A Wrinkle In Time, has died at 88. Following the many links and tributes around the web I found on her website her acceptance speech for the 1963 Newberry Medal Award:

So how do we do it? We can’t just sit down at our typewriters and turn out explosive material. I took a course in college on Chaucer, one of the most explosive, imaginative, and far-reaching in influence of all writers. And I’ll never forget going to the final exam and being asked why Chaucer used certain verbal devices, certain adjectives, why he had certain characters behave in certain ways. And I wrote in a white heat of fury, “I don’t think Chaucer had any idea why he did any of these things. That isn’t the way people write.”

I believe this as strongly now as I did then. Most of what is best in writing isn’t done deliberately.

Do I mean, then, that an author should sit around like a phony Zen Buddhist in his pad, drinking endless cups of espresso coffee and waiting for inspiration to descend upon him? That isn’t the way the writer works, either. I heard a famous author say once that the hardest part of writing a book was making yourself sit down at the typewriter. I know what he meant. Unless a writer works constantly to improve and refine the tools of his trade they will be useless instruments if and when the moment of inspiration, of revelation, does come. This is the moment when a writer is spoken through, the moment that a writer must accept with gratitude and humility, and then attempt, as best he can, to communicate to others.

A writer of fantasy, fairy tale, or myth must inevitably discover that he is not writing out of his own knowledge or experience, but out of something both deeper and wider. I think that fantasy must possess the author and simply use him. I know that this is true of A Wrinkle in Time. I can’t possibly tell you how I came to write it. It was simply a book I had to write. I had no choice. And it was only after it was written that I realized what some of it meant.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Force Is With Them

NASA will take Luke Skywalker's lightsaber to space on the Discovery in October. No. Way.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Hades

This picture looks like Hell to me:



The Greek wildfires are in danger of destroying ancient ruins, notably the Olympic sites. Here in Iowa, and elsewhere in the greater Midwest, it's water. Flooding has sunk many communities, including Waterloo. It's not too bad here, not as bad as Fort Dodge, but the Greenhill road folks are submerged, again.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

My Universe Has A Hole In It

Holy shit.

What the hell is it? My brain already is spinning with ideas about what it could be, or would be, in a story with a universe that has a hole in it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Landfall



The Endeavour made it back safe earlier today, a day ahead of schedule due to the hurricane down in the south. NASA had been worried about it making landfall in Texas, which would have put the landing in jeporady.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Sweetness

Automatic do not stop go directly to Hall of Fame Space Picture:



Sounds like they're not going to attempt the repairs to the Endeavour, thinking them unnecessary. Excuse me if I don't jump up and down with relief.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Naturally



So the Endeavour has a serious hole in its belly from a piece of foam - the same culprit in the demise of the Columbia. It appears to be fixable, but there's a little too much debate amongst NASA types about its seriousness which usually means it's pretty fucking serious. I had a weird flashback today to when I was a kid, in the months after Challenger. I carried around this shoebox of newspaper clippings and other artifacts from the tragedy, the investigation, anything to do with the shuttle. I even took it to school with me. It was a green shoebox. I wonder whatever happened to it; it seemed so important then, like it contained something priceless inside, beyond understanding.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Circle Has No Beginning

And no end. Flawless.



Astronomers have discovered the universe's largest planet - so far - in the constellation Hercules, about 1,400 light-years away. It's a gas giant nearly twice the size of Jupiter, which is stupefying, but even more weird is that it has half the density of Saturn, the lightest object in our solar system. Saturn would float in water if you found an ocean big enough.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Revisionist

Went to Loo Town's first annual Irish Fest this weekend. I had a blast. There was a U2 cover band that outdid themselves and of course, lots of beer. It made me think of my Irish buddies, many of whom I have not talked with in a long while.

Salinte.

I've long been a fan of The Great Gatsby, so I've always been interested in Fitzgerald's writing process, which was legendary. He never really stopped revising; he was even making changes to the page proofs of the novel at the printer. I feel a little bit of kinship with him. I'm an endless tinkerer. Maybe it's because I lack the clarity most writers possess; they arrive at solutions much faster than I do. I know when I get deep into my stories, as I certainly have with the Big Damn Epic, for years now, I'm not able to see the forest for the trees. The book has evolved as I have evolved as a writer; most other (sane) writers would have abandoned it as a first project, a failed project, but it's a work of passion and the story, as silly as it may sound, is sound; I haven't been, obviously.

My friend Sugu - who really needs to be update you with his site - could you tell you stories about the many revisions this thing has gone through. He's been in Japan for the last couple years, so he hasn't even been privy to the most recent; it's always been the first 100 pages. After that, the story works pretty well and has remain fundamentally unchanged since about 2003 (good lord! It's been that long?). I have never known who to start the story with. It has many characters, all worthy central protagonists, and many points of view; of course it has a central character, but starting explicitly with her has been difficult. She is alien, difficult to describe, and she's a child - the early drafts have a definite YA aspect. But she's the only place I can start. Part of the solution - one hopes - has been to make her a little older. She's actually a couple centuries old, but she appears and acts like a teenager, and was even younger before; the other part has just been to give in to the fact that I have to explain some things upfront. I like subtlety in writing, I like showing, not telling, but it's not a movie. I can't get away with visually expressing the exposition like I could in a film. I have to explain, right away, this is what she is. This is where they are and that is where they came from. This is why this stuff is happening and if I were a better writer, a Joyce or a Kurosawa, I would know how to do it without doing it.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Dog Days

Slowly reading Harry Potter. I like it so far, mostly the fact that she's abandoned the recap and the strict adherance to the structure the other books all share. July has been a very blah month. I missed my friend Ilona's wedding. I missed RAGBRAI. I've missed opportunities with interesting people either because A) they turned out to be not at all the person I thought they were or B) they like most other beautiful interesting women do not live here in Waterloo. The rejection letters I've been getting vary so wildly that I just don't know what it is I'm missing. Everything, apparently. I get so sick of overthinking it, and the fact that I have not actually written a new novel in 2 years because I have been rewritting others (necessarily), that I look at the trashbin sometimes with desperate hope.

My friend Matt is close to having roughs done of the zombie comic we are doing together - !!! - I cannot wait to see them. I'm more excited about this than the novels and stories right now. Speaking of comics, a new issue of Buffy is out, so I have to bike up to the comic store right now. Oh, and Joss Whedon has a new webcomic that is outrageous and very funny.

