Saturday, March 28, 2009

Monsters vs. Aliens

was a pleasant diversion, a better than typical 3-D film (definitely catch it in 3-D if you can), and a movie any SF fan can enjoy for the many in-jokes and references.

Ultimately, though, it was empty calories, a lot of flash dressing up a story that was just too weak. Given how little writers cost compared to pretty much any other expense on a film, one might think Dreamworks would have invested in a little storytelling help, but it never seems to work that way.

I also found myself confused about which adult audience the film was targeting. The gags that were clearly there for adults spanned multiple decades, with the eighties claiming dominance, but that seems a bit off to me if the goal is to keep the parents amused while the kids enjoy the pretty show.

That said, kids aren't dumb--far from it--and so I expect they'll leave the theater after this one knowing they missed some jokes, not caring a lot about either those gags or the movie itself, and wondering when that new Pixar movie will be out. That's a shame, because with a stronger story and the same production investment, this could have been a great deal more.

Maybe it's not for everyone

but it sure is for me. (Let the rehearsal part roll by you, then enjoy the song.)

"As I lift my groceries into my car, I turn back for a moment and catch her smile; it blows this whole fucking place apart."
I grew up staring at people and things so beautiful, at least to my young eyes, and so far from me that I knew I could never have them, that they would be forever beyond my reach. Bruce nails those feelings here.

Thank you, Michael Moorcock

If you're at all serious about SF, you know a little about and have read at least some of the work of Moorcock. If you don't know anything about him, an easy way to pick up a few pointers about him is to read this tribute to him by my pal, John Picacio, at the SFWA banquet at which Moorcock received his well-deserved Grand Master Award.

What I want to talk about here, however, is none of the many accomplishments for which Moorcock has received so much praise. I want to tell you about my few minutes with him on a panel at CoastCon.

Moorcock and his wife, Linda, arrived late, which was understandable because our panel was early on the first day of the con. Moorcock was in a wheelchair and then on crutches, and we encouraged him to do the panel from the floor. He would have none of it. He made his way up the stairs and sat at the end of the table, on my right.

David Weber, the top-selling space opera writer going, was on my left and was acting as de facto moderator.

With those two on either side of me, I figured my role was to pour water, offer to carry their pencil cases, and so on. (I did the first but never had the occasion to do the second.)

As events transpired, however, David asked me a question about the way I was constructing the Jon and Lobo series, and before I knew it I was spouting off to the extremely small audience about my never-before-revealed literary goals and structure for the series.

Moorcock's eyes lit up. He asked me questions. He took me seriously. He talked about his own goals in the Elric books and his challenges in meeting them. He critiqued himself for having gone too far in some directions and hurting his sales as a result. He treated me as a colleague, and he was excited talking about fiction and structure--with a writer with all of two novels out and someone completely unknown to him. (I must hasten to add that David Weber was also quite gracious and interested, but in this post I want to focus on Moorcock.)

This behavior may seem unremarkable, but if it does, you haven't been around enough artistic snobs. I've been snubbed by a great many fellow SF writers for a great many reasons, including my choice of publisher, my decision to write SF adventure, the mere fact that I am writing a series, and so on. I don't think I've ever been snubbed by anyone whose credentials even approached Moorcock's, and he treated me well.

We encountered each other again on the last day of the con. He stopped, shook my hand, apologized for not getting to spend more time with me, and expressed his hope that we would get to talk more in the future. Stunned at the genuine feelings this Grand Master expressed and at his kindness, I mumbled something I hope was appropriate.

Michael Moorcock reminded me of how we all ought to behave. He showed me that no matter your station in a field, you should still love it and discuss it with passion and exclude no one. I've spent precious little time with him, but already I owe him one, not for being nice to me but for showing me how it's done, for being a gracious man. Thank you, Michael Moorcock.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Because it's been too long

You need some Blue Rodeo, and I'm here to help.

First, a love song without a video. Trust me, the music is good enough that the lack of images won't matter. What's better than being head over heels, at least for the good moments?

Now, because we all also need a thousand shiny moments.

There. Don't you feel better?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A few pictures

Because folks seem to like them, and because I'm in a random mood.

