Thursday, December 29, 2005

Harry Potter and Rob's Annoying Music of 2005

I finally got around to seeing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire over the Christmas weekend. I thought it started out pretty slowly, but once it picked the story flew by very quickly. I am surprised by how much I liked Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort, I think he pulled it off very well. However, this really shouldn’t be a surprise, of the movies I’ve seen him in, I thought he acted very well.

It has been about five years since I read the book, but I don’t recall Snape being such a non-presence in this story. I’m not too worried, this changes in the later books. Film wise, this really started to set-up the strong relationship between Harry and Dumbledore and I think this was what worked best in the film. The special effects were very good, too. A lot of the fantastical monsters and creatures looked pretty real.

All told, I thought this was better than the second movie, but the third is still my favorite.

And now, for the music Rob found the most annoying, cringe-inducing, and overplayed this past year:

Green DayAmerican Idiot
I know, technically, this was a 2004 release, but I just couldn’t escape songs from this album this year. I just don’t understand why this is so heavily and widely praised. I get they are making a political statement on this punk-rock concept album, but as musicians, shouldn’t the music be listenable? Wake Me Up When September Ends has to be one of the most cringe-inducing songs I’ve heard this year. Well, except for maybe the atrocious Boulevard of Broken Dreams with its awful lulling bounce that makes me want to pound my head with a hammer. Anything I’ve heard from this album does nothing more than annoy me, and gets the automatic turn of the dial on the radio.

Why this band sells albums is beyond me. Their singer, Chad Kroeger, has about the worst voice in all of rock music, it is nasally and whiny and makes me want to stick a fork in my ear. To call their song Photograph music is an insult to anybody who ever picked up an instrument and the only song that makes me change the dial quicker than Green Day’s September Ends. All I hear whenever Nickelback is on the radio is a cacophony of noise with no harmony, no collective sound, no structure and no coherence.

I’ll pick this album since it is the most recent, but every song I’ve heard from them is like a whinier, crappier more painful version of any Oasis song.

Gwen Stefani
Hollaback Girl has to be one of the 5 most annoying songs of all time. Again, most of the pain-inducing “music” heard this year from her was from her 2004 album, it was still tough to avoid.

And five “classics” that make me cringe...

The Who
Who Are You? I’ll just go with that one, but just about any of their songs. At one time I liked the Who, I saw Tommy and loved it. But now, this band is overplayed beyond reason. Why the song Who Are You is even allowed on radio request hours when you can hear it three times a day if you watch CSI is beyond me.

Lynyrd Skynyrd & The Allman Brothers
Really, they just represent 95% of Southern Rock for me. At least where I live, an hour doesn’t go by without one of these two overplayed bands receiving some sort of airplay on one of the three major rock stations in the NY/NJ area. Just like Who Are You?, Sweet Home Alabama should be banned from all caller request radio shows. I know the Allmans have a big following, I just don’t get why their music is so great.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers
Another hugely popular band whose music makes me want to stick hot pokers in my ears. Aside from their cover of Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground, anything I’ve heard from them makes me want to automatically change the radio station. However, I do acknowledge Flea’s superb bass-playing skills and liked him in Back to the Future movies.

The Clash
Particularly Rock the Casbah. Ugh. UGH. Great, they were punk rock pioneers.

And remember, GO JOIN/VOTE at SFFWORLD for your favorite FSF book of 2005!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Fröhliche Weinachten!

Because when Santa runs into trouble on Christmas Eve, he calls on Superman. This comic is one of my favorites, and has been a part of my collection for many years. I remember picking it up, along with a number of the old DC Comics Presents issues, over the period of a couple years at an old shop the next town over from where I grew up. The shop itself was a bit …interesting. It was an old electronics repair shop, which also sold back issues of many comics. Most of the comics were from the late 70s and early 80s, which considering I was about 10 or 12 in the mid eighties, made sense. I still pull this one out and skim over it. I wish I could go back to that store now and rifle through the boxes of comics, I think the highest priced comics were one dollar.

I’ve got this one too. Or at least I did. Over the summer my parents moved into a new house, so I’m not sure if this record made the move with them. I also had some of those old Power rcomics/records, too.

But this picture really begs the question, what is more ridiculous, Superman wearing a Santa hat or Batman wearing a fake Santa’s beard? I’ll go with Bruce in the beard, but let Robin to tell him that. As for Wonder Woman in Santa’s hat, well, that’s a different story.

OK, enough Superhero-Christmas cheer.

Merry Christmas!

Happy Festivus!

Fröhliche Weinachten

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A Christmas Beer-Feast

I tried this beer last week whilst decorating my Christmas tree and was very happy. Brewed by Bethlehem Brew Works, it has all the spicy goodness associated with Christmas – nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. In sum, it leaves my belly feeling real nice even if it isn’t quite as smooth as Harpoon’s Winter Warmer. In terms of flavor and robustness, it is pretty close. It only comes in 20 oz. bottles and I think it is only available here in NJ as well as NY and PA.

I finished up A Feast for Crows a couple of days ago and it left me wanting more. I re-read the whole series in preparation for the Feast, so Following up A Storm of Swords was a difficult task and ultimately, the two were simply different books.

If you don’t want the book spoiled, stop reading now.

Are you sure you don’t want anything spoiled?

Fine then.

Here goes…

Many people have been judging Feast on what it could have been or should have been, not on what it was. I liked getting in Cersei's head, but gods I thought Tyrion had some daddy issues. He's got nothing on his sweet sister.

Following Jaime's character evolution over the past two books has been one of the strengths of the series. Watching him crumble Cersei's letter near the end of Feast was a powerful scene in which illustrated the culmination of this evolution. He is almost a man without a country and it will be very interesting to see the paths he takes as the series progresses.

One thing I've learned in reading this series, unless the body is in plain view of a town of people, don't consider any character dead - and I wouldn't be surprised (perhaps disappointed) if Ned actually did return. At no point did I (when reading) or do I know think the Clegane brothers are dead. Whether or not they eventually clash is another story, and one that may not even happen. However, both of their stories are incomplete at this point, despite the Hound and the Mountain being indisposed.

Brienne has to be alive, like all have said, much of this book would be useless fodder if she were to have died at's hands. Littlefinger is proving to be perhaps, the most interesting player in the game of thrones.

One thing I've taken as an overriding theme of this particular volume is that of Identity. For example, Arya changed names/identities quite a few times. Granted that's been her M.O. throughout the majority of the series, but it came more into the light here. Sansa is now Ariana, the hound is no more, but we all know Sandor lives. Brienne goes by a couple of names and Samwell of course has a couple of nicknames.

In conclusion, I have to say it was an excellent book - not the strongest volume in the saga, but definitely worthy. Now all I want is more.

And remember, GO JOIN/VOTE at SFFWORLD for your favorite FSF book of 2005!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

SFFWORLD - Best Reads 2005

I know some of my millions--AND MILLIONS--of readers are also members of the SFFWorld Forums I moderate. Yesterday, we began our annual reader poll for Best Reads of 2005. If you are a member, go over and vote for the 2005 book(s) you enjoyed the most.

If you aren't a member and enjoy reading Fantasy and Science Fiction, now is a great opportunity to become a member. Like many forums, it costs nothing and you will meet some interesting people. The only downfall will likely be a marked increase in your reading pile, or the list of books you want to buy and read.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Silver Screen & Screaming Nonesene

I posted my review of Justina Robson's debut novel, Silver Screen today. This one made me think quite a bit. Good stuff, read my review and get more of my indepth thoughts.

Speaking of silver screens, I'm hoping to finally see the new Harry Potter flick this weekend. The last movie I saw in theaters was Batman Begins.

I'm sure people who read my blog have already seen the 534th incarnation of Fantasy is for low-brow idiots and Science Fiction is where the good stuff is at. Scott Lynch, for the most part, said everything that needed to be said.

