Friday, February 29, 2008
- Timothy Bracy of The Mendoza Line, from the song "Morbid Craving"
"She holds a cigar in her right hand
You used to hate smoke but now you understand
How it feels to fight an urge."
- Shannon McArdle of The Mendoza Line, from the song "Something Dark"
I should also note that I'm no longer the only comics reviewer at ComicMix; I've been joined by the perspicacious Van Jensen and the incomparable Mike Gold. Read us now...or hear about us later!
In the movie Juno -- which I blogged about last month -- the title character says "Thundercats Are Go!" when her water breaks.
This of course is a conflation of two entirely separate geeky catchphrases:
- "Thunderbirds Are Go!" from the '60s Gerry Anderson "Supermarionation" show
- "Thundercats Ho!" from the '80s animated show that has driven many of my generation into the horrifying recesses of furrydom
From SF Awards Watch: the judges for the 2009 Philip K. Dick Awards (reading books from 2008) are Tobias Buckell, M.M.Buckner, Walter Hunt, Rosemary Kirstein and Bill Senior.
Also from SF Awards Watch: the judges for the 2008 World Fantasy Awards (reading gigantic piles of things from 2007) are Peter Coleborn, Robert Hoge, Dennis L. McKiernan, Mark Morris, Steve Pasechnick.
(And I hope someone on last year's WFA judge panel will be able to pass on the Sekret Judges Memo, which I bequeathed to them last year and which the mighty Jeff Ford had handed down to the equally mighty Jeff VanderMeer in my year. Before that, its origins are lost in the mists of time. But it is truly a puissant and learned document.)
Thursday, February 28, 2008
The proprietor and his adopted daughter Isabelle get caught up in Hugo's story, and, as one might expect, they have a deep and hidden connection to Hugo. All is revealed eventually, and everything wraps up more neatly than I'd prefer, though it is appropriate for a book for younger readers like this. The story ends up being in large part an excuse for Selznick to get into the history of a person he greatly admires, and to go on about automatons, another subject he's very interested in.
Without giving away important plot points, there's not much more I can say about the story. It's nice, but slightly flattened, the way some stories for younger readers are. The art is more cinematic than graphic-novelish, with obvious tracking shots moving across several pages. I think those effects work decently here, but comics have built up a visual language of their own over the last century or so, which can achieve many of the same effects without taking twenty pages to do so. There's nothing wrong with the way Selznick does it -- and his art is very nice -- but there's something odd and old-fashioned about Hugo Cabret, as if it were a book from 1931 instead of just being about that time.
Michael Moorcock will be this year's Grand Master.
(I personally would have picked him before Aldiss -- just to compare apples to apples, not mentioning other GMs of the past decade or so -- but, then, I probably would have picked Ballard before either of them. So what do I know?)
This means absolutely nothing, but it's a nice round number, so it gets a blog post all of its own.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
(Also of interest: Niall Harrison's take on it.)
But the mystery plot of Misbehaves, and its shape as a novel, leave much to be desired. Misbehaves only makes sense if it is set in a world in which every single person other than Rumpole himself (and possibly She Who Must Be Obeyed, his wife) is utterly incompetent, and most of them are also completely corrupt.
Back when Rumpole's adventures were of novelette-length, the plots were streamlined and the time sequence condensed; there wasn't time or space to wonder why the police in Rumpole's world were either incompetent or corrupt (since they invariably arrested innocent people and then tried to frame them). And the judges and prosecutors were generally seen as unpleasant individuals, people with perhaps differing views on the likelihood of innocence than Rumpole himself, but not as fools or bastards. But, now, in the era of Rumpole novels, even the fellow barristers in Rumpole's chambers are nasty, and he alone upholds the standards and ideals of British Jurisprudence.
In the course of Rumpole Misbehaves, Rumpole attempts to defend both a young Timson (scion of the large and larcenous South London family that has kept him in work for his entire career) from an ASBO -- a particularly Orwellian invention of the panopticon that is modern Britain -- and a young man from a charge of murder.
The ABSO plot does tie in to the murder eventually, but it's mainly there for Mortimer to rail against the very idea of an "anti-social behavior order." I suspect he's stacking the deck horribly in his favor, but I'm inclined to dislike the idea to begin with, so I went along with him.
