I stumbled onto it a few months ago and have been enthralled ever since.
The basic premise is the cartoonist draws a little scenario similar to one of those little solve-the-puzzle flash games. Then the readers make suggestions as to how best to interact with the environment/solve the puzzle/get out of the room/win the game. Then the cartoonist draws the next panel.
It doesn't sound like much when I describe it that way, but when you reduce anything to a summary all the flavor gets lost.
I might as well say, "The Name of the Wind is a bunch of words that when you read them you learn a story about a guy who does some stuff."
Yeah. It's not exactly thrilling when you boil something down to its simplest elements. So you'll have to trust me that Ms Paint Adventures is interactive storytelling at its finest.
Let's try again: Ms Paint Adventures is one part webcomic, one part game, two parts parody, three parts role playing with a sadistic GM, four parts clever, three parts sarcastic, one part barb wire, one part sweet, sweet methadone. Plus awesome. Plus double awesome.
The author/artist is Andrew Hussie, and as one storyteller to another, my hat's off to him. He's doing something strange and wonderful over there.
Be warned, the finished story (Problem Sleuth) is over 1500 pages, and it will consume a large portion of your life if it gets it gets its hooks into you.
More blog soon,
P.S. By this point I know I've spelled the "Reccomendations" tag wrong. And you know what? I'm pretty okay with that. I'm going to keep on spelling it wrong until I have time to go back and change them all. If I just change half of them, the link won't work properly.
So take a deep breath and start thinking of ways to deal with it. I'm sure you can...
I have an undeniable tendency to overconsider things. That means that sometimes, some of the things I want to say here end up becoming obsolete before I actually say them.
Like Coraline, for example. I really liked the movie. I wanted to post a blog about why I liked it, and recommend that people check it out. But movies come and go so fast, and I missed my window of opportunity for that one.
Part of the problem with writing these posts is that it's hard for me to shift gears. It's hard for me to post up something serious and involved, then two days later say, "Hey, y'all know what movie is really cool?"
Similarly, a day after I post up a humor column, it doesn't seem really appropriate for me to post up the story of what I thought when I felt the pain in my chest and the tingling down my left arm.
You see, a novel needs continuity, pacing, consistency. I strive for these things, I'm hyper-aware of them. A novel can have funny bits and sweet bits. It can be romantic, dramatic, and horrible. But all those pieces need to come together to form a coherent whole.
It's my belief that this coherency is one of the most important parts of any story. Comic, movie, or book, the medium doesn't matter. I think that strange intangible element makes the difference between a story that's satisfying, and one that isn't.
In fact, now that I'm thinking of it, I think this strange something might actually be the soul of the story. It's the difference between something that is a story, and something that just looks like a story.
You can't just throw together a plot, some characters, some dialogue and some humor onto the page and get a real story. Not a true and vital story. It doesn't work any more than throwing two arms, two legs, a head and bunch of organs into a sack makes a person.
Sure you need a plot, mostly. And you need characters and all the rest. But the story, I think, is the thing that connects these parts. The story is that which lies between.
Bigger stories need more of it. A novel needs it in spades.
Sometimes I wonder about what I write here. Does this collection of musings and anecdotes that I only reluctantly call a blog need that same coherency? I think not. Maybe. Probably. I think.
Still, old habits die hard, and so a lot of times I think of writing something for the blog, but it doesn't seem timely. Other times I actually write something with the intention of posting it up, then decide that the time for it has past. Or I don't post it because it seems odd or incongruent with what I have posting lately.
What was I talking about? Oh yes. The Watchmen.
In brief, I liked it. It was fun to watch, largely true to the spirit of the original, and I'd be happy if someone did that good a job bringing something I wrote onto the screen. Not ecstatic, perhaps. But very happy.
Did I have quibbles? Of course I did. The Watchmen was the second comic I read as an adult. I was 22 at the time, and it was a large part of what convinced me that the medium of comics wasn't just a mess of childish bullshit.
I don't believe in spoilers, so I won't give anything away about the plot or the changes they made. Instead, I'll just make some general comments.
...the casting. Whoever was responsible for the casting in the movie deserves a full, passionate kiss on the mouth. The acting was brilliant, and the portrayal of many of the characters was truly exceptional.
... the fact that the movie was subtle and clever. I am a fan of subtle and clever.
... the visuals. Normally I could give a care about things like that. But many of these were truly fantastic. Very true to the comic while at the same time adding to the overall tone of the movie.
... the acting. So good on all fronts. I can't remember the actor's name who played the comedian, but he rang my bell. Every role I've seen him in he's been great.
... seeing Dr. Manhattan's great naked blue dick dangling all over the place. Huzzah.
... the loss of moral ambiguity the original story possessed.
... the portrayal of Ozymandias. Not the acting, mind you. The overall portrayal.
As I've said I don't go in for spoilers. So that's all I'll say here. Maybe I'll chime in with a more specific comment or two below. If you hate spoilers, you'll probably want to avoid the comments section, as I expect there will be some heated and specific discussion.
Is the movie worth seeing? Absolutely. But you should really read the graphic novel too. It's brilliant. It's clever. It's full of that which lies between.
Pixar never fails to amaze me. I can't help but wonder how, as a team, they manage continuous brilliance. Well... to be fair, Cars was merely great. But other than that, everything they do is just a different flavor of incredible. Constantly manufacturing a good creative product is hard enough. But constant excellence produced by a changing team. That's nigh-impossible.
Frankly, I expect some manner of pact with dark powers.
Or, more likely, Pixar has something like cull-the-heard Wednesdays. Where once a week someone quietly wanders through the office and has a close look at everyone. Susan is doodling a palindromic sestina on her napkin at lunch - Check. Terry is spontaneously reciting pi to a song of her own creation while using the Xerox machine - Check. Dave is humming the theme song from "Land of the Lost" while sending out zombie invitations on Facebook....
On Thursday, when the other workers ask why Dave's desk is empty, management explains that they transferred him to a nice animation studio out in the country where he'll have plenty of room to run and play.
So... yeah. Suffice to say that if Pixar wanted the rights to make a movie of the book, they wouldn't have to fight very hard.
Sarah and I have almost managed to put the fundraiser to bed. Tomorrow should be our last busy day. After it's all done, I'll post up some pictures, give the final donations totals, and talk about our plans for the future.
I won't be posting up a list of winners and their prizes because that would involve me putting folks' personal information up on the web without their permission, and that isn't cool.
Also, I didn't e-mail everyone who won, because it would have taken WAY too long. So you might have won something even if you haven't heard from me. But don't e-mail me and ask about it. Seriously.
In other news, I'm on Goodreads now. I'm not planning on spending a huge amount of time there, but you can add me as a friend if you're into that sort of thing.
And lastly, could some tech-savvy person out there do me a bit of a favor? Namely, could you change my Wikipedia picture, preferably to one that makes me look slightly less like a serial killer?
I appreciate that someone went through the trouble of uploading a photo. And I don't deny that it's a fairly accurate depiction of how I look most of the time. But still, if there is going to be a picture of me, I'd rather it not look like something that was pulled from a pamphlet titled "How to Spot a Sociopath."
Did I mention that Heifer International called my house? Yeah. They're the coolest folks. Apparently some of them have been watching our fundraiser with more than passing interest. They confirmed something I had started to suspect. Namely, that y'all are cool as hell.
This is the last treasure post, and we have some lovely stuff. Detailed below, we have another original manuscript, signed books and ARC's, and some cool swag from Queen of the Geeks, Felicia Day.
I've raised the donation bar a couple times just in the last week, and right now it looks like we stand a good chance of actually raising more that 40,000 dollars. Which is awe-inspiring, really.
