Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Imitation is Suicide

Stolen from the Dark, But Shining blog:

ONE (1) earliest film-related memory:
Hard to say. We were a big Disney family and any time a Disney cartoon was re-released in the theaters (back when that was the only way to see additional showings of old movies), we’d go. But probably my earliest memory of a specific movie was begging, with tears, my parents to take me to see the first release of Disney’s version of Robin Hood.

TWO (2) favourite lines from movies:
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
“She’s alive! Alive!”

THREE (3) jobs you’d do if you could not work in the “biz”:
This meme was started in a screenwriters’ group, so I’ll broaden “biz” to mean writing in general. So, what would I like to do if that wasn’t a possibility? Musician, actor, or visual artist.

FOUR (4) jobs you actually have held outside of the industry:
I’ll broaden this question too and say: grocery store bag boy, video rental dude, sound guy for theatrical productions, and lumberyard flunkie.

THREE (3) book authors you like:
Arturo Pérez-Reverte
S.J. Rozan
F. Paul Wilson

TWO (2) movies you’d like to remake or properties you’d like to adapt:
Creature from the Black Lagoon
Night of the Demon

ONE (1) screenwriter you think is underrated:
Steve Martin

Monday, January 30, 2006

Bride of Art Envy

Really, it's not my intention to turn this into Drawn! (not that I could), but sometimes I run into art that just really really inspires me to write.

Tony Semedo posted about his art blog in the Comic World News forum and I'm in love. Too bad his blog's in French, but fortunately I don't have to read to enjoy it. Maybe I should learn French though. I'm starting to discover some of the awesomely wonderful comics they have coming out of France, but they're not being translated into English fast enough for me.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Ultraviolet

Short post today because I don't know much about Ultraviolet except that it's Milla Jovavich in the future as a vampire protecting a little vampire boy from the human Man. I guess it's Blade meets Aeon Flux meets Man on Fire... or something.

I'm in.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Have a Jelly Baby!

Doctor Who is finally returning to the States! In March, the SciFi Channel will begin airing the thirteen recent episodes of the show that feature Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor. The episodes will be running in Battlestar Galactica's timeslot, meaning -- I assume -- that Season Two of Galactica will be all done by then. That'll be a very nice antidote to the post-Galactica depression.

If I understand the press release right, SciFi's also bought the option to the David Tennant episodes that follow Eccleston's. Presumably, if the Eccleston episodes do well, we'll also get to see the Tennant ones.

I can't tell you how stoked I am about this. Like a lot of nerds my age, I discovered the Tom Baker version of Doctor Who in high school when they used to run those episodes on PBS. The cheesy special effects and British production values were easily overlooked in light of the charmingly quirky personality of the Doctor and his ability to change from being scatterbrained to deadly efficient as the situation dictated. Once Baker's run was over, it took me a while to warm up to Peter Davison as his successor, but I did and faithfully continued to follow the show until PBS stopped running it. I lost track of the show during the Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy years, but you better believe I caught the unfortunately disappointing TV movie (ten years ago!) with Paul McGann.

I've been frustrated for a long time at the BBC's reluctance to release a comprehensive, season-by-season collection of the entire series. They do it in bits and pieces: a Tom Baker story here, a Patrick Troughton story there. I'm hoping that a resurgence in the Doctor's popularity makes them rethink that strategy. Fortunately, this gives me hope.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

She's Alive! Alive!

My favorite part of role-playing games is character creation. Yeah, the storytelling and the hacking-and-slashing is fun too, but there's something about creating a person out of nothing. "Today, I think I'll create a cowboy." "Now, I'm going to make a mermaid." It's Godlike, isn't it?

In role-playing games, depending on the particular game, character creation can be as simple as rolling some dice to randomly figure out how strong, smart, and skilled your character is. Or it can be as detailed as figuring out exactly what he's been doing every year of his life up to the point that the game begins. Where all new role-playing characters are alike is that they're all just numbers and notes on a piece of paper until the game -- the story -- begins. But that's what I love about them. They're so full of potential, of the promise of adventures and stories to come.

