Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Mood: Finally Over a Bad Cold and Watching the New Snow Fall
Projects I want to get done in 2009:
Short stories that are mapped and ready to be written (in no particular order):
"Too Short to Be an Angel" (Ael Mukatante story)
"Blind Panic" (Ael Mukatante story)
"Beanie Baby" (a Dr. David Weinberg story)
"God of Chickens" (still)
"The Secret History of Earth"
"Words and Swords"
That looks like a pretty full plate, and I'm sure other projects will arise, as they often do.
I'm discovering that I have ideas outside of the SF/horror/fantasy continuum. I want to write a couple of Dr. Weinberg stories without supernatural elements. Well, any honest story about a medical examiner doing his job is going to contain some element of horror. We'll see how that works out.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
This is why Gen X cannot say or write or enjoy anything without irony. We've been bombarded with so many things that are supposed to pull at our heartstrings and thus sell us something. Christmas carols are just an example. We don't have a memory of singing them in a beautiful, reverent way, we remember that they were being cheerily piped at us when we were doing our last-minute holiday shopping at Sears or Wal-Mart. That heart-string has been pulled so many times that it's damned difficult to get a reaction from it anymore.
There are a couple of Christmas CDs that I do play every year, but they're not the usual classics. This is the kind of stuff you'll never hear in a store.
A Very Scary Solstace by the HPLHS. Familiar Christmas carols with rewritten lyrics to acknowledge HP Lovecraft's works. How many songs, let alone carols, do you know have lyrics that refer to NonEuclidian Geometry? Wonderful stuff.
Arrest these Merry Gentlemen by the Kipper Family. This is series of dryly humorous Christmas-related songs by by a rather odd collection of North Yorkshiremen. Hard to find, it takes a little time to appreciate, but is well wort6h the effort.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Another new experience. Dark Scribe Press sent me a copy of Unspeakable Horror: Terrors from the Closet, which my story was a bridesmaid (I made the initial cut with an invitation to rewrite, but didn't get all the way to the altar). Dark Scribe Press kindly sent me a free copy. I probably would have picked it up anyway, since I want to read more of Lee Thomas's work. And there's the morbid curiosity of wondering if the stories are better than mine. I know that I cannot be impartial, and that the editors' taste is not my own, but I've been given the opportunity to pick at this particular scab.
It still smarts a bit. The stories are good (I'm only half-way through it), so far the standouts are Michel Scalise's "I am the Shadow that Walks There" and Joy Marchand's "Black Annis." Overall, it's a book I would have been squeeingly happy to be in. But yesterday, that bastard Nick Mamatas told us how every "quiet horror" story ever written goes. Unspeakable Horror contains at least two quiet horror stories, and Mamatas is not wrong.
Also, I see that the horror is a bit less visceral than the story I sent (since renamed "Not an Ulcer"). I hadn't considered that my horror was particularly hard edged, but I can see that the editors were looking for something less gruesome and uncomfortable as my story. And, if I'm honest with myself, better written.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Beautiful and snowy at my parents' place for Thanksgiving, and yes, this is the view from their living room. The turkey was delicious, the stuffing bad for me, the candied yams so full of butter and sherry that I forgot they were originally tubers.
Of course, Thanksgiving now involves other traditions. This year, my brother and I helped take the lawnmower attachment off his sit-down lawnmower and put on the snowthrower. I'm slightly less handy than a one-armed man without thumbs, but I helped around the periphery.
We had good, traditional Thanksgiving. Much food, enjoyable conversation, and time with beloved family. It strikes me as so very strange that we have the quintessential Thanksgiving: New England, and family that can get together without screaming, sulking, of sniping. For this, and for the reasons behind it, I am extremely thankful.
If you'd like a window into my family's thanksgiving, my brother took many pictures, and posted them to his flickr site.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Simon Pegg has articulated my feelings better than I've been able to.
Go buy Spaced and see what all the fuss is about.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
One concept in semiotics is the level of abstraction, a phrase that assigns a framework to the attributes we assign to an object. What categories we put it into. Obama is; the son of a 'broken' home, the son of a Kenyan, a lawyer, a husband, a male, a world-traveler, a Harvard graduate, a senator, a professor, a father, an admitted former drug user, a smoker, a published author, former editor of the Harvard Law Review, a basketball player, a successful politician, and a human being, a comic-book reader, and a liberal, among many other designations. To single any one out, I think, says a great deal more about the individual interpreting the statement than it does about the president-elect.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
And I haven’t. Or hadn’t.
First, I should say that I come at it from a different place than most people. I should have read Conrad’s Heart of Darkness before I saw the film, simply because I like to have a bit of background before I take on a classic. However, I have read King Leopold’s Ghost, which recounts the atrocities that happened in the Belgian Congo that form the backdrop of Heart of Darkness. So yes, the majority of the atrocities described in the book (which I haven’t read yet) are based on reality, rather than being metaphorical, which I believe is the assumption. I’ve also read Kim Newman’s novella “Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula” which mixes his Anno Dracula universe with the experience of creating Apocalypse Now.
Apocalypse Now is an extremely American film. It involves one very American metaphor while employing the central motif of the uniquely American genre, the Western.
Ever since Huck Finn, the river has been a metaphor for life in American literature. The protagonist drifts down the river, and sees all the random places that it takes them, and the strange people they meet. Apocalypse Now utilizes this metaphor of the river as life, merging it with the Greek river Styx, which the dead had to cross over in order to get to Erebus (the name of the boat Captain Willard takes). This is an American journey down the river Styx into Hell.
