Friday, November 30, 2007


I'm going to try to phrase this in the least self-serving way possible -- let's see if I succeed.

Since I realized that Amazon had Associates, several years ago, I always tried to buy things through Amazon (when I did; I spent nearly a decade thinking of them as the Evil Empire that it's hard to remember that I now like them) using somebody's Associates link.

Matter of fact, my bookmark for Amazon, on my computer back at the old job (where I'd buy books for omnibuses fairly frequently, and from Amazon some of those times) was actually a give-a-kickback-to-Locus link. (And I think I usually remembered to use that link, rather than just typing

So I want to urge people to use somebody's link when buying stuff from Amazon. It doesn't cost the purchaser a cent, doesn't add any more time and hassle, and sends a tiny piece of that money somebody's way. Go to your favorite author's site, go through Locus, whoever -- just don't leave that money on the table if you can avoid it. could use this here handy-dandy box, and send those nickels to me. Y'know, if you were going to buy something anyway.


Amazon has just sent me an e-mail pointing out that, as an Associate, I can help drum up sales on the Kindle or Kindle books...and make some money out of it.

I'm torn by this -- on the one hand, I do like money. And my boss has a Kindle, so I got to look at it in person briefly this week. It does look pretty spiffy and even I'll admit that it has some very attractive features.

But I still think it's a seriously flawed product, so I can't wholeheartedly recommend it.

But let me try to construct a picture of the ideal Kindle customer:
  • the Kindler is well-off; he can spend $400 on a device to read books simply because it's neat
  • along the same lines, he's clearly an early-adopter; probably someone who takes pride in being an early adopter
  • he does not already have a large stack of books to read, or is willing to abandon that stack and/or pay again for them
  • DRM schemes don't trouble him; ease of acquisition of reading material and ease of use of the reader are of greater importance
  • he probably travels frequently -- at least extensive commuting -- and wants to be able to carry more in a smaller space
  • he's probably a picky reader, someone who's prone to abandon a book in the middle if he's not enjoying it
  • he probably also doesn't care much about keeping books once he reads them, having books as physical objects, or lending them to friends
I think that all adds up to (mostly) urban, young, well-paid, and at least mildly geeky. If you fit that profile, by all means use the link and buy a Kindle (or try to; they're sold out at the moment). If not, I suspect the Kindle will be disappointing to you.

In that case, I would recommend that you buy this Kindle to aid you in reading your books.

Andrew Burt Is a Dick Cheney Doppleganger

Honestly. I mean, how else could he manage to be named head of a committee when the consensus of those involved was that he must be kept as far away from it as possible?

The situation has already led Toby Buckell (one of the young, smart, energetic writers SFWA should be desperate to keep -- and a guy who can actually sell novels this decade, let us not forget) to quit SFWA in sadness. John Scalzi is remaining above the fray, perhaps considering another run at the presidency, perhaps considering himself really lucky to be out of the thick of it this time.

But, really: what the fuck, SFWA? Are you that intent on becoming the writers' organization for people who haven't sold anything in decades? Does Burt have secret blackmail documents on all of the other officers? Or all you all really just that out of touch?

Quote of the Week

"The last thing we desire being to cast aspersions on publishers, a most respectable class of men, we hasten to say that behavior of this kind is very unusual with these fine fellows. Statistics show that the number of authoresses kissed annually by publishers is so small that, if placed end to end, they would reach scarcely any distance. Otis's action was quite exceptional, and Hodder and Stoughton, had they observed it, would have looked askance. So would Jonathan Cape. And we think we speak for Heinemann, Macmillan, Benn, Gollancz and Herbert Jenkins Ltd when we say that they, too, would have been sickened by the spectacle."
- P.G. Wodehouse, Uncle Dynamite

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Movie Log: Enchanted

My boys and I thought it was about time to see another movie in the theater this week, so we had to choose between Bee Movie, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, and Enchanted. I had nothing really against the first and third, but Magorium looked like a massive dose of treacle that I wanted to avoid at all costs. Thing 1 was mildly in favor of Magorium (I think because it was rated G, and so he thought it would have nothing to make him upset; he is an old softy, as I've said several times), and Thing 2 wanted Enchanted. So I cast the deciding vote, and Enchanted it was.

I hadn't anticipated, however, just how intensely girly a movie it would be. But when our animated heroine, Giselle, started burbling about "true love's first kiss" at about the one minute mark, I began to get a notion...

I've seen some media accounts calling Enchanted a vast departure for Disney, as if it's a wholesale mocking of the company's history. This is balderdash; Enchanted is mild in its jibes, and the only myth it even tries to demolish is that true love is necessarily found with the prince. (And, perhaps, that "love at first sight" must take place in an instant rather than over the course of maybe twenty-four hours.) Enchanted is actually the latest piece of Disney's savvy Princess Strategy; they've realized that explicitly "Disney" products can't compete very well for the attention of boys above the age of seven or so in our modern culture, so they're concentrating all of their impressive firepower on girls. I actually started to suspect how girly Enchanted was when I looked around the theater during the previews and realized the Things and I were the only all-male group in the place (and they were probably a majority of the boy-children at that show, too).

So the movie that starts out in a traditionally cell-animated world (blandly pretty and serviceable) , and then the evil stepmother/queen sends our heroine Giselle to our world, from which she's expected never to return. She reacts to New York City like a particularly sheltered Disney heroine would, which -- since this is a movie for kids -- does not get her carted off to the booby hatch, but is the source of much humor. She meets a divorced lawyer (played by someone my wife refers to as "McDreamy" -- please, do not explain this to me) and his cute daughter, but just wants to get back home to fantasyland and Prince One True Love. (That's not his name, but since when does the prince's name -- or anything about the prince other than the fact that he's really good looking and a prince -- actually matter?)

Anyway, Prince Whatzisname follows her to New York, and is swiftly followed by his own sidekick, who is secretly in the pay of the evil queen. Princey has his own adventures, and the actor (James Marsden) is actually quite good at broad, silly comedy. But the plot is really about Giselle -- this is a girls' movie, remember? -- and so we keep coming back to her. Eventually, they meet up again, but the real world has changed Giselle...but, of course, there is a happy ending.

Oh, and did I mention that it's a musical?

It's a musical.

It's not a bad musical, though the songs are all deliberately over-the-top. But it does make one absolutely stupid mistake: if you're making a musical, and you cast Idina Menzel (as the Other Woman, basically), and then don't give her anything to sing, you are a deeply stupid person.

And, if the main plot of the movie bores you at any time, you can play spot-the-Disney reference, since several thousand of them appear to have been crammed into every nook and cranny of the movie.

I really don't think Enchanted was made for families like mine, but we enjoyed it. And Thing 2 has already said that he wants to have it on DVD eventually. So, maybe it's not just for girls.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Blind Item

Recently I saw yet another proof of that most excellent maxim: "Never allow an editor to present a book he really likes to sales."

I'm finding that I was secretly a Marketing Guy all along, and just didn't know it...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sales Conference

I have no time to write a real blog post today, since I spent most of the day and evening at a hotel in Jersey City at my first real Sales Conference. (There were a couple of pseudo-SCs at the clubs, instigated by an Editorial Director straight from the trade who possibly hadn't entirely figured out what their purpose would be for our organization, but I don't really count those.)

