Friday, December 19, 2008
I am snowed in for the moment so I decided to take a break from a West Wing marathon (how good was this show?) to update this increasingly pointless blog. I am thinking of wiping the slate clean in the new year and starting a new one. I will be wiping many slates in 2009. I will be that guy on the corner offering to clean your windows for some change except I will be cleaning your slates. Or maybe just mine. I tend to get stuck in the mud when it comes to other people's slates and by now I've said the word slate too much.
I work all day, and write all night, and I have no life. In college I studied all the time and worked my ass off to get through because I had to. At work I study all the time and work my ass off because I have to. It's not easy for me and it never has been. The trade off is I have nothing else and when it comes to everything else I missed the meeting. And it costs me, exponentially, the further I go.
So, yay. At least there are two new Kate Winslet movies this month.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Thursday, August 07, 2008
I've always thought Batman's story has to end. His success prevents it of course. Even if Nolan completes his trilogy, which is what we seem to be in for, Warner Brothers will want and rightfully so as many films as they can get. And they should make Batman films to their hearts content. This article suggests a great idea: allowing myriad artists take their own whacks at the character, in various films. Batman has proven his elasticity. But since we're talking about the first true, complete - possibly - Batman cinema story, it must end and let there be an ending.
Interesting article on the true cultural impact of the film. Of course, the inevitable backlash against it has already begun; anything this big cannot go unchallenged. This article makes good points about the film's flaws. I think it misses the boat on a few things - the direction is all over the place? - but it also links to some other discussions which again are good food for your brain. There is a lot of trying to make the film fit somewhere - superhero genre, crime genre, etc. Seems it either transcends all of them or just lands outside one or more of them, depending on who you talk to.
Friday, August 01, 2008
The Dark Knight does not have a pro-Bush or pro-neo conservative stance. If you think it concerns the war on terror, and that is a legitimate argument, and if you think Batman=Bush, which is not legit, then here's why you cannot walk away from this film thinking it somehow legitimizes the last 7 years:
Batman fails to take the Joker seriously until it is too late.
Batman fails to kill the Joker when given the opportunity, and the justification to do so.
Batman 'extradites' a non-national from a foreign country where he has no jurisdiction.
Batman abuses his power and technology to spy on his own people.
Batman's actions only embolden his enemy.
You can find a correlative for everyone of those items in the last 7 years, and none of them are positive, and none of them presented that way in the film. The film ends with a adacious message - good men do the wrong thing for the right reason. Only in W's most fluffy fantasy land does he think this is what has happened in real life.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Neil Gaiman is writing a 2 part Batman story for the comic series next year. Apparently it will bridge the gap between the current R.I.P. storyline, which I'm lost with, and the future of the character, which seems destined to be different than the status quo. The only thing cooler than this is if they found water on Mars.
Oh, yeah. Water exists on Mars. Also, liquid (not water) is flowing freely on Titan, Saturn's enigmatic moon.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Auf wiedersehen Emily.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Geoff Boucher writes an open letter in the LA Times today to Chris Nolan offering some advice. Some of it is good. By process of elimination, he id's Catwoman as the only logical choice. I agree with this. Harley Quinn might make some sense if they attempt to follow the Joker thread (recasting just doesn't seem proper), but of all the Batman's rogues, she is the most sensible in Nolan's realistic concept of the character. However, Boucher's choice of actress (I'll let you click the link to see) doesn't do anything for me. Not that she's a bad actress, but what Catwoman needs, like the Joker, is someone who approaches it with a take no one ever considered. Give it a read, it's interesting, and so are the comments.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Right now there are a lot of hyperbolic reviews and commentary swirling around The Dark Knight, and specifically Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker, to the extent that you wonder how any film could possibly live up those kind of expectations. This movie does. You're never left wondering how, or why; it is grand cinema, from artists in their prime, and in one tragic case, the final furious statement of a gifted actor. TDK is not the Citizen Kane of comic book movies; to call it a comic book movie, or place it in that context is diminishing it. The film actually operates primarily in the crime movie genre, and has more in common with films like The Godfather, in its bredth and scope (a staggering cast of characters, multiple plot arcs, the city as a character - and Chicago - I mean, um, Gotham - has never been so interesting) and also Heat, which it actually has the most in common with.
