Tuesday, May 31, 2005

June Author Of The Month: As most regular readers of this blog know (::waves to both of you::), I'm trying out one new author a month this year to broaden the scope of authors to draw from when I grab a book. As I finish Ship of Magic and get ready to post about it, I'm also taking nominations for next month's author. The only criteria I have are:

1. It be somebody I haven't read before.
2. It be somebody who's written several books, not just one or two.

Any suggestions?

Monday, May 30, 2005

Boys And Girls Are Different: As I was reading Ship Of Magic something occurred to me about the differences between men and women writers that I thought was interesting.

Even though the stereotypes say that it's women who care about helping other people and men who care about themselves, in fiction, it's usually the opposite. Fiction by men is usually concerned with helping others (eg the world is about to be destroyed, and the protagonist has to stop it) and fiction by women is usually more concerned with establishing an identity (eg a person has to work to establish his/her own place in the community).

I remember a scene in Erin Brokovich that confused me tremendously. There's a part, right when the evil corporation's plans are starting to be exposed to the public that Erin storms out of the room, furious. I was baffled. Shouldn't she be excited? Her work was starting to pay off!

My wife had to explain it to me. She was upset because the lawyer she was working for was getting all the credit. It suprised me--thats just not the kind of thing would expect to matter that much to her. Is that really conflict, or just whining?

It fills women's fiction. Think Member of the Wedding, or any number of books you had to read in school. All about one person pretty much worrying about themselves.

Of course, when I thought a little more about it, I realized it wasn't playing as much against stereotypes as I thought. Guys, deep down, do want to be the "knight in shining armor, riding up on the nice horse to swoop the girl up or slay the dragon or take back the kingdom or all of the above. And women, being more nuturing, are more likely to be empathetic towards a single character dealing with their own personal problems.

I think it's the same in the blogosphere. Girls are more likely to write (and read) blogs that talk about day-to-day mundane things, identity issues, etc. Guys are more likely to have save-the-world blogs about politics or information (My own weight loss blog is less personal than informative, probably partly for this reason).

Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Politics Of Money: I do not understand the current climate against Bush's social security plan.

I mean I understand it, from his political opponents. Naturally, they don't want him to be remembered as having "fixed" anything. Establishing social security has long been the biggest feather in the hat of the Democrats, even though more and more evidence and arguments are pushing the idea that the New Deal may have prolonged the Great Depression rather than preventing it.

So naturally those guys have to oppose the plan and pretend it's the worst thing ever, even though Democrats all over Washington have proposed just about the same thing for years, up to and including Al Gore himself.

Financial institutions--I can also see why they wouldn't dig this. A bank's idea of helping you provide money your retirement is to get you to re-mortgage the home you've already paid off so you can continue to make monthly payments to them until the day you die and they get your house.

And the press? Well, now that there's the internet, the only people who read newspapers or watch TV news any more are all old people, and there's no better way to bring in that demographic than to say scary things about Social Security and Medicare.

But why the general opposition to this? Why does Joe Six-pack in suburbia think this is a bad plan? What nefarious thing do they think the President has in mind when he agrees to actually give some of your money to you?

Imagine this scenario: A Father and Mother watch their only get on the bus to go to college. She just turned 18, and now she's off to school to make something for herself. Her Mom, who has never worked since her little girl was born, is now starting to work a part-time job to raise money to pay her daughter's way through school. They wave good-bye to their girl, get in their car and start for home, when they're hit by a drunk driver and both die.

Under the current system, there'd be nothing for that daughter. Even though Dad had been paying into Social Security all his life, now that he's gone, the government gets to keep all of that money. The daughter now has to fend for herself.

Under Bush's proposed plan, part of the money her father contributed would have been set aside for him. Upon his death, that money would stay in his family. His daughter would have something to continue her education with.

How much? Go check out this online calculator, courtesy of Dave Ramsey. Punch the numbers, and see who you think wants to rip you off.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Hugos: Here's the info page for this year's Hugo nominees, including the full text of all the short fiction. (via Locus Online)

Thursday, May 26, 2005

I'm It: Sandefur (as he is wont to be called) also "Tagged" me on his way out. So here goes:

1. Total Number of Books I've Owned: Not sure. Probably a 4 digit number. Definitely a 4 digit number if you count my wife's books.