Luckily, Rumpole's voice is still pleasant, and She Who Must Be Obeyed is not nearly as terrible as she used to be. Rumpole Misbehaves is a fine waste of a few hours, but it's not meant to be read with any critical facility engaged. If I'm capable of as much when I'm eighty-four, I'll be more than happy.
The movie opens forty-three years ago, with Emilia Fox as a young woman on a train who is soon confronted by the authorities about the large quantities of blood seeping out of her trunk. It seems that she has killed and dismembered her husband and his lover, who were about to run away together. So she's packed off to a briefly-glimpsed home for the criminally insane.
Fast-forward to now. Rowan Atkinson is the distracted Rev. Walter Goodfellow; Kristin Scott Thomas is his (still quite attractive) wife Gloria, with whom he has not been intimate in far too long. They have two children: teenage sexpot Holly and bullied schoolboy Petey. And they also have a new housekeeper, Grace Hawkins (Maggie Smith), just about to join their family.
(No points on connecting those dots; the movie doesn't try to conceal it.)
Grace -- and, yes, her name is commented upon by our local vicar -- proceeds to help her new family in ways that bear some similarity to the way she helped herself all those years ago. She also encourages Walter to show more attention to his wife, gets Holly interested in cooking, and helps Petey out with some bullies (without actually dismembering them).
Keeping Mum is a fairly gentle black comedy -- it's a family black comedy, if that categorization makes any sense. The plot does have some holes in it; one, in particular, must be large enough to drive the golf pro's car through. And the ending falls flat -- it's intended to say something humorously cutting about family, but it's staged badly, and events could not have worked that way. But it's a movie that means well, and is easy to believe in most of the way. The actors playing the two children are decent, and the major players all nicely underplay what could have been very broad. If you go into it not expecting greatness, I expect you'll be adequately entertained.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I don't mean the concept of Ace Standard as a slam; just to note that it's a type, and that examples of the type can be as varied in execution as a Baen MilSF novel or a Terri Windling fairy tale can be.
Anton Strout's debut novel Dead to Me has some strong Ace Standard features: it's set in the modern world, in New York City, featuring a young psychometer (Simon Canderous) working for a secret but legitimate occult government bureau, the Department of Extraordinary Affairs. Canderous was formerly a mildly rapacious small-time dealer in collectibles and antiquities, but, after some unspecified Road-to-Damascus moment, he retired his old (and only very, very slightly evil) ways and is now cleaving to the path of Good with the fervor of a new convert.
His employer, the DEA , is part of the government of the City of New York, and it has responsibility for dealing with and keeping quiet pretty much everything supernatural in the city. But who the DEA is and what they do, precisely, is not entirely defined in Dead to Me; I don't think Strout has completely mapped out in his own head all of their powers and responsibilities. For example, they sometimes seem to be cops, and sometimes civil servants. If they're cops, they're awfully emotional and undisciplined cops -- not just Simon, who has the excuse that he's new to the DEA, but his partner and mentor Connor Christos, and others.
This also is a common feature of the Ace Standard: the hero is hotheadedly emotional, particularly in having easily-pushed buttons about "evil." The Ace Standard hero is Chandleresque in his chivalry and ideals without being in the least world-weary; he is pricked easily by the slights of the world, and lashes out quickly. At the same time, he is easily tongue-tied when confronting more sophisticated types -- and he's usually in opposition to them. He's prone to long speeches about right and wrong, and may have self-doubt -- let me rephrase: he's prone to acres and acres of self-doubt -- but never doubts the mission.
Canderous is this in spades, and he also has the Ace Standard hero's relationships towards women -- he loves 'em (in a totally modern, completely post-feminist, and entirely aboveboard way), but the fact that these women may be human beings with mixed emotions and motivations (possibly including things that he may call "evil") confuses and vexes him. There are two semi-love-interests for Canderous in Dead to Me -- and that's not even counting the woman he's making out with in the first chapter -- and neither of them is pure snowy white, which causes him some consternation.
 I could be convinced that naming a secretive government agency the "DEA" was a kind of double-blind, or protective coloration, or even a bureaucratic mistake. ("'No, the other DEA,' I said, for about the thousandth time.") But Strout doesn't really follow any of those avenues; it's just a law-enforcement agency that has the same initials as a different law-enforcement agency. This felt like a lost opportunity, though future books could always pick up on it.
Monday, February 25, 2008
It couldn't happen to a less-beloved award.