And, since I know I have readers in the business, I wanted to throw out a query.

Wiley semi-officially calls it a "Sales Meeting" instead of a "Sales Conference," which is a name I hadn't heard before. Has anyone else heard the term "Sales Meeting" before? Is it common? Is it antiquated? Is it scandalous?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Movie Log: Tadpole

It's not often that a movie about a fifteen-year-old in love with his forty-year-old stepmother comes along, and even less often that a movie like that is a pleasant comedy. But that's what Tadpole is.

Oscar Grubman (Aaron Stanford) is coming home from his boarding school for Thanksgiving, and he tells his best friend (as they ride into New York on the train) that he's finally going to pour out his heart to the woman he loves. We somewhat sympathize with him, since that woman is Sigourney Weaver, but she's also married to his father, John Ritter. (We know this, but the friend -- Robert Iler -- doesn't, yet.)

Aaron's stepmother's best friend is a masseuse, Diane, played by Bebe Neuwirth, who becomes closer than he expected over the holiday weekend. And to say any more than that would be to give away the whole of the plot; this movie is all about Aaron and his relationships (with his father and stepmother, with his friend and with Diane). He's a bit too poised and knowledgeable to be completely believable as a fifteen-year-old, but his hormones (and the unlikely avenues they've dragged him down) are completely realistic.

The Wife and I watched this the evening after Thanksgiving, in a fit of unlikely synchronicity; we had no idea that it took place at that time of year. It's shot on video and occasionally shows it -- this is clearly a film without much of a budget -- but it's funny and true, in its own odd way. Given the subject matter, it has an amazingly light touch and never drops into melodrama on the one side or pure farce on the other (though one scene in a restaurant comes close).

SF Awards Watch's "Poll of Polls"

SF Awards Watch has just completed their Poll of Polls, to determine which of this year's award-winners is the best (or, at least, has the most support online).

Since I'm a grumpy old reprobate, I decided to check the sales of each of these books, through such secret publishing channels as are available to me, and present them in a way which, with luck, will provide me some plausible deniability.

Percentages are of the total 92 voters at SFAW, sales figures are for the first-published edition (generally hardcover or trade paper) in the US, expressed as an index pegged to the level of Nova Swing sales:
  • Nova Swing, M. John Harrison (Clarke) (24%) Index 1
  • Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge (Hugo, Locus SF) (23%) Index 7.3
  • The Road, Cormac McCarthy (Pulitzer) (12%) Index 120.9
  • The Privilege of the Sword, Ellen Kushner (Locus Fantasy) (9%) Index 5.8
  • Soldier of Sidon, Gene Wolfe (World Fantasy) (7%) Index 2.1
  • Seeker, Jack McDevitt (Nebula) (7%) Index 3.2
  • Spin Control, Chris Moriarty (PKD) (4%)Index 3.6
  • Titan, Ben Bova (Campbell) (1%) Index 1.7
Of course, sales -- or any measure of popularity -- does not equal worth. But it is striking that the winner of the poll has sold the fewest copies by a good margin. I'm not sure who is out of touch with what, but this is not a desirable situation.

On the other hand, Titan is the next worse-selling book, and the Internet voters (and talking heads in general) loathed that book, so perhaps art and commerce aren't quite as far apart as they seem.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

What We Talk About When We Talk About Rejection

This is not serious, as I hope you can tell from the horrible and inconsistent dialect. I also wrote it quite some time ago, and saved it to post during a slow patch. (And this certainly is a slow patch.) I should say that I don't entirely mean what I say here, but, on the other hand, "have you ever considered the fact that maybe you suck?" can sometimes be good advice to a writer.

Gather 'round, folks, gather round. Old man Hornswoggler is going to let you in on one of the deep, dark secrets of the publishing world. If you're a writer, you might not want to know this, so I'll give you the opportunity to leave. Last chance, now. All right, then, the rest of you, here it is:

Editors lie.

Now, you might say that's no secret. I know they lie. They tell me that they're going to read my story over the weekend, and I can hear the lie. They tell me that no one ever steals ideas, but the best friend of the cousin of that woman Jane who used to be in my old writing group had her "The Last Supper Code" just stolen by that Dan Brown creep. Editors are always lying, to keep we poor put-upon writers down.

But that's not what I mean, I say as you start murmuring louder, talking about cover approval promises and ad budget expectations -- that's not what I mean!

Sorry, didn't mean to yell, there. Just settle down, folks. (A pack of writers are as ornery as a long-tailed cat in a rocking chair warehouse.)

No, the kind of lies I wanted to tell you about are the ones you don't expect. The lies editors tell when they pass on a project, when they reject a story, when they say no.

When an editor says "It's not right for me," he's means it sucks.

When an editor says "I couldn't get it past the pub board," she means that she's been reading selected sentences out in a silly voice to the assembled office and collapsing in a fit of laughter.

When an editor says "It's just too far out there for us," she means that it doesn't actually make logical, grammatical or any other kind of sense, but she thinks you were trying to be transgressive.

When an editor says "I loved it, but...", he hated it.

When an editor says "We all loved it, but...", not even she read it.

When an editor says "My assistant insisted I read it," that's because the assistant was snorting milk out of her nose at high velocity during a slush-reading session.

When...well, let me make this simple. You know how people say "it's not you"? Maybe, just maybe, this time it is you.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Incoming Books, Week of 11/24

Lots and lots this week, including:
  • A big box from Viz media of manga to be reviewed at ComicMix (I may have to do a Viz-only column for next week), including such interesting-looking series as Golgo 13, Togari, and Gin Tama.
  • One other book for review at ComicMix, and one from Del Rey that I probably should cover here.
  • A comic shop trip (on the worst Wednesday of the whole year to be comics-shopping, but it was when I had time to get into midtown) got me the new Ex Machina collection, Spectrum 13, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier, which I believe all comics bloggers were required to buy this week. (Plus a stack of kids comics, for the kids.)
  • And then I went to the Montclair Book Center on Friday to pick up some special orders (two more Overlook P.G. Wodehouse novels, Steve Erickson's Zeroville, Florence King's Deja Reviews)...and, of course, I bought plenty of other things while I was there, such as How To Talk About Books You Haven't Read and the fourth Library of America Philip Roth volume. (One of these days, I'm going to have to sit down and read nothing but Roth for a month or so.)
So that was my week. On the reading side, I'm afraid it was much more lackadaisical. I had most of a day worth of good lounging-on-the-couch time yesterday, but I spent it mostly loafing and web-surfing with my new laptop. (Bad book-blogger! No cookie!)

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Sea by John Banville

Banville certainly deserved a Booker Award -- pardon me, a Man Booker Award, though that sounds to me like some hairy-chested response to the Orange Prize -- but I'm less convinced that this was the novel that deserved it. (The Untouchable is much better; if anything I write here makes you interested in Banville, try that -- or maybe Athena or The Book of Evidence.)

