Archive for the 'Science Fiction' Category

Comicon 2010 round-up and wrap-up, Saturday, Sunday

July 26th, 2010

Continuing the Comicon 2010 report from the previous post….

Saturday: I had some thoughts of seeing the Chuck panel, as I was there early enough, but early enough for the panel and early enough for the line are two different things and the line for Ballroom 20 was beyond insane, so I decided to go over to the Indigo Ballroom in the Hilton which is generally less impacted and see the program track there.  En route, I witnessed the line for Hall H, where the movie panels go on.  It had overflowed it’s already insane bounds and gone over across the street, wrapped around the park where the Clash of the Titans games promos were set up and extended into another dimension I think.  The games in the park were all nice: You could have your face painted and have a picture taken in cut-outs as one of Medusa’s victims, you could bounce on a giant trampoline (which did a number on my knee last year at con), you could play boffer wars in a bouncy arena, and you could even climb a rock wall with a cable safety harness.  Almost no one was playing the games, preferring to stand in line, so I decided I’d try the rock wall, which was free.  Unfortunately, I’d sprained my LCL a few months ago and about ten feet up the rock wall I felt it complain so I wussed out.  The guy who was supervising the wall looked more approving after I compared knee surgery scars with him.  In any case, I got a souvenir fan in place of a shield or a medusa headdress and went on to the line for the Indigo Ballroom, which was fortunately short.

I was there in time for the panel for Leverage, which I’d only vaguely heard of.  They had free MASTERMIND and GRIFTER T-shirts.  I took MASTERMIND, of course.  The room was packed and I had an extremely excited fifty-something fangirl next to me who was sqeeing with delight over seeing her favorite actors, one of whom I then noted was Christian Kane who I’d previously seen on Angel and who mentioned that he has a new music debut on iTunes of some song played on the show (explaining why his character Lindsay on Angel went off with a guitar at one point–they were incorporating a talent of the actor into the character) Wil Wheaton was also playing this seasons’ guest villain, Chaos. It looks like a great show, and has a nice simple premise: a gang of modern-day Robin Hoods pulling a heist each week against some bad guys who deserve to get ripped off and then have their money given to charity.  I now have to set my DVR for another show.

Next was the Venture Brothers panel.  It’s a fun cartoon I’ve watched some episodes of and I’ll probably watch a few more.  The actors on the panel were entertaining and generally gonzo, as one might expect.

Then came the Sanctuary panel.  I’ve enjoyed the show, and the panel was enjoyable as well.  They talked a good bit about the Bollywood dance that figured into the last season finale, and also mentioned how they’ve set up a charity which has been helping various groups around the world.  The guy next to me started recording the whole show on his camera, but it wasn’t going to be an unsteady shot, because he’d brought an actual tripod.  I looked around and he wasn’t the only one.

Then came the panel for The Guild, who could teach the rest of Hollywood something serious about work ethic and how to please your fans.  Aside from being at their booth throughout the con with all the actors present doing continuous signings from what I could see, they started the panel with the producer thanking all the fans and telling some production details that were genuinely interesting (as opposed to the twaddle from the guy for the Falling Skies panel, for example).  They then introduced the actors and segued neatly to showing the third episode the current season because they assumed everyone had watched the first two.  I hadn’t, but I can remedy that now, it was fun to see Wil Wheaton back as the villain Faux who had ended up as Codex’s love interest at the end of last season.  They then gave out buttons with the bodice ripper painting of Codex and Faux shown in the episode as a funny bit.  Then, when you wouldn’t think they could top that, they said they’d show the fourth episode, though the editing wasn’t quite done.  So we start into a nice seen with Codex and Zaboo in her bedroom which suddenly organically turns into a Bollywood extravaganza called “Game On.”

Wow.  That was some serious showmanship, and not just for the music video, which was amazing, but for the reveal to the fans.  Obviously they planned this well in advance and I’m pleased to see it such a success.

The guy with the tripod then packed up and left, but I then stayed around to watch a bit of the Community panel.  It was fun and whacky and basically what you’d expect for a comedy set in a community college with Chevy Chase as one of the professors, but after getting a free community college membership card with a discount for buying the DVD, I decided I was tired of sitting and so left too, going back to the convention center to see the art show, which was underwhelming, and more of the art on in the dealer’s room, which was not.

One artist I should point out to everyone is Echo Chernik.  She does some amazing art nouveau illustrations.  Another is Jeremy Bastain who does the Cursed Pirate Girl comics.

