Friday, June 29, 2007
Apparently the NYT only just got the memo last week.
Still, their survey of the history of Wrangler jeans is interesting; I still find it amazing that a garment that was once both ulitatarian and low-class has now become a uniform. I was recently in downtown Chicago, and I stood on a street counter and counted the number of people who walked crossed the street during the green light NOT wearing jeans. Of about forty people, the non-jeans tally was three.
I hate jeans, and I never wear them. There are no jeans in Califa, because it's my made-up world and I hate jeans. I'd rather wear a corset than wear jeans--a corset is more comfortable. I understand that if you are driving cattle, or riding bulls that jeans probably offer the best comfort and protection. But I am not driving cattle, nor riding bulls, nor are most of the people I see wearing jeans. I think for jeans to look good they require a certain type of figure--the male figure. Girls who are built like men (or twelve year old boys) look fine in jeans. A woman not built like a man (or a twelve year old boy) looks terrible in jeans. Ladies, invest in a nice linen skirt and throw off your denim shackles! Unless, of course, you are driving cattle or riding bulls, in which case I say: by all means, wear jeans. Just make sure you cowboy up and wear Wranglers.
(Also--please don't tuck your jeans into your boots. Where I come from that's a hanging offense.)
There are some dumb criminals out there, but it's hard to believe that any car thief would be that dumb. But the cop who stopped the Wienermobile as it drove through Arizona thought he'd hit the dumb criminal jackpot.
I'd really like to know more about this cop, the one that that ran the Wienermobile's plates. How bored was he? He had nothing else to do but check out a suspicious hot-dog car? I know the stretch of I-10 where the Wienermobile was nabbed very well. The average speed is 95 mph and, that close to the Border, you see some pretty questionable vehicles. Surely the Wienermobile was probably the least suspicious thing on the road that day.
Add to the hilarity the fact that the Wisconsin police had accidentally logged the Wiener's plates as stolen--oops. The cops thought they had made the arrest of the century and would surely be rewarded by a grateful Oscar Meyer with free tubesteaks for the rest of their lives. The rubbernecker whizzing by the traffic stop at 95 mph were probably thinking, boy I'm glad I'm not an Oscar Meyer Wiener. And our poor sausage: I'll bet he had a hot minute or two while he was being grilled by DPS...
(Sorry, I couldn't resist!)
Anyway, mistake was cleared up, and the Wiener was released to continue spreading heart-stopping porky goodness across the country, sorry for the trouble, sir, enjoy your stay in Arizona and drive safely.
Happy ending, yay!
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Well, you probably have.
Considering all the artwork out there in the world, it really seems sloppy to reuse the same images over and over---and in the case of Emma Hamilton--over and over and over again.
Even if all the books shown are about Emma Hamilton, more than one image of her does exist. Be creative, for heaven's sake!
The worst offender shown, I think, has got to be HarperCollins. In the very same year--2006--they used the exact same girl on John Crowley's Little, Big and Pearl Luke's Madam Zee. Did the HarperCollins art directors never compare notes? Apparently not. The same Chickie also appeared on two other covers that year. She's cute, but she ain't that cute.
And this is not the first time that Sieur Crowley has gotten shafted with over-exposed cover art. The painting used used on the hardback of Lord Byron's Novel--Wanderer above a Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich--can also be seen on at least two other books. Of course I can't remember the names of the other books, but trust me on this one. In this case, at least the publisher came to its senses; the cover was redone when the book went into paperback.
Since people really do often shop via dust jacket, it must be infuriating to have your book so closely resemble someone else's. Yet another sling and arrow that the poor writer is subject to, with no control.
I'm guessing that all the various cover designers are getting their images out of the same image library; still, one would think that library would be big enough not to stifle creativity. Perhaps not. Or maybe great minds think alike.
The ALA was humongous and full of Librarians, most of whom did not fit the stereotype, some of whom did, and proudly. I signed some books, talked to people waiting in line to see Judy Blume, attended a reception, and did other conference-y things I omit here for interest's sake.
Washington City, good heavens how she has changed. All that I remembered from my punk rock salad days is now gone gone gone, subsumed in a tidal wave of Disneyfication. While it was disgraceful to have our nation's capitol looking like a bombed out city, I'm not sure turning it into a historical theme park is an improvement. Particularly irksome was how the developers kept the 1860s facades of four story buildings, then built ten story glass towers behind. The result is like Main Street USA gone horribly awry. Ah poor Columbia, the British tried, the French tried, the Confederates tried, but it took developers to ruin you.