For the last month, the first thing I've done in the morning is check the Heifer donation page. It's been a great way to start my day. But I'll be honest with you, there have been a few times in the last week that I've woken up, looked at the total, and thought. "This is it. I really shouldn't match any more. I said I'd keep going until Dec 11th, but I'm sure folks will understand if I stop matching donations a couple days early...."
When I get that feeling, I go look at Heifer's website. Then I learn things like the fact that half the chickens in Korea are descended from eggs that Heifer supplied after the Korean War.
Or I read about a young man in Uganda who had to quit school to take care of his five younger siblings because his parents died. He got a Heifer, greatly improving the family's nutrition. And the money they get from selling the surplus milk is helping to pay for school.
And then I think, "I can order Chinese food any time I want, and they bring it to my house. I have a car in reasonably good repair. I have a house that stays warm through the Wisconsin winters. I have a house full of books to read, and all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD. I am living the best possible life."
Then I relax, and I realize that nothing makes me happier than raising the donation bar again. And again after that if need be.
Okay, enough touchy-feely. Let's talk about free stuff.
A set of the first three books in Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet: A Shadow in Summer, A Betrayal in Winter, and An Autumn War. Hardcover. Signed by the author.
While I haven't mentioned these books on my blog, I've read them and they're really good. In fact, these were the first books I ever decided to give an official blurb to.
I'd almost forgotten about it. But when Daniel's books showed up today, I saw that my blurb was actually there, right on the cover. First book: quote from GRRM. Second book: quote from GRRM. Third book? Quote from me. That's right baby. Me.
So obviously I thought these were great books. But don't take my word for it. Instead, why not trust bestselling author Patrick Rothfuss when he says, "There is much to love in the Long Price Quartet. It is epic in scope, but character-centered. The setting is unique yet utterly believable. The storytelling is smooth, careful, and--best of all--unpredictable."
An advance reading copy of Jeri Smith-Ready'sThe Reawakened, conclusion to the Aspect of Crow trilogy. Signed by the author.
Another one of those cool ARC's for those of you who are interested in getting a peek at the book before it hits the shelves. Publisher's Weekly says, "Myth blends with passion in this colorful conclusion to the Aspect of Crow trilogy."
Award winning author Stephen Baxter calls Mirrored Heavens, "A crackling cyberthriller. This is Tom Clancy interfacing Bruce Sterling. David Williams has hacked into the future.”
A copy of Questions for a Soldier, by John Scalzi. Limited edition.
Questions for a Soldier is a limited edition Subterranean Press book set in the world of Scalzi's first novel, Old Man's War. Scalzi himself says, "for those of you looking for rare and unusual Scalzi-related curiosities, this is it, baby."
Paul Di Filippo, writing for The Washington Post Book World says, "Scalzi's imagined interstellar arena is coherently and compellingly delineated....His speculative elements are top-notch. His combat scenes are blood-roiling. His dialogue is suitably snappy and profane."
A set of S.C. Bulter'sReiffen's Choice and Queen Ferris, books one and two of The Stoneways Trilogy. Signed by the author.
Children's Literature says, "Fantasy fans of all ages will be drawn into the world that Butler has created…. If one wanders away from the main characters they will not fall out of the story but will find another story somewhere in the Stoneways or Valing, and that is the mark of a truly great fantasy."
This husband and wife team just sent me some of their stuff out of the blue. And I'll admit that when this graphic novel showed up, I invoked my sovereign right of... um... book-lookingness. Anyway, I read it. And it was pretty cool....
According to Publishers Weekly, "The tale's unfamiliar setting and the uncanny events work together intriguingly."
In a starred review, Kirkus says, "Featuring both an uncommonly well-conceived setting and buckets of high-energy action, Taylor's debut tale of a thumb-sized devil hunter who comes this close to meeting her match belongs at the top of everyone's fantasy must-read list."
A copy of Dead to Me, the debut novel of Anton Strout. Signed by the author.
