Friday, October 22, 2010

Water Cooler - Friday, October 22, 2010

Random bits and pieces from the speculative fiction world.

Top of the list this week: Don't purchase books from Dorchester. Yes, apparently they are not compensating their authors. Bad form! Read the story here. Good luck to those authors who are trying to get their rights and compensation straightened out.

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Geeky signage! (How can I go from serious to stupid? I do it because I can.) I like this one to attach to all my posts. You can find a ton more here on Flickr.

Edit: Apparently the picture is not inclined to show up. Lame. I'll leave you the link.


Since I reviewed a couple of series this week, I thought I'd point out another. Steven Till reviewed Pillars of the Earth.

My biggest concern going in was how they were going to fit a 900 page book into the span of eight hours. I was impressed with the amount of information they crammed into such a short time period without really losing anything. Overall, I’d give the series a A- .

I may have to give that a look.

While I'm at it, SQT's first impressions of Spartacus:BaS Season One.


UK cover art for Steven Erikson's The Crippled God, the final book of his Malazan series.

Pretty sharp cover. Suvudu provides the synopsis here.


Solaris released their 2011 publishing line up.


Tor is hosting a Pyr giveaway contest.

The Official Rules: To enter, leave one comment on this post—duplicates won’t count—by Saturday, October 23, leave a comment in Facebook, or reply on Twitter. The 5 winners will be chosen randomly. Please check your email on October 23rd and 24th; if we don’t hear back from the winner in 24 hours, another winner will be chosen.



Barnes and Noble announced they will be selling the Nook at Walmart.

The popular NOOK devices are expected to arrive on Walmart shelves beginning as soon as October 24, in advance of the holiday shopping season.

The NOOK eBook Readers will be prominently featured as the premier eBook Reader in the consumer electronics area. Many Walmart stores will feature a NOOK-branded eReading area where shoppers can see and touch a demonstration device.


Kudos to Jasper Kent's new marketing strategy: Vampires that don't sparkle.


Like multiple links in one easy to find spot? Grasping for the Wind does them daily! I envy his tenacity.

Genre Reader does a frequent "Today in Fantasy" post that is always nicely done, as well.

For an industry perspective, check out Eric's Friday Round over at Pimp My Novel.

Or Nathan Bransford's This Week in Publishing.


That's all I've got for today. What sort of news are you interested in?

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Series Review: Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Season 1

When I thought about writing this review, I realized that I had to overcome the urge to simply analyze the positive and negative elements, and rather, give a reason(s) why you might be inclined to pass or indulge in watching this series.

Production wise, this is 300 meets Gladiator - without the benefit of either Frank Miller or Ridley Scott. Spartacus:BaS is brutally graphic, and oft times gratuitously so. More on that later.

The story of Spartacus, as we've come to know it through media, was written by Howard Fast (Spartacus (North Castle Books)
). The story was made popular by the Stanley Kubrick movie production in 1960; there was also a 2004 made-for-tv production as well.

Having not read the book, nor seen the other two movies, I will not bother with comparing. Comments and reviews seem to indicate the novel tells the tale much better - but, that's almost always the case. I will say that, overall, the story behind the Starz production was pretty good. The arcs and subplots were well handled, and there were certainly enough interesting twists and turns to take the viewer right up to the dramatic end.

For the story(-ies) alone, it is probably worth a look.

Otherwise, the production is pretty rough. It is a graphic novel come alive without artistry or clear intent. I mentioned Frank Miller earlier, and if you've seen either 300 or Sin City, you can see the artist's hands in either production. There are subtleties of elements that define an artist work - and those subtleties are missing from Spartacus.

Spartacus contains unbelievable amounts of blood and sex and nudity. This would suggest that the target audience, the intent of telling the story this way, is male; specifically the target is to immerse a man into the dark, bloody, gritty story. But, frankly, if that is the case, then this is a homo-erotic fantasy. There is more male frontal nudity in this production than I've ever seen - anywhere. Including the sort of stuff that Cinemax shows late at night.

I'm not homophobic, and I do not mind meaningful nudity in a story, nor did I mind the homosexual relationship story arcs (which are all but expressly inevitable in retelling stories from that cultural history). But it reaches a point where it is gratuitous, outside artistic vision, and perhaps only present for some grim shock value.

