27 June 2011

You Don’t Need to See Cars 2 to See the Brave Trailer

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

Pixar has maintained such an amazing line of success with their mixture of intelligent adult themes and child-pleasing action and characters in their CGI films, that the studio’s turn toward sequels hit me in the face with the great massive gauntlet of disappointment. I did enjoy Toy Story 3, but it was nowhere near the level of brilliance of my trifecta of Pixar favorites: The Incredibles, WALL·E, and Up. And when I found out that the follow-up for Toy Story 3 would be a sequel to Cars, easily my least favorite Pixar film so far, the massive gauntlet of disappointed almost pounded me head-first down into the soil.

Cars 2 is the first Pixar film ever to have critics turn against it. The Rotten Tomatoes review aggregator has given the movie a “Rotten” rating, currently holding at a sad 33% positive, a sad first in Pixar’s history. It seems the best I’ve heard about the movie from viewers is, “Eh, my kids liked it.” Considering the steep prices for the 3D screenings — which are the only screenings available at my local theater — this may end up being the first Pixar movie I skip in theaters, and wait for the Blu-ray.

There is one temptation, the trailer for Pixar’s next films, a non-sequel heroic fantasy set in Scotland: Brave.

20 June 2011

Murray Leinster’s “Runaway Skyscraper”

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

I’m a nut about the trivia of dates, so the moment I heard about the birth of my second nephew, A. Dean Martin (yes, really), I had to look up the famous people who share his birthday of June 16. The list includes philosopher Adam Smith, legendary film comedian Stan Laurel, and Apache leader Geronimo. Oh, and some fellow named Murray Leinster.

It was that last name that struck me the most. Murray Leinster is one of those science-fiction masters who has managed to find a place in general public obscurity. Despite a writing career lasting over half a century, Leinster’s name probably means nothing to most casual readers of contemporary science fiction, unless they pick up anthologies of Golden Age stories.

16 June 2011

Welcome Axel Dean Martin

Every once in a while, you will have to encounter a personal life post on this website. They are reserved for very special occasions. Like the birth of my new nephew.

Early this morning (German time), 16 June 2011, my sister Colleen Martin gave birth to her second child, Axel Dean Martin, in a hospital in Munich.

Here’s the first photo I’ve received of Axel:
About the name: No doubt you’ve noticed the “Dean Martin” part. This isn’t completely out of nowhere, because my father’s name is “Dean,” my middle name is “Dean,” and my sister’s middle name is “Deana.” When my sister married a man with the last name “Martin,” I certainly wasn’t the only one who thought, “Wow, I hope they continue the tradition and name their boy ‘Dean’! It’s too perfect.” However, they named their first child “Diego Kai Martin.” But for this child, they finally gave into the double pressure of “Dean,” but not far enough to make it the first name. Nonetheless, there it is: the child’s name is partially “Dean Martin.” (I’m glad nobody in the family is named “Steve.”)

What about the first name, “Axel”? In the U.S., we associate that name either with the lead singer of Guns and Roses (not one of my favorite people) or the main character in Beverly Hills Cop and the connected Harold Faltemeyer hit instrumental. However, “Axel” is currently a very popular name in Germany. It is related to two other German names, “Apsel” and “Aksel,” which, according to my invaluable Character Naming Sourcebook, all mean “father of peace.” A translation that certainly doesn’t match the two famous “Axel”s of the U.S.

Nonetheless, “Dean Martin” sort of overwhelms everything else, so I am declaring my nickname for him as “Dino.” I hope he grows to love Martinis.

Interesting fact: Dino missed by one day being born on his parents’ wedding anniversary.

People with whom Dino shares a birthday, in no particular order: Adam Smith, John Cho, Tupac Shakur, Arnold Voosloo, Murray Leinster (yeah!), Sultan Murad IV, Stan Laurel, Enoch Powell, Faith Domergue, Vilmos Zsigmond (cool, huh?), Jim Dine, Joyce Carol Oates, Gino Vanelli, and Geronimo—An American Legend.™

14 June 2011

Writers of the Future: The 24-hour Story Experiment

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

Numerous memorable exchanges occurred during the week I attended the Writers and Illustrators of the Future workshop as one of the winning authors. Many of the more outrageous I can’t quote here (the Workshop is a “safe” environment for people to express opinions they wouldn’t in public, such as conventions), but here’s one my favorites that I feel is quite safe out in the open:
Me: [To Eric Flint] I’m interested to know the sources you used to research the Thirty Years’ War. Because, I’m also a Thirty Years’ War buff—

Eric Flint: For God’s sake, why?
Yes, being a scholar of the Thirty Years’ War does cause people to look at you askance, even another person who has done extensive research into this most anarchic of Early Modern wars. Suffice it to say, I simply cannot help my attraction to the madness of that long, gory, indecisive war. Magnificent madness.

At his acceptance speech during the awards ceremony, writer Brennan Harvey (who is no relation to me except now as a good friend) stated that “K. D. Wentworth and Tim Powers filled my head up to here,” making a motion far above his forehead. “I don’t even know what I learned yet.” That’s the best way to put it. In that week, the experience of listening to advice from a who’s-who of the best in speculative fiction made it sometimes feel as if I were getting machine-gunned with data. I wrote as fast as my hand could go over my notepad, and eventually I’ll sort it all out and see what sticks the most. However, the sheer mass of it made me realize that I can’t do a single blog post to cover what happened during the week. So I will focus on one item at a time.
The most instructive exercise we writers underwent during the week was the “twenty-four-hour Story.” The short version: write a story in twenty-four hours. No upper or lower word-count limit, as long as it is a complete story.

13 June 2011

Full color “An Acolyte of Black Spires”

Fred Jordan kindly sent me a scan of the full-color rendition of his illustration for “An Acolyte of Black Spires” from Writers of the Future Vol. XXVII. Here is the beautifully reproduced version: