The special MAD AMOS MALONE - THE COMPLETE STORIES limited signed edition is now available. Limited to 25 numbered and signed copies, of which 22 are available for sale. The book is bound in vegatan oiled leather. I wanted something practical that was also as close as possible to buckskin, befitting Amos's attire. This is leather that has been tanned without the use of chemicals, utilizing tannic acids that are found in plants. This leaves the leather with a natural smell. Production time is lengthy, requiring approximately two months just to finish the leather. Because of the tanning process, each volume is unique, with its own distinctive patterning. Vegatan leather is extremely durable, which is why it is usually used in the manufacture of bags and belts...not bookbinding. The individual patinas will grow richer over time and with use.
An artist prepared a special die to enable Amos's portrait on the cover to be debossed. This results in high relief which, though it will not let you run your fingers through Amos's beard, will let you feel it. Between the vegatan leather and the debossing, the cover has a wonderful tactile feel. The entire book is bound in the vegatan leather, not just the cover. The printing on the spine is foiled in matching red, giving the lettering a shine. In the manner of early fore-edge painting, the top, side, and bottom of the pages are stained red to match the cover print. A matching red silk page marker ribbon is laid in. A protective red tissue page protects the signature page, each one of which is individually signed and numbered (and if the buyer wishes, also inscribed. The box is made of Red Brillianta cloth. The price is U.S. $200 + shipping/insurance, which is the cost of printing the book. Those desiring a copy send check or m.o. made out to me at: Thranx Inc., po box 12757, Prescott, AZ 86304.
This aged website is making it difficult to impossible to post pictures. But you can head over to my Facebook fanpage and find images of the book there.
Almost forgot: music reference for the month. Anything by Angelina Jordan. Prokofiev: Cantata for anniversary of the October revolution.
The special limited edition of MAD AMOS MALONE is finished. The books will be available for shipping next week. I will post pictures Tuesday or Wednesday (5th & 6th) and the usual additional monthly update info at that time.l
Nearly collided with a deer yesterday. Ordinarily that wouldn't be worth a mention except...I was on foot.
I was leaving the study when I heard a rustling in the brush near our gate. As I went to investigate, a white-tail doe came trotting down the steep slope, heading for the creek that runs through our property. As it almost always has some water in it even in July in Arizona, the area sees frequent critter visits. The doe was upwind from our elderly dog, so the usual barked alert was absent. Ms. Doe barely glanced at me and kept going. Thirsty, I'm sure. But I was startled. Usually the deer around here, even those that occasionally wander into town, maintain some distance between humans and themselves. Thirst shrinks that concern, as it would for any of us.
Finished a short story and turned in to my agents. Le Chat Noir, La vieille femme, is based on an encounter I had last October in Paris. It was one I did not enjoy, but I felt I had to write something about it. If it's published, the tale might even wend its way back to Gaul and do some good.
Today received from the bindery the proof of the signed, limited, and boxed MAD AMOS MALONE. The edition is 25 copies, of which 22 will be for sale. The cost will be $200 plus shipping/insurance. The box is Red Brillianta cloth. The book is bound in vegatan oiled leather, giving it a true Old West look and feel. And there are some other details that I think book lovers/collectors will find appealing. Anyone wishing to pre-order a copy may send a check or m.o. to me at: po box 12757, Prescott, AZ 86304. I am told the books will be ready in 2-3 weeks. As soon as I receive them I will have them shipped out. If anyone wishes an inscription or comment beyond the signature, please let me know the relevant details.
Cooper's hawk, Swainson's hawk, lazuli bunting, spotted towhee, Gambel's quail, morning dove, canyon towhee, Stellar's jay, great horned owls, a pair of Crissal thrashers exhibiting courtship behavior (male feeds seeds to the female while she flutters her tail feathers), blue grosbeak, a whole flock of goldfinches...and that's just around the house in May. The flickers aren't drilling holes in my study yet and the woodpeckers have yet to arrive, but it's clearly going to be a good year for birds here. Meanwhile, the Mongol horde (I mean the chipmunks) are year-round and presently upping their numbers for the summer. Thank goodness for our allies, the coyotes.
The print edition of THE COMPLETE MAD AMOS MALONE, both hardcover and soft, is now out and available from Wordfire Press. Another beautiful book from a publisher that (unusual in this day and age) actually loves books. It's great to finally see all the Mad Amos stories gathered together in one place and not just as an ebook. Available from the publisher, your local bookstore or the usual on-line sites.
I try to make it to Phoenix Fan Fusion but I couldn't this year because I was visiting family in Newport Beach. I was determined to go in the ocean even though I had left my wetsuits at home. Water temp was 59. Felt just about how you think it would feel. My nephew and I jumped in and promptly jumped out again. I did manage to catch one one-foot wave for a four-foot ride. Not exactly Nazare....
I'm about 20,000 words into a new novel, LOST ON PARADISE, but progress is slowing. When you have several novels being read by publishers, it's hard to find the drive to continue with a new one. Hopefully that's a situation that will not last too much longer.
Music recommendation for the month: Symphony #3 by Kurt Atterberg. In fact, if you like modern romantic symphonic music, try any symphony by Atterberg. The man held down an important full-time job while churning out wonderful music. Amazing guy.
Number two: Hashish, a symphonic poem, by Sergei Lyapunov. Haight-Ashbury had nothing on 19th-century artists.
Roswell Bookbinding in Phoenix, who did the beautiful limited editions of INTO THE OUT OF and THE TAKEN TRILOGY, are preparing to do the limited, signed edition of THE COMPLETE MAD AMOS MALONE. Ah promise y'all it will be purdy. Not taking orders yet since I have no idea of what the price will be (which will be based entirely on cost, since these are not profit- making ventures). Will post relevant information here as it becomes available.
Anybody here not love dinosaurs? I thought not. The best kept secret in Colorado (no, it's not a discount pot emporium) is the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center, located in the city of Woodland Park. The name is something of a misnomer. The Dinosaur Resource Center is actually an extraordinary privately-run museum housing a world-class collection. Think the dinosaur collections of the American Museum of Natural History, or the Smithsonian, only on a much more intimate scale. Don't be fooled by the name or location. This is not some ancient bearded rockhound's collection of tumbled trilobites and dyed geodes in barrels: it's serious stuff, with some specimens that rival anything you'll see in a big city museum. There's also a fine gift shop, a prep facility where fossils are prepared for distribution and display all over the world, and much easier parking than you'll find in New York or D.C. It's an easy, pretty drive west of Colorado Springs. If you ever find yourself in the vicinity, give yourself a treat and make the drive up. rmdrc.com
Music recommendations for the month: The New Zealand group te reo Maori singing Bohemian Rhapsody. A capella. In Maori. Beautiful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKCrrTuYnmU&list=RDmKCrrTuYnmU&start_radio=1
Number two: Pierne, L'an Mil. Think Faure blended with Carmina Burana. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0c4lORPGth8&frags=pl%2Cwn. Spectacular, and rarely played.
The paperback of RELIC is out and available. It looks like it's going to be a busy year, word-wise.
I recently completed an extensive podcast interview with Ed Gross for closerweekly.com. Covered a lot of topics. Ed asked some questions that I do not usually get asked directly, and as is the case with all my interviews, I had no choice but to answer him honestly and forthrightly. Not sure when the interview will be posted, but I reckon the information will be available soon enough on the website.
I am happy to say that the redoubtable Centipede Press will publish THE DIRECTOR SHOULD'VE SHOT YOU, a history of my involvement with film and tv novelizations dating all the way back to the very first one, LUANA (1973) and concluding with the recent ALIEN:COVENANT. No publication date yet, but you can write Centipede for update info.
I appears that not everyone is aware that I write a monthly column on art and science for 5ENSES, a local Prescott paper. Said columns and much else are free to read at the paper's website, 5ensesmag.com. Wherein I get to vent on everything from modern art, to ancient art, to advertising, music, and anything else that my mind stumbles across. The columns are not long and are, I hope, entertaining and occasionally educational.
I heartily recommend Alec Nevala-Lee's excellent ASTOUNDING, a history of the John W. Campbell era at Astounding/Analog. Wonderfully well-written and crammed with information about the magazine and Campbell's stable of writers: Asimov, Hubbard, Heinlein, and many more. Yours truly makes a brief appearance, too. Fine book.
I'm going to try and make a music recommendation here every month. This time there will be two, though many of you will already have seen the youtube videos. First is WOLF TOTEM, by the Hu Band. Mongolian folk-rock (yes, no kidding). Second is the best cover I've ever seen/heard: THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE, by Disturbed. If you haven't seen them, invest 7 minutes of your time. I guarantee you won't be disappointed.
The Taste of Different Dimensions and The Flavor of Other Worlds are now both available from Wordfire Press, Baen Books, Smashwords, etc. In paperback, epub, and...hardcover! The first volume contains fantasy fifteen tales of which the last one, FETCHED, may not be child-appropriate. The second contains thirteen science-fiction stories. I think both dust jackets are atmospheric as hell, but they don't seem to be reproducing here, so you'll have to view them on the Wordfire Press site, or wherever you find your books
I recently did an interview/podcast for a show out of Chicago called Mornings with Rooster, hosted by Jimmy Gribbin. It was a lot of fun and we covered a great number of topics. Because Mr. Gribbin is a professional and shockingly brought proper equipment with him instead of just a handheld recorder hastily purchased at Walmart, the podcast's sound quality is excellent (i.e., we both actually sound like ourselves and intrusive noises such as passing locomotives and howling coyotes are noticeably absent). For them what is so inclined, here are the relevant links:
Wordfire, that wonderful publisher run by the multi-talented Kevin Anderson which actually delights in publishing science-fiction and fantasy, will in addition to the two short story collections of my work also do the print edition of THE COMPLETE MAD AMOS MALONE. Can't wait to see that one.
The producers of THE MOANING WORDS, the Lovecraftian video game for which I wrote the story and much of the script, has reverted the digital rights. This means that the original short novel of the same name on which the game was based can now find a life of its own. It's by far the longest work of Lovecraftiana I've ever written and I think it more than stands on its own as a good read. Preferably on a dark winter's night with most of the lights out. The necessary reversion details were only just resolved, but as soon as it finds a publisher I'll post the info here. I expect to revise and expand it some for print publication.
I swear: I did not go into stasis, deep sleep, hibernation, or temporarily leave the planet (that I am aware of) for December. I just forgot to do an update. JoAnn had (successful) cataract surgery on both eyes and I was overwhelmed with domestic and holiday duties. That's why I didn't....
What were we talking about, again?
This while fighting to get started on a new novel, THE LUCE. Which I eventually did. But trying to sequester oneself for long enough, quiet enough, undisturbed enough periods to focus on a faraway world and events while simultaneously looking after six cats, one dog, and everything else can be....
Wait...you say that's just like your life? But...but...the life of a writer is supposed to be unremittingly glamorous, right? Composed of jet-set travels to Rome and New York, Hollywood parties, horseback riding with Charlize Theron, snorkeling with Richard Branson while trying to negotiate the price of a ticket on Virgin Spaceship, picking out gifts at Tiffany's, cleaning out multiple catboxes....
Okay, that last bit is true, anyway. Besides, you never know where your ideas will come from. I once wrote an SF story about cat litter, a product with which I was and remain intimately familiar (THE LITTLE BITS THAT COUNT). I learned long ago that everything, positively everything, is grist for the compositional mill.
For those of you who dream of perhaps retiring to sunny Arizona, note that most of the state is mountainous, not desert. The low this morning was 9 (as in "nine degrees"). Not exactly sit by the pool weather. More like sit by the ice rink weather. But that's what can happen when your home town is the same altitude as Denver. And no, I didn't get a story out of it. But I did get hot chocolate, which is arguably just as good.
I have had some nice comments on my partial treatment for Star Wars ep. IX. Ideas that will never see any additional development, but which I felt compelled to offer to readers who might be interested in my thoughts on that matter. As a writer, I get to make my own films in my head, and even if the screen is smaller than the latest offering from LG or Samsung or Visio, I can assure you that the budget is substantial, the colors bright, the music symphonic, the acting superb, the cinematography sharp, and most important of all, the plot makes sense. I wish I could share all that with you and not just the words, but I can suggest that you do what I have always done. Use your imagination.
I wish a happy New Year to one and all, and I hope to make it to 2020, just so I can keep saying "It's the year twenty-twenty" in my head, which is way cooler than saying 2018, or 2017, or pretty much anything since 2000.
Because of domestic reasons I hadn't been able to get away anywhere for the past six years. A number of months ago my wife came to me and said, convincingly, "If you need to go somewhere, go. I can manage for a week". When I traveled frequently, I used to go overseas for 4-6 weeks at a time. You need that if you're going to get a true sense of someplace like Papua New Guinea, or go diving on remote Pacific atolls. But a week....
Where could I go that I hadn't been that I also wanted to go, for a week? It turned out that the answer was easy: Paris.
I got home two weeks ago. The weather in Paris was phenomenal (or terrifying, if you subscribe to climate change). This being Paris, it wasn't difficult to ease the terrifying component out of my thoughts. Paris is easy to get around if you don't mind the near-complete absence of elevators and escalators on the metro. Between the stairs down below and the same absence of mechanical lifts in places like the Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay, you either get in a lot of walking, try to hail a cab, or you die in place. I walked. It seems counter-intuitive to spend a week in Paris and return home having lost five pounds, but that's what happened. I ate mainly street food (excellent, like Manhattan) not because I was trying to lose weight, but because I didn't want to waste an entire evening or afternoon sitting in a restaurant watching a candle burn down. The one "fancy" meal I had was breakfast at Angelina's. Eggs benedict with what is reputed to be the best hot chocolate in Paris. Far be it from me to disagree.
Over the decades the French have acquired a reputation for being rude (it's even a gag line in Disney's Ratatouille...which, by the way, is to date the fourth highest-grossing film ever to be released in France). I found this to be a myth, akin to Napoleon being short (something the British promoted for propaganda purposes). Napoleon was actually 5'6" or 5'7". The average height for French males at the time was 5'5". Anyway, everyone I met was friendly, polite, and helpful. The only exception was in, of all places, the Fedex office near Galeries Lafayette, and that's probably understandable given that those folks have to deal with frantic tourists trying to send home souvenirs and gifts. Speaking even a little French does certainly help a great deal. And no, they don't grimace when you pronounce something wrong. A gentle correction is usually forthcoming. Like in any country, it is appreciated when you try (at least I can pronounce the famous Le Chat Noir properly now). I can also order a toasted bagel with lox, cream cheese, and onion in French. This has less utility than you might think (or maybe not).
Quick observations. Preferred men's attire is black, black, and more black. Tangentally, I'd say 90% + of the cars in Paris are also black. Go figure. Starbuck's and McDonald's are hugely popular with the locals. A great many folks not in the tourist industry speak English, and without resentment. Many of the tourists in Paris are actually French, from elsewhere in the country.
Best thing in the Louvre: Vermeer's The Lace Maker and next to it, the less well-known The Astronomer. The Winged Victory of Samothrace is a hell of a lot more impressive in person than in pictures.
Best thing in the Musee d'Orsay: Sully's Caravan and Renoir's famous Bal du moulin de la Galette. Never having had time to study the latter before (much less in person) it was the first time I personally noticed that the dancing couple on the left is staring directly at the artist.
Best special art encounter: the Mucha exhibition at the Luxemborg museum (Angelina's was next door). Sadly, I didn't notice or hear any non-French. Maybe the exhibition was too new.
Best extra-curricular aesthetic activity: night-time concert (Bach's Magnificant, Stravinsky, and Part) inside Notre Dame.
Best literary experience: chatting with the staff at Shakespeare & co. Second: viewing the side-by-side tombs of Alexander Dumas, Emile Zola, and Victor Hugo in the depths of the Pantheon. What a story jam that would be.
Best shopping experience: Carrousel de Louvre, air-conditioned underground mall next to the museum. Second place: Galaries Lafayette epicurean food shops. Third place: Les Halles.
Most unexpected development: the astoundingly warm, summery, clear weather.
Most unwelcome development: the lack of a/c in places like the Louvre and the metro, which must be hellish with the surging crowds present in mid-summer.
Most honestly Parisian experience: riding the metro at rush hour (I didn't say it was the best).
Best view: Paris at night from Sacre Coeur. Second place: anywhere on the Seine
Most spectacular individual structure: Opera Garnier (sans Phantom, alas). The cashier in the gift shop was a burly French MMA fighter who instead of talking architecture or opera was full of enthusiasm for the meet he had participated in in Las Vegas.
Best single experience: buying a cup of multiple flavors of astonishing Berthillion ice cream and sorbet, walking down the stone steps to the edge of the Seine, and sitting alone while contemplating the river, Paris, and the pigeons at Pt. Aragon (no connection to Lord of the Rings) on Ile St. Louis (after the Japanese film crew had departed).
Experience that lived up to expectations: just...walking around. Because that's what you have to do to get the sense of a place.
Encounter that told me I had done my preparation: on my last day, a French couple from outside Paris came up to me to ask for directions...assuming I was local. You struggle and hope to get to that point...and then you have to leave.
Smartest thing I did: leave fancy camera at home, shoot pictures with your phone, do not walk around with a backpack, and for guys...put a few Euros in your front pocket together with a credit card and leave everything else except your room key in your hotel. In re pickpockets and scammers (for which Paris is famous), you become an instant non-target.
Most unnecessary thing I did: take cash. Everyplace in Paris accepts credit cards (Visa preferred), even for a two-Euro purchase. And most of the local cards are contact/touch, or some version of Applepay. Tech-wise, the U.S. is not always cutting-edge.
Wind is moaning, the seasonal birds are heading south, and the remnants of a tropical storm are about to lash through Arizona. Why, we're expecting anywhere from one to four inches of rain!
I'm sure the rest of the country finds that incipient local alarm hilarious. A couple of inches is a big deal in the Southwest. Flash floods, roads underwater, from a "downpour" that would hardly threaten birdbaths back East or in the South. But one is always happy to see rain in the desert. Maybe enough of it will hit Southern California to make a dent in the fire danger there.
I've got a couple of ideas for the next book, but they're very preliminary. Both need considerable research to fill out details and approach novel potential. I'm wrapping them around an upcoming trip...first one in six years, and a short (one week) one at that. But it could prove appropriately inspiring because it involves a visit to a place I've never been. So many places still to see and not a few that I'd like to revisit.
Not one comment or bit of feedback on the Star Wars ep. IX treatment I tossed out there. Tempted as I am, this is why I don't knock myself out with such things. On the other hand, there might be something interesting brewing with a Chinese-based company, and I don't mean tea (okay, that was too easy and too cheap, but these days I have to avail myself of opportunites wherever they may arise. More next month.
One of our cats is diabetic and requires insulin shots twice a day. Though my wife is a trained vet tech, the arthritis in her hands prevents her from handling the needle. So I give Frosty his shots. I consider it good practice for future needs. It's amazing how adept one can become doing something twice/day for years and years. It's a lot easier than when I had Sam, our Colombian red-tailed boa. Sam grew to about six feet and was as friendly as one could want. One year he needed subcutaneous hydration, and the needle for that was a lot bigger (and had to remain inserted a lot longer) than the needles that are used for insulin.
It's all very primitive and Dr. McCoy would be appalled. One day soon I expect immunology or a variant thereof to eliminate most medications, whether delivered by injection, pill, or other means. We just have to learn the right genetic switches to turn on and the equivalent ones to turn off. That, and how to duplicate the kind of regeneration starfish do with their arms and other vertebrates manage with tails and limbs. All the marvelous mechanical add-ons we're seeing now in films and in stories will be superfluous. Give me a regenerated big toe over a metal one any day.
Finished the stand-alone novel PRODIGALS and turned it in to the Virginia Kidd Agency. No shorts forthcoming. They seem to come in bunches or not at all. Have my month column for 5enses (local arts & science paper) to do. Enjoying a wetter-than-normal monsoon season. Can't have too much rain in the desert, and that includes the high desert.
Had a very nice time doing a recent podcast for the Star Wars folks at TALKING BAY 94. For them that is interested, here are the links:
I am finishing up a new stand-alone novel tentatively titled PRODIGALS. It's a bit of an odd duck, but there are times when I know exactly where a story idea is going to lead...and times when I do not. PRODIGALS is one of those do not times. We'll see if anyone is interested. Meanwhile, with MAD AMOS MALONE:THE COMPLETE STORIES now available as an eBook (hardcover to come) and RELIC out on the 14th of this month, and the two short story collections mentioned last month forthcoming from Wordfire Press, anyone looking for a fun read or two should have plenty to choose from.
Very nice mention of the Amos Malone collection in TRUE WEST magazine, as one of six suggested books to read for the summer. I'm glad that fans of stories about the Old West will finally get to know about Amos and his adventures. I've always tried to make the details in his tales (weapons, locations, times, events) as accurate as possible. Why should the Europeans have all the fun with realistic backgrounds? A number of the AM stories are based not just around real historical personalities, but on actual events. That may not mean as much to regular readers of fantasy, but it surely does to those with a taste for tales of the American West.
I am happy to announce that Wordfire Press, which did such a wonderful job with its edition of OSHENERTH, will be issuing two volumes of previous uncollected short stories. THE FLAVORS OF DISTANT WORLDS will be science-fiction and will include a new, previously unpublished novelette, VALENTIN SCHARFFEN AND THE CODE OF DOOM. THE TASTE OF DIFFERENT DIMENSIONS will contain fantasy and some horror and a new, previously unpublished short story, FETCHED. Each story will be preceded by an introduction written especially for its appearance in these collections. Additionally, every story has been updated and recopyedited where appropriate. Publication dates forthcoming and I will post the covers here as soon as they are available. Here are the contents of the two collections:
THE FLAVORS OF DISTANT WORLDS
The Man Who Knew Too Much
Chilling (an Icerigger novellete)
Pardon Our Conquest
That Creeping Sensation
Our Specialty is Xenogeology
Ten and Ten
Valentin Scharffen and the Code of Doom
THE TASTE OF DIFFERENT DIMENSIONS
The White Hotel
The Frog and the Mantas
Mr. Death Goes to Washington
Green They Were, and Golden-Eyed
The Door Beneath
Elements are falling into place for a hardcover edition of MAD AMOS MALONE:THE COMPLETE STORIES. There may also be a (very) limited boxed, signed, and numbered edition in a special binding. Leather, most likely. Details to come as they are solidified.
Someone is missing a bet with ROSEANNE. A company should pick up the show and work the real Roseanne's mental difficulties into the story line. Have John Goodman's character announce to the family that "Mom has had to go away for a little while". Do a couple of shows without her. Have her come back and then reveal that she's been receiving treatment for a breakdown. Subsequent episodes will practically write themselves. What comedian can't milk gags from a nervous/mental breakdown? Jokes aside, the show would have the opportunity to deal with a serious ongoing national health issue...it already tackled opiods.
For the first time in years I actually managed to properly attend a convention. Phoenix Comicfest. Large, popular, and the usual two (count 'em, two) booksellers. Both of whom did well, a result that apparently doesn't resonate with other vendors who stocked up on costumes, comics, fantasy-oriented knick-knacks, t-shirts, and this year for some inexplicable reason, really cheap stuffed animals. Still plenty of cosplayers, but fewer than usual were executed with recognizable craftsmanship. The new security policies in place after last year's nutcase who arrived with real weapons and real ammo seems to have dampened the enthusiasm of those whose costumes require realistic weaponry. It's hard to produce a realistic stormtrooper when you're reduced to carrying a paper-maiche gun. Kudos to the con-com for keeping things running smoothly. The food in the Green Room was better than what I had at the nearby Hyatt Regency.
I'm about 85% done with the rough draft of PRODIGALS, a stand-alone near-future SF novel. It begins with an apparent alien invasion and goes off on...let's just say, a couple of different tangents.
June is generally the hottest, driest month in Arizona and the latest forecasts hew true to that. More birds flock to the feeders. House finches, sparrows, canyon and spotted towhees, jays, our resident flock of goldfinches, the beautiful lazuli bunting, and the very distinctive crissal thrasher. The hawks are active above it all. I haven't seen many bats this year, and that concerns me. Possibly further confirmation of the increasng dearth of insects. But it's early yet and late summer usually brings a blizzard of bugs. Watching chipmunks fight over the detritus from the bird feeders will either speed up or mute your visual comprehension.
We all write our own movies. We all write our own sequels. After seeing THE LAST JEDI, as an author I could not escape pondering what I would put on screen for episode IX were I given the opportunity to do so. Unusually, I took the time to actually compose a treatment. And here it is. Was fun to put together.
RESURGENCE - EP.9
View from overhead of towering, snow-capped mountains in the distance just being touched by a rising sun, then a vast green valley, continuing to move in closer onto a modest group of figures gathered atop a grassy peak. We see that it is the small band of survivors from TLJ. They are standing in a circle, quiet and thoughtful. Closer in on Rey as something causes her to turn, shade her eyes, and peer into the distance.
Alien music, solemn percussion and brass. Closeups on the mostly humanoid Almurians who are accompanied by other aliens and humans, all holding up artificial torches. Move to high shot of a long, impressive procession winding its way outward from a vast, sprawling, modern city. The procession arrives at the greensward and splits, the ends of the two lines forming a greater circle around the band of survivors. Finn, Rey, Poe, Chewbacca, C3PO and R2 say a few words. A simple coffin is brought forward. Through the transparent upper part of the canopy we see General Organa. A grave appears. As the music rises, she is buried. Bending, C3PO whispers to a mournful R2.
"It looks like Alderaan."
Back on the Falcon. Now what? Not much of a Resistance left to resist. Some are ready to give up. Not Finn. He angrily points out that he didnÕt flee the First Order to give up. Poe joins in. They can still muster recruits across the galaxy. But they need some time. More importantly, they need a leader. All eyes turn to Rey.
Startled, she declines. C3PO murmurs to R2 that there's something familiar about her, but he can't put a finger on it. She's not fit, she tells them. They need someone with military experience. Someone who knows what the First Order might do next. Attention immediately shifts to Finn. He's surprised, but having already forcefully stated his intentions, he finally accepts. He's come a long way.
Okay: they need pilots, support, and most of all, something to fight back with. Weapons. Ships. And if possible, allies.
R2 and BB8 beep energetically. The others listen. Finn thinks their joint idea is crazy. Who employs droid tactics? But Poe thinks better of their idea. Might work,if it can be brought to fruition.
They now have a strategy, of sorts. Next they need allies.
What about their hosts, the Almurians? The Almurian Combine is big, developed, and powerful. But the Almurians are neutral. Always have been, even during the fight between the Empire and the Rebellion (that's why they can host Leia's burial without outside interference). Finn and Rey, with C3PO in tow, will try to persuade them to change their minds while Chewie and Poe take R2 and BB8 to try and recruit new fighters to the cause.
Finn and Rey, together with the other survivors, are hosted in the Almurian capital city. They make the argument that the First Order is relentless and won't stop until it completely controls the known galaxy. Finn knows this better than anyone. The Almurians demur. They're neutral and intend to stay that way. Frustration ensues. But, Finn murmurs, if they won't join the fight, perhaps they could supply fighting material? To be paid for later? The Almurians discuss the matter and are eventually convinced. It's a gamble, but for them, a comparatively safe one. Finn and Rey leave encouraged. Now they need to try and find allies within the First Order itself: more disgruntled fighters like Finn. But where? The Republic is dead, its home system destroyed.
Rose makes a suggestion. It's a daring but dangerous idea, yet could be the best place to look for silent sympathizers. Rey and Finn are persuaded. CUT TO:
Coruscant. The planet-wide city. Finn, Rey, and Rose make contact with Resistance elements that have gone to ground. They sympathize, and would help, but not with Supreme Leader Snoke in charge. Rey, Finn, Rose are shocked by the refusal. Rey saw Ren kill Snoke. Cut him in half. The sympathizers don't know what she's talking about that. The Supreme Leader is here, having taken over the old Imperial bureaucracy and buildings. What's going on here? Despite the danger, our trio needs to verify this impossibility for themselves.
Then something "forceful" staggers Rey. We zoom in to CU on her and CUT TO:
Ren, confident but a bit bemused, entering a vast, elegant reception room. The old Imperial quarters. The doors close behind him and from a small door near the back enters Supreme Leader Snoke! Ren is stunned. Snoke approaches, grinning mirthlessly.
Ren: "Impossible. You're dead." Realization makes him break off as he takes a step back.
Snoke: "Killed me? Yes you did. Want to kill me again?"
Ren gapes at him. Snoke slightly lunges toward him. Acting on instinct, Ren draws his lightsaber and strikes Snoke down. He stares down at the undeniable corpse, only looking up at the sound of clapping hands. His eyes widen as Snoke appears from the same door near the back of the chamber
"Well done!" he says. "Do you wish to continue killing me, or would you prefer an explanation?" Ren has no words.
The Clone Wars. When Imperial scientists got very good at producing clones. A small, brilliant segment perfected the technology. Absolute duplication of the original, down to the last neural connection. Which allowed for duplication of knowledge, memories, everything. Perfect cloning. Did Ren really think Snoke would allow him to destroy everything he had worked for? First law of military strategy: always have a reserve in waiting.
How many clones of him are there, Ren wonders? Snoke's grin now turns into an evil grimace. "WouldnÕt you like to know?" He takes a throne-like seat and beckons a wary Ren forward. The Resistance is finished, but the girl is still a concern, however slight. A smart ruler leaves no enemies alive, no matter how few. Ren has a connection with the girl. Is she still alive? And no lies, this time. Snoke will know.
Ren focuses. We see Rey react again, as before. She knows he knows. Snap back to the palace on Coruscant. Snoke knows the truth without Ren having to say anything. Find her. But what Snoke doesn't know, and what Ren holds back from telling him, is that Rey is right here under the Supreme Leader's nose, on Coruscant.
In a visit to the planetary security authority, he describes her to the local authorities, utilizing a mind-paint system. The word goes out to find her. And Ren, of course, will search for her himself. What he will do when he finds her even he doesn't know.
After Ren has left, Snoke brings in Hux. Time to begin consolidating the achievements of the First Order. Time to bring reluctant systems into the fold. Hux names several that are ripe for takeover. Snoke nods, names three, one of which is Almuria.
Rey, Finn, and Rose, accompanied by C3PO, are gathering those resistance sympathizers whose hatred of the First Order exceeds their fear of Snoke. It occurs to Finn that they don't need fleets to stop the First Order. They just need to stop Snoke. Plans are laid for an uprising on Coruscant.
Montage showing the passage of time during which the uprising is set in motion, the Almurians produce fighters for the Resistance, Ren and the authorities search for Rey (who has cut herself off from Ren, so he can't pinpoint her location), and Poe and Chewie recruit personnel. On Almuria we see the front ends of new X-wings being built. But only the front ends.