It's the same with writing. I usually start with a character. Sometimes I start with a plot element or a concept, but even then I can't get excited about it until I start to figure out who's going to be affected by those things. The characters are the fascinating part and creating them is one of my favorite things to do.

Unfortunately, it's easy to get sloppy with this part of storytelling, even if you like doing it. Like in the more simple role-playing games, it's tempting to just throw some information together and think you have a character. Unless you spend some real time on it though, most of the time all you've got is a cliché: a Conan rip-off or (if you're writing comics) the umpteenth version of Wolverine. I fall into this trap all the time. It's easy to just imagine "brooding loner" and because you've seen that character done so many times, think you've got a character. You don't realize that just because this brooding loner was written by you, it doesn't make him better than the countless brooding loners who've come before. No one's going to care about this guy unless you do something different with him. And that takes work.

Angela Booth has an interesting process for creating characters that I'd like to try. She looks over magazine ads and starts imagining what the people in them are like. She suggests doing the same thing with paintings, and it occurs to me that paintings (especially landscapes) are also good tools for developing settings.

She also links to a helpful tool for digging deeper into who your character is. Yeah, you know your brooding loner has long, black hair and a perpetual scowl, but do you know what kind of music he likes or what his most treasured memory is? 'Cause you kinda should.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Lost Colony

There's a new graphic novel series coming out that looks like one part Lost, one part The Village, and one part The Iron Giant. All set in the 1800s.

It's called The Lost Colony. I can't tell from the website when it's coming out, but it has mystery and steampunk aspects as well as some great, whimsical art, so it's something I'm going to keep an eye out for.

"A MYSTERIOUS ISLAND unknown to the rest of the world, in nineteenth century America.

ITS CITIZENS: a colorful and outrageous band of capitalists, inventors, hucksters and freemen, who jealously guard the island's fantastic wealth from the prying fingers of the outside world, even as they attempt to conceal its captivating secrets from one another."

Monday, January 23, 2006

Art Envy

Sometimes, I wish that I could chuck all this writing nonsense and draw instead. I used to be an okay visual artist in high school, but I didn't keep up with it. I'd love to be able to perfectly show what's in my head on paper. Writing is cool because the reader's such an active part in the visualization process, but it would be wonderful to just show what I want instead of having to describe it.

These thoughts come to you courtesy of the new love of my life: the art of Clio Chiang. (They're made even worse by the art of the rest of the Flight crew.)

Friday, January 20, 2006

If I Only Had a Brain (I'd Eat It)

I'm not a big Wizard of Oz fan. We never had the books growing up, so my only exposure to it in those years was the movie, and as cool and scary as the flying monkeys are, I was never really captivated by it. I mean, I liked it then, but it didn't stick. I get bored watching it now.

One of the things I'm really looking forward to with my son David is when he'll be old enough to enjoy children's fantasy stories like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Wizard of Oz. He's already showing an appreciation for Little Nemo in Slumberland, but that's another post. I can't wait to be able to read these classic series and enjoy them as they're meant to be enjoyed: through the imagination of a child. Reading them with David will help me do that.

In the meantime though, Earthling Publications has come out with a version of Wizard of Oz that I can enjoy now. Bloodstained Oz is a novella by James A. Moore and comics writer/horror novelist Christopher Golden with illustrations by Glenn Chadbourne. I've read Golden's original Hellboy novel The Lost Army and found it good, so I have hopes that this could be good as well. Earthling's description of it is promising:

"Dying faith will be tested, because that isn't rain wetting the crops; it's blood. Those aren't trinkets and toys that are lying hidden in the fields; they're nightmares wrapped in false promises. And while the darkest storms bring the brightest rainbows, that isn't a pot of gold waiting at the far end; it's an emerald that gleams and flickers with its own infernal light."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Curse of the Outline

I usually write with a detailed outline. I'm anal and I like to know what's going to happen next when I sit to write. The most fun of the writing process to me is coming up with that initial idea, that first hook, and then developing a plot and characters around it. Unfortunately though, once I have the outline, the fun is over and the work begins. I have to sit down and flesh out the one or two sentence -- if that -- description I've written into a bona fide scene. Sometimes it's fun, like when my outline just says, "Life in Bristol" and I figure out how to describe the setting of eighteenth century Bristol while also advancing the plot. Sometimes it's tedious, like when I wrote, "The pirates attack" and now I have to choreograph a battle.