And lastly, best of luck La Gringa!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Stern Comics and Winter Beer

This is the last week Howard Stern will be on terrestrial radio, and mornings simply will not be the same. You can’t really escape Stern anywhere in the media right now, he’s on the late night talk shows, 60 Minutes and tonight he will be on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It is even harder to ignore him here in the NJ/NY area. I’ve been listening for the past 10 or 15 years, and through most of those years, he and his crew have made me laugh. When Opie and Anthony came on the NY radio scene in 1998, I became an instant fan of their show and enjoyed it more than Stern, they were more entertaining and you felt more a part of the show. Still, during my morning commute, Stern would be on the radio. Granted, for the past year or so, he’s been a little more self-absorbed than usual, but funny at times. I really loved the show he had on local NJ channel 9, out of Secaucus, NJ.* I really enjoyed his book and movie, Private Parts, and I remember an old friend had the Butt-Bongo fiesta video. So with this Friday as his last day on 92.3 KROCK, I will be a little sad. However, when I get a new car, hopefully next year, I’ll be getting XM so I can listen to O&A and Ron and Fez.

In other news, last weekend we had the first big snow of the season. As big as the storm was, I didn’t get the sense that the local media was going as apocalyptic as they usually do for these storms. Still, with a driveway that is about 125’ x 10’, I spent a lot of Friday shoveling so I got more of a taste of the snow than I ever did living in the old townhouse.

Some comics-related linkage...

Forbes recently ran a piece on the Fictional Fifteen Richest people. As a follow-up, they recently did a very clever article on the rivalry between Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne.

As is usual in the middle of the month, DC Comics tells us what they are publishing in three months/March. In addition/as a result of the Infinite Crisis, they are pushing storylines ahead one year. Most notable on this list is the writer of both Batman and Detective Comics: James Robinson. His Starman is considered one of the best 90’s superhero books, I absolutely loved what he did with the JSA in The Golden Age mini-series and he helped to revive that group’s ongoing series, as well as Hawkman’s ongoing series. His film-making career, well that’s a different story. All that said, I’m really looking forward to what he does with Batman. I may also pick up the new Blue Beetle series, as well as Busiek’s first issue of Aquaman.

Lastly, with the Christmas season in full swing, I was very happy to have my first bottle of Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig beer over the weekend. This beer is one of my favorite things about the Christmas season. I also love Harpoon’s Winter Warmer; however, Harpoon’s is easier to get. The only way to get the Old Fezziwig is through the Winter Classics Mix Pack. Mmm… Beer.

*I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit I attended a taping of the old Richard Bey show there, just about anyone in the NY/NJ area will remember that trash-a-thon of a show.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dimebag & Jaarfindor

One year ago, “Dimebag” Darrell Abbot was murdered in cold blood, performing his music for his fans. Today is also the anniversary of John Lennon’s death, while a great tragedy, doesn’t affect me as much as Dimebag’s death. I grew up with Pantera's music as part of my soundtrack and I saw the band live, maybe 10 years ago, and it was great. Dimebag’s more recent band, Damageplan, was one of the opening acts when I saw Disturbed last year. I was shocked then and every once in a while the senselessness of it just makes me ask why.

On a much more happy note, I just posted my review of Sean Wright's impressive novel, The Twisted Root of Jaarfindor.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Friday, December 02, 2005

Long December

With December upon us, I can officially state I wasn't NaNoWriMo "winner.” However, I can say I started a novel that I am enjoying writing and I’m 25K closer to seeing this story idea through to the end than I was before I started in November. The basic plot device/elements of this novel started gestating in my head a number of years ago, it was something I felt I could write about and I hope it will appeal to other people as well. I’m thinking of re-working a short story I wrote a couple of years ago into the novel and perhaps submitting the reworked story for publication. There are many writers who start their publishing careers with novels and just as many with short stories to get their name out there. I’m not certain which of these two camps I will fall into right now, all I care about at the moment is telling the story through to the end. Both have their merits, and writers who published both ways will espouse the benefits.

December also marks the time of year when Year in Review and Best of … lists start to appear in various places. SFFWorld will be no different, though it may come more towards the end of the month. I am working on a piece, or rather will start in earnest to work on such a piece with the ever-intrepid Hobbit of SFFWorld shortly.

December is also a great time to plan out reading habits for the next year, as publishers make available more information for books they hope people like me and the readers who visit forums such as SFFWorld and Frameshift will buy and read. I thought 2005 was a great year, but 2006 looks to be pretty impressive, as well. Most of the books are set to publish, with the manuscript at their respective editors. Without further ado:

The Lies of Lock Lamora by Scott Lynch, BantamSpectra June 2006 (Gollancz UK July)
Scott's name is probably very familiar to a lot of people. Most people (i.e. bloggers and Live Journal users) know his story and now we are all looking forward to what will likely be the debut novel of 2006. Early indications are that this book is incredible. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has read Scott's Live Journal, his writing voice is unique and very assured. For a sampling of how well he writes, check out his superlative review of Matt Stover’s Heroes Die.

The Empire of Ice Cream by Jeffrey Ford, Golden Gryphon April 2006
I have yet to be disappointed by anything my fellow New Jersey native has written. His Well-Built City trilogy is one of my favorite series, three books more full of inspired imagination than single volume novels twice the length of this entire trilogy. His award winning short-story collection The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant was probably one of the two or three best books I read this year. Yes I know it came out in 2002, I’m just getting on the short story bandwagon.

Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell, Tor, February 2006
I’ve read and enjoyed a couple of short stories from this very active blogger. Tobias is doing an incredible job of self-promoting his book and recently launched the official Web site for the book. The Earth is in the distant past to inhabitants of a world humans discovered through a worm-hole, it seems like an interesting blending of Fantasy and Science Fiction. And besides, with an incredible cover by Todd Lockwood depicting what look to be pirates on floating vessels, how can you go wrong?

Her Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik, Del Rey March 2006
I’ve only recently seen things about Novik’s debut novel, but what I’ve seen impresses me. From what Rick Kleffel says, Del Rey is putting forth a very impressive marketing effort on this one, not the least of which is a blurb from Stephen King! Perhaps the most impressive thing about this book is that the two subsequent books in the trilogy will follow in each subsequent month. This is a blending of Fantasy and Alternate History, as Novik inserts dragons into the Napoleonic Wars. Novik has a cool background too, having worked on the popular Neverwinter Nights game. Like many authors, Novik keeps a LiveJournal giving a peek into her process.

Dusk by Tim Lebbon, BantamSpectra January 2006
This looks like a epic fantasy with a very dark horrific element. Hobbit reviewed for SFFWorld and had many good things to say. Lebbon has been very well-received in Horror circles and his foray into Epic Fantasy should be very interesting. Tim has a Web site specifically for Noreela, the world of Dusk.

Elemental: The Tsunami Relief Anthology edited by Steve Saville and Alethea Kontis, Tor, June 2006
Steve's official author forums are hosted by SFFWorld and is very knowledgeable about the genre. All proceeds from this book go to Save The Children's Tsunami Relief, contributors include: Arthur C. Clarke, Lynn Flewelling, Martha Wells, Jacqueline Carey, Sean Williams, Brian Aldiss, Tim Lebbon, and Michael Marshall Smith. There are more authors, but these are the writers with whom I am most familiar.