All of which would be fine, if the intent was to market Starz' Spartacus:BaS, as homosexual porn. But the rest of the visual elements suggest otherwise. The blood, CGI splattered everywhere, the graphic depictions of intestines being spilled, of throats being cut, of vomit and infectious wounds and worms - these are the sort of graphic, edgy, visual elements that you want to pitch to attract male heterosexuals, "manly men".

It would be unrealistic to expect zero nudity in the representation of such a hedonistic culture, and I think it would be further untrue to the core material to not have a degree of homosexual interaction. In portraying war and combat, yes, there's going to be blood and graphic violence.

I thought the blood was often gratuitous - the male nudity more so. The production fails to choose a target audience. Mind you, I like blood and guts. That can be fun. I'm not remotely prudish. When I say "gratuitous", I mean it exceeds the boundary of what I feel is a reasonable artistic license in producing a visual image.

Now, none of that may trouble you. It's arguable, and a matter of taste, whether certain scenes and conflicts benefit from the graphic nature of the production.

For instance, there's a scene where Ilithyia is choosing a gladiator from amongst new recruits. She's a perv, so they are asked to get naked, which the camera reveals from her perspective. When they do so, the camera slowly pans from behind the men, revealing each and every buttocks. Then her mouth drops open, and she chooses the Gaul with the "horse c*ck." Which the camera shows. Three scenes later (spoiler), the man is punished for an offense, and they show him crucified and his penis cut off. The stump where his penis was spurts blood out onto the sand. (end spoiler)

The writing, particularly the dialogue, is flat and unimaginative for the first few episodes. The series benefits from a few strong actors who carry the entire production - otherwise, especially in the beginning, there is no passion, no chemistry between the characters.

Andy Whitfield, as Spartacus, is an excellent actor with great emotional range (considering the role), and I understand the buzz surrounding his departure from the cast to deal with health issues. Otherwise? Even the formidable Lucy Lawless, as Lucretia, falls a little flat (and for some unknown reason, they have her painted white as a ghost. It looks horrible. As a lower class Roman citizen, she could have had a little color.), but I'm not sure if that's the writing or her. (The upshot of her presence is that she is an attractive woman who spends a great deal of time in various states of undress).

Manu Bennett, as Crixus, is entirely horrid to watch, he has the emotional range of a monkey. Most of the others have very little believable emotional range. Even the accents are muttered and mumbled and fall flat. To be fair, this was more apparent in the beginning of the season - by the finale, there is some character chemistry and comfort.

If you're watching this for the acting, however, you'll be disappointed in not only the writing/dialogue, but in pretty much everyone but Whitfield, and arguably Lawless. If the others have shining moments, they are rare.

Overall? The series succeeds in telling a well-paced story; of that, there can be little argument. The acting and dialogue fall a little flat, and the production is gratuitously graphic without clear intent of who they're trying to entertain.

I'd give this 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Non Fiction choices, October 2010

Better late than never, a few non-fiction titles I've read recently.

Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism by Erwin Panofsky, (1957), 2nd Printing, 158pps.

I received this book as part of LibraryThing's Member Giveaway program. My copy is very used, with scotch tape holding the cover in place. Pity that, as the book is now out of print.

As the updated cover illustrates, this is essentially a transcripted lecture, something that I would have suggested even before I saw that cover.

The material flows quietly into three distinct areas. One describes Scholasticism as it became defined from the 10th to the 12th centuries. This section was the most interesting to me, I confess, as it highlighted the key tenets of the "intellectualization" of philosophy. In many ways, I'd go so far as to say as scholasticism is what makes the works of historical philosophers easier to understand and digest.

The next aspect described the development and function of Gothic Architecture, independently of the previous nominalism vs mysticism debate.

The third and final part of the lecture then fuses the evidence of architecture styles prevalent in European countries of the Middle Ages; it referenced diagrams and illustrations to indicate how the reader could see where the influences came from.

It was a fascinating exploration, although I must confess I am simply a fan of architecture. From a layman's perspective, it was interesting to see the correlations as noted above.