I found this article by Hilary Mantel through Maud that struck a chord in me as it relates very personally to me and the way I think of writing, but also the big underlying theme of the Big Damn Epic, and maybe why I keep turning around to look and see that it's finally there, but it never is:

The whole process of creativity is like that. The writer often doesn't know, consciously, what gods she invokes or what myths she's retelling. Orpheus is a figure of all artists, and Eurydice is his inspiration. She is what he goes into the dark to seek. He is the conscious mind, with its mastery of skill and craft, its faculty of ordering, selecting, making rational and persuasive; she is the subconscious mind, driven by disorder, fuelled by obscure desires, brimming with promises that perhaps she won't keep, with promises of revelation, fantasies of empowerment and knowledge. What she offers is fleeting, tenuous, hard to hold. She makes us stand on the brink of the unknown with our hand stretched out into the dark. Mostly, we just touch her fingertips and she vanishes. She is the dream that seems charged with meaning, that vanishes as soon as we try to describe it. She is the unsayable thing we are always trying to say. She is the memory that slips away as you try to grasp it. Just when you've got it, you haven't got it. She won't bear the light of day. She gets to the threshold and she falters. You want her too much, and by wanting her you destroy her. As a writer, as an artist, your effects constantly elude you. You have a glimpse, an inspiration, you write a paragraph and you think it's there, but when you read back, it's not there. Every picture painted, every opera composed, every book that is written, is the ghost of the possibilities that were in the artist's head. Art brings back the dead, but it also makes perpetual mourners of us all. Nothing lasts: that's what Apollo, the father of Orpheus, sings to him in Monteverdi's opera. In Opera North's staging, the god took a handkerchief from his pocket, licked it, and tenderly cleaned his child's tear-stained face.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I'm In Ur Bookstorz... Readin' Ur Harry Potterz

This reminds me of the time God killed a whole lot of Israelites to prevent people from spoiling the 10 Commandments.

Anyone else on earth would kill for an early review from the New York Times. I think Rowling - who I admire a great deal - should not sweat the inevitable interest in the book. People who do not want to be spoiled will not be. The only real way to protect the book's ending is to never release it all.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Name That Galaxy

I post because Ben shames me into.

I just never have time, and I don't want to post that I am not posting but I actually have something of interest: so I loves me some astronomy but I am not shall we say astronomically gifted with the math and such. But I have found a cool, democratic way for me to take part (and you can to) by identifying the shape and nature of distant galaxies for dudes who also just don't have enough time:

Galaxy Zoo is a website where you can register and provided you pass the test, you can join thousands of others in a public project to catalog millions of galaxies.

By the way, Queen guitarist Brian May finished his Phd thesis - finally. He only started it in the 70's, but then he got off track with this little rock band... and the subject? Interplanetary dust. And he's co-written a book on the history of the universe - suh-weet - that is alas presently only available in the UK. Whatever. I may just break down and buy it. It's been too long since I ordered something cool from overseas.

Ben lent me his copy of Children of Men to read. It's excellent. Different from the film in many ways, but no less devastating. There are several scenes and images in the book that are not in the film that had I read it before, I would have missed. I am writing, but no one is biting. I kind of feel like I am writing for an audience of one. Either that or my life is just very much in slow motion and the bit where someone says, "You know, this ain't half bad" and agrees to publish it is somewhere off in the distance, after the musical interlude.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

This Summer...

It ain't easy being green. The greatest action film trailer ever.

And the glorious wonderful where did they ever go Sundays on YouTube.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Those Third Book Blues

Justine writes awesomely about the trials and tribulations of the third books of trilogies - the fits and starts, the rock solid ending that morphs into something, the difficulty of publishing as you go as opposed to writing all three before selling them. I luckily have been blessed with the opportunity to write all three before publishing them, because I cannot sell the first for the life of me. But actually this has worked out to my - the story's - advantage. Writing the second book had a ripple effect on the first. Starting the third had an effect on the second and the first and so you go back to make it all work - Justine says she did it six times - I lost count - and this would have been impossible if I had sold one of these books before the others were complete. Which they're not. I am yet again revising the first book. I am halfway through a revision of the second and I have a hundred pages of the third. No doubt there will be more changes and revisioning as I go.

She also links to a post from Diana who comments thoughtfully (and awesomely) on the best sequel of all time: The Empire Strikes Back. The second book/film is always the dealbreaker. Either it's Empire or it's The Matrix Reloaded. I don't think of the second and third books of my trilogy as sequels; they're units of a whole. But at the same time, they're individual novels. They have to succeed on their own. They have their own internal story. Each has a beginning, middle, and end (to one extent or another) but each is a vital and necessary component of a much larger whole. The second book in particular has the hardest job because it has to echo the first, but not mimic it; it has to advance the story, but not complete it; and it has to deepen and expand a narrative without tearing it from its roots.

I kind of dig my second book. It's the third one that gives me fits. I know how it ends - I have for years now - but I don't know really the details and won't until I'm there writing it. It evolves all the time anyways, just like the whole thing. I just want it to be over! I never want it to end! Arrrrrgh!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Spoon!

Not posting again. I've been writing a lot, though. I've kind of gotten into this pattern where I'm doing everything on the weekends. Writing, biking, hanging out, eating, you know, everything outside of working, and so the weekends dry up so fast and it feels like I never get anything done. Yesterday was fun, though. I tried to talk my brother into going up to Chicago for the weekend, but no dice. We ended up going to Cedar Rapids for a few hours. We used to go up there all the time for the record shops, but of course those are all gone. We came back and grilled some hot dogs with Ben and Matt and took it pretty easy. Then we played spoons (but with plastic forks). I hadn't played spoons in a long time, but I am a professional, therefore I lost only a few hands. Now I must go write and not watch dvd's I bought weeks ago.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Ilona et David

My dear friend Ilona is getting married this summer and to celebrate she has a wonderful blog that's as classy as she is. I met Ilona in Dublin back in 2000 and I remember one of the first things she said to me was, "You're shy, yeah?" Yeah. She wouldn't let me be. She pried me out of my shell and made me take advantage of the gigantic leap I had taken and I have much to thank her for. So go check it out, if you can read French. And even if you can't. Congratulations and best of luck to you both.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Dwarf Tossing

Pluto isn't even as big as the tiny not-planet that put it out to pasture. Also, the tenth planet - I mean the second not-planet - now has a name, Eris, which is actually kind of fitting. Eris is the Greek goddess of discord and strife, who in addition to orbiting the sun at a distance of 9 billion miles, sometimes showers her dark over Waterloo, Iowa.

Been listening to a fantastic new collection of John Lennon covers by the likes of U2, REM, Green Day, the Flaming Lips and most cool, Regina Spektor. She does 'Real Love' which if you remember is one of the 'lost' Lennon songs the remaining Beatles finished up for that box set about 10 years ago. It's one of my favorites and to hear her version of it is pretty sublime. All proceeds go to the Save Darfur campaign so definitely check out a great set of classic music.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Not Posting Five

Pass it on.

Working/writing/sleeping/watching Scrubs/biking/you don't care.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Moving Day

Yesterday I helped Ben move to his new apartment. It was a lot of fun (I like lifting heavy things? What?) and Matt was there to help too so of course we spent a lot of time talking about how we could make Star Wars better.

I went home and did a lot of writing. I complained to Ben and Matt earlier in the day that I had so much work to do and if I really wanted to get it done, I would write from the time I got off from work at 9 to 3 or whenever I went to bed. I wouldn't pass out in the chair watching Scrubs or Futurama. So that's what I did. I wrote from the time I got home at 8 until 1 in the morning. I made a little break through after floundering in the short-end of the self-doubt pool there for a while. Of course the tide is always dragging me back, so. It's good to be out for now.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Your Weekly Friday Post

So I'm never posting anymore. I just don't have time in the day. I have so much writing to do - I could take a week off work and still not get through all I need to. I envy and admire people like Kat who is married, teaches, and writes novels and short stories and I assume sleeps at some point, too. I work 8 hours and then come home and write for 2, if that, and then sit down and watch Scrubs and pass out in the chair. It's like this everyday. Except the ones where I go downtown for a beer that turns into three.