Additionally, Apocalypse Now is a Western. Ken Hite in his Dubious Shards (yes a secondary source, I need to read the originals) says that the central conflict of the Western is this: Anyone who picks up a gun is a barbarian. Yet only someone with a gun can deal with a barbarian. In the best of Westerns, this leads to conflict for the hero. In Apocalypse Now, Kurtz is repeatedly said to be effective. He was an admirable, civilized man who achieved great things. Yet his actions are so barbarous that the price of victory is too great to be bourn by a civilized nation. Which is why the protagonist, Willard, is dispatched to take him out. The phrase “Terminate... with extreme prejudice” is popularized in this film.
In addition, many Westerns, especially those of John Ford, use the landscape as a character. Ford often uses a sweeping establishing shot of the landscape to establish mood. In the same fashion, Coppola uses the lush Philippine jungle to convey the differentness of the jungle from urban America.
With these two metaphors firmly in place, the film moves very strangely, in what is likely a deliberately surreal fashion, from farce to horror. The majority of the farce is delivered by the famous character of Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore. Kilgore, the epitome of subtlety in character naming, is an arrogant loose canon who gets his men and civilians killed because he uses military means to achieve nonmilitary objectives. Either the narration is right and Kilgore will get through the conflict without a scratch, in which case his invulnerability makes his presence intolerable since he risks nothing while his men risk all, or he is not, in which case he’ll take a bullet off-screen at some later date. He is supposed to represent all that is crazy and wrong with the officers in Vietnam. He seems overly-ladled with insanity and lacks complexity. Yes, he helps the child toward the end of his sequence, which is supposed to be an encapsulation about the contradiction of the way Americans treat war. We’ll gun down enemies, and then help to fix up the wounded. I found him broadly painted, and lacking in nuance.
I find Coppoloa’s hand too heavy on the film. A lot of time is spent showing us the absurdities, and he wants to make sure that we catch them all. Kilgore’s role could have been reduced significantly, giving us a background taste of his madness, instead of a front-row seat. But the sophistication of audiences is different than it was in 1979, we are much more used to picking up minor cues and taking a large inference from them.
The film is at its best when the boat is on the river. We watch passively, with our own thoughts as the fog and green miles pass us slowly by. Coppola evokes mood beautifully utilizing the local jungle and fog. The image of the bomber’s tail sticking silently out of the river is one of the most powerful of the film. Rather than preach at us, Coppola allows the audience to look at this enormous thing that appears out of the mist, and consider what we know about it. Something that cost America millions of dollars, and was crewed by six or seven men. Where are they now? We don’t know. What was it bombing when it went down? We don’t know. How was it shot down? We don’t know. Those questions with empty answers made a stronger impression on me than Kilgore’s Wagnerian madness.
The ending is a bit of a disappointment. Kurtz becomes Frazier’s Corn King, and Willard the one who will kill him and receive the worship of the simple natives. Coppola does not spend any time investigating the culture of these people, but simply allows us to know that a charismatic white man has made himself the local god-emperor. It was a perfectly cricket assumption in ‘79, but it hasn’t aged well for me. Hollywood still employs it, however. In Dances With Wolves, the white man goes native and then shows the Indians how to live their lives, and I didn’t bother to watch the Cruise film where the white man shows the Japanese how a samurai honor should be maintained. This cultural arrogance sticks in my craw.
Apocalypse Now Redux’s perfect metaphor is contained within itself. Like Marlon Brando, it arrives with great ballyhoo, only to show itself bloated and unprepared. While it has some genuinely astonishing moments, they are buried in a lot of self-indulgent rambling.
This is why I don’t review films.
Friday, October 31, 2008
I also really love well-made books. A hardcover something to be held. I love the feel of the cloth, the solid permanence of what it contains is what a book should be. A book should be forever.
Mary Shelly's Frankenstein is a classic. I've read it several times, and I've never seen a better visual interpretation than Bernie Wrightson's moody line art. Far from the James Whale square-head with bolts sticking out of his neck, Wrightson's creature is beautiful and hideous at the same time, a creature that evokes both the pity and fear that the story evokes.
Marvel published Wrightson's Frankenstein in 1983, but Dark Horse just put out their own version this year. It's a gorgeous black hardcover with a bound-in ribbon bookmark, large enough to command attention on the shelf, no mean trick since Frankenstein is a fairly short novel.
The perfect Halloween treat.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
To help get it back, I ran a single-shot Call of Cthulhu game. It's been five years since I've run a game, and close to (eeesh!) fifteen since I've run Call of Cthulhu. I spent a couple of weeks mucking with the adventure, a modern, very tangentially Delta Green adventure involving grave-robbing in New York City. It was good to delve into Pagan Pub's rich, horrible, and very 90's background. I drew many threads from their various publications, perhaps too many. The plot involved ghouls, the Karotechia, with a quick visit to the Fate. Although I had only two players, I think it went well. The players have suggested I set up a campaign, which I considered for about an hour. Tempting as it was, it would cut heavily into my writing time. But the instant gratification of not having the story rejected is a tempting one.
Now that I'm basically over myself, I have nothing to complain about on the writing front. Six stories sold (in green), and two have made it past the initial screening process into 'bridesmaid' territory. And at least a couple I shouldn't talk about yet.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Thanks in no small part to Bear and Walter Jon Williams, I am now playing Spore. It's a pretty fun game. the graphics are good, the sound quality good, and if the depth isn't really there until you hit the galactic civilization, there is a lot of investment in your creation.
Funny thing, Spore has got to be the biggest elevated finger to Intelligent Design and Creationist that has ever been placed in public media. In the initial stage (above), you start out as a fairly simple organism, swimming around in the primeval soup with all the other simple organisms. You swim, eat, find special DNA prizes, and if successful, reproduce into something with more advantages. It was here that my little guys acquired their defining trait that becomes useless at later stages, but I never removed them. Their back spikes. And thus, the Spiketagenet was born.