Another problem with the detailed outline is that it's a very constricting way to work. More than once have I found myself getting behind in my outline because I have more to say about a scene than I'd planned for. When that happens, I usually end up adding a chapter, and it's kind of scary to leave the outline and then figure out how to get back to it again. It's also kind of exhilarating though.

Which makes me wonder if I shouldn't just try flying without an outline. Since I set aside the Pirate Novel last fall to concentrate on comics stuff, I've come up with a very cool idea for a modern-setting horror novel. I don't think I'm going to outline it. I know basically what I want it to be and I'm thinking it'll be more fun and liberating to just start writing it without having the plot specifics down; to just develop some characters and start writing about them without knowing exactly what happens next.

I'm going to have to try it if only to see if I like it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Star Trek's Geek Attraction

I've been rewatching the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation this month. It's been years since I've seen the show (or any Star Trek property, for that matter) and I figured that I'd gotten enough distance from it to be able to enjoy it again. I remembered loving it, but the rip-offs Voyager and Enterprise and the last couple of movies soured me on the whole franchise.

I'm happy to say that with the exception of a few early episodes, my fond recollections of it are being reinforced and I'm looking forward to watching the later seasons (a lot of which I'll be seeing for the first time). But as I'm watching, older and wiser than the first time around, I'm also realizing something about myself and why Star Trek conventions are full of the most socially awkward people imaginable.

I've only been to one Star Trek convention and that was because Michael Dorn, who played Worf, was there. I'm a huge Worf fan. You don't see it so much in Season One, but he became the coolest, most butt-kicking character on the show. The Klingon sense of honor also endeared him to me and made me -- and lots of other fans -- into big fans of Klingons in general. I've got a book somewhere called The Klingon Way: A Warrior's Guide that arranges quotes from Klingons throughout the various Star Trek shows into a geeky version of Life's Little Instruction Book. How weird do you have to be to buy a book that tells you how to live like a Klingon?

Thankfully, I never tried to put the guide to practical use, but as I've been watching Season One again, I've been thinking about my fascination with Worf and wondering why I identified with him so strongly. It wasn't until later seasons that I began to do that and there's where my answer lies. Worf, in Season One, is a geek. Yeah, he boasts about his warrior spirit and his rough style of lovemaking, but he's a big nerd. He's completely out of his element on the Enterprise and doesn't know how to interact normally with his human crewmates. He's socially inept.

So is Data, obviously. So is Riker, a little less obviously, but look at him: he's so obsessed with becoming the captain of a starship that he falls in love with a hologram-woman because he doesn't know how to balance his obsession and a real relationship. It's not just Next Generation characters either. There's Spock, Quark, Seven of Nine, T'Pol.

And here's why Star Trek has such a large nerd demographic. The shows depict an environment in which social losers are accepted and even loved without condition. Remember that these characters were created to provide an outsider's perspective of humanity. They were the ones through whose eyes we were to see ourselves: the Kirks, McCoys, and Picards. How ironic that instead of seeing ourselves in the human characters, so many fans began identifying with the outsiders -- vicariously feeling the acceptance and love of normal people. I mean, if Worf can find love with a babe like Jadzia Dax, there's hope for anyone, right?

I've got a great wife and a great kid and a loving extended family and lots of friends, but I work at those relationships. I've learned the social rules and figured out how to make my behavior something that other people are comfortable with. Sometimes though, I think it'd be nice to just be as grumpy as Worf and have no one give it a second thought. It wouldn't be nice for the people who have to live with me, but that's what makes it a fantasy. I don't identify with Worf because I am him; I do it because sometimes I'd love to be him. Nothing wrong with that.