I then picked up with Albert and a couple of his friends and we went to Dick’s Last Resort which was a good deal of fun, especially since they were into the Comicon spirit and the waiters were in costume.  Ours was dressed as a white Mr. T with a Brooklyn accent, which was entertaining, and the food was good.  Pete, who’d joined us for dinner late, told us about the really cool Tron set-up they’d had off-site from the convention center.  I wish I’d been able to see it, but there’s always too much stuff to see, but what he showed me on his camera was pretty amazing.  We ate and ordered too much, which in hindsight we shouldn’t have because the next stop was the House of Blues where one of my publishers, SmartPop, had invited us to a party.  There was a buffet with too much delicious food, and also copies of their latest essay anthology A Taste of True Blood which the editor, Leah Wilson, was signing for all the guests.  There was fun talk about anthologies and the usual convention party fun.

Sunday: The last day of the con, I decided to catch Ann and Jeff Vandermeer‘s panel where they talked about upcoming projects, including steam punk anthologies and various curious and whimsical things.  I then did the dealers room floor, snagging up various things that caught my eye as purchases for the final day sales and also getting the final day swag.

The most interesting/fun bit of swag came in the WETA Workshop booth where a guy got up on a chair and announced that in partnership with TheOneRing.net were doing a trivia contest based on The Hobbit. Now, I pride myself on having a semi-eidetic memory, so I thought my chances of winning something with trivia from a book I’d read over thirty years ago were not half bad if I played my cards right.  After flubbing one question, I got called on for another, wanting the names of two of the swords Bilbo found in the troll’s hoard.  Now, if I racked my brains I might have been able to recall the fancy elven names, but they just asked for names, so I immediately gave the orcish ones: “Biter and Beater!”  The Weta guy looked at me as if I’d gone slightly mad since he was reading the card and those were not the names he was looking at but I just grinned and nodded to the OneRing guy for arbitration, and he admitted that those indeed were two of the names for the swords.  Not the names they were looking for, but names from the book.  I was asked if I knew the elven name, which I didn’t, but a guy next to me did: “Glamdring and Orcrist!”  The OneRing guy decided that that question was sufficient to advance us both to the finals after we’d answered a couple other questions.

The final round was me, a woman, the elven scholar guy, and a kid who I expected had read the book recently.  The elven scholar won the first question, selecting a miniature shield as his prize, the kid then correctly said that Gandalf had asked for red wine in Bilbo’s house and got the map of New Zealand as Middle Earth, and I then answered the next question correctly and got my choice of fancy rubber Hobbit ears or a red T-shirt for TheOneRing.net with the slogon “Talk Nerdy to Me.”  I’m not much of a cosplayer, but a T-shirt in my size?  Excellent.

After that, Albert gave me a ride to the airport and my friend Michael picked me up.  All in all an excellent Comicon.

Wild Cards book give-away, just in time for the holidays and SUICIDE KINGS

December 3rd, 2009

A fairly simple announcement: To celebrate the launch of the latest Wild Cards novel SUICIDE KINGS (which I’m not in, but my character Cameo is, being written by Daniel Abraham) Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist is giving away five sets of INSIDE STRAIGHT and BUSTED FLUSH (the second of which I am in, writing Cameo’s story and borrowing Daniel’s character Bugsy).

Confused? You won’t be. Just go to this link:

http://fantasyhotlist.blogspot.com/2009/11/win-set-of-wild-cards-novels.html

Rocket Boy, Geek Girls, and A New Publishing Venture

November 2nd, 2009

Almost a year ago a bunch of writers got together and, to borrow a line from some 1940s musicals, said, “Hey, we have a barn! Let’s put on a show.”  Translation: twenty or so of us decided that, with our various talents, our backlists, and our increasing concern about the shape of publishing and our place in it, we were going to try something new.  Thus, Book View Cafe was born: a website where readers can find short and long fiction by name authors, for free or for a nominal fee.  In the nearly one year since then, the Cafe has added some authors and gained almost 1500 subscribers.  The site generates 700,000 hits a month (!), we’ve promoted new releases by various of our authors with blog posts and Twitter-fic contests.  And now, BVC announces the creation of Book View Press and its first e-publication: an anthology of new and reprint SF: Rocket Boy and the Geek Girls.