This year's nominees are here. Personally, I'm pulling for How to Write a How to Write Book, if only because the success of that will inevitably lead to How to Write a How to Write a How to Write Book.
Voting is open to the general public, go forth and stump for Cheese Problems Solved, if you are so moved.
(The pre-Oscar predictions always say things like "And Ruby Dee will win because She's Due, and Marion Cotlard has no chance because she's French and this is her first nomination..." and they all seem to have been totally wrong this year.)
Or am I just saying that because "Falling Slowly" is clearly the Best Song of this or any other year?
And the books other people sent me for review are:
Tonoharu: Part One by Lars Martinson, from Pliant Press; something I was entirely innocent of before it showed up on my doorstep. I'd never heard of the author, the publisher, or the book. But I see that this book recently won the Xeric Award (which helps individual creators to publish exceptional works), which is impressive. It seems to be semi-autobiographical -- Martinson spent three years teaching English in Japan and Tonoharu is about a young man teaching English in Japan. The book design is quite elegant; the pages have a great fine-book smell; and the art has very cartoony figures, strong vertical and horizontal lines, and a rigid four-panel grid. It publishes at the beginning of May, and I look forward to reading it.
Physics of the Impossible is a non-fiction book on science by Michio Kaku, a well-known science popularizer. (I know I've read at least one of his books -- maybe Visions -- but can't recall exactly what or when.) This is a general "how these SFnal ideas could work" book, not tied to any specific fictional world and based in real, if speculative, science. Impossible is divided into three sections -- Impossibilities of Class I, II, and III -- starting with force fields and invisibility and working up to time travel and perpetual motion machines. Doubleday will publish it on March 11 in hardcover.
Iron Man: Beneath the Armor is the first bound manuscript I've received as a reviewer -- and I would have been more impressed before I learned how easy it is for my employer to create them. (The Iron Man book is published by someone else, though -- Ballantine, to be exact -- so perhaps it's more impressive when they do it.) Anyway, this is a guidebook to Iron Man's history in the comics, copiously illustrated with lots of art from forty years of comics, by the very knowledgeable Andy Mangels. I'm sure this is being published now because of the upcoming movie, since Iron Man otherwise has always struck me as an also-ran hero. The materials I have don't say when this book will be published, but I'm going to guess that it will be before the summer, and the movie.
Before They Are Hanged is the second book of "The First Law" by Joe Abercrombie. (Which reminds me of the old story -- I'm not sure if it's true or not -- that Terry Goodkind's first novel was named Wizard's First Rule because he wanted the whole series to follow that title style: Wizard's Second Rule, Wizard's Third Rule, and so on. According to the story, Goodkind was convinced by someone at Tor, his publishing house, that this was not necessarily the best way to create a series identity.) Abercrombie's series looks to derive more from Glen Cook and Steven Erikson than from Goodkind, but he writes big, bloody epic fantasy, so he's in the same ballpark either way. Before They Are Hanged is a trade paperback from Pyr, and will be published March 4th.
Last this week is something that came directly from the author: Polly Frost's Deep Inside. It's a collection of SpecFic erotica stories, and I was amused to note that I know Frost's editor (Paul Stevens of Tor -- hi, Paul!). I have to admit that I'm not all that plugged into the skiffy erotica scene, though I do know that it exists, and have been known to make jokes about Circlet Press. Deep Inside was published by Tor in the summer of 2007 in trade paperback, and it's still available.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
I suspect it's a problem with the user files, and I think I could fix it without too much trouble if I could boot the damn thing into a normal system from a CD, but the only thing I have are Restore CDs, Software Install CDs, and Upgrade CDs -- I don't have a single disc that's simply a bootable system; they all start some software process I don't want.
Does anyone out there know of a place to download old Mac system software, so I can burn a CD or DVD to run on her computer? I can't make one from the system on this computer, because this is an Intel Mac running 10.5.2, and that's too rich for the other Mac.
This is really annoying; I have this stack of CDs with something like an OS on them, and a long list of things to try to fix from Apple.com, but the first step is "start up from a CD." (Or in "safe mode," which isn't working.)
Update, Monday: Thanks, Brad! Target mode worked: I copied the hard drive on the dodgy iMac to a backup (once I'd lugged it over to where the other computer lived), and then a clean install fixed things.
