Friday, April 28, 2006

Hard Candy is Good

The movie Hard Candy is getting some nice reviews. Roger Ebert gives it three-and-a-half stars, citing concerns about "how some audience members may react to it" as his only misgiving (and acknowledging that that's not really fair). Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 63% fresh rating with critics torn between praising it's boldness and criticising it for being either too bold or not bold enough.

Looking at the subject matter, it's easy to see how people are having such diverse reactions to it. As Ebert describes it, "it's a revenge picture about a 14-year-old girl who entraps a 32-year-old pedophile on the Internet, gets herself invited to his home, and quickly has him strapped down and helpless." You're gonna get some mixed responses to that.

I'm interested in seeing it, partially because its subject matter is similar to the short story The Devil Inside that I just so happen to be debuting at MicroCon this weekend, but mostly because it was directed by David Slade, the guy who's directing the upcoming 30 Days of Night movie, based on Steve Niles's graphic novel. (And a little bit because Sandra Oh is in it and she's awesome.)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

To Buy: Men, Women, and Chainsaws

After I posted a link to that article from Wired that quoted Carol Clover, my friend Joe (who is infinitely better read than I) recommended that I check out Clover's book, Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. I didn't realize that the writer of the Wired article was referencing an entire book until Joe pointed it out to me, but now that I know, I'm itching to read it.

Like I said in the other post, I'm fascinated by gender issues, but as I write a lot of horror, I'm also curious to see how Clover's theories apply to horror literature, if they do at all.

The Devil Inside and Other Stories

I'll have a couple of new things to show at MicroCon on Sunday. One is a couple of issues I wrote for Adam Yeater's Rob and Doc mini-comic about a couple of slacker aliens. I managed to work in the Cownt.

The other is a mini-comic I did with Paul (Proof of Concept) Tucker called The Devil Inside. It's a five-page horror story plus some previews of other stuff I've got coming out.

You can get all three mini-comics for one buckarooni.

They Have a Plan

The Sci Fi Channel has announced a Battlestar Galactica spin-off show. It's called Caprica and it's a prequel to the regular series. It takes place about 50 years before the regular show during the time when the Twelve Colonies are at peace and just developing the first Cylon.

They're taking kind of a Dallas/Dynasty approach to the show and focusing on two families: the Adamas and the Graystones. If we've heard of the Graystones before, I don't remember it, but I'm assuming that they'll be rivals of the Adamas. Anyway, Sci Fi is promising "corporate intrigue, techno-action, and sexual politics."

Current Galactica executive producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick are working on Caprica along with Remi (24) Aubuchon.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Final Girl Theory

I debated about whether or not to post about this because even though it's about an adventure game and makes reference to horror movies, those aren't the aspects of it that grabbed my attention.

I'm fascinated by gender issues and this article in Wired about the way that young males identify with female characters (whether in video games or horror movies) is intriguing as hell. Especially since the theory was developed by a woman.

The Final Girl theory emerged in 1985, when Carol Clover -- a medievalist and feminist film critic -- was dared by a friend to see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Back then, most feminist theorists loathed slasher films, and regarded them as classic examples of male misogyny. It wasn't hard to figure out why: Thousands of young men were trooping into theaters to cheer wildly as masked psychos hacked apart screaming young women. That really didn't look good.

But as Clover sat in the theaters, she noticed something curious. Sure, the young men would laugh and cheer as the villain hunted down his female prey. But eventually the movie would whittle down the victims to one last terrified woman -- the Final Girl, as Clover called her. Suddenly, the young men in the audience would switch their allegiance -- and begin cheering just as madly for the Final Girl as she attacked and killed the psycho.

This, Clover argued, was not mere garden-variety sexism. On the contrary, it was a generation of young guys who apparently identified strongly with the situation of a woman who faced agonizing peril yet came out victorious. The slasher dynamic was unprecedented in film history: "The idea of a female who outsmarts, much less outfights -- or outgazes -- her assailant (was) unthinkable," Clover wrote. With this new crop of slasher movies, the young men in the audience essentially became the Final Girl: exhausted, freaked out and ultimately triumphant. They weren't just ogling the sexual violence. They were submitting to it.