TDK is also not the Empire Strikes Back of modern movies. That is primarily because its predecessor, Batman Begins, is not Star Wars. Begins was a great movie, hampered by certain comic book conceits that this movie does away with entirely. This movie, TDK, is Star Wars. It changes your head, and makes everything from here on out - its successors, both imitators and its own sure sequels - tethered to its accomplishments. One can't help but think that Christopher Nolan will find himself unable to top this; you won't fault him for it, because Heath Ledger sets such a high bar that all anyone else can do is stand there and look at it. I could go on about the intricacies of his performance - the manic tongue, the voice, electricity he generated anytime he's on screen - but it's simple enough to say he is the Joker, and his Joker is the strangest, scariest and funniest of all of them.
He overshadows many other fantastic performances, Christian Bale of course, but more importantly, Aaron Eckhart, who is actually the focal point of the movie as new Gotham DA Harvey Dent. We all know Harvey's future, but it's no less tragic to watch a good man brought so low. In TDK, good men do the wrong things for the right reasons. They spy. They kidnap. They take money from the mob to pay hospital bills. They lie. They fake their deaths, even to their own families. They take the fall for someone else. We live in a world where good men have been doing bad things for years now. You reap what you sow. In TDK, all that Batman has wrought, for good, and for bad, comes due and he reaps the whirlwind.
I haven't yet mentioned the action sequences. Normally in summer movies that's the first thing out, and that tells you what kind of movie this is. There is one stunning one, a chase between a semi and cop cars and eventually the Batmobile. The Batpod, the bike you see in the trailers, makes a stunning debut and does some gravity defying things that will please your geek soul. Also, enjoy the IMAX eye candy, which even in regular 35mm invites vistas you've rarely seen. Bravo.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
The dominant feature of the memorial is this 30 story monolithic statue that stands on a high hill overlooking downtown. You can go up in a very antiquated elevator (it dates from 1926) to the top and see an extraordinary view of KC. This image in particular inspired me to relocate my next novel from Iowa to Kansas. It also inspired me to research the memorial, which led me to the only-interesting-to-me bit of trivia that the nuclear holocaust film 1983, The Day After, featured the memorial in its coda. What was left of it anyway. That movie made a huge impression on me as it did most people who saw it, and I found myself remembering all sorts of 80's Cold War trivia - 'This is only a test. In the event of an actual attack...' - and I realized in some way this next novel is about those days, and those demons.
Anyways. The coolest thing about the memorial was not even the tower, but this:
Two of these sphinxes face each other, theirs faces covered by their wings, shielding them from the past and the future. I must have stood and stared at them for like ten minutes.
This is a view of downtown, looking down on Union Station, a gorgeous old train station that is now a musuem. We viewed a bizarre but fascinating human body exhibit there that showcased the preserved remains of people who donated their bodies to science. Hopefully I will get a chance to go back soon; my friend Sugu is coming back from Japan to KC for a few weeks in August. I'd love to go back and visit my aunt, as well as do some more research now I know I'm setting the book here.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Anyways. Gathering lots of bits for the next novel. Soon she will start to coalesce and take form. Maybe this weekend and I can get to the first chapter.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Update: Justine Larbalestier has a fun post on her blog about the art of blurbing as it specifically relates to Kat's new book, which Justine really likes.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Dig it. The universe will always amaze. I suppose I should say something about me. Not much to say. My mom is very sick. I'm working 10 and 12 hour days. Gathering material for my next novel. They form, these books, like planets almost; gathering lose dust from every corner of creation, accreting until something round and significant emerges. Sometimes something bigger runs into them and they go boom or become something better. Sometimes the process takes years. Decades.
I seriously do not have time to be building novels on a planetary scale. Message to Darby: think moons. Asteroids are also nice.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
My brother Aaron sent me this photo taken of the tornado that struck Osage this month - credit unknown, but good Lord, this person had ice for veins.
