In the viral marketing that went around Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I was a player. I got mine watching over objections of "Isn't that a little girls show and their relationships?" Um, yes, that's part of it. Don't a bunch of dudes turn into vampires and have to get dusted by the babish Buffy and her varying squad of assistants? Uh, yeah, and it's funny and deadly serious at the same time. Brilliant show befors the last two seasons. Marti Noxon made it into a soft porn wannabe crossing over with something like Dawson's Creek. It was disgusting at the end but the point is I got a lot of people to watch that bloody show. Why can't I get you on to James Lee Burke?
I'm reading his new one and it comes with pain. First of all I can only read ten pages or so at a time. It's just so good I can't handle the overload. I need some downwriting, paddign placed between the good scenes.
There's a definition of poetry floating around out the that I can't quite get to in my mind. I'm on ambien and suspect I'm crawling into the behavior we won't remember in the morning phase. Something sure the hell is hiknking my typing. Anyway, the quote said sometihg about how good writing uses perfect wrods in just the write situations. But in poetry you use just perfect words.
Burke writes poetry. His descriptions are evocative, they are beautuifl, they areattainments. He writes perjaps the finest genre novels out there, with each book driving forth the trumeting cause, the flood lights to heaven marking the site of the books beautiful things.
Burke's books are to be cherished. Read "Neon Rain", "Into 'The Electirc Mist with the Confedrate Dead", or "Jolie Blon's Bounce.' The books are poetry becasuse they are written with the perfect words. He's brilliant, his books are are, and they will maintain. Most of all he makes me aspire to things as a reader, as a writer, and as fan, someone who can sop up the biscuits that are steaming out of his books.
If you trusted me on Buffy and Farscape and Zelazny's "Lord of Light" or his first Amber series then for gods sake go pick up the Neon Rain. Get familiar with "Electric Mists" because they're making a move of it with Tommy Lee Jones. Check out the Alec Baldwin turn in "Heaven's Prisoners." It's a bit off but it will give a taste of the books., hopefully make you want to read them
I'll be reading mine again and again. Tomorrow, though, I'll have to try to read this. I need to sleep before the crazy behaviour kicks in. It's already even odds I won't remembe doing this.
So I saw this video clip where they were talking about Britney Spears at a recent photo shoot: arriving late, eating lunch and wiping greasy hands on her designer duds then actually leaving with them, etc. The most bizarre thing was what was described as her taking frequent bathroom breaks -- with the door open.
Idol to millions of girls, eh? First, we demasculated the males, now we'll screw up the females.
I don't understand some things. I don't understand how "globalization" turns out to have meant doing business with China, China and more China. I don't understand that in the war against man-made global warming, we buy products like fluorescent light bulbs from a country that has polluted 70 percent of their surface water, 90 percent of their underground water, and are going to fire missiles into clouds and ban one million cars in order to reduce air pollution for the Olympics. Setting aside the problems of polluting our own landfills with the mercury from these bulbs once we finally throw them away, aren't we simply shifting the burden of our own pollution to another country? By giving them all of our trade aren't we just paying them to pollute for us?
I don't understand why we demand three dollar made in China garbage cans from Wal-Mart when I would be happy to buy a made in the USA one for twice that, especially given how often I'm actually in the market for garbage cans. Or toasters, televisions, bar stools, and seemingly everything else.
I don't understand why some of our leading presidential candidates support increasing the numbers of H1B workers that are allowed to come here and work tech jobs when so many trained people I know would take them. Oh, yeah, the guest workers work more cheaply and better yet, they can't go anywhere for three years once you hire them. If there is such a shortage of domestic workers, why are major law firms holding seminars showing employers what they need to do in order to satisfy the requirements of hiring H1B workers without tripping over domestic ones? There's a video posted on YouTube of one of these things.
I don't understand why people keep saying the best way to change things is to vote. Okay, I vote, but I feel bad about it because we only have two viable parties with nearly interchangeable candidates, none of whom I feel are worth a damn. So voting gets me what? A say in which crapweasel gets the office? I'm not sure it's a national shame that we have such low voter turnouts as it is a national delusion that a higher turnout would solve anything. It's just not the problem.