Vellum by Hal Duncan, Del Rey April 2006
Yeah, yeah, I know this has officially been published, but I live in America so I’m sticking with the American publishers. The first of a duology, this mixes heavens, hells, the multiverse, angels and technology. My only fear is that all of the very high positive response (or hype, if you will) is setting me up for a let down. Hal keeps a very cool blog at

Continuing Series
Of course, some series I’ve been reading will see installments publishing next year. One I’m very eager to get my hands on is The Blood Knight by Greg Keyes , the penultimate installment of his thus far fantastic Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone saga. If things go as planned, George R.R. Martin will publish A Dance with Dragons next year. E.E. Knight jumps to Hardcover with his next Vampire Earth novel, Valentine’s Exile. Locus is listing a date for the UK version of Lynn Flewelling’s The Oracle’s Queen, the concluding volume in her Tamir Trilogy. I read the first two in fairly quick succession a couple of years ago and really liked them. Peter F. Hamilton’s Judas Unchained comes out in January, the sequel to Pandora’s Star. I thought his Fallen Dragon one of the best SF books I’ve read in the past 5 years or so, but didn’t pick up Pandora’s Star, I was waiting for both books of the duology to be released.

However, the one I am most looking forward to reading is Matt Stover’s Caine Black Knife. Of course Matt is still writing it so there isn’t even a publication date. As I said with GRRM, let Matt take the time he needs to make CBK the book he wants it to be.

I know there are probably more books I am forgetting, but I think this is a good enough base of 2006 releases to whet my appetite.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Stuffing, Nano & Kitty

I hope everyone who celebrated it enjoyed their Thanksgiving. I know I ate entirely too much. Of all the traditional Thanksgiving foods, I think the actual turkey is at the bottom of the list for me. Give me a plate filled with stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and gravy and I'm happy. The turkey is almost an afterthought.

Yesterday I posted my official review of Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn. I liked it much more than I thought I would. It is always nice when a book does that to you.

Lastly, with only a few days left to reach 50K for NaNoWriMo, I've come to the realization that I won't be hitting that goal. I'm not even halfway there right now (20k), but it served the greater purpose of getting me in a more strict writing schedule. I'm still having a lot of fun with the book, despite the difficulties some of it is presenting.

Monday, November 21, 2005

New Review, wine, and music

I posted my review of E.E. Knight's Dragon Champion yesterday. This was a solid coming of age story about a rare gray dragon. Knight shows some great characterization and solid world building in this one. I liked his Vampire Earth novels a bit more, but this is still a very strong book. And he did what every writer should do – he has me interested in the characters and looking forward to where he next takes the story.

We had some friends over this past weekend and I discovered how well a good red wine can compliment beef, in this case Chateau Breon, which Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff cooked to absolute perfection. I would normally be very happy with a Guinness or other rich beer to accompany my beef experience. However, our friends brought over a nice red wine and I figured I’d give it a try. I’m not a big wine drinker, but I do enjoy it on occasion. This was something of a blend of a Merlot and Chianti, wonderfully smooth with no after taste. I’ll have to try wine with my steak more often.

It is always interesting when two types of art/entertainment cross. I'm speaking of music flavored with fantasy and science fiction. Listening to Queensrÿche’s Operation: Mindcrime got me thinking of this once again. For those not in the know, this is probably Queensrÿche’s most critically acclaimed album (Fuck Silent Lucidity, MTV killed that thing) and tells the story of a junkie, a nun/prostitute in a dark grim future where Dr. X is leading a cult to overthrow the government. Though not blatantly science fictional, the elements of a disillusioned populace, a dark big brother like figurehead, and a cult preparing a revolution fit the bill for me. This album ranks very highly in my personal canon of "great albums."

Less known (outside of those who are metal fans like myself), though no less interesting and entertaining is the band Dream Theater. Many of their albums are concept albums and boast a wonderful line up of great musicians. I've liked the majority of songs I've heard by them is Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory which deals with past lives.

The German group, Blind Guardian based their album, Nightfall in Middle-Earth, on Tolkien's Silmarillion. The album starts out with clashing swords and some spoken words. Another German based group is Helloween, with their epic Keeper of the Seven Keys albums, the songs Dr. Stein, Future World and the epic Halloween.

Rush is a group that has flirted with fantastic elements, particularly their 2112 album, which tells of a dystopic future and the talisman of a guitar.

David Bowie was flirting with the genre with his The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars as was The Who with Tommy. Even though Tommy isn't quite sf, it does play with the Christ Figure so popular in fantastic fiction. Alice Cooper’s horror-themed music is also germane to this discussion as well.

Of course a discussion of this nature would be incomplete if Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were not mentioned. Many of Zeppelin's songs are just about outright homages to Tolkien (Misty Mountain Hop, Ramble On, The Battle of Evermore). And Sabbath, who took their name from the Karloff film, is perhaps the defining group, in terms bands with fantastical elements in their songs. From their song The Wizard, to the epic and legendary Iron Man, and the song Black Sabbath, the dark gothic feelings their songs evoke is unmistakable, often imitated and perhaps the most influential sound in all of Heavy Metal. The imported three disc set: Black Sabbath: The Ozzy Osbourne Years is one of my most cherished CD compilations.

I’m sure I missed some, let me know.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Writing, Reading, Observing

It has been a hectic week, but what else is new. I haven't written as much as I would have liked, but I have been adding to the NaNoWriMo book just about every day. I’m having fun with it, as I’ve said, and surprising myself with what I’m putting to page. The story is becoming more personal than I was expecting. Hopefully, a pot of coffee will help me to a long writing session into very early tomorrow morning.

I finished up E.E. Knight's Dragon Champion a couple of days ago and I'm polishing up my review. Overall reaction, I liked it, but I'll go into more detail when I finish and post the review.

I also read All Star Superman #1 this week and thought it was just about everything a Superman comic book should be. Even if many of Quietly's faces look like they are sucking a lemon, his overall layouts and details are amazing. Too bad it will be 2 months until the next one hits shelves. Speaking of Superman, the trailer for Superman Returns ran during Smallville last night, which only left me wanting to see more. Smallville itself was good, even if it seemed like a big commercial for Ford. Even if resolution always hits about 8:43 every episode, they are delivering some good Kryptonian back-story, focusing more on Clark, enough on Lex, and still a little too much on Chloe. I think Jor-El has somehow inhabited Lionel Luthor.

Continuing on the comic book theme, I have to say, I’ve been impressed with Image Comics output lately, both current and future. I'm sure I'm not reinventing the wheel by stating this, but they are no longer the splash-page in your face artist turned writers they were when they started up in rebelling to Marvel & DC. Sure Spawn is still ongoing and Larson's Savage Dragon is picking up again, but they are doing some interesting things there, in addition.

Rex Mundi is one that comes immediately to mind – an alternate history dealing with a powerful church and the Holy Grail. The art is good, the story is deep, mysterious and often spooky with a minimal supernatural element. The only problem is the somewhat erratic shipping schedule.

GØDLAND is another one. Cosmic superheroics in the Kirby tradition! Seriously, I have the first issue and liked it a lot, Joe Casey is telling a fun story here. Scioli’s art just explodes off the page. I've got issues 3 and 4, but can't seem to get my hands on the second issue. For anybody considering this thing, the whole first issue is posted for free at Newsarama. (Thanks for triggering that memory Mahesh!)

Fear Agent, by Rick Remender, Tony Moore and Cory Walker has only one issue on the shelves right now, but I liked it a lot. So far this is SciFi adventure with an Indiana Jones like feel. On both GØDLAND and Fear Agent, the coloring is spectacular, too.

Another book coming out next year that looks interesting is The Portent, described as "a sweeping fantasy epic" launching in February.

Here is a page with a bunch of previews of their comics. They have also recently started a great all-Image-encompassing blog.

