July 25, 2014
It’s been kind of a strange summer, work wise. I don’t have a big novel deadline pending, so intellectually, I haven’t felt like I’ve been working all that hard. But yesterday I got a big fat project (an in-depth critique) off my desk, and my sense of relief and closure was immediate. I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was like, fruity drink and dance party on the patio time. Then I thought, “Well, I did work pretty hard this week to get things done. And last week, too. And before that was this other project. Not to mention a couple of conventions in there, and guest lecturing at a teen writing workshop. Two sets of galleys, a big revision, the graphic novel was due. . . Gosh, when was the last time I wasn’t working hard? Memorial Day weekend? Oh…”
So yeah, I realized I’ve been going hard since Memorial Day weekend, but since it was all “little” projects I didn’t notice. But when that weight came off — that, I noticed. Weird how that works.
I’ve got one more little job, then all I really need to worry about is getting ready for Loncon and Shamrokon. I’m really excited! Need to get out my travel books and figure out some sightseeing stuff. Oh — and I’ve started writing a new novel, which is super fun. I really love that I’ve been a professional novelist for ten years now and I still get excited about writing.
In other news, I now know how automatic garage door openers work. Anyone want an old broken garage door opener?
In more other news: my tickets for Guardians of the Galaxy next Friday are in hand. Just one. . .more. . .week. I’m on spoiler lockdown — there’s already too much out there and I don’t want to know until I see the thing for myself.
And I wrote a poem this week:
This is just to say
I have thrown out
that were in
you were probably
they might be
and I don’t want
you to die.
July 23, 2014
Harry and Marlowe Versus the Haunted Locomotive of the Rockies is now live on Lightspeed! The entire issue is available for purchase as well. This is the fifth Harry and Marlowe story. A sixth is on the way. The series continues apace!
I have another new story available. This may take some explaining. You might have heard of Amazon’s Kindle Worlds program. Essentially, officially sanctioned and licensed fanfiction. It turns out, G.I. Joe is one of the franchises involved with this. Several astute readers brought this to my attention. Then a couple of months ago, WordFire Press came to me with a proposal that began, “So, we hear you’re a fan of G.I. Joe.”
You can probably guess where this is going.
Behold: G.I. Joe: Luck Be a Lady. A story by me.
So that exists now. It was a lot of fun to do. My guiding principle: I wanted it to feel exactly like an episode of the cartoon, with everything that entails, but with commentary. There are easter eggs. The unexpected thing I discovered: The Baroness is an absolute hoot to write. I had so much fun with her point of view. Because you see, she isn’t really loyal to Cobra. She actually doesn’t give much of a rat’s ass about Cobra, or Cobra Commander, or world domination. She just wants to see everything burn. She wants to create havoc and destruction. Cobra lets her do that more than anything else does, so she sticks around. But I’m talking 100% chaotic evil — in a PG universe. And that’s crazy. I just love it.
July 21, 2014
I cry a lot while watching movies and reading books and looking at art and. . .well, I cry a lot. It doesn’t even have to be sad, it just has to be beautiful. If something is beautiful, emotional, and hits me right in that vague spot where my sense of wonder and heart live, I’m going to cry. The opening credits of Lilo and Stitch, for example, make me cry. I’ve been thinking a lot about how that works this week, because of a couple of things.
During my trip, my connecting flight out of Chicago Midway was delayed, and I was kind of miserable. The airport was super crowded, loud, uncomfortable, and for whatever reason I just didn’t have the reserves of willpower to deal with it. So I thought, “I’ll hide in a corner and read my favorite comic books.” (I have like 50+ comics on my iPad at this point.) So I picked a random issue of Planetary, which I suspect is going to be my favorite comic for the rest of my life unless something really amazing comes along. I only got about four pages in before I had to stop because I was crying. Part of it was I was already kind of emotional and upset. And part of it was I just love this book so much, and being with these characters made me so happy, I couldn’t contain myself. It was this specific scene that tipped me over:
Elijah: We keep angels here.
Jakita: I don’t like that I didn’t know about this, Elijah.
Elijah: I know.
– Planetary, #19, Warren Ellis.
There’s a ton of characterization in these lines. When Elijah says, “I know,” he isn’t being snippy or confrontational. He’s sad. He’s made mistakes and he’s trying to amend them — he didn’t tell her about the angels before, but he’s telling her now. Because of how much he cares about her. They’re a team. And I started crying because I love these characters so much. (That thing I talked about last week, about how tired I am of stories where people in dire circumstances are constantly being horrible to each other? Planetary is the exact opposite of that. It’s about unironically saving the world.)
Objectively there was no reason that scene should have tipped me over. I’ve probably read it a half a dozen times before without crying. But this time — yeah, it got me.
Then I went to see Jersey Boys, because sometimes I do go see movies that aren’t science fiction, and I grew up listening to The Four Seasons because that’s the kind of music my parents listened to, and I just adore their music. So this one? It starts, the screen is dark, and an instrumental version of “Oh What a Night” plays as the opening credits starts. And not two bars in I started crying.