I'm sure most of you have seen the floods/tornadoes/general calamity on the news. Waterloo, Cedar Falls and of course Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, most of all, all led the national news for nearly a week now. Parts of CR looked like New Orleans after Katrina. It's been the worst anyone has ever seen it and while the water has receeded almost into its banks here, many west side businesses are damaged, totaled, still closed. Two bridges remain closed. Most importantly, many homes have been lost. All week I've been left with this fatigue, this residue of anxiety and if I ever thought I knew what it was to be in the center of impending disaster, I had no clue.
Friday, June 13, 2008
You can see what the force of the water did to the rail itself:
The river broke the bridge in two:
On Tuesday the rumor was that the broken half travelled down river and took out the 11th street bridge as well, but this didn't happen. The east side did nearly flood as a result of the breach the bridge made in the levee wall, which volunteers from all over the city secured with very hard work:
Sandbags also saved the Fairview cemetery, where the flood waters attempted to end run the dikes. That cast iron fence there in the bottom ? It's nearly ten feet off the ground in most places. The water just two days ago exposed only its very tips. If the river had sneaked through here, the east side would have been deluged:
The old boat house across the hill from the cemetery did not survive, though. On Tuesday, it was completely submerged and collapsed:
Tireless efforts by Waterloo citizens filling and deploying sandbags all over the city prevented even more damage than we suffered; no doubt these efforts spared us the difficult circumstances that the people of Cedar Rapids and Iowa City face. You can only pray for them, and wonder why some, and not others.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
I helped for a few hours in the afternoon, sandbagging at the DOT where they turned a garage into the fastest sandbag production line in history. Hundreds of people, a thousand maybe, turned out, including members of the UNI football and basketball teams. I sholved and bagged and threw bags and as many as I did just in that short time, they're still doing it now and will continue to until we're out of those aforementioned dark and uncertain woods. There's a curfew in downtown Waterloo where I am so it's quiet and strange outside. Except for the wind. It's coming up. Naturally.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
So far things are okay, for us, but the river is yet to crest and more rain is coming. We have maybe five feet to give on the dikes down at the river; if the river breaches them our neighborhood along with most of Waterloo will be victim to flood waters that are 26 feet over flood stage. These are the highest in my lifetime, and apparently getting close to the highest ever. It's strange to be packing a bag with a set of clothes, medicines and important things - documents, mementos - in anicipation the dikes will fail and you'll have five minutes - maybe - to get the hell out of Dodge. I hope it doesn't come to that. What frustrates me even more is that my mother is ill, shingles they think, and I've been worried over that for weeks and the entire time I'm thinking: what if she needs to go to the hospital? How do I get to the hospital? What if we have to leave town? Where do we go? Can we even get out? Black Hawk county is already a disaster area; it has been since the tornado that struck Parkersburg. This has already been a difficult spring. Hopefully it's a better summer.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Several people at work were affected by the tornado as well. A lot of people say, that's life in Iowa. One minute, it's blue skies and sunshine, the next it's snow. Rain. Tornadoes. A lot of people say, nothing ever happens in Iowa. I think that's a good thing, in the end. A lot of people say, I'm glad that didn't happen to me. You get up, go to work, eat the same lunch you pack everyday and people sift through the wreckage for belongings, memories, bodies, and will tomorrow, until it's done. That's what Iowans do, too. We get up, and go on.
The Hawkeye Chapter of the Red Cross is assisting families and taking donations:
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Saturday, May 10, 2008
There is a new issue of Buffy: Season 8 (I got the last one! Jesus!)
There is a new episode of Battlestar.
There is a new Star Wars movie coming. This one is animated and now Anakin looks like he escaped from the set of the Thunderbirds.
There are only 8 more chapters to go in my revised draft of the novel.