Lastly, this week and part of last week the blogosphere (at least the FSF portion I consider myself to be a part of) has been caught up in what has come to be known as the Venom Cock controversy. I’ve been observing this from a distance with some morbid curiosity. As a person with aspirations of becoming a successful, published writer who also spends a great deal of their time reading and reviewing fantasy and science fiction, I've found myself in an odd place on this one. Any large group of people eventually becomes divided into cliques, this is only a natural thing. Between cliques a natural "they said" and "No THEY said" thing will develop. The result of all this, of course, is that Janine Cross, the author of Touched by Venom, will likely see a nice increase in the sales of her book.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Churning along

I'm still not quite where I want to be with NaNoWriMo, but my Friday overnight writing spree brought me to 10K and I'm approaching 13K right now. I'm finding the key to doing this thing, and this probably isn't a surprise to anyone, is falling into a writing schedule.

I'm trying to add to this thing everyday, even if it is just re-reading what I wrote over the past couple of days and make some edits and the addition of a couple paragrahps. Half the time I write more than I expect, other times I hate myself for not writing as much as I want.

This week at comic shops the much anticipated All-Star Superman #1 hits the shelves. This should be a lot of fun.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

NaNoWriMo in the night

Blogging right now is providing a brief distraction from NaNoWriMo. This Devil of a book I'm working on has some supernatural, scary elements to it. I'm finding it tricky to not be too blatant with these facets of the novel, but it is fun too. I'm also enjoying balancing the real with the supernatural, and trying to set my characters in as "real" a world as possible. Certain writers are described as "subtle," and I suppose I'm aiming for that with some of the scenes I've just crafted.

Considering there are scenes I've written which I hope will set the reader's hair on end, is it a good sign that I was a bit spooked writing them and felt goose-bumps?

To further add to the creepy, or Twilight-Zone-esque feel, I just did a word count and got exactly 8000. It could have been worse, it could have had 666 in it.

On the TV right now, providing background noise is Wondershowzen - what a fucked up show.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

One Year Ago...

Yeah I just posted something similar, but I did start this blog shortly after my birthday last year, so you will all have to suffer some of my wistful remembrances.

I figured the one-year mark was as good a time as any to change up the look here at your Friendly Neighborhood Blog o' Stuff. I was getting a little bit bored with the orange and white and felt like going for something blue.

So what has happened since I began this thing last year? Probably the biggest was buying/moving into a new house and selling our townhouse. This provided a great deal of stress to lives of Mr. Blog o' Stuff and myself, as selling a house without a realtor, whilst cheaper, is somewhat frustrating. Still, I like the idea of not having to pay a realtor thousands of dollars for something I can do myself. That took up a couple months of my life and after putting a nice amount of work into the new house to bring it up from repair work to simply maintenance work, Mrs. Blog o' Stuff and I are growing much more comfortable with the idea of this being our home. As if on cue, I received a call from informing me the tax assessor came for her scheduled visit.

We had some very good memories of our first 5 years of marriage in the townhouse. We shared our first Christmas there, after all. As much as we wanted a house with land, it was still a little sad to leave a place with five years of memories.

My parents also moved, too. They just moved to the other side of town. This was odd for me, since the house they moved out of was pretty much the house in which I grew up. My parents bought the house when I was 3, and I lived there up until I married Mrs. Blog o' Stuff at the age of 25. Sure, I spent 4 years on and off living in New Brunswick, but this was the home where I grew up. Still, it is odd for my parents to be in a different house than the one they were in for 30 years and I don't think I'll ever drive down their old street. I don't think I want to see how the new people there changed it.

SFFWorld has continued to grow, with the expansion of our forums to include the OFFICIAL forums of several authors. (Gary Wassner, R. Scott Bakker, Matthew Stover, Steve Savile, Madeline Howard, Caitlin Sweet, Kevin Radthorne, Alison Croggon, Richard Tuttle, Samit Basu, Glenda Larke, Marienne de Pierres, Richard Harland) We recently started expanding our coverage, on the Web site as a whole, to encompass graphic novels and comic books. People in the world of FSF are beginning to take notice of our presence, I'd like to think, especially with more blurbs of our reviews appearing on or in published books.

The Yankees failed to make it to the World Series again, the NHL returned, and it looks like my alma mater may actually make it into a Bowl Game for the first time in many, many years.

Lastly, I suppose this is a mild case of serendipity, the Web site for Superman Returns went live yesterday.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Lazy post

Just a meme placeholder today from mastadge. Something of more substance tomorrow.

1. First thing you did this morning?
Hit the alarm clock

2. Last thing you ate?
Some kind of danish my mom brought over on Saturday.

3. Is your cell phone a piece of crap?
Pretty much.

4. What's the thing you look forward to most in the next 6 months?
Spending the first Christmas season in my new house with my wife. Finishing a novel or two.

5. What's annoying you right now?
Having to wake up everyday and go to work. To quote pal Justin – “Why is there so much month left at the end of the money?”

6. Whats the last movie you saw in a theater?
Batman Begins

7. Do you believe in long distance relationships?
I suppose

8. What's worse, when you try so hard for something then you end up not even getting it, or losing someone you love?
Losing someone you love.

9. Is there someone you miss?

10. What inspires you?
My Wife and my Life.

11. If you could put together a concert of 4 bands or artists, who would they be?
Godsmack, Black Label Society, Black Sabbath (from before Ozzy was kicked out the first time) and Shinedown.

12. Song that sums up your love life?
Take a Look at Yourself by Plant/Paige, Unanswered Prayers by Garth Brooks

13. What's one thing you wish you were better at doing?
Keeping to my writing schedule.

14. If you could be anywhere this second where would you be?
Back home, in bed with my wife.

15. What's your most vivid memory from 6th grade?
That was middle-school, the three worst years of my life and they all blended together. Being harrased several times a week by kids in the 8th grade sucked.

16. Latest addiction?
Cheese. Every day when I get home, I have the almost uncontrollable urge to cut a piece of cheddar or smoked provolone.

17. Have you ever had the slight urge to kill someone?
Define ‘slight.’

18. How many people would you say were interested in you?
I’d like to think my wife would be at least one. As for others, whatever.

19. What do you love doing?
Being with my wife. Reading. Writing. Spending time with either my dog or my wife’s dog. Drinking beer. Eating.

20. Do you think someone thinks about you daily?
See number 18.

21. Who was the last person you saw or talked to?
A friend at work.

22. What do you want to be when you grow up?
I’m 31 and still trying to figure that one out. Is Award Winning New York Times Bestselling Author a bit much to shoot for?

23. What is your favorite food?
Steak, (porterhouse or filet mignon wil do) medium rare with a bit of salt and a pint of beer to accompany it.

24. How many people do you know with the same name as yours?
About 10

25. What was the last thing you spilled?
Water on myself.

26.Express yourself right now:
Frustrated, excited, anxious.

Monday, November 07, 2005

31 years ago...

To quote Jesus on the Christmas episode of South Park,

"Happy Birthday to me."

31 years old. Shit, it is all downhill from here. It really sunk in when I was at the gym and the exercise bicycle, in an attempt to provide a customized work out for each individual, prompts you for your age. That just made it real. The real question is, when do I begin to feel like and adult?

And thanks to mastadge, I found the following about myself:

You're Nada from They Live.
They Live.

Which B-Movie Badass Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

God I love that movie, one protagonist is portrayed by mullet-sporting wrestling legend Roddy Piper, the other by Tony-Award winner Keith David. Keith David has perhaps the coolest voice in Hollywood. I just checked David's IMDB entry, dude's been in a lot of stuff - Pitch Black, John Carpenter's The Thing, Something About Mary, Road House (maybe that's not one to be proud of), plus a bunch of Video Game voices and the voice of Goliath in Disney's Gargoyle's cartoon.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Bakker Review & NaNoWriMo

I’ve posted my review of R. Scott Bakker’s The Thousandfold Thought. My god was this a great book, I really need to re-read the entire trilogy at some point in the not-too-distant future. This book, and whole series, was extremely compelling and will cast a long shadow for many years in the Epic Fantasy genre.