I feel lucky that I've run Macs for nearly twenty years now, and I've never had to do a clean install before -- and I'll be even happier if it's twenty years until I have to do it again.
(The lurking issue now is that the OS install from the disc I had didn't include Classic...and I do find having Classic on at least one computer to be useful, so I'm trying to get that back.)
Saturday, February 23, 2008
This week's entry is by Dwight Garner, who is also the primary writer for the Times's PaperCuts blog, and could thus be assumed to be slightly less old-fashioned and dry-stickish than his compatriots.
However, Garner takes this space to look back at the bestseller lists of 25 years ago -- February 20th, 1983 -- and look down his nose at them. He notes that the NYTBR invented the "Advice, How-To, & Miscellaneous" lists in early 1984, so this particular list was before that watershed -- and thus "advice bestsellers were placed on the general nonfiction list, where they crowded out almost everything else."
Note carefully that "were placed." The Times is not reporting on the actual sales of books, it is placing those books on its hallowed list.
Garner has drunk the NYTBR Kool-aid; he clearly believes that when a bestseller list contains the books that real people are actually buying in large quantities, those books are "crowding out" "everything else." Yes, Dwight, that's what bestseller lists do: they "crowd out" the books that are not selling as well. Surely someone smart enough to get a job at the Times could realize that.
Garner also reprints the fiction list from that same week, and sniffs that he's "struck by the number of narratives about space and other worlds -- also struck by how few of these books I'd particularly want to imbibe today."
On his first point, the list of ten books includes Michener's Space, Clarke's 2010: Odyssey Two, Auel's The Valley of Horses (not really germaine to his point, but I thought I should mention it), Asimov's Foundation's Edge, Straub's Floating Dragon, Adams's Life, the Universe, and Everything, and Kotzwinkle's E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial Storybook (which would be gerrymandered off the main list and into the kids-books ghetto, these days). Seven of the ten bestselling hardcover fiction books that week were at least mildly speculative. The '80s were quite good for SpecFic.
As to the question of what books Mr. Garner particularly wants to imbibe, I doubt that any writer worth her salt tries to write something that will appeal to a middle-level book review functionary a quarter-century in the future. She's writing for the people who buy and read books now. And hitting a major bestseller list is a good sign that she's succeeded.
So, if Mr. Garner's successor in 2033 looks back at 7th Heaven and Sizzle and Burn and Plum Lucky, sniffs in his turn, and mentions that 2008 was during the times when the Times "placed" romances and thrillers on the general fiction list, where they crowded out almost everything else...well, then, it won't come as any surprise, will it?
Friday, February 22, 2008
Now, I have seen an article or two with a smarter-than-usual economist, who points out that people must be getting something worth what they pay for the lottery tickets -- if they didn't, they wouldn't keep doing it. But, in general, there's a strong whiff of "only poor and stupid people do this."
I won't deny that spending money on the lottery can be stupid -- it should only be money that you can afford to burn -- but it's not necessarily so. And I think those economists aren't thinking about what people actually get out of lotteries.
The first, obvious thing is a shot at a large pile of money. It's a very small shot (about one in 175 million, in this case) at, right now, a very large pile, but someone is going to win that money (soon, if not tonight), and any ticket has about the same odds. Unlike many chances available to Americans, nobody else has a better shot at it; anybody who buys a ticket is equal.
The second thing a lottery ticket buys is pretty obvious, as well: it's the chance to daydream, to build some imaginary castles, to think about what you'd do with all that money. I used to try to buy my lottery tickets as early as possible (when I decided to waste the money, and remembered to do so -- which turned out to not be very often), so I'd have a couple of days of "wouldn't it be great if..." to look forward to. I'm busier now, so that rarely happens, but I still generally don't check my numbers for a day or three. Until you know that you lost -- and, let's be honest, you are going to lose -- you can go on dreaming.
But there's something else a lottery ticket buys, though you might have to be a cynical bastard like me to think of it. A lottery ticket is an insurance policy against the creeping "what-ifs" when some other idiot wins. If there's an umpty-gazillion-dollar jackpot, and you don't play, but your idiot brother-in-law does and he wins...you're gonna be pissed. You might be only slightly less pissed if you did play, and he still won, but at least you did what you could.