Since William Dean Howells radically circumscribed the scope of "serious" fiction a century and a quarter ago, writers with literary ambition have struggled with that straitjacket. Some have broken out entirely, but many have fallen into the party line: only stories about the real lives of realistic people, closely focused on detail, can be great works of fiction. Banville seems to agree; The Sea is an intensely serious book. You can tell that it's serious in several ways: The prose is ornate, detailed, crafted to within an inch of its life. The plot bounces between three times in the narrator's life, often from paragraph to paragraph, to underline how good a writer Banville is. And, most importantly, it's about what the most obviously "serious" books are about: sex and death.

The Sea is intensely writerly -- possibly why it won a major award -- and is slow-moving. All in all, it's close to being the platonic ideal of the book non-literary readers think of when they say they don't read literary fiction. (It is fairly short, though, which keeps it from living completely up to the stereotype. And it's actually pretty good; the problem is that it's slow and a bit ponderous and not nearly as profound or wonderful as it thinks it is.) I would never inflict this on any normal reader as their first Banville novel, but those of us who have been reading him for while will appreciate it.

Max Morden is a semi-retired art critic who has returned to the Irish sea-side, site of his youthful summers, soon after the death of his wife. He remembers both his wife's dying and -- at greater length -- one particular summer with a richer family, the Graces. He fell in love with two of the female members of that family, successively, and things did not end well. (This is a literary novel, again; things typically don't end well in a literary novel.) Everything dovetails quite neatly in the end; Banville wraps his three time-lines up skillfully and makes sure they each matter to the other two.

I'd like to call a moratorium on the sex-and-death literary novel -- or, rather, I would if I thought anyone would heed me. The world needs more books in which sex is complicated and messy and fraught with trouble, but not intimately intertwined with death. Let a thousand Portnoy's Complaints flourish!

There's nothing at all wrong with The Sea, but there's not as much right with it as the Man Booker committee would have you believe. It may well have been the best book they considered that year -- the only other book on the shortlist that I've read is Kazuo Ishiguro's lousy and hole-filled Never Let Me Go -- but it's not Banville's best book at all, and not a book I expect to live for the ages.

Quote of the Week

"The big mistake that men make is that when they turn thirteen or fourteen and all of a sudden they've reached puberty, they believe that they like women, Actually, you're just horny. It doesn't mean you like women any more at twenty-one than you did at ten."
- Jules Feiffer

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Hanging Valley by Peter Robinson

This is -- if I'm counting correctly -- the fourth novel in the "Alan Banks" series, which I started reading about three novels later in the mid-90s.

I came to Robinson from John Harvey's somewhat similar police procedurals (both are set in minor UK cities), and at first wasn't as impressed by Robinson as by Harvey. This is natural, since Harvey is a poet, and has a poet's sense for the perfect word; his books are just amazing on every level, from sentences up to plot. Robinson isn't as flashy a writer, but he has the essential virtues of a great mystery writer: he knows people, in all their variety; he knows how to write about those people in specific places and situations; he has the stamina to keep with a series, deepening his world as he goes; and he knows how to balance the mystery's conflicting impulses of showing the evils that men do and of proving that justice can be done. Robinson has been writing this series for two decades now, and it's quietly become one of the major achievements of the modern mystery genre.

In The Hanging Valley, Robinson's viewpoint character, Detective Inspector Alan Banks, is still new in the small (fictional) Yorkshire city of Eastvale, and is still married. This book takes place in the late '80s; nearly twenty years ago, but there are only a few moments when that's obvious -- mostly a case of wondering why these people aren't using their mobile phones. But murder is eternal, and this book opens with a hiker in a remote valley discovering a dead body. It's soon clear that this new murder has some connection to a murder and a missing persons case from five years before...and even with Canada. (Perhaps this novel has an early, mild case of Ross Macdonald Disease?)

Banks and his men -- at this point, it is only men, two younger policemen who work for him -- come to the small village where the dead man stayed the night before his death, and start asking the questions that will dig into the locals' inevitable secrets. It's a plot set-up that has been used a thousand times before in mystery novels, but Robinson doesn't rely on cliches here. He's interested in the relations between people -- men and women, rich and poor, locals and outsider -- and tells his story both by having Banks dig into the village's secrets and by showing us the locals directly. (Robinson wasn't particularly old-fashioned even this far back; he's the kind of mystery writer who doesn't limit himself to just the detective's viewpoint. Bouncing from the investigation to the investigatees can destroy tension or create reader frustration, but Robinson does it well. And he doesn't seem to be trying to go "beyond the mystery," to be writing "the novel" -- he's telling his mystery story, about these people, in a direct and immediate way.)

So -- even this far back in the series, Robinson was doing really good stuff, thought Banks was still a bit colorless at this point. If you like mystery novels, you need to try something by Robinson -- In a Dry Season, his 1999 novel, is where the series got really good, in my opinion -- because he's not just a writer to watch, he's a writer who's already one of the best in the world at what he does.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bedtime Reading, 11/21

The boys and I hit a bookstore as part of our errands this past weekend, getting a short stack of manga for Thing 1 (mostly to become rewards for reading "real" books), and two things for Thing 2.

And those two picture books were:

Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Harry Bliss. It's the third in a loose "series" after Diary of a Worm and Diary of a Spider, now featuring, for the first time, a female lead character. Fly (or "Fly Girl") is the friend of Spider and Worm, and now she gets her own book. As with the previous books, actual facts about insects join not always cleanly with faux-school life among the insect kids; in this case, Fly learns not to worry, because all of the other flies eat regurgitated lunch, too. I didn't find this one as inventive as Spider and Worm were -- in fact, I think Fly had better business in Spider -- but it's still a decent book by solid creators, and it's a lot of fun. (Just, y'know, not quite as much fun as the other two books. So go get them first.) Bliss's art adds a wry sweetness to the proceedings; he's known best from his cartoons for the New Yorker, and that combination is a little unlikely for picture books. (Though Roz Chast just did one, so it may be about to be a booming combination.)

I'm Dirty! by Kate & Jim McMullan, is also something like a sequel; they've done previous books called I'm Mighty! (about a tugboat) and I'm Stinky! (about a garbage truck). Again, Dirty is the least of the three -- it's pandering a bit to the presumed boy audience by emphasizing dirt, and the backhoe in this book doesn't have as much interesting stuff to do. I'm Mighty! is the best of the three; the tugboat has to pull three very different ships to different places, and sees interesting sights along the way. Stinky! is just a lot of fun, with a great voice -- it's a great read-aloud book. Dirty! is fun, but won't come down off the shelf quite as often as the first two, unless there's a little boy around who's crazy about backhoes.

So both of these are perfectly nice books, much better than a lot of the stuff on the shelves out there, that suffer just a bit from comparison to their predecessors.

ComicMix Update

I seem to have forgotten to link to my last few ComicMix reviews, so let's fix that:
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, but Manga Friday will be back at the usual time (assuming I manage to read another couple of books and think of things to say about them).

An Astronomy Blunder Even I Caught

The current "Dueling Analogs" strip claims that galaxies are 300 light-years apart (and thinks that's a big distance).

Um, the Milky Way all by itself is 100,000 ly in diameter. 300 ly barely gets you out of the local stellar neighborhood.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hal Duncan vs. Angelina Jolie's Mysteriously Disappearing Labia

Hal has seen Beowulf, and has pronounced it "shite."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Kindle This, Boyo!

