This might be old news for some folks, but for the rest of you I feel morally obliged to point out Flight of the Chonchords. I lack the words to describe how cool they are. All that springs to mind is "awesome to the max," and honestly, I don't feel comfortable saying that. At all. In fact, I'm resisting the urge to go back and delete this entire paragraph just to get rid of those words. ...
Hmm.... How to describe them....
Oh! Remember those logic puzzles in the SAT tests? Here's one that describes Flight of the Conchords.
Hard Rock is to "Tenacious D" as X is to "Flight of the Conchords."
What is X?
A) Folk B) Rap C) Children's stories D) Barry White E) All of the Above.
Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros
Albi the Racist Dragon
They have an HBO show and the first season is coming out on DVD soon. Just in case you're into that sort of thing...
So I'm back from New York. Over the last few days I've been catching up on my life and recovering from the cold I always seem to get whenever I fly somewhere.
This was only my second trip to the NYC. Here are the highlights and my impressions.
New York taxis have absolutely insane drivers. That said, judging by the fact that I've never seen a single accident there, I'm going to say that they're also very capable, safe drivers as well. My current strategy is to treat every taxi trip like a tiny roller coaster ride. Sometimes I even scream and throw my hands in the air. It's fun.
I like the pigeons in New York. They're all sorts of cool colors. Nobody else in New York likes the pigeons.
People in New York are very proud of Central Park. But the truth is if you walk for five minutes in any direction from my house here in Wisconsin, you'll find just as much nature with fewer crowds. As an added bonus, you can climb the trees around here without anyone bitching at you.
New York has so many cool museums that I can't even begin to get into it.
The Quill Award ceremony was pretty cool. I'm looking forward to seeing myself on TV, if for no other reason than to see what the hell I said during my acceptancespeech.
But there are a few problems. I know the awards are on tonight. I know they're on NBC (or MSNBC). But other than that, I have no idea when it's playing. I can't find any listings for it.
Even if I could. I don't have cable here in the house. So chances are I couldn't watch it.
So my only hope is that some tech savvy person manages to pirate the thing and put it up on Youtube or something. Or that one of my friends manages to tape it for me.
For now, I'll leave you with the only Quill picture I've managed to find so far:
Yech. I am many things, but I am not terribly photogenic.
I'm in the middle. On the right is Steven Schirripa, of Sopranos fame. Believe it or not, that pretty girl is with me. Her name is Sarah, and just for the record, in the picture I'm threatening to kick this goomba's ass if he tries to make a move on her. Let me assure you, it was incredibly manly of me. My voice didn't hardly quaver at all.
That's all for now folks. Have a good Halloween.
P.S. Extra points to anyone who can guess what I'm dressing up as tonight....
Well, tomorrow I'll be heading out to New York so I can go to the Quill Awards, and I'll be honest with you, I'm a little nervous.
Generally speaking, I don't have a problem with public speaking or public appearances. But this is different because it's going to be videotaped and televised. That means if I fuck up, a lot of people will be able to see it. Forever.
I was considering making bingo cards for my friends. Instead of numbers, on each square there would be things like:
Pat trips going up the stairs to get his award. Pat caught on camera with his finger up his nose. Pat falls asleep during ceremony. Pat caught on camera looking at some famous person's boobs. Pat accidentally says 'Fuck' during his acceptance speech. Pat and Cormac McCarthy get into a fistfight on the red carpet. Pat and Steven Colbert share a passionate Madonna-and-Britney style kiss at the Podium.
Then I realized putting together a bunch of Bingo cards would be a lot of work. So I thought I'd turn it into a drinking game instead. Then I got busy and didn't finish the list.
If any of you are motivated, feel free to made your own additions to the list in the comments below.
The other reason I'm a little nervous is that I found out how long my acceptance speech is supposed to be: 10-30 seconds. How the hell can I say anything in that amount of time? If I had a minute or two I could be witty, but what can I say in 30 seconds that won't sound like the equivalent of "San Demos High School Football Rules!"