Poe and Chewie arrive and begin to train new pilots. The Almurians remind Poe that they are merely manufacturers and will take no part in any conflict. Chewie offers his opinion on this and Poe hastens to quiet him. You know Wookies. Not famed for their diplomacy. Secure deep-space communications allow Rey and Finn to inform Poe and Chewie of what they're planning. Poe avows as how as soon as their new ships are ready, they'll make the journey to Coruscant to come support the incipient rebellion there. It looks like a promising strategy, until a fleet appears off Almuria. It's the First Order, under Hux, proclaiming that the Almurian Combine is now officially and gloriously welcomed into the Second Empire.
Second Empire? What's that? Hux explains. The Almurians protest that they are neutral. A confident Hux replies that this is all for their own good. Better to be a part of the glorious 2nd Empire than continue as some spineless, unprotected neutrals. As a part of the Empire, Almuria will be protected. Protected from whom, the Almurians want to know? Why, Hux replies smoothly, anyone who might threaten them. The Almurians can comply and all will proceed peacefully. Or they will be absorbed through force.
An anxious Poe informs Rey of what's happening at Almuria and that he won't be able to support her proposed uprising. They owe the Almurians a defense. She eyes Finn. Plans for the uprising are in motion. Too late to stop it now. She tells Finn to go ahead and fight before the Order/Empire finds out about their new ships. Finn wishes her luck. Vice versa, and may the Force be with them both.
On Almuria, a grim-faced Poe and Chewbacca prepare to launch their limited force. If the new ships work as planned, they have a chance, even against an Order/Empire fleet. Then the Almurian leader arrives. Poe is coolly polite toward him, until the Almurian tells him that the Combine has decided to fight for its neutrality. There is much brotherly grasping of arms (or maybe tentacles). The Almurians will fight alongside the newly formed Resistance squadrons. Poe and Chewie are elated.
The defense of Almuria is launched. Hux is not impressed. The fleet prepares to exterminate them. Taking over the Combine will proceed that much quicker and easier when any resistance is destroyed.
On Coruscant, Rey and Finn ignite the local rebellion, making progress toward the palace complex. There are enough citizens who hate the Order/Empire to make a real fight of it against the security forces in the city streets, underground, etc. Snoke is informed. He is not worried. Under the stress of combat, Rey lets her guard down for a moment. Ren informs Snoke that she is right here, in Coruscant, and even now heading toward the palace. Snoke is delighted. Let her come. His last concern will be eliminated. Just as the Skywalker line has been terminated.
Which prompts Ren to ask why Snoke cares so much. Snoke's expression tightens and we get a fast-moving flashback. To before episode one, to before episode four.
A younger, muscular, even handsome figure that we recognize as Snoke. Bullying others, taking what he wants because he can, leaning toward the Dark Side. He is confronted by another, a hooded figure, who warns him that he is set on an untenable path. Snoke is not afraid, he feels he is more powerful with the Force than anyone. He and the hooded figure fight in a factory where Snoke is knocked into a vat of chemicals and we finally see the determined yet sympathetic figure of his opponent.
A young Obi-wan Kenobi.
Back in the palace, Snoke turns on Ren, and his fury causes even Ren to draw back. Did he think, Snoke declares as he indicates his ravaged face, that he always looked like this? He vowed vengeance on Kenobi, any of his relatives and every one of his pupils. Working through Palpatine, he almost achieved his goals, until Anakin Skywalker, Darth Vader, was turned away from the Dark Side by his son, and killed Palpatine. Snoke has always been there, in the background, manipulating, scheming, but with Palpatine's death was forced to come out into the open.
Now Kenobi is dead, Anakin/Vader is dead, Leia Organa Skywalker is dead, and finally, Luke Skywalker is dead. Only Ren lives, but as a disciple of Snoke. The best revenge on Kenobi. But Snoke did not foresee this girl, who is strangely strong with the Force. She is not a Kenobi, not a Skywalker, but she is the last unpredicted impediment to his rise to complete power and mastery of the Force. Snoke takes no chances. She must die. And she is coming here, right to him. Truly, the ways of the Force are rich with irony. We cannot tell what Ren is thinking.
Above Almuria Prime, the Almurian fleet is escorted out by the Resistance ships. But these X-wings are a new type. Front and rear are familiar enough, but they are connected by a tube-like six-sided central length of fuselage. Poe and Chewie lead them, Poe with BB8, Chewie piloting the Falcon with R2. Poe tells BB8 that this droid strategy better work.
On board the Force/Empire flagship, Hux checks with his crew. The Almurian fleet is stronger than expected, but nothing they can't handle. It also seems to be escorted by a group of X-wings. That causes Hux to frown. It was believed that the Resistance was dead. How many fighter escorts? About a hundred, he is told. Hux relaxes. Well, after this battle, the Resistance really will be finished. Hux prepares to launch the TIE fighters.
Combat ensues. The Almurians launch drone ships that jump to hyperspeed. But they do nothing. Aboard his flagship, Hux smiles. His subordinates report that the new hyperspace defensive shields are working as intended, shunting anything coming at them at lightspeed off into hyperspace. To somewhere else. "Fool us once," Hux murmurs to himself. "Launch fighters."
Hundreds of Tie fighters join with fire from the Order/Empire capital ships to blast the oncoming Almurians and X-wings. Chewie roars but Poe tells his pilots not yet. Get in closer, closer. Now.
On each of the six sides of the extended X-wings, four bay doors snap open. Out zoom twenty-four drones: engine, no pilots, a single energy weapon each. Poe grins, Chewie roars, BB8 and R2 beep. On board the First Order/Empire flagship, a suddenly concerned tech eyeing a tracking screen sees the dots representing the Resistance fighters suddenly go from a hundred to twenty-five hundred, filling the screen with enemy. He turns. "Uh, General Hux, sir?"
Hux moves to eye the screen and his eyes widen. Each X-wing commands twenty-four drones, all which move in perfect tandem with each commanding X-wing pilot. Mirror images of his maneuvers. Poe whoops and Chewie bellows as they attack. The oncoming Tie fighters are overwhelmed by this utterly unexpected show of force and the Resistance fighters, supported and backed by the Almurian fleet, dart in to attack the main body of the Order/Empire fleet. Screens are saturated and shattered, ships are flamed, and just as Hux orders a retreat to hyperspace, his own ship is blasted. Something startles Chewie and we see the Falcon pull away and out of the fight. As Poe circles and shoots in triumph at the remaining First Order ships, his expression abruptly changes as he remembers....
Coruscant. First Order/Empire security and crowd control battle the surging crowds. Rey, Finn, Rose, and supporters take down guards and fight their way into the palace complex. Finn doesn't know which way to go, C3PO isn't sure, but Rey knows. She can sense Ren.
They fight their way into the reception room. Ren is there, asks her to surrender. They can't win. Rey argues. Ren steps aside to reveal...Snoke. He greets her. She and Finn are shocked, stunned. C3PO is in "Oh dear" mode. She looks at Ren. Clone, he tells her. Perfect clone. Indistinguishable from the original. How many, she asks? Ren doesnÕt know. More than she could defeat, certainly. More than he could. More than they could together.
So heÕs gone fully back to the Dark Side? He drops his head. Snoke just laughs. This time he wonÕt make the same tactical error he made before. Not that it matters if he does. He looks to his right. Two more Snokes come through the rear door. Activating her saber, Rey tells Finn and Rose to get out, continue the fight elsewhere. She'll try to hold them off here. No way, they tell her. They fire their weapons. The trio of Snokes ward off the shots. Snoke freezes the trio. Rey drops her saber. Snoke orders Ren to complete the work. To complete himself. Firing up his saber, Ren approaches the paralyzed Rey, who struggles futilely to reach her own weapon, now lying quiescent on the floor. It quivers but does not come to her.
Outside the palace, guards are firing from the ramparts down into the crowd. Something makes them look up. They panic and abandon their posts as their heavy weapons are destroyed. It's the Falcon, with Chewie piloting and firing. After clearing an upper landing area, it touches down.
Inside, Ren is clearly torn. He doesn't want to kill Rey, but he can't resist Snoke any longer. He apologizes, steps back, raises his saber...and strikes. Finn and Rose scream.
At the last possible instant, something knocks Rey aside. Even so, RenÕs blow cuts the upper right side of her scalp. She falls to the floor, gasping. Ren stands over her, lightsaber poised to strike. Then Ren, Finn, Rose, and C3PO, everyone, look to the main portal, their expressions reflecting their utter astonishment. A single figure stands there.
He comes forward. Impossible. (HeÕs dead. We saw him die at the end of ep. 8. Or did we?)
Snoke One growls. "You cannot be here. I searched for you. Your lifeforce had vanished from perception!"
"From this plane of existence, yes. DoesnÕt mean I passed to the other. I knew youÕd keep searching for me, using the Force. So I had to...go away for awhile. To that space in between. ItÕs a quiet place. The Force allows it." He smiles. "I was tired. I needed a rest anyway."
Ren screams that it's a projection, just like on Crait, and attacks. But this time Luke doesn't duck his strike. In one smooth motion he activates his saber...his original saber...blocks the blow, and flings Ren aside. But the real battle is between him and Snoke. Or rather, Snokes.
Descending down from his seat, Snoke ignites a saber of his own. So do his two doppelgangers. The fight is on. Luke kills one Snoke, fights the remaining pair. Elsewhere, the battle between the uprising and the security and guards rages. Finn and Rose retreat.
Outside, among the chaos, they hurriedly discuss what they have seen. Snoke clones have to come from somewhere. They race off.
With Luke and the Snoke clones occupied with one another, Ren reaches down, extending a hand to Rey. Then he notices something and freezes. We see what he sees. Rey on the floor, breathing hard. The upper right side of her head cut away and cauterized. Amid the exposed bone, a small freeform transparency fills part of her head, melding sinuously with her brain. Behind the transparency, lights flash and twinkle. Reaching up, Rey touches the exposed area, and draws back her hand in shock. The revelation is as unexpected to her as it is to us.
Ren: "Droid. Part droid. No wonder you mastered the use of the Force so quickly. No wonder you...learn so quickly. Hybrid. Monster." All sympathy, all potential affection, vanishes from him in an instant. He strikes down with his lightsaber. Rolling, Rey dodges the blow, grabs her owner weapon, ignites it, and fights back. They battle.
Luke kills another Snoke. He forces the last one backward. Snoke taunts him. "Truly you are a Master of the Force, Skywalker. But so am I. And you are one." Looks toward the back door. "I am a multitude!"
From the rear doorway more Snokes burst into the room, all armed with lightsabers. As Ren and Rey battle behind him, Luke prepares to confront the surge of identical newcomers. C3PO tries to flee, encounters the chaos outside, quickly retreats back in wondering how he ever got into this mess.
Amid the combat raging outside, Finn and Rose save a high official from being killed by the mob. The Supreme Leader's clones: where do they come from? They "persuade" the official to show them and head off, but not before they have acquired some grenade-like weapons from dead security personnel.
Down, down they go, into the sub-levels beneath the palace complex. The frightened official shows them the guarded place where Snoke's clones are churned out. Finn and Rose attack. While Finn holds off the guards, Rose sets the explosives they have acquired...only for her to be trapped with them inside the complex as alarms blare and emergency doorways slam shut. She and Finn exchange a look.
Above, more and more Snokes pour into the room. Snoke snarls at Luke. Give up! He can't possible win. Stepping back, Luke bends, picks up a fallen lightsaber. Maybe he can't, but he feels that the Force is with him. It always has been, even when he was at his lowest moments. Also, these are with him. He activates the second lightsaber and begins to swing both, making two circles, then he starts to cross them in front of him. And then he begins to pivot, faster and faster, a veritable dervish. Surrounded by a ball of multicolored energy, he plows into the multiple Snokes, obliterating them. They can't reach him through the energy sphere he is creating around himself.
Nearby, Ren presses Rey. They lock sabers. He taunts her. She came from nowhere, her parents were nobodies. He will...show her. Let her look.
She tries to resist, but cannot. In her mind, she sees. A rapid montage. Her parents, junk dealers, with an infant. An infant with a deformed skull. They take her to a renegade surgeon on Jakku. There is one possible operation, but it's experimental and highly dangerous. It could kill her. Her parents agree to it. Rey is operated on. The shape of her head is made normal, but with part droid componentry inside to help keep her alive. Natural skin and hair grow swiftly over the surgical opening. Her parents can't handle her. They abandon her as young girl, paying what they can to Unkar Plutt to look after her. He abandons her as a child, but she turns scavenger and somehow, survives.
Rey is shaken by the recovered memories. She relaxes, sways, shuts off her saber. Ren holds off, still conflicted, but finally decides that he has to kill her. To save her from herself. To purify the Force. For his own sake. She falls backward, her eyes closing in resignation and exhaustion, and he moves in.
Right into her reactivated lightsaber as her eyes snap open. Startled, run through, and as conflicted as ever, Ren dies in front of her...killed in the same way he killed his father.
Luke, exhausted, halts. The fireball that has surrounded him vanishes. Three Snokes remain. The First Leader is triumphant. A Jedi Master may go on and on, but a lightsaber's power is finite. The trio of Snokes surround him. It's over.
Below, Finn yells at the imprisoned Rose, but she just smiles at him. A resigned smile...as she sets off the explosives. Finn ducks away. The clone manufacturing area is destroyed.
Above, a startled Snoke reacts. With his attention momentarily distracted, Luke reactivates his twin sabers and throws them. Two Snokes are speared and killed. The surviving Snoke looks toward the rear doorway, but there are no more Snokes, no more replacement First Leaders. The many have been reduced to one. But it is enough. Raising his own weapon, he starts forward. Luke waits for the end.
Rey throws him her lightsaber, Luke catches it, and ends Snoke. He stumbles over to Rey and she falls against him, sobbing. We see the exposed part of her "brain" twinkling. "He called me a monster. I am a monster!"
Luke steps back, eyes her, and holds up his mechanical hand. "YouÕre not a monster. YouÕre Rey. Just an enhanced version." Together, they head out of the reception room.
Above Almuria, Poe and R2 are triumphant. So are the Almurians. But they're still determinedly neutral, their leader warns Poe. Sure, sure...whatever you say, a grinning Poe replies. The Resistance needs more neutrals like them. R2 informs him that via the secret hyperspace communications channel that he has been told that the First Leader is no more and that Rey and Finn are all right. Rose.... Finn and R2 turn sober. They head back down to the surface of Almuria.
In the palace on Coruscant, the victorious uprising salutes Luke and Rey as they emerge from the palace into the surrounding area, which is littered with smoking fighting machines, etc. C3PO, brushing at himself, follows behind.
"I knew there was something familiar about that girl," he mutters.
Luke suddenly staggers, has to sit down up against a tree in the imperial park. A concerned Rey bends over him. He smiles. It's alright. Everything is alright now. The Force is, finally, in balance. She tells him he's going to be okay. He tells her he already is okay. There is, however, one small thing she has to do for him.
He smiles tiredly. "Just a little thing. Take care of the galaxy."
He looks toward the setting sun (one sun, this time). His smile widens. He stops breathing. No in-between existence this time. He whispers something.
And dies, eyes open, staring.
Holding back her sobs, Rey gently closes his eyes. C3PO is there to comfort her. What now? Is the First Order/Empire really finished? C3PO doesn't know. But he has seen a great deal, and if he has learned anything it is that nothing is ever, really, completely for certain. Reaching up, he touches her exposed skull portion. Has anyone told her lately how really beautiful she is? She sniffs, then starts to laugh, softly. Then her expression changes as she sees Finn, battered but alive, limping out of the smoking Imperial complex. He comes toward her and she rises to meet him.
C3PO shakes his head dolefully. "Organics. I'll never understand them."
We pull back as Finn hurries to embrace Rey, with C3PO behind them and Luke sitting peacefully, smiling, beneath the tree.
Note: This story follows upon the events of Ep. 8; expanding upon them, correcting certain errors, and filling in plot holes and without contradicting anything that appeared in the previous film. That which could not be corrected is passed over.
I'm about a third of the way into the new stand-alone novel PRODIGALS (formerly "The Horde"). No timeline for completion. Like an old clock, I'm just slowing down. I suppose everything is relative (no pun intended). The energy that drove me (or the compulsion, if you prefer) back when I was in my twenties and thirties these days seems to be devoted to more homely tasks (i.e., real life). With (currently) six cats and a dog, there's a lot to look after (I should have bought stock in a cat litter mine...could have received dividends in the form of product). Ever since the maid, butler, and chauffeur quit (har-de-har, as Jackie Gleason was wont to exclaim) I've had more to do than in earlier times. The house is too big for us, but after living in it for 38 years there seems no point in moving. And to where? Tahiti is too far away, New York is too busy, Anchorage too cold (although that is...changing), Palau too small, South Africa short on water...I reckon we'll just stick where we are. Besides, if we moved I'd have to box up all the books (although strangely, totally unknown folks as well as friends have repeatedly offered to kindly relieve me of any need to hang onto them).
RELIC'S release date is right around 17 August.
NXS WORLD (nxsworld.com) is an experimental biannual publication out of Amsterdam (yes, the Netherlands). To quote from their webpage, "NXS explores "the self" in the age of digital technology". Prompted by whatever Einsteinian machinations I know not, they asked if I would write a comparatively short story for them based on one question extracted from a Q&A conducted with the Instagram avatar known as Lil Miquela, the idea being that each contributor's contribution follows and comments upon one that precedes it. I'm often up for a challenge, I accepted, and the story (presumably accompanied by some kind of explanatory context) will appear in NXS WORLD #3. I have no publication/appearance date for that, but since they wanted the story by 26 March (this week), I'm assuming it will be fairly soon. When time allows and interest evolves, I love doing stuff like this. You can't buy a dinner for two at the Five Crowns restaurant in Amsterdam with the proceeds, but it lets you explore. And I love exploring.
The ebook version of MAD AMOS MALONE: THE COMPLETE STORIES, will be published by Del Rey on 17 July. The collection brings together all the stories in the long out-of-print Del Rey edition MAD AMOS, plus the seven stories that have appeared since then. In addition, there is a new story written just for the collection titled STUCK. So, eighteen stories featuring the crazy like a wolf or just plain crazy mountain man. It's great to see them all together in one volume. Also, new introductions to the stories. And...here's the cover.
I'm currently proofing the mss. for THE COMPLEAT MAD AMOS MALONE, which Del Rey will publish as an ebook this year. Hardcover publisher still to be determined. I'll announce the publication date when it is made available.
I've also started a new science-fiction novel, THE hORDE. Stand-alone, non-Commonwealth. Sorry...too early for hints.
And that's about it. February's a short month, anyway. My column in this week's local paper on Art and Science, 5senses, is titled THE BLUE RASPBERRY OF FORGETFULNESS. Those of you who'd like to read it can google 5senses. It's a freebie, so no need for hesitation.
The weather here is ridiculous. The high today will be 70F. 80F down in Phoenix. Other than the utter lack of precipitation, it's paradisical. The local critters, especially the cottontails, are more than a little confused.
Trending toward the end of a decade...hard to believe.
Yes, I'm aware of the galactic-sized controversy surrounding THE LAST JEDI. I will reserve my own judgment until after I've seen it later today. And no, I have had nothing to do with the film or any subsequent related material. I am not doing the novelization, spinoff titles, or anything so much as a quote on a cereal box. Nada.
RELIC, a novel about the last surviving human being in the galaxy, will be published by Del Rey in August. The short story TEN AND TEN is out in ANALOG. Del Rey will be doing THE COMPLEAT MAD AMOS MALONE collection as an eBook. They, my agency, and I are actively looking for someone to do the hardcover. 18 stories, including a new one exclusive to the collection.
It's very flattering to constantly get requests to revisit or follow up on previous work. Another novel set on the Prism of SENTENCED TO PRISM. A fourth book in THE DAMNED series. Another Spellsinger. Another book set on MIDWORLD. Something else featuring Skua September. The second half of OSHENERTH. And always, more Pip & Flinx. It's not that such projects don't interest me. That's not the problem. The problem is that they all do. Time is finite and as it passes, there always seems to be more demand on it. I love doing short fiction, too. Then there are those folks who want a follow up to PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN. The bunny edition, someone called it (if you've read PREDATORS you'll understand the reference). Time, and ever less of it.
Holiday wishes to most everyone on the planet. The weather here is currently insane, with a 40% chance of mind-boggling. Temps in the 70's until today and still above normal. The vegetation can deal with it but the birds are confused. On the other hand, our roadrunners always look a bit confused. Whereas the coyotes are delighting in the ongoing late season surplus of rodents, which is why they never bother to chase the roadrunners (coyotes are the canid antithesis of stupid). If they reflected zoological reality those great Chuck Jones cartoons would not only be boring but gruesome, with roadrunners horking down snakes and lizards while their coyote counterparts squatted nearby noisily and messily dismembering ground squirrels, chipmunks, and pack rats.
Now, how did I get on that? Oh yes...reality. Reality, one learns, even reality involving charismatic animals, is more of a George Carlin routine than a Hallmark Special.
Just finished the final proofing of RELIC, which has a lovely, highly evocative cover. Out next year from Del Rey. Short story TEN AND TEN, based on an actual encounter I had years ago in Papua New Guinea, will be out in the January issue of ANALOG. My first professionally published story, WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE, appeared in the June, 1971 issue of ANALOG. Which led me to a meeting with the wonderful and somewhat reclusive author James H. Schmitz, a favorite of Analog editor John W. Campbell. So I can claim 47 years as a contributor. I wish I had more time to write short fiction. Heck, I wish I had more time, period. A hundred years is scarcely long enough to begin to emerge from childhood. Arthur Clarke knew that. I think it's one reason he never passed on an opportunity to play ping-pong.
Last month I posted that the Discussion Board was deactivated. It's not...it's working fine. Just a different system.
Going to see COCO next week. I've always been a huge fan of animation. Got to give it up for Pixar. Their cinematic takes on old age, emotions, superhero life, fish family loss, and now death do not constitute typical cartoon fare. It allows me to forgive them CARS 1-32 and THE GOOD DINOSAUR...this last noted sorrowfully from someone who loves everything dinosaurian. Nobody's perfect.
There was no October update due to the vagaries of normal existence. Also note that the Discussion Board is currently deactivated. I can be contacted with questions, verbal flailings, etc. via my facebook fan page (maintained by Open Road Media) or directly via email. If someone would like to re-open, re-vamp, or otherwise re-handle a discussion board, I'm open to submissions. I have the time to answer questions but not to moderate.
The pre-reviews on STRANGE MUSIC (the new Pip & Flinx novel from Del Rey, due out in a couple of weeks) have been very nice. I hope everyone enjoys it. It was fun, though sometimes difficult, to write, due to the need to transcribe the Larian language into comprehensible human terms (you'll understand when you read the book).
I'm trying to find time to compile some short story collections, since there hasn't been one in a while.
The leaves of our wild grapevines have taken on veneers of metallic green and copper and all of the non-evergreens are losing their leaves altogether in preparation for winter...notwithstanding that it's 76 here today. The goldfinches are still all over the feeders while the first dark-eyed juncos, our omnipresent winter birds, arrived a few weeks ago. Canyon and Spotted Towhees are preparing to winter over along with the scrub jays. I don't know where our roadrunners go (Hollywood?). Saw a young bobcat last week, fattening up on rodents. Autumn in the Arizona mountains.
Mad Amos Malone seems to be on my mind a lot lately. There's A TREEFOLD PROBLEM, just out in the anthology STRAIGHT OUTTA TOMBSTONE, and now upcoming, A MOUNTAIN MAN AND A CAT WALK INTO A BAR..., which will be in volume 6 of the long-running anthology series UNIDENTIFIED FUNNY OBJECTS. Subsquent to that I've turned in STUCK to the Virginia Kidd Agency, and we'll see where it alights. As there are now 18 stories featuring the eclectic mountain man and his mount, Worthless, I reckon it's about time to put together a COMPLEAT MAD AMOS tome. Might take awhile, but I expect it will get done.
Anyone who has seen Disney's MOANA will know that a great deal of the music came from the award-winning Polynesian fusion group Te Vaka. Building on the success of the film's score, Disney will be releasing "Te Vaka's Greatest Hits" on 6 October. Having followed the group for many years before MOANA, I can't recommend their music too highly. If you ever have the opportunity to attend one of their live performances, it'll leave you smiling from ear to ear for days afterwards. Meanwhile, here's a link to the video of Lakalaka, a new single from the album: https://youtu.be/ausm7Agez7Q. Watch it whenever you're feeling down. Plenty of other Te Vaka on Youtube.
dd>2 August 2017
STRAIGHT OUTTA TOMBSTONE, containing the new Mad Amos Malone story A TREEFOLD PROBLEM, is now out and available for order from the usual vendors. Great cover.
I regret that I am unable to travel due to domestic considerations, which is why I haven't been to a con or booksigning in quite some time. Couldn't even make it to the San Diego Comicon this past weekend. Until circumstances change, it looks like a couple of days at the annual Phoenix Comicon will be all I will be able to manage for the foreseeable future. More's the pity.
STRANGE MUSIC's official release date from del Rey is now 7 November.
The Icerigger Trilogy will be featured in Early Bird Books (EBB) on 8/25/2017. The ebook will be downpriced to 2.99 across all US retailers on that day. Quozl will be featured in Early Bird Books (EBB) on 8/6/2017. On that day the ebook will be available for 1.99.
It's what is called monsoon season here in Arizona, even though the meteorological setup is not technically a monsoon. But it's close enough, and the name is popular enough, that the moniker has taken hold. Moisture from the gulf of California and central Mexico is drawn northward to dump as rain over the Southwest. The lightning shows can be quite spectacular (and dangerous). The thunder freaks out some of our cats while others just ignore the noise. Not unlike people. The rain brings out other local residents who, in the absence of Tinder, have to travel to engage socially. Here's a picture of one taken yesterday in our driveway.
I'm writing this on the 28th. Many, if not most of you, will be aware that there is a forest fire of significant dimensions in "the Prescott area". While we have friends who are under evacuation orders, the fire is 17 miles southeast of our location with winds blowing east-northeast. I.e., away from us. We can see plenty of smoke, but neither our property nor the town of Prescott are in any immediate danger. Still, it gives one pause. Some of you may know the article I wrote for the New York Times a number of years ago which addressed the wisdom and will of living in a periodic fire zone. We all live with our choices. That fire, the infamous Yarnell Hill blaze that killed 19 hotshots was far closer to our home than is the current blaze.
The original anthology STRAIGHT OUTTA TOMBSTONE, edited by David Boop, comes out July 4th from Baen Books. It contains a new Mad Amos Malone story, A TREEFOLD PROBLEM.
Here's the tentative cover for the new Pip & Flinx novel, STRANGE MUSIC, set for release later this year.
Starting today, all three books of THE DAMNED trilogy are now collected in one volume and available as an ebook from Open Road media: https://www.amazon.com/Damned-Trilogy-False-Mirror-Spoils-ebook/dp/B06XRRMTKD/ref=sr_1_1_twi_kin_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1496251637&sr=8-1&keywords=the+damned+trilogy+alan+dean+foster
A MOUNTAIN MAN AND A CAT WALK INTO A BAR..., the Mad Amos Malone story written and referenced last month, will appear in the anthology UNIDENTIFIED FUNNY OBJECTS 6, edited by Alex Shvartman. Publication dates to come.
I was able to attend Phoenix Comicon for a couple of days, though it entailed driving down each down, driving home, and repeat on the second day. About a hundred miles each way. One of our cats, Frosty, is diabetic and I have to give him his insulin shots on a regular schedule. So...no staying overnight at the con. But it was good to connect with friends like Kevin Anderson, Alexi Vandenberg, and Don Rosa and be able to chat, however briefly, with colleagues like Timothy Zahn Terry Brooks, and Claudia Gray. It was such a whirlwind couple of days that I saw practically nothing of the con. Had to find out about the armed idiot who early on nearly got the con closed down (the incident was all over the national news) from other folks who actually witnessed the takedown. I'm afraid we're in for more of such nonsense. Getting your face on TV by any means possible seems to be a defining moment for all too many whackos these days.
It looks like there is going to be a COMPLEAT MAD AMOS MALONE collection forthcoming. All 17 (to date) published stories will be incorporated together with introductions on how each tale came to be. Hopefully, the cover will actually give readers some idea of what the mountain man looks like. And Worthless too, of course. Publication details to come.
The official release date of the novelization of ALIEN:COVENANT is 23 May. In it I have tried, as I always have over the years, to be as true as possible to the film while adding what original material I could. As for ALIEN:ORIGINS, the original novel that fits chronologically between PROMETHEUS and AC, in it I hope to have been able to have added a tiny bit to the canon. As always, I work as a combination author and fan, and I think (I hope) that comes through in the finished work.
I am currently going over the first pass page proofs of the new Pip & Flinx, STRANGE MUSIC, that will be out from Del Rey later this year. For those who have asked: yes, it does follow directly after the events in FLINX TRANSCENDENT. All of the Flinx books track his life chronologically. One of the pleasures of writing the Commonwealth series is seeing how all the books, both those featuring Flinx & Pip and those that do not, fit into a realistic time-line. The official Commonwealth Chronology is available for perusing on my website and gets updated every time a new Commonwealth tale comes out. Even I get a kick out of seeing where something like DROWNING WORLD fits in relation to, say, PHYLOGENESIS. Keeping it all straight over a period of 46 years (so far) has been a challenge.
The eternal question writers get asked, "where do you get your ideas?", made one of its characteristic unannounced appearances a few weeks ago when I was striving to come up with an idea for another Mad Amos Malone tale. I love doing the Mad Amos stories. They're always fun, relaxing, and allow me to wander around the real Old West, a place of myth, legend, and real history where I've dwelled for the past 36 years (Arizona). I'd concocted this notion of having Mad Amos meet up with John Muir, in relation to an actual incident in Muir's life. But as is not uncommon in such circumstances, while I had what I thought was a good idea, I couldn't quite get into a story. Then one morning, while reading the news, a title struck me. Just a title. No story idea.
"A MOUNTAIN MAN AND A CAT WALK INTO A BAR...."
See what you can get just from a title? "Mountain man" is sufficient to pique the interest of most readers, including those not familiar with the previous exploits of Amos Malone. I love cats. But the interest arrises from the juxaposition. What has a mountain man to do with a cat? More intriguingly, what has a cat to do with a mountain man? Most interesting of all...why the coincidence? Why a bar? And from that the story, as stories are wont to do, wrote itself. To my delight and amusement. Hopefully before too long it will equally amuse an editor.
Along with his fans, I'd like to see a collected MAD AMOS MALONE, too. With a proper cover. There are 20 tales extant now. That would make for a nice, substantial book. Maybe I'll run into an interested publisher/editor at the upcoming (end of this month) Phoenix Comicon, where I hope to be in attendance Friday and Saturday. If all goes well, I'll see some of you there.