At the end of the Cell stage, you acquire legs, start running around on land. You get to assemble yourself a herd/pack, and then make friends or meals of the rest of the indigenous wildlife. I chose 'herbivore' and stuck to it. I've been playing a lot of games about killing people recently, and decided I wanted to be more constructive. It's during this stage that the Spiketagenet changed the most, from a four-legged critter to something bipedal. the duck bill was the first mouth I was offered, and I started to like them. The back spikes are completely useless at this point, but I got sentimentally attached to them (they'll never use chairs).
There's a fair amount of messing around with the DNA to get the creature to do what you want. Some feet have stealth, others allow you to charge. Some hands have claws for fighting, some are better at gathering fruit. And there's a nice amount of variability as to size and splay of feet.
In the end, you get a creature that you have built, and I think that's a big thing for me. Here's this thing I have created, guided through the water to its first faltering steps onto land, watched its relatives get sucked up into UFOs (which I later did when I got space drive), adapted to different conditions, and created in an image I thought was interesting and useful. But as he shows his back, you can still see those vestigial spikes, from when the species was a swimming group of cells in the ocean. The eyes on tentacles have been something from its earliest stages, too. Not that this seems to affect how they work in space, but it's kind of cool to look at them and have all that history. I think that makes each creation endearing. I'll find out when I start again.
I also notice that on my first run, I'm staying pretty anthropomorphic. Two legs, two eyes, and even if it doesn't have a head, it still has a pretty human face. Maybe next time, I'll make a race of omnivorous space-faring octopoids.
So, Spore gets a couple of prehensile thumbs up from me.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
|Purgatory (Repenting Believers)||Very Low|
|Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)||Low|
|Level 2 (Lustful)||High|
|Level 3 (Gluttonous)||Low|
|Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)||Low|
|Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)||Moderate|
|Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)||Very High|
|Level 7 (Violent)||High|
|Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)||High|
|Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)||Moderate|
Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test
So if anyone asks, you can describe me as a violent, malicious, lustful heretic. But you knew that already, right?
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Context can be very important to understanding a person. And yet, finding the keys to the locks that opens them up sometimes involves a change of scenery, to remove them from the setting that makes them so familiar. Give someone a haircut, clean up their speech, give them a new job, but have you really changed them? Would you even recognize them?
Is that a pulp hero who is taking your order? Could the woman ringing up your bill have been a Mata Hari or a Marlene Dietrich given half a chance? How do we know?
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Feeling: Tired and Sad
For the past couple of weeks I've been wondering what I should progress with. Should I finish up a couple of short stories I've had ideas for but haven't had time to actually write, or should I plunge straight into the next novel, with an eye toward finishing the first draft by the end of the year?
I've been going back and forth. The prospect of a new novel scares me, but I feel like I really ought to simply because that's where I want to be going.
And with other things going on, I've allowed the mental discussion to drag out. Over the Labor Day weekend, we had some friends up, including their two young kids. So, I was a little stressed when I went to sleep last night. I woke up at 2, couldn't get back to sleep, so I got into the reading chair and read Perdito Street Station for an hour and a half, then lay in the dark, waiting to drop off. It took some time.
I had a dream. I was researching the novel I've been thinking about writing, running around New York City scouting locations, but whenever I tried to get pieces of paper to write my notes down, all I could get my hands on where tiny triangles and scraps.
When I woke, I had a head full of ideas. For me, one of the most productive times for ideas the border between sleep and waking, when my guard is down and anything goes in my imagination. So I had the luxury of adding onto these ideas and molding them in order to fit the story. End result: two pages of notes, and I'll be starting the novel, after I write my query letter for novel 1, rework about 200 words of Novel 1, rewrite that short story for Cthulhu 2012, and write my essay on Robert Bloch.
Other than that, I feel like shit this morning.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Your result for The Godzilla Personality Test!...
Godzilla: King of the Monsters!
Godzilla. The Original Badass. Congratulations, Mr. Mutated Dinosaur.
Bad News: You tend to have nuclear meltdowns on rare occasions (Godzilla vs. Destroyah) and you have a weakness to this thing called the Oxygen Destroyer. So you're not completely invincible.
Good News: You might as well be though. You've fought every monster out there and you usually come out on top. Sure you had your goofy moments in the 70's but really you are one bad son of a bitch, and everybody knows it. You have a lot of respect and people know when to get out of your way. Congrats, you're like the Fonzie of giant monsters! Oh and you tend to get mad whenever someone screws up the environment so hey good for you.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Mood: Cranky and possibly ill
From PG Tremblay
Copy the list below.
Mark in bold the movie titles for which you read the book.
Italicize the ones that you’ve watched.
Tag 5 people to perpetuate the meme.
1. Jurassic Park
2. War of the Worlds
3. The Lost World: Jurassic Park
4. I, Robot
8. The Stepford Wives
9. The Time Machine
10. Starship Troopers It would been nice if the film of the same name had anything to do with the book
11. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy I've experienced this in all available media but play and towel. All were better than the film.
12. K-PAX well, when it was Man Facing Southwest
13. 2010 (but no 2001? huh?)
14. The Running Man
16. The Mothman Prophecies
18. Blade Runner
20. The Island of Dr. Moreau
21. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
22. The Iron Giant
23. Battlefield Earth
24. The Incredible Shrinking Woman
25. Fire in the Sky
26. Altered States
28. The Postman (see comment on # 10)
31. The Invisible Man
32. The Thing (Who Goes There?)
33. The Thirteenth Floor
35. Deadly Friend
36. The Puppet Masters
38. A Scanner Darkly
40. Monkey Shines
41. Solo (Weapon)
42. The Handmaid’s Tale
45. From Beyond You know the film's going to be wacky when the story it's based on is done before the intro credits.
48. Logan's Run
I am very surprised by the people who haven't read the Wells work. And the beginning is very weighted on Creighton, isn't it? Shouldn't there be more King?