That's how I see it, at least. It's a cheap way to say "well, I did what I could." And when this jackpot is split between thirty-seven co-workers in Oshkosh, two elderly sisters in Springfield, and an unemployed welder in Kalamazoo, I'll be saying it again.
The problem with Bookscan -- and, particularly, with making any big pronouncements based on Bookscan numbers -- is that Bookscan isn't consistently any percentage of retail sales.
For some books and some publishers, it's around 65%, for others, 75%. In some cases, it could be close to 100%, but it can also be 25% or less (especially anything that gets into Wal*Mart, which sells huge numbers of a few books and which doesn't report to Bookscan).
I work for a publishing line of mostly technical, professional books, and recently did an analysis on one particular product that showed that Bookscan registered about 40% of the sales of that product through the channels that Bookscan covers. (Leaving out all of the other ways those books are sold -- directly by the publisher; through organizations, corporations, or governments; by non-book stores; to college students; and so on.) That's an extreme case...but those cases do exist. And there are probably similar cases in the comics world.
So when someone who can see Fantagraphics's real sales figures says that they don't resemble Bookscan numbers, I believe him. Bookscan is best for parallax; if you know what your books are selling (for real and on Bookscan), and you know what the competition is selling on Bookscan, you can work out, roughly, what the competition is really selling. But without real numbers for comparison in the middle there, Bookscan figures alone are dangerous to rely on.
And the idea that indy comics are failures because they don't sell at the level of long-underwear projects is just silly -- in "real" publishing, five thousand copies of a 23-dollar book isn't bad at all for a literary project. Thrillers sell better, yes -- in comics and outside of them. This is news?
- Michael Swanwick, The Dragons of Babel, p.285
C'mon, SFWA, admit it: you want to have a "Media Thing We Looooove" category but you didn't have the guts to say that, so you pretended that you're judging the scripts (which you mostly don't see) and not the finished product.
Admit to your geekiness. Own it. You'll be a better organization for it. Oh, and, while you're at it, get rid of the confusing and credibility-damaging "rolling eligibility" system too.
And those nominees are:
- Odyssey - McDevitt, Jack (Ace, Nov06)
- The Accidental Time Machine - Haldeman, Joe (Ace, Aug07)
- The Yiddish Policemen’s Union - Chabon, Michael (HarperCollins, May07)
- The New Moon’s Arms - Hopkinson, Nalo (Warner Books, Feb07)
- Ragamuffin - Buckell, Tobias (Tor, Jun07)
Hey, I've actually read three of these! And I want to read both of the others -- I even have a copy of Ragamuffin looking at me balefully from the shelf. I have a feeling it's going to go to either McDevitt or Haldeman, even though (to be honest) their books are entertaining and fun, but not really Nebula-level.
- “Kiosk” - Sterling, Bruce (F&SF, Jan07)
- “Memorare” - Wolfe, Gene (F&SF, Apr07)
- “Awakening” - Berman, Judith (Black Gate 10, Spr07)
- “Stars Seen Through Stone” - Shepard, Lucius (F&SF, Jul07)
- “The Helper and His Hero” - Hughes, Matt (F&SF, Feb07 & Mar07)
- “Fountain of Age” - Kress, Nancy (Asimov’s, Jul07)
- “The Fiddler of Bayou Teche” - Sherman, Delia (Coyote Road, Trickster Tales, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, Ed., Viking Juvenile, Jul07)
- “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter” - Ryman, Geoff (F&SF, Nov06)
- “The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs Of North Park After the Change” - Johnson, Kij (Coyote Road, Trickster Tales, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, Ed., Viking Juvenile, Jul07)
- “Safeguard” - Kress, Nancy (Asimov’s, Jan07)
- “The Children’s Crusade” - Bailey, Robin Wayne (Heroes in Training, Martin H. Greenberg and Jim C. Hines, Ed., DAW, Sep07)
- “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” - Chiang, Ted (F&SF, Sep07)
- “Child, Maiden, Mother, Crone” - Bramlett, Terry (Jim Baen’s Universe 7, June 2007)
- “Unique Chicken Goes In Reverse” - Duncan, Andy (Eclipse 1: New Science Fiction And Fantasy, Jonathan Strahan, Ed., Night Shade Books, Oct07)
- “Titanium Mike Saves the Day” - Levine, David D. (F&SF, Apr07)