The highlight of my trip was soft-shell crabs, of course, how lucky the ALA took place in the middle of the season. Also, my three trips to Wawa, as memorialized in the previous posting. Two days were marvelous weather-wise and then the Southern Miasma descended, humidity 90 percent, sky white as paper--an weather phenom that I do not care for at all. The sky should be blue, darn it, or fluffy with clouds, or scudding grey--not whitewhitewhite!
And now I'm home, and must get onto my thank you notes...
Monday, June 25, 2007
Their fountain soda selection is unparalleled, and they have a machine that will squirt vanilla or cherry flavouring right into your cup, should your pop need a bit more pop. They usually have at least ten kinds of coffee brewing, and a fabulous fake latte/mocha machine that dispenses fabulously fake foamy drinks--for the same price as the coffee, so you can mix and match if you want: a pour of Hazelnut coffee, a swirl of Mocha-milk, a dash of Amaretto half-and-half, with some whole milk to cut the sugar. They have half and half, skim, 2 percent AND whole milk, served out of cartons on ice, none of those stupid little moo-moo creamers that you invariably break a finger-nail opening. They have an ice coffee dispenser and the most fantastic do-it-yourself milkshake machine. Plus a huge array of bottled water, juice and soda-and not brand specific either (i.e. only Coke products or only Pepsi products.) Also fresh brewed non-sweetened ice tea.
Their food selection is fantastic. In addition to ready-made sandies, they also have a great deli counter with a tasty array of hot and cold sandies; pre-made salads; several kinds of fruit salad; cheese cups; deli salads; yogurt; and carrot cups. A fine mixture of the deliciously junky and--if you are trying to be good--the actually healthy. Turn-over is high and everything is always fresh. They also have hot pretzels, breakfast sandies, donuts, and, of course, the usual array of candy and snacks. And gas. And clean bathrooms.
Alas that Wawa exists only in PA, VA, MD, DE and NJ, and in the wider states clings to the Eastern seaboard. The chain was founded over a hundred years ago in PA as a dairy, and, I guess, like Culver's Butterburgers and In & Out Burgers, staying local has allowed them to keep control and maintain high standards.
But I don't understand why other convenience stores and stop and shops don't follow the Wawa model. I've never been in a Wawa when it wasn't busy, even in the middle of the night. It's the kind of place you want to stop in because you know that if you don't want crap you can actually get something healthy. I've driven literally thousands of miles back and forth this extremely large country, and let me tell you, nothing makes you feel more behemoth than sitting in a car all day long, eating crappy fast food. But when you are trying to make it from Phoenix to Washington City in two and a half days you don't have the time to seek out Whole Foods. You are thrilled to see a prepackaged salad that looks edible or a fresh fruit cup. You do not see these things very often--if at all.
I'm not the only one who loves Wawa. There are actually TWO myspace communities devoted to Wawa-Luve: I Love Wawa and Gotta Have Wawa. Back in '06, the New York Times did a piece on the Cult of Wawa. If you live in Wawa Territory and have never been, I urge you--next time you see the yellow and red Wawa duck, screech into the parking lot and take a gander--I promise you'll never look happily at a 711, White Hen, or Circle K again. You'll wonder why they can't all be like Wawa.
(Wawa's one flaw is that it doesn't have decent popcorn, a staple of most Wisconsin stop and go's, the best of which is probably PDQ--another local chain.)
(I've heard the Japanese convenience stores are fabulous too, but then everything in Japan seems to be more fabulous than anywhere else so I'm not terribly surprised.)
I miss Wawa!
Last week was so exciting--interviews, ALA, etc.---this week is going to be a let-down, for sure. Ah well. It's the lows that make the highs high. If everything was exciting all the time then the excitement would soon enough seem mundane.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Given that the motorcycle world is as much about style as it is about speed, the variety of choices are quite impressive.
For the cruiser crowd, the Frye-style engineer boots are a popular default choice, especially with a little Harley style encrusted on them.
These are what I have: Sidi On-Road. They're a sensible choice, somewhat subtle, and comfortable to walk in. Madama Wilce even accepts them as sensible business footwear during CPG staff meetings.
