Monday, December 11, 2006

Testing The New Blog: This is just a test of the new version of blogger. Had this been an actual blog post, you'd have gotten bored and stopped reading by now.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Writing Question For Non-Writers: Okay, this question is about writing, but it's for readers.

In his book on writing comics, Peter David says that it's good, if your characters are in a situation that's beyond what you would encounter in real life, to acknowledge this by having your characters say something like, "This is like something out of a comic book!"

So the question for readers is, when you read something like this or hear it in a movie, does it make the story seem more real or does it pull you out of the story, as you're reminded that it's just a book or a movie?

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Medicine Show Rolls On: Issue 3 of the Intergalactic Medicine Show is out.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Winner!: As it turns out, I won one of the pro edits in the raffle, the one from Diane Goettel, one of the editors of the no-longer-in-danger Apex Digest.

Now to pick a story . . .

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Savin' Apex: Apex Digest is a sci-fi horror magazine. Note there is no slash in there. That is because it is not a sci-fi/horror magazine. It is a sci-fi horror magazine.

In other words, the guys go up on rocketships before they get eaten by the monster.

And now, they've become the latest in a string of magazines to offer "cries for help."
It seems about once a month, one magazine or another is pleading with the masses to send them money, to please help keep their market online.

I'm not sure how I feel about this trend.

See, it was different when Ralan did it. Ralan is a free website that writers use all the time. Heaven knows I use the heck out of it. Ralan puts a good deal of money, time, and effort into that site, and quite frankly, I think Ralan provides enough writers with enough of a service that he deserves to live off of it. Every writer should send Ralan 5% of any sale they made to a market they wouldn't have known about without him. If he says, if you want this, I need money, people need to pony up if they want to keep the service.

But the magazines, I'm not sure, and I'm not sure why.

I think the first reason why is this: That by taking a business that's struggling, and giving them a donation, you're literally "Throwing Money" at the problem. It takes care of the symptoms of the problem--the lack of money--but not the causes--possible problems with the business plan, problems with the books, etc.

It's like giving money to that brother who you love, but who you know is just going to blow it and be back next month asking for more money.

The second reason? They're asking writers. It wouldn't be so bad if they were asking the readers. But the vast majority of the time, when I see these save ____ posts, they're being made of writers. Which to me, is a little upside down. Could a sci-fi market imagine going to, say, their publisher, and saying, "Hey, I'm in financial trouble. Can you give me money so I can keep operating?" And yet, the writers are providing a service to the magazine just as much as the publishers are--and we're going to feel just as disinclined to want to do business with that magazine in the future because of it.

If you can't sell readers on your magazine, your magazine probably isn't financially viable.

Okay, so the good news?

Jason Sizemore, at Apex digest, seems to be avoiding both of these mistakes.

I found out about the subscription drive from his newsletter for readers, not writers. Presumably he was hoping some of the people who buy the news stand copies would go ahead and buy a subscription. While I have seen it posted on writer's websites, those posts have all been made by other people, not him.

And he's explained the exact financial situation on his blog, so you can see for yourself whether you think this will be a repeating problem (It seems he had a one-time, unexpected bill come up which, when paid, will leave him debt-free with his publisher, and in a better position in the future).

He certainly never just asked for money. It was all about selling subscriptions--so it's even better than a PBS pledge drive.

Of course, if you like the feeling of an old fashioned pledge drive, Mary Robinette Kowal of Shimmer magazine (yeah, you read that right--a different magazine all together) set up a raffle with tons of cool prizes. And the best part? You can enter just for the stuff you want, and support a magazine that publishes good quality stuff.

So go check out the magazine, see if it's your kind of thing, and then maybe pick up a subscription. Or go for something cool you see in the raffle. But stay away from the editing stuff--that's mine, all MINE!!! Bwa-ha-ha-ha!!!

Or try for them. Whatever.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Biggest Loser: Figured I'd post this here, instead of on my other blog, since it has nothing to do with weight loss.