Maud has a nice post on the catch-22 of wanting to discuss your writing - it helps untangle those knots - and the fear of 'talking it away' as Fitzgerald feared he did. I fear that as much as I do I am simply polishing a turd. I realize - for the umpteenth time - the 'correct' way to begin the first novel of the Big Damn Epic and the work required isn't remodeling, its demolishing what was there and putting something new up in its place. Strangely, rightly, finally, the book is back to where it began as I first concieved it a long time ago - I won't talk that away here - but the detour was a frustrating, maybe necessary sojourn into territory that had to be explored to understand what it was I was writing. Or not writing. And I am not writing, right now, because I am blogging. Because Ben shamed me into it for not posting. So I will stop. For now.

My cousin Matt has a new blog. Check it out.

Friday, May 25, 2007

30 Years Ago In A Drive-In Nearby...

Hard to believe it's been 30 years today since Star Wars first premiered. I remember, vaguely, the first time I saw it at the old Starlight drive-in here in Waterloo, which would have been the summer of '77, though not necessairly May. I was only 2 1/2, but obviously it made an impression. The totality of the SW universe that George Lucas invented is at this point, somewhat overwhelming. I think if you melted all the action figures that have been produced to date, you'd have enough plastic to manufacture a plastic planet. But it's not the cons of SW I want to touch on today. It's the pros. I am a geek. GEEK. I am a Star Wars baby and I am proud to be one. I make the lightsaber sound. I can imitate both Yoda and the Emperor and on (drunken) occassion, Chewie. I imitate that sound X-Wings make when they streak past when I'm really bored and no one is looking. And I studied Latin, the classics, mythology and Joseph Campbell because a cheesy popcorn movie motivated to seek out the pieces that made up the whole. I wanted to be an astronaut because of Star Wars. I live and die for space geekiness because of Star Wars. Do I write because of Star Wars? I don't think so. Do I want to write cool, crazy space stuff because of Star Wars? You betcha'.

May the Force Be With You peeps.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Secret History Of Moscow



A while back I mentioned that Kat sold her novel The Secret History of Moscow to Prime Books. Somehow I forgot to post the fantastic cover, which has been on her site for a little bit now. You can also pre-order the book at Amazon and get your copy first when it comes out in November. Congrats again to Kat, who knows how to cheer a mopey writer up when he gets rejection slips from a girl and an agent on the same day. Perscription: blimps. Everything is always cooler with blimps.

Monday, May 14, 2007

No One Puts Baby In A Corner

So last night was interesting. It began at the pub, as Saturdays often do. Then it migrated to Kings & Queens, where a pretty righteous 80's prom revival was going on. Lots of mousse and gel, polos and ankle braclets. And music. All the best 80's music. But I drank way too much. Because I had a green straw and green straws meant you got a dollar off your drinks. Which were often a dollar.

I woke up today with the appropriate hangover. Nevertheless, I hung out with my mom for Mother's Day, found time to ride my bike (after being run off the road yesterday - my leg looks like I was involved in some shark-biting incident) and even began a new short story, my first in ages. It started pretty accidentally, with one line that blossomed into this voice, into this idea and five pages later I was writing something new. And I'm pretty excited about it. I spent a long time trying to consciously break out of the mold I sort of made for myself in the last couple years, and I got very frustrated. Also, I got nowhere. Now it seems to be happening on its own.

I also heard from my friend Mandy for the first time in a while. She's doing well in Portland and making quilts. Check them out.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Maybe This Time

Power-sharing begins today in Northern Ireland, and maybe finally so does peace. Cloum McCann remembers the Troubles as a teen.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sunday Sun

It's rainy and Sunday, so:

Saturday seems to be comic book day now. Yesterday happened to be Free Comic Book Day, but that was merely a bonus. There was a new issue of Joss Whedon's triumphant Buffy Season 8 out, and more than that, it was the one where Willow finally comes back. How did I wait four days to go and get this issue you ask? Will power. Never let anyone tell you I don't have any. Good thing I didn't wait any longer - I got the last issue they had. I didn't see it anywhere on the wall and meltdown was in progress until my cousin Matt averted disaster and located it. Whew.

Issue #3 was very good, shocker, but maybe not as good as #2. There wasn't enough Willow for one, but it's early. The shockers are shocking, the twists and turns are neverending and it feels like a story that needs to be told, which is pretty damn good for a TV show that's been off the air for a few years. A story that lacked urgency, or any sense of cohesion, was Spider-Man 3, which we took in after collecting our free comics (limit of 4, joy-killers. Whatever. All I wanted was Peanuts, and I got one).

Spidey (SPOILERS) was entertaining. It was big and exciting and I enjoyed a lot of it. The Sandman storyline was excellent. Thomas Hayden Church was perfect. The scene in which he tries to reform from the sand as a man after his 'accident' was probably the best scene in the films. The Harry/Goblin part was basically what I figured, but took a weird detour that didn't quite work. Venom... Venom himself was cool. The storyline introducing the suit did not work, and they had so little faith in it a half hour or more goes by from when it lands on Earth to when it finally does what it's supposed to. 'Dark' Spidey was fun, but the alien symobite angle fails and what would have made more sense, to me, would have been to intergrate it more into the revenge theme of the film. What if the symboite had been some research project of OsCorp? What if Harry inflicted it on Peter as a means of revenge, of ruining his life as Peter did Harry's? What if Peter lost himself to a mask as Harry's father did and Harry finally saw the truth? Venom could have been a movie on his own; Peter could have freed himself from the suit and Eddie Brock could have inherited it as he does in a great scene, and then come back to haunt Peter. But they don't do that. They cram Venom in to a bloated film for a fatal four way and blow him to smithereens. Alrighty.

Anyways, it was fun. It's worth seeing for the Spidey-strut alone.

Friday, May 04, 2007

In The Movie Version

In the movie version, Ben's talk with God happens in an all-night dinner just before the last call refugees show up to soak up their drunk with pancakes and eggs.

In the movie version, I have where I'm supposed to be and who I am figured out before the age of 32. 30, even. 30 would be cool.

In the movie version, what I write sounds like it does in my head.

In the movie version, Michael Keaton plays me. Apparently.

In the movie version, I do not sit at my computer and think of clever blog posts to expedite the awareness of my malaise. I do not watch Scrubs as if it is going out of style when I get off work because I'm too tired to work on my book which is like having an overgrown child that won't leave the house.

In the movie version, I do not get up and check my email first thing in the morning to see if the agent or the publisher has written back to tell me they like my book and would like to publish it very much.

In the movie version, I'm dating a much younger woman. It has to be a somewhat faithful adaptation, I mean, c'mon.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

It's Like A Van Gogh Painting





The New Horizons space probe - destined for Pluto - made a pit stop at Jupiter a couple months ago, and beamed back a whole series of grogeous images of the planet and its moons. I live for this stuff.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Stories, Stories, Stories

Viking is publishing a YA short story collection by Kelly Link in 2008. Suh-weet. Even better, Sense Five Press is publishing the urban fantasy anthology Paper Cities, edited by the wonderful Ekaterina Sedia who gave me my first break in her previous anthology, Jigsaw Nation.