I don't understand the woman I saw on TV who said she was a Clinton supporter and had been excited to see her speak in person. Sadly, she said, her candidate didn't say as much about what she'd do on real issues as she'd have liked. Are you still a supporter? Oh, yes, she says. Because most people make up their mind who they're going to vote for without listening to the details. Maybe those are too painful.
I don't understand why immigration reform is such a hot topic. Is it because health care and social security reform are so politicized they're frozen in place? Someone needed to find a new button to push?
I don't understand why congress holds hearings on issues like the Martha Stewart insider trading thing. Like they haven't done anything like that themselves, like it doesn't happen thousands of time every day to ordinary people who, whether they're busted or not, don't become the subject of a congressional hunting party. This is why you guys get paid?
I don't understand how when it comes to politics people can think they're so right about things. What do any of us know about what's going on unless we see it on TV or read it in the paper? Aren't we interpreting what they're reporting and how they're reporting it instead of what's really going on? Isn't that a little bit like whispering a secret to someone who whispers it to someone else and so on until a few steps down the chain the story's materially changed?
I don't understand how so many of us are so quick to judge our leaders, whether we voted for them or not, and not willing to acknowledge the fallibilities of our own positions. What if the New York Times or the Washington Post got it wrong? What if Cindy Sheehan is really nuts or George Bush has really helped make the country safer? What if America's image isn't quite so damaged as they tell us on TV?
I don't understand why I have to feel so unattached, so divorced from my country, drowned out by all the rhetoric and half formed opinions of my friends and co-workers, when none of us really knows exactly what the hell is going on. I don't understand why it's our obligation to vote for people we like only because they haven't been elected yet. I don't understand why it then becomes a national pastime to viciously tear down our own government in whatever public forum comes to hand. Thank you, Dixie Chicks, but I didn't need to know that. You, too, Babs and Tim and Christopher.
I don't understand why I can't be proud of my country, warts and all, and stand behind the flag and the ideals it represents and express that without having to argue with the opinions from last Sunday's news shows.
I may, however, be at the cusp of understanding why so many of us don't actually vote. It may be the silent voice, the tacit disapproval, the most appropriate gesture some of us feel we can make; we'd like to throw the bums out, but who do we throw in?
It's been a while since I've written here about actual writing stuff and since I'm nearly halfway through writing my fourth book attempt, it may be time to spout off a bit. I say "attempt" because in my SERIOUS period, I completed a book, then wrote over sixty thousand words of a second (longer than a Gold Medal from the sixties) but the mystery came together much quicker than I anticipated. All that would have been left would have been twenty thousand words of bad guy apprehension and I didn't think that it would be THAT interesting. So I bagged it.
Then there was a long and unplanned delay as we moved to Atlanta and I switched jobs to one that liked to work you over 60 hours a week if possible. Most of us figured that after fifty some the taxes that were deducted from the paycheck made this ludicrous, but still, it was enough to kill my writing time. Bad excuse, but I let it happen.
After a few aborted starts, I got back to it in a big way while commuting to a job in Texas. Unfortunately I ended it at forty six thousand words, the failure being a successful lesson. While I had clear pictures of my protagonist and antagonist, I began writing the thing without a good idea of the circumstances that would put them in opposition. It turns out I had only a weak notion of what the villain wanted and at 46k words, I couldn't fake it any more.
So I've taken everything I've learned in the past and before beginning the current book, I had crafted a series of questions that needed to be answered before pen would meet paper. Even on this I cheated though I was mostly successful.
I began by writing longhand, as normal, but then something goofy happened. When I transcribed the opening scene onto the computer, I kept writing on the computer. Yuch, blech, icky. But I've kept it up and it seems to be working, and I'm taken aback by it.