2. Last Book I Bought: If you want to be literal, the last book I bought was Shadow Of The Hegemon by Orson Scott Card. I found it at the dollar store and couldn't resist buying it even though I had a copy, since I knew I could find it a good home eventually.

The last time I bought books for myself, I got three: The Game Of Work by Charles A Coonradt, Entrepreneurs: The Men and Women Behind Famous Brand Names and How They Made It by Joseph and Suzy Fucini, and The Art Of Playing Real Life Monopoly by Duncan Lindsey, to replace the one I've been "borrowing" from my Dad since my second daughter was born. I got them off the discount rack for a buck apiece.

3. Last Book I Read: Dang it! You caught me on one I'm not excited about. I read Middle Of Nowhere by Ridley Pearson while I was waiting in line for the midnight showing of Revenge Of The Sith. Don't get me wrong--I really enjoyed reading it. It was a page turner and all that. But after I finished, I didn't feel like it had done anything for me.

On the other hand, Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb, which I've been reading at the hotel, is fantastic. I'll blog more about that one in my coming "Author of the month" post.

4. Five Books That Mean A lot to Me: (Insert usual disclaimer about how this isn't in order, isn't complete, blah blah blah)

1. Prentice Alvin by Orson Scott Card (Of course, there's also Ender's Game, but that's what everybody expected me to say).

2. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. No other has the mastery of metaphor that Bradbury has. It is impossible to exaggerate this man's talent, and this is him at his sentimental best.

3. Mr. Mysterious & Company by Sid Fleischman. Fleishchman and Roald Dahl were the two who taught me there were interesting worlds to read about outside of comic books.

4. And as long as we get sentimental--the book that taught me how much fun reading could be: The Monster At The End Of This Book by Jon Stone. Needs no explanation.

5. The Scriptures. I know I don't usually get religious on this blog, but no set of books has as much influence on who I am as these.

5. Tag five people and have them do this on their blog: If I were to do this part, I would only discover five people I think read my blog who really don't.

Tell you what--if you do it, email me and I'll link to you.

So Should I Copy Him Again?: When I first started blogging, way back whenever, it was because Tim Sandefur made it look so fun. Well, now that life has become busier for him, he's decided to call it quits. He lists a bunch of very good and legitimate reasons for his decision, none of which do I think will keep him away permanently, but which are quite wise and mature. Wisdom and maturity are a large part of what the blogosphere will lose with him gone.

Return Of The Doc: Yes, I'm back. For details, check out the other best blog on the net.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Monday, May 16, 2005

Obscure Movie Review Of The Week: Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events

I'm a big fan of the Snicket books. Well, maybe I have to revise that. I've never actually read a single one of them.

I'm a big fan of having Tim Curry read me the Snicket Books. His performances on the books on tape is a whole lot of fun, and you can pick them up at just about any library.

I was delighted to hear they were making movies. I was a little disappointed to hear they'd feature Jim Carrey.

Count Olaf, you see, I always pictured as less polished an actor than Jim Carrey. Yes, I realize that Carrey isn't the greatest actor ever to grace the silver screen, but the man is polished. He's precise. His every movement is planned--part of why I've never bought the comparisons between him an Jerry Lewis is that Lewis came across as so spontaneous, as if he has simply stumbled into whatever actions he was making, while Carrey is so forced you never, ever, believe for a second that he is doing anything but acting.

Don't get me wrong--it works for Olaf. In fact, this may be Carrey's most believable role yet. He pulls it off. It just wasn't what I had in mind.

I was worried how they would handle the intertwining of the three storylines--would it feel too episodic? Like they were jumping from place to place haphazardly?

Kind of yes, kind of no. In some places the scenes flow seamlessly, but in others they feel bound together with the tiniest pieces of sticky chewy gum.

Perhaps the most spot-on performance in the whole movie, however, is that of Jude Law as Lemony Snicket, providing the narration. Without him, I don't think the movie would have made the slightest bit of sense to audiences. With him, I think they can buy into it completely.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

I Wrote Today: Okay, so a little accountability is a good thing. I learned that from my other blog--it's easier to exercise and eat right when you know all eyes are on you.

Rather than turn this into my "365 Day Writer's Turnaround," I'm simply going to post over at Speculations whenever I write.

And speculations is a great site. I recommend the forums to all commercial writers looking to keep up on things.

And if you get the chance to write, post along with us.