(Aside: I really enjoyed Jersey Boys, both because of the music and because I was sitting next to my full-blooded Italian friend who completely and utterly lost it from laughing during one scene that he said happened pretty much exactly like that during his own childhood. Indeed, I was impressed at how many people in the movie talk just like the people in his stories about growing up.)
So, for me, this emotional jugular, this thing that makes me instantly cry after just two bars of music or two lines of dialog, is as much about memory as about story or mood or wonder or greatness. It’s something that makes me happy, something that I remember making me happy. It’s a cozy blanket for the brain, and I love that.
July 18, 2014
I had a good time at Shared Worlds, and my presentation seemed to go over well. This is the sort of workshop/camp I’d have loved to do as a teenager — two weeks of living and breathing creativity. So cool.
Now I have the inevitable mountain of email to dig out of it. But there’s some good stuff coming up. I’ll tell you all about it when I can. In the meantime, I’m going to take it easy this weekend and noodle around until the next big travel push, coming up in a few weeks.
Happy Friday, everybody!
July 16, 2014
I’m in South Carolina today! Teaching at the Shared Worlds writing workshop for teens. This evening, I’ll be at the Hub City Bookshop in Spartanburg, at 7 pm, reading and signing. I think I’ll pick a short story to read from, just for fun.
In other news, I finished the revision of the next Kitty novel and turned it in before I left. Woooooo!
July 14, 2014
Given how much I hated Rise of the Planet of the Apes, there was no chance in hell I’d go see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, despite the good reviews it’s getting. Good thing there’s another limited release under-the-radar science fiction flick out for me to go see instead.
This is the kind of hype Snowpiercer is getting: on The Mary Sue: “Review: Run, Don’t Walk, to See Snowpiercer, The Best Sci-Fi Film of the Decade So Far.” My Facebook news feed has had people raving about this. I confess to feeling raised expectations. Well…
This movie is not that good.
Science fiction has a long and glorious tradition of using the trappings of the genre to build up metaphor and allegory and commentary. Such tales work best when a) the story is rock solid, and b) the metaphor is consistent. (Like Edge of Tomorrow, to the shock and wonder of us all!) I was willing to give Snowpiercer a pass on logic (seriously, the economy of this thing made no sense), if it could give me something else — cleverness, consistency, sense o’ wonder. Alas, it wasn’t quite there.
First, it starts really slow. The page six problem — skip the opening scroll, skip the long meandering opening, and start when Claude enters to take away the two children. Next scene, the movie totally lit up when Tilda Swinton’s character walked in — thank God for Tilda Swinton! She very nearly saved the thing herself just by chewing all the scenery. And the movie got a whole lot better for awhile and I had great hopes that it was going to keep getting better. But then we get to that last forty five minutes, and it kinda fell apart.
I loved the set up. A globe-circling train carrying the last of humanity through an artificial ice age? Sold! All we had to do was get from the back of the train to the front. The tension ought to be built in. But the movie pretty much offered the same solution to every obstacle, and that solution wasn’t clever, it was violent. It got old quick.
It has some nice moments. It has some clever (the cigarette scene was great). It has a great aesthetic — reminiscent of Terry Gilliam, as the aforementioned reviewer said. (One of the characters is even named Gilliam! Is that an accident? Probably not!) Those scenes were lovely. But. But but but. There wasn’t enough surreal/absurd — it needed more Gilliam-esque — in story beats as well as aesthetic — and it needed to be consistent. But when Snowpiercer didn’t do clever, it fell back on cliches. I kept thinking…Gilliam would have been able to pull this off. (Fortunately, we have a Gilliam movie coming out later this year! Huzzah!)
(I have a rant about how for being a 99% v. 1% metaphor the movie has no grasp of Marxist theory and it really should, but we’ll skip that one.)
I kept waiting for a clever twist that never happened. Why do I keep expecting movies to be clever, dammit?
This is also yet another movie that posits that in dire circumstances, everybody will be totally horrible to each other in really horrible ways. All the previews before this? Movies about how in dire circumstances, everybody will be totally horrible to each other in really horrible ways. I’ve about had enough of this bullshit, y’all. I’m going to go watch Big Fish, which is free On Demand right now.
July 11, 2014
So I was thinking about CA: The Winter Soldier and how really really nice it was to see a big tentpole action superhero flick with a man and woman lead, working together, with absolutely no romantic involvement, or hint of one, or suggestion that there ought to be one. Steve and Natasha are friends, or become friends, and are totally professional. I think that’s just great.
Then I remembered the Necklace. THAT NECKLACE.
The necklace was definitely supposed to remind us about Hawkeye, and that Black Widow and Hawkeye might be an item. Was the necklace there expressly to tell the audience that Steve and Natasha won’t be romantically involved because she’s already “taken?”
On the one hand, this is a nice, subtle bit of signalling — much nicer than some ham-handed on-the-nose conversation would have been. On the other hand — is that kind of signalling even necessary? Is the only way to keep the audience from thinking that Steve and Natasha won’t hook up is to tell them that she’s already taken? Like they can’t just be friends? Like Clint has to frakking mark his territory or something? Argh!
Or am I reading too much into the whole thing?