Mesa Verde

October 20, 2020

From a hike I did at Mesa Verde National Park:

Capclave Online

October 15, 2020

This weekend is Virtual Capclave! I’m scheduled for panels, readings, and I’ll be hosing a book launch party for Kitty’s Mix-Tape! I’ll bring mimosas and donuts that I won’t be able to share, alas.

They’ve got special $10 online memberships available, so if you can stand one more virtual event, you might give it a try!

 

Last month, I went hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. One of the things I love about these outings is sometimes something magical happens. Like emerging from the woods to the shore of Bierstadt Lake and coming face-to-fact with… moose. One would have been memorable. Two was otherworldly.

Upcoming events

October 7, 2020

I have a few virtual events coming up:

This Friday, Kevin Hearne and I will be chatting about our new books, courtesy of the BookBar. Sign up for the Crowdcast event here.

October 17-18 is virtual Capclave. All the usual convention activities — panels, readings, etc. — but you don’t have to change out of your PJ’s! (I will probably go ahead and change out of my PJ’s.) I’ll also be hosting a release party for Kitty’s Mix Tape!

October 23-25 is virtual MileHi Con. Same deal! check it out!

Well, this month is turning out to be pretty busy!

 

so that Dune trailer…

October 5, 2020

I’m a couple weeks late — a couple centuries, actually, the way the viral news cycle runs on social media — but I wanted to talk about that trailer for the new Dune movie that everyone is so excited about.

I’m not that excited.

We’ve been down this road before, everyone losing their minds over a fantastic-looking trailer. And then a year later no one even talks about the movie anymore. We’ve been down this road before with Denis Villeneuve, even, and Blade Runner 2049, which in the final analysis was not a particularly good movie (my long review here) and pretty much no one talks about it anymore.

So here we are again, with a visually spectacular tease of a greatly anticipated movie based on a classic book that’s already been adapted for screen twice before.

One of the things that’s got me cranky is that I love the David Lynch movie. It’s weird and gonzo and fun and visually really interesting. Part of why so many people are so excited about this new version is there’s this idea that it will correct what’s wrong with the Lynch film and be a better adaptation of the book. This is where I really get people’s dander up by suggesting that maybe it’s the book that’s not that good and not particularly suited for adaptation. But okay, let’s see if we can get a more faithful adaptation.

Guys, the trailer looks just like the Lynch version. I mean, it’s modern production values and all but it’s a lot of the same scenes, a lot of the same framing of the same scenes… for something that’s supposed to be new and better, it sure feels familiar.

So, either this new one isn’t going to be any closer to the book than the Lynch version, or the Lynch version is closer to the book than people like to admit.

But I still want to see it and I’m still excited about Timothée Chalamet because casting a really good actor as Paul may be the one thing no one’s tried yet.

Meanwhile, I can name ten classic science fiction novels right off the top of my head that deserve screen adaptations that would make better movies than Dune. And we’re not getting them, and that makes me cranky. (The Stars My Destination, Dragonriders of Pern, The Left Hand of Darkness, Ringworld, Downbelow Station, Neuromancer, Wild Seed, Gateway, A Canticle for Leibowitz, Doomsday Book.)

 

 

state of the desk

September 29, 2020

One thing that’s happened over the summer is I’ve become a lot more relaxed about the blog. Sometimes I post, sometimes I don’t, and that’s okay.

I took a Sanity Roadtrip last week, and went camping in Mesa Verde National Park. Socially distant wilderness. Tore up my foot on a long-ass hike. It was great. Pics later once I’ve had a chance to go through them (of the park, not my injured foot). I wanted to clear my head a bit, and I think it worked. It was summer when I left and full autumn when I returned, which was strange and lovely and a bit exhilarating. Time to move forward, right? Lifer bird counted:  rock wren.

You may remember back in August I did a big organizational clearing of my desk, gathered up all the rough drafts I had accumulated, and worked out a plan to get things out the door. I think losing Lily did something to my brain space and switched on a manic phase. I just had to do something, you know? I’m not questioning it, I’m just trying to go with it.

Here’s the update: The five rough drafts became six rough drafts. The two short stories are revised and out the door — one of them sold the same day I submitted it, which sure felt great. The screenplay is rewritten. It needs more work so I’ve set it aside again, but it’s in better shape than it was. I’m now working on the novel — I’ve got all the notes, have a bunch of ideas, and now I’m reading through the manuscript. Next step will be the rewrite. Then I’ll revise the sixth story, because it’s due in November.

Making a plan to get all this done has made a big difference. I may not be moving fast right now but I’m moving.

 

Cobra Kai

September 21, 2020

I have watched the first two seasons of Cobra Kai, the thirty -years after the fact sequel to the iconic 80’s movie The Karate Kid.

I loved it. This surprised me, given my vocal suspicion of movies and TV shows that rely on nostalgia to generate audience interest, and this show is all nostalgia, to the point where if you haven’t seen The Karate Kid, there’s really no point to it. So what’s the difference? I think Cobra Kai takes that nostalgia a step further and actually deconstructs it, forcing a reassessment of the original thing. It’s a neat trick.

