Sunday, July 1, 2018

Best Neil Gaiman Film

I was thinking about all the movies made from Neil Gaiman stories, and it struck me that my very favorite one--the one I truly think is the best of all of them--is the one that gets the least attention. When I see people discussing Gaiman movies, they always mention the decent but not great ones, like Stardust or Coraline, but they never mention Mirrormask.

If you haven't seen Mirrormask, do yourself a favor and give it a try. It's surreal but also gorgeous and amazing.

Today is the day my youngest son turns 18, and we're very proud of him. He was valedictorian at his graduation, and he's off to start Political Science at UMass Amherst this August. He got accepted to Georgetown as well, which he really wanted, but it just wasn't affordable, sadly.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Grandmaster of Fantasy - R. Scott Bakker

I don't typically blog about trade published authors. I'm not a book reviewer, so it just never enters my mind to do so. But I recently started a series by an author I'd never read, and the brilliance of the books made me think it worthwhile to post something.

Usually if an author is brilliant, fans of the genre tend to hear about them fairly regularly -- Tolkien, Howard, Martin, Rothfuss, etc. In the case of R. Scott Bakker, I had heard of him, but I rarely hear him discussed in the various fantasy outlets where I hang out. This should be remedied, because he is easily one of the best fantasy authors I have encountered.

I am halfway through book two of his first series, "The Second Apocalypse" (also called the Prince of Nothing series), which started with The Darkness That Comes Before. My youngest son has already finished this series and is on the final book of his four-book second series set within the same world. He loves it so much that it's the first time I can recall him demanding that I order the next books of a series.

Like I said, I'm not a reviewer, so I don't want to get too far into the details of the stories. They are intellectual and take a bit of effort on your part to get invested in them, but the payoff is tremendous. They remind me of a saner version of Steven Erikson, imaginative and vast in scope, but Bakker's work is more accessible than Erikson's is. I think it's a shame that all lovers of fantasy fiction haven't given him a try.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Altered Carbon and The Immortality Game

I watched the first episode of the new Netflix series Altered Carbon and it was pretty decent. I do think the lead character was miscast, but other than that it was better than I expected. I hope it just keeps getting better.
As some of you already know, I love the three books of the Takeshi Kovacs series by Richard K. Morgan, the first of which is Altered Carbon. However good the show turns out to be, I guarantee the books are even better. I especially love the second one.

It was this series that led me to write The Immortality Game, so in a way my novel is a distant prequel to Altered Carbon. After I read the series I kept wondering what the resleeving technology must have been like back when it was first being developed. This question nagged at me for a few years, and in the back of my mind it kept percolating until I had a story. Mine is set a couple centuries before the Kovacs novels, in the year 2138. Mind/data interfaces are just being perfected and evolving into better and better models (called 'slots' at this time). There are no cortical stacks yet. That's how the technology improves in the far future.
Cover art by Stephan Martiniere
I'm happy to see that if I go to Amazon and type in Altered Carbon, my novel appears on the second page. Wish it could make it to page one, but I'm not complaining! I'm just hoping some people who enjoy Altered Carbon may decide to check out The Immortality Game as well.

Monday, January 1, 2018

What I Read in 2017

At the end of each year I do a summary post of what I read throughout the year. I find it interesting to see my reading habits, and to make note of what the best books were each year. I read a lot less this year, unfortunately. I had been reading over fifty books a year, but this year only 35. I need to do better. I use a standard five star rating method with five stars meaning I loved the book so much I intend to re-read it throughout my life, so there are rarely any five star books.

1. Dictator by Robert Harris ****
2. The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith ****
3. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith ****
4. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith ****
5. Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi ****
6. Finders Keepers by Stephen King **** and a half
7. American Pastoral by Philip Roth ***
8. Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (reread) *****
9. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (reread) *****
10. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North ****
11. End of Watch by Stephen King ****
12. The Death of Caesar by Barry Strauss ***
13. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams **
14. Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft **** and a half

15. The Quest by Nelson DeMille **
16. An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson ****
17. Impact - A Relative Invasion by Rosalind Minett **** and a half

18. Star Wars - Bloodline by Claudia Gray **
19. Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance *** and a half
20. The Day of Battle by Rick Atkinson *****
21. The Guns at Last Light by Rick Atkinson *****
22. The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin **
23. The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem **
24. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr *****