Murray Ball, a good friend with whom I corresponded for years but who I only had the pleasure of meeting once at his home in Gisborne, NZ, passed away on March 12th at the age of 78. Murray was a warm, open human being and a wonderful artist. Creator of the quintissential New Zealand comic strip, FOOTROT FLATS, he was often underrated as an artist even though he drew for Punch as well as producing beautiful watercolors and other work. Years before I made Murray's acquaintance I struggled to get U.S. comic syndicates to publish his work, which I thought ranked right up there with the best of Bill Watterson, Gary Larson, and others. No takers. Perhaps because Footrot Flats, being set on a working farm, dealt with actual farm topics like birth, death, and sex. I thought it would have done wonderfully well in the American heartland. Metropolitan areas, too, but the strip never got the chance. Certainly it was syndicated and immensely popular all over the rest of the world
All of the daily and Sunday strips are collected in book form and are available on line, including A Dog's Life, the feature-length animated film that for years was New Zealand's highest-grossing film (until it was topped by, I believe, The Return of the King). I cannot recommend them all highly enough if you enjoy good comedy writing, good comic art, and a knowing sensibility all too often absent from most daily strips. I wouldn't devote this much space out of a brief monthly update if I didn't believe in what I was saying. For a proper introduction you can go to www.footrotflats.com. This official site is maintained by Murray's son and will ease you into the world of the comic. Buy the collections...you won't regret it.
A number of you keep inquiring about future short story collections. I know there hasn't been one in a while. This is due to changing publisher priorities, even though every previous collection has done well. If there's a small publisher out there who's interested, I reckon we could put a group of recently published tales together relatively quickly. I'd also like to do a Complete Mad Amos Malone, which would reprint the dozen stories from the long out of print Del Rey collection plus the last eight or so that have never been collected and published in book form. Together with a cover that would actually be a decent representation of the character. Time will tell.
TO THE VANISHING POINT will be featured in Early Bird Books (EBB), Open Road Media's daily deals newsletter, on 4/18/2017. The ebook will be downpriced to 1.99 across all US retailers on that day. SPELLSINGER will receive the same treatment, and pricing, on 4/13. Grab 'em while you can.
On Sunday the 23rd, at Relentless Gym (5816 San Miguel Ave., Glendale, AZ) I will be competing in the bench press at the RAW Southwest Regional meet. Though a somewhat different atmosphere from a con, I will be happy to chat and sign books when not breathing hard.
I hope to be able to attend the Phoenix Comicon for at least one day: Saturday, 27 May. If so, I will likely be spending a good deal of time at both the Del Rey and WordFire Press booths. If Open Road Media has a booth, I'll be around there, too. Hope to see some of you there. Phoenix in May is a lot more comfortable than Phoenix in July.
Here is the cover for the Open Road Media omnibus edition of THE DAMNED trilogy.
BY THE THROAT, the new Pip & Flinx novel from Del Rey has been retitled STRANGE MUSIC. Tenative release date is end of summer.
Many of you purchased the complete ICERIGGER trilogy in single-volume format from Open Road Media. You will be pleased to know that at the end of May or in early June, Open Road will be releasing The Damned Trilogy, consisting of the novels A CALL TO ARMS, THE FALSE MIRROR, and THE SPOILS OF WAR, in the same single-volume format. These one-volume editions provide a compact, convenient way to keep all three books easily at hand for reading at a single or extended, sittings. Thanks go to Open Road for publishing them in that format.
SPELLSINGER will be featured on all relevant U.S. retailers via Open Road's Early Bird Books daily deals newsletter. On Feb. 23rd, the book will be priced at $1.99! Anyone who subscribes to the EBB newsletter can get advanced info on all their titles, etc. http://www.earlybirdbooks.com.
I only met Carrie Fisher once. It was at the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, CA, in 2014. Del Rey had asked if I could attend to promote the reveal that I was going to be doing the novelization of THE FORCE AWAKENS. I was only able to attend for a day and a half and didn't expect to have time to do anything except fulfill my indicated responsibilities, but it turned out I was able to chat briefly with Mark Hamill again (regular guy) and meet a few other folks, including the gentlemanly Billy Dee Williams. My schedule was pretty full and didn't really coincide with anyone else's. I was determined, however, to try and at least say hi to Fisher, whom I had never met before. I managed to ease into the very busy signing area where I politely introduced myself and asked if she would mind signing my copy of the original SW novelization. As she was obliging, I tried to make small talk. "You know," I told her, "I've always thought of you as a writer who happened to act rather than an actress who happened to write". I'd read and thoroughly enjoyed her books POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE and SURRENDER THE PINK. She lit up immediately, all but jumped out of her chair, and planted me with one seriously emphatic kiss. Expecting maybe a quick "thank you" or "that's sweet of you to say so", I was more than a little taken aback ...especially since this occurred in front of a couple of hundred waiting fans, security personel, etc. And that's how I'll remember Carrie Fisher. Writer, actress, firecracker.
The novelization of ALIEN:COVENANT has been turned in and approved. I am working with Titan Publishing and Fox on what will be an original prequel to the film story. Sorry...no can hint (yet) at what it might contain. BY THE THROAT is still set for publication in 2017 with RELIQUARY for 2018. There may appear another original novel in 2017, but at this point in time nothing is set. There will be a number of short stories, however, whose publication I'll announce as they appear.
I just turned in the 50th iteration of PERCEIVINGS. This is a monthly column on art and science that I do for 5enses, a local paper. If you're curious, you can likely find and peruse at least some of them on line. Quick reads.
Unabridged audiobook versions of INTO THE OUT OF and TO THE VANISHING POINT, both read by Joel Richards, are now available from Dreamscape media (www.dreamscapeab.com)
I wish I could accommodate all of you who have requested reprints or, especially, eBook versions of previous works. That decision is up to publishers, not me. I don't have my own publishing house and even if I did, not the time to manage it. However, those who have been looking for THE DAMNED trilogy (A Call to Arms, The False Mirror, The Spoils of War) will be pleased to know that the redoubtable publisher Open Road Media will be releasing them in the same compact, single-volume format they used for the Icerigger trilogy. Email Open Road for price and release date.
I'm pleased to announce that MAORI will be featured in Early Bird Books (EBB) daily deals newsletter. On 12/22/16, the ebook will be downpriced to $1.99 across all US retailers on that day. So if you've ever been curious to read it, that's a killer deal on the price.
You can never predict when short stories will sell, or what subject matter editors will find appealing. I just enjoy writing them. When finished, they go to my agent (Virginia Kidd Agency) and the agency offers them to magazines and anthologies. It's different when an editor specifically asks you for a story. I've always delighted in writing to a theme, be it SF, fantasy, or horror. The challenge lies in forcing you, as a writer, to place yourself in a framework of someone else's imagining as opposed to your own. It's unlikely, for example, that as a writer you're sitting around one day envisioning the future of evil can-openers. So when an editor requests a story for an anthology built around that particular them, it pushes you into a different place. Mental stretching keeps the mind and the imagination just as active as physical stretching does for one's muscles and tendons.
ANALOG will publish the story TEN AND TEN. Perhaps the most common question writers are asked is, "Where do you get your ideas?" Many of mine have come from experiences I've had in the course of my travels. TEN AND TEN is based on (but being SF, patently differs from) an actual encounter I had off the coast of northern Papua New Guinea. The closest I've come to conversing with a truly alien lifeform.
Speaking of alien lifeforms, fans of John Carpenter's superb version of THE THING will find much to enjoy in the 2-disc Collector's Edition blu-ray from Shoutfactory. I'm in there with an on-site (my house, not Antarctica) interview/discussion of the film's novelization.
Work on the novelization of ALIEN:COVENANT proceeds smoothly, though for some reason I keep having stomach cramps while writing. The non-fiction book DARK VADOR (sic) vs. MONSIEUR SPOCK has just been released in France. It's a comparison of Star Wars vs. Star Trek, very heavily illustrated. I contributed the introduction, though I have to confess it had to be translated from the English by the book's authors, Oliver Cotte and Jeanne-A Debats, as my French is pretty limited (sidebar: the first French I ever learned was a notorious line from a song by the then group Labelle, who my wife and I saw perform at the Santa Monica Civic auditorium back in the late '70's. Patti's done well since then.). Even if you don't know any French, the chapter titles will give you some idea of the book's content. "Leia vs. Uhura", "Deux sagas, deux destins", "Robes de Princesses", and so on. More than 200 pages of illos (all b&w, alas) and text. For completists, Francophiles, Trekophiles, and Star Warsophiles. The publisher is Dunod. I don't know how to say "bon appetite" in Klingon
The tadpoles in our little plunge pool have just about turned into frogs. Mostly they're canyon tree frogs, so we have the privilege of finding frogs on the sides of our house without having to hunt for them in the creek. Saw two Peregrine falcons fighting over Willow Lake yesterday. Prescott is something of a renowned bird area, especially for Arizona. The several lakes in the area are important wintering-over grounds, Granite Mountain is home to numerous nesting Peregrine families, and bald eagles nest and fish here as well. In the summer there are quite a few different species. It's not Ecuador or Peru, but it's not the Sonoran Desert, either. I'm not a birder, but I still enjoy seeing a less common species like the Crissal Thrasher, green-headed towhee, and blue grosbeak in our yard. We'd have more except that the chipmunks tend to keep them off some of the feeders.
It can be a difficult time of year to write, what with all the birds finishing off the last of the summer seeds, the wildflowers in full bloom (the catmint outside my study is flourishing), and the grape vines of Virginia creeper starting to change color. Makes one want to take a walk and soak it all in instead of doing battle with the English language. Yet, compulsion to work drives me back to the keyboard, if only to write my monthly column (local arts and sciences free paper...5enses.).
Novelette CASTLEWEEP is the concluding story in the in anthlogy WHAT THE *!%#! IS THAT? from Saga Press (a division of Simon & Schuster), edited by John J. Adams, to be released 1 November. At least a couple of short stories coming out next year, including a new Mad Amos. The Star Wars short story BAIT appears as a bonus in the just-released paperback edition of THE FORCE AWAKENS
Y'know how your life sometimes gets so busy you forget certain things? Like to put out the cat at night (except our cats stay in at night, or the coyotes would get them, or the great horned owls, or the red-tailed hawks in the morning, or a cougar might show up, or....).
But enough about cats. It bores them anyway. I did make it to Midamericon: my first Worldcon since the Jurassic. And my, how things have changed. Never seen so many white beards in my life. For a few hours there, I was afraid I'd made the wrong air reservations and I was actually at the Santa Claus convention (recently profiled on CBS Sunday Morning). Worldcon attendees are definitely skewing older. Which means that everyone else is now going to Comicons. The world doth change around us, especially when we're out of touch with certain of its sociological aspects. Anyway, it was fun to see a Dealer's Room full of books instead of T-shirts and photos and weapons. Saw quite a number of friends I hadn't seen in years. Bob Silverberg and Karen Haber, the remarkable father-and-son Korshaks, Greg and Astrid Bear, Greg Benford, David Brin, and many others...all too briefly, I fear, since I was only there for two days.
Much of this was because I was at the con at the behest of Charles Lippincott, redoubtable PR, advertising, and promo major domo for Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Alien, producer of Judge Dredd, etc. While things did not proceed entirely smoothly between him and the concom (think current Middle East), those who found and attended his q&a's and panel and slide show on the early days of Star Wars were much thrilled. The panel, with myself, Charley's counterpart at Fox Marc Pevers, Charley, and producer Gary Kurtz, got to see and hear something that will never be repeated. It was, thankfully, all professionally videoed, and Charley will be selling DVD's of it all once editing and such is done. As a participant, I was fascinated to hear Charley and Marc disuss the early days of marketing Star Wars, the ins and outs of the deals, etc. And of course Gary's input was unmatched. Something that belonged on PBS, actually.
Good barbeque, too, at the original Joe's. I forgot about the bottle restrictions in re carry-on luggage and the TSA confiscated by bottle of Joe's original bbq sauce. Clearly explosive material, and no flexibility. Why don't they just hire Israeli airport security to run the whole outfit? More common sense, better security.
I'm currently writing the novelization, plus some unique original material, for ALIEN:COVENANT. An unusual approach that's never been tried before in a novelization. Look for it, along with the film, next year.
Despite conflicting factors, I am going to make a serious attempt to attend Midamericon II, the World SF convention to be held this 17-21 August in Kansas City. If I can make it, I will be there from Thursday evening through Sunday morning. Look for me at the Del Rey and Wordfire Press booths. There will be some significant Star Wars panels and doubtless others as well. I hope to meet some of you there. This will be my first Worldcon in many, many years (since Chicago, I believe).
SECRETIONS, the new Commonwealth novel, is finished and with my agents. I'll keep everyone posted on its future.
For those who haven't had a chance to get THE DEAVYS, it will be an earlybird special at $1.99. See the Early Bird Books newsletter for 2 July: http://www.earlybirdbooks.com/
Barring any catastrophes between now and the end of August, it looks like I will actually be attending the next Worldcon. MidAmericon II will be held in Kansas City 17-21 August. I will be there on the 19th and 20th, possibly also the morning of the 21st. Charles Lippincott of Star Wars, Alien, Judge Dredd, and other small SF films, is putting together a reprise of the first Star Wars promo booth and display from MidAmericon I back in 1976. I am led to believe that Friday of the convention will officially be Star Wars day. There will be special panels including one with myself, Charley, and producer Gary Kurtz, a huge slide show presentation, and much more, including some special guests. Since I almost never get to conventions any more, I will also try to do as many signings as possible.
I'm not really big on posting pictures of myself. I'd much rather post artwork, or travel photos, or cartoons...anything but me. However, since last month's update was late and prompted some queries as to whether or not I was alive (it would have been interesting had I not been but had promptly replied), I'll stick the recent shot up. I sometimes appear on Arizona station KAZT-TV. Usually it's to discuss books, or science-fiction in general, but on this occasion the subject was the future of EV's (electric vehicles). As I drive a Tesla, the show wanted some shots of the car: hence this pix. The car was purchased in July of 2013. It was in the course of researching auto paint protection options that I first learned about such materials as vinyl wrapping, CG Quart, OptiCoat Pro, and Modena. You can see the results from having had the car done with OptiCoat Pro a week after it was delivered. The car has never been polished and rarely had soap applied. Just rinse and wipe off. Wish I'd known about such options earlier, but I've never been a car guy.
The poet Alex Ness recently conducted a very nice interview with me. Of especial note are accompanying numerous cover reproductions, some of scarce printings, that can be enlarged on the site. http://poplitiko.blogspot.com/2016/05/ADFInterview.html
Short notice, but I will be attending the Phoenix Comicon 3-5 June. Look for me at the Random House and Wordfire Press tables, where I'll be signing and happy to chat. This will likely be the only appearance of any kind I'll be able to make this year.
Red Shirt Pictures will be doing an interview with me for the documentary/bonus portion of Shout Prod. Blu-ray release of John Carpenter's extraordinary version of THE THING
I recently did two interview segments for Bill Bradley's radio show American Voices: one on my favorite sound and the other on my favorite place in America. I reckon if you research the show, you can find them.
And today I finished SECRETIONS, a new Commonwealth novel.
The May monthly update is a bit late because I was finishing the rough draft of a new Commonwealth novel. SECRETIONS does not feature Flinx & Pip, but takes place on an entirely new world. One where the ick factor, as you can probably surmise from the title, is a tad higher than in similar books like Icerigger, Sentenced to Prism, and Midworld. One thing I love about describing a new world is that in the course of writing about an entirely different biome I'm forced to learn a good deal of new information about the relevant biology, biochemistry, geology, and sociology. It's an as much an adventure and exploration for me as it is, hopefully for the reader. Once I've done the rewrite we'll see about finding it a proper home.
Short notice, but on the 14th, National Astronomy Day, I will be joining authors Tony Taylor and G.K. Lamb to speak at the famed Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. In the 35 years we've lived in Prescott, we've been to Flagstaff many times, and yet I've never managed to make it up to the observatory. So it will be a treat for me to finally visit the site from which Pluto was discovered. Many years ago I attended the first Saturn flyby. While everyone at the JPL in Pasadena, CA was oohing and aahing at the first ever pictures to come back from Saturn, I happened to notice a little old man ignoring them while he poked and prodded at assorted instrumentation. A bit anxious that what he was doing might not be authorized, I pointed the activity out to one of the technicians.
"Oh," he replied off-handedly, "that's Clyde Tombaugh. We let him do pretty much whatever he wants."
Thanks to our goddaughter, Erica Collins, offering to come up and stay in Prescott for a few days, I will be at the Phoenix Comicon from the afternoon of 3 June through the morning of the 5th. I'll be signing books at both the Wordfire Press and Del Rey booths, and Del Rey should have some free F&P books to pass out. If you're at the con, be sure to drop by and say hello. Unless I manage to make it briefly to the San Diego Comicon, Phoenix will be the only convention I will be able to attend this year.
I'm going to start making some occasional music recommendations here. For starters, google the remarkable young Norweigian blues/jazz singer Angelina Jordan. You haven't heard anything until you see a 7-year old European crooning Billie Holiday and Gershwin. For classical, see if you can find the Symphonie gaspesienne by the French Canadian composer Claude Champagne. I'm going to go pretty obscure with some of these classical recommendations. What's the point in my suggesting you listen to Beethoven's Fifth?
I keep telling myself that I'm going to stop, one of these days. Stop writing, that is. But I can't seem to do it. If I go more than a few days without writing something, I get antsy and worse, I feel guilty. So I'm about a third of the way through the rough draft of a new Commonwealth novel, SECRETIONS. It's not Flinx and Pip and it's not directly related to Commonwealth political matters (like the Founding books, or Nor Crystal Tears). It's an independent tale set on what I hope is an interesting world, like MIDWORLD, DROWNING WORLD, and the ICERIGGER books. Set in the Commonwealth but independent of everything else, although there are allusions to the thranx, KK-drive ships, and more. I have no idea when it will be finished, but with OSHENERTH and THE DEAVYS now out and BY THE THROAT and RELIQUARY set to come out from Del Rey, I don't reckon there's any rush.
THE DIRECTOR SHOULD'VE SHOT YOU, a history of my involvement with novelizations, is finished and at the Kidd Agency. All the relevant questions I've been asked over the years, covering every novelization I've ever done from LUANA to THE FORCE AWAKENS, is at least mentioned together with any and all relevant anecdotes that I was able to recall. The book is a bit of a specialty item, so we'll see if there's any interest. Although the manuscript contains covers for each of the books, I would sincerely hope that whichever publisher picks it up also takes the time, trouble, and possibly investment to also include stills from the relevant films...particularly where they would relate directly to my comments. As folks are eternally curious about such things, I felt it important to set down everything I could remember. Now, when that meteor fragment hits me next week and voids my insurance, at least that bit of book-into-film history will exist somewhere outside of my head.
An old friend, Stuart Schiff, came to visit this weekend, joined by his son Geoff. Stu and I go back more than 40 years. He's a noted collector of SF and movie memorabilia. It's nice to be able to converse with someone without having to spend five minutes providing background material for the subject at hand. We talked books, art, film, mutual acquaintances...all very civilized and relaxing. I have a few books and a few pieces of art: Stu has rather more. It was a nice break from all the interviews in re TFA. Those have finally begun to slow down, as the film itself runs its course through theaters. I imagine there will be a pickup when the DVD is released.
Just finished going over the copyedit of THE HARDEST CHOICE (title may change) for John Joseph Adams's forthcoming anthology COSMIC POWERS. The novelette CASTLEWEEP will appear in the anthology WHAT THE *!!&@#! IS THAT?, from Simon & Schuster's Saga imprint, in August. CASTLEWEEP is an important story to me because it's one of those that was inspired by and is based on an actual place I visited. I've often spoken of how my travels influence my writing, and CASTLEWEEP is an example of a story arising directly from one such location.
With both OSHENERTH and THE DEAVYS now out, only the fantasy MADRENGA remains in search of a home. I've started making notes for a new (non-Flinx) Commonwealth novel, SECRETIONS. I thought I'd written myself out of interesting environments (ICERIGGER, MIDWORLD, SENTENCED TO PRISM, etc.) but one of those quick flashes of inspiration that only strikes occasionally prompted me to set up the ol' NOTES page and get to work. The more I delve into it, the more intrigued I become with the story's ecological and cultural background. Whence it all will take me I do not yet know, but I'm certain it will be down a slippery alien slope.
While it's very nice to be #1 on the New York Times bestseller list (THE FORCE AWAKENS), I would hope that OSHENERTH doesn't get lost in the deluge. I'm very proud of that book, which I think is different from any other fantasy out there, and hopefully it will find the audience for which it is intended.
One benefit, albeit accompanied by an unending frenzy of interest in TFA, has been the opportunity to talk to a wider audience about OSHENERTH, the upcoming THE DEAVYS, and previous works via a succession of print, television, and podcast interviews. Additionally, it allows those readers who have never met me in person to see something of the mensch who writes the stuff. These interviews are easy enough to search out online, but one especially fun one was done for a CNN-backed website called greatbigstory.com. Go there and look for the piece titled "This guy wrote Star Wars and his name isn't George" (titles and narration aren't my purvue). It's a rapidly-edited two minutes and thirteen seconds of me, but more interestingly, of my surroundings and my study...for those of you who might have wondered where I write and what it looks like. NBC channel 12 out of Phoenix also did a nice video piece that's up on the Entertainment portion of their website, though I don't know for how much longer.
While their individual interests in my writing varied considerably, it was to be expected that every one of the interviewers would concentrate on the novelization of TFA. That focus often extended to include questions about the novelization of the original STAR WARS, and thence to the ALIEN series and others. As a consequence, I found myself answering many of the same questions over and over again. This didn't bother me: I've grown used to it over the years. But it set me to thinking: if there's this much interest in the history of these novelizations and how they came to be written, there ought to be a fair number of readers who never encounter the stories about them, who will never hear the appropriate podcast or radio interview or come across them online. So, why not jot them down all together, in one place? In other words, put together a book: a small history of the experiences I've incurred writing the dang things.
The result is that I'm currently 30,000 words into IF I'D BEEN THE DIRECTOR I WOULD'VE SHOT YOU, a memoir of my history in writing novelizations. Just the novelizations...a general biography covering all my writing might come later. While I've told a number of the stories before, there is a fair amount of reminiscence that isn't widely known. And as I get older, I'm less inclined to shut up about topics and occurrences over which I might have skipped in the past. I'll post when the book is finished, and again if and when it finds a publisher. If nothing else, it'll obviate the need to relate the same anecdotes over and over again. I can just say, "Oh, what you want is on pages 46-48," and go back to my writing.
BAIT, an original short story featured the character Grummgar (the big walrus-like guy with the broad on his arm in Maz Kanata's castle), is now out in the magazine Star Wars Insider, issue #162.
And this is one of the best covers of a pop song I've ever heard (and I've heard a lot). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9Dg-g7t2l4
OSHENERTH, with its beautiful cover by Rob Caswell, is now out and available from Wordfire Press via their own website and the usual sources.
It's always interesting when fictional names appear in other languages. For example, in Mandarin "ren" can mean kind or benevolent person or...edge of the sword. Written differently, pronounced differently. I'd love to see a Mandarin-dubbed version of FORCE to hear how they pronounce Kylo's name.
I'm afraid I can't, at least at this point in time, address any of the many questions regarding the film and the novelization that have come my way beyond what has already appeared in print and in assorted interviews. It's not my property and I have no more right to the unspoken than I do to what is public. Meanwhile, enjoy. I have.
One of my domestic duties is to clean out and empty the cat boxes utilized by our eight cats. So that I don't forget the day to do such chores, I frequently make quick notes to remind myself. The other day I misspelled "cat boxes" as "cat hoaxes". There's a story or two there....
All the TFA-related communications appear to have crashed the email@example.com email box. Feel free in the interim (or at any time) to utilized firstname.lastname@example.org
Short post this month. Some interesting new stuff lined up for the new year, including a new Mad Amos Malone story.
"Our films for today are Metropolis and "M", and our guest is the director, Fritz Lang." If you live long enough, you become history. The preceding quotes my instructor in the UCLA film dept. class "History of European Film: 1920-1939" (more or less). I was a graduate student in the writing program at the UCLA School of Arts when our subject matter for one day in 1969 were the two films mentioned. And indeed, our guest speaker following the screening of the two pictures was their director; the esteemed, very Teutonic, and somewhat intimidating Mr. Lang. He proved, however, to possess a dry sense of humor that greatly alleviated the nervousness of his young audience. The UCLA film school has always had the best available screening facilities. That was true even 46 years ago. Among other trivia I recall from that day is that Mr. Lang was and remains the only person I have seen wearing a monocole outside of an actor in a film.
A q&a session followed the double screening. I remember only two of the questions and Lang's replies. Bearing in mind that all we had available to screen was then badly butchered and highly incomplete version of Metropolis, one student asked, "Mr. Lang: when was the last time you saw a complete version of your film?"
Lang: "Goebbels had me into his office and asked me to be head of the Reich film department. I told him I would think about it. I went home, watched Metropolis, packed my bags, and the next day left for the United States".
Later in the session, one gal stood up and positively gushed, "Mr. Lang, Mr. Lang, I just loved your films! Could you please, please, tell us how you did those wonderful special effects in Metropolis!" Lang, paused, adjusted his monocole, gazed out at her from his seat behind a desk down front, and replied in an absolutely deadpan tone, "No!". The audience erupted in laughter.
The real revelation of the day was my first viewing of "M". Tight, terrifying, and with a script advanced for its time, it featured the performance by Peter Lorre that brought him to the attention of studio heads in the U.S. Lorre's anguished monologue near the end of the film is astonishing to see for those who know him only as an actor in cheap horror films, as Mr. Moto, and as the comic relief in Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Though Lorre's voice and physical appearance unfortunately typecast him, he could usually rise above his material even when doing comedy roles, most notably as Dr. Einstein in Frank Capra's film adapation of the play Arsenic and Old Lace.
Now that I've managed to diverge considerably from Metropolis, I recommend a viewing of Charles Lippincott's amazing Facebook page. Peruse it and you'll learn all you need to know about Charlie and the history he's lived. Look for the steady release of audio recordings he made back in the mid-70's of him, myself, and George Lucas discussing story lines for the Star Wars novelization (and Splinter). I'd forgotten nearly all about them, and reading Charlie's painstaking transcriptions of the old (and miraculously surviving) tapes put me in the position of viewing myself from a great distance, as an actor in an ancient drama. Fascinating stuff, and all kudos to Charlie for preserving what a lot of folks in his position would simply have chucked into the nearest wastebasket.
I had the opportunity to do an original Star Wars short story that relates directly to a scene in The Force Awakens. The story, BAIT, will appear in issue #162 of Star Wars Insider magazine. It's always fun to be able to develop characters we may only glimpse briefly in a film, and provide them with some background and motivation of their own.
Wilkinson Productions, a British company, has optioned the film rights to INTO THE OUT OF. With today's CGI, the story can finally be told properly. Hope it happens.
Over time I've mentioned OSHENERTH, my heroic fantasy set entirely underwater. Well, here it comes! December release from WordFire Press...with an absolutely spectacular cover by Rob Caswell. Not only is the cover stunning, it's astonishing accurate...something highly unusual in today's publishing. So as you delve deeply into it (which you should, to enjoy and appreciate all the details Rob has included) you can do so knowing that you're seeing not some art director's interpretation intended solely to maximize sales, but what both the artist and the author intended. Because of all the fine detail, the image is a fairly large file, so give it some time to load.
The Madness of Cthulhu vol. 2, edited by the indefatigable S.T. Joshi and containing my story THE DOOR BENEATH, will be released on 20 Oct. from Titan Books.
Wordfire Press plans to release OSHENERTH in December. OSHENERTH is set entirely underwater and, while an epic fantasy, draws on as much actual oceangraphic knowledge and personal experience as I was able to bring together. The inspiration for the novel came from an encounter I had with a couple of giant Pacific cuttlefish off the coast of Blupblup (I am not making this up) Island, off the north-central coast of Papua New Guinea. There I was privileged enough to observe how cuttlefish communicate through the use of color changes. This got me to thinking about any number of things involving cephalopods (I also once played hide-and-seek in the Maldives with a small and very engaging octopus). That, in turn, led to the notion of creating an entire fantasy world that was also realistic (example: underwater human-folk called "mersons" swim from place to place...they don't walk). Nobody shoots cannon balls underwater because they'd only travel a short distance before dropping harmlessly to the bottom...which meant designed weapons and describing warfare that would work realistically underwater. But..there is also magic and...well, you'll have to wait until December.
Rob Caswell has been engaged to do the cover, and you can see some of his amazing digital artwork here: http://robcaswell.deviantart.com/gallery
Fantasy novel THE DEAVYS is still set to be released by Open Road Media in January.
During the month of October, the ebook of INTO THE OUT OF is available from Open Road Media for a special promotional price of $1.99. Good opportunity to grab a travel/backup copy.
The web address for the monthly column I write on art and science for the local paper 5enses is: www.5ensesmag.com/category/alan-dean-fosters-perceivings/. The columns are all less than 1000 words each, and I get to muse on everything from rain chains to advertising to medieval art. Fun stuff.
Recently, a drawing of a thranx was posted in the art comments section of this webpage's Discussion Board. The drawing's not bad, but there really has yet to be a truly good rendition of a thranx. The problem is one that has recurred throughout the entire history of SF. When an author refers to an alien in a story as "cat-like", the assigned illustrator or cover artist invariably draws a cat, with (if the author and reader are lucky) a few alien fillips. Think of all the covers for Larry Niven's Kzinti stories. or C.J. Cherryh's Chanur tales. Lions in spacesuits. If the author says an alien is bear-like, you get a drawing of a bear. Ape-like, and so on. So when a thranx is described as insect-like, or an insectoid, even with a fair amount of additional physical description, we still tend to end up with an ant, or more commonly, a praying mantis.
There are very clear descriptions of thranx in the Commonwealth books. The thranx are insect-like, certainly. In the stories everything down to the correct number of limbs is specified (eight), yet the artist (or art director) hear's "insectoid" and therefore we get a creature with six legs. I frequently refer to the thranx's feathery (moth-like) antennae, and yet every depiction to date features standard non-feathered insect antennae. It's hugely frustrating. The most common error shows the thranx's legs emerging from the thorax (because that's where they're situated in terrestrial insects) instead of from the abdomen, as described in the books. A thranx has a thorax and a higher additional segment called the b-thorax that contains the breathing spicules, but no illustrator has shown this. Why? Because terrestrial insects don't have a b-thorax. Thranx bodies are bisymmetrical but also quadri-symmetrical. They have four limbs, each of which has four segments. Each hand and foot has four digits. The mouth/beak has four segments. So...the body is divided into abdomen, thorax, b-thorax, and head: four body sections. It's all consistent and apparently too...alien?...for illustrators. Or for art directors.