Where it becomes creepy and weird is when people who haven't learned the social rules use Star Trek as a way of feeling some kind of pseudo-acceptance without having to go to the trouble of changing their behavior.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Why Books Are Cool

Entertainment Weekly recently asked Stephen King to list his 10 favorite books in 2005. In addition to adding stuff to my reading list (like Kate Atkinson's Case Histories: "There are actually four mysteries, nesting like Russian dolls, and when they begin to fit together, I defy any reader not to feel a combination of delight and amazement," and Christopher Lehmann-Haupt's The Mad Cook of Pymatuning: "Warm '50s nostalgia gives way to cold chills in this tale of a summer camp gone bad. Very bad. Think Lake Lord-of-the-Flies."), he also introduces his list with the most awesome quote in the history of quoting:

"...novels are still the best entertainment option. Even a hardcover is cheaper than two tickets to the local multiplex, especially once you throw in gas, parking, and babysitting. Also, a book lasts longer and there are no ads. Need more? No tiresome ratings system to keep you out if you're under 17, the special effects are always primo (because you make 'em up yourself), and although I read nearly 80 books this year, I never ran across the Olsen twins a single time."

Actually, I'm not sure that last one is a plus.

Monday, January 16, 2006

El Laberinto del Fauno

In other genre-crossing news, Guillermo del Toro's next film is a horror-fantasy called Pan's Labyrinth. It's an original del Toro story about a young girl who moves with her family to a rural area in northern Spain shortly after the rise of Fascism in that country in the early '40s. The girl, unwilling to face the realities of the world she lives in, creates an imaginary world for herself and falls in love with a faun who lives in an ancient, ruined labyrinth.

Apparently it's debuting in Spain, France, and Latin America next fall, but del Toro's speculating that the US and UK will be quick to pick it up. Looks amazing, doesn't it?



Friday, January 13, 2006

Well, It Worked for Gaston Leroux

According to Playbill, Stephen King is working on a play called The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County. It's about two feuding brothers who go with their dad to their old, family vacation cabin. They haven't been there since they were kids, and they encounter the ghosts of their dad's older brothers who also fought, but killed each other in the cabin many years earlier.

That's a cool enough story premise, but it's made cooler by the fact that it's a musical and that the music was written by John Mellencamp. Little haunted houses for you and me.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Working Through or Backing Off?

Here's a piece of advice from Angela Booth that's come in handy lately: "If the writing you're doing doesn't come easily to you, it's not the right kind of writing for you -- at this time... Always write what's FUN for you -- write what you're enthusiastic about."

She's talking more Big Picture, like what genre you're writing in or even whether you're writing fiction or non-fiction, but this week I've found myself applying it just from project to project.

The Cownt story just isn't coming to me. I'm struggling to find the right balance between horror and humor. I don't want it too dark for kids, but I also don't want it to be inane. Gav (artist on the Cownt, if you're just tuning in) recommended an excercise to help me play around and figure it out, but in the meantime, I'm backing off and working instead on a one-shot with Jason Copland. It's frustrating that I can't make myself bang out an excellent Cownt story (I'm anal and stubborn enough to want to force myself through my blocks just to get something off my plate), but he's too cool a property to just hack something out for.

Last fall, I started working on Jason's story and after figuring out what I wanted it to say, I couldn't figure out how to make it interesting (beyond it's very cool high-concept, which was Jason's idea). Knowing Jason wasn't in a hurry for it, I put it aside for a while and now I've got it figured out. Which is to say, this stuff works in mysterious ways and I know I'll figure out the Cownt. Everything in its time.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Great Curve

Just a quick note to say, if you haven't checked out The Great Curve in a while, you should. It's under new management, blogging legend Kevin Melrose has joined up, and I've got two new regular features I'll be doing.

Heroes and Villains is a weekly thing I'll be doing every Sunday, in which I talk about the comics industry newsmakers of the previous week and label them accordingly depending on my whims.

Coming Attractions (hopefully to be renamed -- I came up with it very quickly) is a Curve-wide endeavor in which various posters will look at the solicitations from various publishers and talk about them. The aforementioned Melrose and I will be talking about Dark Horse and Image each month.

There's even bigger news coming, but that's not for me to share yet.

The Death of Cinema?

Though it's still a couple of weeks from being released, I want to talk about Steven Soderbergh's Bubble. The plot involves puzzling out a murder, but the mystery element isn't really what interests me. It's Soderbergh's ballyhooed move to release it simultaneously to theaters, DVD, and high-definition cable TV.