So Amazon is launching their "Kindle" e-book reader today, as you might have heard elsewhere on the Intarwebs. And it looks like a real winner:
  • very expensive
  • only reads a very few file formats (which must be mailed via Amazon to the device)
  • a design sense reminiscent of Logan's Run
  • a jaw-dropping plan to charge $1.99 a month to read individual blogs...which are free on the Internet
As long as the e-book folks are throwing out abominations like this, those of us who prefer actual books will have nothing to fear.

Hey, Bezos! Wake me up when you've got a $100 reader I can put my own books on directly...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Reading Into the Past, Week of 11/18

I haven't done this in a while, but content has been sparse lately, so I'm trying to make myself write about bookish things more often. So, with luck, "Reading Into the Past" will make a major return.

This week the number is 9, so these are the books I was reading this week in 1998:
  • Mark Schultz, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs (11/11)
    The first collection of Schultz's gorgeous-looking Xenozoic Tales series; I read the next two later in the week (see below). By the time I got to this series, the initial acclaim had died down, and it had been clearly stalled or defunct for a while; even the short-lived TV show had come and gone a few years before. I think I got the three of them cheap as remainders from Edward Hamilton (a great mail-order bookseller from Connecticut from whom I used to buy giant boxes of books). The plot is decent action-adventure stuff with a goopy ecological center; it's set a few hundred years in the future, after an ecological collapse sent most of humanity into underground cities, from which they emerged to find a lush, dinosaur-filled jungle. (Which makes it a weird ecological message, too.)

  • Patrick O'Brian, The Hundred Days (11/12)
    The nineteenth Aubrey-Maturin novel. I read them all starting in 1993-1994, and then the last four or five as they were published, but I'm afraid I can't remember clearly what happened in which book. Some day, when I have time again, I hope to re-read them all -- but that will have to wait at least another decade.

  • Mark Schultz, Dinosaur Shaman (11/13)
    Volume two of the collected Xenozoic Tales.

  • Roz Chast, Childproof (11/14)
    A collection of New Yorker (and New Yorkerish) cartoons about parents and children. Single-topic cartoon books, especially those by one cartoonist, tend to get a bit same-y, but this is quite good -- though Chast does have quite a few recurrent themes and scenes.

  • Mark Schultz, Time in Overdrive (11/15)
    Volume three of the collected Xenozoic Tales.

  • James Thurber, Lanterns & Lances (11/16)
    I don't seem to still have this book, and I'm not completely sure what was in it. I'd read the big Library of America Thurber collection the year before (at Worldcon, actually), and had been picking up other Thurber books where I could. (And that was difficult, since the LoA volume was very big, and had cherry-picked Thurber's best stuff out of all of the books with his name on them). Lanterns & Lances seems to be the last book of Thurber's work published before his death, so it's probably not his best stuff. (The fact that I do have several other Thurber books, and don't have this one, tend to imply that I thought that way in 1998.) Still, Thurber is a great American humorist, which means that he can still make readers laugh and think half a century after he died.

  • K.W. Jeter, Star Wars: Slave Ship (11/17)
    First in a trilogy that I didn't manage to finish reading, partly out of the press of time and partly out of lack of interest. I've read a few Jeter books, here and there, and never loved any of them. (Though he's always seemed like a writer I should love, so I tried a number of times.) Maybe I never hit the right books; I did read more of his sharecropped stuff than his original novels. But, nearly a decade later, this does not stand out as more than a mediocre tie-in novel; I could name a dozen Star Wars books off the top of my head that I'd recommend long before this one.

  • Nick Hornby, About a Boy (11/18)
    I've always liked Hornby's books; possibly more than they've warranted. There is something slippery and facile about them; possibly more and more as he's gone along. But I found this novel emotionally true, if not the deepest thing in the world. It later turned into a decent Hugh Grant movie. (I know there are those for whom the phrase "a decent Hugh Grant movie" is an oxymoron, but I'm not one of them.)
A pretty typical week from back in my salad days of reading. (Said salad days stretched from about 1991 through 1999 or 2000, either when I suddenly had two kids or the older one started demanding more time and attention. I also started interacting with other people via the Internet about that time, which didn't help.)

Incoming Books, Week of 11/17

Just one lone book this week, which I bought in Charleston (a city which seems to have only one mall-size Walden's downtown) -- The Rejection Collection, Vol. 2: The Cream of the Crap edited by Matthew Diffee, another collection of cartoons rejected by The New Yorker.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Quote of the Week

"Why is it that the only advertising campaigns that work seem to sell all the bad things people actually desire? Isn't that a weird coincidence?"
- Chuck Klosterman, "McDiculous," Chuck Klosterman IV, p.66

Movie Log: Orgazmo

I took a couple of Netflix discs off to my convention with me, and actually watched both of them. (Non-SF conferences seem to have essentially no nightlife, and my room had a DVD player hooked up to the TV.) The second was Orgazmo, which I'd not bothered to see for the previous decade. It could have waited even longer, but it was a pleasant enough thing to watch in a hotel room in a strange city.

This is a film by the South Park guys, made in the very early days of South Park. It's not as deliberately offensive as you might expect, even for a movie about a young Mormon guy who becomes a porn star. (Footnote 1: the movie treats Mormonism pretty respectfully, if flippantly. There's not even a hint of faith-losing; he stays pious throughout and that helps him win in the end. Footnote 2: he's not precisely a porn star, since he doesn't have sex on screen. Orgazmo softballs a lot of things you'd expect it to be vicious about.)

Orgazmo sees itself as a parody of a standard action movie, with a lot of obligatory scenes that are mildly funny at best. I've seen complaints that the acting is bad in Orgazmo, but I didn't find it so: broad, obvious, and self-parodying, yes, but deliberately so, and not thus "bad."

If you haven't seen this yet, and you were over eighteen when it came out, there's no good reason to see it now. It's a reasonable way to spend ninety minutes, but, in our current world of entertainment choices, I'd bet anybody could find three or four things they'd like better just on basic cable.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Is It Possible I'm Not As Attractive As I Think I Am?"

I demand a recount!

(My other, late blog, came in at the same level as well. But I'm sure my sentences are longer and more convoluted than that!)

Somehow, someway, this is all Klima's fault.

There Is No Joy in Poughkeepsie

Vassar's Quidditch team has lost the first intercollegiate tournament.

Nice to see the athletic program is just as dominant as it was in my day...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How I Read

I'm losing track of what day it is -- I'm seriously not used to conventions that start on Sunday and end on Wednesday -- and nothing terribly exciting happened today. (As I might have mentioned before, I'm down in Charleston, SC for the Blackbaud International Conference on Philanthropy, and my duties mostly consist of a stretch of hours of booth duty each day.) So I'm digging into the archives for this bit, which was originally posted to rec.arts.sf.written 1/10/04, in reply to a general question:

I read word-for-word (unless I'm getting tired or bored, in which cases I sometimes find I'm -- accidentally or on purpose -- skipping lines or just looking at words but not reading them).