The best attempt to correctly depict a thranx so far decorates the cover of the SF book club omnibus edition THE FOUNDING OF THE COMMONWEALTH. In the cover art, the thranx-to-human body size proportions are excellent. The thranx eyes, both size-wise and in color banding, are perfect. The digits are correct in number. But...we still see lower limbs emerging from the thorax. The four trulegs should all emerge from the abdomen. The foot-hand limbs emerge from the lower thorax and are smaller than the trulegs, as befits limbs that can be utilized either as grasping hands or as a third set of legs depending on the thranx's posture. As s hown, the truhand arms are too big and should be smaller than the foothand limbs. So to be accurate we need big legs, smaller foot-hand limbs, and still smaller truhand arms. Pretty...alien. And sadly, the antennae shown are not feathered. But it's a good attempt. Best of all, this thranx is animated. There's a real sense of life to the illustration; its not some stiff, awkward lift from an entymology text.
Drawing appropriately alien aliens is tough. John Schoenherr was the best at this, and a favorite of Analog editor John W. Campbell. Having a complete understanding of animal anatomy, John was able to twist and contort and alter it to produce believable aliens that also served as true reflections of the author's intent. John was arguably more famous as an illustrator of wildlife tales than of SF. He's gone now, alas, but his art lives on.
Thankfully, Wayne Barlowe is still with us. Not only does Wayne pay close attention to an author's descriptions when he's bringing their aliens to life, he is also careful to factor the alien environment into his work. A few years back, the Discovery Channel did a whole show based on his artwork. If I were putting together a film that was set on an alien world, he's the first artist I'd pick to help create the fauna and (just as important and usually overlooked) the flora. His Tran (the inhabitants of the frozen world Tran-ky-ky from the ICERIGGER trilogy) is still the best version of those cold-weather indigenes out there. See it in his early book Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials
There are still a couple of sets of the limited, leather-bound TAKEN trilogy available.
And anyone interested in ordering a Tesla anytime in the next couple of months can get a quick $1000 off by utilizing this code during the ordering process: http://ts.la/alan5954.
My dentists say I have alien teeth. This seems unnervingly appropriate. Actually, the problem, which revealed itself for the first time some seventeen years ago, involves a process known as calcium resorbtion. Basically, the body starts re-absorbing the calcium in one's teeth, leaving nothing behind but a hollow shell that eventually crumbles. On an x-ray it looks like the mother of all cavities, but there's no decay involved. It's weird, and I could do without it. Anyway, after losing two lower back teeth to this genetic anomaly some 17 years back, replacing them with implants, and then having the process go on blissful hiatus, it has returned to claim an upper back molar. The Dentists are no less bemused. My reaction to the recurrence has been somewhat less benign...but there's nothing I can do, except hope that the anomaly remains restricted to teeth and leaves the underlying bone alone (aside from not wanting to see my jaws dissolve like something out of a George Romero movie, you need bone to support the implants). And that is more than any of you want to know about orthodontic calcium resorption.
The beautiful new printing of MAORI is now available from Open Road Media. Writing the novel gave me an even greater appreciation for authors who do compose such material on a regular basis. Not to mention for those who write actual history. The amount of research is daunting and there is always some expert on, say, guns of the period who is there to follow up your egregious errors with suitably lengthy corrections ("No, no, no! Musket balls of that caliber did not come into use in that part of Africa until six months later!"). I tried to keep MAORI as historically accurate as possible while focusing, naturally, on the family saga I developed. Even though while writing the book I had access to very little material on the history of 19th-century New Zealand, the depth of the plot and the need to concoct believable (and historically believable) characters left me little room to go into...well, to go into such minutae as the caliber of the weapons in use. While I am always interested in such things, to include them all would have resulted in a 2,000 page book. Where fiction is concerned, including fiction of a historical nature, I believe in keeping things moving. I could never write the kind of book that is David McCullough's specialty. I admire that kind of patience, which I don't have.
For those interested in espionage, WWII, or just plain fascinating individuals whose unbelievable life stories have not yet been made into a Hollywood film, I high recommend THE SPY WHO LOVED. Whether the woman in question was the model for Ian Fleming's Vesper Lynde or not.
I will be at the San Diego Comicon for one day; Saturday, 11 July. I'll be signing at the Del Rey table (possibly also on Friday, depending on how the drive to SD goes). There is also a panel featuring myself and several other DR writers. It's 7-8 pm Sat. night, in (I think) room 9. Should be an excellent round-table. I'll be answering questions about the upcoming BY THE THROAT, RELIQUARY, OSHENERTH, THE DEAVYS, and, of course, THE FORCE AWAKENS. Hope to see some of you there.
The Cthulhu Mythos tale THE DOOR BENEATH will appear in the anthology THE MADNESS OF CTHULHU, vol. 2, ed. by S.T. Joshi, to be released on October 20th. That's the Mythos tale I wrote based on my visit to Chernobyl. There's a picture from that visit (not from the story!) on my bio page, down among all the other travel photos. Ia, Ia, shub-nuclear fission...or something like that.
I managed to get away for an afternoon to spend some time at the Phoenix, Arizona Comicon. I remember when not so very long ago, said event consisted of a roomful of comic books dealers, a few jewelry vendors, and some costumers. This year, the con took over the entire Phoenix convention center. Estimated attendance: 80-100,000. Comics, costumes, jewelry, artists' tables, enough weapons makers to outfit a small army, enough t-shirt sellers to outfit a modest African country, dozens of B-list celebrities signing autographs (at $40-$80 a pop, who needs acting jobs?), and...oh yes...one book dealer. Y'all remember books? The venerable and knowledgeable Massoglia books of Tucson, in case anyone is curious or has particular SF/fantasy needs. One legacy publisher in attendance: Del Rey.
Look, I grew up learning how to read from comics, and I'm second to none in my admiration for how they have expanded and matured (try BLACKSAD). But I can only lament the absence, if not the actual passing, of bookdealers at conventions. It's not that books and dealers no longer exist; it's just that the internet has made it unnecessary for them to attend and to haul boxes of books from city to city and convention to convention, and the cost of attending cons has become, especially for smaller specialty sellers, prohibitive. I miss 'em. Given their increasingly diminishing profile at such events, maybe it's time for con organizers to offer real, traditional booksellers a discount. I doubt con committees would be overwhelmed with sudden applications for table space from, say, Moosehead Books of Walla Walla, but it would be nice to see a few of them present. Without wishing to sound in any way chauvinistic, I think the presence of books and booksellers at cons adds a touch of class among the endless aisles overflowing with t-shirts and movie posters.
Meanwhile, here is the cover for Open Road Media's release later this year of my new fantasy novel, THE DEAVYS. Albeit in silhouette, you can see the cat Pithfwid and some of his family. Simwan Deavy is the tall one, and those remaining are Rose, Amber, and N/Ice, his almost identical two-and-a-half sisters (you'll have to read the book).
So...much going on.
By now I reckon most of you know that I'm doing the novelization of the new Star Wars film. The current plan is for Del Rey to release the ebook version of THE FORCE AWAKENS on the same day as the film premieres (around Christmas). The hardcover edition will follow some time in January. I must say that working on the book has been as much fun as the script itself, which harkens back to the spirit of the first three films. I'm doing my darndest to maintain that feeling throughout the book. It's as if no time at all has passed since I novelized the first film and then wrote Splinter of the Mind's Eye. Certainly not some forty years.
Del Rey has also acquired two new original novels. The first, BY THE THROAT, is the first new Flinx & Pip novel since Flinx Transcendent, and follows chronologically from that book. The publishing plan is to release all of the F&P titles as omnibus ebook editions in 2017 and follow them with the new book (I of course have no control over publishing plans and scheduling). RELIQUARY, a stand-alone SF novel about the last human being in the galaxy, who is raised by aliens, will appear in 2018.
Later this year, Open Road Media will publish THE DEAVYS (the book may undergo a title change). This is a long adult/YA fantasy novel set in eastern Pennsylvania and Manhattan, about an...unusual...family. And their cat, Pithfwid. And the truth. Wordfire Press will publish, later this year or early next, my fantasy novel OSHENERTH, which is set entirely underwater. Meanwhile, John Joseph Adams has acquired a couple of short pieces for his notable anthologies. Publishing information as it becomes available
There are still some copies of the limited, signed, boxed set of THE TAKEN trilogy available.
The following picture is from a recent national library program to promote reading among younger readers. Each picture shows an author...reading. For a background, we utilized a book I bought on Charing Cross Road in London back in 1979. It's "The Historie of all the Romane Emperors, Beginning with Caius Julius Caesar, and succinctly ending with Rudolph the Second, now reigning". First published in Spanish by Pedro Mexia, since enlarged in Italian by Lodovico Dulce and Girolanmo Bardi, and now englished (I like that...better than "translated") by W.Traheron. Printed for Matthew Lownes, London 1604." Yes, 1604. It's strange to hold a book published the year after Elizabeth I died. Stranger still to thumb through the still intact pages (they knew how to make paper in those days) and see the hand-written notes, done in quill pen and ink, that someone or several someones laid down centuries ago. It's not a particularly rare book, but I treasure those hand-scribed notes in the margins, which are still legible after centuries. To Mr. Robertus Bootcrick and Mr. K. Southwell, who previously owned the book and wrote their names in it, I hope to take as good care of it as you and others plainly did. At the end of his introduction, Mr. Traheron concludes, in reference to any mistakes he may have made in translation, "I in charitie entreate the reader with patience to beare withall, promising to be thankfull to him that shall do me that favor." Couldn't say it better myself, 414 years later.
I am currently working on two time-sensitive projects at once. This involves working on one until it begins to blur, creatively speaking, and then switching to the other. Fortunately, one is fantasy and the other science-fiction. Otherwise it becomes that much more difficult to keep things separate in the mind. But two different genres: no problem. The fantasy is the final pass and polish on THE DEAVYS, my contemporary YA tale. The title may change. A polish, if it's not required immediately upon finish the novel itself, can be a lot of fun. Almost as if you're seeing the story completely afresh. That's been the case with THE DEAVYS. So much so that I have to pause my reading self, which is simply enjoying the book, and remember to fully engage the part of me that's supposed to be reviewing, changing, adding, deleting, and correcting. Look for THE DEAVYS from Open Road Media later this year.
This past Sunday I competed in the RAW Powerlifting Southwest Regional meet. It's always great to see true friends who you only have contact with once or twice a year, for a specific get-together. Kind of like having a class reunion once a year. Most of the subject matter for discussion, though not all, differs from the conversation I would have an an SF con, but is no less interesting for that. I can't do what I was doing when I was training and eating properly, but I can't complain, either. Anytime you wonder about your physical condition, general health, or future prospects, it's sobering to have a read through the obituaries. Even more so when you encounter people that you knew, especially when they're younger than you. Anyway, I benched 265 and had a decent shot at 281, so I'm quite pleased. Not satisfied...never satisfied. But pleased. I can't do full power anymore, which would involve squats and dead lift. I don't do squats because I like to be able to walk, and I don't dead lift because my back...all you have to do is talk to anyone with back problems, and that will put you off straining your back unless you need it for something important. Like carrying groceries. Or picking up recalcitrant cats
Couple of short pieces coming out this year, too, but no pub dates as yet.
I am very happy to say that Open Road Media will be doing the eBook of MAORI. Furthermore, it will be marketed as a straight historical novel (which is what it is and always was). There will be no tangental references to it being a "fantasy". Hopefully this go-round, those readers who enjoy Michener and similar books will have an easier time finding the novel. With suitably moderated indignation, it was pointed out to be by a New Zealand reader that there are some errors of history in the book. To this I can only plead the difficulty of finding anything at all in a small-town U.S. library on the history of New Zealand when I was researching the book back in pre-internet days. That said, they don't impact the story. The lack of knowledge about the history of that part of the world was one of the reasons I was impelled to write the book in the first place.
Author Michael Kogge visited yesterday and together the two of us traveled back, back, back in time, to the very origins of the Star Wars novelization and Splinter of the Mind's Eye. Mike's interview with me will appear in a future issue of Star Wars Insider magazine. The April issue contains his preceding interview with me, certainly one of the most well-written and in-depth pieces of its kind. Prior to coming to see me, Mike even undertook the Indiana Jonesish task of wading through the relevant papers of mine that are held in the Special Collections department of the Hayden Library at Arizona State University in Phoenix; exhuming, copying, and accompanying both articles with such gems as notational examples of the exquisite cursive script that garnered me successive "D"'s in handwriting in elementary school, a skill that has remained largely unchanged to the present day. If you read the article in SW Insider, you can embark upon the attempt to interpret these mystical glyphs for yourself. It is genuinely eerie seeing something you wrote, in your own handwriting, that you have not gazed upon for 40 years. A long time ago, in an apartment far, far away.
Much more actual news, but for assorted reasons that will have to wait to next month's update.
Agog Films of Hong Kong has being striving to produce a film adaptation of SAGRAMANDA. Here's an eye-catching promotional poster.
Negotiations continue on several of the books I mentioned last month. Something moderately major in the offing but can't mention it just yet. Soon. Short month, short update.
At this point, when engaged incompiling the first update of any new year, my visual and mental acuity seems reduced to ensuring that I type the new year (i.e., 2015) correctly, instead of mistakenly loading up the numerals recently expired. As the entire global publishing and entertainment industry has decided that work is to essential grind to a halt on or about 10 December and not resume until sometime in January, I have little to report. I could blather on about the retrograde nonsense in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria, which seems to me incontrovertible proof of devolution. I could continue to praise Tesla (what other company spends the time and resources to develop an expensive retrofit upgrade for a product they haven't made in four years?). As it is once again snowing here in central Arizona (though folks in Buffalo would get a good giggle out of that claim) I could again praise the wonderful parka that was gifted to me in the course of my sojourn years ago in Barrow, Alaska, and which is so big and so warm and reassuring in the worst possible winter weather that I could probably rent it out as a small winter home until March. I could do all that and more, but I won't. Or have I?
Preview of coming attractions (hopefully). The YA novel THE DEAVYS and its sequel will be published by Open Road Media. The novel OSHENERTH will see publication. So will the new Flinx & Pip novel, BY THE THROAT. The fates willing, so also will the fantasy novel MADRENGA and the SF novel RELIQUARY. These are all finished. So will the usual smattering of short stories. As to media projects, several continue to stumble drunkenly but resolutely forward, but solidifying sales and dates is something that would have taxed the imagination of Nostradamus. Time will tell.
A Happy and Prosperous New Year to one and all.
THE MOANING WORDS seems to be doing nicely. 4.5 stars out of five rating on the App store. 8 of 10 from Pocket Gamer.fr. 4 of 5 from 148app. So the reviews have all been very positive. For any of you who work in the gaming industry and are interesting in things like conversion rates, those details are positive as well.
Anyone who can't decide on what to give a book lover, dog lover, or yourself for Christmas, there are still a few of the limited edition set of THE TAKEN trilogy available. Interestingly, one of the first purchases ended up going to a collector outside the U.S. The most remote fan letter I ever received was probably from a reader in a small city in Kazahstan, but I don't expect any sets ofTHE TAKEN to end up there. I reckon the shipping would cost more than the books. Nice to know, though, that some readers still appreciate fine quality print books. You can wrap a tablet or ereader in leather, but it's just not the same.
Decades ago, my wife came across a photo album in an antique store in Globe, Arizona, and purchased it. The album was a gift from one family member to another dated December 25, 1894. We struggled our as best we could to try and track down the family whose members were depicted in the album. What tragedy or quantum of indifference compels someone to sell a family photo album?. Even with the advent and subsequent development of the internet, we had no luck. So the album is now on its way to the African American history museum division of the Smithsonian. They've expressed an interest in acquiring it (as a donation, of course) and we would be delighted to see them do so. But I'd still like to know what happened to that family. Perhaps the museum will have better luck.
I am currently working with a couple of brothers from Nigeria who are striving to develop and produce an animated series for TV based on African (primarily Nigerian) folklore. We recently had a four-way Skype conversation, with one brother in Palo Alto, CA, another in Beijing, a potential financier in Washington, D.C., and myself in Prescott, AZ. Arthur Clarke would have loved it. The characters in the proposed show would simply call it good juju.
I've turned in the screenplay for the short film to be directed by the Danish filmmaker Shaun Rana. It's not SF or fantasy (though I wish it was). It's set in the contemporary Middle East, in an unnamed country, and it has something to say. Shaun hopes to go into production next year. Meanwhile, we're contemplating developing a full-length science-fiction film to be set somewhere outside the U.S. More (one hopes) to come.
This coming Tuesday (4 Nov.), Open Road Media will release the first eBook version of QUOZL. Enjoy.
For those who are fans of the TAKEN trilogy (or perhaps just talking dogs), a special limited edition of the complete trilogy is now available. There are only nine sets, of which eight are available for purchase. Each of the three individual volumes (LOST AND FOUND, THE LIGHT-YEARS BENEATH MY FEET, and THE CANDLE OF DISTANT EARTH) has been bound in quarter leather and marbled paper, gold-stamped, new endpapers, hand-numbered and signed. The three volumes come in a special box wrapped in Burgundy bonded leather, which is similarly gold-stamped THE TAKEN TRILOGY, with the author's name. Fine bookbinding does not come cheap, and this very limited edition of nine is priced at US$275 + shipping (insurance included). Check or m.o. payable to: Thranx Inc., po box 12757, Prescott, AZ 86304. Pictures herewith.
I always thought I might live in a place where there was a seasonal monsoon. I just thought it might be India, not Arizona. Very pretty here: the creek is running melodically, I'm reading Jan Stafford's new biography of Beethoven, and it promises to be a musical October.
The option for a film version of SPELLSINGER has been renewed for another 18 months. All that's needed is financing. I'm writing the screenplay for a short film by the Danish filmmaker Shaun Rana. Not SF, as with his other project. This one is present-day...although I wish it were nothing more than fantasy. Very serious stuff.
Turned in the manuscript of the next Pip & Flinx novel, BY THE THROAT, to the Virginia Kidd Agency. As with all the other P&F stories, it follows chronologically upon its predecessor: in this case, FLINX TRANSCENDENT. Now, as Bud Abbott once said, we wait.
The Lovecraftian app I wrote, THE MOANING WORDS, for the French software company Byook, had its official release on 25 Sept. Go to the official site, www.themoaningwords, for download info. There's a nice little promo video there as well that's also downloadable. I know the app is available free from the Apple app/iTunes store. There's also a nice video about the game itself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Kdf3pexN5Q. I'm very proud of the story, my longest Lovecraftian tale ever...a short novel. Wherein I was able to combine knowledge acquired in my travels with my love of Lovecraft. While no studio will let me write the film, I was able to do this. It's the original Lovecraft movie I would make if ever engaged to do so.
Lastly, my contemporary YA fantasy, THE DEAVYS, as been acquired by Open Road Media and will appear from them next year.
It's been awhile since FLINX TRANSCENDENT, and Flinx doesn't seem to handle peace and quiet very well: not even with Clarity Held as permanent company (Pip, on the other hand, could care less one way or the other). Hence a new Flinx & Pip novel, BY THE THROAT, which I turned in to my agents a couple of weeks ago. Publication information to follow when it becomes available. Like the rest of the F&P tales, this one follows chronologically: in this case, all events taking place after Flinx Transcendent. Some old acquaintances turn up and there's an entirely new world to explore. Flinx, of course, sails through everything with nary a hiccup or a problem. Right.
OLYMPUS, the original screenplay co-written with filmmaker Joel Berke, is currently undergoing serious discussion among interested parties in...Beijing. More to come.
Important news scheduled (for a certainty, this time) for the 1 October update.
I see George Martin has acquired a Tesla and had it custom-painted purple. Lovely color. One of the nice things about driving a Tesla, as George has doubtless already discovered, is that in the absence of an air intake/breather, altitude becomes a non-factor in re driving. George being a self-confessed non-techie, I hope no one tells him that it's possible to hack a Tesla: he'll probably have it armored.
By the middle of next week I expect to be finished with the rough draft of a new Flinx & Pip novel. Can't say much about it. It does follow chronologically, as do all the F&P stories. So yes, it takes place following FLINX TRANSCENDENT. Just because Flinx has finally learned the secrets of his parentage and just because he recently saved the galaxy doesn't mean there still isn't more for him to to find out about himself and about the Commonwealth...and to have an adventure or two. The title is BY THE THROAT. Don't want to say anymore about it because...well, surprises aren't surprises if they're announced in advance. Way too early for publication info, I'm afraid.
Nine sets of the TAKEN trilogy (LOST AND FOUND, THE LIGHT-YEARS BENEATH MY FEET, and THE CANDLE OF DISTANT EARTH) bound in quarter leather, with a special box and endpapers, gold-stamped, numbered and signed, of which eight will be offered for sale, are in the process of being completed at Roswell Bookbinding. These are the same folks who, many years ago, did a special signed (and very limited) edition of INTO THE OUT OF. The set will be pricey, as you can imagine, but I hope to keep the cost under $300. The collectors' market these days sees many new, specially bound books priced at more than that, for single books. This one will have three volumes. As soon as I have a set in hand, I'll post pictures. For fans of George the dog and his friends, and for those who love beautiful books, this will look very nice on the bookshelf indeed.
No pre-orders, please. I can't set a price until the work is finished. I realize there are only eight sets available, but that was all that could be done. I haven't announced them anywhere else, and I won't, until perusers of this website have a chance at them. Expect a more formal announcement (with pricing) on the September 1st update. Also (hopefully) official announcement of the sale of two other new books (fantasy).
Another interview, this time for VANITY FAIR (focusing on the craft of novelizing). No publication date yet.
Really just a placeholder this month. Actually, work is busier than ever, but of the three new projects I'm working on, it would be premature to mention specifics about any of them. Hopefully more detail in the August update.
Big male bobcat walking the creek below our house last week. Our dogs go nutso when they see or smell a coyote, but they just stare silently at the bobcat. Probably trying to figure out how to rationalize its cat odor with that of our nine rather smaller house cats. King snakes, gopher snakes, and western racers are out and about. Also canyon tree frogs (in anticipation of the forthcoming monsoon moisture) and the usual interesting assortment of bugs. No tarantulas yet.
The weason we have no pwoblems with our dogs and the local coyotes interacting is becwase we are overwun with wabbits! Wabbits ewerywhere (sorry...everywhere. For a moment there, I was befuddled). Nearly all cottontails, though I have seen a couple of jacks. Rabbits and chipmunks, that's what we got. You know chipmunks...rats with racing stripes. They are so damn cute. And if you yell at them, they yell back at you. So we long ago gave up trying to have any kind of a garden. The chipmunks come right up to the window glass and drive our cats bonkers. But...they're so...damn...cute.
Not much to report this month, though June is looking to be due for a couple of substantial announcements. I'm 100 pages into a new novel (sshhh...it's a secret). Still writing my monthly column for 5enses newpaper here in Prescott (you can read the column via their website). Spoke to the local Veterans organization last week, and three interviews done. Two regarding the 35th anniversary of ALIEN and one to come (tomorrow) in re the third season of ALIEN ENCOUNTERS, on the Science Channel. I was one of the nominal talking heads in Season 2, and since I apparently didn't make a complete fool of myself on that, they asked me to yak some more for season 3. The interview will be for the Huffington Post.
Flowers are a-bloomin'...roses, pinks, and lots of free-ranging native stuff. All this despite the ongoing drought here in the southwest. The reviews on my stories in ROBOT SEASONINGS and DEAD MAN'S HAND were generally very complimentary...it's always nice to have one's work appreciated. You always know, as an editor, if you've put together a successful anthology if out of a dozen or so reviews, the reviewers all like different stories.
Much more next month, I hope.
Updates on a couple of short stories: SEASONING is in the anthology ROBOT UPRISINGS, just out from Vintage Books. HOLY JINGLE, a new Mad Amos Malone story, is in the anthology DEAD MAN'S HAND, due out from Titan Books on May 13. At least two or three more short works will be out later this year. Publication dates relayed here as I receive them. Nothing new on the novel front yet: completed works still hunting for publisher(s).
Producer Joel Berke and I have completed our screenplay OLYMPUS. It has to do with Mars, not Greece. We'll see how that project develops. Hopes of doing a SPELLSINGER movie in Australia continue to ride the unflagging enthusiasm of down-under producer Trevor Howis. I will be speaking at the Camp Verde Community Library in Camp Verde, Arizona on 21 June. There is a possibility I may be at the San Diego Comicon in July.
Meanwhile the wondrous electric vehicle continues to impress. Yesterday I had to buy gas for our backup car. Having not purchased petrol in six months, what had once been a commonplace, weekly occurrence suddenly felt unnatural and almost uncomfortable. Also smelly and unnecessary. One day (relatively soon, I suspect), travelers will look back on the entire process the way we view cowboys feeding hay to their horses in old Westerns. Not long after that, driving will be seen similarly, when we have transitioned to self-driving machines. Then we'll transport ourselves via something like a cellphone and people will complain about delays in transit that last nanoseconds. Humankind is forever unsatisfied.
It is the 35th anniversary of the release of ALIEN, and Titan Books is re-releasing the novelizations I did of the first three films in the franchise. The website denofgeek has a very thorough and very nice piece on the first film/book, which you can see here: http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/alien/29996/looking-back-at-alan-dean-fosters-alien-novelisation
I wrote the book in three weeks (typical studio/publisher demands for such things). Mostly at night, looking over my shoulder and scaring myself as I wrote. I'm pleased that readers feel it has held up so well over the decades. There's no secret to it. The better the screenplay, the better the novel version.
I was invited to be a guest at the Aelita awards convention in Yekaterinburg, Russia. I served the same function six years ago. Very interesting place, Yekaterinburg. Not like Moscow or St. Petersburg at all. Very much all about getting on with business, like Pittsburg or St. Louis. It's a big city, very spread out. I remember being driven around town and, when asking about the purpose of a particularly large complex, being told nonchalantly "Oh, that's the rocket factory". Quite a change from the Soviet days. Very interesting geology museum (in need of money for updating) and very nice art museum (in need of money for updating). Lots of history. Driving around the countryside well out of the metropolitan area, the most interesting sight is a hole in the ground. Not dramatic at all. A very peaceful spot in the woods...where the last of the Romanovs were shot and buried. No marker...nothing. Peaceful, and eerie.
Alas, I already have prearranged speaking engagement on the same date in June as the convention, so I had to decline. The BA flight from London to Yekaterinburg continues onward to Kazahkstan. A place I haven't been and, naturally, would like to go. But not this year. I really would have enjoyed visiting with old friends and, if asked to do a TV interview again, answering questions about current events as well as about writing and SF. Maybe next year.
Not much to report on the writing front. Or perhaps I should say on the publishing front: plenty of writing going on. It's all very frustrating. Hopefully it's only a pause and the longer works I have completed will start to appear before too long. Several shorts coming out, which appearance I'll mention as soon as I know myself. Meanwhile I'm still trying to wrap my head around the reality of Cosmos appearing on Fox immediately after Family Guy. That Seth fella...he's full of surprises. I keep expecting Brian the dog to put in a guest appearance in one of Cosmos' animated sequences. But they already did a bit on humanity's domestication of the dog, so it may be that they missed their chance.
For those of you interested in German editions, here is a list of books just published as eBooks by Wilhelm Heyne Verlag. Original titles with their sometimes intriguing German equivalents.
FOR LOVE OF MOTHER-NOT / THE TAR-AIYM KRANG/ORPHAN STAR / THE END OF THE MATTER/CACHALOT / WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE/NOR CRYSTAL TEARS / VOYAGE TO THE CITY OF THE DEAD / SENTENCED TO PRISM / ICERIGGER/MISSION TO MOULOKIN /THE DELUGE DRIVERS/BLOODHYPE / FLINX IN FLUX
FLINX / DAS TAR-AIYM KRANG / DER WAISENSTERN / DER KOLLAPSAR / CACHALOT / MEINE GALAKTISCHEN FREUNDE/AUCH KEINE TR€NEN AUS KRISTALL / REISE ZUR STADT DER TOTEN / PRISMA / DIE EISSEGLER VON TRAN-KY-KY / DIE MOULOKIN-MISSION / DIE FAHRT DER SLANDERSCREE /VORPOSTEN DES COMMONWEALTH / LONG TUNNEL
WILHELM HEYNE VERLAG
For more than a year now I've been writing a column for a local (Prescott, Arizona) paper called 5ENSES. As per the publisher's request, the subjec matter is art and science. I try to alternate between the two every other month. Since it's unlikely that everyone who reads this blog/update can pop down to their local coffee house or gallery or bookstore and pick up a copy, it might be useful to know that said columns, and indeed the basic paper itself, can be viewed at www.5ensesmag.com. This is also useful as a regular indicator that I have not slid into incipient senility and am still writing on a regular basis.
The more one travels, the more experienced a traveler one becomes (how's that for, as Monty Python would say, stating the blooming obvious?). In the early days of air travel, one could easily and simply change reservations and even airlines with a simple phone call or two. No fuss, no penalties. The Net notwithstanding, nowadays changing flight plans at the last minute can be a major project, and an expensive one.
Two days before I was supposed to arrive to do GoH duties at Balticon, a mild weather disturbance was forecast for the mid-Atlantic region. As in like, 12-18" of snow, ice, and wind. Terrified of the new costs that have been slapped on them for holding passengers on planes and in waiting areas beyond a predetermined time, airlines now prefere to pre-emptively cancel flights rather than risk getting hit with heavy monetary penalties. Anyone studyng the weather at an East Coast destination prior to the convention could have seen what was coming. The question was, what to do about it? I chose to eat the penalty for changing flights and do so. But...could I get a Friday flight instead of my scheduled one on Thursday? I could...at 12:40 a.m. I haven't taken a red-eye flight in years, and as expected, this one did not occupy that mysterious and indeed mythic quadrant of the aether known as the friendly skies. It was no picnic. But after years of dealing with flights of 12, 14, and even 18 hours duration, 4 no longer seems like a long flight. Sure enough, when I landed at the airport in Baltimore, the main flight boards listed flight after flight as...cancelled.
This by long roundabout way of apologizing to those con attendees on Friday to whom I spoke but quite possibly made no sense. Nice con, by the way.
The delay in the release of the final version of THE MOANING WORDS from the folks at Byook is due to their unrestrained enthusiasm for what they are putting together. Finalizing each episode of the tale results in someone suggesting still additional material, with the result that the app is all but exploding with substance. Everything that can be added to make the final story as content-rich as possible is being packed in. Same thing that happens when you order a car with every available option instead of just a basic model.
The current release of THE MOANING WORDS is beta. The complete version is undergoing final revisions and testing and should be available soon.
As previously mentioned and weather permitting, I'll be in north Baltimore (Timonium, I believe the area is called) from the 14-16th for the Farpoint convention.
Not much to go into right now. Superbowl is tomorrow (I have little to no interest in it since I'm not playing), which I expect will occupy a fair number of folks. It's amusing to see that the competition between advertisements now draws as much interest as the game itself. Some subliminal trick of Madison Avenue (remember when people talked about Madison Avenue?), or possibly because the ads are more entertaining than the game? Or the halftime show? Of course, we now have hour-long specials on TV that consist of nothing but ad "competitions". Very clever.