The Wired columnist goes on to suggest that this identification with female characters also may explain the popularity behind Lara Croft and the desire that many young men have to play female characters in online role-playing games.

How this could influence my writing is tough to say except that this fascination with how men and women view and treat each other is bound to make it into a book someday. If nothing else, it'll help inform the way I write female characters.

Abrams Backpedals on Star Trek News

The Trek Today article I mentioned the other day was premature in its reporting that J.J. Abrams is going to direct the next Star Trek movie. According to an interview Abrams gave Empire magazine, "The whole thing was reported entirely without our cooperation... People learned that I was producing a Star Trek film, that I had an option to direct it, they hear rumours of what the thing was going to be and ran with a story that is not entirely accurate."

So, producing: yes. Directing: maybe.

In reference to those "rumours of what the thing was going to be," Abrams said, "We've made a pact not to discuss any specifics." So all that stuff about Kirk and Spock: The Early Years? Not confirmed. Apparently, Abrams is a big fan of the original series, but that's really all anyone has to go on.

Awww, HELL naw!

I've only read the comics adaptation of I Am Legend, but it was a scary piece of work and deserves to be made into a genuinely scary film. That's why I'm concerned about the news that Will Smith has been tapped to star in it.

I like Will Smith movies, but in the same way I like, say, Pepsi. I enjoy it while I'm drinking it, but I don't really think a lot about it afterwards. A good horror movie should stick with you for a while. If this is going to be a standard Will Smith action movie, I'm disappointed in the same way I was when I learned he was attached to I, Robot.

Although, friends I trust tell me that there actually was some substance to I, Robot, so I should be careful about judging.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Katee Spoils Some More

A little while ago I linked to an article that talked about Katee Sackhoff's slipping some Battlestar Galactica Season Three details in a radio interview. She ain't done yet.

In that interview, she talked about her hair and boinking. In a recent interview on the set of White Noise 2 (in which she'll be co-starring with Nathan "Firefly" Fillion, by the way) she elaborated on both of those topics.

She also defended her once calling BSG a soap opera. "It is a soap opera; she's sleeping with every goddamn guy on the show. Is that not a soap opera? I'm sorry. And she loves every one of them. I mean, like, obviously it's a soap opera."

Click the link to get to the spoilers.

Meet Michael May!

If you're in or near the Twin Cities area, I'll be at the MCBA MicroCon next Sunday, April 30th. That's a small -- but so much fun -- comics convention that the Midwest Comicbook Association puts on every spring. I'll be there hanging out with Grant Gould, Jess Hickman, Darla Ecklund, and Alex Ness and I'll have plenty of comics to sell.

Those would be comics that I wrote, by the way. I'm not just trying to offload my old X-Men collection. So come say "hello," won't you?

Friday, April 21, 2006

LOST in Space

When Marvel hired Joe Quesada many years ago to produce comics about some of its lower-selling, but still-popular characters, Quesada approached the gig with one core strategy: hire the most talented creators he could get to work on the books and let them do their thing. It was a sound enough tactic that it eventually got him the job of Marvel's Editor-in-Chief and he's kept doing it to this day, bringing in top talent from not only the comics medium, but also film, television, and novels.

In an effort to revitalize itself, Paramount is doing something similar. According to an article on Trek Today, Paramount is "producing several 'high-profile tentpole' movies, and having them developed by some of the most talented people in Hollywood." Take your hottest properties and hire the hottest creators in your industry to work on them. Pretty easy math.

Undoubtedly, the new Indiana Jones movie will help with this, but Paramount's also looking to reboot their suffering Star Trek franchise. After the pre-mature cancellation of Enterprise, most folks (me included) thought that Star Trek was gonna have to lay low for a while before audiences would give it another shot. "Pshaw!" says Paramount. "All it needs is an original idea." And I agree with them.