Biloxi and the surrounding small towns have more Waffle Houses than I've ever seen before, so naturally we had to eat in one. This is John Picacio's lovely sausage biscuit; note the existential loneliness of the sausage. Yet, at only a buck even, it wasn't a bad deal.

You can't raise existential topics, of course, without heading straight toward the Japanese and cherry blossoms, so here's a snap of the three magnificent specimens in my neighbor's yard. We walk by them each morning, and each time we pass them, I seem unable to stop myself from commenting on their beauty, fleeting though it is.

Men can create more lasting flowers of glass, as this picture of the Chihuly flowers on the ceiling of the Bellagio's lobby demonstrates. It's a classic Steve Wynn Vegas over-indulgence, yet it works. I've seen this installation dozens of times, but each time I have to pause and admire it, even if only for a few seconds.

And away she goes!

The FedEx office at RDU airport closes at 9:00 p.m. At 8:46 p.m.--plenty of slack--I handed the clerk there the FedEx padded mailer containing my corrections to the proof pages of Overthrowing Heaven. As usual, and with my email apologies to the typesetter already in the ether, I made a great many changes, all of which improve the book. After she makes them to the final file, I believe the book will head to the printer.

I am quite happy to be completely done with the writing side of this one.

I can now concentrate fully on Children No More, which, no, I'm still not ready to write, but which is shaping up, at least in my head and notes, to be a doozy. I always feel that my skill as a writer is inadequate to the task of transforming the visions in my head into words, but I'm going to do my best, as always. That's really all any of us can do.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Reflections on Mississippi

My time in Biloxi these past few days gave me a lot to ponder.

For one thing, I made just enough of a visceral connection with the damage from Katrina--yes, even all this time later--that I now realize that despite all the news reports, those of us not there had absolutely no clue just how very bad it really was. I suppose that's always the case, but now I'm angrier than ever at the way we as a country failed the people who suffered from the hurricane. No one whined, mind you, not a single person, but each person from the area had a tale of damage and loss and pain, and I found some of the conversations with smiling and resilient people to be absolutely heartrending.

Walking along the Gulf of Mexico was another powerful experience. I grew up believing that St. Pete and its beaches and even all of Florida was the most wonderful place one could live, and then the wonder faded and ultimately vanished in the face of construction and commercialism. I suppose it's inevitable--to paraphrase a line from a John Kessel story, money always flows down to the water--but it still saddens me. Walking on the white-sand beach, staring at the shimmering, calm water, I regained for a brief time that love of the place of my youth, and I'm very grateful that I did.

Finally, I also relearned that for all the differences many folks in the SF community appear to have--from politics to writing goals to cover design, the list of points of argument are many and varied and heated--when you for a minute ignore those and just listen and talk, you realize how much all of us love the genre and its possibilities. That's a very good and powerful thing, and I do wish we'd all keep it in mind more often and use it to temper the attacks on various SF sub-communities that are all too common in our field.

On the road again: CoastCon, day 4

I'm home, and I'm exhausted. I got very little sleep at this con, but I did have many good times. This morning, I did two back-to-back panels, one with Toni Weisskopf on nanotechnology and one with Diana Rowland on mystery in SF. Both drew small but attentive crowds, and I enjoyed them, though I fear I talked too much.

I hope to be home for the next few weeks, polish off the page proofs of Overthrowing Heaven, nail down the outline of Children No More, and get cracking on that baby. I'm past ready to be writing it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

On the road again: CoastCon, day 3

After a fitful and frequently interrupted sleep, I showered and headed to a reading. As I'd predicted, only one person I didn't know attended--but I read anyway. He liked what he heard enough to head to the dealer's room and buy one of my books, so I count that as a tiny triumph.

Our day then sort of spilled away, with BBQ lunch again the The Shed; a break for a movie (The Knowing, about which all you need to know is that you should either wait for the DVD or skip it); a lucrative thirteen minutes playing blackjack at The Hard Rock Casino; an entertaining dinner afterward at the Ruth's Chris Steak House with Toni Weisskopf and David and Sharon Weber; and very enjoyable and late-into-the-night conversations with John Picacio, Traci Picacio, Chris Roberson, Diana Rowland, and various other folks who wandered by. I stayed out too late and now must pay the price by working even later, but so it goes; cons are like that, and I'm not complaining.


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