I am not writing stories. I am very tired and searching for pictures of Marley Shelton on the internet. I have a weepy soul and no tissue for it.

It's not just Earth warming up.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Gotcha'

I figured it was going to happen soon, but not this soon: astronomers have discovered an earth-like planet outside our solar system, in orbit of the red dwarf Gliese 581, only 20.5 light-years away (that's actually pretty close). The planet, 581 c, is about five times heavier than Earth and may have liquid water on it surface. Suh-weet.

Also, astronomers have picked up on a interesting connection between two cycles: the extinctions on Earth, and the Earth's journey through the galactic plane of the Milky Way. Both occur every 64 millions years or so. Hmm.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Storyglossia 19

My story "Keeping Up Disappearances" has published in Issue 19 of Storyglossia magazine. I had an idea for a long time about an out of work actress - a former 'It Girl' who ended up back home, washed up at 33. I never knew what exactly to do with it until I found myself watching these cable 'news' shows last summer, drawing every last ounce of blood out of these successive, unfortunate missing child cases. I put the two ideas together and got a down-on-her-luck actress suddenly back in the spotlight thanks to a scandalous missing-child case in her hometown. I decided on the transcript format after realizing the only way to really get at the hysteria and melodrama of these types of shows was through the actual words of the hosts and guests.

Give it a read. Hope you enjoy it.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Cosmic Sigh

This is so in my novel.

I don't know what to say about VT. Other than tragedy is too frequent a visitor these days. Some are wondering what this tragedy says about creative writing, because the POS murderer was a 'writer.' He wasn't. He didn't kill anybody because he was a writer, and creative writing isn't responsible for violence anymore than movies or TV or whatever the scapegoat is this week. That's how I feel. I admit I haven't devoted any attention whatsoever to this man, his life, or his work, such as it is. He deserves none of it.

Sci-fi writer Michael Bishop lost his son Jamie, a teacher of German, at VT. He leaves a devastating message at the inferior411.

I don't know what to say about this, either. I pray we'll wake up from this endless nightmare of mass murder one day and realize the destruction we visited on ourselves because we valued the ease of owning weapons over the future of our children. I hope those guns serve us well in the future we are carving out for ourselves. Which is in limbo. Oh, but wait. No more limbo.

Sigh.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Aliens Are Soviets

The perfectly square and perfectly unnatural Red Square Nebula. This is the sort of thing that sets a writer's brain buzzing. Sure, it's probably a natural occurance. Probably.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Grindhouse

So I went saw Grindhouse yesterday afternoon. Again. It's that good. Death Proof, the Tarantino half of the double feature, I could watch all day. The first time I saw it I didn't know what to make of it. After the thrill-a-minute first film and the hysterical fake trailers you're primed for more of the same and Death Proof is much more deliberate. The second viewing you're prepared and you discover how excellent and singular a film it is; you sort of wish DP had the theater all to itself. Tarantino calls it a slasher film with a car as the weapon, but it struck me how similar to Jaws the film is. In Jaws you never see the shark. The tension builds as a result of what you imagine and Kurt Russell shows up in his car every so often, the hood ornament a fin breaching the surface of the water as he hunts for his next snack. That's actually the first thing we see Stuntman Mike doing: eating. Gratuitously.

There's a lot going on in the film. The first time I thought the two features didn't speak to each other; they have a textual relationship (they share the same world, apparently, and some characters - as well as some from previous Tarnatino films) but I didn't see an intertextual one. So they're making a monument to grindhouse cinema; Robert Rodriguez succeeds flawlessly in recreating that exact type of film. He does it digitally, with gore and effects and T&A galore. Tarantino on the other hand devotes an entire film to characters that have largely lost their jobs to the advancement of CGI; Stuntman Mike is a relic from a bygone age. He lists a string of TV series he worked on, which nobody remembers. There's no reason to death-proof a car anymore; they'll just insert a computer generated one. Tarantino shoots the film in grogeous 35mm; the stunts are real. That's really Zoe Bell on the hood of that Dodge Challenger holding on to ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Stuntman Mike hunts down groups of girls, girls of new media (Jungle Julia is a DJ and upstart record label exec, and Zoe Bell is a real-life stuntwoman who stood in for Xena and the Bride) and destroys them with his old Hollywood car. But they turn the tables on him and in this way, the films do speak to each other, and grindhouse cinema in general. Rodriguez created a brilliant homage to the genre; I don't think it transcends it. Tarantino usurps it. DP questions the validity of the films it names as its inspiration. It considers the direction film itself is taking, away from practicality toward ones and zeroes. And it has one of the best car chases you're ever likely to see. So go see it.

Oh, and I don't know what to make of this yet, but give it a read.

Friday, April 13, 2007

No Post Belongs Here More Than This One

Whatever it is, it's not sci-fi. Because sci-fi is not a literature of ideas.

Check out the performance-art website of renaissance-woman Miranda July, who is quickly becoming my favorite artist-type person. She's one of those artists, like Regina Spektor, who seem to arrive fully formed. They're the kids on test day who are sitting at their desks with their pencils down when you're still struggling with question #7.

I have not written in days. Longer than that. Anything new. I pick at the second novel of the BDE, revising it in trickles. Not writing starts to feel like cabin fever; you feel like you're suffocating. I hate it and yet there's this ridiculous sense of constipation. The writing just doesn't come. The words stand you up. But it's been almost two years since I finished the first draft of the second book. two years since I have written a new novel. In the meantime I have revised heavily it and the first book, the angel book; I've written a couple dozen short stories. But I'm a novelist. I need to live with something large enough to take years to capture. Well. That's the whole point. You never do capture it all. Most of it gets away, and what you come back with is the trace evidence it existed at all.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Saturday, April 07, 2007

I Heart Zoe Bell

Buying Buffy Season 8 #2, Mouse Guard #1, and Jossified Runaways #25 at local comic shop: $10

Buying vintage 1978 Jawa doll at said comic shop: $30

Lunch at Burger King: $5.67

Matinee of Grindhouse: $5.50

Medium Diet Coke at the theatre: $3.00

Seeing sunshiny Zoe Bell ride a 1970 Dodge Challenger: priceless

Friday, April 06, 2007

Sunday, April 01, 2007

You Write Like A Girl

First some people couldn't accept William Shakespeare wrote all those fantastic plays. Now Mary Shelley can't have written Frankenstein because she was too stupid and young. Oh, and feminine. People will always leap at conspiracy theories in which a small cadre of shady government power brokers maintain elaborate secrets about aliens or assassins or blood lines across generations, but no one person can write a great novel or play. It's beyond human capacity. Whatever.