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Mood: Enjoying A New Hat
I've never quite understood the appeal of being an editor. I've always thought I'd always write and never edit. I'd rather be on the creative side of things, coming up with the plot, hammering out the characters, all that sort of stuff.
Well, now that the Secret Project underway, I'm rather unexpectedly in the editor's seat. Over the weekend I received my first piece. It's wonderful. It's like a perfect jewel delivered to me, born of my idea, yet expressed in a way I never would have considered. Quite the giddy and unexpected thrill.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Although I don't you know the full Table of Contents, I do know that Charles Gramlich and Lon Prater also have stories in the collection. Awesome.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
And they've given permission for me to repost the letter, so here it is:
Good evening John,
Thank you for submitting your story, "Death on the American Family Farm" to us at DRP. We enjoyed reading it and even pushed it for further consideration; however we have decided to pass on it. Ultimately the ending was its downfall. Most of the readers felt it was rushed and a little flat.
That aside, the opening characterizations are magnificent and a lot of fun to read. You did a great job of filling the story in with small details that others may not have included. Instead of feeling wordy, it felt colored in.
I don't need to wish you luck in the future placing this story, I'm sure you will.
Dark Recesses Press
The dark recesses of your mind are our playground... and we don't play fair.
This is a great rejection letter. Someone took some time to compose it, which means they really do care about me submitting at a later date. They liked the story enough to give it a second read (which I'm starting to think of as a 'bridesmaid' rejection). They told me what they think is a flaw, and again, I agree with them. Wish I could find these problems by myself, but I'm learning.
I'm very encouraged. Thanks Dark Recesses Press!
Friday, August 1, 2008
Mood: Hanging in there
Despite the mood I wanted to once again show you why I live where I do:
That said, Cthulhu's Dark Cults is available for pre-order on Amazon
Cthulhu's Dark Cults
Schemes of the Secret Masters
Edited by David Conyers
Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu® is an endless source of imagination of all things dark and mysterious. Here we journey across the globe to witness the numerous and diverse cults that worship Cthulhu and the Great Old One. Lead by powerful sorcerers and fanatical necromancers, their followers are mad and deranged slaves, and the ancient and alien gods whom they willingly devote themselves are truly terrifying. These cults control real power, for they are the real secret masters of our world.
"Introduction" by David Conyers
"The Eternal Chinaman" by John Sunseri
"Captains of Industry" by John Goodrich
"Perfect Skin" by David Witteveen
"Covenant of Darkness" by William Jones
"The Whisper of Ancient Secrets" by Penelope Love
"Old Ghost" by Peter A. Worthy
"The Nature of Faith" by Oscar Rios
"The Devil's Diamonds" by Cody Goodfellow
"Requiem for the Burning God" by Shane Jiraiya Cummings
"Sister of the Sands" by David Conyers
This book is one in an expanding collection of Cthulhu Mythos horror fiction and related topics. Call of Cthulhu® fiction focuses on single entities, concepts or authors significant to readers and fans of H.P. Lovecraft. This collection of ten stories features the cults which first appeared in classic Call of Cthulhu gaming supplements such as The Masks of Nyarlathotep, The Day of the Beast, Horror on the Orient Express, Shadows of Yog-Sothoth and others.
Published by Chaosium Inc. 2008
Sunday, July 20, 2008
It's a wonderful con, and it always is. Foremost in my mind is a conversation with several pros, which ranged from an unusual recipe for sausages to our proposed charity anthology "Naked Came the Hairy Stranger." I have never learned so much while laughing so hard.
The panels were useful as usual, and I exercised a lot of self-restraint by not buying a lot of books (I still haven't read all the ones from last year). I refreshed friendships, met many delightful new people, and generally steeped in the presence of many talented and creative individuals. There are many conventions, but there's only one NECON.
For the first time, I spread my books on the table and shilled. I'm not as bad at it as I was afraid that I was. And congratulations to Kim Paffenroth. He knows why, and I can't tell
Oh, and Nick Kaufmann? I see that you still blame me for the rubber ball incident of two years ago. This has not gone unnoticed.
Ceterum censeo Kaufmann esse delendam.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Mood: Not Yet Awake
Let's see: Last week was a good week, but the one before that was not awfully great.
Some good things about last week: Some back and forth with an editor about a story. My ever-vigilant spam filter was catching him, so I didn't know he's actually responded to me in the middle of June. This problem has now been taken care of.
Also, I'm now an affiliate member of the Horror Writers' Association. It's my first professional organization. Yay!
But you don't come to my blog to read this stuff. You want to know what happened when Doc Paffenroth and I went to the opening of the Hudson Valley Horrors' derby season on May 31st.
I had a good time. I haven't been to a lot of the usual American experiences. I can count the number of live converts I've been to on one hand, and I've never seen any sort of stadium show. And it's been a long time since I've been to a professional sports event. My impression of these things is that they are giant, well-oiled machines for the purpose to extracting money from the customer.
Roller Derby is a bit more punk rock than that. There aren't many perks (although if we'd known the more expensive tickets came with swag bags, we would have gotten them!) or spin-offs or big score boards. It's all spit and baling wire, duct tape and dirt. There's not much glossy about Roller Derby, and there are no TV cameras on it, and that non-slick feeling made it feel more grounded.