25. Saturn Run by John Sandford ****
26. Heroes Die by Matthew Stover *** and a half
27. The Lost Girls of Rome by Donato Carrisi ***
28. The Whisperer by Donato Carrisi ***
29. Red Shirts by John Scalzi ** and a half
30. Anti-Soviet Activities by Jim Williams ****
31. Babylon's Ashes by James S.A. Corey *****
32. Welcome to the Occupied States of America by Peter Cawdron ***
33. Armada by Ernest Cline ** and a half
34. Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh ****
35. Jimmy Page by Jimmy Page *** and a half

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Best Christmas Music

I was lucky to grow up in a family with great musical tastes. I'm not certain whether it was my mother or step-father (or both) who brought in the great albums of my early life, from Led Zeppelin IV to Fleetwood Mac to Simon & Garfunkel and many more. So I was also lucky that this great musical taste meant that I grew up listening to the best Christmas music. I say this because invariably when I hear Christmas music played in public places or in other peoples' homes, I often shake my head and wonder how they can stand listening to the music they are playing. Tastes vary, of course, but some music is just atrocious.
I think these are the best two Christmas albums of all time: The Carpenters, Christmas Portrait, and John Denver and the Muppets, A Christmas Together. Absolutely gorgeous music, and a blend of brilliantly done classics along with some songs I never hear anywhere else, such as the wonderful Merry Christmas Darling by the Carpenters, and several unique songs by John Denver. The voices of John Denver and Karen Carpenter are perfect for Christmas music.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Nothing New in the World

So I started reading a new book the other day. And it's a really well written, fun read. I highly recommend it. It's called Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh. The prose is much cooler than mine, much more edgy in style.

It's a near future thriller set in a New York decimated by a dirty bomb, where about the only sci-fi element is how people spend their time addicted to being in an online virtual reality. And that's the part that struck me funny, because though the author names it something different, this aspect of the story is pretty much the same as in my own book that was published the same year, 2014. I call the online virtual reality addiction 'meshing'.

In both of our stories, people buy souped up beds that feed and take care of them so they can 'live' in their virtual reality for long periods of time without the need to come back to the real world. All throughout the book I keep seeing aspects of this that remind me of what I was doing in my book.

 I'm definitely not saying the author stole my idea (though it is possible, given that I began writing my book in 2009 and posted each chapter online as I wrote it--first on the Authonomy writers website and later on Wattpad). I just think we actually and truly had the same basic idea at around the same time. It's like that when you are extrapolating things you see happening today into the future.

And hey, it's like our two novels are set in the same story 'universe'! I like the book, so give it a try.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Class Differences in Writing

I read an interesting article today that got me thinking about various writing relating topics. One of them was the idea of class pervading literature in ways we often don't even consider. I had thought of class in literature, especially when thinking about major prizes, which almost always overlook all genre fiction. But what about within genre fiction itself? Is there still a class divide?

If there is it must be subtle, but I do think it may be there to a degree. The huge successes of writers who grew up poor or middle class, say Stephen King or JK Rowling, can make it seem absurd to even consider a class divide in genre fiction.

But I was struck in the article by the author's points about not relating to characters in what he had been reading. I feel that way very often in the genre fiction I read (though admittedly not in King or Rowling). Too often the characters are nobles or some form of warrior who is about the best in the world at what they do. What I always wanted to read about were people like me stuck in extraordinary circumstances and forced to sink or swim.

So that's what I write. My characters are ordinary people. They are an ugly sixty-something mute, or a fisherman's son who got lucky enough to marry a nobleman's daughter but is looked down upon for rising above his station. One is a hard working young Russian woman just trying to get by in a crumbling world. Another is an ex-addict with low self-esteem despairing of the world and only doing something because his dead father is egging him on. I realize when I write such characters that I may lose out on the entire readership that enjoys the higher level characters of princes and superheroes, but I can't help but want to write about what feels real to me. I want ordinary people who have to fight and claw their way to survival.
Anyway, I am so looking forward to seeing the new Blade Runner movie this weekend. I consider the original to be the best movie ever made (especially the Final Cut version). Anyone else going to see it this weekend?