24 November 2011

Small LOSCON 38 Panel Change

A last minute change to the panels I will be sitting on at LOSCON 38: the “Urban Fantasy’s Celtic Origins” panel is shifting forward from 1:30 pm to 12:00 pm tomorrow. I don’t know which room it will be in; please check with programming tomorrow if you are coming.

Here’s the schedule again.

Hope to see blog and Twitter friends tomorrow!

22 November 2011

My Three-Year, 150th Post Black Gate Anniversary

Cross-posted to Black Gate. (Obviously)

Three years ago this week I posted my fist official article on the new Black Gate blog. I was one the original seven bloggers who answered John O’Neill’s call to make Black Gate online a place people wanted to visit again and again.

Yes, seriously: there were only seven bloggers at the start, one for each day. At one point, we may have dipped down to three. Those were strange days.

And I’m still here after all those years, at the Tuesday spot. And not only is it my three-year anniversary this week, but this post is my one hundred and fiftieth. No, I didn’t plan these two anniversaries to coincide. In fact, if you do the math, this means that over the past three years I failed to meet the weekly Tuesday post five times. I’m sorry, but some things just happen—like giant monster attacks. (Well, I wish; I tried that as an excuse at my old day job, but it didn’t work.)

I wasn’t a newcomer to Black Gate’s website when I started the weekly spot. Before the site became a blog with a rotating team, I wrote a few articles on request for John O’Neill. I finished a series on Clark Ashton Smith that I started on another website, and those articles still get good hits: (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.) I also penned a long analysis of the two version of Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword, a piece I’m still proud of.

But it was my 25 November 2008 review of Conan the Raider that marked that marked my first “Tuesday Blog Post.” This apparently unambitious start was actually a tip of the hat to the series that got me noticed as a blogger in the first place: reviews of Conan pastiches.

16 November 2011

My Schedule for LOSCON 38

My schedule for LOSCON 38, the yearly convention of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, is all set. I will appear on four panels over the three days at the LAX Marriott. If you’re attending the con, please drop by and say “hello.” I will be the guy in the hat who talks too much.

Friday, November 25
Urban Fantasy’s Celtic Origins 12:00 pm–1:00 pm in the Boston Room. [Note: This is a last-minute change from 1:30 pm–2:30 pm]. Also on the panel: Michelle Pincus (moderator), Valerie Frankel, Nick Smith. I’m not sure why I was selected for this panel, but considering the book I’m writing now, I shall have plenty to contribute.

Middles and Endings: How to Generate Story Ideas 3:00–4:00 pm in the Houston Room. Also on the panel: Laurie Tom, Brennan Harvey, Robin “Graves” Walton, Leslie Anne Moore (moderator).

Saturday, November 26
The Writers and Illustrators of the Future Experience 4:00–5:00 pm in the Chicago Room. Also on the panel: Tim Powers, Laura Brodian Freas (moderator), Laurie Tom, Brennan Harvey, Cliff Neilson, and James Glass.

Sunday, November 27
Talking to an Agent 10:00–11:00 am in the Houston Room. Also on the panel: Denise Dumars, James Glass, Will Morton, Dean Wells. (No one is yet listed as moderator.)

15 November 2011

Movie Review: Immortals

Immortals (2011)
Directed by Tarsem Singh. Starring Henry Cavill, Stephen Dorff, Mickey Rourke, Freida Pinto, Isabel Lucas, Luke Evans, Kellan Lutz.

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

Relativity Media and Rogue Pictures should be thankful that they released Immortals the same week as Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill, which has turned into the One-Stop Shopping place for hilariously negative reviews. The Adam Sandler beat-up took the attention away from Immortals’s poor reviews, and likely helped push the film to its #1 spot at the box office for the weekend. I can imagine the scene at the multiplexes:

“So, honey, what do you want to see?”

“Anything but Jack and Jill.”

“Okay, how about that thing that looks like Clash of the Titans?”

But even though watching Immortals meant that I wasn’t watching Jack and Jill and therefore helping the betterment of global society, I ain’t letting Immortals off the hook for a moment. Except to praise the wacky headgear.