On this season's The Biggest Loser, folks from all 50 states were flown in, but only a little over a dozen got to stay--the rest have to go it alone at home.

Anybody else notice how, despite the seemingly "tryout" nature of the selection process, that the two biggest television markets, California and New York, both managed to get their folks on the show? In fact, the four most populous states all got their folks on.

(Also worth noting in that link is that Washington DC has more folks in it than Wyoming.)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Also changes over at Dial-A-Song.

Um, yeah.

Those mildly wacky guys over at have started a blog.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Who Wants To Be A Superhero: Okay, I'll admit to watching Stan Lee's contribution to the reality show world.

I've got to admit to having mixed feelings about the show.

Now I realize that absolutely nobody in the world is watching it except me and my wife and a couple of people who might be related to the contestants, so I can't talk about this the way I could talk about, say, 24, which everybody watches every week (don't you?).

There have been some moments of genuine heroism on the show--the best was when Monkey Woman (yes, Monkey Woman) fought to reach a goal for nearly twenty minutes with two big guard dogs that probably weighed more than she did dragging her down.

But for the most part, the show is kind of a joke. Really tongue in cheek, and even silly at times. You can't tell whether they want us to take any of it seriously or not.

And basically, that's what the final three came down to. One guy who was taking it super-seriously, and a couple of people who weren't.

The guy who's taking it seriously is Feedback. This is a guy who grew up on Marvel comic books, and considers Stan a surrogate father--his real Dad killed himself when he was young. Like I said, serious.

And then there are the other two--Major Victory, a Superman parody who used to be a stripper and spends all his time joking and prancing around like a goof, and Fat Momma, a heavy-set woman who, quite frankly, I think is as shocked as anybody else that she's made it this far (last week she locked herself in a closet until a producer would come let her tell him she shouldn't really be on the show any more. The other two competitors talked her out of quitting, but quite frankly, she was right).

So this week, who do they boot off? Major Victory. Why? Because he wasn't setting the tone Stan was looking for. Never mind that Major Victory basically set the tone for this show. So much so that he's the one whose image is on most of the advertising, and on the season one DVD. His tone might have been right for this show, but not for Stan's show.

Look, quite frankly, I agree with the decision. I'm rooting for Feedback--he's kind of the Everynerd of the show, and more of the kind of competitor I was hoping the show would be full of.

But to make the decision while Fat Momma was still around--that's just silly. Major Victory versus Feedback would have made the perfect finale, and would have been a whole lot of fun. And I think everyone, including the producers, knew that. Stan knew it. It was a no brainer.

So why didn't they do it?

Major Victory has an estranged daughter. And all along, he's said he's doing this for her, wanting to become a hero in her eyes.

See, next week, the ending is going to be about the winner. And Stan and the other producers knew they didn't want Major Victory to win. But they love the guy, and wanted to give him a send-off they wouldn't have time for next week. So they bumped the guy, even though it made no sense, just so they could give him a "moment" with his daughter.

In their mind, it works out perfect. Major Victory gets a grand send-off, next week Feedback wins, and everybody, including the loser, Fat Momma, is delighted. It's like they moved the one woman who knew she had no business there into the finals so no one, not even the loser, would "taint" the victory of the winner.

This is how reality TV works, folks. It's not a competition. It's not a game. It's a scripted, produced, show.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Podcast People I've recently taken to downloading podcasts of various podcasts off the internet to play on the way to work instead of the Radio.

Look, I'm telling you--forget whatever chipper pair of Morning DJs you listen to in the morning because you saw their airbrushed mugs splattered across a billboard somewheres, that pair of lightweights you find yourself praying will just shut up and play another Jessica Simpson song.

Go find yourself some good podcasts. There's all kinds of stuff all over the place for whatever you're interested in. And I mean what you're interested in specifically. You don't have to wade through some "Sci-fi" podcast wading through some discussion of whatever B horror movie SciFi Channel showed last night--you can get a podcast just for, say, Serenity. If your thing is one-handed fire-juggling on waterskis, you can probably find a podcast for it.