I love this quote from Soderbergh: "The theater experience isn't always pleasant. Theater owners need to address that. There are often problems with projection; tickets and concessions are expensive; theaters aren't always clean; people talk during the movie. They're making it easy for people to stay home."

Because I love the huge screen so much, I've figured out a workaround to ticket prices and noisy audiences: matinees. By sneaking in a movie right after work I'm able to pay less and I usually get the theater to myself. That doesn't help with the concession prices and cleanliness issues though. Soderbergh didn't mention all the annoying ads, but those are out of control too. He's right; theater owners have some work to do and I'm glad to see him take up the cause of trying to get them to do it. They're the only game in town for new releases and they won't feel the need to make moviegoing a positive experience until they have some real competition.

Not that Bubble is going to change anything. It's a first step in the right direction, but as an independent film with an unknown cast, I don't imagine it'll have much impact. It won't be the big metroplexes that'll feel any sting on this one; it'll be the smaller arthouse theaters (whose audiences are generally more polite and who don't have all the obnoxious ads). A couple of metroplexes may have shown Bubble on one screen, but wouldn't it be interesting if they decided to push back and not show it at all, essentially turning it into a direct-to-DVD release? Not a big splash for Soderbergh's statement.

Now if it was Ocean's 13...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Frozen

I guess supernatural crime thrillers are more prevalent than I realized. It's probably Mulder and Scully's fault.

Shortly after learning about the Preston/Child novels, I heard about Jay Bonansinga's Frozen. It reportedly starts off as a serial killer story, but turns strange when the FBI profiler assigned to the case has to take some time off from it for health reasons and goes to Alaska for a quieter assignment. The assignment is to profile the body -- frozen in ice -- of a 6000 year old murder victim; what's odd is that the frozen corpse is posed in exactly the same position as the victims of the serial killer in the first case. Other than that there are some twists and surprises, I don't know more than that, but the imagination runs wild with that set-up.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Frankly

My favorite horror novel is Frankenstein. It all goes back to the Monster and his longing for acceptance in spite of his physical appearance. Growing up, I wasn't really that awkward-looking a kid, but I felt awkward for some reason and didn't have a lot of friends. So I sorta relate to the poor monster.

He has this one line that's haunted me since I read it. I might be paraphrasing, but it goes something like, "I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other." I remember feeling that way as a kid. It's a good thing I wasn't a hulking monster with supernatural strength.

Anyway, thanks to my long-standing affection for the guy, I usually check out whatever new material is being made about him. I bought Marvel's series about Elsa Bloodstone (even though it was an obvious Buffy rip-off) because it had Frank in it, and Frankenstein was the part of Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers project that had me most excited to read. I taped Dean Koontz's Frankenstein when it was on TV, but read enough horrible reviews of it that I never watched it, much less bought the tie-in novels.

Now though, I've learned that the novels came about because Koontz was dissatisfied with how the TV show turned out. I'm not sure why he's not writing them himself, but I've never read a Koontz book, so that's not a loss for me. Kevin J. Anderson (author of the first in the book trilogy) doesn't excite me much, but making the idea of the Monster being the good guy to Doc Frankenstein's villain into a police procedural/serial killer story does. More of that genre-crossing stuff that I like so much.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Relic

The Relic was not a good horror movie. I only saw it because it was set in Chicago's Museum of Natural History and I've been there enough times to have found it a nifty setting for a film. The plot was too Alien-derivative for me though, so I've never given it a second thought.

Until recently, that is, when someone recommended to me the book series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child that starts with The Relic. They're apparently mystery/thrillers with a supernatural bend to them and that's exactly the kind of thing I'd enjoy. Knowing how a great book like The Keep can become a crappy movie (even in the capable hands of Michael Mann), I'm inclined to give the Preston/Child series a try. (Then, while I'm thinking about it, I need to go back and read F. Paul Wilson's follow-up novels to The Keep.)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Nice and Cheesy, or "Let's Try This Again"

Last week, I toyed around with the idea of renaming this blog. Fact is, I like it a lot more now that I've started talking about general influences for my work in addition to making excuses for not actually doing any of it. I like it so much, in fact, that just calling it Michael May is boring and a disservice.

