30 August 2010

Get wasted in the desert, Mad Max-style

No deals . . . I want to drive the truck.

I love to study the Middle Ages, but I don’t participate in the Society for Creative Anachronisms. I am a Godzilla and kaiju movie fanatic, but I have no interest in collecting Bandini toys and other figurines. I am all for free artistic expression and community, but I wouldn’t go to Burning Man.

However . . . I might wander out into the wastelands, into some blighted and desolate place, to learn to live again . . . if it means post-apocalyptic cars, Bartertown, and the re-creation of the tanker chase from The Road Warrior.

Somebody finally figured out that there’s a market out there for the Mad Max fanatics and other folks who decided that Burning Man doesn’t blow up enough crap or feature enough motorcycle marauders and crushed limbs. In fact, the article that originally brought my attention to this celebration of geekdom gone decidedly deadly is titled: “Screw Burning Man: This Year’s Greatest Desert Festival is a Three-Day Mad Max Reenactment.”

29 August 2010

Writers of the Future Awards Ceremony 2010

I could just post the picture to the above and say, “Look, it’s a photo of me with Tim Powers!” and that could be the whole post. But you are owed a bit more of an explanation.

Last night I attended the 26th Awards Ceremony for The Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contest. In case you haven’t wandered around my blog recently, I am one of the winners of the contest for 2010. However, our ceremony won’t be held until next year. (In fact, only three of the twelve writer winners for this year have been announced so far. Amazingly, two of us live in So. Cal—and both have the last name Harvey. Brennan Harvey was at the ceremony last night as well. Sorry you couldn’t be here, David, but we will see you next year!)

The ceremony congratulates the twelve winners from last year, who have come to Los Angeles for the week for an intensive writing workshop, book signings, and the gala extravaganza last night where they were presented with their statues. The event is also the official release of the anthology Writers of the Future, Volume XXVI, which includes the twelves winning stories and illustrations from the winning artists.

Since I live a whopping fifteen minutes drive (half an hour with traffic) from the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel where the ceremony is held, it was easy for me to accept the invitation to attend this year’s celebration and get a taste of what will happen to me next year. (I’ll get the truly weird experience of going on a week-long vacation in my own city, a short drive from my apartment.)
I can’t say enough about the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, first of all. Built in 1927, it’s a marvel of the greatest era in Los Angeles architecture. It’s the Old Hollywood glamor of the Golden Age packed into one place, under Spanish arches and Art Deco ceilings. The first Academy Awards Ceremony was held here, in the same Blossom Room where the Writers and Illustrators of the Future Ceremony was held.

24 August 2010

Book Review: Under the Mountain

Under the Mountain (1979)
By Maurice Gee

 Cross-posted to Black Gate.

Although not a household name outside of New Zealand, Maurice Gee is one of the island nation’s most prominent and respected novelists. Born in Auckland, Gee established himself as an author starting in the 1960s with his novels A Special Flower, In My Father’s Den, and A Glorious Morning, Comrade. His later acclaimed books include Plumb and Crime Story. All these novels are mainstream adult works, but Gee turned his hand to books for younger readers and made a parallel career in the field of the young adult science fiction. It started with Under the Mountain in 1979, which gained popularity outside of New Zealand with a television mini-series released in 1981. (For more about the mini-series, read my post on its appearance on the Nickelodeon program The Third Eye.)

Why did Gee decide to write a science-fiction book for younger readers? The author explained his choice in 2004 upon receiving the Storyline Gaelyn Gordon Award:
It all began with having two red-headed daughters—not twins though. Then there was my desire to write a fantasy—get away from the real world of my adult novels—but set it in a place New Zealand children would recognise, so that they might get “our story” feeling. What better place than Auckland’s volcanic cones? It was seeing Mt. Eden looming in the mist one morning that really got it started. Everything, monsters and all, followed from that.
It ended up as his best-selling book, never out of print in its home country. But, unfortunately, not so easily available in the U.S. It struggled even to get published in New Zealand in the first place, and finally ended up first released by the Oxford University Press. It has had a long home with Penguin since then.

16 August 2010

Feathers on the Waves

Today at Black Gate I’ve gone on a little personal journey to look at how I discovered the world of Greek mythology, and consequently the world of “Great Storytelling.” Amazingly, this isn’t about Clash of the Titans. That was the event that made me a faithful student of the Hellenic legends, but it wasn’t my first encounter with them. My earliest memory of any story from the Greek cycles is that of the fate of Icarus.

Beware, I’m going to quote Ovid.

Read the article here.

I promise, by the way, to eventually post something else here aside from Black Gate article. I’m so busy with working on revising my novel and turning out new short stories that I have had to sacrifice the blog somewhat. I miss it, and once I can work out a better schedule or learn how to manage my time better (both may be impossible) I’ll get more than one post up a week.

10 August 2010

Book Review: Conan of the Isles

Conan of the Isles (1968)
By L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

So far in the entries of my informal tour through the Conan pastiches—with a great guest shot from Charles Saunders on Conan the Hero—I’ve focused entirely on the “Tor Era,” the longest and most sustained period of new novels about Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian Age hero. Because of the sheer volume of books in the Tor line, which ran uninterrupted from 1982 to 1997, as well as most readers’ and reviewers’ indifference toward them, the Tor Era provides fertile ground for fresh criticism. It contains a few gems as well among the factory-line production schedule.

But I’ve neglected the earlier Conan pastiches, from publishers Lancer (Sphere in the U.K., later Ace in the U.S.) and Ballantine. Before Tor started its Conan factory with Robert Jordan’s Conan the Invincible, the world of Conan pastiches rested mostly in the hands of two men: L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. They filled in a “Conan Saga” that they had imagined through a constructed timeline, and this framework extended into the Tor Era as well, although turning more overstuffed and inconsistent as the books piled up and eventually the whole series put itself to sleep and Howard burst back into print.

One of the results of de Camp and Carter’s addenda to Conan’s history is the odd, uncharacteristic, yet hypnotically entertaining Conan of the Isles. Years ago I wrote a detailed review of this 1968 novel for a forum posting. I’ve pulled up that old review and done some dusting, revising, and re-thinking to present the first “Pastiches ‘R’ Us” installment that examines the controversial First Responders of the neo-Conan world.

02 August 2010

Let’s go climb The Mountains of Madness!

Last week, I posted about the news that Guillermo del Toro would write and produce a new movie version of Disney’s The Haunted Mansion. Perhaps he would direct it. . . .

Ah, but now we know he won’t, because he’s announced his next film, and it’s the long hoped-for adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. This double-punch of horror love is the best genre news I’ve heard since the new U.S. Godzilla announcement.

Go to Black Gate to read more gushing about this.