Anton Strout is, among other things, my mortal enemy. However, I'm willing to set aside any personal rancor I feel toward the man in order to accept his generous gift on behalf of Heifer International.
Bestselling author Charlaine Harris gives this review: "Following Simon's adventures is like being the pinball in an especially antic game, but it's well worth the wear and tear."
An ARC of Fenzig's Fortune by Jean Rabe. Signed by the Author.
Jean has donated both a signed ARC, and a signed hardcover to the cause. Publisher's Weekly says that, "Readers of all ages will find simple pleasures in this traditional hobbit-inspired fantasy."
A manuscript of Steven Savile's new Stargate novel, Shadows, book one of The Iblis Trilogy. Signed by the author.
I can't say enough good about Steven. When he heard about the fundraiser, he immediately went out and started beating the bushes for donations. He brought in the folks from Bad Moon Books. He tipped off Kevin Anderson and many others. Finally, he's donated this lovely manuscript.
Here's what Steven says:
"Shadows is the first book in the Iblis Trilogy, an SG-1 novel featuring the original team. What makes this manuscript unique is it includes all of the mistakes and material that MGM won't approve - so there are a good 10,000 words different between it as a first draft and the finished book which is coming out at the end of January. The story itself pits the team against the Goa'uld, Iblis, and features the Mujina, an archetypal monster who can be all things to everyone, the hero and villain their heart most desperately desires."
If you haven't heard about Dr. Horrible, then you obviously haven't been reading my blog for very long. Maybe you have been living under a heavy, heavy rock. Or perhaps you hate everything that is lovely and good in the world.
How much do I love Dr. Horrible? I'll let this picture from my Halloween party tell the story:
Yeah. The ladies were totally into my Dr. Horrible costume. So... yeah. Dr. Horrible was bigger than Lennon, and the poster is pretty cool too. Signed by Felicia Day, Neil Patrick Harris, and Nathan Fillion. This prize is guaranteed to make you excited enough to pee.
That's all she wrote, folks. Remember you have until the end of December 11th to get in on the action. Tell your friends....
Want to know how to win these and other fabulous prizes while making the world a better place? Check OVER HERE for the blog that describes it all.
The Chronicles of Narnia were my first chapter books when I was a kid. I can actually remember when my mom bought them for me. I was outside the Waldenbooks at East Town Mall. She came out of the store and she handed them to me. It was a big deal. I seem to remember her saying, "I think you're ready for these." But I don't know if that is a true memory or not.
I do know that my mom was desperate to get me into reading chapter books. I just wasn't interested. I liked picture books. When we went to the library, I would check out as many as they would let me, then I would take them home and read them all inside a day. Then I would pester her to make another trip to the library....
My mom chose well. I loved the Narnia books. It's safe to say that they have a special place in my heart. It's also safe to say that I might be overly sensitive when it comes to changes made in the story in the process of turning it into a movie.
That said, I liked the movie version of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Sure, I had some quibbles, and a few things irritated me. But as a whole, I enjoyed it.
But Prince Caspian? Sucked. Sucked to a degree that made me angry. Sucked to the degree that I actually stopped watching the movie.
This never happens. I'm a narratovore. Once I start a story, I finish it. I can count the number of books I've stopped halfway through on one hand. And I can only think of one other movie that I actually stopped watching partway through.
I gave it a fair shake. I watched 40 minutes. Then, exasperated, I pushed the button on the DVD remote that tells me how much more time is left in the movie. The readout said that I had another hour and a half to go. Too much. I was done.
Now I'm well aware that you can't just take a book and use it as a screenplay for a movie. The change in medium necessitates changes in the way the story is told. You can do things in print that you can't do on the screen, and visa versa.
But here's the thing. The rules of storytelling don't change between mediums. Story is story. It doesn't matter if you're singing it around a fire or painting it on a cave wall.
