August 2, 2014
I’ve never seen anything like this.
I mean, I have. This is the ragtag group of misfits on the run who must come together and learn to trust each other in order to defeat bad guys who want to destroy the world. That, I’ve seen. But never with a CGI raccoon person that was so good I forgot he was CGI. And with gorgeous spaceships in a beautiful four-color space opera world. And that’s genuinely a comedy. With an amazing classic 70’s soundtrack that was totally appropriate. (And to think, when the 1980 Flash Gordon came out, people laughed at the idea that you could have a 70’s pop soundtrack on a space opera. They’re not laughing now. I mean, they are, but they’re supposed to be.) The whole thing cohered.
And though I’ve never seen anything quite like this, it kept reminding me of other things.
For a few years after Star Wars was first released, a lot of people tried to hop on that train, because of course they did. Unfortunately, none of those efforts had Lucasfilm’s proprietary special effects processes, meticulous production design, charming cast, earnestness, or ability to become a genuine cultural phenomenon. The Star Wars-wannabe I always think of as being a prime example of this is Battle Beyond the Stars, produced by the legendary Roger Corman. Go on, go watch the trailer, so you can understand just what we’ve had to put up with if we wanted to watch space opera.
So yeah, I’m watching Guardians and weirdly thinking about Battle Beyond the Stars, because of course Guardians is the movie all those Star Wars knock-offs wished they could be.
The other movie this brought to mind, mentioned by one of my friends, is The Last Starfighter. Because Guardians made us feel like The Last Starfighter did when we were all teenagers or almost teenagers and really wanted to go have an adventure that meant something.
While Guardians made me think of all those other things, it still isn’t quite like anything I’ve ever seen before. Which is so cool. And you know my developing rant about how we’re all starved for earnest and optimistic stories where people come together and save things unironically? This. This this this. Right here. They just went for it, and it’s great. This movie is a throwback, in the best possible way, which makes the 70’s soundtrack even more thematically appropriate.
You know what this movie didn‘t have? An opening scroll and/or voiceover. SEE, SPACE MOVIES, YOU DON’T NEED AN OPENING SCROLL AND VOICEOVER OR LONG EXPOSITORY INFODUMPS. YOU JUST DON’T.
Easter Eggy Review:
The epilog/first pre-credits bit: This may be the happiest, most joyful scene in a movie I’ve ever seen in my life. Even now I think of it and smile. This will make me smile forever.
Post-credit Easter Egg: Marvel Studios says, “You thought you were going to get an Avengers 2 teaser here, didn’t you? Hahahahahahahahahahahaha!” Followed by everyone leaving the theater muttering, “Dear God, please tell us they aren’t actually going to be making a movie of that.“
Ten movies into this cycle/saga, and Marvel Studios can still surprise us. I love it.
August 1, 2014
So, it turns out that werewolf beer is a thing. At least, on several occasions now I have been gifted with werewolf-themed beer, like this Newcastle Werewolf. Alas, for all that I am a fan of drinking, I am not at all a beer drinker. Like, at all. So it’s made me a bit sad that I keep getting werewolf beer, but there doesn’t seem to be any werewolf wine available.
And then I got this:
I decided that yes, The Big Bad Red Blend fairy-tale themed wine was totally close enough. I mean, it’s got a wolf on the label. Even if it isn’t a full moon. (Verdict: totally acceptable inexpensive drinking wines. But I’m the person who says there are two kinds of wine: the stuff that’s gone bad and the stuff that hasn’t. So I may not be the best judge.)
EXTRA NOTE: I’ll be going to see Guardians of the Galaxy tonight. I may post my review early rather than waiting until Monday, so stay tuned.
July 30, 2014
Turns out I’m not the only one going through a belongings purge and cleaning out the boxes from the basement and so forth. My parents are cleaning out, too, which means the last few times they’ve been to my house, they’ve brought. . . boxes. Of. . .stuff. They say, “This is yours now,” and leave me to deal with it. It’s hardly fair, as this has given me even more to clean out than I planned on. My strategy is to not even let these boxes get to the basement. Go through them immediately, throw stuff out, send them to the thrift store. I’ve done pretty well so far. Most of it has been toys I didn’t even remember we had, leading to the oft repeated phrase, “Why did we even keep this?” Answer: They got put in a box twenty years ago and no one looked at them until now. And I can’t just throw away the boxes, because I’ve also discovered true treasures, like old Muppets toys, that I will not get rid of.
Then one of the boxes turned out to be filled with art projects. My art projects, from when I was a wee small one. Seems I took a pottery class when I was probably in second or third grade. I made a lot of. . .stuff in that class.
What do you do with this kind of thing? I actually remember making most of it. I just hadn’t thought about it in thirty years. And Mom saved it all.
I think the assignment on this one was making 3-D maps of an imaginary place. We built up a mold of rocks and newspaper and things to make contours. I actually kind of like it, but it’s huge, like the size of a small watermelon.
This was supposed to be a self portrait. We will speak no more of it.
Another bust, done a few years later for a different class. I kind of like this one. I’ll probably end up putting it in one of the herb planter boxes for decoration, and to scare off bugs.
Seriously, guys, there was a whole box of this stuff. Art, you know? Not good art, but still. It felt really weird when I took a hammer to most of it. That’s right, except for a couple of little pieces I saved, I smashed the whole box into little pieces, which then went into the bottom of flower pots and planters during my last round of gardening. So, recycling, which felt pretty good. Still, it was weird destroying art.
But I think it’ll all be happier providing drainage for flowerpots.
July 28, 2014
If I had a nickle for every time someone asked me this weekend why I wasn’t at San Diego Comic Con… I would have a lot of nickles.
I suspect I’ll get back to SDCC at some point. I even missed it a little this year. But it’s seriously not a convention I can do every single year. It’s expensive (I’ve paid my own way there both times I’ve gone, my publisher or the convention didn’t), the logistics are nightmarish (even pro badges are limited these days and require applications and a little luck, and then there’s getting a decent hotel room), and it’s exhausting (so…much…walking). It’s especially exhausting for me because I’m not happy just doing my writer panels and signings and calling it a day. I also try to hit panels and walk the exhibit floor because there’s no way I’m going to the middle of that much geekdom and not take part. This ends up making it doubly exhausting. So yeah, it’s a great convention, kudos to the people who do it every year. But I’m happy making it an every few years pilgrimage.
And I’m thinking it’s time I get back to Dragon Con, which I’ve only been to once. We’ll see what next year holds.
I’m still sorting out my desk after the last few weeks of heavy lifting. I got to go to an SCA camping event this weekend which was a very nice break. Now, I must figure out where I left my brain. For today’s mental health break, have a picture from a trip a couple of years ago, the Roman arena at Pula, Croatia:
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.