The first name I came up with tried to be clever and ended up being girly. It lasted less than a day. So, I've given up clever and gone for stupid, but fun. The Son of Michael May is born. See, it's sort of a sequel to the old Michael May -- an heir, if you will -- and it also hearkens back to cheesy horror movies of yore. Whatever. That's the name now and at least it has the benefit of being masculine.

Speaking of cheesy horror movies, I wasn't planning on buying the Bubba Ho-Tep DVD (even though it's a great film), but the news that the Limited Collectors' Edition contains a commentary track by Bruce Campbell in character as Elvis makes it too good to pass up.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Genre Trap and J-Horror

You know by now that genre conventions is one of my favorite topics. I bring it up a lot because while my own writing tries to mix genres and ignore conventions, it's still too easy to fall into the trap of writing the same cliché story that everyone's read a zillion times already. In my pirate novel, I want to include certain settings that evoke "pirate" for me: uninhabited islands, lively and music-filled taverns down by the wharf, huge galleons, Spanish forts, etc. What I don't want to do is write another story about recovering buried treasure or taking revenge. There's a map, but hopefully I'm using it a little differently than most pirate stories.

In searching for a new path to take this story (or any story really), it's important to constantly remind myself where the traps are so that I learn to avoid them. I'm hoping it becomes second-nature eventually, but I'm still new at this, so whenever I see an article that brings it up, I'm likely to reference it here.

Like this article on J-Horror for example. Nicholas Rucka of Midnight Eye (a website about Japanese Cinema) does an excellent job of explaining how J-Horror has become a cannibal eating its own flesh:

"Ah, yes, 'J-Horror;' everyone knows its tropes by now: vengeful ghosts, long stringy black hair, impossible physical gymnastics, meowing little ghost boys, cursed videos (or cell phones or computers), old rotted buildings and corpses, moldy books and newspapers, elliptical storylines (or a total abandonment of logic), creepy sound design, and creepy cinematography. Then there're the bizarrely happy endings and, lest we forget, the saccharine pop songs.

"...this piece is me drawing a line in the sand and demanding that the producers allow - or FORCE - their filmmakers to work in a creative manner and put an end to the obsessive sequel-making and regurgitation of the shinrei-mono eiga ('ghost film') that is dragging down Japanese film (and Hollywood horror for that matter)."

In presenting his points, Rucka also goes into a detailed history of horror in Japanese media (literature, art, and manga as well as film). Even though he inexplicably ignores Godzilla and the other giant-monster movies, it's well worth a read if you're interested in such things.

Other than being completely freaked out by the American version of The Ring and frustrated by the American version of The Grudge, I'm unacquainted with Japanese horror. No, wait-- I saw The Eye. It was a good mystery, but unsatisfying horror (not sure if I'll check out the Renée Zellweger remake). I saw The Ring first, so maybe my lack of enthusiasm for the other two are indicative of what Rucka is talking about.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Don't Be In Such a Hurry

I've let my comics spending get out of control. I don't have the patience to adopt the "wait for the trade" mentality, so when I see a new comic series that looks interesting, I just pick it up and add it to my pull list. That's got to stop. I just can't afford it anymore. My DVD habit is suffering and I'd also like to be more daring with my CD purchases.

So... I went through my list of comics I was going to buy in January and pruned it down to the point where I figured I'd be spending an average of about $30 a week on new comics. That means that I'll have to wait for the trade on a lot of stuff I've been enjoying. And most of it is genre stuff.

I'm still a superhero kid when it comes to comics. I love the stuff in other genres, but if I had to only buy one comic a month, you can bet it would be by Marvel and DC and would feature someone in a costume beating up a bad guy in another costume. Which explains why this week's shopping list of genre comics I'll be buying is so meager.

Next week I might try to list all the genre comics that are coming out regardless of whether or not I'm planning on buying them. That would be a much more useful list anyway.