NaNoWriMo is underway and as of last night, I've got about 2200 of the 50K words we are all all working towards. However, when I attempted to continue my W.I.P. last night, the file on my floppy would not open. I usually save the file of whatever I'm writing on the hard drive as well. Unfortunately the version on the hard drive was missing a decent portion of what I’d written the day before, Wednesday. As things turned out, last night in attempting to re-write the portoin that went missing, my protagonist, Larry, developed a better relationship with his friend’s wife. In my fervor to replace what was lost, the story became stronger. That my friends, is turning a bad situation into a good one, and something I’ve seen/heard other writers do with scenes they mysteriously lost.

This past week Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff and I had our house vinyl sided, and the contractor did an absolutely fantastic job. I’d provide a link, but he doesn’t have a Web site and I don’t think it likely anybody else reading my blog actually lives in New Jersey and needs work done on their house. It almost like having a new house, and we couldn't be happier. The neighbor two doors down was so impressed with the craftsmanship of their work that she called them Wednesday to set up an appointment for an appraisal to get work done on her house.

I’m wishing I could have gone out to Madison, Wisconsin for this year’s World Fantasy Convention, a bunch of my pals from SFFWorld and Frameshift are there right now mingling. Oh bother, perhaps I can make it in two years when it is in Binghmaton, which I can get to by car.

Sadly, Keith Parkinson passed away earlier in the week. I always liked his artwork, particularly his covers to Terry Brooks’ Shannara books. The quality of Parkinson’s art was superior to the words inside the book, however. Parkinson’s wonderful art was also the primary basis for the Everquest game. RIP.

Lastly, speaking of Terry Brooks, there is an “Interesting” discussion about Terry Brooks and the Fantasy genre at Nightshade books, of all places (via The Slush God)

Friday, October 28, 2005

What a Marvelous King!

In one of the worst kept secrets in comics recently, Stephen King is collaborating with Jae Lee on a prequel to his Dark Tower saga for Marvel comics. I loved the Dark Tower saga, the last couple of books were the best things he has written in years. What I’ve seen of Jae Lee’s art, I’ve liked. I wonder of the Dr. Doom references in The Wolves of Calla had anything to do with King bringing this thing to Marvel, rather than DC, or even Dark Horse.

Suffice it to say, I think it is pretty easy to surmise that I am looking forward to this. I will have to add two copies to my pull list, one for me and one for my Dad, since he is obsessed with King.

This has to be considered a pretty major coup for Marvel, getting the bestselling novelist of ALL TIME to bring his MOST FAMOUS creation to them.

Keeping with the "King" theme, I started A Clash of Kings today.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

1000-fold thoughts on words and pictures

Congratulations to the Chicago White Sox, World Series champions for the first time since 1917. I didn't watch too much of the series because a) I can't stand Fox b) I can't stand Tim McCarver, c) VH1 is running another new batch of "I Love the '80s", which is something of an addictive drug I hate admitting to having on the television and d) Fox is awful.

Of course, this was all background noise for me as I’ve been plowing through The Thousandfold Thought, the forthcoming conclusion to Scott Bakker's wonderful Prince of Nothing series. While there is a good amount of action in the book, a lot of the narrative consists of dialogue, both internal and between the different characters. Very compelling and adrenaline inducing dialogue at that, and overall, a great sense of mounting tension as everything is coming to a head. I'll save the rest for the review I'll be writing, but Scott is really delivering on the promise laid out in the earlier two volumes.

My copy of Batman Begins arrived last week, and I spent Friday night watching the film and the extras into the night, and goddamn this is a great movie. The extras were pretty cool as they were laid out as an "interactive comic book." The stuff I was most interested in focused on the comics and the reverence Goyer and other commenters held for Miller/Mazzucchelli's Year One storyline. I also thought it very convenient how they managed to slip in plugs for Miller/Lee's All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder, with comments from Jim Lee himself, as well as DC head honchos Paul Levitz and Dan DiDio. Overall, Warner Brothers put together a great DVD package.

Along with Batman Begins, I decided to buy Crisis on Multiple Earths, Vol 1, which tells of the first team-ups of the JLA & JSA. Let's just say comics have come a long way in their storytelling since the issues comprising that book were published in the 1960s. It is cool to see the groundwork for the DC Multiverse laid out, but the dialogue, in particular, is for lack of a better word, hokey. The art, by Mike Sekowsky, is not flashy or out of this world, but fairly solid.

Another Silver-Age collection I recently picked up was the Showcase Presents: Green Lantern volume. Whereas Sekowsky's JLA art in Crisis was very workmanlike, even without the coloring, Gil Kane's art in the GL book is very strong, perhaps the best thing about the book. This isn't to say the stories are bad, because they aren't. Kane’s artwork always has a great sense of activity and movement and seeing his early work is nice. I've been a GL fan for a while now, and some of the things that are now part of the canon of the character were somewhat loose in the early goings. For example, Hal decides to call himself Green Lantern, rather than really having the name bestowed upon him by the Guardians. Another interesting thing was how much of a celebrity Green Lantern was in those early issues, which goes to show heroes as celebrities isn't really something new. Granted, this theme is somewhat embellished now, but don't let Mark Millar let you think he is working with entirely new concepts in The Ultimates.

It really is very much overdue that DC is publishing these giant black and white volumes of the old, stories. Marvel has been publishing their Essential volumes for a few years now and DC finally doing the same. I'll probably be picking up the Superman volume once I make my way through the GL book. I mean really, how can you go wrong for $9.99 for 20+ issues of comics?

Lastly, I am getting back into Bill Willingham's Fables. I don't really remember why I dropped it from my pull list a little over a year ago, I think maybe I was going to start getting it in trades. Either way, I've started to fill in with all the back issues, and read them in order. I like the conceit of the story in this book, fairytale/fantasy characters are real and living in our world, a lot. Sure it may not be the newest concept, but Willingham spins it very well. Mark Buckingham's art is spot on too. Not just the characters, but the overall page design of each issue is unique and conveys the overall theme of the issue/storyline very well. DC is giving away the first issue for free.

However, one of the biggest reasons I've decided to go back and get the single issues rather than the trades is because of the gorgeous cover art of James Jean. Jean also did the cover for Shinedown's new album, Us and Them, which while very good, is not as even and strong as their spectacular debut. Jean is one of the top cover artists in the industry, he's won many awards, and has published for a variety of mediums – comics, magazines, album covers, etc. Much like artist Dave McKean and Sandman, Glenn Fabry and Preacher, Jean will be immediately associated with Willingham's Fables. I just hope they publish a book of Mr. Jean's Fable covers like DC/Vertigo did for the two aforementioned wonderful cover artists. Hell, right now I'd love for DC to publish an issue of Solo focusing on Jean's work.

I think I’ve covered enough geekery for today. Back to life and Mr. Bakker’s wonderful novel, and next week NaNoWriMo. Oh yeah, I added links on the sidebar for artists.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Author in the slammer

Anybody else see or hear of this? I found it on Locus's new books listing and I'm not exactly sure what to make of it and just had to post something about it here.

The bottom line is that the author is in jail right now for murder. It's a bit more complicated than that, of course, so go check out the Web page, which is informative. At the very least, it sounds as if this guy is making the most of the time there.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Baseball, Throning, Comic-ing, & Bakking

I guess this big post makes up for a week's absence here at 'o Stuff.

Finished up my re-read of A Game of Thrones last night, and my god, I didn't realize how powerful this book really was. I say this because I didn't realize how many of the scenes really remained strongly ingrained in my memory, even almost 10 years after originally reading it. Scenes like the Stark's discovery of the Direwolves, Bran's initial enncounter with Jaime and Cersei, everytime Tyrion speaks, his interactions with Jon and the powerful, spectacular ending with Daenerys. I don't think I'm reinventing the wheel by saying this, but A Game of Thrones is such a sprawling epic, constructed so tightly by Martin. I also forgot how much happens in this book. One aspect of the novel that affected me more on this reading was the overall sense of nihlism. From the beginning, everything in the story seems to build towards a crumbling, destructive end of what has been the norm for many years. Nothing good happens to anybody in this book, and Martin makes this spiraling chaos so goddamned entertaining.