I think I'm unlike most readers in that I hardly ever get images in my head of anything I'm reading -- descriptions of things or people are words to me, not pieces of a picture. And so descriptions of complicated actions (particularly in action scenes) can bore me to tears -- "the ASR ascended, turning to starboard, and then looped around the massed Twak'tars with a sketchy Immelman, its thrusters shuddering as it dodged trees and flying Zarniwhoops" is just "blah blah blah something is moving blah blah blah" to me.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Only Scalzi Could Go to the Creation Museum

And go he did, the magnificent bastard.

Things That Annoy Me, Part 3,932

People who say "health care should be free."

They don't really mean free, generally -- they understand that doctors and nurses need to make a living too, that big buildings and fancy machines that go ping! don't pay for themselves, and that even if medicines cost only the value of the raw materials that would be something -- but they have a deeply rooted feeling that all that stuff should be paid for by someone else.

And saying "free" when you mean "paid for by someone else" is massively intellectually dishonest. It's an attempt to shift the dialogue to fantasy-land, where dialysis machines fall from the sky and ambulances run on happy thoughts, where doctors are all handsome and tall and privately wealthy and nurses are all married to them. It's just as bad as any other political lie.

If you believe that healthcare should be provided to all people without condition, you need to state who should do the providing. And, at least in your own mind, you should have a sense of how that entity could pay for said healthcare -- again, it's not free, though the system in the USA is awash in money that could certainly be allotted in different ways. Also, "the government will stop spending money on things I personally dislike" is not a rational, reasonable system of funding.

"Free" is not an argument; it's an attempt to deflect attention from the fact that you don't have an argument. If you believe it, get an argument.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Choosing Books

Last night, I was packing for my trip to Charleston (which I've been referring to, about half the time, as a trip to Charlotte -- proving that I'm either horribly distracted or an utter Yankee. Or both, I guess), and had to make a lot of decisions.

I'm working a booth at a trade show -- how dressy should I be? (I packed suits, with some slight dress-down options.)

Unlike a SF con, there's no nightlife associated with this meeting -- what should I bring to entertain myself? (A new set of portable speakers for my iPod, this laptop, my long-neglected DS, a few DVDs.)

But the most important question was the one I started thinking about the night before -- what was I going to read while I was away?

Obviously, I piled up the magazines, especially the ones I don't save (and so could discard when I finish them).

But books were more of a question. I'm trying to read a comics/manga/similar book every day -- should I bring a stack of those? (I did, since I already had a laptop bag, a carry on bag, and my regular suitcase.)

And the big book question was...well, which big book to take. I wanted something hefty (so I wouldn't run out of pages quickly), but portable and durable. The perfect choice would have been a Library of America book, and I have three shelves of them, but...I wasn't in the mood for anything. (I almost took the first Philip Roth volume -- maybe the next trip.)

My first choice -- a test book, if you will -- is the one I dragged around on errands (and to my mother's for dinner) on Saturday, Lawrence Block's The Complete Mystery Stories. It's a huge omnibus published in trade paper in the UK in 1999, and I also have the (even huger, 13 stories longer, and hardcover) US version of a year later, Enough Rope. The plan was to read all the stories in Complete Mystery (which is more portable), and then, later, finish off the extra stories in Enough Rope. But, though I read the first story and liked it, I once again didn't feel like reading lots of short fiction. So back onto the pile it went.

Finally, late last night -- after considering and discarding literally dozens of books (it gets harder and harder to choose what to read next the more books you have), I finally thought of it -- I wanted to continue to plow through George Orwell's Essays, which I've been reading piecemeal for two or three years now. So I packed that.

But I thought "I'll be on a plane. What if the seat is small? I need a little book to read, in case I can't get the big book out, or it would be too unwieldy." So I also poked through my mass-markets, and picked Peter Robinson's The Hanging Valley (an early novel in his Alan Banks series)-- and that's what I read about half of on the plane down here.

Does anyone else in the world go through convolutions like that to figure out what book to read next, or am I uniquely neurotic?

The Surgeon's Tale and Other Stories by Cat Rambo and Jeff VanderMeer

We live in an age when just about anyone can publish a book, which can be good and bad. It leads to all sorts of unfortunate POD presses, and it also leads to two good writers deciding to publish a book of their short stories, just because they can.

And so they did; The Surgeon's Tale is published by "Two Free Lancers Press" -- that is, Rambo and VanderMeer themselves.

This is a slim book, but it's also cheap (particularly for a small-press trade paperback). The byline is a little confusing, since The Surgeon's Tale and Other Stories collects six stories, but only one of them (the title piece) is actually by both Rambo and VanderMeer.

Of the remaining stories, one ("The Farmer's Cat") is by VanderMeer alone, one ("The Strange Case of the Lovecraft Cafe") is by VanderMeer with two other writers, and three (including "The Dead Girl's Wedding March," which even I've heard of) are by Rambo alone.

The title story is the longest and best; a creepy story of an obsessed surgeon and the woman he tries to bring back to life. It originally appeared in Subterranean, and is still available there online. (I personally hate reading things online, so I'd suggest going over there, checking out the first few paragraphs, and, if you like it, buying the book. If you prefer reading online, there might be less impetus to buy the book...but I still think it would be a good idea.)

"Lovecraft Cafe" is minor, an odd pastiche taking Lovecraftian metaphors into unexpected culinary regions. "Farmer's Cat" is also pretty minor, though I liked reading it again.

Rambo's solo stories are a bit more substantial, but she's a newer writer, and needs to build up her reputation. She's certainly someone whose work I'll be looking out from now on; before she was just a name to be. (And I think she was at World Fantasy, where I missed meeting her -- however, I did meet Cat Sparks and ran into Cat Valente, which is a lot for a man who doesn't much like cats.)

I myself don't read as much short fiction as I'd like to, but I keep accumulating collections (and, less often, anthologies), in the hopes that I'll suddenly start reading masses of short stories. I might even buy a Cat Rambo solo collection, if one pops up. She's an interesting new writer, and I'd like to read more of her stuff.

The World's Worst Pickup Line

Turkish man: Miss, you are so lovely. Can I buy you a drink?
Girl: Uh, sure.
Turkish man: You are so beautiful, I would suck on your father's dick just to taste where you came from.
Girl: Uh... Thanks for the drink [leaves].

--Crash Mansion, 199 Bowery

Overheard by: The Riddler

via Overheard in New York, Nov 10, 2007

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Off to Sunny Charleston

Very early tomorrow morning, I set off for my first business trip of the new gig: I'm going to be part of the Wiley team exhibiting at Blackbaud's Conference in Charleston.

I expect to be blogging in the evenings -- as a matter of fact, I might be in better touch with you folks than with the people I work with, since I still haven't gotten everything on my laptop hooked up for remote access.

But if for some reason I do fall silent, that's why.

Incoming Books, Week of 11/10

Not much this week, and I'm frenzied with packing, so I'm not going to get to write anything fancy. so, just the facts: I got three books, all from bits of Random House, including a bound galley of Elizabeth Moon's upcoming military SF novel Victory Conditions and two more manga.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Elizabethan Hornswoggling

A meme obtained by nefarious means from one Nick Mamatas:

William Shakespeare

The Hornswoggler is not
So long as we can say, 'This is the Hornswoggler'.

Which work of Shakespeare was the original quote from?