But for now, here's what I'm getting:

Horror
Interiorae #1
Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein #2

Science Fiction
Y: The Last Man #41

The solicitation for Interiorae (published by Fantagraphics as part of their "Ignatz" line) makes it sound part-horror, part-mystery, maybe part-slice-of-life. Whatever it is, it sounds interesting. "A high-rise apartment building in an unnamed European city. Its inhabitants come and go, meet each other, talk, dream, regret, hope…in short, live. A ghostly, shape-shifting anthropomorphic white rabbit roams from apartment to apartment, surveying and keeping track of all this humanity… and at the end of every night, he floats down to the basement where he delivers his report to the 'great dark one.'"

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Gotcha where I wantcha. Now I'm gonna eatcha!

The Mexploitation horror blog is asking an interesting question: "What made you get into horror?" I don't remember a defining moment in my life; a couple of things combined to do the trick. One was an early exposure to classic horror films. I remember seeing the original King Kong on a big screen at my elementary school and Son of Frankenstein at our local children's museum. Occasionally a local TV station would run Creature from the Black Lagoon or another Universal monster film.

Even before those experiences though, was a love of scary stories. I loved collections of ghost stories and I loved those stories kids tell each other about babysitters in the house alone.

Alvin Schwartz has combined those two loves in a set of books called Scary Stories that collects spooky urban legends and folklore with disturbing illustrations by Stephen Gammell. I think it's cool that it's marketed under Children's Books. That and my Mexploitation-inspired recollections reminds me that a fascination with horror and being scared starts very young. As a parent and someone who's trying to write a kid-appropriate horror comic, that's good to remember.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Quit Stealin' Our Wimmins, Ya Bug-Eyed FREAKS!

The Website at the End of the Universe has a cool pulp sci-fi calendar you can download and print out for free. The theme is "women in peril" and features pulp covers as well as birthdays of important sci-fi peoples (today is Tolkien's, by the way).

Download it here.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Nano Lessons

Science fiction author Crawford Kilian has a pretty good writing blog. Recently he talked about genre conventions and what to do with them. He's specifically talking about a novel he's working on and comparing it to John Robert Marlow's Nano (which I haven't read and can't comment on), but he has some good things to say about genre conventions in general and what a writer's responsibility to them is:

"Anyone writing in... a genre must walk a fine line between plagiarism and parody. If you love your genre's conventions too much, you just imitate your favourite writers and wonder why you can't get published. If you see those conventions as preposterous, you can laugh at them, but then you spoil the fun for your readers (as Cervantes spoiled the fun for all the folks who loved reading chivalric romances).

"The trick is to recognize why these particular conventions appeal to readers, and then to push the conventions to reveal something implicit in them that other writers haven't understood."

That's great advice and reminds me of a quote I once read (can't remember where now, Stephen Grant maybe?) that said that most writers don't really want to write, they just want to stick their names on something that they think is cool. I'm guilty of that. It's the reason I want to write a jungle adventure story. I don't have anything particularly new or interesting to say about jungle adventures (yet), it's just that I like them and want my name on one. Fortunately, I want the one with my name on it to be really really good and that's where Kilian's advice comes in handy.

While criticizing Marlow, Kilian also sneaks in some very sound advice about the difference between writing a novel and writing a screenplay:

"One of the problems in Marlow's book is that it's clearly written to be a movie full of big dumb special effects, so right there it runs into genre problems: as a genre, film SF is simply different from print SF. They have different priorities and appeal to different parts of our minds. That's why War of the Worlds is so good as a novel and so awful as a movie. Michael Crichton's laughable Prey is another example of a novel designed to be something else.

"And here is a fatal problem: Print SF tries to get us to think about scientific ideas that the author has dramatized for us so that we can grasp them better. An idea like nanotech is an important one, and deserves careful thought. If it's going to be used simply as a pretext for blowing up San Francisco, the message is that watching stuff blow up is far more important and interesting than understanding nanotech. All the mini-lectures on nanotech are just padding, and of course they'd end up cut from the screenplay."

This is something else I need to hear. I tend to think cinematically when I write. I think it's a strength that helps me keep my pace brisk and my descriptions succinct, but I don't want it to become a liability by forgetting that there are things that prose does that film can't. (I like to think though that I don't have a problem with sacrificing story for mindless action, so in that sense, Kilian's preaching to the choir.)

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