What? You actually like your radio? Well, guess what. Chances are, they also do a podcast. One that doesn't include the commercials. I've actually downloaded a two hour show (Jillian Michaels on KFI AM 640) that clocked in at one hour. It's like having Tivo for the radio.

Anybody still listening to radio the old fashioned way is a Troglodyte.

Granted, I still don't have a Tivo, and still watch TV the old fashioned way, but I'm not doing the stupid radio any more.

Maybe I'm like Archaeopteryx.

Monday, July 03, 2006

I Won!: I just won a stack of replica Firefly 'verse money from the fine folks (or rather, the one heck of a guy) over at Serenity Stuff. Please check him out to appease that Firefly jones--if it's Firefly, and it's for sale, that's where you'll hear about it.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Grateful: You know what I’ve decided?

I’m grateful to be alive when I am.

I’m a nostalgic type. I like to fantasize about the periods I’ve missed and wonder how it might have been to live in an era not plagued by some of the things we currently have to deal with.

But I’m a realist. I know that every era was plagued by something.

And I got reminded of that this memorial day. As I was deep-frying the hot wings and my brother was grilling up carne asada, he made the passing comment, “You know that today we’re going to eat like kings? Better, actually.”

I know enough history to know he’s right. To past eras where peppercorns were traded as currency, the Frank’s Red Hot Sauce I used on the wings or the cumin-based marinade we used on the meat would have been unheard of.

Fact is, if we dined with ancient kings, we’d probably find the food bland. And probably dry--they didn’t have a handy food thermometer, like I’ve got, that allows me to pull that meat out of the oven the moment it hits the right temperature, keeping it from cooking (and losing moisture) one second longer than it needs to.

Came across a similar quote to my brother’s a couple of days later in an old issue of Analog. Something about how the average schoolkid today knows and understands truths the ancient Greeks would gave given their right triangles for.

Yeah, it’s true that the folks who have their heart set on messing things up for the rest of us are now able to do that in ways we’ve never dreamed of before.

But I’ve got to tell ya, for right now, I’m grateful for what I’ve got.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Don't You Hate: . . . when the kids get into your stuff?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Out Of The Grease: Lots of people are watching Dunkin' Donuts right now with interest, including me.

See, the company wasn't doin' so hot. They were known for one product (three guesses what it was) which wasn't all that popular during the heat of the low-carb craze. So the company started to re-think its strategy. One of the first things they realized was that they weren't that different, in positioning and products, from one of the most popular companies in America, one that was making a ton of money, one that's on practically every corner. Yup, you guessed it.


But since they didn't have big enough parking lots to put in gas pumps, they looked at another big company that was even closer to their model--Starbucks.

So the company ended up with this challenge: To completely recreate themselves in the public mind. To take their already established brand, but reinvent the way people perceived it.

Obviously, they couldn't just crib Starbucks. They had to figure out what things made them appeal to a slightly different market than the Starbucks crowd.

See, one of the key things about marketing that a lot of people don't realize is that nobody markets to everybody. Just because you make toothpaste doesn't mean you market to everybody with teeth. Anybody here going to let your ten-year-old daughter brush her teeth with Close-Up?

Heck, no. Because Close-Up is make-out toothpaste. You're going to be a good parent and get your kid to brush with Crest, because Crest is a family toothpaste ("Look, Ma! No cavities!").

So Dunkin's goal is to be just enough off from what Starbucks is to capture a slightly different market, those for whom Starbucks isn't quite a perfect fit.

I've been watching this with interest. Could the company pull itself up by its bootstraps, shifting the perceptions of America? Or would it be a shark jumpin' new Coke kind of moment?