However, the most interesting boots are the ones targeted at racing and motorcross. For such specialized activities, walking isn't a big issue, and so boots can rise to levels of S&M-meets-Power Rangers glory like this pair, or shoot for a "feminine-friendly" approach like this pair (it's girls only!) and even incorporate a near-Mr. Yuck face like this pair.
Friday, June 22, 2007
Get a load of those names! I knew the big guns were coming out for this one (and me a teeny tiny pearl handled derringer), but I didn't realize exactly how big the guns were. I know I've said before how delighted I am to be included in this project--but it bears saying again.
Me, delighted. Very very delighted. And excited to read every single story listed. Eclipse should be out in the fall; more information coming shortly.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Frye boots, you may recall, were the boots of the '60s. Revolutionaries with even their consciousnesses raised ditched their penny loafers and stiletto heels for Frye's engineer or harness boots. According to the WSJ, Frye boots are so identified with '60s idealism that a pair is enshrined in the Smithsonian. Now, after several years of Manolo-enforced high heel tyranny, Frye boots--and boots in general--are back.
Once again, I am ahead of the fashion curve! On my feet, boots never went out of style. Who doesn't feel more stompy in a pair of boots? If your feet are well guarded by leather and steel toes, then you can tackle just about anything. A girl--just like a ranger--should be prepared, and boots will see you through. There's no danger that can't be faced by a girl in a pair of good hinder-kickers.
- Glass on the sidewalk? Pah!
- Mouse caught in a glue trap! Wah!
- Newsprint on fire? Huh!
- Rattlesnake about to strike? Try!
- Running like a bat-outa-hell from falling debris? Yep!
- Five inch deep puddle? Pooh!
- Horse stepped on your toe? Yow!
Ayah, so sandals keep your tootsies cool, and high heels make you wiggle when you walk. But the first sign of trouble and you and your feet are woefully unprepared. After 911, remember all those photos of abandoned fashionable shoes? They looked cute in the office, but their owners walked back to Queens, Brooklyn, the Upper West Side in their bare feet. It's a tough rough world we live in--you never know what you might encounter.
I'm amazed when I see people get on a plane or ride the subway with flip-flops. Ayah, it's easier to get through security--but what if something happens and you must--Califa forbid--walk over rubble, debris, the third rail. Do you want to do that in your bare feet? Have fun. Better well-shod than sorry, said Nini Mo, and I'm sticking with her.
Personally, I am not a big fan of Frye's boots. I don't like the heel much. My current boots of choice are Timberlands. I'm also a fan of the Justin lace-up roper. I adore my Doc Martens, but I don't wear them much anymore as I want them to last forever, and I really put them through their paces back in my salad days. I also have a pair of Justin cowboy boots but they have a riding heel on them, which isn't that comfortable to walk in. (Cowboys don't walk, ya know, so the height of the heel is of no account to them.) I do not have sparkly red boots, tho'. Therein lies danger...you get 'em on and they may not come off...
Boots are good. Boots make you feel prepared and tough. They leaven sweetness with menace. And, of course, they are made for walking. And one of these days....
Eddie Campbell at Chasing Ray
Sara Zarr at Writing and Ruminating
Brent Hartinger at Interactive Reader
Justine Larbalestier at Big A, little a
Jordan Sonnenblick at Jen Robinson's Book Page
Chris Crutcher at Finding Wonderland
Kazu Kibuishi at lectitans
Mitali Perkins at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Laura Ruby at The YA YA YAs
Check 'em out!
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Should you also be in DC for the wild wack, you may find me signing Flora Segunda at the Harcourt Booth from 3 to 4 p.m. I'll have fancy pens and stickers, and some of the stickers might even glitter. Stop by and say howdy. I'll be extremely grateful!
And it goes without saying that my posting over the weekend will probably be somewhat sporadic. Cake will have marching orders to fill in for me, but since Bothwell, that notorious softy, will be enforcing the marching orders, who knows how long Cake will last before he sits down by the side of the road to eat goober peas.
But I promise a full AAR when I return. And maybe even (for once) some pictures...
I just found the coolest crafty site: Esty. This is a site for people who make cool things to sell them to people who want cool things. Kinda like ebay only without the auctions. Personally, I hate Ebay. If I want something, I wanna put cold card cash on the barrel head and buy that thing I want. I don't want to have wait five days and compete with the faceless millions. So I like sites where if I want something I can just hit add to shopping cart and be on my way. Esty fits this bill nicely.
