What did I do this summer? I got two new Cormac and Amelia novellas ready to go, y’all! We’ve got ghosts and blizzards and folk singers and murder and cryptid hunters and mermaids in landlocked Colorado. Whew!

FATAL STORM is out in November, CHARMED WATERS in December. Kindle and Nook pre-order links are here:

Fatal Storm:

Kindle

Nook

Charmed Waters:

Kindle

Nook

operation enjoy fall

September 13, 2021

Did something a little different this Monday morning.

This is Union Reservoir, with Longs Peak on the horizon ahead of me.

It was a little windy and wavy for comfort, but it still felt GREAT being on the water. Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve been scuba diving? Too long.

But this is a nice way to get some sun and water until I can pull out my wetsuit again.

almost autumn

September 10, 2021

The talk in my neck of the woods is all about how, while it’s still really hot during the day, the mornings have turned cool, and the leaves are starting to go yellow. That first taste of autumn is here. Over the last few weeks of birding, I’ve noticed that the red-wing blackbirds and grackles are gone, migrated. So are the warblers. But the mergansers and buffleheads will probably be showing up soon.

I’m not an autumn fangirl like some people, but I think I’m looking forward to it this year. This summer was frantic and fraught. All those things we said we were going to cram into this summer because we missed out on them last year… and it was okay. It was all okay.

But this year, I think I’m looking forward to that shift, that transition, that happens when the temperature drops. It’s time to catch my breath.

My next event is MileHi Con, happening a bit early this year, October 1-3. This’ll be quite a bit different than Marcon for me, because it’s local, familiar, because I know so many people. But it’s at a new hotel, in the post-pandemic world, so it will also be different. I’m expecting some pretty profound culture shock.

I’ll bring a costume or two. That’ll make me feel better.

travel

September 7, 2021

This past weekend was my first time on an airplane and at a convention in two years — and it went fine! I had a lot of anxiety the day before — did I even remember how to travel? Did you know you can check in for flights online?! But the flights all went smoothly, and I even managed plane changes in the Atlanta airport with less than an hour for layovers each time. Absolutely the smoothest layovers I’ve ever had at that freaking airport. Car park and pickup also went fine. Managed regular meals. So yeah, I guess I still got it.

There’s a strangeness to all of this — yes, everybody wear masks and keep your distance, and now we’re going to pack you in shoulder-to-shoulder on the plane, and here’s beverage service and everyone will now remove their masks to drink! I keep telling myself it’s a numbers game — reducing risk, reducing odds. Out in public, we’re never going to be 100% safe. So if we want to do this out in public thing, we have to mitigate to some degree. But it’s not perfect. Vaccines increase the odds in our favor.

Of course it would help if our vaccination numbers were higher. I’m isolating at home for a bit to make sure I didn’t bring anything back with me.

Marcon in Ohio was a good convention to come back to. Masks required, everyone was friendly and helpful. Small and cozy, no crowds or lines. I got a chance to chat with folks and also hang out with Tobias Buckell, a writer friend of mine from way back, and meet artist Sara Felix. Signed a lot of books and bookplates.

I admit, I felt a bit ambivalent about the whole thing. Traveling still feels risky. But then I’ve been seeing pictures on social media of people going to packed stadiums and concerts where no one’s wearing masks and I suddenly feel a lot better about the risks I took. I’m not ready for big crowds yet, I don’t think.

For a lot of this year I’ve been doing that thing where I don’t want to watch new things, I want to watch old comfortable predictable things. But this weekend I blew through a bunch of stuff I’ve been meaning to watch for literally years. I’ve been avoiding them because I knew they would make me cry, and they did, but at least I can talk about them now.

Bill and Ted Face the Music

Okay, I know this isn’t a biopic. Well, it’s a fictional biopic. It’s still about music and musicians, anyway. Basically, this is a movie about how Gen X is hoping like hell that Gen Z saves our asses. This is a movie about how we very much believe they will.


Bohemian Rhapsody

Not totally satisfying. It’s quite disjointed, mostly made up of episodic vignettes about how Queen came up with their iconic songs, alongside Freddie Mercury’s trials and travails.  But the Live Aid recreation is just as phenomenal as everyone said it was. My favorite thing about that sequence is how much time the camera spends on the faces of the other band members, plainly showing their love for Freddie, but also their deep concern, and their wonder, which all contribute to this sense of something epic unfolding. I love ensembles, and this was a good scene for an ensemble.