I prefer to write in longhand because when I write on the computer, the writing just is never as good. My explanation is that since it takes so much longer to write with a pen, by the time I get to the end of a long sentence, my mind has been working on it and it may have changed from its initial conception. This is definitely true of a paragraph: writing it out by hand gives it the opportunity to be digested and revised, a sort of in-line editing process, during the actual movement of the pen across the paper.
Not so with a computer where the first thought is what gets typed. Maybe an answer would be to learn how to type slower but that seems counter-productive. I also think it's foolish to depend on electricity to write, or to have to write where my computer is set up and not in a notebook at the beach or in the woods or lying down in the yard or pulled over in the car.
But so far this one's been done on the computer since the first scene and while I have ambiguous feelings about it, it seems to be working. It may be because I did all the background work before I began the actual book writing. I may just know where I want to go that much better. It could be that this book is written in the first person (my first time) and that it is inherently somewhat quicker to write: the language is limited to that of your character's, the descriptions are limited to things he'd notice, and so on. It also could be the fact that I still can't focus or concentrate as well as I could prior to being afflicted with Chronic Fatigue System.
Or, of course, it could be parts of all of these. I do know that it's not uncommon for me to write two thousand words during the day on the computer and while that chews up page count, I find it disconcerting to not sweat as much over the prose as much as I'm accustomed. On the other hand, I think about the pulpsters and paperback original, paid by the word writers of the thirties through sixties. They'd be laughing at my concerns and say I should be writing three thousand words a day, book after book.
The problem will come next month when we take a two week trip to Wisconsin. I imagine I'll have to write on paper because setting up a computer environment won't be feasible as we bounce from relative to relative, staying who knows where each night. We'll see. Maybe after the trip I'll stay with the pen and ink which I still think is the way I want to write in the future, especially with books NOT written in the first person.
One of the topics I would have written about a few weeks ago had I been medically (or is it mentally?) able was the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. I won't let the time lapse stop me now, but I'll be uncharacteristically brief. Hopefully I can still make sense.
I kinda sorta liked the first one of the movies. Though it was tough to overlook the liberties it took with rank and custom from the Age of Sail, I could piggyback that on the bigger suspension of belief: that pirates, rather than being bands of lawless killers, rapists and plunderers, were really likable and charismatic men who simply loved the freedom of the high seas.
The "right of parley" and the pirate's Code were complete hokum but in for a penny...
Still, though, it was mostly entertaining, the CGI not inexcusably bad, and the plot well conceived from a structural standpoint. Points introduced in the early parts of the movie foreshadowed more significant events in the later parts. So I had high hopes for the sequels, hoping against hope that if they couldn't improve, they could at least maintain.
Didn't like the second movie. Ohmigod, suddenly not only was everything transparent, the plot's became contrived to the point where it subjugated not only story but any remnants of common sense. You wouldn't take your disgraced enemy as part of your crew, would you? Oh, you did. Well, then you wouldn't hand pick him on your crucial shore missions, would you? Oh, you would. You wouldn't throw away the main character development from the first movie, that of the bonding between Captain Jack Sparrow, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan would you, not just for the sake of a silly three way sword fight on top of a rogue water wheel? Oh never mind.
The third one took these absurdities even further. Suddenly, out of the blue, there's a pirate's council, as if such a group of outlaws would answer to any form of government. Oh, wait, the story called for this to be conjured up. Captain Jack is one of the thirteen, as a matter of fact. Hmm. Wasn't he only captain of one ship, the Black Pearl, for a year or two before it was mutinied out from under him? But wait, the story demanded that.
And that's when I realized the problem with the movies: they violate the rules of fantastic fiction. For a science fiction or fantasy story to work, the creators craft a universe with its own history, its own laws, its own internal consistencies. Not so with the Pirates universe, though. They simply made it up not just as they went along, but in disregard for everything they had done before. By definition this meant whatever happened after wasn't necessarily going to follow. Why didn't the pirate council have anything to do with the events in the second movie, for instance? Simple, they didn't exist until the plot in the third movie called for them to be conjured.