- “Captive Girl” - Pelland, Jennifer (Helix: A Speculative Fiction Quarterly, WS & LWE, Ed., Oct06 (Fall06 issue — #2))
- “Always” - Fowler, Karen Joy (Asimov’s, May07 (Apr/May07 issue))
- “Pride” - Turzillo, Mary (Fast Forward 1, Pyr, February 2007)
- “The Story of Love” - Nazarian, Vera (Salt of the Air, Prime Books, Sep06)
- Children of Men - Cuaron, Alfonso & Sexton, Timothy J. and Arata, David and Fergus, Mark & Ostby, Hawk (Universal Studios, Dec06)
- The Prestige - Nolan, Christopher and Nolan, Jonathon (Newmarket Films, Oct06 (Oct 20, 2006 — based on the novel by Christopher Priest))
- Pan’s Labyrinth - del Toro, Guillermo (Time/Warner, Jan07)
- V for Vendetta - Wachowski, Larry & Wachowski, Andy (Warner Films, Mar06 (released 3/17/2006 — Written by the Wachowski Brothers, based on the graphic novel illustrated by David Lloyd and published by Vertigo/DC Comics))
- “World Enough and Time” - Zicree, Marc Scott and Reeves, Michael (Star Trek: New Voyages, http://www.startreknewvoyages.com, Aug07 (Aired 8/23/07))
- “Blink” - Moffat, Steven (Doctor Who, BBC/The Sci-Fi Channel, Sep07 (Aired on SciFi Channel 14Sep07))
Have I ever mentioned that I'm not fond of this category?
I'm not fond of this category.
And I really don't care who wins it, either.Andre Norton Award (not actually a Nebula, by the way)
- The True Meaning of Smek Day - Rex, Adam (Hyperion, Oct07)
- The Lion Hunter - Wein, Elizabeth (Viking Juvenile, Jun07 (The Mark of Solomon, Book 1))
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Rowling, J. K. (Scholastic Press, Jul07)
- The Shadow Speaker - Okorafor-Mbachu, Nnedi (Jump At The Sun, Sep07)
- Into the Wild - Durst, Sarah Beth (Penguin Razorbill, Jun07)
- Vintage: A Ghost Story - Berman, Steve (Haworth Positronic Press, Mar07)
- Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog - Wilce, Ysabeau S. (Harcourt, Jan07)
I've read two of these and bits of another one (which was a bit too YAish for my taste at that particular moment -- no harm, no foul). And I want to read SmekDay. But I have no idea who will win -- except for the sure knowledge that Rowling won't.
Winners will be feted (if they bother to show up) during the gala Nebula banquet, held during the annual Nebula Weekend (less than a convention, better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick) at Austin, Texas's Omni Hotel the weekend of April 25th. Sadly, I won't be in attendance this year, since I don't work for someone willing to foot the bill. Oh, well. The expense account is a harsh mistress...
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Rocket Science is aggressively independent; a couple of actors looked vaguely familiar (and Jonah Hill shows up in a very minor role), but it's mostly made up of very high-school-looking unknowns acting naturalistically through a script that strenuously avoids doing anything obvious.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Pitt lives in Alphabet City, which -- along with parts of the Village -- are the stomping grounds of The Society. The Coalition covers most of the island, from 14th street north to the borders of Harlem, where The Hood takes over. Down in the far south are a number of smaller groups who don't take part in this novel. Aside from the fact that they're officially vampires, and can't go out in full sun (sunlight triggers the Vyrus in their blood to set off an epic number of cancers almost immediately), these groups are all basically organized crime families: filled with both intrigue and "family" ties, riddled with agents for other families, and prone to settling disputes with sudden violence. (There's also an even more secretive, and weird, set of essentially vampire warrior Zen monks, but let's leave them aside for now.)
In this book, Pitt -- who isn't part of any vampire group, but is allowed to live in Society territory because he occasionally does jobs for the Society's head, Terry Bird -- becomes caught up in various plots as he tries to track down the source of a new and dangerous drug that many of the young vampires in his area are using. That leads to many of the usual hardboiled novel tropes -- a creepy rich old lady, a violent black crimelord and his dogfighting pit, and the aforementioned vampire pseudo-Shaolin monks. Huston brandishes his cliches with relish, though, making them larger than life and so believeable.