Imagine my surprise when they enlisted the help of my favorite band. Yup. Those twin quasars of Rock and Songs That Get Stuck In Your Head are doing the new Dunkin' Donunts spots.

You can see all the spots on the marketing company's blog.

Anybody got any favorites?

Doin' Things is probably the best ad, but you gotta smile at the Pleather.

Free Cone Day: . . . is coming.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Hugo And Nebula Awards: Here are this year's Hugo and Nebula award nominees, with links to where you can read the shorter works online.

Monday, April 10, 2006

What I Learned on My Winter Vacation: So what have I been up to while I've been away?

Mostly learning how to edit.

And I'll bet my readers will be so grateful.

Here are some actual recreations of the kinds of stuff I did. They aren't verbatim; as Dan Rather would say, they are accurate forgeries.

"What was I--" He stopped mid-sentence. (Duh.)

He stood up and walked across the room, crossing to the other side, where everything in the room looked slightly different. (This is for the sake of people who don't know what happens when you cross a room.)

"You are the dumbest person I have ever known." There was contempt in her eyes. (You think?)

You get the point. Lots of noted writers suggest you trim around 10% from any manuscript.

Actually, I think I like the way Algis Budrys says to do it: Trim as if you had to pay the publisher by the word. I'm trying it and it's working. Those who had to wade through "Beautiful Hands" as a 10,000 word beast of a novellette will be shocked to hear it's now a 7,500 word short story. And it works really well at that length. Gone are all the instances where "Tevya thought about how much she hated her father, loathed him, wish he would choke on herbs and die." And so on add infinitum. Instead Tevya gets on with the story.

The side benefit of playing such hack-and-slay with old manuscripts is that it's helped me feel freer in my current drafts. No need to fret over each sentence like I was carving scripture on gold plates. Just get it down on paper. They'll be plenty of time to fix it when you're done, and you can see each bit in terms of the whole story.

So look for a new piece soon. And look for me to put something here more often.

Because nobody does 24 commentary better.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

More On 24: First off, with 24 back on the air, that means one more bonus: Dave Barry is back to blogging about 24.

Here's my recap of Sunday's second episode of 24.

Agent: We need to figure out a new way to go in.
CTU Director: Okay, but hurry, because we've got to go in fast.
Agent: You bet. We're going in.
CTU Director: How long until you go in?
Agent: Right about the time we go in.
Jack: Go in through the left side. Use the itsay away aptray maneuver.
Agent and Terrorist: Wow. No possible code there.
CTU Director: No need to change our plans. Let's continue stalling when we go in.
Terrorist: Oh, I can't wait until they go in.
CTU Director: We're probably just about ready to go in.
Agent: We're ready to go in, unless anyone else wants to review our plans.
Samwise Rudy: I want to review all your plans before you go in.
CTU Director: Okay. But then we're going in, we swear.
Samwise Rudy: I think Jack may have used a code. Change a bunch of stuff before you go in.
Agent: But we want to go in!
Erik, at home watching: You know, by now I could have driven to the Ontario Airport and gone in myself.

Yeah, I can see why some people have a problem with it, but for some reason, it's like crack for me.


Monday, January 16, 2006

24 Spoilers: You want spoilers for last night's 24? Within the first 20 minutes, my two favorite characters, besides Jack, croak.

But I just keep on watching.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

In Case You're Wondering: The fourth Harry Potter movie is great, contained hardly a single unnecessary frame, and while they took a few of the subtle clues to one of the big twists at the end and swapped them for beat-you-over-the-head obvious ones, I can forgive them, because the rest of the movie was so perfect, in pacing, tone, and acting.

Anyone who didn't know what to expect when seeing what was "taken" from each contestant for them to find in the lake would have been . . . surprised.

I enjoyed it tremendously.

Maybe in another three months I'll get to see Narnia.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Brothers Chaps Are Not Dead: In case you didn't follow it all winter on the fan forums, it was a big deal that the Homestar Runner website went over a month without updating.