BOOK VIEW CAFÉ LAUNCHES ROCKET BOY AND THE GEEK GIRLS

Book View Café, the Internet’s only professional author cooperative announces the creation of Book View Press. Book View Press will expand the Café authors’ mission of bringing the best online fiction to the readers by bringing new work ready-to-read on the most popular ebook devices, including the Amazon Kindle, the Sony eReader and a variety of cell phones.

This group of award-winning and best-selling authors is launching their new press with a its first science fiction anthology: ROCKET BOY AND THE GEEK GIRLS. A collection of rare reprints, hard-to-find favorites and bold new tales by some of SFs finest authors including Vonda N. McIntyre, Katherine Kerr, Judith Tarr, P.R. Frost, Patricia G. Nagle, Amy Sterling Casil, and Maya Kaatherine Bohnhoff.

Rocket Boy and the Geek Girls is available at http://bit.ly/rgr4K for the Kindle version and http://www.bookviewcafe.com/index.php/BVC-eBookstore/ for other formats including pdf, mobi, prc, lit, lrf, epub.

To celebrate the launch of Rocket Boy, BVC is holding a TwitterFic contest. For details visit the BVC website: http://www.bookviewcafe.com

For info contact: info@bookviewcafe.com

I have a story, “Abelard’s Kiss,” in the anthology, but that’s not the only reason to check it out.  Deep Genre’s Katherine Kerr is in the anthology too.  And in the spring we’ll be bringing out a companion e-anthology full of great new and reprint fantasy stories.  It’s good reading, available in most electronic formats.

Hey: BVC may not be the future of publishing, but it’s one version, and it’s here now.  We, as writers, decided to take control of a small patch of our destiny and a small patch of the internet.  Come check it out!

Fort Freak, and Writing in the Cities You’ve Never Visited

May 14th, 2009

As before, news and a rumination.  The news is that Fort Freak, the latest volume in the ongoing Wild Cards cycle, has been announced over at George R.R. Martin’s blog, and I’m among the writers tapped to write it.

Fort Freak

Fort Freak

Aside from the good feeling of having a proposal accepted, there’s also the writer’s anxiety about writing about something you don’t know and fear of getting it wrong.  Mary Anne Mohanraj (also among the writers, and new to Wild Cards) was writing about the same thing, relative to Fort Freak being a police story, something she knows little about beyond what she’s seen on television.  My knowledge of police dealings has a slight benefit in that one of my best friends had studied to be a cop (until health issues made him change to lawyer) and his brother is a cop, and I have other friends who work in law enforcement, so I have people to run legalities by so I won’t run too far afoul of Sjöberg’s Law of Cinematic Inaccuracy.   (“Movies get everything wrong. Hacking-based movies are laughable to hackers, military-based movies are laughable to members of the armed forces, and Indiana Jones movies are laughable to archaeologists.”)  Or, as it’s recently been termed on tvtropes.org, having a story “Dan Browned,” a subset of the trope “Did Not Do the Research.”

Of course, there are sins and sins.  Television budgetary concerns can excuse Television Geography and even “The Mountains of Illinois”, but novels and short stories?  Not so much.  I’ve read short stories set in San Francisco where people had a picnic in Candlestick Park (not realizing that it’s a baseball/football stadium) or walked from Alameda to downtown SF (somehow forgetting that not only is this quite a distance, but the bay is in the way).  And these were published too.

So, I’ll confess my failing: I’ve never visited New York.  Neither state nor city.  But I’ve written stuff set there.  Most recently for my story in Busted Flush (the scene cut for pacing and plotting, not inaccuracy), but before as well.  And now I’m about to do it again.

On the plus side, I’ve at least touched Connecticut brownstone (the Flood Mansion in San Francisco is built of the stuff, imported at ruinous expense back in the day) and being familiar with the architecture of San Francisco and other cities helps, in that what was built in one city was then reproduced in other cities of the era, often by the same architects.   (Driving around Mexico City a few years ago, I was getting deja vu, thinking at times I was in parts of San Francisco or New Orleans or even downtown San Jose.)  And with Wild Cards being an alternate timeline which diverges in 1946, there are structures which were knocked down in our Manhattan which can still exist in the world of Wild Cards.  Not tipping my hand too much, but I’m currently researching  one of those, both because it’s neat in terms of alternate history to preserve something rather than destroying everything, and because if I’m pulling from museum archives and photographs, I don’t have to worry that much about someone who actually lives somewhere looking up from the book and rolling their eyes about how I’ve got it wrong.