Anyway, I'm off to bed. I've got to get up at the butt-crack of dawn tomorrow so I can catch my flight.
Hello folks. I've been elsewhere lately. Things have been busy with writing and getting ready for my trip out to New York for the Quill Awards.
But just yesterday I got the following message from someone asking me to help her settle a debate between her and a friend:
[...] Anyway, her stance is that Literature (her cap) is about enlightenment and improving the human condition, while fantasy is just escapist crap. I know she's wrong, but I'm not a good debater. I'm not good with words. Can you help me out?
Sami, your question reminded me of a forum I got drawn into a while back. Normally I resist being pulled into online discussions, but this one struck home with me. The person who started the thread was asking, effectively, if fantasy really mattered in any sort of profound way.
This is the from-the-hip response I made on that forum a while back. If you're looking for some argumentative ammo, there might be a few things in here. At any rate, it does a pretty good job of summing up how I feel about the issue.
"Can a Fantasy book/author really change anything?" [First post: July 10th 5:15 AM]
Years ago I was watching a documentary on the Beatles. There was a video clip where a journalist was interviewing John Lennon. He was protesting the war, doing ridiculous things to get press attention so that he could spread the word about his message. He spent his honeymoon in bed with his wife and invited the press. When the press showed up hoping for something racy, John and Yoko used the opportunity to spread their message about peace.
One of the journalists got exasperated with him at one point and said, "You dear boy, you don't think that you've saved a single life with this nonsense, have you?"
I remember watching that and thinking that I couldn't decide which one of them was being foolish. Lennon for thinking he could change things, or the reporter for being so cynical.
Ultimately, I want to believe Lennon. I want to think that a person can make a change in the way people think.
I think that can be done with a protest. Or a song. Or an interview. Or a fantasy novel.
Hah! I actually found the video clip on youtube. If you watch it for about 40 seconds you'll get to the part where the reporter says her line....
However, I don't think that political activism is the only type of change a novel can create. I think a novel can change they way you think about the world. It can expose you to new thoughts or make you reconsider old ones.
Hell, a fantasy novel can teach you things. Any time you learn something it changes your life.
Lastly, but not leastly, we shouldn't overlook pure entertainment. Back when I was in Grad school my life was a hell. It sucked really, really bad and I was stressed out beyond belief. That's when I read the Harry Potter books. They were great. They helped me relax and not freak out. They didn't heal my crippled limbs or stop me from being racist or fix global warming, but they improved the quality of my life. In doing so they hey changed my life in a little way. A good way.
[Second post: July 12th 11:18 AM]
I like what you said about escapism being productive. I think Robert Frost made a point along those lines in Birches.
"It's when I'm weary of considerations, And life is too much like a pathless wood Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs Broken across it, and one eye is weeping From a twig's having lashed across it open. I'd like to get away from earth awhile And then come back to it and begin over."
That is one of the things that fantasy does best.
And laughter is not to be underestimated either. I write a satirical humor column for the local school paper. I write it because I like to make people laugh and it gives me a vent for my humor when my other writing needs to be serious.
After the most recent presidential election I was... distraught. Profoundly distraught and depressed. But my deadline was still there. I had to go in and be funny when I was in no mood. So I wrote about the elections. I made fun of the American populace, and the president, and both parties and myself most of all.
And the column pissed people off. They started a media event about it, got people riled up, and in the end, I almost lost my job because of it.
I remember thinking to myself, "Why do I do this? Why do I work 4-6 hours every week to write a column I don't get paid for? A column that offends people (as all good satire must) and costs me what small shred of respect I have among the other faculty at the university. A column that at best, gives people a cheap laugh?"
Weeks later I was grousing about the whole experience to someone in the University Center. A student walking past overheard and stopped.
"You're that guy that writes the College Survival Guide?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said. Inwardly I was cringing against another attack. The media coverage had not been kind to me, satirical humor quoted out of context looks really, really damning, and as a result I'd been having I got a lot of unpleasant attention. Everything pales in comparison to a death threat, or the promise of a beating, but even tongue-lashings get you down after a while.... "Yeah." I said. "That's me."