That means that no matter how you're telling it, you need your story to possess certain qualities. You need tension. You need conflict. You need your audience to be emotionally involved. You need good characters and good interaction between those characters. You need verisimilitude, drama, humor....
Okay, you don't need ALL of those. But you should have most of them. And some are absolutely essential.
You know what isn't essential? Scenery. Pretty actors. CGI.
Don't get me wrong. Those things can be great additions to a movie. But they are not the story itself. Nor are they a functional story-substitute. They are the fancy icing roses on the corners of the cake. They only work because the cake is there, underneath. You can't sit down and eat a whole plateful of frosting roses. Well, you can if you're four years old or mentally deficient. But twenty minutes and a pound of frosting later you're vomiting pink foam all over the couch.
Why? Because story is story, and icing is icing. Why doesn't Hollywood realize this?
Now don't get me wrong, I understand how hard it is to tell a good story. There are a thousand things that can go wrong. I learned most of them firsthand by screwing up my own book for years and years until I finally got it right. I imagine it's even harder to do when you're part of a team. Editors, writers, directors, and producers all have their fingers in the pie. I imagine it's a classic case of too many cooks in the kitchen.
But when you're making a movie that costs a hundred million dollars, you think they would take care to get the story right despite all that. The story is the foundation of the movie. It's the cornerstone. It's the key.
Hold on. Two hundred million? They spent TWO HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS on that?
I know where the money went, too. Icing. CGI. Scenery. They shot the movie in New Zealand, Slovenia, Poland, and the Czech Republic.
And the scenery was beautiful. The CGI was flawless. Fine. I understand wanting to have those things. But why isn't story given the same attention to detail?
Let's say they needed a centaur for the movie, and the CGI people worked for a couple of weeks and then came back with something that looked like it was made from binder twine, turds, and paper mache.
Would everyone just shrug and move on with the movie? No. Someone would say, "This sucks. You fail at your job. Go back and bring me a real-looking centaur."
And so the CGI is great. The scenery is gorgeous. The actors are pretty. And the story is a mess. How does story so consistently slip through the cracks? How can they not understand how important it is?
It's not like they were making it from whole cloth, either. They had the book as a roadmap. A story that worked well. A story with good tension, character interaction, and a layered series of smoothly functioning story arcs. Why did they make a point of changing things that worked?
What really drove all of this home for me was what happened the very next night.
Sarah said, "I've got a movie that I want you to watch."
Me: What is it?
Me: [Sigh] The one where the guy has the imaginary friend that's a rabbit? All sorts of people have tried to get me to watch that. It sounds dumb.
Sarah: It's really good.
Obviously I'm not interested, but I can see that Sarah is excited. And she's cute when she's excited. er. Cuter. When she's like that, saying no to her is like kicking a fluffy puppy.
Besides, as a whole, she has good taste in movies. She's the one that got me to watch Fight Club and American Beauty.
So I watch it. This movie is more than fifty years old. Black and white. Probably shot on a sound stage. The sum total of their special effects probably amounted to a piece of string tied to a doorknob. On top of all that, it was fullscreen. Which I hate. HAAAATE.
And you know what? It was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I laughed. I cried. I want to watch it again. The best movie that I've seen in... in a long while.
If they made that movie nowadays, they would get ILM to make a ten million dollar CGI rabbit. Keanu Reaves would play Elwood P. Dowd. There would be a car chase. It would be filmed on location in Vancouver, Prague, and Akron. And it would suck suck suck. It would suck to the tune of two hundred million dollars because none of those things is in service to the story.
That's all. Hope everyone is having a lovely weekend. And the next time you're looking for a movie, you should check out Harvey.
Okay folks. I know you've seen a lot of blogs full of donations for the Heifer Fundraiser lately. Don't get jaded on me. This one is something new. Something ginchy.
I've known the folks at Subterranean Press for a long while. They were the first publisher to ask if I'd like to contribute a story to an anthology. Bill Schafer actually contacted me two weeks after TNOTW hit the shelves. It was one of the first clues I had that I might have done something right in the book.