Check this cool little squidie pendant out. Or how about a plushie Chupacabra? Or a darling little felted lizard?
The artisans at Esty make jewelry, clothing, blank books, toys, you name it. Why buy from a multi-national death corporation when you can help support an artist?
Monday, June 18, 2007
Ain't it skeletally sweet?
What lady would ever consider being without her calling cards? And she must have an appropriate case to carry them in, no?
I would like to note for the record, that tho' I'm pleased that the availability of skull embossed items has sky-rocketed in the last few years, my own sense of superiority must make it clear that I have been collecting skull items for years, since I was a tot in Mexico and first introduced to the artifacts surrounding El Dia de Los Muertos. One of my most prized possessions is a life-sized teal colored clay skull with blazing orange eyes that I purchased when I was eleven. So while I'm happy to have company in the bandwagon, I've been on it for quite some time. Memento Mori, who-hoo.
(BTW, Madama Sugar Kitty makes other delectably ghoulishly cute things, and I gotta love a store whose motto is "sweet as sugar, tough as nails." My sentiments exactly.)
The super fabulous ladies at Finding Wonderland asked some super fabulous questions, and check out the super fabulous graphics they whipped up to accompany my speech-ifying!
And check out the other great writers taking part in the Blog Blast. A full schedule may be found aqui.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
I woke up this morning feeling rather grumpy, but now I am so much happier!
Thank you, madama!
Saturday, June 16, 2007
The driver of the pick-up truck either didn't realize that something had fallen off his truck or he/she didn't care--anyway, he/she didn't even stop.
Like many accidents, this horrible event was ENTIRELY preventable--if the people in the pick-up truck had been more careful securing their cargo, my cousin would be alive today. Unfortunately, the local newspapers didn't report the accident, so the pick-up truck driver probably never even realized what he/she had done--got home, found something missing off the back of the truck and shrugged oh well, I wonder what happened to that?
I beg anyone out there reading this--if you have a truck and you transport stuff in the back please please PLEASE make sure you are well-tied down. It's no joke when something comes off the back of your truck and you--and the car behind you--are going 65 miles an hour. The life you save might not be your own but it is sure as hell just as important.
I know lots of people with trucks, and my family has one, too--we've all driven literally thousands of miles with stuff in the back, and let me tell you, when we tie down, we double and triple check everything to make sure there is no way anything is coming off the back.
I only wish the jerks driving the pickup truck on the Beeline Highway last Saturday afternoon had been so careful. They've probably already forgotten about their weekend trip to Saguaro Lake, but no one in my family or my cousin's family is ever going to forget it.
Friday, June 15, 2007
This is a lesson I learned at my mamma's knee, as we traversed various third world counties. No matter how delicious the smell of blue corn tortillas baking, or how lavishly buttered the roasted corn, it was drummed into my head that the price you might pay for such yumminess could include more than just money. Enviously we watched others drink coke with ice, and eat watermelon from street vendors, but we did not succumb.
By following this rule strictly, not only did I never have any problems, but I was the sole survivor of the Great Chinese Restaurant Hot Tea Massacre of '77, where the rest of my family, and another family besides, all fell, one by one, to parasitic symptoms too horrible to describe. Remedies included dosages of nasty purge-y medicine, one sufferer had to return to the States and to this day still has twinges, and another victim turned entirely green. (Absolutely pea-green--he was actually sent home from school by an appalled school nurse who had never seen a kid so emerald in hue before.) Tho' this appalling catastrophe took place in a restaurant as opposed to at a street stall, and its vector was later determined to be insufficiently boiled tea water, still--the moral remained clear. It might be delicious going in one end, but its exit could be much less happy.
Hardhands learned this lesson the hard way, by ignoring his grandmamma's warning and succumbing to the buttery charms of the Hot Corn Dollies. We all know what happened then. (If you don't, you can find out here or here.) No doubt he'll be more careful in the future.
Now comes Sieur Tom Kline who lays out, at CNN.com, rules to follow when eating street food. Good for him, I say. He can enjoy his food--and his Flagyl chaser.
Hardhands and I know better.
NB: Of course, it is sadly true that some places are probably safe to eat street food. I am less worried about New York lunch trucks than an abuela making tacos in D.F. If that be cultural imperialism, then so be it. I'm sorry.