Thursday night's episode of The Big Bang Theory featured James Earl Jones (enjoying himself to the max) and a brief but delightful appearance by Carrie Fisher. Fanboy heaven. Noted: someone should do something wherein Jones actually portrays Mark Hamill's father. Tex Avery would have understood. Or Frank Tashlin.
The website was down for three days (27-29 Dec) because the last time I renewed the domain was five years ago. All the renewal notices went to an email that was valid...five years ago. So I never got them. Lesson: if you've got a domain name, you need to keep your information up to date or it's liable to lapse and someone else might snatch up your domain. Fortunately, my domain name isn't something like cocacola.org, so no one was hunting for it. Problem solved.
The new website should be up and running before Spring. I don't think there'll be a formal announcement. One day it will simply replace the current one. The Lovecraftian app I wrote for the French software company Byook, THE MOANING WORDS, is now available for download. The basic version is still free. A lot of effort on the part of the French team went into making the app as content-rich, interesting, and exciting as possible, and I recommend everyone gives it a look-see. It's by far the longest Lovecraftian story I've ever written
In addition to several short stories that will be appearing this new year, I just finished an SF novelette, VALENTIN SHARFFEN AND THE CODE OF DOOM, which I hope will also see the light of day before 2015. On the book front, nothing immediate to report, but the material is out there. It's just a matter of which book lands with which publisher.
In February I'll be a guest at Farpoint con in Baltimore. Same month am also speaking at Desert Nights at ASU in Tempe, Arizona.
Hopefulness and best wishes to everyone for a New Year that improves upon its predecessor.
Still working on the website update: don't want to roll out anything prematurely (we've seen what happens when that's done, although mine is significantly less complicated than the one for the Affordable Healthcare Act). Also delayed for fine-tuning: THE MOANING WORDS. For the same reasons. Both will eventually make their appearance, rest assured.
Driving an electric car is...different. Virtually no noise. Instant torque and acceleration. Have to make an effort not to play around searching the web via the car's built-in web browser while I'm driving. Listening to classical music from stations in Prague, Vienna, Hong Kong, Tokyo. I'm still learning the vehicle's idiosyncracies. One example: there's no "key". Just a fob you attach to your keychain. As you approach the car, it unlocks and the door handles extend. Sitting down in the driver's seat activates the car's electronics, stepping on the brake turns it on. So far the hardest thing to get used to is just walking away from the vehicle. When the fob is out of range, the car locks itself. Strange.
Finally got around to watching WRECK-IT RALPH. Beautiful animation, nice story. Thought they should have acknowleged "borrowing" Ed Wynn's voice (for the character of Turbo). Maybe they did and I just missed it in the credits.
Our smallest yet most powerful cat, BK, has decided she can now leap from the floor onto my shoulder whenever she so desires. This is fine with me, but could be disconcerting to visitors. I find it difficult to deny cats anything, even when it's for their own good. I'd make a lousy pride alpha male ("Sure, kids: go and play with the nice hyenas. Just be back before sundown."). Way too indulgent.
If there's better soda pop in the country than Sprecher's, I have yet to encounter it.
Release of the interactive app THE MOANING WORDS is being pushed back a few weeks so that additional content can be added and final field testing completed. The folks at Byook quite rightly want to make sure that everything works as intended and that there are as few surprises as possible (except the deliberate ones contained within the app, of course).
Valleycon in Fargo was quite enjoyable, although the Jekyll & Hyde Best Western where it was held was more problematical. Fortunately there was an excellent Green Hills restaurant right across the street. I was also introduced to the current formal trucker/oilfield worker regulation uniform: baseball cap, windbreaker, neatly trimmed beard, backpack. A number of the guys laboring over the Bakken shale work three weeks on and three off. Once they have exhausted the delights of Minot, they stagger into Fargo in droves to enjoy some down time that's a bit more metropolitan in nature. Experiencing for the first time, and in a mild way at that, what the north wind out of central Canada can do to the climate in North Dakota I can do no less than sympathize with them.
Highlight of the non-con time was a visit to beautifully preserved 1920's era movie theater in downtown, and gawking at the woodchipper from the movie FARGO that is comfortably ensconced in the city's tourism center. It has a mannequin leg sticking out of it and several goofy floppy hats you can put on if you wish to have your picture taken beside this rusty icon of contemporary filmmaking. Ridiculous waste of time. Naturally, every one did it.
I was able to spend some time with several of the other guests. A flute of champagne in human form, actress Chase Masterson enlivened every cubic meter of atmosphere she occupied, while Zoie Palmer always seemed to be smiling at some secret thought. One day I expect to see her playing Lady Macbeth. Her friend Alice and handler Holly were good conversationalists and fun to be around. Author Catie (C.E.) Murphy was hard to keep up with, and will be forever remembered among her fellow guests as the purveyor of the Giant Donut (this is an explicitly non-literary reference). Paleogeneticist Ben Novak was bursting with enthusiasm, energy, ideas, and mustache. The mustache vanished, but hopefully under his aegis the passenger pigeon will return (see www.longnow.org).
I think there will be a bit more for me to do on the final iteration of THE MOANING WORDS, and I just spent an enjoyable time helping out a class musician proof and edit a fascinating memoir. You have to reach back in time a ways to remember the influential (on rap and hip-hop) group Baby Huey and the Sitters.
The world is simply overflowing with endless surprises.
THE MOANING WORDS, the Lovecraftian story and app for all platforms, is still scheduled for a pre-Halloween release. I've finished all but the revisions of some alternate storylines and relevant material in the last chapter: the first seventeen chapters are complete in that respect. Should be quite something to see when all the programming is done and the app is up and ready for download.
Lorelle VanFossen is overseeing a complete redo of alandeanfoster.com. In addition to an entirely new appearance, the site will meet and comply with all contemporary standards for web publishing. Viewing on a phone or tablet will no longer require side-to-side scrolling. Much more material will be cross-referenced and we hope to have access to a good deal more artwork and photos, or at least easy-to-use links to same. Commenting will become easier. The existing site is extremely content-heavy and porting everything over to the new one, let alone modifying many details, takes a good bit of time. But the results will be worth it. Much easier to use, no Java (at least so far), no issues with Safari vs. Firefox vs. anything else. Should be compatible with everything, including smartphone OS's.
I'll be competing this weekend, probably for the last time, in the 100% RAW World Powerlifting Championships in Las Vegas (Riviera Hotel). Conditioning to stay healthy is one thing; conditioning to compete at this level is something considerably more strenuous. After five years of competing, it's time to take a break (as opposed to suffering one).
I will be a GoH at Valleycon, in Fargo, ND, the weekend of October 18. I was supposed to do so thirty years ago, but the worst floods to hit Prescott in a century happened to hit the week of the Con, cutting our road and marooning us in the house for several days. So this is a long post-poned visit.
For the last twenty-five years I came to pretty much regard a car as nothing more than a means of transportation. My 14-year old Olds Aurora is still chugging along adequately for that. Then, along came the Tesla model S. I followed the car's development from inception to release. It's been out about a year now and, well.... For the first time since my first car, driving is fun again. The car is a blast. More or less an iPad on wheels. Soon after taking delivery, I experienced several previously unpondered consequences.
I like listening to classical music stations from all over the world. I like blowing past traffic...silently. I like ignoring gas stations...not to mention the price of gas. And much, much more. Anyone who's interested can read about the car here: www.teslamotors.com.
Now I have to figure out how to justify their forthcoming SUV.
More frequently than previously, I have had inquiries from various entities asking what I would charge to place advertisements on the website. I replied that I don't take ads (the book seller resource page is for the convenience of perusers). I hope never to do so.
Some visitors have reported trouble accessing the left frame table of contents. As of today it appears to work fine in Safari, Chrome, and IE. There may be some issues with Firefox, however. If you find that to be the case, I recommend simply downloading another free browser. It's good to have options anyway, in case one goes down.
Now then, to the fun stuff. THE MOANING WORDS, the Lovecraftian app from the French software company Byook, will hopefully be available by the end of October. And...it will be free! There will doubtless be some premium content, etc., for which minimal fees will be charged, but anyone who just wants to read the story will be able to do so gratis. Eighteen chapters, 40,800 words: a full (if short) novel. There are also alternate storylines, fighting sequences for single or multiplayer, animation, music, sound effects, opportunities to add your own prose, a 100-card card game (the art is fantastic), riddles to solve, links to Lovecraft's own work, and much more. The app will be made available across all platforms (smartphone, tablet, computer). I had an enormous amount of fun writing this...by far the longest Lovecraftian tale I have ever written. All references to and inspirations from in the app derive directly from Lovecraft's own work and writings: no Derleth, Bloch, Howard, etc.
The weekend of the 24-25th there was a substantial Lovecraft celebration (Necronomicon) in H.P.'s hometown of Providence, Rhode Island. I was there to meet with some of the Byook people from France (suggested holding the meeting in Paris, but no go, darn it). We refined the existing materials, added some new things derived from mutual inspiration, and had their Kickstarter campaign (to enable the company to add even more enhanced content) authorized. So...here's the Kickstarter page, with lots of visuals: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=byook+cthulhu&source=web&cd=4&cad=rja&ved=0CEUQFjAD&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.kickstarter.com%2Fprojects%2F2096318262%2Fthe-moaning-words-investigation-into-the-cthulhu-m&ei=CiMdUv2HIKiQiQKU3IH4Bw&usg=AFQjCNF7a1__FkJWUOGc6ORQr9peGIOZiw
And here's the formal web preview, where there is a place to sign up for the app's free newsletter: http://cthulhu.byook.com/en/
Short update this month....
The monsoon season is in full swing here in Arizona. Whenever "monsoon" is mentioned I'm always put in mind of the old film, The Rains of Ranchipur, which has lovely alliteration. We don't get quite that volume of precipitation and there are no elephants about, but it rains enough to turn everything in the high desert a bright green, and the javelina love it. Everybody loves it. The creek below our house is running and the entire landscape is transformed.
I've finished the story for the Byook Lovecraftian app tentatively titled THE MOANING WORDS. At over 40,000 words, it's practically a novel in and of itself. Now I'm writing alternate scenes and dialogue for the user to explore. Very thought-intensive, as no alternate can contradict what follows later in the story. Many years ago I wrote a game for a Palo Alto start-up that unfortunately was never finished or released, so it's both enjoyable and interesting to be able to once again create such a story. The fact that it's for a French company adds a certain frisson to the whole project.
Apropos of which, Byook will have a booth at Necronomicon (22-25 August) in Providence, RI, and I'll be there as well so that I can speak in person about the project. The last time I was in New England was for Boskone in 1983, so I hope to see all those old acquaintances who aren't yet dead. And if they are dead, and they show up anyway, well, what more appropriate Con to attend?
The legacy publishing industry is becoming more and more like Hollywood, with important people retiring or leaving the business every week and publishing houses continuing to consolidate. For the second time, I believe I've had a couple of novels set aside because the editor or publisher who wanted them is now no longer around. Very frustrating.
I can't talk about several possible ongoing film projects. This is of no import since such things actually coming to fruition are about as rare as albino cheetahs. I am, however, writing a long Lovecraftian story (a little more than half the length of a full novel) for the French software company Byook. The story will be the basis for an interactive app that in addition to the tale itself will feature multi-directional storytelling, music, animation, an integrated card game, and more. It's a nice change of pace from writing a straightforwardly linear book. It's also nice to be working within the Cthulhu Mythos again. A fun place, as long as your immortal soul and assorted significant body parts aren't at stake. Which I cannot say for the characters in the story. More than that I can't give away at this time, but hopefully the opportunity will be granted in the future. Ia, Ia, Shub-niggurath, and all that, you know.
A mother dove nesting in an old rusty child's wagon behind our house has given birth to a pair of dark-eyed offspring. All three sit there, about a meter from our master bathroom window, and silently contemplate the wild world of our backyard. BK, the only one of our seven cats we allow outside, discovered them yesterday and was effectively warned off. BK is only permitted outside when we are present, as witness the lone coyote spotted trotting down the creek at about ten a.m. the same day. A domestic cat of any size is nothing but a nosh to a coyote, which do not hesitate to take household pets when the opportunity presents itself. He gave me a sidelong glance as he loped along his way that said clearly, "I'm heading down to the lake; just passing through." As there are about eight million cottontails, the occasional jackrabbit, and twice as many packrats in the vicinity of the house right now, I don't worry about the coyote's pups receiving sufficient nourishment. Plenty of hummingbirds about, too, though I don't know the species.
Appeared on Channel 7's morning show today, discussing the future of the motion picture industry (it has one). A fast and furious back-and-forth with not nearly enough time to get into the relevant details. The subject of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West's baby's name game up. Though I wince at the unwanted impingement on my cerebral cortex, it is impossible in our tightly interlinked world to escape at least passing familiarity with such subject matter. When queried by one of the show's hosts, I avowed as how I did not think "North" such a terrible name as seems to be the general feeling. Perhaps because I have fond memories of C. L. Moore's Northwest Smith stories. Or possibly because I spent a lot of time on the fringes of south Los Angeles, where distinctive names are the norm rather than the exception (how does "Applyes Ford" strike you?). Myself, I'd take "North West" over "Bob Smith" any day.
RAW Powerlifting's American Challenge concludes this weekend, but I'm not participating. The stresses, strains, and pains that come with preparing for a meet are taking an increasing toll on assorted joints and muscles, and I just don't have the time to prepare properly. We're getting ready to take in two more cats, whose owner can no longer deal with them. How can people abandon long-time companions like that? I just can't rationalize it. I'm going to put the cats in my study, which will be a first. If they break some stuff, well, the older I get, the less "stuff" means to me.
Just returned from the Houston Comicpalooza convention, which in a few years has grown from half a dozen tables to 10-15,000 people. It was exceptionally well run, with eager volunteer help energetically complimenting the professional con-runners, and I highly recommend it to anyone in the region who is looking for something fun to do over Memorial Day weekend next year. If I had to register one complaint, it was that there was only one general book dealer present. Dealer room tables were exceptionally reasonable, and booksellers in the area might profitably consider attending and purchasing booths for next year. The one book dealer, local Murder by the Book, did very well, earning back their participation cost by Friday afternoon. They sold fifty copies of STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS and, somewhat to my surprise, twenty of PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN, which when made available in printed form appears to have a highly viable life outside its targeted e-book audience. As numerous purchasers of the non-fiction book told me, "You can't get much of an author's signature on an ebook".
In addition to renewing a long-running friendship with Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and his delightful wife Angie, I was able to make the acquaintance of Craig Parker (General Gaius Glaber in TV's SPARTACUS and the doomed elf Haldir in the first two Lord of the Rings films). Craig is from Aotearoa, so we talked about New Zealand, Murray Ball's Footrot Flats, and more. Another delightful guy was Joe Gatt ("Albino" in cable's BANSHEE, a small role in STID, "Kratos" in the game GOD OF WAR, and much more). We discussed his move from London to L.A., his film and TV work, and nutrition, though he has to focus on personal appearance while I'm simply interested in maintaining strength. As his career continues to blossom, I hope he is given the opportunity to play more than villains, even if they do get all the best lines. I made an attempt to meet Michelle Rodriguez, but she was only there for one day, her autograph line was daunting, and I didn't want to interrupt the steady flow of money that was flowing her way. I did get to say hello to Patrick Stewart, whose arthritis plainly made his own interminable signing line much more of an effort than it might have been. He was exhausted when I encountered him in the Green Room so I merely introduced myself, said hello, and left him in peace.
The con took over a big chunk of the huge Houston convention center, with Galacticon, a separate venue for fans of Battlestar Galactica, more or less folding into the larger convention. There were some excellent hall costumes, and the usual plethora of misguided ones (see: Rotsler's Rules of Costuming: http://www.greatwesternmedicineshow.com/neofans/rotslers.htm). I very much enjoyed myself. Arizona being a corned beef and pastrami desert as well as a literal one, I availed myself of the opportunity to obtain a couple of pounds of each from the famous local deli Kenny & Ziggy's. We'll see how it compares to the product from the Carnegie in New York and Langer's in Los Angeles. On the way home, the plane broke. Taxied out to the jetway and had to return to the gate, where everyone was required to disembark and board another plane. United gets a lot of bad press these days, but their ground crew handled the mess very efficiently and the final delay for me in gettng home amounted to only a couple of hours. Apparently the 737's backup air system failed (new plane, too). This allows the pilots to control the plane in the event the main hydraulics are rendered inoperable. Plainly not a situation in which you want to fly.
It looks as if I am going to write an original novella that will be the basis for an interactive app to be produced by a French software company. Details to come.
Here's a link to a company that's producing beautiful Star Trek starship models for sale: http://www.startrek-starships.com/. And an article about them and their efforts: http://www.startrek.com/article/first-look-65-new-star-trek-ships-taking-flight.
And finally...there is a fair amount of fan art out there that relates to my work, but little that's as professional as this rendition of Kitten Kai-sung by the renowned digital artist known as Arcas. Keep in mind as you goggle at it (this is different from googling) that Kitten (from BLOODHYPE) is six-foot-two.
For years I've touted Murray Leinster's short story A LOGIC NAMED JOE (March 1946 issue of ASTOUNDING) as an example of predictive SF. At a time when there were maybe six functional computers on the planet, and they took up entire laboratories, Leinster (real name Will F. Jenkins) produced an entertaining, amusing, and cautionary tale that predicts the home computer, the internet, Skype, something akin to Google's search algorithm, and a general thought on the Singularity...none of which existed at the time. It's a remarkable little excursion into literary prognostication. So I was more than a little shocked and pleasantly surprised to see both it and its author mentioned in a piece on futurism on this past Sunday's (28 April) CBS SUNDAY MORNING. Murray Leinster referenced on network TV: who woulda thunk it? We're used to seeing such luminaries as Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein mentioned, but when a major network gets around to recognizing other authors it says that the penetration of SF into the wider culture is finally proceeding at an acceptable pace. LOGIC is a fine story and available from multiple sources, as is the rest of Leinster's work. He remains my second favorite writer of SF (after Eric Frank Russell). For pure fun and sense-of-wonder I recommend his novels THE PIRATES OF ERSATZ (also known as THE PIRATES OF ZAN) and FORGOTTEN PLANET (bad science, great adventure). Leinster also wrote SIDEWISE IN TIME, the first parallel universe story, and FIRST CONTACT, the first real...well, first contact story.
I seem to be doing more interviews than real writing lately, partially due to interest in the forthcoming release of the new STAR TREK film and its accompanying novelization. Also, I've been involved with not one but four possible film projects. I refuse to talk about them much until something definite materializes. Which is unlikely, given the way the film business works, but having four irons in the fire beats having just one. For a change, maybe something will actually eventuate. Meanwhile there are three or four short stories set to come out, and several completed novels being read hither and yon (great name for a publisher, I think).
I've watched a lot of the History Channel's series VIKINGS, but for every interesting historical incident or reference that draws my interest, there is twice as much soap opera and hack-and-slash, at which point I turn to something else. I much preferred the channel's THE MEN WHO MADE AMERICA, where the action was interwoven with a good deal more real historical material.
I haven't seen the Oscar-nominated Norweigian film of KON-TIKI, but other than the addition of color I don't see how it can top the original Oscar-winning documentary...or the book, which everyone who loves adventure fiction should read. A few years ago I spent some time on the island of Raroia, where the Kon-tiki finally fetched up after crossing the Pacific, but only had part of a day there. It's always strange to stand on a place of historical significance. Like looking at the excavated grave site of the Romanovs in central Russia and trying to envision what happened there (it's now a very innocuous hole in the ground in the middle of a typical Russian forest).
In addition to speaking on Star Wars and Splinter of the Mind's Eye at a local film festival, I also had the pleasure of introducing a showing of FORBIDDEN PLANET. I hadn't seen it on a big screen in many years, much less in the cleaned-up restored edition, and it still look great.
Along with fellow scribes David Brin and David Gerrold, I appeared on the recent two episodes of the Science Channel's excellent show, ALIEN ENCOUNTERS 2. I'm sure these episodes will be repeated, and I recommend them highly as a serious attempt to consider how our species might actually react to an alien visitation. The show is extremely well-made and quite thought-provoking.
A couple of weeks ago I found myself flying directly over Tehran while watching ARGO on my Emirates Air video monitor. How's that for a surreal moment? I kept glancing out the window looking for Iranian air force jets, but apparently the presence of one writer on board did not constitute a sufficient threat to justify an intercept.
What struck me the most during this return flight home, other than the magnificent volcano that dominates the mountain range east of the city, was how empty most of Iran is. Endless vistas of eroded mountains and barren brown desert etched only by the occasional road, town, or agricultural development. From the air, it looks a lot like Utah or New Mexico.
I was in Dubai as a guest speaker at the Emirates Literature Festival. This huge production is now in its fifth year and grows exponentially each time. Present were more than 100 authors and attendance topped 30,000. I managed a brief exchange with Dan Rather, looking hale and mellow at 81 and on his way back to Afghanistan. One panel on which I sat included Ian Rankine, Lynda LaPlante (author of TV's PRIME SUSPECT) and Deborah Moggach, whose novel was the basis for the film THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL. The only trouble with being on such a panel is you don't want to talk: you just want to listen to the other panelists.
What is most striking about Dubai is that everything is brand-new, raised up out of the desert in the last twenty years by a forward-thinking and ambitious ruling family. Freeways are 4-6 lanes and move at two speeds: 100 mph +, or dead stop. The first when it's not rush hour, and the latter when some crazed driver has usually been stopped dead. Accidents are not just common, but frequent. At 2717', the Burj Khalifa (of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 4 fame) is not just the world's tallest building by far, but manifestly something out of a SF film set. It's a beautiful structure, and the outside observation deck (at 1524' the world's highest) is something to experience. Next to the Burj is the Dubai Mall, only one of several immense malls that speckle the cityscape. With 1200+ shops, it also claims to be the world's biggest. Then there's the billowing-sail-like hotel, the Burj Jumeriah, which claims self-assigned six-star status. The light supper I had there was pleasant enough, but nine bucks for a glass of iced tea struck me as bit excessive even for a high-class hotel. Nouveau-riche Russians seem to adore the place.
Each mall features representative offerings of every American fast-food company you can think of, plus more "upscale" eateries like Red Lobster and Outback. Since only 17% of the population is native Emirati, everyone speaks English. It's the only way a taxi driver from Bangaldesh can communicate with the gas station attendant from India and the janitor from Manila. In fact, outside the Festival there was a conclave taking place titled "Are we losing our Arabic?" since every educated Emirati has to learn English in order to talk to the maid, gardener, and that order-taker at Burger King. There are three excellent newspapers, of which two are in English.
I spoke with several Emiratis who would love to talk more freely about how they wish the whole Israel-Palestine mess would just go away. Bad for business and nothing to do with them, anyway. But speaking that way forcefully, even in Dubai, can prove dangerous. The feeling is that if only that particular situation could be settled, life would be truly wonderful from Morocco all the way to Indonesia.
My host and guide was the redoubtable Noura al-Noman. Noura has written and sold (to Egypt's largest publisher) the first SF novel written by an Arab woman, among other works. Somehow she also finds time to raise six kids (her teenage daughters are delightful) and act as the director of the executive office of the wife of the ruler of Sharjah (one of the Emirates you don't hear about). She hopes to start a small publishing business to publish modern SF in Arabic...which no one has done. Here are Noura and I doing our presentation on "SF - Crossing Continents".
Wrote a short story called SPACE MARINE. Those of you who follow controversies within the field of SF will understand the significance of the title, which was deliberately chosen. I rarely write a story to make a specific point. This one is so intended.
The novelization of STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is finished and at the publisher. I believe the planned released date is 21 May, though that could certainly change. I think the book is a heckuva read.
Not much else to report (hey, it's a short month). I'm doing a monthly column on art and science for 5enses, a local free magazine. I get to vent about such things as the prices paid for contemporary "art" and the increasing prevalence on TV of soothing drug commercials.
The funniest commercial I've seen in a year is one by VW. I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't seen it, so I'll simply call it the "ski mask" commercial. Not only is it hilarious, it also accomplishes the unique feat of actually causing the viewer to remember the product being hyped: something that doesn't always happen with funny sales pitches.
THE MAD SCIENTIST'S GUIDE TO WORLD DOMINATION, edited by the redoutable John Joseph Adams, is now out. The story I did for it, RURAL SINGULARITY, reflects not only travels through country I know but people I met in the course of those travels. I tried (as I always do) to take a bit of a different approach to the theme of the anthology and I'm pleased with how it turned out. I hope you like it.
Simon & Schuster requested that I fly to Los Angeles to view the latest rough cut of STAR TREK - INTO DARKNESS so that I would be able to reference the film as accurately as possible (to date) in the novelization. I dutifully complied. I love viewing rough cuts. One could put together a pretty decent quick course in How to Make a Movie simply by viewing sequences and rough cuts (as opposed to dailies).
The first rough cut I ever saw was in 1970 as a graduate film student at UCLA. A notice was posting offering bus transportation from the school over to Warner Bros. to view the rough of a new film. Unfortunately, it was a western. I've never been a fan of western films, though as a little kid I was a regular viewer of Hopalong Cassidy (white hair...what kind of western hero had white hair? I was fascinated). Also The Lone Ranger (for the opening music, which introduced me to Rossini at a very early age, and for Tonto, who I kept expecting to kick the Ranger's butt). And most of all, The Cisco Kid. Those hats! Those glittering outfits! A fat sidekick who, beyond just being there for comic relief, could ride and shoot. Oh Pancho! Oh Cisco! Oh hey, not every hero in the old west was anglo. Between Duncan Reynaldo, Leo Carillo, and Zorro (never mind who was actually behind the mask) I got a crash course in Latino heroics long before Benecio del Toro and Antonio Banderas were born. Catch an extremely young Duncan Reynaldo in the important early talkie TRADER HORN, which features on-location African footage. It's a long way from early California.
Oh right...Warner Bros. I swallowed my dislike of cinematic westerns, though I'd enjoyed the ones a very young Peter Bogdanovich featured in his graduate course on the films of Howard Hawks (I got a B+...still think I deserved an A, Peter), and signed up for the viewing. The rough cut was of a production no one had ever heard of yet...THE WILD BUNCH. Yup, that Wild Bunch. Us bunch of graduate film students were pretty flabbergasted by what we saw up on the screen. Slow-motion death rolls. Slow-motion blood bursts. All the "good guys" getting shot to bits. There was a lot of chatter as we headed out of the screening room. Standing at the back were Sam Peckinpah and a bunch of Warner Bros. suits. From the looks on their faces as they scanned their young departing guests you would've thought we comprised the top forty film critics in the country. I remember there were opinion cards to fill out...I don't remember what I put on mine. I was still seeing William Holden and Ernest Borgnine happily marching to their deaths, guns blazing as they and their dirty dozen-type comrades took what seemed like a couple of thousand renegade Mexican soldiers with them.
I don't think Hoppy would have approved.
You know the arch Xmas song, "Grandma got run over by a reindeer"? Last week I nearly got run over by a couple of white-tail deer. The narrow road we live on dead-ends at our house, and since we have a bit of acreage, and since there is water all-year around in the creek below the place, we're visited by critters all the time. But it's rare to encounter deer on the road itself. They favor the steep hillsides and the vegetation-screen creek bed of our canyon, and are wary of our two dogs. I was just heading to the market when a pair of does came crashing through the brush immediately parallel to my car. Deer tend to panic and run hither-tither without first analyzing the situation, kind of like tea party Republicans. In rural Texas some twenty years ago I had the misfortune of slamming into one that leaped in front of our van (a deer, not a tea-partier). We stopped immediately, but there was nothing for it but to put the poor thing down. At least the meat wasn't wasted.
In this instance I was able to hit the brakes in time. Sure enough, both animals broke cover to dash right in front of me, heading for the presumed safety of the creek bed. I love wildlife, but not in the front seat of my car, and not if they enter via the windshield.
It put me in mind of how well certain species do, even in a semi-urban environment, if they're protected. Or in the case of deer, if their principle predators (in this case, mountain lions) are removed. Driving to Prescott Valley a few days ago I passed part of the local pronghorn herd, about a dozen adults in all. The fastest land animal in North America, pronghorns evolved their exceptional speed in order to flee the American cheetah. The cheetah is now extinct, but its prey remains. Watching these beautiful animals graze, I couldn't help wondering if they've become slower than their ancestors.
Try to find Dave Barry's Year-end summary for 2012. Guaranteed to be the funniest thing you'll read all day. The Washington Post still has it on its website. Barry is one of the few columnist/humorists who consistently makes me laugh out loud. Not many writers could mine repeated guffaws out of something as apparently humorless as Predator drone strikes.
I'm writing a column on art and science for a new local (Prescott, Arizona) 'zine called 5enses. The first one is on modern art, the second (which I'll write when I finish this website update) will be on modern medicine. I've thought intermittently of writing a column and trying to syndicate it, but like everything else that would require time I can't seem to find. When someone specifically asks for something, though, I always try to oblige. I'll be on KAZT.tv in a week or so as part of a panel discussing gun control. Like everyone else, I have an idea or two. Being married to a Texan allows me to see sides to the issue that I might otherwise be unfamiliar with
Thanks to all those who sent birthday wishes. Having reached the ripe (some would say overripe) age of 66, I am put in mind of several things. First, birthdays do not have and have never had any especial significance to me. When one is even peripherally conscious of time on a cosmic scale, such miniscule happenings as rotations of one's planet of birth tend to lose the artificial importance placed on them by the natives. Not that I want the merry-go-round to stop, but at this point repeated revolutions are more important to me for the music (what I can see and experience) than the action (simply existing).
I've also become increasingly conscious of the fact that, through a combination of luck (good genes, over which I have no control) and elementary rationality (non-smoking, non-drinking, regular exercise, sensible eating habits) that I am still nonsensically healthy while others around me are losing important physical components or simply losing it entirely. The more I interact with healthy individuals who take those three basics to heart (in every sense of the word), the more convinced I am of their efficacy. You don't have to run triathlons, but you do have to work the body as well as the mind. And you don't have survive on a diet of radish greens and carrots. I bought a chocolate cream pie at Coco's yesterday. The key is to not buy a chocolate cream pie every week and to not eat half of it at a sitting.
Enough of that. I just finished reading a short biography of Erasmus...someone who would have been comfortable talking with Ben Franklin or da Vinci (there's a chat session I'd like to sit in on). A man responsible for two of my favorite quotes. "When I have a little money, I buy books. If I have anything left over, I buy food." And, "To stop learning is to start to die". Not bad for five-hundred year old aphorisms. Erasmus is also responsible for the term "Pandora's box" and "In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king".
THE SUM OF HER PARTS, the last volume in THE TIPPING POINT trilogy, is now out. The ebook versions of MIDWORLD and the ICERIGGER trilogy (the latter in one volume at an unbeatable price) are now available from Open Road Media. Jupiter Productions of Los Angeles, is in negotiations to take an option on the entire series of Pip & Flinx books.