From a scholar's perspective, I would have to suggest that this material would not stand alone. This book would make a fine accompaniment to an existing study in either medieval philosophy or architecture (or even art, I suppose). There is enough information to whet the appetite, and to engage and/or enforce an existing knowledge on the topic. It is but one lecture, though, and does not focus on any particular subject long enough to be able to be recognized as authoritative in that regard.


Soul of the Samurai (Tuttle Martial Arts) (translated) by Thomas Cleary, (2005), 156pps

The Art of War by Sun Tzu was a popular reprint in the 80's and 90's aggressive corporate culture. If you are looking for a book to expound upon that sort of single minded "victory" frame of mind, this is not it. This book translates Martial Arts: The Book of Family Traditions (Yagyu Munenori), The Inscrutable Subtlety of Immovable Wisdom, and The Peerless Sword (Takuan Soho). Each book within the book stands on its own, but there are enough overlapping concepts as to make this a well-construed trilogy.

Thomas Cleary is a brilliant translator, however. Each page of the original text is accompanied with excellent cross references to other historic writings of the time; and if not a scholar of ancient Eastern philosophies, those references make the inherent teachings of the original text that much more understandable.

Though marketed as a martial arts book, there is very little practical or technical skills taught within. Reading this may well help you to be a better swordsman, but it will not show you how to wield a sword.

Analysis aside, I think this is a very clear, very expressive foray into (as the cover suggests) three classic works of Zen and Bushido. If this is your first foray into Eastern philosophy, there will undoubtedly be concepts that will be too complex. However, that noted, the original text (and what can be gained through the references and translations) contains great volumes of insightful commentary on inner peace, success, self-discipline and ambition. Those gems alone are worth taking the time to read.


Infinite Possibilities: The Art of Living Your Dreams by Mike Dooley (2009).

This was a "lend" from my mother, and unfortunately, I must finish my re-read and send it on to her, so that she can continue to share it. This is one that I will have to get my own copy of someday soon.

Ah, yes. The "self help" book. No shortage of those, ever. My foray into psychology was prompted by the books like these that I read as a teenager. Some of you older folks may recall Wayne Dyer, or Anthony Robbins. Hell, I even read Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People back in my youth.

So, between my study of psychology and religion, the effect of those types of books began to wear off on me. Because it is what it is - some believe in a supreme Deity, and you must have faith that things happen for a reason. Others believe that we are the rulers of our own fate, so we must be "positive", and life will go well.

Those are both very nice beliefs, and yet, incredibly dull. In either instance, there remains too many moments of powerlessness. No matter how positive I am now, or how religious I was, those beliefs certainly did not explain, to my satisfaction, a life with an incurable disease nor the destruction of my former career at the hands of my own father.

Enter Mike Dooley, who bridges the gap between the very real psychological phenomenon of programming, and the persuant positive thinking, positive reinforcement and such "secrets" - with - the necessity of a faith that must not necessarily be religion.

Moreso, he does it in simple, non-sensationalized, practical and applicable segments. It's actually quite brilliant. It's the first book that doesn't just stop at "Oh, be positive mister saggy pants." or "You must believe in HE, and HE will show you the WAY."

Because, frankly, my friends - both of those methods are nice. Good. But, they're bollocks. You can sit on a hill and chant happy me stuff until your voice goes, and you can put all your faith in God, Gaia, or my left knee cap - and neither one of those actions will actually FIX anything.

Infinite Possibilities presents an action plan within a train of thought and belief that is interactive, functional and puts the responsibility where it belongs: On you. Mike Dooley gives no misguided "wave the magic wand" advice. Throughout the entire book, you're reminded that you actually have to work towards your goals.

But, he does make the task of having dreams and living your fantasies seem a little more doable. As far as self-help books go, this one not only succeeds, but it's a triumph amongst works of self empowerment. It will not be for everyone, but I can't think of anyone who would not benefit by reading it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday Writer's Report

Tada! Finished? No. But this is the last one you will see for awhile (or not, if I can conceive a solid story idea for Nanowrimo).

I have one or two chapters left. And I'm going to stop there. Although I'm a completionist, this is the resolution of the story. The hard parts are done, over. Now I need to tie on a bow. And the bow should be meaningful, as opposed to making the reader want to sling the package across the room.