On the less positive side, he also punctuates all dialogue with an initial dash, and refuses to give any speech tags, which is incredibly annoying at the beginning of the novel, but eventually slides into the background. It's an awfully highbrow affectation for a hardboiled vampire novel, though.
Given Huston's publishing history -- he wrote a three-book mystery series before the Joe Pitt books -- it makes sense that this will probably appeal more to the mystery reader than to the vampire fan. (As I said above, these aren't romantic vampires at all.) And I'm impressed at how nasty Huston makes Pitt -- at one point, our hero kills three people just because they're in the room and it's easier to do so.
But I do think I need to warn the usual vampire fan -- Joe Pitt is not a nice guy, he's not on the side of the angels, and he's not even a Chandleresque "tarnished angel." He's a semi-retired mob fixer who's getting dragged back in. He's not going to have long speeches about how his friends are important to him; he's not going to soften because of Twu Wuv. He's a hard bastard, so only jump onto this series if you like reading about hard bastards.
And here's the problem I'm wrestling with. I'm not in NYC much anymore, so this would normally be a great chance to make a lunch date and catch up with someone. But it's short notice, I can't go far from 5th Ave and 28th Street, and I need to get back for my meeting.
And, on the other hand, there's the siren call of Shake Shack, now open in the winter and which I had to leave behind when I was cast out of
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Pod (Mahasamut Boonyaruk) is a young man from the sticks who goes to Bangkok in search of his fortune, or the fast life, or something -- to be honest, it seems more that he's just running away from a bland farm life where nothing changes than running to anything in particular. He takes a series of minor jobs -- in a sardine-packing factory, as a security guard, driving a taxi -- and runs into the love of his life, Jin (Saengthong Gate-Uthong), who has her own obsessions.
We follow their story mostly through the narrator -- Pod is onscreen for almost the entire movie, but neither he nor anyone else talks all that much. Actually, at this point I should be more specific -- Citizen Dog is both a comedy and a movie with a romance plot, but it's not a "romantic comedy" in any normal American sense of the phrase. (Jin ignores Pod for most of the movie -- and not in the "I'm ignoring you to make you more interested" sense; she's completely caught up in entirely different things.) For me, that was a big plus.
If you can stand quirky, I'd highly recommend Citizen Dog. (And it never feels quirky for the sense of being quirky; just a world in which weird things happen.) And I haven't even said anything about the chain-smoking, talking teddy bear...
Monday, February 18, 2008
"As for Andrew Burt, I think he would be a fine president too, as long as what SFWA members want to do is publicly and enthusiastically cut the organization’s throat."
Supporting in the comments so far: William Schafer, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Rosemary Edghill, Susan Shwartz, Paolo Bacigalupi, Charles Coleman Finlay, Amy Sterling Casil, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Elizabeth Moon.
Publicly supporting Andrew Burt....?
"...authors who will ask 'So tell me again, what can you do for me?'"
Been there, done that. Got another conference call next week. We can do a lot, actually. And we do it.
"Publishers sell books to distributors who sell books to bookstores who sell books to readers."
Maybe some do. I help my company's various sales forces sell books to bookstores, and online book retailers (and that is not just a euphemism for you-know-who), and professional organizations, and corporations, and folks who provide continuing professional education, and distributors, and others I'm forgetting right now. Some of those people sell books to readers, some have already pre-sold those books, some give away those books, and I'd be only mildly surprised if some of them barter books for energy futures. The publishing ecology is deeper and wilder than most people guess.
And, as you know Bob, my current title has the word "Marketing" in it, which means I'm also deeply concerned with making consumers interested in these books. I might not be setting up MySpace pages for Parmenter's Key Performance Indicators, but that doesn't mean I'm not connecting it with readers.
All books are not novels. All books are not stories. And the monomaniacal focus of "publishing" blogging on Major Fiction gives me a headache.
Ellen Datlow edited The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy for a publisher that I hope you can figure out yourself. I've been feeling guilty about carrying around the Datlow-edited issue of Subterranean for several months without reading it. (Though don't ask me how far behind I am on The New York Review of Science Fiction!) So I'm inclined to find time to read this -- especially since Datlow's a great editor and I haven't seen the last couple of her books. Del Rey Book is coming in late April, and I'm going to bet right now that it will be one of the major original anthologies of the year.