The critter on my shoulder on the bio page is a Mayotte brown lemur. As far as I know, the French Comoros islands are the only place in the world outside of Madagascar where lemurs live in the wild (a good trivia question). They are habituated to humans, which drives the local farmers to distraction since the lemurs fearlessly nibble on local fruit. They are particularly friendly on M'bouzi island, where my portrait photo on the Bio page was taken. Here's another. They are, each and every one, irresistibly cute.
Late update because I was competing in the NASA (no, not that NASA...this one is the Natural Athlete Strength Association) Western Nationals powerlifting meet in Mesa. This following the 100% RAW Powerlifting Federation World meet in Las Vegas in late October. Which clearly proves that too much physical exertion leads to mental funginess. I did...okay. But I keep setting higher and higher goals for myself. World and state records, that sort of thing. What I have to continually remind myself is that at the level I am currently competing at, I have no one to chide for falling short other than myself, and that at that same level it's absurd to get down on myself for not always realizing my own goals. Also, competing in two major competitions in three weeks is...dumb. No way the body can respond properly to the second meet. There is, however, a solution: I'm now going to go and lift a pint of Graeter's coconut ice cream. Much easier, and resulting to a degree in a certain similar sense of satisfaction.
The unnameable project to which I alluded in the September update is, of course, the novelization of the next STAR TREK movie. I am now allowed to say that. Alas, I am not allowed to say anything else about it. It should appear roundabout the same time as the film.
As I was walking out to the study yesterday morning a family of javelina crossed about twenty yards in front of me. Dad, Mom, and two piglets. These tough omnivores survive quite well in close proximity to humans. I believe they have struck a deal with coyotes and the house sparrows. "You sparrows, you eat the seeds. You coyotes get the moving meat. We'll eat everything else, thank you." If you didn't know that javelinas can tear you up (that's tear as in rip, not tear as in make you cry), they'd qualify as cute.
Whenever someone complains about the "vicious" state of political campaigning these days, I refer them to the famous political cartoon of the times that depicts Abraham Lincoln as a monkey.
Fall is flung, and the wildflowers are starting to die back. Driving out of the house a couple of days ago I nearly ran into a couple of bucks paralleling the road. With so much forage around I don't understand why they're frequenting our area instead of hanging back inside the National Forest boundaries (Prescott is bordered on two sides by national forest). We're happy to have them visit, even though I think they're the ones responsible for munching my wife's roses. Now we've got something more substantial than gophers burrowing beneath the back patio. I'd leave it alone except that it's digging out all the sand on which the flagstone is positioned, and if left to its own devices the dang critter might collapse part of the patio.
Meanwhile Baby Kitty, the one cat we trust to let outside (and who I have nicknamed Batcat) has taken to climbing on the roof and the chimnies. Not good: not with our regular family of red-tailed hawks out during the day and great horned owls messing about at night (and I guarantee you, great horned owl poop is indeed messy). I try to keep her inside when we're not sitting outside, but I've become convinced that she has her own personal feline Star Trek transporter hidden somewhere in the vicinity of her litter box, and that I can't keep her inside no matter what I do.
For those of you who are fans of Mad Amos Malone, the Nov-Dec issue of the Magazine of Fantasy & Science-Fiction will have a new story, CLAIM BLAME. And I swear I wrote it before the related Discovery Channel series appeared. You'll have to read the story to understand the reference.
I'm just back from the World SF convention in Chicago, which runs over Labor Day weekend. I haven't been to a Worldcon in years, having instead chosen to go to the San Diego Comicon. San Diego is only a seven-hour drive from my home, therefore no need to deal with airports. The people I want to see are generally now at Comicon, and both Worldcons and the World Fantasy Convention have recently been in either awkward places to go (Tokyo) or places I have no interest in visiting. The best thing to me about a Worldcon is the Dealer's Room, where I can lounge among booksellers I know and talk rare books and odd finds. Sadly, Dragoncon and Worldcon are now being held on the same weekend, which makes things very awkward for those fans who might like to attend both.
I had a good time, though it seems as if the professional artists have opted to attend Dragoncon rather than Worldcon, so the art show was disappointing. But the dealer's room was fine, and there were innumerable panels on an equal number of subjects. I had a fine time visiting particularly with Robert Silverberg and Karen Haber, Steven Saffel, Walter John Williams, John Joseph Adams, and Erle Korshak, founder of Shasta Press. You always meet someone new and interesting at a Worldcon, if you just take the time to sit and listen.
Here's one of the more clever license plates I've seen recently, courtesy of my friend Stuart Schiff.
I'm hard at work on a project I can't name yet, but whose identity some of you can probably guess. Hopefully I'll be able to reveal it next month. It'll be out next year.
In September the folks at Open Road Media who did such a wonderful job with PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN as well as releasing excellent eBook versions of the Spellsinger series are going to do the same for the ICERIGGER trilogy and...MIDWORLD. For the first time, the trilogy will be released as a single volume. I hoped for years that the SF book club would put out such a compendium, but they ended up doing quite a few of my other titles and somehow the Icerigger books never made it as an omnibus volume. So here they are, finally: all three books together for the first time (ICERIGGER, MISSION TO MOULOKIN, and THE DELUGE DRIVERS). Both MIDWORLD and the trilogy will be priced at $9.99.
All my papers are in the Special Collections department of the Hayden Library at Arizona State University. Upon recently handing over several additional cartons of material I had occasion to riffle through the files of material I've donated over the years. Thanks to the hard work of the library, scholars and other qualifying parties can access materials that are now professionally and properly catalogued and preserved. Besides the obvious material such as first and final drafts of nearly all my fiction there is a host of ancillary items of interest. Correspondence between myself and Peter Ellenshaw from when I was doing the book version of THE BLACK HOLE, stills and drawings from some of the films I've novelized, the correspondence detailing the, um, disagreement over the writing credits to ST:TMP (including my original treatment), the original manuscript for the book version of STAR WARS, James Cameron's first draft of ALIENS (the one I worked from), and so on.
There is also a great deal of material relating to unrealized or unfinished projects. One can read ENCOUNTER FROM TYBER, the fictional project on which I collaborated with Buzz Aldrin; the manuscript of my novelization of the famous two-part TV episode MAUDE GETS AN ABORTION, which Norman Lear decided not to have published, and more. There are numerous unfilmed screenplays, including PENGUIN ON THE HOOF, an original two-parter I wrote for TV's BATMAN, my adaptation of the Robert Bloch short story I KISS YOUR SHADOW that I did on spec for young, then-unknown would-be producer Ronald Schusett, the full treatment for the proposed feature-length animated film DRAGON'S LAIR - RING OF TRUTH which I wrote for Don Bluth, and which is based on the influential early video game of the same name, A HORRIBLE STORY I composed for NIGHT GALLERY that was reviewed by Rod Serling just prior to his death, IN SEARCH OF THE BOOK OF BEYOND which in 1982 I proposed to LucasFilm as an Indiana Jones adventure, story proposals for Gene Roddenberry's TV project PLANET EARTH (including the then-controversial black-white reversal version of the U.S. Old South); the extensive proposal and outline for a book trilogy on which I worked with William F. Nolan (LOGAN'S RETURN, LOGAN'S CHALLENGE, and LOGAN'S BLOOD), and so much more. So many might-have-beens, so much history.
Among the materials are the original working titles for many books. Union of Ice became ICERIGGER. Malendipity became GLORY LANE. Limits became TO THE VANISHING POINT. Sail the Crack in the World transmuted to VOYAGE TO THE CITY OF THE DEAD. The Manminders = GREENTHIEVES. The Codgernetic Collusion became CODGERSPACE. Arramati = THE HOWLING STONES. And more. There are early unsold, unpublished short stories, lots of correspondence with my agents (including Virginia Kidd), and my radio scripts for dramatized episodes from American history that I did for Oregon Public Radio. Game related materials include details for the very early video game SHADOWKEEP, LucasArts materials relating to THE DIG, and all the game designs etc. I worte for the unrealized video game THE MAREXX. Alas, there's not nearly enough space to reproduce any of it here.
Because of concerns about my knees I hadn't done squats in more than twenty years, so when I competed in full power at the RAW American Challenge last week I was more than a little nervous, though preparations had gone reasonably well in the gym (i.e., everything more or less functioned as Nature intended). I did manage to set a new Arizona state record for full power in my age and weight class with a total for the three lifts of 837 lbs (231 lb squat, 298 lb bench press, 308 lb dead lift). I feel I can improve on both the squat and dead lift, though I have to be constantly watchful of my knees and my back. Ideally, I'd like to achieve a 900 total. The bench press is a RAW world record for bench as a component of full power, though it's still 10 pounds shy of the single-lift record. If I'm lucky and work hard, I might still be able to get that particular record before assorted important pieces start falling off the machine.
When imagining their work being filmed, writers always "cast" their stories. Occasionally they'll score them with favorite bits of music. If MIDWORLD is ever (ahem) filmed, I'd want to set a scene in the Home tree where the tribesfolk are crowded around listening to the local female bard while the rain falls and the unseen alien fauna fill the night with sounds both exotic and unsettling. I'd have my bard lip-sync some of the great Yma Sumac's song CHUNCHO, in which she sings/imitates the sounds of the creatures of the Amazon. Said movie, alas, isn't in the offing, but here is Ms. Sumac doing Chuncho and demonstrating the full range of her 5-and-a-half octave voice. Listen for the extraordinary double-trill she performs near the end, a feat of vocal gymnastics not even she could pull off all the time. Play it back at night, with the volume up and the lights turned out. In this archival video she's lip-syncing to her famous Capitol Records recording of the song, but I have a version of her singing it live where she goes even higher. If you've never heard, or heard of, Yma Sumac, she had one of the great voices of all time. Moises Vivanco, credited on screen, was her husband and occasional arranger. For those who are interested there is much more on the web and on youtube.
I'm still slowly easing back into my daily routine: writing in the morning, working out in the afternoons. Occasionally I'll reverse the procedure, especially on a hot day. Though it's in an industrial steel building, the club where I lift is not air-conditioned and can get warmish later in the day.
With the advent of summer weather there are birds everywhere on the property. Some I see regularly are brown and rufous-sided towhees, scrub jays, assorted woodpeckers, western flickers, quail, dove, grosbeak, and roadrunners (they don't go "beep-beep"...it's more of a burrrpp, like a nine-year old imitating a machine gun). A pair of ducks land on the creek most mornings, and yesterday a great blue heron went gliding by on its way upstream. We were eating dinner outside on a restaurant patio in town last week when a great horned owl soared past betwixt the power lines and the moon, and last night I saw the most brilliant meteor (or piece of kamikazing space junk) I've ever seen. A real fireball that lasted many seconds and flashed green for an instant. I'm fortunate to live in a nice part of the planet.
I have been cast as the main bad guy in an upcoming, proposed independent film called 41A (the title refers to a minor highway in Arizona). Shooting tentatively scheduled for southern Arizona late this year. Meanwhile the trailer for an independent Russian film titled 29th Kilometer, about rock n' roll in central Russia, is now posted. I helped smooth out the English subtitles. Now, if the title of the next Star Trek film, for which I am to do the novelization, is something like Eighty Parsecs to Nowhere, I'm going to think that either the Fates are playing games with me...or that I need to hurry up and buy a new atlas. Here is the trailer for 29th Kilometer. Jon-Tom would understand.
This month's update is a week late because I just returned from ten days in Australia followed by another ten in Vanuatu. In Sydney I met with Trevor Howis, the producer of the proposed SPELLSINGER movie. I'm happy to report that while nothing is firmed up as yet, things are moving along and good progress is being made. I hope to have something more concrete to announce within the next few months. A film of this scope, which would be done in two parts, can take up to five years from the initial query to the release of the actual movie. Australian artist Chris Wahl continues to be involved with preproduction artwork while Trevor and I have advanced to specific discussion of voice performers.
Following two days of talks in Sydney I traveled north to the Brisbane area, where I was a guest speaker at the Gold Coast film festival. Among the highlights was the Australian premiere of one of the more outrageous SF films you're likely to encounter in the near future, the nazis-in-space epic IRON SKY. I was prepared for pretty much anything, but not the extraordinary sfx that the producers somehow managed to create on a comparatively minimal budget. The plot is all over the place, but I can see John Landis chortling uncontrollably even as I write. I introduced a showing of an original 35mm print of STAR TREK: THE MOVIE, spoke with fans, and generally enjoyed myself except for the seriously rough ocean conditions that prevented any serious body surfing or boogie boarding. Spoke a couple of times with Wil Wheaton (nice fella) and spent a fair bit time of time with the estimable Shane Rangi, who is on screen a fair bit in the Lord of the Rings films as well as just about every fantasy film that's done any shooting in New Zealand.
Following the ten days in Oz, I headed three hours northeast to the small Pacific nation of Vanuatu. Vanuatu's populace is primarily Melanesian, the same as the Solomons, New Guinea, and Fiji. Vanuatu likes to call itself the happiest nation on Earth (take that, Bhutan) and from the amount of laughter I heard every day, it may well be so...notwithstanding the high number of shiftless, kava-imbibing young men I encountered every day on the streets of the capital, Port Vila. I spent the first five days on the southern island of Tanna, famous for its coffee and (moreso) the extremely accessible and continuously active volcano Mt. Yasur. The mountain's evening display was sufficiently awesome that I went twice, despite the almost impassable road leading to it from the more populated side of the island (two hours each way via 4x4 over some barely passable "roads"). Tanna reminded me strongly of the simpler, more relaxed French Polynesia of forty years ago. No real town, chickens and pigs everywhere, endless pockets of kids, and a way of life that is rapidly vanishing from this part of the world.
From Tanna I made my way to the island of Efate and the country's main city, Port Vila. Again, reminders of old Tahiti in the form of narrow streets, rickety buildings crammed together like old men at a tea social, roofs of corrugated steel, raised sidewalks that rarely met at the same level, and no nightlife. Nice hotel, though, and a wonderfully scenic harbor. Some decent snorkeling, but the diving was disappointing: dark with lots of drifting particulate matter clouding the water, minimal coral, few (and clearly frequently fished) sea life. No fish of any size...they're all in local pots. A marine biologist and I circled the island as well as taking an afternoon sojourn on the northern island of Pele, where the snorkeling was supposed to be great (but wasn't). But Efate itself, and its people, were a delight, as were the mocha milkshakes at Jill's Cafe in town.
I am delighted to announce that Open Road Media, the folks who have brought you PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN and done the ebook editions of all the SPELLSINGER books, have bought the rights to and will be doing ebook versions of the ICERIGGER trilogy as well as MIDWORLD. I don't have the release months yet but for those who are interested, a query to Open Road might well produce actual dates.
And to conclude, herewith three-and-a-half minutes of Mt. Yasur in high-def. Turn up your volume.
More next month.
No snow in December, no snow in January, no snow in February...then on March 19 we get hit with the fourth biggest single-day snowfall since the 19th century. 13 inches. That won't impress folks in Buffalo, but it kept us snowed in for a day.
Four white-tail deer crossing the hillside opposite my study right now, and the ducks are back in our creek. Three white-breasted nuthatches on the elm tree. Flickers trying (as they do every year) to drill nesting holes in the roof of my study. Towhees (both canyon and spotted) everywhere. First calling frog of the season down on the creek. First snake (western racer). From Winter to Spring in less than a week.
I have posted THE PHISHER to Amazon's Kindle store. This is the biographer of "Alex Sam", a Nigerian phisher I met on the internet and who, out of dozens of similar scammers I replied to, actually got in contact with me and subsequently made some radically positive changes to his life. It's a fascinating tale, full of near escapes and unpleasant realities. If you've ever wondered how young Nigerians get caught up in this disreputable world-wide enterprise, why they do so, and how some of the phishing internet scams work, you might want to check out the short book. Sam's details are far too ordinary and realistic to be fabricated. Learn, for example, how corrupt Lagos cops know exactly how much bail to charge each of the suspected phishers they haul out of internet cafes, and what foods to bribe them with. Sam's tale is part Midnight Express, part Neuromancer, all in an African setting. Read about it and you'll view those irritating daily phishing emails in an entirely new light.
I am pleased to report that the magazine of Fantasy and Science-fiction will be publishing CLAIM BLAME, the latest Mad Amos Malone short story...and I swear that I wrote it before Discovery Channel's reality show Bering Sea Gold came on the air!
BODY, INC., the second volume of The Tipping Point trilogy, was released by Del Rey this past Tuesday (27 March). I am delighted to add that THE SUM OF HER PARTS, the third and final volume, will be released on November 27th of this year, so those of you who have been following the story will have only a modest number of months to wait until the conclusion becomes available. On a directly opposite note, I have to go make weight as I am competing in the RAW Southwest Regional powerlifting championships tomorrow. This outing, in addition to the bench press I am going to see how my back and knees handle the dead lift (a poorly named event for older exercisers if there ever was one). It is consoling to know that I can always type while lying down.
It was a short month, and this will be a short update. More of a placeholder than anything, really. I'm not one of these inveterate bloggers who feels compelled to ramble on and on just to hear himself babble. Not that I don't have an opinion on just about everything...I do. It's just that I don't see the need to pontificate interminably on subjects from elections in Senegal to judicial decisions in Ecuador that are already available in profusion on the daily news. If someone asks for my views on a specific subject, I'm always happy to give it. This is one reason why I don't work in Hollywood or politics. For all too many folks, the line between curmudgeonliness and honesty is blurred to the point where they can't discern the difference. So, not being a syndicated columnist, I generally forbear from inflicting my opinions on those around me, many of whom are already understandably numbed from the inescapable weekly fusillade of opinion and news.
Besides, much of it is too depressing to mess with. I prefer to keep (perhaps cling would be a more accurate word) to an optimistic long view, for which discussion of daily events is less than encouraging. Those of you who are familiar with my writing know that even the ostensibly darker tales, like THE MAN WHO USED THE UNIVERSE or TO THE VANISHING POINT, terminate in more or less update endings. I'm just not one for killing off the good guys. If I want that sort of realism I just go to the morning news, where good guys and gals perish on a regular basis and far too many warlords and dictators enjoy long and contented lives.
Open Road Media, the publishers of the Spellsinger ebook editions as well as PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN, is going to do a formal print run of the latter so that bookstores can order it in. Previously the hc and pb versions were only available as individual print-on-demand orders.
Two inches of snow fell in Prescott last night, after a month of Spring-like weather. The desert, including the high desert, badly needs the moisture. The dogs are busy chasing rabbits (they never catch them), I nearly hit a coyote a couple of days ago (when will they ever learn to use crosswalks?), towhees and juncos are busy at our feeders, as are the chipmunks (cat TV, live), and the local raptors (American kestrels, peregrine falcons, hawks, and bald eagles) are busy fishing Willow and Watson lake. I still can't get used to driving to Costco or Home Depot and seeing a bald eagle sitting calmly atop a dead tree, watching for fish.
Too short notice, alas, but for those who are in a position to read it in time and are interested, I will be a guest on KUSK-TV, Arizona's Morning Scramble show, some time between 8:45 and the end of the show, talking about the future of bookstores, ebooks, and publishing.
I will be attending the Gold Coast Film Festival in Queensland, Australia as a guest, approximately 19-26 April. In addition to the usual speaking and signing stuff I will be conducting a writing master class. Details for anyone interested can be found on the festival's website, www.gcfilmfestival.com. I hope to meet and chat with as many Aussie (and traveling) fans as possible. Prior to the festival I will be meeting in Sydney with producer Trevor Howis and others to discuss details of the proposed film of SPELLSINGER. I hope when I return home to have more information on the project available for public consumption, including updated images of Jon-Tom and...yes...the duar.
Following the festival I hope to head to Vanuatu for a week. I've always wanted to see Mt. Yasur, one of the world's most accessible continuously active volcanoes. Vanuatu, especially the outer islands, is a bit off the beaten track...the kind of track I like. Tanna, the island on which Mt. Yasur is located, preserves and boasts a very unique cultural identity. I used it as the basis for the alien society in my Commonwealth novel THE HOWLING STONES. To be able to visit the actual source of inspiration should be akin to stepping into one of my own stories.
The redoubtable Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi is editing an anthology of Lovecraftian tales, for which I have done a story called THE DOOR BENEATH. It's been a while since I did anything in the Lovecraftian vein and it was a delight to return to it. I will also be doing a new Mad Amos Malone tale for an anthology of "weird western" stories edited by John Joseph Adams. No title as yet. There are also some exciting new developments on the ebook front involving out-of-print titles that a number of you have expressed fervent desire in seeing released in such format.
Another year flashes by. Time speeds up, Einsteinian or otherwise. I am now on Medicare, which strikes me as ineffably weird. I hope never to have to use it, though logic, reason, and history would seem to dictate otherwise. Occasionally I pull out the little card and stare at it, wondering what otherworldly entity it actually belongs to. There are times when I feel like the flyver in the famous Laurel and Hardy short, tootling along until the wheels come off and the engine and transmission fall out. At other times I feel exactly as I did when I was 30, except that I'm in better shape now. It's all very strange...but then, it's a strange cosmos.
I finished RELIQUARY and turned it in to the Kidd Agency. We'll see who bites. There are not one but two possible anthologies in the works, one of which would gather all the Commonwealth short fiction together in one volume, in chronological order. Among other things, this depends on obtaining a release to a certain story from a particular publisher. We shall see.
No writing plans for the New Year as yet. BODY, INC. will be out in the Spring. Then, who knows? It looks as if I will be a guest at the Gold Coast Film Festival in conjunction with Supracon, to be held in Brisbane and Gold Coast, Australia the end of April. I'll also be conferencing with the folks who are striving to bring SPELLSINGER to the screen. If naught else, I'll certainly be making a stop at Mt. Yasur on the way home.
A number of folks have written inquiring about new books other than those that are part of THE TIPPING POINT trilogy (the second, BODY, INC., will be out in April). Part of the reason is that several titles, including BLUE MAGIC and MADRENGA, are still being read. Anything that isn't Stephen King or Neil Gaiman takes longer to be perused than in the old days. You can blame the popularity of video games and the confusion over how to deal with ebooks for the slow-down in the publishing industry. And I couldn't write a romantic vampire novel if I tried...which I wouldn't. Nothing against them, but they're not my cup of blood.
Another reason for the temporary paucity of titles relates to my involvement with a very large project to which I alluded many months ago but could not speak of until now. I refer to ENDWORLDS, by Nicholas Read, wherein I had a hand doing quite a bit of scribing. As this involved not only narrative but a vast amount of non-fictional reference material, it occupied quite a bit of time. The first volume, ENDWORLDS 1.1, is now available as an ebook. There is also video material, original symphonic music, all manner of odd non-fiction related stuff (some of it very odd and thought-provoking indeed), and much more, including some real-world searching that for various reasons I can't go into in detail...but you can, if you read the book and become involved in doing follow-up. What components of the books I wrote you will have to divine for yourselves...the entire enterprise is so much more than a novel. But least I can talk about it to some extent now. The unclassified parts, anyway.
The rough draft of RELIQUARY is finished and I expect to hand the finished manuscript in to my agents before Christmas.
Next month Hyperion will release on CD and mp3's the recording of the concert I attended in London on 17 July of the "cataclysmic" (their description) Havergal Brian Gothic symphony. I have listened to some excerpts and the recording quality appears to be excellent. I cannot recommend this recording too highly. There is nothing like the Gothic in all of music (except perhaps for some of Brian's other work). Listen to this recording and you'll understand why I traveled all the way to London to attend the live (and lamentably untelevised) performance. Hope for an American performance some day. Leonard Bernstein tried.
I rarely comment on graphic novels/comics. But occasionally something that stands out from the crowd pops into my field of you and I strive to pass along a recommendation. One such was the remarkable anthropomorphic (furry, if you prefer) BLACKSAD, which has been out for some time now. Recently I encountered the lovely DELILAH DIRK AND THE TURKISH LIEUTENANT, by Tony Cliff. Nominated for an Eisner award, the full 160-page graphic novel is currently only available in book form in French. However the entire opus is being offered 4-6 pages at a time, every Saturday, for free at: http://www.delilahdirk.com/ It concerns the adventures in 19th-century Turkey of a Greek Lara-Croft type and Selim, a Turkish officer whose encounter with Delilah turn his life upside down. Lovely, understated color artwork combined with writing for grown-ups.
I am 3/4 finished with rough draft of RELIQUARY. The publishing industry is changing so fast and with so much upheaval at the major publishers that it's difficult to know what is going to happen next or when. Meanwhile, to paraphrase Robert Crumb, I just keep on writin'.
For those of you who love classical music I recommend perusing http://www.good-music-guide.com/. Registering (free) on the site give you access to a vast quantity of downloadable rare classical performances, (also free) many available nowhere else. A chance to explore little-known works by composers you love and encounter great work by composers you never heard of (Vaino Raitio, anyone?). Most downloads are .mp3, but there are also a fair quantity of older, rarer selections in the .wma format. For those with iPods, etc., and MACS I recommend buying (very cheap it is) the easyWMA softwhere, which simply and quickly converts WMA files to .mp3 format.
Short update this month: hope to have more for December, including some convention travel plans.
I am delighted to announce that Vincero Productions of Australia has optioned the SPELLSINGER series for possible filming. At this point the intent is to do one or two films based on the first book (the hardcover, complete version). For those unfamiliar with the very limited edition of the Phantasia Press hardcover, this essentially would be the same as filming the two paperbacks. Everything is in the very pre-production stage at this point, from character design to possible voice talent. Funds must be raised and much more decided upon. I've already viewed the film (hundreds of times) in my mind's eye, but it would be beyond wonderful to be able to share those visions with those who are familiar with the books. There is already a facebook page set up to discuss the project. Go to: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Spellsinger/108279139193356. Production drawings and more will appear periodically on the page.
I am halfway through a stand-alone SF novel, RELIQUARY, which deals with the life of the last living human being. His name is Ruslan and he's not on Earth. But neither is he alone.
The Rainfurrest convention, held in Seattle the weekend of the 24th, was a lot of fun. I read my zombie story, FETCHED, which was rejected by the anthology editor who commissioned it (they wanted all the stories in the anthology to be from the zombie's point-of-view). Contrary POV or not, it was very well received by the audience, and I'm sure it will find a suitable home somewhere. One audience member from Georgia declared that it captured the atmosphere of that countryside and populace quite well.
On October 1st (which is why this upate is a couple of days late) I competed in the 100% RAW World Single-Lift Powerlifting Championships in Las Vegas. I won my age (60-64) and weight (198 lb.) division in the bench press with a final lift of 292.5 lbs., which I guarantee you astonishes me more than anyone else. In November I move up to the 65-69 age division and I hope to take a serious shot at the RAW world record for that age group...provided I don't break, sprain, crack, or shatter anything in the meantime. It's an interesting break (oops, poor choice of words) from writing.
I find the physical setting of Seattle and its surrounds the most beautiful in the U.S., surpassing even San Francisco. The food is wonderful and the new light rail system a delight, provided (like all such systems) that it happens to be going somewhere you want to go. In my case it was from the airport (one end) to Westlake Center (the other end). Westlake Center is an easy two-block walk from Pike Place Market. It was my first time to visit the market, which is a delightful mess of old buildings into which have been inserted fishmongers, specialty shops, restaurants, craftsfolk, and much more, with wonderful views of Puget Sound thrown in. The very first Starbucks is also there. Sadly, I no longer buy frappucinos at Starbucks in the U.S. since they changed the drink's base. But it's still the same as it was overseas. Borneo is a long way to have to go for a decent frappucino. Fortunately for my taste buds there is an independent here in Prescott (Method Coffee) that makes a blended mocha that tastes even better than the Starbucks' original.
No other convention appearances in the immediate future, but some possible surprises on the horizon. Meanwhile I wonder why the Canadians don't simply build a nice, shiny, new oil refinery near the Alberta tar sands and export the much higher value-added product that would result. They'd also gain some permanent jobs out of it while sparing the rest of us the Keystone pipeline. The finished, refined products could much more easily be slipped into the extensive existing U.S. petroleum products distribution system (trains, trucks, pipelines). Canadians in the vicinity would probably also benefit from lower gas/petrol prices. Unless of course the whole purpose of the project is to allow Canadian crude and finished products to be shipped overseas out of Texas at considerable profit to the oil companies involved...no, no, silly thought. Despite the consortium's earlier, failed attempt to build such a pipeline to the west coast of Canada, a project that was scuttled by First Nations opposition.
For those of you in the Seattle area looking for something to do the weekend of the 24th and would like to say hi, I will be serving as GoH at the Rainfurrest convention, being held at the Hilton Seattle airport hotel & conference center.
I am feeling a tad assaulted by Facebook requests from hundreds of people I don't know. Anyone who wishes to be friended on the site needs to include a bit of information about themselves with their query.
Here are a couple of shots from my time at Chernobyl. 300 meters from the reactor, dosimeter reading is a safe 500 microseverts/hr. At the fence surrounding the reactor, it goes to 10,000 microseverts/hr....not healthy. On top of the containment sarcophogus the reading is still over one million microseverts/hr. This will induce nausea, vomiting, radiation sickness and, with sufficient exposure, death. Workers in special protective gear atop the containment facility are limited to working no more than 10-15 minutes at time.
And here is some rough video taken during the final rehearsal of the Brian Gothic symphony. It's shaky and limited, but at least you can get an idea of the immense scale of the forces involved. 600 choristers in the ranked seats on either side of the orchestra, plus directly behind it. 150 in the two childrens' choirs on either side of the orchestra. 203 musicians, including 23 percussionists) and in the four symphonic bands that are only occasionally visible on either side of the auditorium. Plus the 8 trumpeters in the upper right section of the rafters (which section is included in this footage). And the unseen off-stage soprano solo. I would have dearly loved to have shot a lot more footage but....
If you're having trouble watching the video here, go directly to the vimeo website and search for my name.
Havergal Brian, Gothic symphony - excerpts from final rehearsal, 17 July 2011 from Alan Foster on Vimeo.
Just back from a couple of weeks overseas. Went to London for the BBC Proms performance of Havergal Brian's Gothic symphony. Unquestionably the highlight of a long life of concert-going. This was only the sixth performance of the piece ever and the first to be done exactly as the composer wished, with all the forces specified. 600 choristers, 150 in two children's choirs, the mighty Royal Albert Hall organ, four soloists, four off-stage symphonic bands, and an angelic brass offstage fanfare resounding from high in the uppermost level. 967 performers all told, I believe. The largest symphony ever written, and it awed the audience. People smiled, people cried, and at the quiet end the conductor wordlessly asked for and received half a minute of absolute silence. For that thirty seconds, it was as if no one in the hall breathed. Then a nine-minute standing ovation. It was a triumph, a piece of musical history, and worth every cent and moment it took to attend. Pictures in next month's update. As a bonus I was able to attend the opening night of the Proms, which featured a wonderful performance of Janacek's rarely performed Glagolithic Mass.