What's more, I'm currently working with an illustrator on a not-for-children children's book that will be published through through them. (Details on that will be forthcoming.)
Subterranean Press publishes gorgeous books. Beautiful paper. Beautiful bindings. Stuff by great authors. Stuff that's out of print. Stuff by Neil Gaiman, Tim Powers, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury....
The last time I bought stuff off their website, I looked at my shopping cart and found myself thinking, "Next time I sell them a story, I should just negotiate my contract in store credit and cut out the middle man."
So when Bill contacted me, saying he was willing to donate some books to my Heifer Fundraiser, I was understandably delighted. Thrilled, in fact.
Then he sent me the list. I was stunned. 120 books. Beautiful hardcovers. Many of them limited editions. Many of them sold out. Most of them signed.
All told, over 8,000 dollars worth of books.
Yeah. They're awesome.
Subterranean Press has Donated 10 copies of each of the following.
This is a book of revived, never produced (except for a pilot to the series the book was to have become) teleplays by Robert A. Heinlein, mainly adapted from his stories. Paul Di Filippo, for SciFi Weekly says, "All these narratives are gripping and full of hooks and typically engaging Heinlein characters [....] The stories have proved themselves in print for half a century, and their virtues survive the transition to a different medium."
Ursula K. Le Guin tells us, "Keep your eye on Kage Baker! You never know where she's heading next, but its always worth going there. She's an edgy, funny, complex, ambitious writer with the mysterious, true gift of story-telling."
An anthology of stories by Bruce Sterling, who, according to Strange Horizons, "has done perhaps as much as the work of any other single author to define cyberpunk, steampunk, post-cyberpunk and indeed, the broader course of the genre's development in the last three decades."
Years ago, I was at a party at Worldcon, desperately trying to and prove that I fit in with all these other writer types. After a while, I ended up in a conversation that included a bunch of aspiring writers (myself included) and Larry Niven. We were talking about all sorts of things. Writing, the portrayal of magic... general geeky writing talk. Good stuff.
I mentioned Bridge of Birds by Barry Hugart as being a gorgeous book. Nobody else in the group had read it... except Larry Niven, who agreed enthusiastically. Needless to say, I felt pretty cool....
Hugart's books have been out-of-print for a long while. But they're back, collected here. So now you can read them and feel cool too.
In a starred review, Publisher's Weekly says, "Reading Hughart's endearing historical fantasy trilogy, first published almost 20 years ago, is much like 'wandering blindfolded through a myth devised by a maniac,' in the words of Master Li, the greatest and most frequently intoxicated wise man in a colorful seventh century 'China that never was.' Their rollicking adventures pit them against everyone from murderers and thieves to emperors and gods. Numerous Chinese legends, filtered through Ox's simple perspective, blend seamlessly into both lighthearted and heartrending."
Publisher's Weekly says, "With six-guns blazing and tentacles flailing, this nifty all-original anthology delivers impressively on the "pure storytelling" promise Lansdale (Flaming London) makes in his intro. The dozen authors manage to address serious issues while remaining true to their roots and the book's theme."
Here's what Publisher's Weekly said in a starred review: "Lansdale's The Nightrunners (1987), the centerpiece of this chilling collection, set new standards of graphic violence and is probably the best novel of its type between Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs... This upsetting look at the human capacity for evil breaks with crime novel conventions when a supernatural element enters the story in the form of the grotesque deity known as the God of All Things Sharp. Twenty years later, The Nightrunners retains its ability to awe and to horrify. Six short stories that grew out of the novel, one previously unpublished, round out the volume."
This book should look familiar to some of you, as it's similiar to the one I posted up myself in the original blog when I started the fundraiser. However, these books are much cooler, as they're signed by ALL the authors.
Booklist said this about the anthology, "All the contributors share a gift for sharp-edged prose that keeps the reader pleasantly perturbed for hours."