I’ll also be running the story by some native New Yorkers, so I can get the errors caught before publication.  But right now, it’s research time.

The Fox in the Dollhouse

February 14th, 2009

After attending Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse panel at last year’s Comicon, I was eagerly awaiting the premiere.  So were friends, and there was even a party with a showing of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog to get us in the mood for more Joss goodness.  And then….

Well, while I don’t want to give any spoilers, Fox has put Dollhouse alongside The Sarah Connor Chronicles in what makes sense as a scifi block, but had promos with Summer Glau and Eliza Dushku that, if the sound were turned off, looked pretty much like 976 commercials:  “SciFi girls want to talk to you.  Just call them.  They’re waiting….”

Regardless, there was talk at the party about how Fox had asked for revision up on revision so that the first few episodes had been turned into something other than what Joss was wanting.  Something with more cop drama and explosions.  But since I can’t really discuss the truth of this without spoilers, they’ll be there after the fold:

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Publication basking: Busted Flush here, latest Wild Cards novel

December 9th, 2008

I got my author’s copies of Busted Flush yesterday, the latest Wild Cards novel which I wrote part of. I’d seen bits and bobs of the other author’s sections during the writing phase, for character approval and to see that we were on the same page, but this is my first chance to read the whole thing together and I’m enjoying it. So far I’ve read Melinda and Caroline’s sections at the beginning, then skipped ahead to reread parts of what I wrote (since there’s no plot surprises there, but there’s the fun of seeing your words in actual print).
Busted Flush cover shot
I’m not certain how many other authors do this, setting aside a day for enjoying the book when it comes out. Lots of times I know it hasn’t worked out, due to life, deadlines and other realities (and today not so much either, since I’m having a friend over to help install a new hard drive in the new computer and attempt to transfer what files were saved from the dead one), but when it happens, it’s nice to be able to just sit back and bask.

P.S. As a small update, there’s now an interview with me and the rest of the Busted Flush authors up at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist for anyone who’d like to read it.

Don’t You Wish You Lived Then? (Musings on Class and Fantasy)

December 4th, 2008

I used to get asked that question a lot in my Regency-writing days.  The short, simple answer: No.  No painless dentistry, eccentric provision for sewage, no penicillin and no concept of asepsis, and the condition of most women was not one that I aspire to.  But the women who asked the question usually had been complimentary about my writing, and I am weak, and did not want to blurt out the first thing that came to my mind (which would be: Whaddaya, crazy?) and so I’d say something like “Well, they sure knew how to dress, didn’t they?”  Because twenty seconds’ musing on why these readers of mine thought that the Regency might be a swell time to live returned the conclusion that they were talking about a fantasy of the Regency, in which they would be duchesses in pretty clothes, and always say and do the right thing, and they would get to marry a prince, and all their trials would be wrapped up by the end of the last act.

It was easy (particularly when I was younger) to see this as a rather childish wish; with the wisdom of age, give or take, I think that life is hard enough and if the fantasy of living in a magical then-and-there and being beautiful and clever and well dressed helps a reader get through the day, I’m glad to have provided that service.  For me, however, part of what I love about writing about the past, or the future, or fantastic societies, is the chance to play with the fallout from that most human of pastimes: organizing ourselves into castes.  

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Caliban and His Mirror: a Guest Post by James Enge

November 11th, 2008

Commenter James Enge posted a rumination on fantasy and politics on his own blog, and I received his permission to repost it here for your reading pleasure (or for you to take issue with–we’re equal opportunity).

Herewith:

Caliban and His Mirror: Fantasy and Politics (or not):

by James Enge
Deep Genre has had a couple of interesting posts lately about political values in epic fantasy–specifically the old “SF Diplomat” question of whether fantasy is inherently reactionary. The first was (by Kate Elliott, and the next by Lois Tilton; both have provoked interesting comment threads, and with luck there may be more posts to come.)

In the comments to Kate Elliot’s piece, Mark Tiedemann (a sometime Black Gate writer, among other perhaps more notable things) suggested that fantasy was not necessarily interested in politics–he described it as an “added benefit” for fantasy but not essential. “Fantasy is not about systems but about the essentials of self, and the problems of the given story are designed to reveal those qualities of character which are outside of or beyond ‘politics.’”