It's a pretty comprehensive list, but it omits two of the my favorites: On the Border with Crook by John Gregory Bourke and Albert Dean Richardson's The Secret Service, the Field, the Dungeon, and the Escape and Beyond the Mississippi, From the Great River to the Great Ocean.
Bourke was a captain in the Third Cavalry, and ADC to General George Crook; On the Border details their experiences in Arizona, the Dakotas and the Battle of the Rosebud, among other adventures. Bourke had an excellent eye for the trivial, and his descriptions of every-day life in dusty Arizona garrisons is unmatched elsewhere. His descriptions of 1870s Tucson are particularly priceless.
Richardson was a true adventurer; prior to the War for Southern Secession, he traveled across the Trans-Mississippi West, dodging Indians, thirst, Sodbusters and um, those troublesome guys in Kansas who had a colorful nickname I can not at this moment remember. During the War, he was a journalist who got himself captured by the Rebs, ended up in Libby Prison (I think it was), from which he made the daring escape referred to in his title. Then, after the War, Richardson got caught up in a love-triangle that resulted in his murder by a jealous husband, who, after a sensationalistic trial, was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
And it's impossible to take any such list seriously when it omits the two most important adventure books ever written. I mean, of course, Across the Andes by Frog and There and Back Again.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
The mothership of MG restaurants is El Bulli in Spain, but for some reason two of the most famous American offshoots are located in Chicago: Alinea and Moto.
Paul Witcover, Devilman and I ate at Alinea last summer, and it was some experience. After entering the restaurant through a secret sliding door, we left 20 courses, 15 wine tastings, and 4 hours later, shell-shocked and stuffed to the gills with mozzarella balloons, bacon and butterscotch (served dangling from a little wire), kobe beef with watermelon, among other culinary marvels.
Moto is a little more low-key than Alinea. Alinea is like a hushed temple, where cat-like ninjas perform a complicated ballet of shifting plates, wafting napkins, and whisking glasses. Moto's setting was much more standard up-scale restaurant, and while the servers were competent, they were not ninjas.
Famously, dinner at Moto starts with an edible menu, which is to say, the menu is printed out on rice paper and then affixed to a large cracker. After you have decided if you want 5,10 or 20 courses, you can eat the menu. It tastes like a cheesy rice cracker. We had the 10 courses, which sounds like a lot, but some of the courses are very tiny so you don't start to peter out until the very end. The coolest thing we were served, I think, was a sort of deconstructed sushi that was finished off with sesame oil that had been "cooked" in liquid nitrogen, which had the result of turning the oil into tiny little pellets. They were extremely cold, but normally when you put an extremely cold thing in your mouth it's also wet--icy--these seeds were icy cold and extremely dry, so it was a very odd, yet intriguing feeling. Another stand-out dish was o'opu (fish) served with buttered popcorn sauce, which, yes indeed was made with pureed buttered popcorn. Continuing the puree theme was graham cracker pudding which tasted exactly like liquefied Teddy Grahams.
For a fuller explanation of Moto, I refer you to Veal Cheeks, who ate at Moto last fall, and (unlike me) took both notes and pictures.
My verdict: Moto was interesting, but some of the food was flash for flash-sake--interesting but not necessarily delicious. The chili nacho dessert, for example, looked exactly like nachos, but the jalapenos were really kiwi, and the sour cream creme frache, and the beef was chocolate. This looked very cool, but it didn't actually taste that great. Kiwi, chocolate, tortilla chips don't really go together. Alinea, on the other hand, had some truly revelatory dishes. Who knew that cocoa and watermelon would be a fabulous combination?
Devilman's Final Verdic: "Moto is to Alinea what McDonalds is to Culver's." Both are good at certain things, and have their strengths, but we like Culver's better.
And by that mean, I mean, we truly do like Culver's better. Asparagus foam and edible menus are fine and dandy once in a lifetime, but Culver's custard tastes delicious every day.
So, rather than trying to do so now, I send you off to visit with Colleen Mondor, of Chasing Ray, organizer of the blog tour, to tell you more.
Did I mention before how I excited I am to be included the Tour? As the new kid on the block, as far as kidlit goes, I am grateful indeed when I'm noticed by the cool kids...So, yes, I'm super excited and can't wait to read the other interviews, which are with such luminaries as Justine Larbalestier, Brent Hartinger, David Brin, Hilary McKay, Christopher Golden, Kazu Kibuishi, Chris Crutcher, Holly Black, Kirsten Miller and Shaun Tan--to name just a few.