Yes, there are rules. The women circle the track, and when a jam is called, the smallest, fastest member of each team (the jammer) tries to lap the other team. She gets points for every opponent she laps. The number is not particularly clear to the novice at the end of the jam, but I expect that would change as the audience member watches more derbies.
To stop her from lapping, the other girls have a limited number of things that can do to stop her. They can't really go to town on their opponents; body-slamming and shoving them, for example, are illegal. Hip-checks are not. However, they can steal momentum by grabbing someone by the hips and pulling, and can shove a teammate into someone. Yes, this happened fairly frequently.
There's is a strategy. The really good jammers (Invader Zoom, Nuf Ced) didn't smash headlong into the other team, but wait for the right opportunity to get by them all, generally on an inside turn when they're all preoccupied with something else, like a five-girl pile-up after a lead skater went down.
All the girls have an assumed name. I don't believe this is because their "lives would be in danger" like los luchadores, but because it gives them a little extra theater. The creativity is a chuckle. Who wouldn't root for Slam I Am, the Killustrator, Lolita LeBruise, Alice Rumbledore, Invader Zoom, or my personal favorite, Minerva Steel?
The crowd was into it. I figure got between two and three hundred people there to watch an hour of derby, and the energy was good. I had enjoyed myself.
Kim did well. He's signed up as the Hudson Valley Horrors' official horror novelist. He's got Hudson Valley Horrors team members lining up to get eaten by zombies in his next novel.
Now I'm trying to think of a way to entice Kelly Laymon to the sport. It seems like a perfect match for her.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Found on matociquala's blog, Wordle creates a word-cloud from whatever test you care to enter, emphasizing the most commonly-used words. It's fascinating, and you can adjust the colors and the font. I may start entering chapters of my novel to see what comes out of it.
This is a word-cloud for "The Patriot" the story appearing in Cthulhu Unbound. You can click on it and it will appear much larger.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
You are in a mall when the zombies attack. You have:
1. one weapon.
2. one song blasting on the speakers.
3. one famous person to fight alongside you.
* Weapon can be real or fictional; you may assume endless ammo if applicable. Person can be real or fictional.
1. The Traveller-vintage Fusion Gun: Man Portable. Given the situation, there's no kill like an overkill.
2. "Mars: God of War" from Holst's Planet suite. It's reasonably long, so I won't get sick of it in ten minutes flat, while at the same time being unbelievable kickass.
3. Shane, from Shane. I don't think he missed one shot in that entire film.
Friday, May 30, 2008
I was much more interested in being old enough to get a lot of the film-makers' references. There are several points of the film that have been borrowed from the Stephen Sommers Mummy franchise, which I thought was fairly interesting. Between the insta-flensing bugs, and the the loss of a certain character in a very Benny-like fashion (you'll see it coming), it was a fascinating experience. There's even a bit of Tomb Raider as Indy jumps around on big, square boxes. Both of these franchises were heavily influenced by Indiana Jones, and it was a lot of fun to watch the original borrow back.
I've got a couple of criticisms, but I'll concentrate on one: the big fistfight. Indy is a pulp hero. He's an academic who gets into bar brawls, he's not a professional fighter. He uses trickery and Robert Howard-level endurance to win. The other guy pounds Indy until he comes up with a way to win the fight (the propellers of a flying wing come to mind). In the original film, we winced at the big fist-fight, but we knew Indy could take it. He's tough. The paradigm shifts when there's a thirty year-old in his prime pounding on a sixty year-old Indy. Yes. Indy is tougher than a oak stump, and we know he's going to win, but we also know that this stuff hurts more when you're sixty.
But this is minor. The film is a good, enjoyable Indiana Jones romp. There are some brilliantly assembled moments ("Part time."). Harrison Ford gives credibility to anything that comes out his mouth, and the rest of the cast is quite solid.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Well, for the first time ever, I've gotten a proof of a project I'm in, and I get to scan through my story it and see what errors have been made by the editor and company. This is reassuring because it gives me something to do, and tells me that Cthulhu Unbound is progressing.
The majority of the errors are, however mine. I want to take whole unnecessary phrases out of about half the pages, but that's not what this is about. I caught a few things here and there, a dropped word, an m-dash that should be a hyphen, little stuff. Kind of neat to be doing a part of the process I've heard about, but never done myself.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
This is my rejection letter for "Tatterdemalion," from, Vince Liaguno at Dark Scribe Press for their gay horror themed anthology Unspeakable Horror: From the Shadows of the Closet. I had sent in my story "Sire," and to my surprise I received a request to revise the story and resubmit. The good people at Dark Scribe sent me two pages of revision suggestions; what they liked, what they thought was weak.
So I spent a lot of January hammering away at the story, revising the weak spots, and changing the ending.
And on February 26th, I received this rejection letter:
Dear Mr. Goodrich:
Thank you for submitting your short story for our consideration in the Unspeakable Horror: From the Shadows of the Closet anthology. We gave the revised version of "Tatterdemalion" a thorough read.
Although you successfully incorporated much of our feedback, the ending just doesn't work for us. You quite successfully craft an excellent psychological portrait of a closeted man at war (literally) with himself, but the supernatural ending seems tacked on and doesn't seem to connect with the story that preceded it.
Regrettably, we're going to release "Tatterdemalion" back to you from our consideration at this time with our best wishes that your story finds a suitable home.
Vince A. Liaguno, Editor-in-Chief
Dark Scribe Magazine
Well that stings a bit. It's a great letter, and many thanks to Vince for going the extra mile and being personal. There are a couple of submissions where I've essentially had to imply that I've been rejected, because nobody has bothered to get back to me.