Anyways, they updated.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

What A Co-inkidink: You know how some movies, when played with some albums, contain coincidences?

We used to do that as kids with cartoons. We'd turn down the volume on, say, Popeye, then turn up the volume on, say, Weird Al, waiting for moments when it looked like the character onscreen was singing or the lyrics seemed oddly appropriate for the cartoon. We got some good laughs that way.

Well now, they're doing it with movies. As in, you play more than one movie at the same time. Specifically, all six Star Wars movies.

Then, you look for coincidences. Like, say, how the shots of Obi-Wan and Padme from Revenge of the Sith match up both in the framing and timing with the shots of Luke and his dad from the end of Return of the Jedi, at the same moment in the film.

Nothing earth-shattering. But the most amazing part, to me, when I watch the few video segments he has on the site, is how he managed to notice any of the coincidences in the chaos that watching all six movies seems to be. Maybe it was such chaos that any patterns leapt out at him amidst the randomness. Or maybe he's from the MTV generation and I'm just an old one-frame codger. I have a hard enough time with the multiple frames on 24.

And I saw it over at the website at the end of the universe, which is usually worth checking out.

Monday, January 02, 2006

On Ants: I don't know how I made it to 30 without noticing that ants have a smell. They really do. I'm even smart enough to know what I'm smelling. Formic acid, right? But as Hulk Hogan used to say, those are some pretty bad odoriferous emanations.

And why do they only come out when it rains? Is it because they've figured out we need the sun to get the magnifying glass to work?

Yeah, yeah. Their home's probably flooded. If only I could figure out how to explain to them the concept of "indoor pool" in ant-speak.

Without, of course, teaching them the concept of swimming.

I hate ants.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

DOUBLE FEATURE Movie Review of the Day: Fantastic Four and Sky High

You know, if I were to be totally honest, Fantastic Four was probably at least a good a movie as Sky High.

So why did I like Sky High so much better?

Some of it's got to be expectation. I didn't ever read Fantastic Four as kid. Not even when one of my favorite comic book writers, John Byrne, took over. I only had so much money for comics, and frankly, I saw that foursome as kind of oldy-moldy and stale. Of course, I was buying Justice League, which I guess was even older, but it was oldy-moldy for the Marvel universe.

Still, though, when they make a movie out of franchise characters, there's high expectations. After all, the makers of the movie have years and years of stories to draw from. There are thousands of Fantastic Four stories already sitting out there. There is a lot of potential for the filmmakers to be able to combine the best elements of the various stories to create a great movie.

I already explained how the Spider-Man people did exactly that. They dipped into the Spider-Man mythos and pulled out a bunch of the cool stuff, mixed it together (including mixing characters into one person) and came up with something great.

In the case of the Fantastic Four movie, it felt like the opposite. Like they thought, "These are such great, well-beloved characters, we'll just put their story on screen and it will be great."

Well, for me it wasn't great. I already knew everything in the movie. They made couple of changes to simplify the story--like having Doom get powers in the same storm where the Four got their powers--but overall, they brought nothing to the story.

With the exception of the guy that played Ben Grimm, who I thought was terrific, the actors all struck me wrong, too. It was more like they were at a Halloween party playing the Fantastic Four than that I was seeing the comic book characters come to life.

Sky High, on the other hand, was terrific. While there were unbelievable characters in this one, that was deliberate. You notice all those performances were given by the grown-ups. Keeping the grown-ups as stereotypes not only accurately portrayed a kid's view of the world, but it helped establish the fact that all the problems should be solved by the kids--the only way it should be in any kids movie.

This one didn't surprise me much either. The villains all turn out to be who you expect them to be. Naturally every kid's power, no matter how bizarre, ends up having its role to play in the climax.

But it was fun and witty and everybody did a great job doing what they were doing. You get to see Linda Carter again, too. So there's really no down side.

And there's a really, really rockin' soundtrack of covers of 80's songs by current bands that's worth checking out.