With both the Yankees and Cardinals not in the World Series, I may not even watch. Sure it is a compelling series, the Sox haven't won in almost 90 years and this is the first trip for the Astros, but as I said last week, Fox does everything to make watching baseball all but unwatchable.

After reading Infinite Crisis last Thursday, I've become more excited about comics again. Not that I wasn't enjoying them lately, but this issue really re-invigorated my passion and interest in reading and acquiring comics. Which is ironic or timely, because something very odd happened last week. Since moving into the new house, I've somewhat reoganized my comic books. Rather than have them in stacked on top of each other, we bought two stackable shelving-units. The packaged stated the shelves could hold up to 500 pounds. No problem, I put a few long boxes, each long box holds between 250 & 300 comics and I had 12 long boxes all together. I know they are heavy, but I didn't think combined all 12 would be five hundred pounds, so I figured things would be ok. I also bought these really great new plastic boxes and wanted to transfer from the decaying, old cardboard boxes into the new corrugated plastic boxes. I figured they were about half the size of the long boxes, so I bought 25 of the plastic boxes.

Well, the reorganization project was set in motion a bit earlier than I anticipated. Last Monday into Tuesday evening, at about 2:30AM I hear a loud bang, which woke up my wife and I. I've only been in this house since July, so I'm till growing accustomed to the noises in the neighborhood, but this was really strange. So, groggily I grabbed a baseball bat and skulked through my house, down to the basement. I opened the door and what do I see? One of my two comic shelving units tipped over. Apparently it fell over and the sticker stating it could hold 500 pounds was bullshit. So there I was 2:30AM beginning my comic book reorganization project. The 12 long cardboard long boxes turned out to be more than 25 short boxes, so I have to buy more of the plastic boxes. I only picked up the stuff off the floor, and thankfully none were really damaged. But damn, 15-17 years on and off comic book collecting really adds up.

Two nights ago, another sound woke Mrs. Blog o' Stuff and I from a deep slumber at about the same time. No, no, the comics didn't tip over again, this time it was gunshots! Right, I lived in New Brunswick, NJ for a couple of years - not exactly the most peaceful city, and I never heard gunshots. I move to farmlands, right around the corner from two farms and I hear gunshots, which I find quite ironic. Apparently, a deer was run down in the road and the police came and mercy-killed the deer, which is the right thing to do. But still, at 2AM, it is a bit jarring.

Lucky me! Scott Bakker sent me an ARC of The Thousandfold Thought, which arrived yesterday. This is the concluding volume to his stupendous Prince of Nothing trilogy, but most people who read my blog already know this. This book is/was right at the top of my anticipated read list, so I am excited and read the "what has gone before" this morning. I really like when authors do this in their multi-volume sagas, it such a big help in triggering the memories of the previous books. Going between GRRM's saga and Scott's saga should prove a definite glut of reading enjoyment in the very near future.

And lastly, I joined last night. I am putting the current novel I'm working on on-hold and starting fresh for nanowrimo, with an idea that's been boiling and clanking around my head for a couple of years. 50,000 words in one month should prove very challenging with work and the responsibilities of a new house, but I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Affinity Trap & FOX Trap

I posted my review of The Affinity Trap, by Martin Sketchley last night. I thought it was a pretty fun book, with some over-the top stuff to go along with the graphic stuff. Another great looking book from Pyr.

FOX sports should rot in hell, they are clearly the worst thing to come to American sports, EVER, specifically baseball. I think FOX Sports has done more damage to the Great American Pastime than the 1994 Strike and the recent Steroid nonsense. Fox's coverage of MLB, for years, has been awful and there are no signs that it is getting better. Since they've been doing the national Saturday game, only one or two games can start at 1PM, the traditional starting time, for as long as I can remember, for Saturday games. All other games have to start at the earlies, 4PM.

It gets better, as having the two LCS games schedued at the same time is simply asinine, they are dividing their audience. If they are going to do a half-hour of a pre-game, then start the programming at least an hour earlier. I mean, they have that stupid, fucking baseball Scooter telling us about pitches, or rather telling kids about pitches. Here's one of the many problems with Scooter, the demographic for that thing is likely in bed by the time his grinning, evil face comes on the screen because of Fox's ridiculous scheduling. Scooter makes the glowing puck from their NHL coverage look brilliant. This more than the strike in 94, makes me almost embarrassed to be a baseball fan.

And the announcers, stick a goddamned knife in my ear. Tim McCarver and his ever-changing shades of orange hair needs to SHUT UP, he is wrong half the time, harps on the same wrong point for innings at a time, and often gets players names wrong. Now I don't wish death upon him, but damn I wouldn't be upset if by some freak accident he lost the ability to speak, and he was never heard from again. I don't know anybody, nor have I ever seen anybody who is a true baseball fan have any thing to say except words for disdain about McCarver's awful coverage. A lot of people don't like his partner, Joe Buck. I have had the MLB Extra Innings package for the past two years and Buck often is one of the hometown announcers for the Cardinals. In that setting, away from the Black Hole of Ineptitude of Baseball Announcing that is Tim McCarver, Joe Buck is a perfectly capable, pleasant, and knowledgable Baseball announcer. The Joe Buck on the Cardinals broadcasts is a different Joe Buck that is teamed with McCarver. McCarver's pure awfulness affects his co-broadcaster in such a negative way to render him dull and uninspired. Piniella is pretty good though, I think he is just auditioning for a job with the YES Network, which will hold him over with the Yankees until he takes over for Torre. This is the trio we are with for the ALCS and most likely, the World Series.

The three guys doing the Cardinals game are simply awful, AWFUL. Steve Lyons is unfunny to the point of being painful, providing nothing worthy. Thom Brennaman projects his voice so overbearingly loud to make up for the fact that he is a midget and Bob Brenly is no better. Why is it that idiot former catchers seem to automatically get jobs as broadcasters? People say Torre walked into an easy situation when he took over for Buck Showalter, take a look at the Diamondbacks team Brenley was handed on a silver platter when he took over for Showalter.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Winter is coming

...and so is golf season for the Yankees. What an embarrassing loss on Monday night, they looked absolutely inept and prostrate. Now I can root for the Cardinals in earnest, with out letting my Yankee loyalties getting in the way. The Astros are a tough team, but I want to see Clemens lose very badly.

In another day or two, I'll be posting my review of Martin Sketchley's The Affinity Trap, a very interesting, at times unsettling, and often thought-provoking book. Lou Anders, Pyr's Editorial Director, posted the Spring/Summer catalogue of books PYR will be publishing, a very impressive list of books. I'm looking forward to MacDonald's River of Gods, Sean Williams The Crooked Letter, Chris Roberson's Paragaea, and Sketchley's follow-up The Destiny's Mask.

Yesterday I started my re-read of Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire with A Game of Thrones, since, as I indicate in the previous post, the time between readings has been so great, I am opting to re-read all three books. Sure there are plot summaries on various Web sites, but I also wanted to see if my memories of enjoying the books were genuine. Well, I am just over 100 pages into A Game of Thrones and the book is holding up very well against my fond memories. I am loving, getting into the heads of characters and just reading Tyrion once again.