I need to look at this and realize that I got a call-back where most people simply got a rejection. I was good enough to get a request to revise, but not quite good enough to get into the anthology. And I was not the subject of the "Tips of the month" that listed the common problems with submissions. No psycho trannies or man-hating lesbians in my story, and no one's unmentionables were mutilated.
But let's do this Heinlein's way, by the numbers:
* Total # of queries = 19
* Total # of greenlighted queries = 19
* Total # of actual new submissions = 18
* Total # of re-submissions from previous month(s) = 1
Disposition of submissions:
* Accepted = 3 (2 new/1 re-submission)
* Rejected = 10
* Held for second reading = 4
* Revisions requested from authors = 2
And in February:
* Accepted = 3
* Rejected = 15
* Held for second reading = 1
* Revisions requested from authors = 1
This was the first pro-pay (5 cents a word) anthology I've ever submitted to. Although it's cold comfort, I came close, and I have to remember that I didn't consider "Sire" to be a particularly good shot in the first place. I really got my hopes up when I was asked to revise, and although I made the piece stronger, it wasn't quite enough. While I'm not in the anthology, I do now have a story that is substantially better than it was in December. And even if it didn't make it into Unspeakable Horror, I think I've got a shot at placing it somewhere else.
Time to stop feeling sorry for myself and take a look at the markets again.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Mood: Not yet awake
Nine years ago, I interviewed San Francisco Bay Area dominatrix Mistress Selina Raven. It was an interesting experience, a little adventure into the world of kink that I didn't understand. That interview has become one of the most consistently-read articles on my website.
Well, Mistress Selina Raven was chosen by the San Francisco Bay Guardian as their Best Dang Dominatrix of 2007. That's pretty big: it's not like she's been awarded "Best Dominatrix in Pownal." There's a lot of kinky stuff in the Bay Area, and to be recognized for it indicates that she's really gotten somewhere in her profession. Her website (Not safe for Work!) is quite interesting, and her writing about what she does is very clear.
If you've consistently looked at dominance and submission in askance, I suggest a visit to her site. She lays out in pretty clear terms what she does and says a few words about the psychological underpinnings of it all.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Mood: Lord of the Bananas
Despite my complaining about it, the writing group really liked the story that I messed up my April to write. While I am pleased, I also hope that it won't take that sort of manic obsessiveness to make a good story every time.
I have subsequently increased my day goal from 1,000 words to 1,500 words. The difference is rather surprising—it has taken me only three days to get past the half-way mark with the story, and I've really only got two more days' work to get the first draft done. That's pretty fast, considering that I've been writing a story a month for the past four months.
The down side is that I'm really going to annoy my writing group, since we meet once every other week.
I appear in Privateer Press's No Quarter #18. My brother decided to take some clever pictures at Templecon, and I was part of the execution.
On Saturday, I also won my first bout against the teacher of my fencing class. I've been trying to do this for nearly four years, so I'm pretty pleased.
And I've just promised to go to a roller derby on May 31st with the estimable Dr. Paffenroth. It's the first (encounter? game?) of the season, the Hudson Valley Horrors vs the Lehigh Valley Rollergirls. I have virtually no idea how rollerball is played, and the last sports event I went to was during high school, but this looks like it won't be a night of the same-old, same-old.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
There are a number of writers who can come up with a couple of characters and bang them together and make a story. Just start on their story with no clue as to how it's going to end, where the story is going to take them, just strike out for unknown territory with one or two people for company.
I am not one of them. This is the first time I have started a story without a clear ending in mind. It was, in process, a disaster. As it stands, the story is some six thousand words. The file is about nine thousand words, which includes two starts to the story that didn't pan out, several wads of research and ideas that make up the background for the story, but did not actually make it into the story itself. That's about three days' worth of work that are not in the story.
This is not a comfortable way for me to write a story, and I'm not sure it's producing good work. Because I obsessed over the story, to the exclusion of virtually everything else. I'm behind on my blog (I've got a month's worth of blog ideas), I'm way behind on my personal correspondence, because I've been afraid to devote energy to something else. And when I get that intensely focussed, I don't turn out my best work because I stop new ideas to the story.
But I got the first draft done last night. First revision today, and it goes to the Roundtable tonight. Then, I think, it'll sit for a few days while I start a new story. One that I'm not going to obsess about so much.
Monday, April 14, 2008
5/11 Addendum: For those of you who do not know,Amber Benson played Tara on Buffy the Vampure Slayer. In my opinion, she was one of the best actresses on the show. Since Buffy, she has on to write a series of books with Chris Golden.
When John Everson posted that he was going to be signing with Amber Benson, I said that he should remove the preposition and go ahead and sign her. John mentioned this to Amber, and the thought the idea was funny. So she let him sign her. And here's the proof:
Friday, April 4, 2008
- In his entire life, John Goodrich will produce only a twelfth of a teaspoon of honey.
- Contrary to popular belief, John Goodrich is not successful at sobering up a drunk person, and in many cases he may actually increase the adverse effects of alcohol!
- A John Goodrichometer is used to measure John Goodrich.
- John Goodrich is the largest of Saturn's moons!
- Birds do not sleep in John Goodrich, though they may rest in him from time to time!
- Human beings are the only animals that copulate while facing John Goodrich!
- If you toss John Goodrich 10000 times, he will not land heads 5000 times, but more like 4950, because his head weighs more and thus ends up on the bottom!
- Twenty-eight percent of Microsoft's employees are John Goodrich.
- John Goodrich was declared extinct in 1902.
- John Goodrichology is the study of John Goodrich.
And thank God for #6!