There is no cure for dibilitating headaches or unrequited romances except the new Radiohead record is pretty fucking sweet.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
An older Elizabeth features in Orlando (Quentin Crisp does her in drag in the movie, which I fear made more an impression than anything else) but when I close my eyes, it's Swinton I see as my Elizabeth. I discovered in writing the book just how much of an impact the themes and ideas - half remembered, like a dream - the book/movie had on impressionable young me back in the early 90's. I didn't find the movie today (for a dollar anyhow; Barnes and Noble has it for $30, which is too much for me) but I did come home and find some nuggets of it on YouTube. I found this bit, and wanted to share it. Fog is a significant image in the book and this sequence seems to me like some half-remembered dream:
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Kerry Wood goes to ice the Astros in the top of the ninth:
The Wrigley Building from orbit (aka the Hancock):
The shadows of the towers:
Saturday, April 19, 2008
"What's the editing process like? Do you also focus on grammar, spelling, and the like or do you solely focus on the story and the idea?
I actually don’t consider myself a traditional editor, someone who copy-edits or proofreads material, but more an instinctual editor. I don’t sit down and figure out why I do or don’t like something, which might sound a little strange to a few people, but that’s how it works out. I can tell you in generalizations why I’m hot-to-trot on a particular project, but I can’t get into specifics. Mind you, it’s easier at sales presentations, because I have a wealth of data to play with, and can sound reasonably intelligent and knowledgeable about my books, but it’s only slightly easier!
In some rare cases, however, I might encourage authors to put something together, throw a bunch of ideas at me, and see what sticks at the end of the day. A few of my authors can probably attest to this: Michael Jasper, Ekaterina Sedia, Catherynne M. Valente, just among a few that have run the gauntlet, and submitted three or four short proposals at me, and stepped back. I usually come at that, then, in terms of: is this new and original? can the market handle this particular topic? does it benefit the author to have this book out with the rest of his or her material? and then follow up with the author, with my thoughts and impressions, and we run with something at the end of the day. It usually works out, because I trust the authors that I’ve approached, to deliver something close to what’s been proposed . . . and that sometimes can be a paragraph or two paragraphs, written almost like backcopy!
Here’s an example:
Alice remembers the fall of the Berlin Wall. How she doesn't know, because it never happened; there was never a Wall. There was never a Berlin. In their place is a new world, a new history unburdened and unfettered of the past except for a small few like herself, swept out of their proper places in time and stranded with their memories in the new now, people from every era, poets, gladiators, peasants and queens.
Queen Elizabeth the First finds herself, for the first time in her life, free; free of the weight of her office, her world and the constraints of her time. She relishes the opportunity to establish her own personal identity, her own personal destiny but she cannot avoid being at the center of a great struggle. Some, like Alice, want to learn the truth of what happened, and if possible, put things back the way they were meant to be . . . but in embracing the virgin world, the queen has no intent to restore the past but to see it banished, even from her own mind, forever . . .
I can see this book—can you see this book? I can! This was from Darby Harn, for The Book of Elizabeth, which is scheduled for later in 2009. I bought this book exactly on this and nothing more."
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Monday, March 24, 2008
2) Get back on track with Fables, easy to do with covers like this:
I've liked James Jean, who does nearly all the Fables covers, for a long time. I think he'd be perfect to do the cover for The Book of Elizabeth. You can see more upcoming Jean/Fables goodness here and here. You can check out his website too.
3. Start thinking about that next novel! That dark tunnel ahead? That's the start!
4. Listen to lots and lots of Kathleen Edwards.
5. Get out of town. Chicago in three weeks...
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Endeavour lifts at 1:28 A.M. local time. Other space goodies:
Scientists have found a once-habitable lake on Mars.
And maybe coolest of all, Alpha Centauri, the nearest star to the sun, the same size, age and color as the sun, may have its own earth.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
The last episode of The Wire aired tonight on HBO. I don't know how much I've mentioned the show before here on the blog, but I have loved it since the beginning and I agree wholeheartedly with the notion many have that it is the greatest TV show ever. You hear this kind of thing a lot. "It's the best ever." I say it a lot. About all kinds of things. The truth is, The Wire is the best TV show ever, because of its depth, its subtlety, its five year examination of a single American city, Baltimore, that stands now, and may for all time, as a living document of 21st century American society. In its five years, the show tackled a different aspect of the city with each new season, from the corners to the docks, the schools to city hall, and finally to the news room. I enjoyed the way they integrated the paper into the storyline, but it could have been a show itself; if the show had one failing this year, it was not maximizing this plotline.