Rumors have been floating around for a while of a series or movie based on the concept of Starfleet Academy. I never heard more details on it than that, but I always assumed it would feature an entirely new cast of young characters. Variety is reporting that a new Trek movie is in the planning stages and that it will be partly set at Starfleet Academy, but that it will feature some familiar characters: young versions of Kirk and Spock (and presumably some of the other characters from the original series -- certainly the Gary Mitchell character from the pilot episode who was supposed to be Kirk's best friend in the Academy). The movie will show their meeting at Starfleet Academy and follow them on their first mission into space. (Incidentally, the image accompanying this post is from a DC comic that chronicled stories from this same time period.)

The high-profile creator attached to the project is J.J. (Felicity, Alias, Lost, Mission: Impossible 3) Abrams. He'll write the screenplay (assisted by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, who both helped him write the M:I3 script) as well as produce (assisted by his Lost co-producers Damon Lindelof and Bryan Burk) and direct. Plans are to have it ready for a 2008 release.

As a fan of Abrams since his Felicity days, it strikes me that he's the perfect guy to do a Starfleet Academy film. He knows how to write young characters, especially ones in an educational setting. He also knows how to write thrilling action stories and compelling mysteries, both of which skills will come in handy when trying to make a great Star Trek film. Honestly, I never expected to be truly excited by a Star Trek project again. I'm glad to be wrong.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Happy Detective Story Day!

One hundred and sixty-five years ago today, Graham's Magazine published the first detective story, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" by Edgar Allen Poe.

In today's Writer's Almanac, Garrison Keillor notes that "the story introduced many of the elements of mysteries that are still popular today: the genius detective, the not-so-smart sidekick, the plodding policeman and the use of the red herring to lead readers off the track."

Happy Birthday, Detective Story!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Writing Tip: It Was A Dark and Stormy Night...

Crawford (The Empire of Time) Killian has a great post in his blog about developing the first line of your novel (or, I suppose, any story). It's not something that I've struggled with a lot, but he brings out some great points that I hadn't considered before.

"The first line of a novel should also describe the moment when the rest of the novel becomes inevitable."

When I eventually get back to working with my Pirate Novel again, this is something I'm going to have to fix. The first scene as I've written it is good information about the main character, but it lacks that moment of inevitability. It's not really until the second scene that that moment comes.

" someone under (appropriate) stress."

In other words, you have to give the reader an idea of what they're getting into. As Killian goes on to say, "If you're going to write a novel about a middle-aged nun's sudden crisis of faith, you can't start with a barrage of gunfire."

"If the novel ends in blowing snow, you can start it on a sunny April afternoon. If it ends with a cheerful roll in the hay under an August sun, it can start with a rape in shivery February drizzle."

This suggestion might be a bit... I don't know... artsy for me. I'm going to have to think about it. Something to keep in mind as a possibility though.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

30 Days of Night Movie Update

Zap2it has an interview with the 30 Days of Night movie's director David (Hard Candy) Slade. In it, Slade says that he hopes to begin production in July, but that no casting has been done yet, so that may be pushed back.

Having seen Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night's writer Steve Niles has expressed a lot of faith in Slade's style and ability, and some of the quotes in the interview help my belief that Slade's the right man for the job.

He says that "there is a degree of responsibility to Ben Templesmith's artwork, which will be reflected in the production design, absolutely." He goes on to say, "We're faced with a tremendous task, which is making a scary vampire film. There aren't many of them. You can count them on two fingers... We're going to try to do our best to make a third one."

And in regards to his approach to the film, Slade says that he wants to make the movie more "visceral than viscous," going on to explain that "viscous is something that is goopy and disgusting and visceral is something that just hits you in the chest, which I believe the graphic novel did when I read it."

Monday, April 17, 2006

To Buy: The Last Witchfinder

Bookgasm's got a nice review of James Morrow's The Last Witchfinder. As much as I like monster-hunter tales, it's a tired convention and you really need something new to do with it. I should make a list of good monster-hunter books and dig into what makes them exceptional. From the sound of this review, it looks like Morrow should be on that list. I aim to find out for sure.

Attention-getting quotes from the review:

"...the novel belongs to a heroine... who’s never the same after witnessing the hanging by her own father of her own beloved aunt, merely for dissecting animals in the name of science. At that moment, Jennet renounces not God, but her father and his “holy” mission. She vows to destroy all witchfinders, even if they’re members of her own immediate family."