Get your own quotes:

Movie Log: The TV Set

Oh, it's Real Tough being a creative guy. You live in a big house and drive a nice car, your wife doesn't work and you yourself apparently haven't worked in a while, but The Man wants to screw with your visions. Such is the world of The TV Set, a comedy about TV writer Mike Klein (David Duchovny).

Klein is dumb enough, when he has to audition two people for the network for each of the two leads in his pilot script, to choose his #1 choice for title character and a guy who he thinks is completely wrong. (Everyone in a creative field knows you don't present an option you can't live with...well, everyone except Klein.) All of his troubles come from that dumb decision, because The Suits chose the wrong guy -- that's what Suits always do, isn't it?

Signourney Weaver and Ioan Gruffudd play the two major Suits in this movie; she is larger-than-life and given to long monologues that are nearly as impressive as the screenwriter thought they were, while he is quieter and smarter, presumably because he is British. Gruffudd also gets a subplot about how soul-destroying and time-consuming his job is, though that's almost entirely based on what his wife says as she leaves him. (Gruffudd isn't seen working horribly long hours -- he makes it to an afternoon soccer game! -- or having his soul destroyed; he stays thoughtful and centered throughout. This subplot is either exceptionally underdeveloped or the wife is actually guilty about a secret affair.)

The TV Set is a movie about making a TV pilot, and the lesson seems to be that TV sucks because things always go wrong (not really from malice, though The Suits are aggressively low-brow at times), and so the shining vision of a writer is reduced to crap on the screen. Except...what we see of his original vision isn't all that great to begin with. The dialogue is trite, and we don't really get a sense of the shape of the plot (or any of the secondary characters), so it just seems like a bland love story between two attractive but not overly bright people. I wasn't convinced that Klein's pilot would have been vastly better with the mopey, bearded Zach Braff-manque instead of the goofy Owen Wilson type, though I will admit that the "bad version" we see a bit of at the end is impressively bad.

I enjoyed The TV Set, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a decent comedy for grown-ups. But I don't think its lesson is quite fair -- especially since TV is proverbially a writer's medium, and pilots are generally worse than (and different from) the shows that grow out of them. Someone here doth protest too much.

Manga Friday Studies the Scriptures

This week on Manga Friday -- which is turning out to be a regular feature over at ComicMix -- I reviewed three books, two of them the first volumes of very popular series and the third an interesting artifact called The Manga Bible. (Well, one of the Manga Bibles -- it's a popular title that's been used several times. This is the one by the British-Nigerian guy.)

Quote of the Week

"Almost anything that's fun is going to be ruined sooner or later by people from California."- Calvin Trillin

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Life, As We Know It

I've been running behind in writing about books, because I spent four days at WFC drinking and schmoozing instead of reading and writing. But I'm starting to catch back up; today ComicMix posted my review of the Will Eisner omnibus Life, in Pictures.

And Manga Friday will proceed tomorrow on schedule; I have three books this week, and I bet you've heard something about most of them.

What World Fantasy Means To Me

So I had an interesting experience this past weekend: it was only the third convention in my life that I've attended without the support of an expense account from That Company. (First was a Lunacon, back in '94, which was my first con ever and led to my being granted an expense account, and the second was this year's Readercon, where I was searching for a job.) I mentioned this to various people over the course of the con -- editors were quietly thoughtful (as if contemplating the horrible spectre of losing their own expense accounts) and authors were wryly dismissive (though they generally did point out the silver lining of tax-deductibility).

Since I was there on my own dime -- and, at three nights in the con hotel at I'm-not-going-to-say-what a night, it was more than one dime -- I felt the urge to Do Things. Whenever I found myself in my room -- to which I am prone to retreat quite a bit at conventions, for a bit of quiet or some reading -- an inner voice screamed loudly, "You're paying for this! Get out there and network!" (Yes, it's hell when one's inner voice uses words like "network." Occasionally, it has been known to batter me with "utilize" or even "fungible.") Given that I'm yet another one of the Fabled Introverts of Publishing, this was not necessarily my natural inclination. But I managed to be social for four days running, which is some kind of record for me.

I had a good time, I guess, but I'm having trouble remembering how the various bits of the weekend related to each other, or in what order events happened. So the rest of this post is going to be composed of scattered thoughts:

Jonathan Strahan (who I really wish I saw more of, at this WFC and just in general) said the truest thing of the convention, which I'll try to put in something close to his own words: "There are people here who minutely rank everyone by their importance in the field, and they'll be talking and then suddenly ignore you in a heartbeat. Everyone has their moment at World Fantasy when they feel completely lost and alone...but then it passes." I had my moment like that on Thursday evening, when I missed my seat at the giant ring-around-the-rosy game that is convention dinner arrangements, and so set out into Saratoga to find pizza. (It took quite a while to find it, and I got quite depressed and grumpy along the way.)

Other than that, I had a good time, and I didn't find myself notably shunned. (And, being as I am generally a grumpy, depressed guy in the corner who often has trouble with small talk, shunning me is a quite reasonable response.) I talked with loads and loads of people, whose names I won't try to drop. OK, I do have to mention that I met Ted Chiang, which was cool -- he and I and Gordon Van Gelder were sitting together at the bar for quite a while on Saturday night.

I owe somebody a round of drinks: if I remember right, it's Laura Anne Gilman and Karen whose-last-name-I-never-remember. Oops. That'll have to wait until Lunacon, or something.

My one panel was late on Thursday evening; I moderated the "Fantasy Graphic Novel" panel. It was me and five comics professionals, and I think I did OK -- I tried to stay a moderator, and just throw out ideas to them and keep the thing running. (Except when Mike Dringenberg started monologuing like a Republic serial villain.) They had no interest in actually addressing the topic -- not that the topic was all that clear to begin with -- so it turned into a general "aren't comics cool?" discussion. Since, of course, the entire audience thought that comics were cool, it went over well, but it was all a bit pointless.

Friday night I attached myself (not really on purpose; it just happened that way) to the Solaris guys, who were taking Chris Roberson and...James Maxey? (I hope I got that right) out to dinner. Chris and Alison Baker and I (and James, somewhat) then proceeded to spent most of the dinner explaining the American political system. Marc and George either really were actually interested, or they're substantially more British than I thought and just being polite.

Saturday night I had dinner in the lazy fashion -- I hung around after the Orbit party and ate with a group in the same restaurant (Tiznow). We sort-of turned into two parties, since it was too loud to talk all the way down the table. Gardner Dozois, Susan Casper, and the Danns were in the other half; I sat with Ellen Datlow, Scott Edelman, Paul Barnett, and Pam Scoville.

(And those were my only "real" meals of the con, except for some very good mall food-court gyros on the way up with Minz; since I was trying to go on a budget, I brought a bunch of bagels for breakfasts and some snack food for the rest of the day. I try to only eat two meals a day at cons anyway.)

Other than that, I think I was in the bar or at a party pretty much every hour of the day from 3 PM to 2 AM. (Before that, I did spend some time in the dealer's room, mostly talking with people. Actually, I'm kind of fuzzy on how I spent the hours from 9 or 10 to 3 those three days -- I didn't get any reading done, I wasn't on the Internet that much, and I don't remember seeing any panels. Was I really talking to people that much?)