A couple days ago I had an idea for a new novel. I was falling-in-love for the first time excited. I have not had any worthwhile ideas for a book in ages. In the course of a few hours the book blossomed in my head, the characters, the structure, lines and passages that I wrote down furiously. I felt (as you often do at this stage) that I could just sit down and write it in one lump. But it never happens that way. I did write the first few pages, where I discovered some possibilities and or problems with tense and structure that I'll have to sort out. The reality is I may not get to this for some time, unless I just drop everything else; I've been revising the second book of the BDE with the intention of ramping off that into the third and final book. I also felt like I could just sit down and write that one, three years ago. But I have something to look forward to, and I'm excited to be writing and thinking about something that isn't the trilogy. It's consuming; it's like getting lost a dense forest and forgetting how you came in and how you'll get out.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Linkage

All sorts of goodies today:

Northern Ireland announced a historic power-sharing deal today that may finally end the troubles there and bring about some sort of independence for her.

They built the Titanic in Belfast. That eventually led to a series of events that gave the world Kate Winslet and Leo Dicaprio in a big movie, and now, they're reuniting for Revolutionary Road.

J.R.R. Tolkien's son Christopher has 'finished' the draft of an unknown work of his father, The Children of Hurin, which will be published next month. It's supposed to be connected somehow to Lord of the Rings. Hmm. We'll see.

And last but not least, the apocalypse is bringing the genres together.

How To Write A Novel

Watch this. It's perfect.

Last night was a night of much watching. I sort of make up for my not watching anything during the rest of the week on Sundays, because that's when everything is on. It started with 60 Minutes, then Planet Earth on Discovery, which is really as amazing as they say it is (there's nothing like watching a Great White shark take down a seal in one bite, in slo-mo); then it was over to HBO for the too-soon series finale of Rome. I loved this show. It was a little hurried and scattered at times, but it was often brutal and magnificent and the ending was excellent. Then it was Battlestar Galactica. All I can say is wow. And Bob Dylan. Who knew? Then I capped it off with some cheesecake. The L Word. Yes. I watch it. Any guy with a pulse should. Not only is the writing often very good (not always - Papi, give me a break) but Jennifer Beales. 'Nuff said.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Fights

I came across this fabulous comic by David Peterson called Mouse Guard the other day. It's one of those stories when you first read what it's about, you immediately go, "Of course! Warrior mice!"

Unfortunately Elizabeth Edwards' cancer has returned. To say it's a shame is an understatement. She seems like a wonderful person. I'm glad John Edwards is continuing his bid for the White House, and I wish the best for her and her family.

The fight to save the Vesey St. staircase, the only surviving remnant of the World Trade Center, goes on in NYC.

Stellar finality. Awesome.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Naratives

Ben details St. Patty's Day over at his blog, and even includes some Harn family history for good measure.

Excellent post on the demands readers place on writers and the narratives they weave, vis-a-vis Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8. This is the sort of lit theory re: 'pop art' that gets me going. It's only in a serialized form - and only in comic continunation of a TV show that is a continuation of a failed movie - that you can get at this kind of narrative complexity. When do stories end? Do they ever? Do continuations like Buffy or a proposed Angel Season 6 spoil what came before? Do readers/viewers have a right to know what comes next? Does Joss Whedon have a right to potentially water down his own creation by going back to the well, to satisfy his own personal desire for narrative continuation? What closure will the comic series bring, if any?

This relates to a conversation Ben and my cousin Matt and Sugu have quite often it seems: the pros and cons of serial characters. Superman is one of the great characters. But his stories will always suck. He's Superman; he's Coke. They changed Coke to New Coke, it sucked, people hated it, it went back to Old Coke. Superman always has to be Superman. All serial characters do, to one degree to another. When they attempt change, they always reneg on it and restore the status quo (didn't he die once or something?). Buffy is not a serial character. The TV series was a fairly complex and well orchestrated (less so toward the end) novel (or comic - the season arcs do mirror classic comic book arc structures) in TV form. This anticipated current TV novels (The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, etc.) to some degree. Now Buffy is a comic book, where few characters ever escape. My hope is Whedon has some second act for her - perhaps a long novel ala Sandman - and that she won't succumb to the want of the reader to have her around on a regular basis.

Oh, and Angel Season Six? Nah. They all died in that alley.

(UPDATE): Unless Buffy and the Slayerettes showed up in the alley. Ben and I went out to the pub last night and discussed as we often do all things Buffy. We weren't sure how much time has passed between Season 7 and Season 8 - on the show it was real time, so three months of summer passed during the hiatus. Turns out according to this PW article, it's been 18 months. Which means Buffy could have already saved Angel's bacon (Season 5 of Angel took place a year after Season 7 of Buffy, which means Season 8 takes place six months after that. Anyone confused? Bueller?).

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Hangovers

I got BLITZED last night. I usually never drink that much, and I honestly don't know how much I drank, though I know it involved Irish Car Bombs. I met up with Ben down to the pub early in the evening and I was happily surprised to see a bunch of guys from my Dad's side of the family, who I almost never see. It's moments like that when I realize a whole part of my life is missing. I grew up in a house with generations of my mom's side of the family. They raised me and that's pretty much all I've ever known; I felt like an alien a lot of the time because my interests, creativity, history, all things Irish, etc. are not theirs. But they are on my Dad's side. They're all poets, writers, artists and when we get together I feel a real sense of loss. But Ben and I hang out all the time, and maybe I can get to know them as well as I've gotten to know him.

There's a lot of things I'd like to go on about (300, the new Buffy comic) but I'm zonked from work and foggy from last night, so maybe it will wait a day. I have been writing. What I've been doing is revising, chapter by chapter, the second book of BDE (Big Damn Epic) as I prepare to start work on the third book. As my thoughts on that and the entire trilogy mature, I go back and refine the previous books to make a better whole. The first book is, I feel, I hope, finally at the point where I'm ready to let it go. It's been through five years of serious revision and evolution and it's as good a book as it's going to be. I know there are cosmetic things that will likely change, they always do, but it's ready and so am I.

The third book has been problematic in terms of structure for a while now, but the other day I had an epihany about it. I had a couple things floating around in my head; The Odyessy, and Buffy Season 8. The connection? Nothing really, other than I had been ruminating over the fact that Odysseus begins to narrate his own story in Book 9 and in Season 8, so does Buffy. Both are major shifts in narration, and that's what I realized was called for in the third book. Immediately the structure of the book unfurled in my head and I sat right down and wrote what are probably the three best opening sentences I've ever written. Since I've written the first five pages of the book, so I've been playing hokey from revising the second. But I'll go back. I don't intend to start full bore on book three - unless the mood takes me, I guess. Good lord.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Titanic Seas

The space probe Cassini has discovered liquid seas on Saturn's moon Titan. One is the size of the Caspian Sea and the other twice the size of Lake Superior. But, we'll probably never go there. At least not ourselves. We may not be doing anything manned mission wise after the shuttle retires in 2010, the way things are going; so this might be it, the future of our space exploration. Sitting back at home watching the pictures come in, watching probes do the work Columbus, Magellean and the other great explorers once did for themselves.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Page 123 Meme

After other peeps:

Turn to page 123 in your work-in-progress. (If you haven’t gotten to page 123 yet, then turn to page 23. If you haven’t gotten there yet, then get busy and write page 23.) Count down four sentences and then instead of just the fifth sentence, give us the whole paragraph.