Remember that Trapper Keeper cameo that annoyed me in Stranger Things? There’s a Trapper Keeper reference in the last episode of the second season of Cobra Kai, and the teenager in the scene says, “I don’t know what that is.” Yes, the show is saying, we remember the 80’s. We even remember them fondly. But that was thirty years ago and your worldview needs to move on. Johnny has not moved on, and it makes him ridiculous. It’s aware of its references in a way that I didn’t think Stranger Things accomplished.

Within a couple of episodes it becomes clear:  Johnny is dumb, and Daniel is shallow. Johnny decided at some point that intelligence was the same as weakness and so avoided it. Daniel is focused on his image and all his reactions are based on how something will make him look. “Car salesman” is usually Hollywood shorthand for, if not the outright villain, then vanity and greed. What a bold move, making the previous hero of the franchise a car salesman. Now, it’s a little more complicated than that, of course. But still, this is one of those decisions I really admired in the show.

Necessarily, Cobra Kai asks you to go back to the original movie with this assessment. And it holds. Johnny is dumb, Daniel is shallow. (And yes, I’ve seen the YouTube analysis that claims that Daniel is the true bully of The Karate Kid. In fact, I know the guy who made it. I played accordion on a music track he used in a film school project. I sure hope he’s racking in the $ from all these new views. And holy cow Ralph Macchio and William Zabka look like freaking babies. I’m old.) These are two men who learned entirely the wrong lessons from their defining high school moment, and it’s kind of sad watching them flail. But also, they very much bring this on themselves.  The show is a judgment of cheesy 80’s ideals of heroism and depictions of villainy, and also teen movies in general. How often were 80’s heroes actually vain and selfish? And how often were the villains just dumb?

This show makes you go back and reassess every 80’s movie trope you thought you loved. It’s pure soap opera and very self aware. I laughed in every episode. There’s this knife edge between earnest and cheesiness, and the show frequently falls off on one side or the other. But I think that every moment is the result of intentional decisions. It’s really smart and really dumb at the same time, but since every dumb moment is so well thought out it swings back around into smart.

There’s a sequel to Top Gun in the works, I’m to understand. Yet another 80’s paean to action where the hero is actually vain and selfish rather than heroic (to be fair, the original film did a good job of pointing this out). I’m now very curious what direction it’s going to take. Will it be in earnest or will it make us reassess the original? One can hope for the latter, because Top Gun is also chock-full of those earnest 80’s tropes, and I’m not sure pure nostalgia will carry a sequel.

I remember when Cobra Kai first aired, hearing an interview with Ralph Macchio. He said people have been pitching Karate Kid sequels for decades, and he always turned them down. They didn’t offer a good reason to go back and revisit those characters. But this one, he said yes to, and at least for me, it’s pretty clear why:  This had something new to say about 1) the original movie, 2) these characters, 3) the very idea of relying on nostalgia in storytelling.

 

 

I’ve got a bookstore event scheduled! Hurrah!

It’s online, but still.

October 9, 7 pm MT, Kevin Hearne and I will be hosted by Book Bar, chatting about our new books. Kevin and I have done joint events before and always have a fun time. It’s actually pretty cool that this time, attendance will not be limited by geography. Onward ho, into the future!

Click here to sign up.

 

Here I am reading from the first story Kitty’s Mix Tape:  “Kitty Walks on By, Calls Your Name.”

I’m still giggling that no one made me change that title.

The book is due out in October in print, ebook, and audio. Click for more info.

 

Avatar: The Legend of Korra

September 10, 2020

I have to be honest:  I had a rough time with The Legend of Korra.

It’s just so dark.

The world of Avatar is really wonderful. It’s rich in worldbuilding, a fascinating magic system adaptable to all kinds of stories, and the arcs of all these young characters developing their powers and learning to work together is just great. I was interested in some of the extrapolation of Korra, envisioning a stylish steampunk world.

But it’s also a world filled with megalomaniacal psychopaths. Like, Aang ended the Hundred Year War and brought peace and all that. . . and the subsequent generation apparently spawned, like, all the psychopaths. (Particularly the Northern Water Tribe, what is up with them?) And not just the big bad(s) of each season, but a whole slew of minor psychopaths as well, like Varrick and the Earth Queen.

Sure, I’m fully aware stories need antagonists. But in Korra the antagonists seem particularly bent on destroying the entire fabric of the reality they live in. It takes some Spirit-world ex machina to keep things from completely unraveling. It’s the escalation problem:  the next obstacle has to be even more horrifying and more difficult than the one before. By the end, there’s almost nothing left to save.

This has all led me to question the philosophical underpinnings of the entire Avatar world:
  • Only the Avatar can master all four elements and bring balance to the world.
  • The Avatar is always reborn after death.
  • There is never not an Avatar. The Avatar must always work to bring balance to the world.
  • Therefore, the world is never in balance. Or whatever balance it achieves does not survive the Avatar’s death and rebirth.
  • The Avatar’s rebirth, by definition, puts the world out of balance.
  • The quest can never truly be achieved.
  • That is the true balance.