Chasing Ray will have a full interview schedule up later this week...
Monday, June 11, 2007
Just yesterday I was thinking--you know, I should really learn how to make flour tortillas. I love flour tortillas but you just can't get decent ones in Chicago; the kind you can buy in the stores are just hideous. Anyway, somehow Sieur Rodriquez heard me thinking that I wished I knew how to make flour tortillas, and he kindly decided to show me how via his Ten Minute Cooking School: Sin City Breakfast Tacos.
Sieur Rodriquez is one talented guy He's a director, writer, editor, musician, producer, actor, cinematographer, and somehow he finds time to cook too. And he has five kids! Is there nothing this man can not do?
And once I've mastered the delicious breakfast tacos, he's going to show me how to make Puerco Pibil!
ps. And if you didn't go see Grindhouse in the theatre, then shame on you.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
But these creeps messed with the wrong little old lady. She tracked them down and now Bobby's home where he belongs. And it's too bad this happened in Pinal County, because if there was ever anybody who deserved a luxurious vacation in Sheriff Joe's fine accommodations at Tent City, it's these two. I'm sure he has some black and white stripes and pink underwear just their size.
I don't either, but it certainly makes a heart-warming story. The basset hound that could...
I'm only heard rumours of the other contributors, so until these rumours are confirmed or denied, I'll keep my gossip to myself, but I'm pleased as punch to be numbered among them, and equally as pleased to join the Night Shade crew, even in such a small capacity.
Actually, I'm Little Miss New Shoes right now, thanks to the splendiferous joys of John Fluevog. When Devilman and I were in New York City some weeks past, we spent a fun (for me anyway--thankfully he had an Economist to keep him from dying of boredom) afternoon cruising the delights of Noho, Soho and Nolita. In Nolita, we stopped at the Fluevog emporium which was that day celebrating the birthday of its designer via cupcakes and an awesome sale.
Fluevog shoes are deliberately edgy, and rather old-timey, combining teardrop shaped heels with buttons and bows to make one delicious devilish package . And unlike many high-heels which are lovely to look at but torture to wear, Fluevog's rubber soles means you do not feel like the Little Mermaid five minutes into slipping them on. Unable to transport shoes home back to Chicago without violating my strict carry-on only luggage policy, upon my return to Porkpolis I rushed post-haste to Wicker Park and made these beauties mine.
Ain't they sweet?
You'll be able to see them in person at the ALA, where they shall grace my winsome feet, tho' the bows will then, of course, be hot pink. Devilman tried to talk me into getting these, which are even more spectacular, but frankly, I was a bit afraid of the Springheel Jack effect--they aren't as glittery as his boots, but surely once on, they'd be equally as hard to get off.
For those who do not get enough of my pontifications here at The CPG, and you may find more pearls of wisdom thusly:
On Monday, June 18th I'll be spouting off at Finding Wonderland.
Thursday, June 21st will find me on a soapbox at Little Willow's Slayground.
And finally to finish off your week in style, on Friday, June 22nd, Gwenda will be giving me a pulpit at Shaken and Stirred.
Despite the commonality of moi, each interview is quite different actually, and makes me appear exceptionally well-rounded, so you should check 'em all out.
Saturday, June 9, 2007
Final clarification: I'm a sucker for Richard K. Morgan's techno-thrillers.
Absolute last clarification: Richard Morgan's techno-thrillers are so good that you don't feel like a sucker for loving them.
Final absolute last clarification: Richard Morgan's books aren't really techno-thrillers, tho' they are thrilling and contain much techno. Unlike most of the genre, Sieur Morgan's books contain real characters, people that the reader can care about and they have real plot lines with real tension, as well as endlessly inventive details that riff so well off today's technology that they seem only too probable.
Sieur Morgan has a new novel out: Black Man (U.K. title) or in the U.S. Thirteen.
And it's delicious. So delicious in fact, that I read all 560 pages in one MARATHON sitting. (Actually, lying on the bed with the book propped up on a pillow--it's pretty hefty.)
Set in a not-so-distant future, Thirteen takes on genetic engineering, the feminization of post-modern culture, the balkanization of countries and the colonization of Mars. Yeah, that's a lot of -izations, but throw them in a blender with cannibalism, cool war-tech, futuristic police-work, and rogue genetic soldiers and you've got a wild ride. Thirteen is full of super neat flourishes--from guns that shoot bullets that infect the shootee with a deadly incurable disease to a forensic program that allows the police to watch a recreation of a crime in 360 degree cyberspace. It's got the requisite tech-noir Phillip Marlow (only he has something Marlow never had--an extra chromosome) and a kick-ass police officer who is a cross between Emma Peel and Starbuck.