So after an encouraging start, the movies got progressively worse for the simple reason that the filmmakers were unwilling to create their own rules and then stick to them. Which, in the realm of fantasy, is an unforgivable sin. Aaaargh.
Last night I finished watching, for the second time, the entire four season run of the former SciFi Channel show Farscape, including the series ending wrap up, The Peacekeeper Wars. Usually when I watch the show I think, damn, that's a good show but last night I tended to simply curse the unmentionable SOB's that canceled the show so unexpectedly a few years ago. On the other hand, those same people may have been responsible for it being on the air in the first place but the two things don't quite cancel each other out.
Before my eight month long period of enforced rest, I had come across the show while flicking channels but I never stayed for more than a minute or two. I saw a puppet or two, some people of unusual colors, and not knowing what was going on, I moved on. Then, during that time where I couldn't read and could barely sleep, I re-discovered it in late night re-runs.
Damn, it was good. And stylish, too, with each episode having a duotone kind of look to it. Apparently part of the reason for the series' creation was to showcase the capabilities of The Jim Henson Company, hence the puppets (as distinguished from Muppets, who had their own space thing going for a while but with pigs). This gave rise to two significant things: unique characters we hadn't seen before, and a very refreshing non-reliance on CGI graphics.
What carried the show the first two seasons was the characters' relationships to each other. Thrown together on a former prison barge, a group of escaped prisoners are accidentally joined by an astronaut from Earth and immediately caught up in flight from their former captors, the Peacekeepers. None of the characters particularly like the other, they argue, they fight, they don't trust. But over the course of the show that comes to change in much the same way the characters in Dead Like Me evolved throughout that series' run.
Even though many of the plots were the same recycled ones we've seen since the original Star Trek: one of the characters is dropped into an alien, primitive society and treated like a god, then they turn on him when they find he isn't; one of the characters is accused of murder in another culture while really being manipulated by someone else; a first contact story; and more.
What saves the show during this time is the uniqueness of the characters (despite the worn plots), the stylish look of the show, and a villain that may be the most intriguing bad guy ever filmed, an alien half breed named Scorpius. His cultured manners alternating with sudden viciousness, a black leather suit that is part armor and part air conditioner, the whirling thing that rotates in and out of the side of his head, and the truly scary make up job immortalize him in the annals of television. My annals, anyway. His tendency to spew and drool while being tortured are remarkable, as well.
The way I understand it, the ratings had gone flat and the channel wasn't seeing the growth it should, therefore they pulled the plug on a planned fifth season. I know that when I first started watching, I had no idea what was going on: why was there an image of Scorpius in Crichton's head, who put the wormhole technology in his brain and why, etc. etc. The ongoing continuity is one of the show's great strengths but it does come with a significant drawback: as the show progresses and the storylines grow longer and deeper, new viewers simply cannot pick up what is going on.
Ultimately I guess that's what doomed the show from SciFi's perspective but dammit, they should have exercised restraint and had more patience. When the show really hit it's stride in the third season with mostly original plot ideas, it was the best thing going. The hundred new variations of Star Trek couldn't touch it, Battlestar Galactica is, to me, all flash and no substance (see earlier posts), and nothing else even comes to mind as worth mentioning.
Watch the DVD's, be a fan, be sad that it ended far too soon. On the other hand, is it sad that a forty something year old man can feel this strongly about a television show? Forget I said anything.
It's been a while. I re-injured my knee while recovering from the arthroscopy and I may not more done on my eye to further correct the astigmatism. I'm doing three reading sessions a day in a large print book and a big screen movie with an eye patch over my "good" eye. Hopefully my brain will forge new connections to the "new" eye and people will be nicer to each other or something.
So, back to thrillers...
One of the last actual "can't put it down" books I've read was Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity. Whoo boy, it starts off with a man, more dead than alive, washing ashore and nursed back to health by a disgraced doctor. When the man makes his first appearance in town, people look at him in shock and say things like, "You! You're supposed to be dead!" And then they try to make him that way but, using skills the patient didn't know he had, he easily beats the hell out of his attackers. When the doc finds a piece of subcutaneously inserted microfilm containing a Swiss bank account number, off the patient goes. And the book doesn't slow down from there.