"I read it all the time," he said. "After the election I wanted to kill myself. But when I read your column I laughed. I really needed a laugh right then. A lot of us really needed a laugh right then."
It was like a great weight got lifted off me when I heard that. I remember thinking. Oh yeah. *this* is why I write. If we don't laugh sometimes we'll cry. I want to help out with that.
This conversation made me think of a piece of fan mail I got a couple days ago. I'm going to contact the person who wrote it and see if she's okay with me re-printing it here. If she agrees I think it will be a nice addition to this thread...
[The final post: July 12th 12:12 PM]
She said I could share her letter so long as I removed her full last name. I wanted to share this because when this e-mail came in just a couple nights ago, I thought about this thread.
Even if I never get another e-mail like this again I'll feel like I've done something worthwhile with my life....
I read a lot of books. That's not to brag, it's just a fact. I read a lot of books, sometimes once, sometimes twenty times, and I'm glad that there's a lot of books out there because I'm more a little afraid that I'm going to run out one day. But I'm getting ahead of myself. This is really a thank you letter, so I should start there.
I want to thank you for your book, but I want to do it right. I read a lot of books, and it's been a long, long time since I've felt as passionately about a book as I do about yours. I don't know how to describe this feeling, really - I hope you know what I mean so I don't sound like a complete babbling idiot. It's like what I felt when I finished the Tolkien trilogy for the first time. It's the same thing I felt when I read my first LeGuin, it's the first time I read Ender's Game. It's being eight and fascinated by orcs and elves, and fifteen and shocked by the names of shadows that move inside of you, even if the shadow's name is your own name. It's finding love and pain and hope and a piece of yourself in the words on a page that were written far away by someone you have never met.
For the first time in a long time, I had a book that I couldn't bear to leave: your book. I bought it on a whim at five minutes to closing in a bookstore that I had never been to before, on a street that I have been on a hundred times. I started it at 11:45 on Monday night with a cup of grapefruit juice and a little seed of hope. I think you may know this hope, I think everyone has had it in one form or another. It's more than the, "gee I hope this is going to be a good trip" kind of hope.
Let me elaborate. (This is, by the way, kind of a personal letter. I hope you don't mind. You don't have to write back, it's okay, since this is really just a thank you.) I'm 19, just finished my first year of college, and living alone for the first time. I'm scared out of my wits, but not about finding a job or making it through school. I'm afraid that now that I'm an adult, there's no such thing as magic anymore. I don't want to be jaded any cynical and worldly. I like the crisp newness that varnishes the world. If I have to start paying bills and finding an apartment and paying rent, will I lose that shock, that joy, that awe that I felt when I saw things for the first time? (I had my first snowfall this winter. My first winter up north. It was everything I had dreamed it would be and it was utterly miserable. Who knew cold could be so, well, cold?) I am arrogant, I know, but I have to say it: have I read every good book? I wish I hadn't squandered so many good first reads in my childhood, when everything was new, when I didn't know how precious that first read is. That first bite of a taut red apple.
I started reading your book at 11:45pm and stopped at 8:30am when I realized that I probably still needed to show up for work. The first thing I did when I came home was pick it up again, and when I stopped I sat and stared at the wall and cried. Just because some things are over doesn't mean everything is. There are still people out there who can make magic, who know magic, there is still magic, I can still see magic. Closing the back cover was defeating; everything ends, and really there's nothing you can do about it. But it was exciting too. I was excited for another read, excited for the sequels, excited for the future.
I am going to go read it again now, and even though it won't be the first time, it will still be exciting. Thank you for your book. It is beautiful, and bright, and full of magic. Thank you for letting me write you this letter, even if you never read it. Thank you for the hope.
Hope that answers your question Sami. Everyone else, hope you weren't bored by the horribly long post.
Today was a glorious day, my friends. A day I have long dreamed of. A day that was foretold in the.. um... earliness. Of the world. Forsooth.
Today is the day I received my first royalty check.