Gunnar places a damp dishrag gently across her forehead and Sojourner feels like a girl again, the heartsick girl who imagined this itinerant explorer a sister, a mother, her future self; her dream of escaping to the stars suddenly comes rushing back, a dream once so vital and desperate she can’t believe she ever forgot it.

Yeah, I didn't revise the hell out of this little bit before posting it or anything.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Long Time

Brad Delp, the lead singer of the band Boston, is dead at 55. My brother Aaron and I went to see them twice on a reunion tour back in the 90's. I think they're his second favorite band after Queen, and I always loved them from the days of 45's - remember those? - when we had a copy of "More Than A Feeling." I loved the guitars, the production, which I'm always attracted to in anything (my brother, too, which is why I think he gravitated towards Queen and I did people like George Lucas and Orson Welles, who are essentially the same person as Tom Scholz: It's never finished).

Sad, sad news.

Rain, Sleet, Or Imperial Attack

Geek alert: The US Postal Service is celebrating the 30th anniversary of Star Wars this year not only with stamps, but mailboxes designed like R2-D2! Are you kidding? That has to be one of the coolest things I've seen in a while.

Speaking of anniversaries, it's the 10th of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the best TV show ever. Here's the very well researched Wiki feature article for all you neophytes.

The weather here seems to be finally inching back toward something pleasant, but now that layer of ice is a puddle of water and the backyard and alley looks like upper Minnesota. And of course yesterday it rained. But it's supposed to be near 50 today and tomorrow, which means it's close to bike weather in the 'Loo.

Fighting for Pluto's right to be a planet.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

American Dead

They killed Captain America (yeah, right) - and the vasy majority of people like me had no clue what led up to it. Lucky for us, Chris's awesome Invincible Super-Blog does the Marvel Civil War in 30 seconds, and pretty much sums it up right here:

Friday, March 02, 2007

Downed Lines

Polly's brother Matt is headed back to Iraq for his third tour, and the local paper was there to cover it. I wish him and all the other troops the best of luck. I'm trying to think of what else to say about the war, but it's all been said.

More snow and rain and ice here. And wind. Half the state has been declared a disaster area. The electric company has their station a few blocks from where I liv, down at the river, and for the last few days, around the clock, crews have been loading up with new utility poles and new lines to replace the hundreds lost to the storm. They depart the ball park they're using for a staging area en masse, so you have lines of utility trucks and crane trucks, 20, 30 at a time. The weather has made doing anything or going anywhere difficult, and since I was sick the week before, weeks before really, I haven't done a damn thing. I'm a little stir crazy right now. I thought about going to the movies today to see Black Snake Moan, but I doubt it now. I don't mind the snow, but I have holes in my horrific shoes and I can't afford new ones. Or the movies, either, but I guess distraction is more necessary that footwear in times of need.

I'd stay home and write, but the juice isn't flowing there, either. All my lines iced up and fell down. I haven't been able to concentrate or fix on writing for more than an hour or so a day, and it usually takes me an hour to get into it. I have difficulty starting anything new. Everything I do write feels kind of flat. No fizz. Bothers the hell out of me. There's beeing cooped up in your house because of snow, and there's being cooped up in your head with nowhere to go. The latter is far more worse and like a David Fincher movie.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Flyby

The New Horizons probe destined for Pluto paid Jupiter a visit today and of course there are lots of awesome pictures. This one on the left is of the "little" Red Spot, a newer storm similar to the Great Red Spot. Previous pictures showed it was white, but now it's red and getting bigger. The probe also got snapshots of all the major moons, including Io as a volcanic plume erupted from its surface. The probe will get a speed boost from Jupiter's gravity, speeding it up even further so it can make it to Pluto in just eight years - down from 15.

Unusual dictionaries.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Blame Oscar


Kate Winslet is pretty much the only reason to watch the Oscars anymore. Well, I do like the schmaltzy montages that make you remember how extraodinary film is, but I'm a sucker. I knew Kate wouldn't win, but the fact that Pan's Labyrinth was shut out of its two major awards, after building steam for what looked like the night's only sweep pretty much put me right out of the show. Martin Scorsese finally won. Yay. George Lucas actually took the stage at the Oscars for something. Awesome. The older you get the more pointless the Oscars become. The Academy is half-blind most years. People and films that should win, much less be nominated, don't and that's how it is. This year there were many good films like Pan's Labyrinth, like Children of Men, like Little Children that did not get the recognition they deserved. But maybe it's a better club to be in to have won. Hitchcock never did. Welles never did, either. And Kate. She's yet to win, despite being the youngest actress ever with five nominations. Does she need a gold statue to validate her career? Nope.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

With No Connection

Stole this from Caitlin R. Kiernan:

List seven songs you are into right now, no matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they're not any good but they must be songs you're really enjoying now. Post these instructions in your LiveJournal along with your seven songs.

In no order:

1. "Us" Regina Spektor
2. "On" Bloc Party
3. "Mi Voi" Julieta Venegas
4. "Phantom Limb" The Shins
5. "The Pines of the Appian Way" Ottorino Respighi
6. "Guerrillero" Javier Navarrete (Pan's Labyrinth soundtrack)
7. "Alife" Lily Allen

Monday, February 19, 2007

Raiders Of The Lost Arcology

Hate the cover your publisher picked for your book? Make your own that you can apply as a sticker right over that ugly old cover.

At a time when the health of our own planet is in doubt, NASA is reducing funding for its storied Earth-observation program. Not only will we not be going back to the moon - much less anywhere else, giving the budget cuts on the horizon - we won't even be paying any attention to the planet we're on. If this is NASA in the 21st Century, we don't need it.

Doubts linger over the Freedom Tower. It's hideous, if you ask me. The article does a great job of pointing out its monumental futility, a thing so defensive in its very existence it's become this rigid, city fortress that defeats the very optimism and spirit of renewal that calls for its being there in the first place. Here's a much better idea. Of course it's just today I discover the theory of arcology, after spending years writing around the same thing in the BDE. Sigh.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Love The Little Dudes



Just doing some exciting late Friday night research on three-toed sloths, and thought I'd share. Cry for me.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Where There's Smoke...



Even more evidence that there is presently water on Mars. I suppose we will have to actually witness one of these geysers or flows - and the little microbial dudes that undoubtedly surf them - before we get our act together and get up there.

So I'm using the 'new' Blogger. Not that I had much choice... I'll tinker with it some, see if I can't get a little more raz-ma-taz (there's an oldie!) and some economy up here in this piece. Who else watched The Office tonight, directed by Joss Whedon? Of course I did, what with the hacking and coughing and the sexy cold sore. Why, what else would I be doing? Socializing? Qua?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Sick Again

Fourth time this winter, which is four times more than last year. I think it's mostly stress. I notice I'm doing more bad habit type things lately. I'll be very happy when the cold lifts and spring arrives, but then I'm sure I'll get sick again. I do everytime the weather changes, and it fluctuates pretty severely back and forth here in Iowa. It always has. Iowa is a flip-flopper.

Lunar eclipse. March 3rd. Mr. Burns voice: "Excellent."

Science fiction. In the New Yorker. Deep breaths.