"...part swashbuckling adventure..."

"...encompasses everything from... a long-term affair with Benjamin Franklin to a traveling freak show of deformed fetuses. Stranger yet, the book is narrated by another book – namely, Isaac Newton’s systematic masterpiece, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy."

"...breaks from the narrative at times to... debate the genius of the Universal film House of Frankenstein."

I very much want to see how Newton's Principia is able to serve as narrator for this book, but even more than that I have to read the rationale for declaring House of Frankenstein to be "genius."

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Final Stoker Ballots Announced

The final ballots for the 2005 Bram Stoker Awards have been announced by the Horror Writers Association. Although it would be nice to see them add some comics awards, I'm glad to see the Dark Delicacies anthology (which includes a story by buddy Steve Niles) get some love.

CREEPERS by David Morrell (CDS)
DREAD IN THE BEAST by Charlee Jacob (Necro Publications)
KEEPERS by Gary Braunbeck (Leisure)
NOVEMBER MOURNS by Tom Piccirilli (Bantam)

THE HIDES by Kealan Patrick Burke (Cemetery Dance Publications)
SCARECROW GODS by Weston Ochse (Delirium Books)
SIREN PROMISED by Alan M. Clark and Jeremy Robert Johnson (Bloodletting Press)

BEST NEW HORROR by Joe Hill (Postscripts #3)
IN THE MIDNIGHT MUSEUM by Gary Braunbeck (Necessary Evil Press)
SOME ZOMBIE CONTINGENCY PLANS by Kelly Link (Magic for Beginners)
THE THINGS THEY LEFT BEHIND by Stephen King (Transgressions)

AS OTHERS SEE US by Mort Castle (World Horror Convention 2005 Program Book)
HAECKEL'S TALE by Clive Barker (Dark Delicacies)
TIMES OF ATONEMENT by Yvonne Navarro (Taverns of the Dead)
INVISIBLE by Steve Rasnic Tem (Sci Fiction, Mar '05)

CORPSE BLOSSOMS by Julia and RJ Sevin (Creeping Hemlock Press)
OUTSIDERS by Nancy Holder and Nancy Kilpatrick (Roc)
WEIRD SHADOWS OVER INNSMOUTH by Stephen Jones (Fedogan and Bremer)

HAUNTED by Chuck Palahniuk (Doubleday)
LOOKING FOR JAKE by China Mie©ville (Del Rey)
MAGIC FOR BEGINNERS by Kelly Link (Small Beer Press)

THE BRADBURY CHRONICLE by Sam Weller (William Morrow & Co.)
HORROR: ANOTHER 100 BEST BOOKS by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman (Carroll & Graf)
MORBID CURIOSITY #9 by Loren Rhoades (Automatism Press)
MORE GIANTS OF THE GENRE by Michael McCarty (Wildside Press)

FREAKCIDENTS by Michael A. Arnzen (Shocklines Press)
THE SHADOW CITY by Gary W. Crawford (Naked Snake Press)
SINEATER by Charlee Jacob (Cyberpulp)

Happy Harrison Ford Character Creators Day!

A couple of thriller authors are celebrating birthdays today. Tom (Patriot Games) Clancy turns 59 and Scott (Presumed Innocent) Turow is 57. Coincidentally, both writers have books that were made into Harrison Ford films.

Too bad George Lucas's birthday isn't today.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

True Crime

I just finished Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's The Relic a couple of weeks ago. I'll be writing up a review of it, but the short version is that I loved it. The reason I'm bringing it up right now is that I just heard some Douglas Preston news that I want to share.

Via Sarah Weinman, crime fiction columnist for the Baltimore Sun, Preston says:

For the past five years, I have been working with an Italian journalist, Mario Spezi, on a book about the case of a serial killer known as the Monster of Florence, who murdered fourteen people in the hills of Florence from 1974 to 1985. The Monster has never been caught and the case is still open. It has become the longest-running and most expensive criminal investigation in modern Italian history. Our book, which will be published in Italian in Italy in April and later in America in English, faults the investigation and specifically criticizes the chief Examining Magistrate of Perugia, Giuliano Mignini, and the chief prosecutor, Michele Giuttari, who are in charge of one branch of the investigation.