Although I've read the book four times, it still sweeps me away in a page turning frenzy so much so that I always forgive the very end where he's trapped in a house with a man who turns out to be his arch-foe. I could probably read the book fifty more times and still not figure out what the hell happened.
Sadly and coincidentally, this turns out to be Ludlum's last good book. His two sequels to Bourne turned out to be crap, forgoing the care put into his previous novels and devolving to a coincidence laden pastiche, not parody, of his earlier style. Yuch. It's painful to give up on a previously favorite author but when they begin to let you down, they usually don't stop. And to add insult to injury, they keep bringing out books from Ludlum, even though he died in 2001, which may or may not have had much to do with him. I'll even admit to reading one of them (but just one).
In his prime, no one wrote a chase scene like Ludlum, and there was one in almost every book. The hero would be trying to make his way to some place safe through a very crowded, very public setting like a train station or a hotel. Bad guys were everywhere and they all seemed to know who he was while to him, they remained faceless and anonymous. Until they made their move. The tension and suspense created by this was painful and yes, it made it nearly impossible to put down. My favorite is probably the sequence in The Aquitaine Progression...
In recent years publishers have seen the popularity of thrillers rise. There's now an association of thriller writers with their own awards program. Writers not previously thought of as thriller writers have swelled its ranks while early practitioners such as Ludlum and Tom Clancy seem to have had their reputations fall on relatively hard times. Yes, Ludlum lost it after The Bourne Identity but he still had a dozen books before that. Clancy may be hit or miss but The Hunt for Red October and my favorite, Red Storm Rising, are still solid books.
On the whole, though, the label of "thriller" seems to be stuck on to books that are typically implausible, carelessly plotted, ignorant of character development, and increasingly formulaic. This is a bad thing. As long as something blows up every third page, or someone is assassinated in each three page chapter, and the entire globe is in peril, all other tenets of good writing can be excused. Indeed, they may even get in the way.
I used to think that I wrote thrillers. Now I jiggle to the side and if I have to produce a label I'd utter something like "crime fiction." In the past I would have been thrilled (forgive the pun) to be associated by genre with a Robert Ludlum or a Tom Clancy but not any more. Perhaps when people start "co-writing" in your own fictional universe the bell has tolled. Or when an author creates a framework for other writers, where a shadowy internal governmental organization can go out and fight the brilliantly evil terrorist who has found a way to deploy a postage stamp nuke in the White House gift shop.
You get what I mean. Thrillers seem to have fallen to the genre equivalent and formulaic process of historical romance novels. I hate this. It means that as soon as a book is labeled a thriller, I become suspicious and immediately lower my standards. I want more pre-Bourne Ludlum. I want more Red Storm Rising. I don't want Man from U.N.C.L.E. retreaded plots dressed up with Al Qaeda operatives and published by writers without the skill or talent to create their own original universes and the courage to have their own name as the only by-line.
Bring back original, intelligent, well plotted and well written thrillers. Shovel the new style crap into the furnace. In the meantime, I'll be working on my "crime fiction" novels which, hopefully, have a lot more in common with an earlier Ludlum than most things written by members of the ITW - the International Thriller Writers.
Yes, Clancy and his ilk have been criticized for obsessively writing about technical details. Is that bad? Not so long as it helps immerse me in the story. This is what I'm after, a serious, encompassing reading experience. Suck me in, involve me, keep me from sleeping at night. Heroes who get themselves shot three times then leap off a five story building onto the awning below, bounding off the rebound and catching the laundry line in their one good hand to slide the rest of the way to safety are not thrilling to me. They're simply dumb. Keep that crap in Hollywood. The trailers tell me all I need to know and I can save my money.
Read The Aquitaine Progression or The Bourne Identity and you'll see what I mean. Of course you still need to dispel your disbelief but that's reading fiction, isn't it? The trick is to not feel insulted while you do it.