Thirteen is fabulous. It's a fun popcorn book that also raises some extremely deliberate questions about the ethics of science, the construction of gender roles in the post-modern world, and a bunch of other interesting issues which help to raise the book above popcorn fare and make it quite trenchant, actually.
I have only one tiny little nitpick with Thirteen, but since it's a spoiler, I'm going to keep that nitpick to myself. When you've read it, get back to me, and we'll discuss.
And thank you thank you to Sieur Morgan for sending me Black Man.
And why the heck is Hollywood wasting all its time making horrible remakes Philip K. Dick books when they could be filming Sieur Morgan's books--they were born to be movies. Get right on that, Hollywood!
"Instead of lawyers, guns and money, we are given cannibals, guns and money. The substitution is most welcome." The Warlord's Wear Weekly.
"Watch out, there's a new sheriff in town, and he's packing heat, an extra chromosome, and enough macho to melt concrete. An anti-hero for an anti-world." The Fort Gehenna Excelsior
"An interesting study of modern police techniques, with a particular emphasis on forensics and ballistics. A must read for the up-to-date P.I.G." Journal of the Police Inspector General (P.I.G)
"Lurid, sensationalistic, melodramatic, hyper, histrionic, hysteric, brutal--in other words, perfect. Read it now, or weep." The Alta Califa
Friday, June 8, 2007
My personal favorite: Fruit Cocktail Imperials. Check out the snazzy martini glass! Also deliciously mid-century modern: Cool It! I've always had a secret fondness for Ferrara-Pan candies--who can resist Atomic Fireballs and Lemonheads? And who would not want to enjoy a delicious Pet Rabbit or a Cat Tongue?
The Candy Wrapper Museum is not comprehensive tho'. Their collection seems to be lacking wrappers for jacksnaps, crumbly-crumb-o's, and jiffy-ju's, and, of course, Tiny Doom's favourite (not!) choco-sniffs.
Thursday, June 7, 2007
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
But perhaps you, oh happy lurkers, do?
Can anyone recommend any good heroic/epic fantasy ala Tolkien? Stress on "good"--which means not "The Sword of Shannara" or "Lord Foul's Bane", which said friend has already read and (alas) abominated...Granted the good don was a master and perhaps no one can quite duplicate his feat, but surely someone is doing an adequate job of following in his foot-steps.
Recommendations gratefully received.
Monday, June 4, 2007
I should also mention that Lineaments of Gratified Desire also appears in Fantasy: The Year's Best, 2007, edited by Rich Horton. I haven't seen this one in person, so I'm not sure who else is in it, but I'm sure it's chock-full of delicious fantasy goodness. And it's readily available in a store near you, no book club membership required.
Sieur Strahan kindly tapped Lineaments of Gratified Desire for inclusion in this weighty tome, but I didn't see a full TOC until today.
Boy, am I in good company!
Other contributors include Kage Baker, Robert Reed, Chris Robinson, Robert Charles Wilson, Michael Swanwick, Cory Doctorow and Jeffrey Ford. Truly some legends in the field.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I might find myself with such fine companions--tho' Hardhands might consider it only his due, I'm not quite as certain of of my fabulousity as he is. (Speaking of whom, I was tickled to see our hero described on the fly leaves as a "big-hair rocker"--Ronnie James Dio, eat your heart out!)
I'm not sure that this book is available on the open market; I believe you may have to belong to the Science Fiction Book Club to get your paws upon it, but if you are already a member, here's your chance for some pretty good reading, which my story may contribute to, but only as a part of a greater whole.
Madama Smith argues that a writer's writing is deeply personal--not a stunning new insight, I'll grant you. But then Madama Smith goes on to say that craft alone does not make a novel great--a great novel is informed by something else--something that comes from deep within the writer him or herself. This is a more startling comment, for it's based in the idea that all writers are not equal--and the difference lies not in skill...
"We are repelled by the idea that writing fiction might be, among other things, a question of character," says Madama Smith daringly. Yet it seems clear that the difference between a good novel and a great novel is often an indefinable quality--a quality that is hard to pin down, and yet clearly resides within the writer. Madama Smith calls this "the soul" but one might use "genius", as well.