I was going to just comment with something like “Word!” or “True dat!” but my experts tell me that no one says that stuff anymore, and they also refused to tell me what people do say. (“For your own safety,” they keep insisting, as if that arrest for misuse of “groovadelic” in mixed company hadn’t been expunged from my record years ago.)

So instead I wrote

Great post and fascinating comments. I especially like Mark Tiedemann’s point. Matters of governance in a fantasy novel are rarely about politics; they’re identity symbols. This can be bad (in an Iron Dream sort of way) or good, but it’s not necessarily advocating reactionary political values. It has more to do with the Freudian “family romance.”

Kate Elliott wondered, in a very civil way, what the hell we were talking about. I can’t speak for Mark Tiedemann, but here’s what I was talking about.
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The Fortress of Solitude

September 23rd, 2008

Superman Flies Lois Over Manhattan

What do you think? Was the 1978 Superman the best movie made from a comic book, with all other attempts going downhill after that, with the exception of the first two Spidermans (2002 & 2004)? And maybe, Batman Begins (2005)? Oh, wait! There was also the excellent first X-Men (2000).

We shall not even mention the ludicrously exacrable awful X-Man ast Stand (2006) — which seems to be more generally the quality of comix-to-movies and / or video / computer games-to-movies, alas and alack-a-day!

Back to Superman, 1978, the past prophesizes the future. We begin not on the planet of Krypton, but in the Depression with voice over telling us specifically that this is the 1930′s and a world-wide economic disaster has taken place, while black-and-white comic book pages flip. One wonders why, since after that we get the credits, and then the movie properly begins and we’re on Krypton.

However, with the 1930′s global Depression invoked, the trial on Krypton of traitors to the state, and then the denial and rejection of brilliant Jor-El’s warning of coming planetary destruction by the same power elite that passed judgment of the traitors, it feels like today’s headlines.

It’s lovely how the director does not rush us through any of this. The film takes just the time it needs to set-up what needs to be set-up. It remains interesting to look at through this leisurely beginning, leisurely despite the tension and pressure of special effects planetary destruction. Partly this is because the Intro is mostly narrated by Marlon Brando as Jor-El, just the first on-screen member of this all-star cast.

Then we finally get to the best parts of the movie, Superman’s adoption by the Kents and his growing up in rural Kansas. The photography’s tenderness in recording the small details of that life provokes one to wonder whether the director or the cinematographer grew up there too. The glory of the wheat, gold and rose in the lingering sunset glow, sleeping with the bakelite radio tuned in to the local R’nR station, the paper window shades with circle string pulls, the vane windmills, the barns — I know all these details intimately also from my childhood. Then Clark must leave the warm, nurturing pastoral nest, to begin his adult super education via Jor-El’s technology, in the Fortress of Solitude, grown via that same technology out of the empty ice blades at the top of the world.

Next follows assuming a mask and courtship, simultaneously. Such cute bits: no phone booths into which he can change from Kent to Superman, the most extreme looking-up-a-girl’s-skirt scene ever, as Lois Lane dangles from the helicopter teetering at the edge of a skyscraper’s roof deck, x-raying Lois’s lungs through her clothes with his super vision when he advises her not to smoke.

It’s all foreplay and courtship from the moment Superman (not Kent, despite Superman’s Kent mask’s attraction to her) and Lois Lane set eyes on each other. Innuendo, double entendre, her interview of the man who saved her, giving him his name — Superman — gathering his vital stats, most importantly that he’s neither married nor has a girlfriend. She asks if he can, um, well, eat? Meaning, do you, can you fuck? Even better, there is no way that Margot Kidder can be described as anything but, well, homely. This is all lead-up to that marvelous overflight of New York City, which neither Vaquero nor I have ever forgotten. Seeing this movie again for the first time since 1978, seeing the Twin Towers — the flight is even more magical.

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Rum & Comics

August 24th, 2008

In Cuba around 1863 the Bacardi family began to distill rum.  Their logo is a bat, modeled on the families of fruit bats that nested and swooped through the Bacardi cane plantations and distillaries.  Among Cubans, fruit bats are considered bringers of good luck.   The same bat logo is still employed today by Bacardi.

bacardi bat logo

Bob Kane’s Batman arrived in 1939 — he’s nearly 70. One wonders if there was any bit of subliminal influence from Bacardi to Kane’s Batman logo? There was an awareness of Cuba and things Cuban, particularly rum and music, back in those days that’s difficult for people who came of age in the post-embargo era to realize.

Batman Comic Logo

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