Today is a big day for DC Comics, they are kicking off their huge mega-event, Infinite Crisis. I'll be buying this. I like most of the DC comics Geoff Johns has written, I really like Phil Jimenez's art, and I am an unabashed DC fanboy, so this really is a no-brainer, despite some of the ill-will some have towards Johns and this saga.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Silver orphans

Tonight I posted my review of Orphan's Destiny by Robert Buettner. I really enjoyed this novel and I hope Buettner continues to write entertaining, good Science Fiction. Last week I posted my review of Silverheart by Moorcock and Constantine, another pretty good book. Not the best I've read by Moorcock, but still an entertaining novel.

I've got one more review book on the plate then I start my re-read of Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. It has been 5 years since I read A Storm of Swords, which is when it published, and 8 years since I read A Game of Thrones, so as much as I loved the books, I really need and want to refresh my memory, I can't wait to jump back into the Seven Kingdoms.

As I type this the Yankees are mounting a nice comeback against the Angels. Hopefully by the time I check back here tomorrow the Yanks will be getting ready to play game 5 in Anaheim.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Catching up

I finished a couple of good books this past week, the Moorcock/Constantine collaboration Silverheart and Robert Buettner's Orphan's Destiny. I liked Buettner's book a little more, and that isn't just because my review of Orphanage was blurbed on the very first page of the book. Self congratulations aside, I was really sucked into the story and I hope Buettner continues the storyline. I'll be posting reviews of both books in the next couple of days.

Lost last night, I thought, was good and better than the first two episodes. Maybe that is because there was some forward progression in the story as opposed to two episodes telling almost the same story from different viewpoints. Even though more of the specifics of the hatch and the others are being revealed, more questions are raised, and in my mind, that makes for good, addictive storytelling. The writers should be careful not to raise too many more questions though, since that would offput many people.

The season opener of Smallville last week was better than the whole of the previous season. Of course showing the Phantom Zone, helps. I think I will just have to suck it up and deal with the fact that all super-powered threats on that show are dispatched or dealt with at the 8:43PM or 8:44PM mark. I'll be TiVO-ing the whole season, at this point, I'll stick around.

NHL Season is now underway! The Devils started off with an impressive win over Pittsburgh, this Zach Parise kid looks pretty good. This is going to be a really good season, I think, with the rule changes and adress changes of many players.

Even though Anaheim evened things up last night, I still see the Yankees winning the next two games and playing Chicago in the ALCS.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Locus Experiment concludes & Jeff Ford

The final decade covered by this great anthology has been reached. The final three stories in this volume were published and won their Locus Awards in the current decade, the 2000s

Border Guards by Greg Egan
I've only read one other piece of fiction by Egan, and as it turns out, I liked this one a lot more. This was an interesting look at science through the lens of what seemed to be sport. A good story here.

Hell is the Absence of God by Ted Chiang
Wow. This was an amazing, powerful story of faith and God. In this story, the appearance of Angels is almost commonplace, the world is much more attuned to the powers of Heaven and God. I was enthralled by this one and I've got to get myself a copy of Chiang's collection, Stories of Your Life and Others.

October in the Chair by Neil Gaiman
I had read this story a couple of years ago, probably in Hartwell's Years Best Fantasy 3. I liked it very much when I initially read it and I liked it a lot again. A great story about the personification of the months on the calendar and the power of Story.

On the whole, this was an excellent collection and a very good sampling of the genre over the past 30 years. Jonathan Strahan an experienced editor, and Charles N. Brown publisher of Locus, selected a pretty diverse sampling of stories for the volume. For the most part, even the stories that I didn't like as much as some others were at least interesting and worth considering, or perhaps revisiting in the future. The stories I thought the strongest were Martin's The Way of Cross and Dragon, Chiang's Hell is the Absence of God, Butler's Bloodchild, Murphy's Rachel in Love, and the best and most powerful overall, Jeffty is Five by Ellison. I thought the 1980s was the strongest decade/chapter in the book.

I also really liked the appendix listing ALL the past winners of the Locus Award, at least up until the publication of this book. I would strongly recommend this to people who enjoy short fiction or those who looking for a great introduction to the form.

Read Jeffrey Ford's blog, he is giving away a very touching personal story (or did with his September 27th posting). Also on Jeff's blog I found out about a new magazine, Fantasy, debuting in November from Prime Books. With stories from Mr. Ford, Jeff VanderMeer, Holly Phillips, and an interview with Jeff Ford, I've got to get a copy of this one.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Veniss & Locus

I posted my review of Veniss Underground by Jeff VanderMeer to SFFWorld. What a fucked up bunch of stories, but in the best possible way. I liked this one a lot, very unsettling, very dark, and very fantastic.

On to the Locus train.

Well, let see, the next bunch of stories are all from the 90s and they were the ones that, on a decade by decade basis, I enjoyed the least. There were good things about them, but on the whole, they were the ones I've enjoyed the least, thus far.

Bears Discover Fire by Terry Bisson
Actually, this one was a fun little snapshot exposing the fantastic against the mundane. A very matter-of-fact voice permeated the story. Good fun here in a very famous story. Easily the best of the 90s for me.

Buffalo by John Kessel
A semi-autobiographical tale chronicling the meeting of Kessel's father with H.G. Wells. Interesting but not much more than that, for me

Even the Queen by Connie Wills
This story of a futuristic society bringing the genders closer to a level playing field was pretty good. On one hand it reminded me of A Handmaid's Tale, even though the future was played out very differently. A nice snapshot of how family dynamics play out with tension, regardless of the future society.

Gone by John Crowley
I'm not a big fan of Crowley's writing, for some reason. This story was probably the one I liked the least in the collection, I had a tough time connecting with it.

Maneki Neko by Bruce Sterling
Again, I just couldn't get into this one, it seemed very disjointed to me.

Even with the minor road-bump I've hit with the 90s stories, this collection is still very good. While I didn't particularly enjoy all of the stories thus far, most have at least been interesting.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Rolling on with Locus

The Scalehunter's Beautiful Daugther by Lucius Shephard
Shepard is one of the most respected short story writers in the genre, but this is my first encounter with his writing. This was the longest entry in the collection - a very interesting take on the ever-popular Fantasy Dragon. Here, the Dragon is over a mile long and is actually a large town. Sounds a bit odd, but then again, the story is a bit odd. Interesting, but not my favorite in the book.

Rachel in Love by Pat Murphy
I liked this story very much, a very touching story of one girl's adjustment to a world without her father. This story moved me the most out of the ones I've read so far, and it stands wonderfully on its own.

The Only Neat Thing to Do by James Tiptree, Jr.
Another moving story. Actually an excellent story of first contact and sacrifice. It took me a bit to warm up to it completely, but I was won over by the end of the story.

Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler
Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis/Lillith's Brood trilogy is one of the strongest science fiction sagas of the future of humanity I've ever read. I read Dawn over 10 years ago, and the book still haunts me and enters my thoughts. The story here picks up some of the vibe of that saga but is its own story. This story unsettled me in some ways and really made me think.

Out of the four I touched upon in this post, Shepard's was probably the most difficult for me and Murphy's was probably the most touching and powerful.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Locus Experiment continues

I picked up the most recent issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, I couldn't resist with stories by two of my favorite writers, Gene Wolfe and Jeffrey Ford. Also in this issue is a story by Elizabeth Hand, a writer I've enjoyed in the past. This issue also contains a story by a writer I've been wanting to try again for a while - Matthew Hughes. I think I have an old issue of FSF with one of his stories in it that I liked. Jay over at FantasyBookSpot knows his stuff and has good things to say about Mr. Hughes's work, so I've been trying to (unsuccessfully) track down his two "Fool" novels in his Archonate setting.

Back to the Locus experiment - life has prevented my from posting these as I read them, so here are my thoughts on the next three stories in what is turning out to be a very thought-provoking and enjoyable collection.

Souls by Joanna Russ
I only know of Joanna Russ's reputation and of her landmark novel, The Female Man. The story here was pretty powerful in its own right and centers on a boy reflecting on the Viking invasion of his village, and the how motherly figure of the village uses the powers at her disposal to make the invasion as painless as possible. I liked the pacing, in that events started out relatively normal and built to a crescendo of fantastic.