Rocketman

The best of the bunch. It’s set up as an actual musical, which meant the film could be surreal as well as deeply emotional, and it felt like it had an arc. I adored how the background music riffed on “Yellow Brick Road” throughout, but when it came time to actually sing the lyrics, it was Bernie who sang the song, not Elton John.

Analysis

Both movies still kept to the rock star biopic formula:  extraordinary rock star plummets into drug and alcohol use and self loathing, alienating the people who really care about him while being manipulated by an evil mercenary lover, who must be repudiated before the star can reunite with his true self and friends. And/or he dies. (I’m so deeply glad I ended this series with Rocketman, where Elton is still alive and happy and successful. It’s ultimately an uplifting film, which these movies often aren’t.) What is it with rock stars and these stories that we’re so willing to watch over and over and over and over and over again? It’s some kind of twisted modern version of the Hero’s Journey. We love these movies because we love the people/characters they depict, but there’s a sameness to the story that I find frustrating.

Also: these two films are structured exactly the same.  Both films begin at the climactic moment. Just dipping in. Just a hint, a scene of the star marching to his destiny, full of his own aura. In Freddie’s case, to the Live Aid Concert, in Elton’s, to rehab. Then, the rewind. Going back to the start, so we can follow the path all the way out and then end up at the climactic moment in order, now with the context fully laid out.

This is so interesting to me. Different approaches in terms of presenting the content, but the structure is the same. I think Rocketman is more successful because it goes on to use rehab as a frame story in which to tell Elton’s history, which gives the movie a lot of cohesion.

Big Mood

Me spinning up Bohemian Rhapsody:  Ugh, I know I’m just going to sob my head off if they play “Somebody to Love.” (Film begins with that song) uuuuuuggghhhhhh.


Me spinning up Rocketman the following night:  Ugh, I know I’m just going sob my head off if they play “Yellow Brick Road.” (Film begins with instrumental riff of that song) GODDAMMIT

state of the week

August 24, 2021

Guess who finally had to get a Covid test after avoiding it for 18 months? That’s right, it’s me! Bit of a scare, but the test came back negative and it turns out I’ve got something going on with my sinuses instead. But that was a really not fun couple of days there. Whew.

Mask up, folks. Get the vax if you’re able.

In happier news, I’ve got some stuff coming up! On August 31, I’ll be having a virtual chat with author Brian Naslund, and we’ll be talking books and writing and all that good stuff.

Sign up at this Eventbrite link.

Bubonicon!

August 18, 2021

I don’t think I had this on any of my schedules because I’m still really out of practice with this whole self-promotion thing, but I’m participating in Virtual Bubonicon this weekend. We’ll be doing some panels and other events on Facebook and YouTube on Friday and Saturday, so check it out!

And in just a couple of weeks is in-person Marcon.

I’ll get back into the swing of things at some point…maybe…

Snake Eyes

August 16, 2021

I did it, I went to another movie in the theater! This go-around, we timed it right and had the theater to ourselves–probably because no one else wants to see this one. Which is too bad, because it was great.

Please be advised that by “great” I don’t mean “this was a good movie,” because it’s kind of not. But I did enjoy it a lot, and while it followed G.I. Joe canon about as well as the previous two live-action movies did, which is to say, not at all, it still captured a lot of the tone and spirit of G.I. Joe — depending on which iteration of G.I. Joe you’re talking about, of course. (It’s all far too complicated, really.)

In this, the iteration is that stretch in the early ’90’s where the comics became obsessed with ninja and suddenly everything was all ninja and Cobra Commander’s son was a ninja and Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow are friends but then they’re not but then they are again and —

This is the stretch where I stopped reading the comics, BTW. I actually kind of hate ninjas.

So how does the movie pull it off? By replicating the aesthetic of all those crazy ninja movies from the 80’s. I’m not sure people now realize just how many ninja movies there were in the 80’s. There were a lot. A lot. And this film lovingly recreates a bunch of those tropes with modern visual sensibilities, including way too much shaky cam, but I’ve pretty much given up the shaky cam fight. Sigh.

My big worry going into this is it would try to pretend like it wasn’t a G.I. Joe movie at all. I shouldn’t have, because about halfway through, Scarlett and the Baroness show up, and so do snake head logos stenciled on crates of illegal guns, and it’s definitely a G.I. Joe movie as well as being a recreation of an 80’s ninja movie and seriously, what’s not to love? This film is what it is, knows what it is, and gets the job done.

And I now ship Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow so hard, and I challenge anyone who sees this not to do the same. The nice thing about having the theater to ourselves is I could basically shout “Just kiss him already!” at the screen several times without bothering anyone but my long-suffering friends. (So, I just looked up Henry Golding, the actor who plays Snake Eyes, because I’d never seen him in anything and it turns out he’s primarily done romcoms? This explains much.)