This is why writing can be agony; like all art, the true spark comes from within the writer, and every writer worries--what if I don't have the spark? I can work hard at my craft, I can hone and polish, I can listen to my writing group, my editors, my beta readers, my inner critic, and Michiko Kakatani, and even after all that--my book might just be good. Okay. Adequate. Fine.
Writers do not want their books to be good, okay, adequate, fine. They want their books to be great, fabulous, genius, to live forever. Which is another way of saying that they want themselves to be great, fabulous, genius and live forever.
This is why writers die inside when they get bad reviews. For they understand that it is not their book that is found lacking--it is they themselves that have been judged so. They did the best they could--and it wasn't good enough. Maybe some writers can whelp a book and then send it out callously into the World, never sparing it a thought again--but I would say those writers are in the minority (and definitely *not* destined for greatness.) Most writers know that their book is themselves represented in ink, paper, and cardboard and that criticism leveled at their book truly reflects upon themselves.
Bad enough to be judged adequate, how much worse then to be judged completely lacking. If an adequate review bruises, a bad review cuts to the bone.
Cut my book, cut me.
Sunday, June 3, 2007
I want a Voodoo Doughnut.
I want a bacon maple doughnut.
Alas that this doughnut is in Portland and I am not. But if there was ever a reason to visit Portland--and I know there are many other reasons, too--but if none of those reasons were quite reason enough, well, it seems to me that Voodoo Doughnuts can provide THE reason to visit Portland.
Also, Voodoo Doughnuts has a wedding chapel. If only I had known this earlier...
Saturday, June 2, 2007
And now I'm not so keen on turtles.
To my mind, no other writer so well captures how an Artist must burn in order to shine--the Vision and the Void--the Burning Arrows of Desire--the human Heart its hungry gorge--the leap in the Dark--the Kick Inside.
When I finish reading one of Liz's books I always want to set myself on fire. I find my tongue tied up into a thousand knots. She describes things that I thought were indescribable. Her books are like dreams made real. If I sound inarticulate here, and rather wild, that's because Liz's books are all about being wild--wild in the truest since of the word. Uncaged, dangerous, untamed. Her characters dare reach for the fire--try to touch the Muse Genius--and when the Muse, that bitch, embraces them--they are burned to a crisp. GENERATION LOSS is all about the madness of desire and how artists must be--are--become--monsters. Yet it is through this monstrousness that they find the Divine.
I realize that my mad ramblings are not telling you anything concrete about the book itself. I'll leave plot synopsis to Amazon and dust-jackets. Suffice it to say that GENERATION LOSS is a brilliant book (even the title is brilliant!) and you should go buy it and read it now. Then read it again.
Afterwards, you won't be too keen on turtles either.
They don't do the Califa dip
But they'll shoot you from the hip
Out in old Arivaipa again...."
So, I finally my short story--Quartermaster Returns--slightly over deadline and slightly over word count, but I'm hoping very much to be forgiven for both sins.
All in all, I'm rather pleased with how the story turned out. It's set in Arivaipa Territory, the hot dusty land southeast of Califa, and I've been wanting to write an Arivaipa story for some time. Some years ago, I started another short story that was set in Arivaipa--then that story turned into a novelette, which then morphed into a novella, and now is demanding to become a novel. Since I'm far past the novella word count, I suppose it shall get its way. (I'm actually quite excited about this novel, and hope it might be my next project but one after the last Flora book.)
Anyway, Quartermaster Returns was a real exercise for me. Normally my short stories come in at over 10,000 words. Normally I write the first 3/4 quickly and then take about a year to find a good ending. For QMR, I had neither luxury. I had to stick to 7,000 words and I had a deadline, which, tho' fudged a bit, could not be fudged forever. I had no room for extraneous wordage, which I usually use to establish characterization and setting. No room for indulgence. I think/I hope I did a decent job laying everything out quickly and succinctly. We shall see. In my heart, I don't think I'm a short story writer, but it's good to know I can do it if I have to. QMR is my fifth completed short fiction piece. I guess, technically, via word count, it's only my second short story.
What's QMR about? Well, I don't want to give away the whole plot, but let's just say it is about what happens to an officer in the Army of Califa when he doesn't do his paperwork properly.
Publication details will follow when they are confirmed.
To the west of Gehenna the