The Baltimore Sun which creator/writer David Simon worked for and based some elements of the show on, seems to think so. They also agree with me that the Season 3 ending, when it really seemed it was the end, was perfect and tonight does not do better by it. Tonight's episode was excellent, but Season 3 was pitch perfect, deserving of the laudatory praise the show gets. Tonight seemed to be conscious of 'the Dickensian aspect' of the show. The series does feel like a Dickens novel at times, with Dickens-like characters - Prop Joe - but in its subtlety and complexity I felt it was more like Chekov. In any case, it is great American literature and proof that the energy that once lived in theater, then fiction, then film, now resides mainly in long form television. The Wire is a novel on TV, a five year movie, a docudrama, all of them combined.
Anything this great attracts criticism as much praise and click on the link above to catch a jaw-dropping take down of the show and Simon from his former employer. There is absolutely no objectivity in the piece, and to watch it devolve from a earnest review to a personal attack only reinforces the irony surrounding the entire subject of dispute. The Sun feels unfairly represented by Simon, think the negative aspects he chose to highlight in the show diminish the paper and here, in the actual paper, is an embarassing, shameful act of shabby journalism.
Here's a more fair (if positive) review. I will miss The Wire, but thank God for DVD. The greatest thing that can be said about art like this is that it makes you want to make such art yourself, to push yourself to reach for that level.
The New York Times on the finale.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
So. Wow. Where to start. Um, how about with the begining:
I picked up my issue of Buffy Season 8 #12 today, expecting no less than my monthly dose of amazing and this month doubled down.
No shit wow.
So that's Buffy there on the right. And that's another girl on the left. So this is a big deal. So I'm saying so a lot. First off, the New York Times has a big article on the event. Joss Whedon talks there and also at Newsarama which is a much longer and interesting interview.
I believe Whedon when he says it's not a stunt. Buffy has never been about stunts, or 'this week, on very special episode of Blossom...'. And this series has moved the landscape enough through its sheer existence to not require any gimmick to draw readers to it (any Buffy die-hards put off by the comic, and there are some, will certainly not come back for this). Joss says its an evolution of the character, except she's not gay. So why is she..?
ABC News wonders aloud if it's a stunt/gimmick/etc. and let me explain why it's not and why I think this has been coming for a long time. First off, Buffy is not gay. She will not become gay. This is clearly history repeating itself: Buffy voids her loneliness with the nearest available option, good or bad, and apparently now, male or female. It stands to reason Buffy would entertain such thoughts - she's young, 24 at the most I think - and surrounded by dozens of hot young women. She's hopelessly lonely. Her isolation deepens with age. And it's been a while - Great Muppety Odin, it's been a while - so I'm not surprised by this at all. Especially since this has been coming more or less since Season 3.
Buffy's relationship with Faith - prior to the break-up - was coded at various times as romantic. Buffy and Faith were not lovers, but there was a gay reading there (if you were so inclined). A season later Willow reveals she's gay. Faith's closeness with Buffy clearly left Willow sore (to this day) and in retrospect, it seems more than Willow simply being left out. She's jealous. There's nothing to suggest Willow ever felt for Buffy that way, but in issue #12, it's Willow's reaction that answers the question of why do this now. Willow has the same sore reaction to Buffy/Satsu that she did Buffy/Faith and I think Willow can handle Buffy with someone else so long as they're not a woman. That's too much of a threat. Willow loves Buffy (she risked everything - and lost it - to bring Buffy back from the dead) and now with this incident, the earth is going to open up big. I think a lot of buried things are going to come to the surface. Just a few issues ago, Willow explained she couldn't share her self with Buffy because everything Buffy touches comes apart. With Willow, Buffy can only ever be destructive; Willow can never reconcile her feelings.