Sunday, March 16, 2008
I have received the table of contents for the Cthulhu Unbound pair of anthologies from Permuted Press, as well mock-ups of the covers. I don't know when they'll be available (certainly not before Necon), but I can say I'm pleased to have gotten under the cover I prefer.
1) Noir-lathotep by Linda Donahue
2) The Invasion Out of Time by Trent Roman
3) James and the Dark Grimoire by Kevin Lauderdale
4) Hellstone and Brimfire by Doug Goodman
5) Star Crossed by Bennet Reilly
6) The Covenant by Kim Paffenroth
7) The Hindenburg Manifesto by Lee Clark Zumpe
8 ) In Our Darkest Hour by Steven Graham
9) Blood Bags and Tentacles by DL Snell
10) Bubba Cthulhu's Last Stand by Lisa Hilton
11) Turf by Richard D. Moore
12) The Menagerie by Ben Thomas
13) The Patriot by John Goodrich
14) The Shadow over Las Vegas by John Claude Smith
15) Locked Room by CJ Henderson
1) Passing Down by Inez Schaechterle
2) The Tenants of Ladywell Manor by Willie Meikle
3) The Hunters Within the Corners by Douglas P. Wojtowicz
4) Surely You Joust by Patrick Thomas
5) References in Cthonic, Eldritch, Roiling Creations are Recondite by Warren Tusk
6) New Fish by Kiwi Courters
7) Tomb on a Dead Moon by Tim Curran
8 ) The Long, Deep Dream by Peter Clines
9) Santiago Contra el Culto de Cthulhu by Mark Zirbel
10) Stomach Acid by David Conyers and Brian M. Sammons
11) Sleeping Monster Futures by Brandon Alspaugh
12) Nemo at R'lyeh by Joshua Reynolds
13) What's a Few Tentacles Among Friends? by Sheila Crosby
14) An Incident Occurring in the Huachuca Mountains, West of Tombstone by Gary Vehar
15) Abomination With Rice by Rhys Hughes
Thursday, March 13, 2008
In the wake of all the Gary Gygax tributes, it has occurred to me that many people have missed the man's ultimate legacy. Dungeons and Dragons took an antisocial demographic, the geek, and got them together for a social activity. Yes, most game groups were closed circles, but at least we were all talking. We laughed, we faced challenged in a team-building way, and we spent a lot of time interacting with each other.
This, really, is Gary Gygax's legacy. A generation of geeks and nerds who have a modicum of social ability, who can get together be social and polite, and gave us a common culture: role-playing games.
That's right. Gary Gygax united the geeks.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Friday, February 29, 2008
Early solutions to this observation were admittedly rickety. The pre-Julian Roman Calendar is as delightfully complex a calendar as you might find. Every other year, the short month of Intercalaris was inserted toward the end of a truncated February (most scholars agree) on a roughly alternating schedule as to whether Intercalaris was 23 or 24 days. Since the “standard” Roman year was 355 days, and the “special edition” year was 378 or 379, it averaged out reasonably well as long as someone paid close attention.
However, the office of the Pontifex Maximus, the most powerful priest in Rome, was in charge of a lot of things, including the calendar. Of course, if he was busy, say during a Civil War, or the Second Punic War, the Pontifex Maxiumus might not get around to properly assigning the year. Or it might be that the current Pontifex, an elected official, might want to assist his political cronies by making the transient month arrive sooner rather than later, extending their term in office.
Unsurprisingly, the calendar did not always work as simply as it seems in print. Julius Caesar, setting up reform and establishing the Julian calendar extended the year 46 BC to 445 days in order to bring the following year back into seasonal alignment. To do this, he inserted the usual Intercalaris in February, as well as another 23 days into November, and 22 more into December. After that, he established the familiar 365 day calendar with a leap year tacking an extra day onto February every four years.
In light of the Julian reform, the Roman Calendar looks cobbled together, but it was a calendar based on observation and constant attention. It worked as long as it was properly maintained. Like a lot of the side-projects of the high and mighty, time and attention were a problem. What Julius “Shakespeare wrote a play about me” Caesar did was to simplify the calendar so that anyone who knew the leap-year rule could make their own calendar, rather having it issue from a specific office every year.
And the Julian calendar worked pretty well for fifteen hundred years, but it hadn’t been worked out to enough decimal places to be eternal. In 1582, the Gregorian calendar (named for Pope Gregory XIII), instituted a new refinement. The Julian calendar declared that all years divisible by 4 were leap years. The Gregorian rule is a bit more complex, stating that every year that is divisible by four is a leap year, except for years divisible by 100. Centuries that are divisible by 400 are leap years. Thus 1600 was a Gregorian leap year, while 1800 was not. However, because the Julian calendar was now some ten days off meeting solar equinox with calendar equinox, ten days would have to be lopped off the current year of any country that adopted the Gregorian calendar.
And of course, European countries wanted to display their allegiance or defiance of the Pope and his newfangled calendar. So there is a lag of some 300 years during which Western Europe slowly converted to the Gregorian calendar. The Orthodox church still hasn’t, which is why Eastern Orthodox holidays are celebrated some twelve or thirteen days after Catholic and Protestant ones.
The delay among countries adopting the Gregorian calendar has resulted in some interesting quirks of calendary. For real giddy fun, consider that Shakespeare and Cervantes died on the same date (April 23, 1616), even though Cervantes predeceased Shakespeare by ten days. Spain was using the Gregorian calendar at that time, while Britain was using Julian.
So the apparent simplicity of the additional day of February that makes little impression on you has been the result of a lot of hard work, finagling, and political chicanery. There is absolutely nothing sinister about this. Unless you count in the fact that Feb 29 is Tim Powers’ birthday, which makes it just a touch suspicious.