Joe Hill's first novel won a lot of awards, including the Locus Award for best debut fantasy of 2007. Good on him.
His book was described by the Herald Tribune as "a wild, mesmerizing, perversely witty tale of horror [....] In a book much too smart to sound like the work of a neophyte, he builds character invitingly and plants an otherworldly surprise around every corner."
Want to know how to win these books and other fabulous prizes while making the world a better place? Check OVER HERE for the blog that describes it all.
Lastly, some people have been asking me if I plan on continuing to match all the donations made. Some people have expressed concerns that I will end up homeless on the street, eating tuna out of a can with my fingers and talking to invisible people.
First, let me reassure you that I will be continuting to match donations until December 11th. I can afford it for now, and honestly, if I'm going to be irrisponsible with my money, this is the way I want to go. This is my preferred flavor of stupidity. And besides, if I don't do something like this, I'd just end up blowing it on something cool but stupid.
Second, don't overestimate my current lifestyle. Anyone who has met me in person knows I pretty much look like a hobo anyway. I only own one pair of shoes, and when you come right down to it, there's nothing wrong with eating tuna out of the can with your fingers. It saves you the trouble of washing a fork afterwards.
And I already talk to invisible people. I'm a writer. That's pretty much my job.
So yeah. I'm still matching donations. Bring it on. I'd love to hit $40,000. Let's show them what happens when high-minded geeks set their minds on making the world a better place.
I would like to take a moment of your time to talk to you about a book.
(The US cover for the book. It looks cooler in other places.)
I've been a fan of Terry Pratchett's for years. He's a truly magnificent writer. One of the best. This cannot be argued.
Still, I have to admit that I picked up this book with more than a little hesitation.
The problem was that I knew this book wasn't going to be set in Discworld, so I was nervous. Also, I was a little disappointed, because I love Discworld. It's like a place that I get to visit on vacation once or twice a year. I look forward to those visits, and because of that, I was ready to be let down by this non-Discworld story.
I shouldn't have worried. This is quite possibly Pratchett's best book yet. Reading it, I laughed aloud in public. Finishing it, I cried.
This is probably the best book that I've read in years. Maybe the best book I've read in forever. I've already ordered a half-dozen copies so I can give them away as gifts.
Buy it. Read it. Love it. This book is like a kiss from god.
What should I do #11: Two Trilogies Better Than Mine.
Well, that's a matter of opinion, I suppose. But one fact is indisputable, these two trilogies have something going for them that mine doesn't. Both of them are already complete. That's right, you can have all three books right now.
Both are by newish authors that you might not have run into yet. The first is Joe Abercrombie's First Law series.
I feel a certain kinship with Joe, which partially stems from the fact that in April, both our books were nominated for the Compton Crook award. Then, in August, we were both denied our rightful positions as winners of the award. Or rather, I was denied my rightful position as winner, and Joe was denied taking runner-up by a narrow, narrow margin.
The books are good, really good. They pulled me in. Well-developed world. Unique, compelling characters. I like them so much that when I got to the end of the second book and found out the third book wasn't going to be out in the US for another three months. I experienced a fit of rage, then a fit of depression, then I ate some lunch and had a bit of a lay down.
When I got up, I remembered that Joe and I share a publisher over in the UK. So, in my first ever attempt at using my newfound published-author powers, I e-mailed my editor over in England and begged them to send me the third book. I mean I *asked* them to. In a suave and sophisticated way.
I don't believe in spoilers. So don't I'm not going to give anything away. But I will say that the third book tied up the series quite nicely.
I will also say this. This isn't some cookie-cutter fantasy. It's refreshingly realistic, but also very gritty and dark. It might even be fair to call it grim. You have been warned.
The second trilogy I'm going to talk about is Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn. Some of you might recognize his name because I've mentioned him here before. Or you might know of him because Brandon is the author who's been brought on board to finish Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.