I also sort of ship Scarlett and the Baroness now too? So weird.

Other things to know: This film pretends like the previous two live-action G.I. Joe movies don’t exist, which is probably for the best, and I guess we’re just going to keep rebooting these until one of them hits, but I’m suspecting the fandom just isn’t big enough to make one of these hit. I’m thinking now live-action G.I. Joe should be a TV series that can develop multiple characters at once and play with storylines that aren’t McGuffin-driven.

This film passes the Bechdel Test. I know, right?!

Ninja Grandma. Just sayin’.

state of the desk

August 12, 2021

This week:

I went on a glorious hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. Almost got above the wildfire haze, but not quite. But I got to work a little bit on my mini-project of sketching wildflowers. That’s right, I’m trying to learn drawing. At least a little.

I wrote a lot.

I hosted taco night for my friends and managed to dirty nearly every single dish in my kitchen, which always seems like either an epic cooking acomplishment or epic failure, I can never tell which.

My Nomi Sunrider cosplay is coming along nicely.

And I’m waiting. This part really sucks. I had one of my manic phases where I finished a bunch of stories and things and sent them all out at once and now I’m waiting to hear back.

And waiting.

Argh.

Nothing for it but to start on the next thing as a distraction.

The Green Knight

August 9, 2021

Seventeen months, almost to the day, since my last time in a movie theater, I finally made it back. How was it? Well, I rented out a whole theater along with 15 friends, all vaxxed, which made it economical and relatively safe and a whole lot of fun.

And I’m very, very glad this is the film I went back for. It’s gorgeous, haunting, strange, arresting, with an immersive soundtrack that’s half traditional song and half weird ambient. All great. If you have a chance to safely see this on the big screen, it’s worth it.

This is based on the 14th century English poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” which is my very favorite piece of medieval literature. I spent a whole semester in grad school on this poem, so I wasn’t going to miss the movie. So, how was it?

I have to tell you, this is a really great adaptation, faithful to both the plot, content, and tone of the original. Whoever would have thought?

The best medieval literature hits this intersection of pagan folklore, Christian theology, and classical aesthetic. The world of the medieval story is full of signs and wonders that must be taken for what they are, but also represent much more:  God and truth and faith and love and sex and honor. I think “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” hits that intersection better than just about anything, and the film does too.

The film gets all the iconic moments just right. The Green Knight’s entry into Arthur’s hall, the beheading and aftermath—absolutely perfect. The arrival at the castle by the Green Chapel and the dubious shenanigans there—also just about perfect. This is one of those cases where I’m sitting in the theater thinking, are they actually doing this? Are they going to go there? Please don’t pull the punch, don’t pull the punch…. The film goes there and does not pull the punch. It’s spooky and weird and uncomfortable—just like the poem! It’s great!

One of the things I love about the poem is it’s a little bit subversive—it pushes back against a lot of Arthurian lore about chivalry and honor and larger-than-life everything. It’s a smaller story. A Christmas story. And its basic message is:  Look, kid, it’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to make mistakes. Maybe these chivalric ideals that are driving you aren’t realistic and don’t actually work all that well in the real world. Maybe step back and let yourself be human.

The movie gets most of that, giving us a flawed hero who gets in way over his head, but at the end he’s learned the lessons he was meant to and comes away understanding that heart and honesty are more important than external ideas about honor. The poem (I think, anyway) is affirming and uplifting. The film doesn’t quite get there but it gets close.

There’s a bit at the end where I almost checked out, where it took a turn into grimdark and tragedy and despair—but then I realized, this isn’t real. Gawain has been moving through liminal worlds full of signs and lessons, and this is one too. And we come back from that brink, ending with a Gawain who’s come out the other side a better person.

I also love that the movie doesn’t explain itself. I’ve gotten so used to movies where the characters all stand around explaining things to each other, and here’s a movie where nothing is explained, it all just happens, yet is clear and enthralling, and yes, more like this, please.

Almost from the start, this reminded me of The Seventh Seal, which is one of my favorite movies. Antonius and Gawain both move through haunted landscapes and encounter scenes that shock them, that they are helpless to influence. Or their influence seems so small they have to wonder if it’s even worthwhile. There’s little they can do but move on. These are films that use their modern artistic cinematic languages and sensibilities to immerse us in the strange dream worlds of their medieval milieus.

Watching both these movies feels like reading a medieval text, full of beauty and oddness and symbolism and meaning. They reward your attention.