Um... are you serious? Actually Ben called this, but I don't think he necessarily envisioned this being the method they would use... hmm. There are only two rules in comics (or there used to be): Only Bucky stays dead, and you don't mess with Mary Jane. Marvel has trespassed on the gods. The universe will collapse post haste.

I so want to move to Scotland.

Slouching towards Baghdad.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Barack Obama

Barack Obama decided to make Waterloo and its nest of active Democratic voters one of his very first stops after announcing his candidacy for President on Saturday. I went to Central Middle School with my brother Aaron and cousin Ben for what they expected to be a kind of intimate affair. They had a thousand tickets - 2300 showed up. He gave a great, inspired speech, but he was obviously tired from a very long day. That didn't hold him back though. He is very impressive and I have to admit to being very torn between him and John Edwards. They both advocate universal health care and getting out of Iraq sooner rather than later. They both talk about change. Edwards focuses mostly on poverty, so that speaks to me. Obama focuses on America's lost idealism, optimism, its desire for challenges and that speaks to me, too. When he says we've gone from JFK saying we're going to the moon in 10 years without a clue as to how we're going to do it, to saying universal health care for every child in America is impossible, he's speaking to the heart of this country's present morass. Somewhere we got turned around. Obama makes you think we can get back in the right direction.

Spotlights brighter than the sun and an absolute mob made this the best picture I could get of him speaking:



I got closer ones as he came down the aisle and shook everyone's hand, signed their books and posters, but they came out sort of blah. He has like a half a head in all of them. I did manage to meet and take a picture with his beautiful and very, very nice wife, Michelle:



She even took the picture again after the first one didn't come out, which was very gracious of her. Like I said, I'm very torn, but it's a great time to be a Democrat. We've got the best field we've had in a long time, and no shortage of hope.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth



After work yesterday I finally made it to the theater to see Pan's Labyrinth. I don't know what I expected; I had heard how great it was, what a fairy tale it was and I knew it was Guillermo del Toro, and Doug Jones in some fantastic make-up, so I anticipated something... magical. And it was. Beyond my meager expectations. It was also stunningly and surprisingly realistic; brutally so. I have never seen a fantasy film allow so much reality to intrude on it. Most films that follow the Alice In Wonderland/Wizard of Oz formula of transporting the heroine to a fantastic alternate world never go back to Kansas until the very end, if at all; in this film, the heroine (Ofelia) routinely crosses the border, back and forth as she performs a series of three tasks for a faun that inhabits an ancient labyrinth, a gateway to a magical kingdom expecting the return of a long lost daughter - Ofelia.

In the real world, it's Spain, 1944. The fascists are trying to root out the rebel fighters and Ofelia is going to the front line with her pregnant mother, to be with the father of her child, a captian named Vidal. One of the first things he does is beat a man to death with the business end of a bottle. Right away the stark reality of war, of life, competes with the lyrical majesty of Ofelia's fairy tale - and the two are forced to occupy the same space throught the film. A blue rose offering immortality grows on a remote mountain top; the camera pans down to find a mantis like creature that then flies to the window of Ofelia's bedroom. There are many shots like these, many wipes using trees as the boundary between characters and worlds. Boundary seems like an important theme in this film; Ofelia lives in her books and isn't able to divide fantasy from reality. Reality does more than intrude on fantasy, it invades it, destroys it, but she refuses to let it die. In the bleak, absolutely devastating conclusion, her inability - her determination -restores the structure of the girl down the rabbit hole story. The film begins with the story of the lost daughter of the underworld, and a brief tour of it; at the end, she returns home, red slippers and all. This is one of the best films of the year, and one of the great fantasies. It's gorgeous. Go see it.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Love In The Neolithic



Amazing discovery in Italy.

One Of These Days, Alice...

I know I post a lot of space stuff, but this is literally out of this world.

Michael Chabon on Cormac McCarthy's The Road and apocalyptic fiction in general.

I'm at this moment in the BDE right now, not quite of apocalypse, but certainly catastrophe, and again I find myself struggling with it. I think a lot of my concern comes from the depiction of the event. I'm a detail junkie. That's the culture I live in. I obsess in deconstructing the most uncomprehensible events of the day - disaster, like God, is in the details - and when I write, this comes out. I want to show the moment of failure, the progression of events, but I've come to realize that not only reduces the magnitude of the event itself, but the enormity of its impact on the people it affects. We know now, largely, how the towers of the WTC fell; on that day we didn't. Rumors of explosive charges ran rampant. What detached analysts very calmly called a typical pancake collapse looked like a volcanic eruption, or even worse, a mushroom cloud. I think I need to look at this event not through the eyes of an analyst, but a witness.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Duck!

A meteor came down in the sky above Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin last night. It was visible here in Waterloo (though I missed it, because I was watching the game - grr...) and all the way up to Green Bay. It apparently broke up before it hit the ground.

I came across this novel by Susan Beth Pfeffer, which has an asteroid knocking the moon out of its orbit and causing all sorts of hell on earth. It reminded me of my own story, "Black Eyed Moon," which has a not so devastating asteroid creating not so apocalyptic conditions on Earth, also witnessed by teenagers. Lots of people told me at the time I wrote the story it could easily be a novel, and now I can't help but wonder. I want to check Life As We Knew It out; I love end-of-the-world scenerios same as anyone else, and I love anything with the moon. Plus, Gwenda Bond says it's excellent.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Huddle For Warmth

It's literally 20 below with the wind. Without, it's a balmy 6 below. Kate Winslet will help keep you warm:

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Agony & The Ecstasy

Some talk about the anxiety of influence - the deadening paralysis brought on by the crushing weight of the artists that have come before you - but Jonathan Lethem writes wonderfully in Harper's about the 'ecstasy' of influence. The beauty of second use. Appropriation, intertext, allusion, theft, plagarism may all be words for the same thing: Bono said 'Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief / All kill their inspiration and sing about their grief.' Art is a succession of talents; the work one artist began thousands of years ago with Gilgamesh gets picked up by another after his death and it continues down through history, the whole of our culture and creativity passed from generation to generation - across generations - like a title, a secret, or sacred duty.

And here we go.

How to bake a planet.

The Red Sea is parting again - and so is the entire continent of Africa.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Bloc Party

The new Bloc Party album isn't due until next Tuesday, but it's streaming for free right now over at their MySpace page. Give it a listen. The last record was outstanding; I'm not feeling this one yet. Sometimes it takes a couple listens.

Children of Men

I failed to mention before I did see "Children of Men" a couple weeks back, making the trek on bus to Cedar Falls, where all interesting films roost for a week or so. I loved the film, top to bottom, and today I found an absolutely fantastic post regarding it at the Valve, which in turn is part of a larger series of posts about the apocalypse in writing. That discussion is also part of a larger dialogue around the web that's been going on in recent days. All of it is very worthwhile reading, so check it out. Lots of food for thought.

Read Ben's review of the film, and also the Strange Horizons review.

Tidbits:

The Hubble Space Telescope went blind.

Neptune may have literally thousands of escorts following it through space. The most interesting part about this is what it suggests about the planet's early history: it may have been like a snowball drifting through the outer solar system, picking up material (Triton?) and interacting with other objects (Pluto?).

Monday, January 29, 2007

Top Soil

The surface of Mars is devoid of life due to intense cosmic radiation - but underneath...