Things Start Getting Crazy-Go-Nuts I've long promised people who don't read the books that Goblet of Fire is the book where things start getting wild.

If you haven't seen it yet, check out the teaser trailer.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Fame (II): The ever-gracious Lynn at Reflections in d minor said some very nice things while linking to some of the stuff I've posted about Star Trek (Or as Orson Scott Card calls it, Wagon Train Among The Cheap Interplanetary Sets). She posts some of her own ideas about the future of the series and sci-fi in general, and Firefly comes up again.

Card's written a lot about Trek (More than just what's in that little article), and I think he inadvertently came up with the best idea for a Trek series I've ever heard in his book How To Write Science Fiction And Fantasy.

These excerpts are from a section of his book about how to pick a main character. Under a section headed, "Who has the power and freedom to act?" he points out:

The original series creator wanted characters with the power to make decisions, and centered on the captain and executive officer of a military starship. Unfortunately, however, as anyone who knows anything about the military will tell you, the commanders of ships and armies don't have many interesting adventures. They're almost always at headquarters, making the big decisions and sending out the orders to the people who do the physically dangerous work.

In other words, the lives of commanders (and kings) are generally above the most interesting action. The really neat stuff is going to be happening to the people on the cutting edge--frontline troops, scouts, the people who get beamed down to the planet's surface to find out what's going on. It would be insane for the commander of a ship or any of the highest officers to leave their posts and do common reconnaissance. In any real starfleet there would be teams of trained explorers, diplomats, and scientists ready to venture forth at the commander's orders. If Star Trek had been about one such team, the stories would have been inherently more plausible--and there would have been room for tension between the ship's officers and the exploration teams, a rich vein of story possibilities that was virtually untapped.

Instead, Star Trek centered around the characters with the highest prestige who, in a realistic world, would have had the least freedom. But since commanding officers who behaved like commanding officers would make for boring television, the writers simply allowed the characters to go exploring, constantly leaving their duties on the starship as they merrily went about getting kidnapped, lost, beaten up, or whatever the plot of the week required. Any captain of a ship or commander of an army who behaved like Captain Kirk would be stripped of command for life. But the series would not have worked otherwise.

At this point, you might be saying to yourself, "I should be so lucky as to make mistakes like Star Trek--I could use a few bestsellers." But the point I'm making is that Star Trek could not possibly have succeeded if the captain had actually behaved like a captain. Centering the series around a commanding officer was such a bad mistake that the show immediately corrected for it by never, even for one moment, having Kirk behave like a captain.

Aside from the digs at the show, I think the answer the producers are looking for is Star Trek: Away Team. A series about a team of explorers on a ship who are often at odds with their supervisors and each other. Instead of episodic plotlines, the series should grow and progress in a JJ Abrams kind of way, with team members leaving or dying on occasion and greater mysteries being unveiled over the course of the show. Episodes could have the mystery of a CSI or a Cold Case, the political maneuvering of a Law & Order or a West Wing, and the tense action of a 24.

It sounds like a show I'd watch.

Fame (I): I was linked to by Nicholas Whyte in his review of "Gonna Roll The Bones," by Fritz Leiber.

He actually links to my earlier post "Incomprehensible Visions" where I lament the inaccessibility of some of the stories in Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions, particularly "Riders Of The Purple Wage."

While I stand by what I said that post, I have to wince at that post being connected to "Gonna Roll The Bones." Leiber's story, while still containing all the symbolism and decodability of Farmer's, still works as plain old comprehensible story. The metaphor, rather than obscuring the story, sharpens it, makes it shine.

I read it years ago, in Ben Bova's The Best of the Nebulas. It's about a gambler playing dice with the devil, with a fun mix of sci-fi, fantasy, and tall tale elements. Here's a paragraph, describing Night Town:

At first Night Town seemed dead as the rest of Ironmine, but then he noticed a faint glow, sick as the vampire lights but more feverish, and with it a jumping music, tiny at first as a jazz for jitterbugging ants. He stepped along the springy sidewalk, wistfully remembering the days when the spring was all in his own legs and he'd bound into a fight like a bobcat or Martian sand-spider. God, it had been years now since he had fought a real fight or felt the power. Gradually the midget music got raucous as a bunnyhug for grizzly bears and loud as a polka for elephants, while the glow became a riot of gas flares and flambeaux and corpse-blue mercury tubes and jiggling pink neon ones that all jeered at the stars where the spaceships roved. Next thing, He was facing a three-storey false front flaring everywhere like a devil's rainbow, with a pale blue topping of St. Elmo's fire. There were wide swinging doors in the center of it, spilling light above and below. Above the doorway, golden calcium light scrawled over and over again, with wild curlicues and flourishes, "The Boneyard," while a fiendish red kept printing out "Gambling."

