30 April 2012

Quoth The Raven: “Nevermind”

The Raven (2012)
Directed by James McTeigue. Starring John Cusack, Alice Eve, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Luke Evans, Brendan Gleeson, Kevin McNally.

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

This is more of a funeral oration than a review: The Raven flew right into a car windshield this weekend and failed to crack either the windshield or the top five at the U.S. box office, instead pulling in a sad $7.2 million to flop down at seventh place. This coming weekend, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes will tread it into dust, from where its spirit will be lifted “nevermore.”

And that’s fine, because The Raven is a sad sack of a film. It’s bad, but instead of feeling resentful toward the filmmakers, you feel bummed that their good intentions and concepts never gelled—and they were apparently quite aware of it. The Raven knows it isn’t good, and that’s the saddest part.

23 April 2012

Five Genre Films to Look Forward to This Summer

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

Summer is almost here, and the time is almost right, for dancing in the streets. Or sitting your butt down in a movie theater to watch a big green thing in purple pants beat up aliens.

As I more and more become “The Black Gate Movie Guy,” I’ve grown aware of my responsibilities regarding upcoming films. This summer I promise to review all the major genre releases on the site, which means that, yes, you will get to hear my thoughts on Snow White and Huntsman. Because you didn’t demand it.

Looking over the summer roster (posted below—yes, all shall be reviewed), aside from a few groans of anticipatory pain, there are five films that really have my geek adrenal glands turned up to the danger zone. Here are the films I hope will make summer worthwhile.

22 April 2012

“The Black Cat on the Feast of the Eclipse” to Appear in Beyond Centauri

Some excellent news on the publishing front: my fantasy novelette “The Black Cat on the Feast of the Eclipse” will appear in the January 2013 issue of the magazine Beyond Centauri. I found out today that editor Tyree Campbell accepted the story.

This will be my first appearance in a print periodical. Previously, I’ve either appeared in online magazines (now the dominant medium for short fiction) or print anthologies. I’m pleased to know we still have the old-style magazines around. I’ll eventually make the short story available in ebook format when I start putting together a collection of my non-Ahn-Tarqa short stories.

Beyond Centauri is a children’s speculative-fiction magazine and part of Sam’s Dot Publishing, which also releases one of my favorite magazines, Aoife’s Kiss (Tyree Campbell edits that one as well). Beyond Centauri is a magazine “for the next generation [ages 10 and up].” I’m not the first Writers of the Future winner from my year to get in the magazine: Patty Jansen had her story “From the Parrot’s Mouth” in Issue #29. Laurie Tom, the Grand Prize Winner from the year before mine (and with whom I’ve paneled!) was published in Issue #7. Rachel V. Oliver, who is part of the Miracle Mile Writers group that I attend, has quite a run in the magazine, with stories in Issue #33 (“Rachel and the Giant Tomato Worm”), Issue #24 (“Slow and Steady Wins the Race…”), and Issue #25 (“The Spider and the Crow”). Bruce Durham, a friend from Black Gate, got his story “Upstream” published in Issue #11. So I’m in superb and familiar company.

09 April 2012

Verona, Which Shakespeare Never Visited

I’m writing now from the porch of a bar on the Piazza Erbe (Vegetable Plaza) in Verona. I descended—with the rest of the family—from the high country of Alto Adige (South Tyrol) into Veneuto. At last I left behind the bilingual world of German-Italian and into a purely Italic world. With extra German tourists, but still purely Italian.
The Roman Arena of Verona
Verona is sometimes called “Little Rome” because of its Imperial importance. The city became part of the Roman Republic in 49 BCE. It has the third largest amphitheater, the Arena, and my hotel is only a block away from it, on the Piazza Bra. The Arena was built in the first century CE, but an earthquake devastated the outer wall in 1117 (damaging many other monuments in the city), and only a small portion on the outer circuit survives. Some joker thought it would be amusing to hang a bloody car commercial billboard off this only surviving piece of the magnificent outer wall. Stulti!*

Tyrol: Where Germans Get to Be Italians

I must again give great thanks to the Muses for inventing the Alphasmart NEO, the portable no-frills word processor that allowed me to write large parts of this post while seated in the back seat of a packed mini-van traveling through the Alps, or parked at a restaurant crowded in with two overactive young children. I could live in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space as long as I have my NEO.

A few days have passed since I posted last; Internet access isn’t easy to happen upon on the move in northern Italy. I am writing now from the town of Bolzano in Tyrol, a historic region that lies between the spheres of influence of Germanic and Italian cultures and states. Currently, Tyrol is divided between Austria (North Tyrol, East Tyrol) and Italy (South Tyrol). The pre-Roman inhabitants were called the Raetia, whom the Romans conquered in 15 BCE. For the next two thousand years, Tyrol shifted between different nations: the Ostrogoths, the Lombards, Charlemagne’s Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. For much of its existence, Tyrol served as an important bridge between Austrian lands and Switzerland. Under Mussolini, South Tyrol underwent heavy forced “Italianization” to increase the population of Italian-speakers.
View from Oberbozen of the Alps
Today, Tyrol is a mixture of German, Italian, and Ladin-speakers. Ladin is a Romance language that only 5% of the population speaks natively, although there are efforts to keep the language thriving into the twenty-first century with special schools and newspapers. Around the capital of Bolzano live the majority of the Italian-speaking population, roughly 73%, a result of pre-World War II Italianization. Despite my ardent search, I never saw any evidence of Ladin anywhere in Bolzano. There are supposedly some tri-lingual signs, but not where I was looking.

03 April 2012

Return to the Alte Pinakothek

When I travel against the Earth’s rotation, the loss of a day throws me off. Where did April 1st go? What happened to all the April Fools’ jokes? The day never seemed to happen at all. I got on a plane on the evening of March 31st in Los Angeles, landed in Munich several hours later, went to bed, and woke up on April 2nd.

I’ll get the day back, of course. But I’m unsure if getting extra time on April 14th is an accomplishment. Unless it’s your birthday on April 14th, what’s special about it?

Anyway, now it’s April 3rd (or it is in Germany as I write this) and I’m coming to the end of my second full day in Europe. Yesterday was primarily family time, as an adjustment day, I’m fine with it. When I’m in Europe I feel the constant urge to be out taking in the enormous mounds of history available, and wasting any of it hanging around someone’s house can get painful. Today I took in my cultural fill with the Alte Pinakothek, Munich’s most famous art museum.

02 April 2012

German–Italian Interregnum

Greetings from Germany!

I am currently on a two-week trip to Munich and Northern Italy (Bolzano and Verona), accompanying my parents. We’re here principally to see my sister Colleen, who lives here with her husband Armin and her two sons, Diego (almost four years old) and Axel (almost one year old). I’m still recovering from a terrible cold that slammed me hard this week, but waking up this first morning here it seems to be finally on the subdued side.

My previous trips to Europe received extensive day-by-day blog coverage. I don’t think I’ll manage as much this time, but I will try to post visits to major sites when I can. Amazingly, for someone who has loved ancient Roman history and the Latin language for so long, I have never been to Italy or visited a single Roman ruin. I’ll probably break down in tears of joy when I see Verona’s legendary amphitheater, the third largest one in existence.

Sure, I would love to get down to Rome, but it won’t happen this trip—we have two small children in the group, so travel from Munich will suffer some limitations.

Today is mostly an adjustment day for us. My parents and I are staying in a pleasant basement apartment below where Colleen and Armin’s apartment. They live in Starnberg, a pleasant suburb of Munich where people like to take day trips during the summer to visit its lake.