Now I hope this doesn't make me seem shallow, but the honest truth is that I've been more excited about this check arriving than I was to see the first copy of the book. Not that I wasn't all tingly over the book, mind you. But things have been pretty tight lately around the house of Pat. Ramen has been on the menu again.
What's more, my personal gaelets, Visa and Mastercard, had stopped sending letters and decided instead that it would be better to hire burly men to stand across the street from my house, clutching broken pool cues and giving me meaningful looks.
But now I am safe from them. For a while at least.
For this week's What-Should-I-Do Tuesday, let me (hopefully) introduce you to a few new people.
First is an author I expect many of you already know, especially if you make a point of reading high-quality fantasy: Tim Powers.
While all of his books are good, my personal favorites are Last Call and Declare. Though a friend of mine swears that an earlier work of his, Anubis Gates, is the best thing ever.
I read his book Mistborn recently when I was on a trip, and I enjoyed it so much that I went out and bought the sequel, The Well of Ascension, in hardcover at full price. Twenty seven bucks that I could not really afford, despite the fact that credit card thugs were standing across the street from my house. But it was money well spent.
Dark, sarcastic, cynical humor at its finest. Not for the easily offended or the faint of heart. But in addition to the humor that's scattered throughout his comic, I have to say that Randy Milholland really knows how to tell a good story, parts of his comic are really poignant, heart touching, and true.
Lastly and leastly, today (the 10th) is the last day you can vote for Name of the Wind for to win "Book of the Year" in the Quill awards. If you're interested, you should HEAD OVER HERE and click on "Vote Now!" link.
Welcome to the first instalment of something I'm going to call "What-Should-I-do Tuesdays."
Over the last several months I've received many e-mails where at some point the person says something very similar to this:
[...] I can't wait for the sequel. Write faster! I don't know what I'm going to do with myself until your next book comes out. [...]
I usually thought of this a just a rhetorical comment until I got this e-mail:
I was catching up on your blog and realized that one thing that would make it even better would be a list of your favorite authors, movies, games, etc... Clearly, you are a Joss Weedon fan, adore Orson Scott Card, and so on. It's likely you could turn us, your humble audience, on to some other great stuff you like. I'd love to read your recommendations.
So I thought, why kill two birds with one stone. I turn you on to some good authors AND keep you from wasting away while you wait for book two.
Since this is the first week, let's start at the top.
If you like good fantasy, you have to read Neil Gaiman.
If you're into novels, I suggest starting with Neverwhere or Stardust. If you like comics, I suggest reading his Sandman series. Read it in the proper order too, or the continuity gods will strike you down.
Another of the best and brightest in the fantasy Genre is Terry Pratchett. He has written a metric ton of novels over the years. A few of them are merely great, but most of them are hands-down excellent. It isn't that vital that you read them all in order, but I still recommend trying to start with some of the earlier books first, as there are continuing characters and plot lines.
And finally, a webcomic that I'm guessing many of you have never heard of. It's not fantasy, but it is one of my favorites. It's funny, clever, and has healthy doses of social satire. Other comics out there might be funnier, or have more stylish art. But Cat and Girl is possibly the smartest comic I've ever read. And it does it without getting snobby or preachy, and it makes me laugh too. It may not be for all of you, but I'm guessing that some of you will really dig it. Browse the archives and find out.
In other news, I'm going to be down at a new convention in Madison this weekend - Geek Kon.
Details are on the tour schedule page, but here are some of the panels I'll be doing....
SATURDAY, 4pm - Lord of the Rings 6pm - Defining the Genres
SUNDAY 12 noon - SF/F Roundtable 1pm - The 36-Hour Day in Flatland
On Sunday I'm also have a reading/booksigning at Room of One's Own just off State Street. It's at 3:00.
Note: Those of you sending books out to me to get them signed, please remember to pack them carefully. One showed up today that had just been dropped in a box with no padding at all. It was banged up pretty badly and the dustjacket was in shreds. If you want specific advice about packaging, check out the details at the end of the blog I wrote on the subject.