The Way of Cross and Dragon by George R.R. Martin
I had just read this a couple of weeks ago in Dozois' wonderful collection Galileo's Children. Here are my thoughts from the review I wrote:

a far-future Catholic church is quite dominant, and has grown to include interstellar species. With a large galaxy colonized the influence of the bible is wide and varied. The protagonist is sent to squelch the roots of a heretic sect on one particular planet where Judas Iscariot is cast in an interesting light. This was a very strong tale that offered an interesting question of faith and the power of truth in the face of an uncompromising belief.
The Persistence of Vision by John Varley
I've only read one piece of fiction by John Varley, The Golden Globe which I enjoyed the very much with its overt ode Shakespeare in a future setting. My first experience in reading his short fiction was a bit more thought-provoking, though no less enjoyable. The story tells the tale of a man wandering a disease-ravaged America, trying to find a place where he belongs. This story very much plays upon the adage of "In the land of the blind, is the man with sight king?" Varley does a great job of twisting this theme to his own great ends and also does a magnificent job of making a group of relatively normal people seem otherwise very alien. Good Stuff here and the collection continues to roll on.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Anansi & Jeffty (Locus #3)

I posted my review of Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys to SFFWorld, go check it out. This was the book I was raving about a few posts ago, so I think you were correct, Joe.

Jeffty is Five by Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison's reputation definitely precedes him as the intro to this story notes an online Locus poll was named him the greatest short story writer of all time. The intro also names Jeffty is Five is his best story. I am almost embarrassed to say I have very limited reading experience with Mr. Ellison. However, I was completely wrapped up in this one, an enthralling magical story. I figured out how it might end up, but this did not detract from the power of the story, if anything, the story was more powerful and dark with an inkling of where it may end up. The prose is wonderful, the story is a heart wrenching tale of the power and innocence of youthful endeavors, and although written nearly 30 years ago, is just as relevant and powerful today. Lately, I’ve been doing a decent portion of my reading at the gym while I’m either on the elliptical machine or the stationary bike. When I read this story yesterday, I wound up extending my normal bike ride because I simply had to finish the story. Suffice it to say, a strong collection has just improved.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Locus #2

The Day Before the Revolution by Urula K. Le Guin

According the brief intro, this story is an introduction to her reknowned novel, The Dispossessed. I know of the book, I've never read it. The story here, though is interesting, and if I could boil it down to a couple of thoughts I would say the protagonist is simply trying to figure things out. The whys of things and identity, as well. That even at an aged station in life, people still are unsure of their place in the greater world and can still see themselves in a light unlike the greater world sees them. It also touches upon the power of a lost love. A solid story, that leaves me more satisfied and looking forward to the next story, Ellison's Jeffty is Five. But that will be in the next post.

Locus Awards: 30 Years (an experiment)

The Locus Awards : Thirty Years of the Best in Science Fiction and Fantasy edited by Charles N. Brown and Jonathan Strahan

I will try to write mini-reviews for each of these short stories as I read them, and start this whole little experiment with this: I am growing more fond of stories in their short form and I acquired this particular book from my brother-in-law. He is an undergrad and had an SF Lit class last year and passed the book on to me. I'd wanted to get the book anyway, and I've now gotten around to reading it. Under the guiding editorial hands of Charles Brown (Locus Publisher) and Jonathan Strahan (Locus Reviews Editor) this book has gathered, ideally, the best representatives of the Locus Award winning short stories and novellettes over the past thirty years. A daunting task indeed for these two gentlemen, but

The Death of Doctor Island by Gene Wolfe

I consider myself a fan of Gene Wolfe's writing, I've loved* everything I've read by him up until this point, and I look forward to discovering some of his older classics. Unfortunately, this story didn't entirely work for me. Perhaps because I read it in multiple sittings, I don't know. The narrative seemed a bit more disjointed than other work I've read by him. Of course, the majority of Wolfe's work I've read is his novel-lenght work, including the whole Sun oeuvre, the two Latro stories, the WizardKnight & There are Doors.

It wasn't that The Death of Doctor Island was a bad story, obviously it really isn't since it won a Locus award, but I didn't connect with it the way I would have liked. I feel there were enough interesting things going on that I'd be willing to either try this particular story again in the future, or simply acquire the whole sequence of Doctor Island stories in The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories.

One story down and I'll call this an interesting, if unsatisfying entry.

* I didn't care for The Litany of the Long Sun when I initially read it, but upon seeing such wonderful things about Wolfe's Short Sun saga, I tried again and was greatly rewarded. I'm thinking (and really hoping) this is the case for this particular story, too.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Hogwarts asunder!

I finished up Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince last night. If nothing else, Dame Rowling kept me turning the pages, I must say. I also have to say this was probably the most predictable of the Potter books. I did everything I could (to successfully) avoid coming across any spoilers. I don't think it was the best of the series, but better than Order of the Phoenix and still good enough to keep me turning the pages rather quickly. The scenes with Harry and Dumbledore were both good and annoying. Good in that more was revealed about Voldemort's past, but bad in that Rowling repeated, through Dumbledore, what she just showed us as occurring, in the vein of "Well Harry of course you know what we just witnessed was how bad Voldemoret is and why he is that way," but a bit more lengthy.

I liked the way the relationship between Harry and Dumbledore grew in this book. Dumbledore's character came more fully into view through their relationship, and Harry grew too. On the whole, the book could have been trimmed in some spots, but I am really looking forward to how Rowling ties up the series, answers many of the questions left by the Half-Blood Prince, and reveals if any of the clues she has been leaving were red herrings.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Galileo's Children

As my sidebar indicates, I just posted my review of Galileo's Children edited by Gardner Dozois. I thought this was an amazing collection and I would really recommend going out and buying it at Clarkesworld. A very strong and even collection. I finished it last week.

I finished another book today, possibly the best book I've read this year, but I'll reveal more details when I post my review to SFFWorld, which will be when the book is published. If you checked out my blog the past few days, you will probably know of which book I speak.

Friday, September 02, 2005

New Orleans

I only visited New Orleans once, and while events surrounding my visit weren't the best, I really enjoyed the city itself. I liked the general character of the city and of course, the great food. I am horrified by what has happened to the people down there. I am horrified and embarrassed that it took our President until Friday to get down there and for substantial relief efforts to begin. I can only go by what I see on TV here in New Jersey, so I don't know exactly what has and hasn't been happening. I think today was the first day where I saw a massive convoy of military trucks carrying supplies through the still drenched streets.

I lived through the terrorist bombings, I was in NYC when the towers were attacked, I could see the Towers on fire from my office and I watched one Tower collapse from New Jersey after being lucky enough to catch, what I was told at the time, was the last NJ TRANSIT train out of NYC to NJ. I was frightened, but I could at least go home. These people in New Orleans don't even have that. I see the scenes on the news and I hate to sound corny, but it looks like a scene out of Escape from New York, that old SF movie with Kurt Russell. That is the only thing I can think of to visually compare this to. My heart goes out to all those affected by this horrible natural disaster and I wish our country would move as fast to help one of its own great cities as it has to help cities in other nations.

On one hand, it boggles my mind that it will take up to a couple of months to restore power, on the other, when I saw how many National Guardsmen from Lousiana and Mississippi are deployed outside of the country, I am not too surprised.

I don't know exactly what to believe about what is going on in New Orleans, as it seems every news station has an agenda of their own. I only know that a catastrophe beyond human control has occurred and I find it tough to wrap my mind around the fact that things cannot be fixed as quickly as they should.

So, to prevent myself from further ramblings, I'll stop and say that a donation to the Red Cross may be the only thing we can do right now, on an individual level.