The Guin Saga Manga: The Seven Magi, Volume 3 completes a sidebar story to a long Japanese novel sequence by Kaoru Kurimoto; the manga are written by Kurimoto with art by Kazuaki Yanagisawa. I suppose the Conan-esque leopard-headed warrior-king Guin beats up the evil magi and saves the day in this book, but I'll have to read it to be sure. (I reviewed the first two volumes of the trilogy for ComicMix about a month ago.) This is being published by Vertical in early March.
Also from Vertical is Andromeda Stories, Volume 3 by Keiko Takemiya, which also ends a trilogy. (I reviewed the second volume of that series at ComicMix back in December.) This one has the final showdown between our hero Prince Jimsa and The Enemy, an aggressively hegemonizing machine race which is in the process of converting his home planet. The finale of Andromeda Stories will also be in stores in early March.
And next is a complicated one: Death Note: Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases, a spin-off novel by Nisioisin based on the Death Note manga by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. It's about a serial killer in LA and the Japanese-American FBI agent who needs to run him down. (The mysterious super-sleuth L from the manga series is also apparently important in the novel.) Another Note is also a very stylish-looking book, with a white dust wrapper that only covers two-thirds of the book, black cloth binding, and creepy silver stamping on both case and jacket. It's a very attractive-looking little volume, which was published by Viz this month.
I got something frightening-looking from Del Rey Manga: Minima! , Vol. 1 by Machiko Sakurai. According to the back-cover copy -- even though my old boss would remind me "Never hold against the author what the back of the book says" -- this is the story of a teenage girl whose favorite toy comes to life to become her best friend. (No, not that kind of toy -- get your mind out of the gutter. The cute, cuddly, stuffed kind.) It's available right now.
Also already published by Del Rey Manga is the less cute Yozakura Quartet, by Suzuhito Yasuda. This one is about three superpowered girls and their unpowered male friend, who all protect their town from various supernatural threats. Now, I'm pretty sure I've seen a storyline like that before, if only I could remember where...
Marseguro is the first novel by Edward Willett, and I'm afraid I was making fun of its cover over on Jeff VanderMeer's blog a couple of weeks ago. It's an old-fashioned colonists vs. Earth novel, with a world of humans and genetically modified post-humans targeted by the obligatory oppressive religious government of Earth. DAW published it in mass-market paperback at the beginning of February.
Also from DAW is The Hidden City, first in a big fat epic fantasy series by Michelle West (under the series title "The House War"). It's related to her first duology -- Hunter's Oath and Hunter's Death -- but looks like your usual wade-into-the-deep-end high fantasy, with a spunky heroine surviving in the slums by her wits, battling Houses with a capital H, and evil demons lurking in the background to serve as the Big Bad for later in the series. The Hidden City publishes in hardcover on March 4th.
S.L. Farrell's A Magic of Twilight also begins a big epic fantasy series from DAW, called "The Nessantico Cycle." Nessantico is the seat of a mighty empire, and of its equally mighty religion, both of which I expect will be important as the series goes on. This book also has what I fear may turn out to be a spunky young woman as a major character, though it also has a queen in the fiftieth year of her reign to balance things out. As a consumer note, I should say that there are a number of apostrophes in the pages I looked at, but they all seem to be embedded in character names (and at the same place in the name in all cases), so it's a minor infestation.
Last this week is Elric : The Stealer of Souls, first in yet another remixing of Michael Moorcock's most famous series of stories. All of the previous reprintings I know of -- and I was involved in one of them and am a big fan of the massive, Multiverse-spanning uberseries from Millennium in the UK and White Wolf in the US in the early to mid-90s -- tried to put the stories into an internal chronology. Given how tangled and interconnected all of Moorcock's works are, this was close to being futile to begin with. On top of that, the first Elric novel, Stormbringer -- made up of the second major sequence of stories -- is the very end of the series. Del Rey, having had some success with their chronologically-reprinted series of Robert E. Howard Conan stories, have decided to do the same for Moorcock. So this volume is the first that decides to reprint the Elric stories in the original order they appeared: Elric: The Stealer of Souls includes the original collection The Stealer of Souls, plus the best and most essential Elric book, Stormbringer. There's also a small pile of more minor pieces, including a new introduction by Moorcock and a foreword by Alan Moore, the first review of Stormbringer from New Worlds, and several other Moorcock pieces of the same vintage. It was published February 19th, and it makes a great single volume introduction to the first and best doomed hero of modern fantasy.