Damn. It's a whole month before the next issue...
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
One of NASA's many robotic probes caught this amazing image of an avalanhce of ice and dust at Mars northern pole. One wonders if this isn't something that happens with every spring thaw there. Here on earth, snow and ice continue to bombard us. Somedays it feels like Stalingrad in World War II or something. It's neverending. Every once in a while it warms up to 40 or 50 and then immediately after that we're slammed with rain, snow, or both. It wears you down. I woke up this morning to yet another snow shower and realized it's affecting my mood. I cannot wait for spring, to be back on the bike. Every day feels longer and longer than the last.
Anyways, it's Wednesday, which means a new issue of Buffy. I shall be delivered yet.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Um, hell yeah.
Not so much with Star Trek, which has been delayed from this Christmas to May of 2009. Apparently the strike left a lot of holes in next summer's schedule, but of course the scuttlebutt is that film has issues. A film with issues doesn't get moved from Christmas to summer. They get moved to January. It will suck having to wait how this new take works out, but we've got plenty to tide us over.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Some quick notes:
Caitlin R. Kiernan is a great writer and she has no health insurance. She has some medical issues and the requisite bills and she's having a mini-fundraiser on her website.
Kat has an interview with Justine Larbalestier over at the Fantasy Magazine website you should check out.
I thought I would post more about the daily progress of the book. I've found it's something I have little interest in sharing for some reason. It's kind of like, come follow me down all my dark alleys. A lot of them go nowhere. That's not true. They don't all lead to where you're going on this journey, but they often suggest ideas for later trips. But the novel is going well. I'm getting my rhythm.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
I found this interesting because like everyone else I have novels that sleep away, not quite in trunks, but drawers or computer files waiting for the light of day. I especially found Amanda Craig's entry funny, because I too have a big damn space opera on deck, and it too has its roots in The Tempest. Though it doesn't seem as literal as hers does.
My favorite cocktail: apocalypse, feminism, and literary vs. genre.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
I've sold my first novel, The Book of Elizabeth, to Sean Wallace at Prime Books. It will appear in hardcover in early 2009. You can read more details here. I see there's also a little blurb at SFScope.
The novel takes place in a world where none of our history - none of it - occured. No Roman Empire, no Reformation, no Berlin Wall. No Berlin. A new history has taken its place, except for one little problem: people from our history inexplicably find themselves swept into this alien one, people from all eras of history, poets and gladiators. Poets and queens. One of them is Queen Elizabeth I.
As a girl, she hand copied passages of the Bible for her step-mother; now, Elizabeth writes out a copy of the entire book from memory, to keep her own sanity in this strange new world, a world where Moses never went to the mountain, and Jesus never to the cross. Elizabeth learns to cope, to embrace the virgin world; yet she can't avoid her fate to always be at the center of an epic struggle. The book Elizabeth wrote threatens to undo the new world as it promises to put the old one back together and she must battle once again the enemy she thought she escaped: herself.
I want to thank Sean for the opportunity and his taking a chance on me, and I especially thank Kat for all her faith, friendship and support. I really could not have done it without her.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Teacher and author Martin Roper has an interview at the Dublin Quarterly.
My novel mutates. I think it wants to be a Miyazaki film. Or an Elseworlds graphic novel. (Gaslight Batman or something.) It takes place in a world slightly - slightly maybe isn't strong enough - different version of our world. The history is different, but contaminated. The polluters are people from our history, and the most toxic bit of 'waste' is a document utterly integral to our history, and utterly alien to theirs. My research has led me pretty far from the path I thought I was going down, so there's been some stops and starts, but overall I'm pretty excited about it. When I'm not sneezing and coughing and so on.
My one resolution this year, if I have one, is to not only finish this novel, but sell it. I feel a lot of the time like I am circling the same drain day in and day out, going to work, eating the same thing, watching the same pointless TV to unwind my head, going to sleep and back at it again. Maybe selling a novel won't change that. Probably won't, except it will keep the embers going. Some days they seem pretty faint.