Following the London sojourn, which also inlcuded a lovely dinner with Nick Landau and Vivian Cheung, the owners of Titan Publishing (Terminator Salvation, etc.), I flew to Kiev (pronounced "Keev", incidentally) for a couple of days. Fascinating city. For music lovers, the great gate of Kiev, a painting of which inspired the last movement of Moussorsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, has been fully reconstructed. Many beautiful cathedrals and old buildings, and a lot of new-found energy among the populace. Ukranians, I discovered, like to eat like Americans. Solid portions of real food...no tiny towers of curled meet on a puddle of sauce topped with sprigs of some unidentifiable vedure. Then it was off to Odessa, the fabled seaport founded by Catherine the Great. Wonderful old buildings and a thriving street scene. Walked up and down the Potemkin steps, famed from Sergei Eisenstein's seminal film Battleship Potemkin (I did not push any baby carriages). In Odessa I participated as a member of the RAW American team in their first Eurasian powerlifting championships. I've attached a couple of pictures. The team picture includes, second from the right and last from the right, the Iranian contingent, with whom I had several interesting extended chats.
Back in Kiev, I took a day trip to Chernobyl. You can get surprisingly close to reactor #4, the one that blew, but there are definite restrictions. No open-toed shoes allowed. Avoid contact with vegetation and the ground. Limited time at the site. It's...perfectly...safe....
Next month, pictures from the performance of the Gothic and from Kiev, Odessa, and...Chernobyl.
Here is the cover for BODY INC. Book 2 of the Tipping Point trilogy. Due out November or December. The intent (obviously) is to do a series of covers that relate not only to the individual volumes but to one another and to the overall story arc as well.
Just finished CLAIM BLAME, a longish Mad Amos Malone short story. Not quite a novelette. We'll see where it settles.
A couple of weeks ago I did a nice, long interview with Tony Healy for Fringe Scientist. You can read it here: http://fringescientist.com/2011/06/12/interview-alan-dean-foster/
Here is an excellent rendering of a thranx egg chamber by the estimable Spanish-Norweigian artist Gabriel Montagudo. It's a 3.8mg file, so it needs a bit of time to load fully. Note that the eye color and antennae are accurate, that the thranx have all eight limbs, and that the foothands and truhands have the correct number of digits (four), though in this depiction the thranx adult workers are a bit short on gear. Perhaps hygienic considerations demand complete nudity. Everything certainly looks freshly washed and scrubbed. Copies of the image as a print, framed print, postcards, etc. are available from http://www.redbubble.com/people/kanaa/portfolio. As is more of the artist's excellent futuristic and sfnal work.
Remember my telling the tale a few months back of how I lived for the summer of 1973 with the extended family of the Tahitian Princess Mareta "Miri" Rei, and how I finally located her appearance in the 1938 Hollywood blockbuster WAIKIKI WEDDING? I put up a number of still shots from that film. Here is the only formal Paramount PR shot of her that I have been able to unearth.
This is the video intro piece that Open Road Media did for the enhanced eReader version of PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN. The exotic animal shots are all taken from my own videos shot over the past 40 years (much more of which is viewable as the chapter introductions to the enhanced eBook version). The rest was all shot here in Prescott by Open Road's own estimable video crew.
Sent off the fantasy MADRENGA to my agents. The book came in a little under 100,000 words, so it's a nice long read without being sufficient for slaying trolls. Now we shall see who is interested in publishing it. I'm very pleased with the result. It's the first time I ever deliberately started a novel without having the slightest idea how or where it would finally fetch up. I wanted to explore the process of working with utterly unfettered imagination unconstrained by the slightest preconception but yet operating within fairly conventional story parameters. Which is a roundabout way, I suppose, of saying that it's a completely traditional fantasy tale. Well, maybe not completely traditional. I'm afraid I can't do anything that's completely traditional, especially where fantasy is concerned. Even more so than with science-fiction, the fantasy I write is to please myself. That's the impulse that gave rise to SPELLSINGER (which Lester del Rey turned down) and to BLUE MAGIC (which no publisher has taken yet). I just can't write to standards. The more popular the genre tropes, the more I enjoy messing with them. Alas, this does not always sit well with publishers, and editors are therefore often constrained more and more by economic considerations from taking the kinds of chances their hearts say that they should.
That doesn't mean I don't enjoy playing with tropes. For example, as a fan of '50's monster movies I always wanted to write a giant bug story. But I didn't want to simply write something that could pass for a Planet Stories potboiler. Nothing should be written without a reason. Beyond pure entertainment there should be a purpose behind every story. So forty years of scribing went by without a giant bug story (the thranx don't count...in a '50's horror movie they'd be the good guys trying to find ways to reverse the evil mutations). Then along came Gordon van Gelder's estimable anthology of climate change stories WELCOME TO THE GREENHOUSE, for which I was finally able to write that long thought-of tale: THAT CREEPING SENSATION. I was put in a position where I could write a giant bug story with a purpose; one with an actual sound scientific background. My roundabout homage, if you will, to Murray Leinster's great early classic, THE FORGOTTEN PLANET.
Here is the appropriately feline title page for BODY, INC., due out from Del Rey this winter.
PIKE'S PEEK is now available in the collection More Tales of Zorro (Moonstone Books). As a kid I was a huge fan of the Disney Zorro TV series starring the dashing Guy Williams. This is what happens if you grow up and become a writer: time, circumstances, and luck permitting, eventually you get the opportunity to write your own tale involving your favorite characters from when you were a child. Like my Uncle Scrooge story in which Scrooge, Donald, and the nephews meet up with Moby Dick...which unfortunately has not been published, but which I had an immense amount of fun writing. Ever wonder about the things that drive writers crazy? The title of the Zorro story is a pun. Some copyeditor or typesetter at the publisher plainly thought it was a typo on my part, and retitled it PIKE'S PEAK. This destroys the title's relevance to the story, but you'll have to read the tale to find out why.
PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN is one of 22 books chosen to serve as demo titles for Samsung's new ebook reader app. So even if you can't get the enhanced version (which includes the chapter introductory video clips) for your own gear, maybe you can browse them the next time you're in a store that sells one of Samsung's tablets or phones.
MADRENGA should be finished some time next month. I've had a great deal of fun writing it. Fantasy is just so much easier than science-fiction. Easier to write as well as easier for people to read, which is why it sells so much better. There's no need to wonder why something works: it simply is. You still have to maintain the internal logic, but it's much more warpable than it is in SF.
Regrettably, due to personal matters, it looks like I will not be attending Leprecon in Tempe, Arizona 6-7 or participating in the NASA Western Regionals in Mesa. If this situation should change, I will post a notice prior to those dates.
The cottonwoods are leafing out, the vinca is blooming, there are cottontails everywhere, and the red-tail hawk family has arrived. Must be Spring.
The short video "moodscapes" that introduce chapters of PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN and which consist of compilations of clips taken from home video of my travels are only viewable, understandably, in the enhanced version of the ebook. Which is a fancy way of saying you have to be reading the book on an iPad or Samsung Galaxy or some similar device. The enhanced version is readable via the iBook app, via iTunes, or the new Kobo ereader app for the Samsung and others. For those who would like to have the book in traditional form, both hardback and paperback editions of the book, including the wood-cut like chapter headings, are now available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and directly from the publisher, Open Road Media. For those who would like a signed copy, please contact me directly.
The second book of The Tipping Point trilogy, following THE HUMAN BLEND, is now officially titled BODY, INC., and will be out the end of this year. The third and final book, tentatively titled THE SUM OF HER PARTS, is finished, has been delivered to Del Rey and will presumeably appear in 2012.
Nothing new on THE ZENOIDS front. Discussions with various media outlets and such are ongoing. While waiting for a decision on BLUE MAGIC (OSHANURTH) I've begun a new, stand-alone fantasy novel, MADRENGA. Can't just write short stories...the era of the pulps and the digests is history, and I have no intention of becoming such.
I will be attending and speaking at LepreCon 37 in Tempe, Arizona on 6 and 7 May and competing in the NASA Western Regionals (powerlifting) on the 7th, going back and forth between the meet in Mesa and the convention in Tempe. Should make for an interesting day. At the RAW Arizona State meet on the 27th March, I surprised myself (I keep surprising myself) by bench pressing 287 lbs for a new state record in the 60-64, 198.lb and under class. Now on Mars, that would be....
Recent wildlife discovery apropos of absolutely nothing: if you have a fly wandering about on your computer screen and you move the cursor toward it, it will fly away (the insect, not the cursor).
The Chinese government has been very active in hiring letter-writers to post on U.S. news sites, supporting the government line and point of view whenever an even marginally critical article appears. These are invariably amusing and self-contradictory. For example, "Everyone in China agrees that the so-called call for Jasmine revolution goes against everything China stands for". Except that mention or discussion of even the word Jasmine is rigorously censored, so it would be impossible for even a modest group of citizens, let alone "everyone", to protest against it. The letters go on in that vein, with the writers blissfully unaware of the fact that they refute their own logic. The absence of anything resembling a sense of humor is telling.
Here is the best science-fiction film you'll see all month. It's five minutes long, and it's not what you expect.
PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN was released by Open Road Media on 22 Feb., along with all eight of the long-unavailable Spellsinger books. These make their first appearance as ebooks. Here is the video promo for them and for PREDATORS. The brief animal shots are excerpted from my own personal videos. The file is sizable and might take a while to load, depending on your playback device and/or browser.
A while back I wrote a novella, BOX OF OXEN, set in near-future Israel and Palestine. Lou Anders, now editor of Pyr Books, was then handling the revived Argosy and acquired it for publication therein. Unfortunately, while the magazine was a beautiful and noble effort, it proved too costly to publish, was not successfully financially, and folded just before BOX could appear within its pages. Novellas are awkward children in the world of publishing. Too short to be successful except with certain specialty publishers, and longer than magazine or anthology editors prefer (better to have four short stories to promote in a magazine issue than one novella). As time passed, electronic publishing made rapid stries. Not wishing to see BOX languish, I gathered myself and some simple software and have put it up on Amazon's Kindle store, where you may now find and download it to your preferred e-reading platform for the modest price of $2.99. I'm proud of the story, I hope you like it, and it will be interesting to see how it does in this new publishing format. The cover is a slightly manipulated photo of mine with something of a small visual Easter egg loaded on one part of it. I'll also be interested to see who remarks on the latter.
As noted in earlier updates, PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN will be available later this month (if it isn't already) from publisher Open Road Media. I am told Apple is particularly taken with the book...not surprising given its video content, some of which was produced especially for the book by Open Road and some of which was supplied by me from my own travel video files. Those of you familiar with ordering ebooks will recognize that to make an impact on Amazon's Kindle store, greatly down-sized book covers need to be bold and simplified. Here's Open Road's cover for the book.
And for those who have wondered if (never mind when) the Spellsinger books would become available as ereads, Open Road will simultaneously be released the entire series at the same time as PREDATORS: all eight books. As with PREDATORS, the Spellsinger books should also be available as trade paperbacks.
Weather permitting, I will be attending Mythoscon in Tempe, Arizona, on Saturday, January 8th.
It's appropriate that Carrie Fisher's one-woman special, WISHFUL DRINKING, is on HBO. Because her life, which forms the basis of the show, is like an HBO miniseries in which she has been cast in the leading role. Involuntarily. There is of course a great deal about Star Wars, but those of you who haven't read any of her books will quickly learn that she isn't Princess Leia: she's a cross between Sophie Tucker and Dorothy Parker. The typical practitioner of stand-up comedy sits down and writes jokes. Fisher's process strikes me as more akin to suffering from malaria: once you're infected, you suffer from the condition forever. Your life goes along normally until, without warning, a sudden attack lays you out flat and you experience uncontrollable chills and sweats. Fisher sweats laughter. Only, the pH balance is off and in her case it's heavily acidic. You need to pay attention: her best bon-mots are delivered almost sotto voce and in many cases zip right by the audience that's waiting for the next piece of Hollywood dirt. Occasionally Fisher will let loose with a full- throated "Just do it!". One isn't sure whether it's a suggestion or a cathartic primal scream. She's like the Energizer bunny. No matter what hits her, she comes back as if she's just stuck her finger in a recharging socket. Only in her case, it's her head. I'm not sure her's has been a life well-lived, but it sure as hell has been lived. And she's still here. After it's all over, you want to take her in your arms and give her a big hug. But warily, like a boxer locking up his opposite number in a protective clinch. You'll laugh, you'll cry, maybe it's just a sty in your eye. Fisher talking about life is like Jake LaMotta talking to Sugar Ray Robinson after their last fight. Robinson's beaten the crap out of LaMotta and won the fight, but LaMotta staggers over to the victor's corner with enough left to say, "Hey Ray...you never knocked me down. You never knocked me down, Ray."
That's Carrie Fisher. Life's slapped her around pretty good, and left its scars, but its never knocked her down. Watch the special. It'll put a smile on your face. Or is that a wince...?
The January-February issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science-Fiction has another Mad Amos Malone story, GHOST WIND. Now available for order directly from the publisher OR Books (www.orbooks.com) is an anthology of stories about climate change, Welcome to the Greenhouse. In addition to my THAT CREEPING SENSATION, it has original stories by Brian Aldiss, Joseph Green, Bruce Sterling, Gregory Benford, and many others. My first non-fiction book, PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN, will be released by Open Road Media on February 22nd, together with accompanying original video. http://geekblog.oakcircle.com/2010/12/25/oh-hes-got-high-hopes/ In relation to asymmetrical capacitor lifters, has an interesting reference to the KK-drive.
Since opening up a Facebook page (in response to a fan's request), I'm trying to friend as many applicants as I can. It's very flattering to have so many requests, but even hitting "approve" takes time, so it's going a bit slow.
The following shot from a few years ago was taken, by Gil Serique, from the back of a dugout. We are on a small tributary of the Amazon upriver of Manaus. The water in front of the boat is clogged by a profusion of Victoria Regina, the world's largest water lily, whose pads can grow up to a meter across.
In six months I am supposed to apply for Medicare. I cannot tell you how bizarre that sounds.
THE HUMAN BLEND is out from Del Rey. It's always difficult when a trilogy is written as a single continuous narrative and the first and second books are not written with individual endings. I hope you'll bear with me to the end of the tale. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science-Fiction will be publishing two new Mad Amos Malone stories. The first, FREE ELECTIONS, is in the current issue. The second, GHOST WIND, will appear in the Jan.-Feb. issue. OPEN ROAD MEDIA, which is doing PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN, sent a film crew out to Prescott to conduct an extensive interview and to shoot supplementary footage on me, my study and home, and the Prescott area. Practically a mini-biography. Prescott's a lovely area and I think everyone will enjoy the video.
Other than the San Diego Comicon, I haven't been to a convention in a couple of years. But this year the World Fantasy con is in San Diego, and the World SF con is in Reno. Both are comparatively accessible, some I expect to attend one or the other. Haven't made a decision yet. The place in the Sierra Nevada where my family has vacationed since 1951 (Lundy Lake) is a three-hour drive south of Reno, so I may try to combine the two. Lundy has an interesting old west history, for those interested in gold mining and such, and doubtless there is material available on line for anyone who is interested in checking out the area. It's a genuinely spectacular place, even for the Sierra.
Having recently rescued three kittens from a Texas barn, and another from here in Prescott, we are now up to nine cats and two dogs, so it's a little chaotic around the household. Driving home today, nearly ran into a big solitary male javelina about a quarter mile down the road. It's unusual to see one out in the daytime in this area. The summer birds have winged their way south, but the canyon towhees are still hanging around, as are the ravens and great horned owls. The two local lakes are full of commuting ducks, coots, loons, and others, and I believe our chipmunks have pretty much bedded down for the winter in our attic.
I've just finished reading YMA SUMAC: THE ART BEHIND THE LEGEND. Excellent book, and the nearest volume we're likely to have to a biography of this utterly unique performer. For those of you unfamiliar with Sumac, I suggest watching the clip of her on YouTube singing CHUNCHO. Try to find the original video/film clip and not the one from the film SECRET OF THE INCAS (though that's perfectly fine). CHUNCHO is about as close to a three-minute visit in music to MIDWORLD as you're likely to find. For further listening, I suggest the Queen of Exotica double-cd set. There's nothing quite like her. I remember encountering her first album, Voice of the Xtabay, as a teenager, and listening to it over and over.
Note that the old Subspace forum has been replaced with a new discussion board, the link for which is on the home page. We'll see how it works.
The reason for the absence of an October update is because I was in northern Borneo from 19 Sept. until 19 Oct., and trying to do a site update from such a remote location is, well, awkward. The trip was wonderful, as always, with the exception of the arrival in Hong Kong. Landing in the midst of a raging typhoon was a new experience: one I could easily have done without. Although I don't much care for flying in the best of conditions, I reckon I've done more than my share of air travel. Paradoxically, some of the best flights I've ever had were on tiny prop jobs in the back of beyond, and some of the worst were on big modern jets. This one was a toss-up... literally. You can always tell when you're landing in difficult conditions: the cabin gets very, very quiet. We bounced around pretty good, with lots of lightning flashing outside, but in the end it was just a matter of the usual roller-coaster ride until touchdown.
I began by spending three days in Hong Kong on business (potential movie stuff to be produced there...very interesting people and discussions). While the hotel was great (Langham Place, Mongkok), I didn't much care for the city itself. The last time I was there, save to change aircraft, was in 1975, and the city was desperately overcrowded then. Now it's simply insane. Back then the city had turned a single pier, Harbor Pier, into a multilevel shopping center that was crowded with small stores hawking handmade suits and dresses, carvings of Chinese subjects, paintings on silk, fabric stores, and the like. Returning to the site, I found in its place something called Harbor City; a mega-complex of stores, hotels, and restaurants. Wandering the corridors I encountered an endless succession of storefronts hawking Givenchy, Tommy Hilfinger, Burberry...you know all the names. Immensely disappointed in the selection, I went up to a guy at an information booth and explained that I was looking for arts and crafts made in China. He smiled and gestured at the surging crowd of happy shoppers. "Look around you," he said. "Givency, Tommy Hilfinger, Burberry...all made in China."
Danged if he didn't have me there.
In contrast to HK, Northern Borneo was everything I'd hoped for and more. The pristine Danum Valley was feverish with exotic animals, plants, and arthropods I'd never before had the opportunity to encounter in the wild. Everything from all three Bornean species of civet (including the rarely seen binturong) to wonderfully colorful insects and birds. Unless one has a good, long telephoto lens, birds are tough to photograph in dense rainforest, so I don't have much of them except for hornbills. I don't like to carry a lot of photo gear: it inhibits my enjoyment of and my ability to immerse myself in my surroundings. Managed to see five species of primate (red-leaf monkey, silver-leaf monkey, Borneo gibbon, long-tailed macaque, and pig-tail macaque). Orangutans were not to be seen in the Danum (local trees not fruiting), but I encountered them later in the trip, in Sarawak. Saw several species of flying squirrel. Giant mouse deer, bearded pig, lots of frogs including the rare Wallace's flying frog (not airborne, alas). The Danum's a fabulous place to visit and unlike the equally famous Malieu Valley, accessible.
I spent a week and managed to emerge with only four leech bites: two brown and two tiger. You know leeches: little crosses between Dracula and an inchworm. The tiger leech is a good deal larger than the brown and therefore has a greater...capacity. All four bites were due to my own neglect. On each occasion I failed to carry out all proper precautions and checks. Considering the number of leeches in the Danum (they are everywhere), I consider that I got off easy. My dream was to see a clouded leopard, but my guide explained that in fifteen years of working the Danum he'd personally had only four live encounters with that exquisite feline. Most sightings of the clouded leopard are via remote trip cameras. You don't see really rare animals by spending a week anywhere: you need to go out with a tent and sleeping bag, and spend months.
Diving at Sipidan Island (and Mabul and Sia Mil) was good, but doesn't top New Guinea or the Galapagos. The weather was problematic (overcast, occasional rain) and the (far too famous) place over-crowded with dive boats from the nearby island resorts. I did see a multitude of protected green and hawksbill turtles, for which Sipidan is famous. I actually found the waters around the island of Sia Mil more interesting, with their mandarin shrimp, giant black and gray frogfish, squid, and cuttlefish. A depressing quantity of trash kept drifting past Sipidan, doubtless originating from the fishing villages on the islands of Mabul and Kapalai, and from the base town of Semporna.
In Sarawak I located myself in the main city of Kuching, which turned out to be a wonderful combination of the traditional and the modern. It reminded me, fondly, of old Hong Kong. Lots of bustling small shops in the main riverfront bazaar and old colonial buildings. Outside the city I was finally able to see some orangutans in a local preserve. Though free and wild, they are heavily habituated to humans. While not the best solution to their predicament (poaching and loss of habitat), it beats extermination. Borneo is also home to more species of pitcher plant than anywhere else in the world, and I was able to see several varieties in the wild. On a river trip out of the city I caught glimpses of the hard-to-see Irrawaddy dolphin, a species that enjoys hunting in and is perfectly comfortable in fresh water.
Spent three days in the tiny but oil-and-gas rich country of Brunei, which sits sandwiched in between the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah. Brunei is one of the world's few remaining sultanates and the Sultan is one of the world's richest men. His people don't seem terribly distressed by this, as there's plenty left over to spread around. 300,000 people in Brunei, and 300,000+ cars. Roads that are polished and pothole-free. Gas about US$1.60/gal. A full medical checkup costs US seventy-five cents. Plenty of subsidized housing. I was told you can criticize or comment on just about everything and anything...except Islam and the royal family. Among other items, the museum of royal regalia displays all the gifts that have been presented over the years to the Sultan and his family. Most of this kiss-ass suck-up stuff is exactly the sort of tchotchkies you'd buy to give your Aunt June or Uncle Charlie as a memento of a visit, except the scale is larger and the materials different (gold, silver, jewels). My favorite was from a Saudi prince, who thoughtfully presented an elegant pen-and-pencil desk set...something that was at least useful, as opposed to the solid silver boats and mosque reproductions in precious metals and stones.
All in all, yet another wonderful trip to another previously unvisited corner of our planet. Apropos of which I append herewith my first embedded video instead of the usual still photos or vidcaps. Resolution is fairly high, so you can use the enlarge-to-full-screen button/command if you wish. It's a large file, so it's best to wait until the video has played through one time, and then hit replay to view it smoothly.
Meanwhile Open Road Media has acquired my first non-fiction book, PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN, which should appear early next year. Intended for multimedia platforms like the iPad and subsequently slated for release as a trade paperback, this will hopefully feature illustrative clips from all the video I've taken in the course of the past thirty years. Read the book, hit a hotword or keyword, and see video illustrating the encounter being discussed. Excerpts from all that video which I shot for research purposes will now, finally, be available to readers. You'll be able to see the inspiration for many stories...and tales to come.
1 September 10
Thanks to everyone who sent in requests for books from my library sale, and I hope those of you who purchased copies enjoy adding them to your own. There are still copies of certain titles available, though a lot of the British 1st hardcovers are gone. Let me know what, if anything, you're interested in. I still have some British hc's left, as well as a selection of SF book club editions, plus of course the paperbacks
Heritage Auctions of Dallas is auctioning 8 Carl Barks oil paintings. For those of you who don't know, Carl Barks created Uncle Scrooge and wrote and drew all the great early Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck comic books. I always site him as one of my principal literary influences. Many decades ago, a Los Angeles area fan and bookdealer, Malcolm Willits, got in touch with Barks and asked if he might consider doing an oil painting of some of the ducks. Remarkably, Barks received permission from Disney to do so...the only instance of an artist being allowed to draw/paint copyrighted Disney characters on his own. Barks eventually did over 200 such paintings, many reproducing or referencing scenes from his comics. In 1968 I was in Malcolm's Collectors' bookstore on Hollywood Blvd. and saw a Christmas painting of the ducks. Upon inquiring if it was for sale, Mal said, "Sure...$200". As a student at UCLA, I needed money for school expenses, and could hardly see asking my hard-working father for $200 to "Buy a painting of a bunch of ducks". That very same painting (A Christmas Composition) is one of the eight currently up for bid at Heritage.
The last Barks oil that I know sold, went for about $161,000.
Shoulda asked for the loan.
THE HUMAN BLEND (Del Rey, 23 Nov. release date) is available for preorder from Amazon and others. Nice cover. Fulfilled requests from several anthologies for short fiction...I'll announce them when I have actual publication dates, or when they're released. Some exciting news to be forthcoming, I hope, about a non-fiction book. The October site update will likely be delayed, and there may not be one until November 1st. Explanation will be forthcoming at that time.
My mother passed away on the fourth of July. She was 86, a grand lady, and with failing vision and lung capacity due to a lifetime of smoking, essentially decided to throw the shut-off switch on herself. Exactly as her own mother had done. She died quietly in her own bed, in her own house, with no tubes or cables hooked up to her and a smile on her face. During the early years of WWII she had served as secretary to the editor of the New York Times, and I wish I had spoken with her more about those days. But we always think of these things when it's too late to do so. Same thing with my grandfather, who was the controller for the Armstrong Racing Form in New York and who knew more characters than Damon Runyon. It's all lost now, along with Vermeer's technique for handling light and what Beethoven was really like.
So I've been more than a little preoccupied with matters domestic. Still found time to do some writing, though, and sold four or five short stories (waiting to hear on the fifth). For those who have asked for it, one is a brand-new Mad Amos Malone story, FREE ELECTIONS, which will be appearing in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science-Fiction. The others I will mention in due course, as they are scheduled to appear. Much talk afoot over plans to do PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN as a vook, since the video to enhance the manuscript already exists and the market for such material is all but exploding, especially since the introduction of the iPad.
Recently returned from Comicon in San Diego, where I did business and met with many old friends. Spent a lot of time with Todd Lockwood, he of the supple brush, and his lovely wife Rita. Also chatted with many other artists, but amid the sound and fury of Comicon it's difficult to have an extended or serious conversation about anything, including art. Had dinner and much enjoyable discourse with Brooke McEldowney, of 9 CHICKWEED LANE and PIBGORN fame, who was traveing with his beautiful daughter Nicola. Brooke and I share a similarly jaundiced view of humankind that in no way inhibits our enjoyment of same, or of the world around us. Was able to say hi to Bob Orci for the first time since working on the STAR TREK novelization, and in hasty passing, to finally shake hands with his writing partner Alex Kurtzman. Briefly chatted with Charlene Harris of Sookie Stackhouse notoriety. A charming and humble gal, who I would have otherwise expected to find offering up cookies and lemonade on a hot summer evening. Con crowd control was much better than in previous years. There were fewer hall costumes, though the quality remains high. The danger to Comicon is that Hollywood will take it over completely. Films and tv shows that have nothing to do with fantasy, comics, or SF are starting to shoulder their way into the convention space. Their presence and money are not needed to make the Con a success, and I think the organizers would do well to restrict their intrusion or risk alienating the con's true fan base.
Among the Big Names who put in appearances were Harrison Ford, Angelina Jolie, Seth MacFarlane, and the entire casts of numerous movies and tv shows. I attend none of these presentations, where fans wait in line for hours for a glimpse of actual name performers. Frankly, I'd rather talk to artists and musicians, other writers and sfx techs. I really wanted to ask Michael Giacchino how much his wonderful score for Ratatouille was influenced by Gershwin's An American in Paris. About the best thing I did at the con was take half a day and go body surfing at Silver Strand beach. I'd brought along my short fins and shortie wetsuit, and after not having been in the Pacific off Southern California in years, it was absolutely bliss. Compared to the South Pacific or Indian ocean, the water is murky and cold. But there's something elemental about swimming with long lengths of kelp that wrap themselves around you as you tread water and take the measure of the waves. If you don't keep shaking off and unwinding from the dark, pungent strands, you can emerge from the surf looking like a bad outtake from a Predator movie.
William Shatner's myouterspace.com had a big premere on the aircraft carrier/museum Midway. Bill interviewed a number of the website's professional participants, including me. He's an experienced interviewer, and I was impressed with how he tossed the prepared questions in favor of propounding queries of his own that were both personal and pertinent. Where the man gets his energy I don't know, but I want a case of it.
My mother kept a second set of everything I wrote. So I've decided to keep those copies for my files and put my original office set up for sale, individually. For those of you who may have spent time looking for this or that particular tome, including some long-unavailable and other scarce offerings, here's your chance. Most copies haven't been touched since they were placed on my office shelves. There's only one of each title, of course, though there are British as well as American editions and many of the British copies are the 1st hc publication. If you're interested, email me to see what's available.
First, let me apologize for the lack of a June update. We were traveling in small-town west-central Texas, visiting my wife's home town and remaining friends and relations, and were gone for a month. Having switched over to a Mac, I didn't feel comfortable trying to do an update using only an HP netbook and dated (very dated) PC uploading software. Nor did I feel any urgency to regale others with detailed descriptions of consuming a continuous stream of chicken-fried steak and fried catfish. Of more interest might be the two excellent Italian restaurants we discovered: one in Eastland run by an immigrant from Croatia, and the other in Breckenridge operated by the redoubtable Meije Vraniqi, a refugee from Kosovo who is also an outstanding (if largely unknown in this country) poet. If you happen to read Albanian, however, it's possible that you know her. Life is full of surprises, the majority of them which seem to be acquired through traveling.
I'd also like to give a shout-out to the fine folks I worked out with at the Gold's Gym in Abilene, to the men and women attempting to restore the grand hotel in Weatherford, to the operators of the Dr. Pepper museum in Dublin (Texas), and apologies to the diamondback with whom I communed in a friend's shed near Moran but who was subsequently killed, as is the culture in the area. I'd also like to ask that whoever stole the few simple items my wife managed to salvage four years ago from her burned-out family home in Moran, particularly the doors off her grandmother's stove, return them to where they were being stored. Not much likelihood of that, but one never knows who reads what, and communication is now global.
By coincidence we happened to be in the area when Barbarian Days, honoring Robert E. Howard of Cross Plains, Texas, were being held. So I took myself down thataway, to the small town where my wife's father used to trade cattle, and had a look around. The Howard House is a museum superbly maintained and operated by the local folks. It's filled with Howardania, from period furniture to actual Howard relics, including manuscripts, books, and artwork, and is definitely worth a visit if you happen to be in the neighborhood. I own a postcard from H.P. Lovecraft to Howard, written and sent when Lovecraft was visiting Quebec. It reads: ""This place surpasses all my expectations in a veritable dream of archaic city walls, crennelated cliffs, silent(?) spirits, narrow, zig-zag, precipitous streets, and the leisurely civilization of an elder world!" (signed) HP Lovecraft. Written in Lovecraft's hand in fading brown ink and sent with a Canadian two-cent airmail stamp. It looks nice in my study, but it belongs in a place like the Howard museum, if they'll have it.