I realized, about 20k words ago, that I will need to redefine the characters in "Tribe E" - so it follows that anything I write now for their ending will be meaningless and will need to be redone. Seems a waste of time to do it now, only to have it to do it all over again later.

It's actually rather telling. At this point in the story, their ultimate conclusion should be relatively predictable. No, I won't offer spoilers, but the fact that I'm staring at the screen and realizing that I don't have a fitting dialogue... that was telling. I can say more, but I think it would be spoiler-ish.

All the other characters have an ending sequence. The other characters need some polish and such. But these characters, no. They need help.

There will be a lot of editing, though. The book is too big for the story - the prose is decent, but not quite as lush as say, Jacqueline Carey, so that tells me there's a bit of babbling. Additionally, it's been suggested to me to introduce more POV's - and that's going to add words, not subtract. That means I'm going to have edit even more heavily to be able to fit in the additional "complexities".

Don't even get me started about the two "stories within the story" that aren't finished.

So! Parts of the story are going to be rewritten from different (new) POV's in order to reduce the word count and speed up the pace. Current arcs need to polish the characters, now that I figured out what I want them to do, from beginning to end.

This could take a while.

The upshot, however, is that I was pretty close at predicting my pace - good news for the future. This is by far my largest single writing project.

And no, I'm not querying yet.

Otherwise, while not quite the content heavy blog I promised for this month so far, there's still a couple weeks left. Cheers.

Monday, October 11, 2010

New York Comic Con - Fantasy Author Panel

Two vimeo videos, below - just over an hour total - which I have ungraciously borrowed from

NYCC Panel Video: Fantasy Authors from Suvudu on Vimeo.

NYCC Panel Video: Fantasy Authors Part II from Suvudu on Vimeo.

I thought the Tolkien question was reasonably asked and addressed. I was particularly surprised/relieved at the multiple G.R.R.M. references as well. I'm biased, of course, as I see those two as my own biggest influences.

Naomi Novik hit it on the head, more or less, in her response to the "influence of gaming on writing" question. I think it's important now, and will continue to be increasingly so, that with modern technology, readers can find a world that they can immerse themselves into.

The other questions and answers were interesting, but more or less expected. It was enjoyable to watch for me, so I thought I'd share.

Happy Monday.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Random Things of Interest

I'm chewing on a new catchy feature, this thing, where uh, it is basically random internet links! I am certainly *not* the only one doing it!

But it's telling, no? We see if we like the same things? Fun, exciting, or NOT COOL YOU SUCK! I don't know. Let's try!

Okay, by way of weblog camaraderie, this blogaraderie (I am a master of language OR NOT), let's begin...

I was reading Bryce's post It's News to Me, and found this SF Signal post, which contained a link to the best vampire powerpoint presentation ever. It's a little lengthy, so wait til your lunch break. (Oh, and because I couldn't NOT look, a rendition of Steampunk Sarah Palin. The horror!)


Mead! The drink of the gods. Tis a funny thing, to write about the stuff, and to never have tried it, no? Well, now you can try to make your own, with this mead making e-book. Am I being asked to promote this? No, he probably doesn't even know I'm mentioning it; I just think it's cool.

Edited to add: Well, hell, the dude's got a video!


Getting a little buzz on Yahoo, this 2 minute Star Wars video.

The timing of this video was all the more interesting, as Lucasfilm recently announced that it would be reproducing the Star Wars saga in 3D. And yes, you aren't the only one who is horrified by a three dimensional Jar Jar.


Speaking of, scientists have discovered a new (potentially) habitable planet. Sharpen your pens, sci fi writers.

(And come up with a better name than Gliese 581g, for crimony's sake.)


In the "Why it's a miracle that humans haven't gone extinct" category, a viral video of a Ukrainian lion trainer getting chomped on.


I predict this year's hot new Halloween costume will be "Cigar Guy". Here he is, knocking out Sonny Liston...

If you haven't heard of Cigar Guy - he was standing in the background when a photographer got nailed by an errant Tiger Woods shot.


I have some actual news and publishing information to share, but I think that I will wait and put those together. My guess is that if you need to know something bad enough, you can find it. My goal here is to show you things you might have missed. (Or really, reasons to mock/praise randomly.)

Have a great day.