I did have a nice meeting with Rome Quezada on Saturday, where I tried to give him some of my secrets and tricks. (I'd had no opportunity to sit down with him since the kerfuffle -- by the time he had the job, I'd been kicked off the premises.) Now that I'm settled somewhere else, I'm mostly happy that I'm not in his position -- I went through one merger at that company this decade, which was plenty. I'd be happier if I had a direct connection to the field, but I'll get back, eventually. (I'm assuming someone will need a Marketing Manager, or maybe an Assistant Publisher, in a couple of years...)

I drove up with Jim Minz, who was running we didn't get to pick up John Klima (who got another ride, so that was fine). And I drove back with Cheryl Morgan, which was nice -- I think it's the first time we've said more than four words to each other in person, and company is good to keep a driver awake in the dark evening hours of a post-convention Sunday.

Hm, I said I wouldn't namedrop, but I seem to be doing so. Then I guess I can mention that I met Steven Erikson (at Klima's JohnCon, of all places, when Erikson was still all dressed up from the annual Morhaim Dinner). Still haven't managed to walk up to Tim Powers and say hello, though -- we've been at the same event four or five times, but he's Tim god-damn Powers, so I've never done it.

The World Fantasy Awards were fucking awesome, for the obvious reason. (I only went five-for-eight on my predictions -- I missed the two short fiction categories and Ellen Asher -- but that was fine.) I was at one of the Tor tables (David Hartwell subdivision), and chatted with Ellen, Kathryn Cramer, and the always dapper Lee Modesitt. The food was decent, too. Actually, all of the awards were fine, even the ones for things I didn't predict. I now need to read me some M. Rickert, though.

I kept telling people that I wouldn't be coming next year -- it's in Calgary, of all places -- but, if my business trip schedule keeps filling up the way it has (I'm flying to Charlotte on Sunday, New Orleans the week after Thanksgiving, and San Diego in late March...and probably to somewhere in Florida for Sales Conference some time in the spring, and then five or six other places for the rest of 2008), I might be able to turn in miles and points to make it cheap. So I'll have to see. On the other hand -- Calgary in November? Away from home and my two boys on Halloween? That'll be tough.

To sum up, World Fantasy, like every year, was made up of people who were fun to talk to (like Jess Nevins), people I saw but didn't manage to talk to (like Jim Frenkel), and people I wished I had more time to talk to (like Jeff Ford). It's all about the people, and I'm glad many of them still tolerate me...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Paolo Bacigalupi on Magazine Marketing

I got these links from Lou Anders (I'll admit it; I don't try to read every single SF/F/H writer's blog anymore), and I agree with nearly everything Bacigalupi says. (Especially the bit about direct mail; the only thing that's comparable is telemarketing, which used to be a fantastic marketing channel before the financial services assholes poisoned the well for everyone.)

Part One: Why Are "the Big Three" Dying?
(Although, as both Sheila Williams and Gordon Van Gelder pointed out to me this past weekend, the big three are not actually dying, and just because the outside world only has one metric about the health of a magazine, it does not thereby follow that it is a good metric.)

Part Two: Marketing in Meatspace
(Mail mail mail. Test test test. And then mail some more.)

Part Three: Online Marketing
(Not the same old suggestions at all; Bacigalupi has some great ideas...whether or not they're actually feasible is another story, and only the people running the magazines could determine that.)

People Who I Am Not

Just in case anyone wonders, or there are random Google searchers out there, this particular Andrew Wheeler is not:
  • the Andy Wheeler who writes about wrestling at Inside Pulse (though I did watch quite a bit of wrestling in college)
  • the Andrew Wheeler who used to write about comics at The Ninth Art -- he's British, I'm American (though we do both write about comics)
I am the Andrew Wheeler who used to work at a book club for science fiction (among other clubs, during my sixteen-year tour at the Company With Many Names), and the one most commonly encountered on the US science fiction convention circuit.

(And, quite soon, I'll also be the Andrew Wheeler -- or, at least, one of them -- to be found at various gatherings of accountants and non-profit leaders, starting next week at the Blackbaud Conference.)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Porn*ol*o*gy by Ayn Carrillo-Gailey

I can swallow a lot of things when I'm reading. (It helps if the book is labeled as fiction, but I'll give non-fiction the benefit of the doubt as well.) But when someone expects me to believe that her actual life closely follows the plot of Bridget Jones' Diary -- complete with even-less-likely slapstick humiliations -- my willing suspension of disbelief just snaps.

Porn*ol*o*gy -- and, yes, the title has those annoying dots in it everywhere it appears, so they're official -- claims to be the story of an ordinary "Good Girl" who decided to investigate "porn" (her umbrella term for everything and anything sex-related, from actual porn to brothels to strip clubs to sex toys) after her then-boyfriend called her "pornophobic." Along the way, she Met Cute -- repeatedly -- with the proverbial Great Guy who was at first put off by her zany pratfalls, but who finally succumbed to her feminine wiles.

At least one part of that is true: Ayn Carillo-Gailey knows nothing about any bit of the sex business, and doesn't even manage to look up from her own navel long enough to even think up any good questions to ask about it. I can believe the general outline of the story she tells in this book, but the details -- trying on a cock ring as a bracelet and getting it stuck, dancing spastically on the bar at Coyote Ugly and losing her shirt to the ceiling fan, not bothering to do basic research on the "radio sex therapist" whose show she's going to see -- are too sitcom-y and doofy to be believed.

I also find it difficult to believe that there are grown women, working in the media, living in such supposedly cosmopolitan cities as Los Angeles, who are as ignorant about sex and modern culture as Ms. Carrillo-Gailley claims to be. Maybe if she was living in a hovel -- or in Kansas City -- this would be understandable, but the woman has obviously seen Sex and the City, and otherwise is a functional member of modern society.

(Of course, the pose is presumably deliberate, either on Carrillo-Gailley's part or on that of her publisher, and a lot of the modern ambivalence towards women's sexuality is encoded in that, and in the book in general...but Carrillo-Gailley isn't an interesting enough writer to make reading her for pure subtext particularly enjoyable.)

Oh, and one more thing: Ms. Carrillo-Gailey has not one but two comedy-relief ethic parents (different ethnicities, too). She seemed to be thisclose to dragging a wacky, smutty grandma out of the closet of tired cliches as well.

There are two reasons to read a book like this: for information or titillation. Any male readers, such as myself, are reading for the second reason, and will be vastly disappointed. (Unless they are even more sheltered than the author, in which case they are either Mormons or Amish.) Female readers, at whom the book is squarely and deliberately aimed, are more likely to be similarly innocent of the ways of the modern sex industry, and so they may find this of interest. However, women on the Internet have probably repeatedly stumbled across references to things that would make Ms. Carrillo-Gailley swoon at the mere thought of it's my belief that anyone who might possibly be reading this review would have no need of, or much interest in, Porn*ol*o*gy. So do yourselves a favor and avoid it.

Note: I read this because I was poking through the new non-fiction section of my local library a week or so ago and the word "porn" jumped out at me -- I'll admit that. But I'm very happy no money changed hands.