I went to Italy on Feb. 14 with my family on vacation and to do some work with Spezi on the book. I was taken into custody by the police on Feb. 22. I was brought before Giuliano Mignini. There I was aggressively interrogated for three hours by him and three police detectives. I was asked about my relationship with Spezi and questioned in great detail about our journalistic activities, our theories, thoughts, and beliefs in the case. When I explained that my activities as an investigative journalist were privileged, Mignini shouted that this wasn't about freedom of the press, but was about a criminal matter of the "utmost seriousness," and that if I didn't answer the questions fully I would be arrested and charged with perjury. I was forced to answer the questions under the threat of arrest -- which I did.

Mignini then proceeded to play back telephone conversations I had had with Spezi, which they had wiretapped.He played the same passages again and again, demanding to know what we were "really" talking about, demanding that I explain the "real meaning" behind every casual word we had exchanged. They had also recorded conversations we had had in Spezi's car, which had been broken into and bugged--Spezi found the bug yesterday. When I asked if I was being accused of a crime, Mignini said he believed I had committed not one but several serious felonies--to whit: planting evidence to frame an innocent man, obstruction of justice, and being an accessory to murder -- all utterly false accusations.

Despite answering their questions fully and truthfully, in the end they charged me with "reticenza" and "false testimonianze" -- two serious crimes of perjury -- but said the charges wold be suspended to allow me to leave Italy, to be reinstated later. In other words, it seems their goal was to get me out of Italy -- never to return.

The timing of this is not surprising. Our book will be published on April 19. The police had earlier obtained a draft of the book which they had seized in a search of Spezi's apartment, and so Mignini and Giuttari know well what we have written about him. This was a naked attempt to use the power of the state to intimidate and silence two journalists, and it may be a prelude to a legal action in Italyto block publication of the book.

After the interrogation, the police raided Spezi's apartment (for a third time--he'd been raided twice before) and took away many documents. They also broke into Spezi's car and planted a microphone, which he later found. Following that, the police apparently leaked details of their investigation to the press, and articles in Corriere della Sera, La Nazione, and Il Giornale, about my interrogation and the search and seizure of Spezi's papers. The police also leaked out the information that Spezi was suspected of involvement in several murders and that he may be connected to the Satanic sect which the police believe was behind the Monster of Florence serial killings.

We desperately need to publicize this attack on journalistic freedom. I'm back in America and safe, but Spezi is at grave risk. His financial health, his career, and his very freedom, are at risk. Yesterday he wrote to me: Io sono molto depresso, per avere fatto il nostro dovere, mi ritrovo in questa situazione. "It is very depressing that, for having done my duty as a journalist, I find myself in this situation."

Please -- something must be done as soon as possible. Anyone wishing more information about the case may contact me at dpreston AT tidewater DOT net.

Some background on myself -- I'm a journalist who writes for the New Yorker magazine, and I've published fourteen books and won numerous awards. I'm on the board of the Author's Guild. I mention these details only to establish my credentials. In my entire journalistic career I have not experienced the kind of abuse of prosecutorial power as I witnessed in Italy.

I'm not sure what to do about this other than take Sarah's suggestion and spread the word. What a terrifying situation for Douglas Preston and an even more horrible situation for Mario Spezi. This would make for a great thriller if only it weren't true.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Battlestar Galactica Season Three Spoilers

Ain't It Cool News is sharing some details from an interview that Battlestar Galactica's Katee ("Starbuck") Sackhoff did late last week with a radio station in Portland, OR. Click the link to read some spoilers about whether or not Starbuck keeps the long hair in Season Three and who (if anyone) she'll be boinking.

Production on the third season just got underway today.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Radio Silence

Sorry I haven't been updating this week. Part of the reason is that there's been precious little genre news that I've found exciting, but mostly it's because I'm transitioning into a new day job and am still trying to figure out how to juggle everything with my new schedule and workload.

I've got some reviews in the queue though, so you should be seeing those soon.


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