Happy birthday, Tim.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
I took Saturday and went to Boskone 45, Boston's largest and primarolty literary SF convention. There I met several Neconites and using information gleaned from them, crashed the New England Horror Writers' dinner. And I met (OK, met and remembered, because I've apparently met Jack before) Jack Haringa, who is cool, classy, a great conversationalist, and a also an appreciator of Muppets, Nick "I don't have to write, I'm a Stoker-Nominated author!" Kaufmann, Paul G. Tremblay, F. Brett Cox, who , it turns out, works at the same university my father used to, Lon Prater, and of course Nick Mamatas. I did a lot of networking, at least as far as I could shout down the table.
I'm interested in following the development of the latest horror award, the Shirley Jackson Awards, and not just because I've been to her house. Jackson is, however, the origin of the myth that we stone people to death in Bennington. This is a dirty lie—Jackson lived in North Bennington.
The collaboration between David Conyers and I has been sent off to the editor. I think it came out rather well, and am hoping that it gets into the anthology.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Dissecting Hannibal Lecter has come out, with my essay "Hannibal at the Lectern: A Textual Analysis of Dr. Hannibal Lecter's Character and Motivations in Thomas Harris's Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs"
Thomas Harris's star was waned some since the enormous success of the book and film versions of Silence of the Lambs. But his signature character of cannibalistic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter remains a fascinating one. Norman Bates is his father, Patrick Bateman and Dexter Morgan his literary descendants. But for me, it seemed that many people missed the point of Lecter. Consider this exchange from Silence of the Lambs, p. 277:
"What does he do, this man you want?"
"He kills —"
Ah &mdash" [Dr. Lecter] said sharply, averting his face for a moment from her wrongheadedness. "That's incidental. What is the first and principal thing he does, what need does he serve by killing?"
Lecter applies this reasoning to Buffalo Bill, but what if we apply it to the good doctor?
There are also magnificent essays by ST Joshi, Davide Mana, Peter Messent, Philip Simpson, Robert Waugh, as well as editor Benjamin Szumskyj.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Havin' fun playin wiv mah bruvva
I had a good time playing with my brother at Templecon, a large east coast Warmachine convention. I didn't win any prizes, because my style of play, which is to not commit fully until the enemy makes a mistake then pounce on him, really isn't as consistently effective as having an well thought-out plan.
And I still have that competitive edge that makes losing a too-personal experience for me. I get that uncomfortable feeling in my stomach, and the face-too-tight sensation when I watch my opponent really gain the upper hand in a match. Although after six months of play, this has eased off a bit. I doubt it will ever actually stop bothering me, but I think repeated defeat in public will continue to erode that humiliating feeling of utter failure when I am beaten.
The games had many interesting moments, the most visual of which is below. My Iron Lich Asphyxious (in black) fighting a Seraph (in blue and orange) on a tall rocky pinnacle. Asphyxious did not actually kill the Seraph; he severely hurt it and threw it off the tower. It was the Slayer jack (at bottom right) that struck the killing blow.
Outside of the game itself, I'm enjoying painting Warmachine models (you can see some on my website). It takes a bit less talent than I had originally feared. And it's a good rest when I'm brain-tired from writing.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
I have so much stuff on my mental to-do list that I had to write it down in order to keep it straight. And nothing says "This will make a great blog post" like a list. The sad thing is that I'm probably reference this post as a to-do list for a couple of months. Here's what I have to do, as of 1/22/2008:
• "Raw, New Things." This is my newsletter to the Esoteric Order of Dagon in which I review recent anthologies of Mythos short stories or novels. ~4,000 words. Done 1/24.
• Tart up the Necromancer for Hire query letter. Which also includes a day trip to the library to find more literary agents who are amenable to fantasy submissions, as well as fantasy publishers who take unsolicited manuscripts.
• Think up a better title (Are you there, Shakespeare? It's me, John) for the revision of "Sire" that I sweated over during most of January. Revise one more time and then send.
• Complete and then revise collaborative story with David Conyers.
• Revise "Death of the American Family Farm" and submit it to Space and Time magazine.
• Write two stories for anthologies I've been invited into: A CSI Arkham story (and necessary research into police procedure and crime scene investigation), and one concerning anthropologists, and Greenland's Dorset culture.
• Write story and submit it to Mythos Books' Cthulhu 2012 anthology.
• Write questions to ask authors who were influenced by Robert Bloch, then write article on Robert Bloch's influence as a literary mentor.
• I have not updated the Ultimate Hellblazer Index in six months.
• Other stories that need to be written: "God of Chickens", "Almost Human", "Rather Short for an Angel", "A Certain Society of Concerned Citizens", "Captain Scar", "Beanie Babies", "Darwin's Cosh", "The Secret History of Earth", and "The Whiskey Tango File".
• And at some point, I want to take six months and write a horror novel, Hag.
• I owe a lot of people email.
My non-work, non-writing schedule for February looks like this:
Feb 1-3: Templecon. I spent the 26th painting up my bane knights so my Warmachine forces will look good on the table. I will not have time to paint and assemble my harrower.
Feb 10: A "Write Your Own Valentine" get-together with the SouthShire Roundtable.
Feb 15-17: Boskone. To add insult to injury, I am not the Guest of Honor, although the mass slaying of peeps could possibly make up for this.
Feb 19-21 I am having my niece and nephew over during Winter break. This begs the question of how the hell am I going to keep them from being bored? I think I could park Redhead Reader in front of the bookshelf and she'd be happy, but doing that for three entire days would be irresponsible. Her brother, Redhead Runner, I have even less clue about.
So hello to all of you out there! I am not dead, incapacitated, or bored! I love you all and can I start referring to you as my fandom?