As a postscript to my old post, after pressing through Farmer's story, eventually I made enough sense of it to go back and actually dissect a lot of the first half--but really, if the story requires that much scrutiny to be comprehended, that's just not fun for me. Leiber's story was a lot of fun to read, and a lot of fun to think about.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Just A Heads Up: I'm having pretty frustrating email problems. I think I'm not getting all of my emails and that some of my emails I'm sending might be sending multiple times or not sending at all.

If you emailed me something and I haven't replied, try my gmail address (click email me over the right).

Friday, May 06, 2005

Don't You Mess With Me: While I was watching Here Come The ABCs with my girls, I got wondering if the old Square One TV music videos were online.

The internet, once again, didn't let me down.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

One More Thing: Oh, and happy birthday to my brother Ryan. Feliz cumpleanos.

Cheers: To the folks at Disney for putting on a good show.

Okay, I wasn't actually there today. But two of my brothers were, with their wives, and I saw the video.

Okay, most of the video was actually from yesterday, when there weren't so many people there you couldn't blink without your eyelashes brushing up against somebody. But it still looked really fun.

Among the highlights were a talking trashcan that actually follows people around asking them to please put trash inside of him, and some nifty moving floats and parade figures, like a 20 foot tall moving Ursula the sea witch and a really cool looking Rhino. For "hidden mickey" fans and others who like to turn their trip to the park into a treasure hunt, there are 50 mickey sybols hidden throughout the park with a big "50" right in the middle.

Looks like there's a pretty good show going on, and everybody should have a real good time, once enough people go home.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Hobb: I'm trying to read a new author each month. Last month I did my bit on Clifford D. Simak--this month I'm trying out Robin Hobb.

Now I know what you're saying--If I haven't read the Liveship Traders series, how can I claim to be a regular SciFi/Fantasy reader? Don't I read anything?

Yes, but I tend to keep my distance from SciFi/Fantasy series. I stay the heck away from most series that require me to commit for more than one book, with very few exceptions. Consequently, I've never read Robert Jordan, R.A. Salvatore, Terry Brooks, Terry Goodkind, not even Terry Pratchett. I read some of the short novels in Silverberg's Legends and New Horizons series, but haven't read any books by any of these folks.

So, when I decided to dabble in one this month, I went with Robin Hobb's Ship of Magic. I've not heard a single thing bad about the series from anybody, so despite my slight dislike for nautical fiction, I've gone ahead and picked it up.

I did read The Gypsy, her collaboration with Steven Brust under her real name, Megan Lindholm, and found it a mixed bag. I enjoyed having read it, but I didn't really enjoy reading it, if that makes any sense.

Anyways, review to come, eventually.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Let's Get Political . . . Or Not: You know, there was some political issue I was planning on darting home and writing about either today or yesterday, but now I can't even remember what day it was, let alone what the issue was.

I guess all of you have been spared. If you really had your heart set on hearing me rant, you can read what I said about Supersize Me over on my health and money blog.

I know, I know. I'm about five-and-half years behind when everybody else blogged about that movie, and it's all been said.

I'm also getting around to forming some pretty nifty views on the election!

Card on Trek: OSC article in the LA Times on the end of Enterprise.

And even he brings up Firefly.

I guess I gotta check this show out.

Monday, May 02, 2005

A Con For The Ages: Becky points out there's a Time Traveler's Convention coming up.

Actually, if they get their way, it will be the Time Traveler's convention, due to the convenience that time travel will afford. Any time traveler, from any time, any where, should be able to make it.

Unless there's some kind of temporal black hole around Boston on that day that makes it impossible for time travelers to get there. It's hard to plan for science you don't understand--like, what if somebody who didn't understand radio held a listening party at the bottom of a concrete radiation bunker? It just wouldn't work.

But I really wish these guys all the best, and I hope to be able to attend someday.

What, you want to know when it is? What does it matter?

The way I see it, if it turns out to be worth attending, then it means we'll be able to go whenever we want.