This brings so much new meaning to the term hackjob. Shame these writers aren't alive today to take scissors to these misguided people's work - you know, their computers and all those expensive wires in and out of them.

Ben saw Pan's Labyrinth before me. That's because I was throwing up all weekend. Thank you stubborn flu virus. Between that and work, writing has been slow, but I managed a little writing yesterday, which was productive. I'm working my way through a revision of the second book in the BDE as I ramp up to writing the third, and there's a lot of relandscaping. Ideas and presentations are evolving all the time, I'm getting new ideas all the time, and part of me wishes you could just set these down, let them be part of a past. I wish I could say I'm moved on and evolved myself as a writer and this is my work then, and this is my work now. But I'm still in that gestation period as a novelist, I think. I'm in utero, and there's no past until you're born. I won't be until these novels are, whenever that may be.

Got to love this: the U2-charist.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Anniversaries

NASA marks a trio of consecutive tragedies this week, observing the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire, the 21st anniversary (which seems impossible) of the Challenger, and the fourth anniversary of the Columbia disaster, all of which fall disturbingly close together.

I posted my thoughts on the Challenger last year, so I think I'll let them do the talking again.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Winter Blues

My new crush:



The future of the moon, with lots of sweet lunar links.

I've got those sucky winter blues. Comes from being sick, poor, stuck between bills, sick, poor... and in all that I'm in a funk writing wise. Can't seem to get anything going, and when I do find a few hours (yeah, right - a few minutes) to write, it's usually me thinking, "Hey, I need to add a chapter to my brick of a novel that elaborates in detail the socio-economic history of a particular family, as it relates to the larger society, because it's not boring enough." So, yeah. Bright shiny times. I am making a little progress. I trimmed quite a bit today, after basically rewriting an entire major scene in a pivitol chapter of the second book in the Big Damn Epic. I hadn't looked at this scene in about a year, and I was surprised at how sloppy it was. I remembered it being much tighter. It seemed slow and scattered, and confused. So I cut all the fat, pancaked some action, and really worked on varying the rhythm of the sentences and paragraphs - there's a lot more single sentence paragraphs in this section than anywhere else - to help along the pace.

I have a short story I want to write, and no energy to do it. I am sad.

Friday, January 19, 2007

0 To 60 WPM

Caitlin R. Kiernan writes on her blog today about the old fast vs. slow writer 'debate' which is sort of the literary equivilent of the blonde vs. brunette debate in that it's not really a debate at all. Doesn't stop lots of people from going over it from time to time though. I have never equated speed with quality. Novels are like wine - they take as long as they take to mature. If that's 28 days or 28 months, does it matter? I write fast. I think you write as fast as you think. I can turn out five pages in a couple of hours - but then I can spend days or weeks going over it because everything is not illuminated to me on the first go around. I've spent years with my novels, refining them, evolving them, and in that sense, I'm a very slow writer. So is it both? Does it matter?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Buried Under The Weather

Friend and artist Matt Hanneman has his excellent Effingham strip up on the web for your viewing pleasure, so check it out.

The last week or more I have had the worst case of flu in a very long time. I passed out twice (and fell down) from dizzy spells that hit me out of the blue like a linebacker. I sweated away a few pounds in night sweats. I had seriously deranged delierious dreams that invloved at one point the aforementioned Matt and his wife Lisa's apartment, but not their apartment, overrun by some sort of jungle growth that wasn't jungle growth. Neither seemed too worried about the foilage.

Ben had some good posts on his blog about Regina Spektor (he bought the CD!) and the subject of the ubiquitous/tired/cliched trilogy format that you find so common in sci-fi/fantasy publishing. It's not even trilogies much any more - the cycles tend to be longer nowadays, or just run open-ended. Sugu has been trying to lobby me off the trilogy format for a long time, not so much because of the kitsch (is it kitsch? Trilogies aren't confined to the genres, they're everywhere, even on Broadway with Tom Stoppard's new Utopia series) but because he thinks three books is too limiting a scope for what I've going on. My problem is I really love the three act structure. I spent a lot of time honing it just right, and I'm reluctant to break it up. I love the economy of three books, and I would like to leave people wanting more. But unless I get feeling better soon, there's not going to be any third book much less fourth or fifth.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Tickle Me Elmo's Fire

Probably the greatest video ever.

Margaret Atwood, with Bill Moyers, on myth.

The Pillars of Creation may have been destroyed by a supernova and we won't see it for a thousand years yet.

Regina Spektor on YouTube.

You'd think in a day and age when Apple is combining cell phones and iPods that the literary community of magazines, journals and publishers would have long since abandoned the wasteful, costly, and time consuming practice of demanding hard copy submissions. I dislike printing out my book, or short stories, and sending it out en masse mainly because I'm poor and the cost of ink, paper, and postage negates the possible return in most cases; you'd think the magazines and journals deluged with stacks of paper submissions would gleefully embrace e-subs for practical purposes, but many haven't. I can't think of any other craft that the internet age seems more disposed to, but the community resists, in large part I think because of its own age. It's the paper vs. e-book thing. People fear technology will strip literature of its one tactile element and with it, its identity. Reading is more than reading, it's holding the book or story or submission in your hand, marking it up in the margins, earmarking the pages. That I understand. E-books don't appeal to me. Saving every penny does, though.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Hairy Tail Come True

So there's a new comet out there that showed up out of the blue, and no sooner had I read this article yesterday, than I saw it before sunrise this morning on my way to work. It's in the east, fairly low on the horizon, and about as bright as Venus right now. I figured I'd have to have binoculars out in the country, but it's very visible in the city and I bet it will get even brighter as the week goes on. I love comets - one of the biggest disappointments of my life had to be Halley's back in '86, the bust of the century - but I saw two in the same year, '96, I think, which may have been better than Halley; the one only comes around every 5000 years.

There may be life on Mars after all, and we might have killed it.

Pluto gets its revenge, in words.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Moon River

There's no doubt any more that Saturn's moon Titan is a world of rivers and lakes. Methane rivers, so you know, no smoking on the boat.



The Martians are attacking us with catapults, and last but not least, the Buffy sensation that's sweeping the nation.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Disappearances

Very pleased to announce that the very excellent Storyglossia magazine accepted my short story "Keeping Up Disappearances" for Issue 19, due in April. The story is about a once almost-famous actress caught up in the media frenzy that develops around the disappearance of a little girl in her hometown.

So the new year is off to a nice start writing wise. Hopefully it will continue. Overall, I look forward to things improving. Since it got pretty damn bleak last year, it won't take much to let a little light in. I have a new computer (finally), a new job, and a new outlook on some things that used to bother me quite a bit. You get to a point in life where you begin to live with your troubles - well past the point of fatigue, like the country is right now with this war - and you lose the power or will to oppose them. You feel like there's nothing that can be done except endure a train wreck unfolding not in seconds but in years. But then you snap out of it. Whatever survival instinct you have kicks in and you start moving again, out of the way of the train, and you leave a lot of crap you thought was important once behind. 2007 I hope will be a year of simplification and clarity. Economy. In both senses of the word, because I'm still a starving artist. But simple. I would very much like for things to be simple now.