Just saw the cover for THE HUMAN BLEND (Del Rey, December release) and it's striking. And different. For those who have been asking, FREE ELECTIONS, a new Mad Amos Malone story, will appear in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science-Fiction. Look for another short, RURAL SINGULARITY, in John Joseph Adams's upcoming anthology MAD SCIENTISTS. I'll be attending the San Diego Comicon 21-24. On Friday 23d I'll be signing at the Del Rey booth (tentative time 1-2 pm) and on the 24th participating on a panel with, among others, Samuel Delaney and Nnedi Okorafor. Look for my friend Brooke McEldowney of 9 CHICKWEED LANE fame and be sure to pick up copies of his remarkable PIBGORN books, which he will have available for purchase. If you don't know PIBGORN by now, go online and check it out.
The meeting with the Chiodo Bros. (of KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE fame) in Los Angeles was fun and enlightening, and we shall see what if anything eventuates as a result. At the same time I did a couple of video interviews that I expect will show up in one form or another on www.myouterspace.com, and possibly elsewhere. Those of you who know me are aware that I have no difficulty talking endlessly (some might say interminably) about any subject whatsoever, including those I know nothing about, and therefore might find these vids entertaining.
Starbucks has ruined their frappucino. McDonald's frapes have next to no coffee in them, but at least they taste like something. What passes for a Starbucks frappucino now tastes, and looks, like coffee-colored dishwater. In case you wondered how overpriced corporate consultants justify their continued existence, here's a perfect contemporary example. Think DILBERT.
The problems with the website discussion board are not resolved, and I'm thinking of just dropping it entirely. I can always be contacted via email, and I might go to a blog. If I open one, then I have to maintain it, and that means dealing with more regular communications. Fun, but time-demanding. We'll see.
Well, for the forseeable future secrets must remain secrets. Hopefully with time comes revelation.
Meanwhile, a book some readers have expressed interest in acquiring but that has been unavailable for a while has recently been reprinted. This is THE COMPLETE ALIEN OMNIBUS. A thick trade paperback, it contains in one volume the novelizations of the first three ALIEN movies. A pity there's no hc edition, but the pb is well-made and sturdy. Unfortunately, like its predecessor edition, it is available only in Britain. Why this should be so baffles me. The first printings were from Warner Britain. This new edition arrives from the redoubtable Little, Brown. Those who want it can probably order it from Amazon UK, or other sources. It's nice to have all three novels in one book, since I intended for them to be read as a single continuous story. I regret that Alien 3 is missing a fair portion of the adjustments and additions I put in the original manuscipt, but a contractor is not allowed to determine the final color of the house that he builds. For better or worse, that remains the province of the homeowner.
While waiting for a contract for the OSHANURTH trilogy, my agents and I are exploring alternative publishing venues for a sizable fantasy novel I penned called THE DEAVYS. Set in contemporary Pennsylvania and New York, this has had difficulty attracting a publisher because it seems to fall between the adult and YA categories. I don't categorize stories when I write them...I just write the stories. Given the number of possibilities for publishing that now exist outside the traditional industry, I expect it to find a home before too long. I think it's a fine read for adults or teens.
The daffodils have come and gone, as have three of our animals. Oscar, the dog who was the model for the lead character in the novel KINGDOMS OF LIGHT. Pixie, our oldest cat, who was nearly 19. And Cezer, my favorite cat and friend, who I could safely walk in the woods without a leash and who would come when called. I've always felt that if you can't handle the emotion of pets' passing, get a tortoise or a parrot. Something that will outlive you. Grieving never grows easy.
When I was starting out as a writer I made it a point to try and meet as many of the older authors as possible. Many of them are long gone now. Some frequented SF conventions, but others like Donald Wandrei and Daniel Galouye, E. Hoffman Price and James Schmitz, did not, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to get to know them a little. I've reached the age where sharing and passing along memories of such luminaries becomes bonafide history, which makes my early forays into such interpersonal connections valuable if not especially prescient. I regret never having the chance to meet Doc Smith or Norman Lindsay, but I am lucky enough to have met influences on the field as diverse as Fritz Lang and Robert Clampbett. One day perhaps I'll try to set these memories down. No time yet...still too much writing and traveling to do.
Two film recommendations. MOON you doubtless have heard about, if not seen. While it proves that in the age of CGI, traditional model work is more of an anachronistic technique than ever, and while regular readers of SF will spot the central plot point well in advance, it is more than worth seeing for Sam Rockwell's marvelous performance, one that should clearly have been nominated for an assortment of awards. The other film, which will be considerably less familiar, is ANGEL-A. Made by the redoutable Luc Besson (THE FIFTH ELEMENT, LEON THE PROFESSIONAL, JOAN OF ARC) and not without flaws, it is nonetheless a bracing change from the current spate of bloated sfx-gurgling fantasy films. It attempts to not only engage us and make us laugh, but also to say a thing or two about the human condition. Whether it fails to do so or not is not as important as the fact that Besson is willing to try. Not to shock you, but there are actually scenes where people engage in conversations of more than three paragraphs, and sequences that are not cut according to a stopwatch. Should you encounter the film, give it a try. If nothing else you can gawk at his female lead, the amazing Rie Rasmussen, who is only slightly shorter than Mr. Eiffel's tower and a good deal more limber. Within Besson's camera, both sparkle.
What is it with all these secret projects lately? I'm writing like mad but am unable to talk about it. Oh well...one day.
I've been recording and watching episodes of my favorite TV western from when I was a kid...Have Gun, Will Travel. A unique entry into what was then a genre overflowing with nattily-dressed marshalls, gamblers, and assorted squeaky-clean TV heroes (all that dust and hardly any of them ever got dirty unless dirt was written into the script). Star Trek fans already know that Gene Roddenberry wrote a number of episodes of the show, but my pleasure comes from seeing what could be done on a zero budget, with a lead actor as fine as Richard Boone. Boone could ride a horse and box, and was as adept at comedy as drama. Last night I watched an episode called LADY ON THE WALL, directed by none other than the redoubtable Ida Lupino and written by...Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson. I reiterate: Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson. It wasn't one of their extraordinary Twilight Zone screenplays, but with a little tweaking it could have been. What a delight.
THE HUMAN BLEND, the first book of the TIPPING POINT trilogy, will be released by Del Rey in late November or early December.
I have agreed to serve as the, um, governor of the planet Creatia, on the site www.myouterspace.com. This is a project of William Shatner's and it looks like it could be fun. Anyway, fans of the immortal film KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE should know that the Chiodo brothers are also operating on it. If you have never seen KKFOS, it runs occasionally on cable and satellite, and there is absolutely nothing like it in the genre. See it with someone you love (or someone who is terrified of clowns).
The RAW Arizona Powerlifting meet on the 27-28th of the month was enjoyable, as all such events are. I've found that there are fewer ego problems among a group of ten powerlifters than among any three writers or artists. Perhaps because they spend all their time fighting gravity and Mother Earth than critics or each other. Anyway, in the unequipped bench press I managed another state record in my age and weight group with a lift of 281 lbs. I'd love to do the full powerlifting lineup, which consists of bench press, dead lift, and squat. But my knees won't let me do heavy squats anymore and I'm reluctant to risk my back by doing deadlifts. I have enough trouble lifting myself these days. But the bench press...well, at least it's something I can do while lying down.
Still waiting (*sigh*) for a firm decision on OSHANURTH.
It is the first of March, and winter lies still and heavy upon much of the country. So I will tell you a tale of the South Seas. Of swaying palms and balmy trade winds. Of a lone young writer, only twenty-six, on his first trip overseas.
I arrived in Tahiti in June of 1973 intending to spend the summer lolling on sandy beaches being fed maitais by willowy vahines. Immediately I learned that the authorities frown on beachcombers of whatever age (they want you staying in their expensive hotels), and that the willowy vahines were all spoken for by very large and formidable local gentlemen. Prior to embarking from California I had taken some lessons in Tahitian dance and language. I asked the lady who taught me if there were any friends or relations I could say hello to for her while I was there, and she gave me a couple of names. Two days after arriving, already tired, hot, and somewhat discouraged, I presented myself at the door of the house of a woman named Miri Rei. It was a considerably bigger house than I had expected...a virtual Polynesian mansion. I was welcomed in, cordially delivered my greetings, and prepared to go on my way.
"Where are you staying?" the jovial Ms. Rei asked me.
"Oh, here and there. On the beach, I imagine."
With a twinkle in her eye (a permanent twinkle, I was soon to learn), this delightful lady of sixty-five gave me a radiant smile and replied, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, "Nonsense. You're staying with us."
Here is a picture I took of Miri Rei on her property as we chatted about some charming inconsequentiality.
As I spent the summer in Paea, at Ms. Rei's, I learned a bit of her history. That she had once been in love with a wealthy American who had wanted to marry her, but that he could not abandon his family business in the U.S. and she could not leave Tahiti. That they had parted, and she had never married, but with the money he had bestowed on her she had raised a number of adopted children. On her property facing the lagoon were several homes in addition to the Big House. In one lived Fredo and Esther Tetuamanuhiri, with whom I actually resided. Fredo was a big, charming Tahitian policeman with an easy manner and sly wit. Out in the lagoon he would fish for lunch or supper while I snorkeled until my skin raisined. Esther, one of Miri's adopted kids, was a ball of energy with a smile that echoed Miri's. From time to time I would take days off to fly to Bora Bora, or Huahine, or Raiatea. There were no willowy vahines for me there either (I was too much of a nerd, I suspect, and still learning how to communicate with the other species). But there was the nude model on Moorea, and Lucy on Bora Bora. The journey was, indeed, all that I had hoped for and a good deal more. Three months later I departed with memories of friendships never to be forgotten. Two years later Tahiti was the last stop on our honeymoon and JoAnn got to meet Esther and Miri as well.
May, 2006. In the middle of a two-part cruise across much of the South Pacific I have one day in Papeete, Tahiti's capital. I leave the ship and take the bus to Paea. Much, alas, has changed...even Le Truck (the buses). Now there are walls where once chickens and children gamboled free and unrestrained from property to property. Miri Rei is gone, having died in 1999 a couple of months shy of her ninety-first birthday. Fredo is very ill, but I think (I hope) remembers me. But Esther is much the same. We talk, and share memories of times gone by. My ship moves on. On Bora Bora there are twelve hotels and four more abuilding where once there were three...and criminally, there are jetskis blasting around the storied lagoon. I cling to old images as we sail on toward the Cook Islands.
January, 2010. An email arrives...from Esther. The internet permits wonders. We chat, and exchange reminiscences. I start to learn more. Miri Rei was...Princess Maheta Rei, descended from royalty of Raiatea and Bora Bora. The wealthy American who loved her and whom she loved in return was Cornelius Crane, scion of the Crane plumbing empire. Esther remembers well the Crane mansion in Ipswich, Massachusetts and "Uncle Conny". For a time they sailed between Hawaii and Tahiti on crane's yacht Te Vega, one of the largest steel-hulled schooners ever built. I find that, unknown, I have been on the fringes of a great and wondrous love story as profound and moving as anything you will encounter at the movies. And there is more....
Long before she met Crane, Miri won a dance contest in Tahiti. It propelled her to New York, where she danced in the Ziegfeld Follies, and onward to California. Hollywood in the 1930's was much enamored of stories with South Seas settings. Murnau and Flaherty's TABU (Miri was friend of its star Anna Chevalier), John Ford's THE HURRICANE, MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, and many more. I learn that along with every other Polynesian living in Southern California at the time Miri likely appeared as an extra in these films. Many years later she narrated a film Crane sponsored, THE TAHITIAN (1956), about fighting disease in Tahiti. I research everything I can, without much hope of finding anything, and then...a credit. For a Paramount production called WAIKIKI WEDDING (1937) starring Bing Crosby and Martha Raye. There is a credit for one "Miri Rei - specialty dancer". I enter the time machine, and forty-three minutes and twenty seconds into the film, right after the Hollywood volcano makes its appearance, I find myself gazing utterly entranced at a dance number featuring a twenty-eight year old ball of Polynesian fire flashing...a radiant smile that reaches out to me across time and space. Here is Princess Maheta Miri Rei from 1937. Requesat en pace, Miri. I am a better human being for having known you when. I wish I had been privileged to know you then.
When you live beside a live creek and the third largest rain event in the 113-year recorded weather history of the town where you live hits, you have a tendency to keep an eye on rising water levels. That's what we did last week, when our Willow Creek turned from a dampish stain in the sand into a maddened torrent that raged from bank to bank. Our house sits on a promintory that juts out into the creek, so the water winds around it. For some eight hours we could hear the flood clearly from within the house. Outside, it sounded like the world's longest freight train. No damage to the property. A few minor drip-leaks. Nothing like the storm of 1983 where our particular small area received 18 inches of rain in a twenty-four hour period. That was the storm that required evacuation and cost us half an acre of land. It's impossible to write or do much of anything under such conditions except marvel at the power of running water. And it always seems to happen late at night so I can't get any decent pictures.
I've never played d&d, or video games. Never could make the time. But when Wizards of the Coast asked if I'd be interested in writing something in a D&D setting, I said sure. I love trying new things. The result was THE STEEL PRINCESS, out in the current issue of their DRAGON magazine. I really did fall in love with the main character.
I apologize to all who were looking forward to STAR TREK: REFUGEES, which was to be released in May. This first sequel novel set in the new ST universe, along with three others by diverse hands, was pulled by the publisher. Speculation as to why this was done abounds on the web and in the blogosphere. My own opinion is that those who control the franchise wanted to make sure these four new tales did not in any way present possible conflicts with the story of the next film...whatever that may be. I suspect the books will be published one day, possibly once the screenplay for the second film has been more or less finalized. I regret that despite many requests I can't provide further details as to the story itself, except to say that I enjoyed writing it.
I'm not a particular fan of westerns, but when I was growing up they dominated night-time television. My one real favorite was HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL. Played by the redoubtable Richard Boone, the lead character, known in the series only as Paladin, was a sophisticated gun for hire, as comfortable in the San Francisco hotel where he resided as out in the mountains dealing with bad guys. Lately I've taken to recording and watching the series, which runs in the early morning on the Western Channel. As with THE TWILIGHT ZONE, I'm struck by the incredibly skimpiness of the show's budget. It was a time in TV-land when sfx consisted of a couple of guys at the studio hammering stuff together out of plywood and fiberglass. You had to compensate for the lack of spectacle with words. Few actors could express irritation and contempt at the follies of humankind better than Boone. Think Alan Rickman, only with physical mass. Notwithstanding the often primitive sets and camerwork, HGWT was a wonderful show. No other TV western made such a strong attempt to provoke thought among its audience. There's also the joy of seeing name actors in small TV roles, from Charles Bronson (who appeared in, I believe, six episodes) to Vincent Price, to last night's appearance by that busy western character actor DeForest Kelly. In one episode, Boone is menaced by Yavapai Indians. Pretty amusing considering that my home town of Prescott wraps around the Yavapai reservation
VCI Entertainment is preparing a special DVD edition of the cult SF film DARK STAR. Despite having nothing to do with the film (I only wrote the novelization), I was recently interviewed by them for the extras portion of the release. I expect this had something to do with my still being alive. You live long enough, you become history.
I will be competing in the NASA Arizona State powerlifting championships in Mesa, AZ on the 6th. Should anyone be in the area, I will be happy to chat or sign books during the (ample) downtime.
And a happy new year to all of you who made it through. Snow here last week, pleasant today. I had a call a couple of days ago from Peter Dolingo, son of the noted Russian SF writer Boris Dolingo. The Dolingos live in Yekateringburg. A major city, with the best airport I've ever used in Russia. Peter, who spent a recent summer working in San Francisco, asked if it was warm here. I told him it was snowing and cold. He off-handedly replied that it was thirty below there. Unusual for December, but not for February. Peter wins the cold derby.
One of the things I regret is that I do not have enough time to correspond with (much less visit) all of the friends I have made around the world. The globe has shrunk so much for me that everything and everybody seems right next door. This feeling cuts two ways. On the one hand, it's both strange and reassuring to know that I can hop from Turkey to Germany to India to South Africa to the Pacific (you get the idea) and be assured of being welcomed as an old friend. On the other, the place has just grown too damn small. Even the solar system is starting to seem...neighborly. Must be all those holiday shots from Mars and Titan. It makes me more pleased than ever that I write science-fiction and that my horizons (the mental ones, anyway) are not circumscribed by what can be visited on a two-day round-the-block ticket.
THE HUMAN BLEND, the first book of The Tipping Point trilogy, is set for a November release. I owe some anthologies a couple of short stories, which I hope to do this week, before embarking on a significant project that I hope to be able to discuss in next month's update. Still awaiting confirmation on OSHANURTH. I'll be competing in the NASA Arizona State powerlifting championships in Mesa next month, and the state RAW championships in March. That is, if I can lose the results of holiday cooking.
The Tipping Point books allow me to indulge in what I believe is a critical and oft-neglected feature of good SF: attention to future detail. Far too frequently, writers get lazy and fail to acknowledge how the passage of time affects everyday life. SF films are especially woeful in this regard. Think of the pile of Everyready batteries in Aliens 3. All too often the clothes people wear are unchanged, the food looks the same, nothing is updated save the central scientific ideas. FTL travel is common- place, but everyone still uses toothbrushes. Robots are advanced, but made of 21st century materials. An example of an SF film where the writers strove mightily to deal with this conundrum is WALL-E. I try very hard to keep the everyday science in my stories as updated as possible. But if you live long enough, science overtakes your earlier works. A fan pointed out that the downed lifeboat of the marooned humans in the ICERIGGER books should have been easy to spot by any orbiting satellite. Not to mention using the far-future version of a cell phone to contact the single human outpost on the planet. High-resolution satellites and cell phones didn't exist when the books were written. When they're reprinted, I intend to update the science.
When I teach a course in writing SF, I always ask student to envision science and society as they were a hundred years ago. Then two hundred, then five. When we start discussing those subjects as they existed in the year 1010, I then ask them to imagine that they're someone from that time trying to write about today's world. That's the trouble with trying to predict science and society in the year 3010...never mind 5010, and so on. It just cannot be done. But as conscientious sf writers, we should strive to do our best. That means...no flashlights powered by c-cells. No keyboards...typing will become an ancient skill, like pen calligraphy. Different ways of preparing food and drink. And on alien worlds, for heaven's sake...alien biomes.
First, a thank you to all who sent birthday greetings. Except for the isolated shedding of body parts (hair, an occasional tendon, etc.) I have the most peculiar feeling that like Benjamin Button, I'm growing younger. Either that, or senile infantilism is setting in. When people ask where the money went I've begun to find myself saying "My health is my wealth". As friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and miscellaneous eminencies of note begin showing up in the obituaries instead of on pages I actually want to read I find myself increasingly in the position of Stephen King's main character from THE GREEN MILE, outliving those I've known and loved. Fortunately, I keep making new friends younger than myself. Wheel of time and all that.
I'm finishing up the second and third books of THE TIPPING POINT trilogy, the first book of which I expect to appear from Del Rey next year (and depending on publishing schedules, perhaps the second as well). Still waiting for contract confirmation on OSHANURTH. Life moseys onward. I have a couple of trips in mind. One to the Middle East that would start with diving and exploration in Oman, thence to the UAE where I have friends, onward to Jordan. If I can figure out how to get a non-tourist visa I would love to spend some time in Saudi Arabia. The other trip would be to Zambia and Malawai. Zambia for leopards, as well as other wildlife, and Malawai because there is now a dive shop that makes diving possible in Lake Malawi. If possible, might even slip over the border into Congo. All depends on domestic considerations and work demands, of course, but I think half the pleasure of taking such trips lies in the planning and anticipation.
While in Los Angeles recently I spent a fascinating evening with Guy Orlebar. Formerly with Goldman Sachs Japan, Guy is married to a Japanese gal and speaks decent Cantonese and Mandarin in addition to Japanese. Deciding he'd much rather do films than figures, he moved to Hong Kong where he has already directed and produced one picture. His current project, which we discussed, would be the first Chinese-U.S. co-production science-fiction film. Live actors + CGI, with a most unusual attention to actual science. For example, artificial gravity would actually be addressed instead of being presented on spaceships as a given. The solar system would be depicted realistically. All manna to someone who winces every time they see easily correctible science errors thrown in their face every time they sit in the theater paying to see such stories. We'll see what develops.
Not much new beyond the usual frenetic work. There will possibly be a mid-November update of some importance, which subject matter must for the nonce remain unmentioned. News at 11.
Work proceeds apace on the last two books of THE TIPPING POINT trilogy. I love it when a gap in a novel outline suddenly fills itself in, not only logically but in directions one never anticipates. And when the characters start getting uppity and acting out on their own. Nothing pleases an author more than when he becomes a spectator to his own creation.
To tide you over, here are a few shots from the last journey.
Typical clothing shop in the capital of the French Comoros.. They make nice shirts.
Restaurant on the main street in the Seychelles capital of Mahe. More than a little ironic considering the trouble that country is having with real pirates right now.
Zanzibar is famous for its hand-carved old wooden doors, some of which are hundreds of years old. This one leads to...use your imagination.
STAR TREK: REFUGEES, the first book sequel to the recent film, has been turned in to Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books. I believe publication is scheduled for June of next year, and I hope I have done right not only by the film but by those of you who are waiting to see what can be done with the characters in a novel setting. I very much enjoyed writing the story.
I should finish SICK, INC., the second volume of THE TIPPING POINT trilogy, some time this month. It looks as if the OSHANURTH trilogy is accepted, but until contract details are agreed upon I can't announce the publisher. Look for that information in the November update. I'm delighted, as I have invested a great deal of myself in the writing and the opportunity to explore my love of the sea. While OSHANURTH is grand fantasy that takes place entirely underwater, the oceanographic details are as accurate as I can make them. They reflect and make use of many things I have seen and experienced.
A Russian friend of mine, an aspiring filmmaker from Ekaterinburg for whom I polished the English subtitles of his first film, has made his first commercial. Check it out...you won't be disappointed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBby_n1hT6I
On the 17/18th of this month I will be competing in the RAW World Powerlifting Championships at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. In between embarrassing myself, I will be happy to chat and/or sign books for anyone who might happen by. I guarantee a different atmosphere from the usual SF con, although some of the grunts may be recognizable. I'm going to try and break my Arizona state record. This past Monday I tried 305 and it went nowhere. On the other hand, I'm not dead, either.
Have a happy Halloween and remember...dark chocolate is good for you.
I will be attending DRAGONCON in Atlanta 3-7 Sept. and hope to see some of you there. It's been many years since I was last in Atlanta and I hope to see the new dinosaur exhibit at the natural history museum...and if I can manage the time, eat at Aunt Pittypat's. I reckon I'll give the Varsity a miss this time.
The rough draft of STAR TREK: REFUGEES, the first sequel novel to the ST film, is finished and I expect to turn in the final draft before the end of next month. I'm very pleased with it. I've a done a story for the second collection of original Zorro stories (what, you didn't know?). You'd be surprised who has done stories for both of these anthologies. And I've done an original story, POINT MAID, for the universe of D&D. The only problem with it is that I'm in love with the main character and can't use him outside the realm of d&d. But within...who knows what might eventuate?
Made the time to go and see DISTRICT 9. Very clever, and I'd applaud the film if only for the fact that it's not set in New York or Los Angeles. There are some social issues (especially if you're from Nigeria) and plot holes big enough to drive a small starship through, but it's wonderful to see an SF film made by fans of the genre who actually respect the genre. As to those plot holes...rocket fuel that doubles as a DNA manipulator, oppressed and mistreated aliens with access to hundreds or thousands of high-tech weapons who never use said weapons in their defense, a starship that just needs half a liter of home-distilled goo to jumpstart it, aliens who are removed from their starship by helicopter but never think to snatch one to return to it, an alien savior determined to rescue his poor benighted people and when he has the chance, promptly takes off and leaves them all behind...and the abandoned cheer his departure, overnight body changes from human to part alien....
Viewers and reviewers say the aliens remind them of prawns or insects. Me, I kept thinking Dr. Zoidberg (sorry). More alien than the usual funny mask and prosthetics, yes, but still bisymmetrical and with human proportions. It speaks volumes for the film industry's vision of aliens that the most alien ones we get are in something like GALAXY QUEST.
Westercon was a great deal of fun and it was good to see some old friends again. Raced back home to get back to work on STAR TREK:REFUGEES. I'm about a quarter of the way through and having a great time.
Some interesting (actually more than interesting) points of congruence between a book of mine and an upcoming SF film. See if you can work out the pairing, which has already resulted in some querying at this end (and no little gnashing of teeth).
Spent three days at Comicon in San Diego last week. The usual fascinating madhouse. Like sitting out all night waiting for good seats to view the Rose Parade, it's something everyone should do at least once. In addition to (again) meeting and chatting with old friends, I had the opportunity to have dinner across a long table with Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Oliphant. I wish the table hadn't been so full or so noisy. It's not everyday you have have the chance to chat with the number one political cartoonist on the planet. I'm afraid I struggled to make the most of a conversation that consisted primarily of shouted intermittent inconsequentialities.
Also met and spoke with Greg Evans, who does the award-winning strip LUANN. And spent a fair amount of time with Brooke McIldowney (of the strips 9 CHICKWEED LANE and the astounding on-line only PIBGORN) during which we attempted to solve all the problems of the world and, alas, failed. But his beautiful and brilliant daughter Nicola just might do it, if she doesn't get sidetracked by more enjoyable and less stressful pursuits. Picture of Brooke and I at Peohe's restaurant on the bay in San Diego.
STAR TREK: REFUGEES is coming along nicely, and I just finished a portion of a chapter that I've been wanting to write ever since the new film came out. You'll know it instantly when you read it (if they don't cut it). SICK, INC. awaits its final rewrite, following which I will conclude the Tipping Point trilogy with THE SUM OF HER PARTS. And on a less intellectual but no less stressful note, I won my age & weight division in the unequipped bench bress at the RAW Southwest Regional powerlifting meet with a lift of 275lbs.
I'm posting this a couple of days early because I'm due as GoH at this year's Westercon in Tempe, Arizona from 1 July to 5 July. I hope to see some of you there.
Many thanks to all of you who wrote in to say how much you enjoyed FLINX TRANSCENDENT. Perhaps when Flinx grows sufficiently bored (or a new idea strikes) we just might see him on the move again. He's a bit of a restless chap, and there's this starship sitting around....
The Mac is proving to be a lot of fun. It's infinitely faster than my old Dell and Safari is a pleasure. As soon as I figure out what I'm doing wrong with Fetch I'll try to start doing updates on the Mac instead of this charming HP netbook. What I probably need is an instruction manual for Fetch...the online help doesn't begin to answer the necessary questions.
Awhile back I wrote a novella, BOX OF OXEN, that the redoubtable Lou Anders purchased for the resurrected Argosy magazine. Unfortunately, the magazine folded. Lou moved on to bigger and better things at Pyr, but because of its length and subject matter the novella has had a hard time finding a new home. If you're curious to see my SFnal take on the Israel-Palestine situation, the novella is available for a couple of bucks via Scribd.com. As a number of readers have already written to discuss it, I'm curious as ever to hear additional feedback. Maybe one day it will appear in a regular magazine, but for now the Net has been its temporary savior.
I recently dropped the AT&T landline to my study in favor of telephony over the net via Vonage. There is an occasional echo (most oddly when I just call the house), but mostly connections are clear and sharp. And one third the cost. Vonage's service has also been excellent. Technology marches on. It also improves washing. When one of our water heaters went out, instead of buying a new monster cylinder for the kitchen we put an Ariston-Bosch compacter hot water heater under the sink area. It weighs nothing and because of the location delivers virtually instant hot water (and I mean hot!) directly to the hot water faucet. This isn't one of those little in-sink hot water heaters you see advertised for making soup and coffee: it's a 12 gal. heater. Plenty for washing everything except maybe the Thanksgiving dinner dishes.
What's that? Something about SF? Oh, right. I hope to finish the rough draft of the second book in THE TIPPING POINT trilogy, SICK, INC., sometime next month. Then I'll do the sequel book to the STAR TREK movie...still waiting for final okay on the outline from Pocket Books.
Well, it finally happened. Despite the presence of Norton Utilities, Windows Defender, a top-rated firewall, and much else my trusty old Dell finally picked up a boxload of trojans. Blocked access to all programs and files, including (cleverly) the Restore control. I took it into Best Buy and they wanted $200 to clean the hard drive. At which point I bought a Mac. Very nice machine. Still getting the hang of things, and I have to decide between Transmit or Fetch for updating this site, but so far no real problems. Biggest aggravation is the lack of a forward delete key on the compact keyboard. Naturally I had everything backed up on several separate drives, but I did lose saved email files. Nothing critical, though. And I still haven't found an easy method for transferring .wab MS address files into the Mac address book.
Meanwhile things including updates may move a bit more slowly than usual, though I'll still put something up every month. I'm using my old software on the HP netbook that I (providentially) bought a few months ago.
Bookscan, the industry system that tracks actual book sales, on their SF list, had STAR TREK at #2, FLINX TRANSCENDENT at #6, and TERMINATOR; SALVATION and TRANSFORMERS:REVENGE OF THE FALLEN at 11 and 14. Very flattering,that.
There is a very good chance that I will be doing a follow-up original novel to the Star Trek film. Details as they come....
For those of you interested in details on the numbered and signed edition of the STAR TREK novelization, you can go directly to the source
For those of you who have inquired, prints of Todd Lockwood's cover for QUOFUM are available for sale from his website. Mike McCarty recently conducted an interview with me for Science Fiction Weekly that is available at: http://www.scifi.com/sfw/interviews/sfw18827.html. SF Weekly is the online zine of the SciFi Channel. The photo of me used in the interview was taken this past February on Fais Island, Yap state, Federated Republic of Micronesia. Very isolated place. 400 inhabitants, no airstrip, one or two supply boats a year. The remainder of the time the locals live a subsistence lifestyle based on fishing and agriculture. There are such places left in the world.
A few of you have asked about my work space. Following are some pictures of my study. This is located atop a garage (separate) from the main house. Being able to oversee the construction allowed me to do things like leave space on the walls for artwork, locate the windows where I wished, and order bookcases that would fit beneath the windows. It has all worked out very well.
Unlike the thumbnails on the bio/photo page, these do not enlarge. In picture #4, you will note the original Spirits of the Earth Makonde sculpture from Tanzania that inspires the ending of INTO THE OUT OF. In the upper far right is the original Dean Ellis cover art for the first edition of ICERIGGER. Visible in #2 (center) is the original Michael Whelan art for NOR CRYSTAL TEARS and to the far left, the Barclay Shaw art for THE SPOILS OF WAR. Center front in #2 and #3 is a very finely decorated didgeridoo signed by the Wiradjuri artist Talapagar. My desk (hidden) is at the top center of #5. The fabric covering the couch is a Hindu marriage-bed spread from Mauritius (but probably woven in India). The royal Saruk Persian carpet was my maternal grandmother's and despite much coaxing, alas, will not fly. The view in #6 is from the small deck outside the study which overlooks a more-or-less perennial creek some fifty feet below.