Postscript, two years later: This post seems to get a hit most days -- I don't know if anyone is actually reading it, or if the vast Porn Engines of the Internet are just casting smut-seekers up on my shores randomly. But I did want to add, for the benefit of anyone who might be reading this review, that I now think I was entirely too mean about Ms. Carillo-Gailey and her book. I still don't think Porn*ol*o*gy was very good, but I was definitely trying to show off above, which is generally not helpful. So take all of this with a large grain of salt.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

World Fantasy Award Winners!

As announced this afternoon at the gala banquet:

Life Achievement
  • Betty Ballantine
  • Diana Wynne Jones
Soldier of Sidon, Gene Wolfe (Tor)

"Botch Town", Jeffrey Ford (The Empire of Ice Cream, Golden Gryphon)

Short Fiction:
"Journey Into the Kingdom", M. Rickert (F&SF 5/06)

Salon Fantastique, Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, eds. (Thunder's Mouth)

Map of Dreams, M. Rickert (Golden Gryphon)

Shaun Tan

Special Award: Professional:
Ellen Asher (For work at SFBC)

Special Award: Non-Professional:
Gary K. Wolfe (for reviews and criticism in Locus and elsewhere)

The judges this year were Gavin Grant, Ed Greenwood, Jeremy Lassen, Jeff Mariotte, and Carsten Polzin; thanks to them and congratulations to all the winners and nominees. (But particular, immense congratulations to the Once & Future Queen of SF, my former boss, the amazing Ellen Asher.)

Incoming Books, Week of 11/3

At some point, I hope to turn this very boring weekly post (currently mostly a record-keeping thing for myself) into something more useful and interesting -- assuming I do keep getting more review copies, I'm going to start describing several of them a week, with bookshots and all that good stuff.

But not this week, because I'm still up at WFC, away from my pile of books and my scanner. This week, I'm still boring.

I've already lugged the big bag of books out to my car, so I don't remember all of that stuff -- there was a pile of books from the Orbit party, and a number of other things from the con's goodie bag.

Also coming into the Hornswoggler manse this week:
  • eight more Del Rey manga volumes, all sequels to things I've already reviewed -- so there should be a follow-up review coming in the next few weeks
  • The Surgeon's Tale and Other Stories by Cat Rambo and Jeff VanderMeer, which is really short so I'd better read it
  • The Quantum July by Ron King, a YA novel
  • five comics collections or similar things, including the new volume of Boneyard, Jeff Smith's Shazam! story, and the second Jack of Hearts collection.
And I've read nothing for the four days of WFC so far (and I'm driving, so I won't get any reading in today, either). Tomorrow I'll need to dive back into the piles.

A Peanuts Rerun

(no, the other kind of Peanuts rerun.)

Today's Peanuts reprint (from 1960, I think) is the definitive single "Great Pumpkin" strip, and another reminder of how great Peanuts was in its heyday. I'm still not entirely sure if I'm in favor of the Peanuts reruns -- it's too much like the zombie "legacy strips" still infesting the comics page -- but I have to admit that I wouldn't think of Charles Schulz on a Sunday morning without the reruns.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

An Open Letter to Writers

I started this at least six months ago and have tinkered with it off and on. I haven't posted it before now because I didn't want to offend anyone -- I still don't want to offend, but today I feel a need for content, and this is available, so...

I know many of you obsess about genre categorization, and how your works -- and other works which you may or may not like or consider worthy -- fit into the larger world of literature. I also know that, for many of you, having your book in precisely the right pigeonhole is vital. And, of course, writers are quite fond of making up new genres to fit their own idiosyncrasies; nearly every seriously committed writer thinks that what she is doing is central and vital to whatever she thinks of as the central purpose of fiction.

Unfortunately, none of that actually matters: genre isn't about you. It's not about writers at all. Genre categories are for readers, and driven by readers. Those of us in publishing try to keep track of what those readers want, like and are looking for, but, even in the best of times, that's like trying to hit a moving target -- no, actually, it's like trying to aim a shotgun at a million independently moving targets, and hit enough of them to pay for the powder and shot. That's why we keep making up new names for subgenres and hybrid genres; we want to figure out what the readers are responding to, and define it well enough so that we can actually recognize it if it comes through our door again. (And, far too much of the time, what we think the readers want is just some superficial stuff that isn't what's really important at all.)

All writers can do is to write the stories they have in them. I'm not telling you folks to stop obsessing about this -- telling a writer to stop obsessing is like telling a normal person not to think of a pink elephant -- but, instead, to tell those stories your way, and not worry about what they're called. Good luck...and don't think about that pink elephant.

Friday Means Manga!

I've made a vow to review some manga for ComicMix every Friday until I either die or fall over from panty-shot overdose. It hasn't happened yet, but this week I reviewed the first volumes of Alice on Deadlines and Psycho Busters.

I enjoyed both of them, which means I'm either figuring out how this stuff works or there's just more good stuff than I suspected. (And, if there's anyone out there publishing manga or comics of any type and wanting to get reviews from ComicMix, please contact me at acwheele (at) optonline (dot) net.)

Friday, November 02, 2007

A Very Belated Semi-Review of "The Wolves in the Walls"

Thing 1 and I went to see The Wolves in the Walls, a family musical based on the Neil Gaiman/Dave McKean picture book, a couple of weeks ago now, when it was in New York at the wonderful New Victory Theater.

It scared the heck out of him -- he nearly ran out of the the theater, and did hide his head and cover his ears just before the wolves actually did come out of the walls. We were also pretty close -- fifth row or so -- and the show might be slightly less frightening further back. But it really distressed my nine-year old, so, if you're thinking about going to see it, be warned that it is scary.

Other than that, there were just two unpleasant things about the production -- it was really REALLY LOUD and the Scottish cast's accents dropped into incomprehensibility (even though they were really REALLY LOUD) quite a lot, especially when they were singing. The comprehension issue seemed to fade as the show went on, so perhaps it's just a matter of getting used to the accents. But, if you're an American and planning to see this show, expect your ears to be battered in a couple of ways, and expect younger or more sensitive children to be scared out of their wits.

Other than that, the show was wonderful -- the sets were wonderfully dingy-looking and creepy (and moved around into a couple of useful configurations), the wolf costumes were excellent (though, again, quite frightening for the younger ones), and the cast had a lot of energy, good singing voices, and accents that weren't completely impenetrable. If it's coming to your town, it's worth seeing.

But just remember: when the wolves come out of the's all over.

Quote of the Week

"Vegetarians have wicked, shifty eyes and laugh in a cold, calculating manner. They pinch little children, steal stamps, drink water, favor beards."
- J.B. Morton

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Editorial Cartoons 101

Matt Davies has a good post today, explaining what editorial cartoons should do (but all too often don't do) -- go beyond the obvious joke, or the same old outrage that everyone else is peddling, and examine why this particular situation is a problem.

One might disagree with his specific cartoon (if one believes civilized countries should rightfully engage in torture, which would make one a believer in magical thinking), but it's hard to deny the general point.

Books Read in October

This was the month that I started commuting again -- I'm not sure if it led to my reading more "real" books, but I sure feel more productive now.
Since I'm now obsessively posting about every last book I read (now that none of them are secret in any way), these monthly posts are more like indices than ever. Well, I've always liked indices, so I don't mind...