In a development so startling it may upset the balance between Law and Chaos, Immortals manages to be a worse fantasy movie than the recent Conan the Barbarian. If you understand how much I loathe the Marcus Nispel Conan fiasco, you know that I do not make that statement lightly.

08 November 2011

National Novel Writing Month—Whether You Like It or Not

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

I’ve discussed National Novel Writing Month many times before, and if you want the lowdown on this annual global community creative writing project to kick people to a 50,000-word novel in thirty days, you can read about it here. Today I come to you as a scarred old warrior observing the changes that can happen after a few consecutive years of participation. Not changes to me, but changes to the world that NaNoWriMo has created.

I have now been on the battlefront of NaNoWriMo for four years, which makes me a “veteran.” I’ve also “won” three years running, and with a current total of 22,000 words as of Day 7, it looks like I’ll rack up another victory this year, walking away with a PNG badge. And a finished manuscript, the best reward possible.

After the third year of participation, I discovered something, and that in turn has brought me a realization this year: the actual “rules” of NaNoWriMo are irrelevant. You no longer need to try to “write a new novel, starting from zero words, and reach 50,000 before the end of the month.” Since National Novel Writing Month isn’t a contest offering a prize, you can’t “do it wrong.” You can “cheat” on your word count on the official site—many do, I’m sure, since I’ve seen some impossible word counts—but that achieves nothing. There are other, creative ways to break the rules. You can choose to start writing a screenplay instead, or tackle short stories one after the other (as I did last year), or use the time to finish a novel you’ve already started (as I am doing this year). NaNoWriMo’s official term for anyone who does this is “Rebel.” It isn’t a pejorative term, but the welcome umbrella for anyone who wants to use November to kick their writing machines’ engine back to sputtering life. Every year, I find more people joining the ranks of the Rebel Alliance; it’s usually folks who have succeeded writing new novels in the previous years.

01 November 2011

NaNoWriMo '11 Begins—What Am I Doing?

Hello everyone. It is now November. This is normally a sad statement because it means that it is no longer October, the most joyful month of the year. However, for a writer, it means that National Novel Writing Month has officially started, and it’s time to start pounding the brass keys. (In my case, the plastic-covered keys. If you don’t have a plastic cover for your desktop or laptop computer keyboard, invest in one now. Not only have I saved myself from buying three new keyboards due to evil coffee spills, but all the grime and grit and the thousands natural shocks that keyboards are heir to get transferred to this plastic shield wall.)

I write every day, so the idea of NaNoWriMo should not seem like much of a change for me. Yet, every year, it makes me crank up my ambitions, even when I am a “rebel,” someone who isn’t trying to write 50,000 words of a new novel starting on November 1st. The first two years I did the standard NaNo practice and wrote new books, one of which is my personal favorite of all the books I have written. Last year, I rebelled and decided to write 50,000 words of different short stories instead. This was much harder to achieve, but I wanted practice with the short form.

This year, it’s back to novels—and I feel at this point I may drop doing short fiction for a stretch. However, I’m still a NaNo rebel. I planned to do something unusual. This morning, as I started to work, a bizarre event occurred, and my rebellion got weirder.

Short version: I am writing two novels at once. I have never tried this before, and I thought it impossible. It may still be; the first day isn’t even over yet.

Book Review: The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories

The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories (1906)
By Algernon Blackwood

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

I’d say “Happy Halloween,” but by the time you read this it is probably already All-Saints Day, also known as “The Start of National Novel Writing Month.” Ah, whatever: Happy Halloween!

In celebration, I’ll turn to my favorite author of the “weird tale”: Algernon Blackwood. I’ve written about Mr. Blackwood before. Actually, I’ve written a lot about him: I gave him his his own blog label. That shows commitment.

I’ll now turn the clock back to one of his earliest original collections, a volume that is a bit more on the ordinary side but still contains fine treasures within.

Blackwood first emerged into supernatural fiction with The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories in 1906. Although the term “ghost story” would literally haunt Blackwood all of his career, much of his finest supernatural work has little to do with specters and the unquiet dead. The Empty House is the exception that proves the rule: at this early stage of fiction writing, Blackwood was interested in standard ghost tales, but showed signs he wanted to go a different direction from the style of M. R. James that was popular at the time. The classics “The Wendigo” and the “Willows” were only another bend around the river.