The Mistborn books are set in a fascinating world different from any fantasy I've run into before. He's got a good grip on character and story, and his magic system is unlike anything I've ever run into before either. He makes it very solid and logical, while still leaving room for cleverness and mystery.
The third book of the trilogy: The Hero of Ages, comes out today. So you won't be left hanging no matter how fast you read.
The truth is, Brandon's books are so good that they're starting to piss me off. I don't mind that he's a good writer. But he writes way, way faster than me. That makes me look like a chump.
This was pretty cool for me, because I've really enjoyed his books so far. Most notably the Mistborn series. Though Elantris was really good as well.
I've recommended his books on the blog before, so I won't go all gushy again. But I have to say, his stuff is really good. Irritatingly good. Plus he writes really fast, which is nice as a reader because he has more books out. But irritating as a writer, because it makes people like me look bad.
Anyway, he does a writing podcast with a few co-conspirators, and they asked me if I wanted to be their guest for an episode and talk about exposition and stuff.
I'm guessing many of you already know about Coulton. He strides the world like a colossus. He mocks. He's funny. He has a pretty good beard....
Mostly though, Coulton does music. Smart, funny, wonderful music.
It's possible that you might know Coulton's work even if you don't know his name. If you've finished Portal, for example, you've heard his stuff. "Still Alive" the song that plays during the end credits is his.
And if you went to PAX this year, you got to see him onstage. Not that I'm bitter that I missed it because I was at Dragoncon that weekend. Not that I'm bitter that I missed the chance to hang out with Felicia Day of Dr. Horrible fame at PAX too. Not that I'm bitter that apparently Felicia got up and sang on stage with Coulton at the concert....
Yeah. Okay. I'm a little bitter.
For those of you out of the loop, a couple years back Jonathan Coulton started something he called thing a week. As the name suggests, he wrote a new song each week and released it for free on the internet.
As you might guess, some of the songs were a little forced. But what's far more important is how often he struck gold. A lot of his songs are pure, distilled brilliance.
How good are they? Well.... imagine if someone unspeakably hot person came to your house. Imagine whoever you like: Brad Pitt. Alyson Hannigan, Bea Arthur. Whatever turns your crank.
So. This person shows up at your house and gives you a really good backrub. Then they make you an ice cream sundae. Your favorite kind. Then, and this is the key part, they sex you up while you're eating the sundae....
Okay. Honestly, his songs aren't quite as awesome as that. But they're maybe.... seventy percent that awesome. Which you have to admit, is pretty amazing.
But you don't have to take my word for it. Here's a few Youtube samples from an acoustic show he did in LA a couple years back.
Here's one of his more popular ones called Code Monkey:
And another called: I Feel Fantastic.
One more, possibly my favorite song of his: I Crush Everything.
Normally, I don't associate with people who have three names. It's just intimidating. Plus, on a practical level, it's hard to deal with. Does he go by the full "David Anthony?" Is he a "David" a "Dave" or an "Anthony." Hell, he could even be a "Tony." I have a real problem remembering names. Even the simple first names of my friends. That means someone with three to seven different potential names is going to give me a lot of trouble.
I can't remember how we first got in touch. But I do know that our first contact was over e-mail. And, to tell the truth, I was more than slightly intimidated by him.
Part of this was due to the fact that before his most recent novel (an epic fantasy called Acacia) he wrote literary fiction. While I'm not one to engage in genre snobbery. The fact remains that to Lit Fic has a certain amount of cultural cache. A certain gravitas.
Another intimidating thing was the fact that he had a tenure-track job teaching creative writing, which means he's got some hefty edumication under his belt.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, this picture was the the first I ever saw of him:
Not only was he thinner and more attractive than myself. But to me this picture says: "I'm going kick a man's ass, then go read some Coleridge. You have a problem with that? No. I didn't think so. Move along."
I know, I know. It's wrong to judge a book by its cover. It's doubly wrong to judge an author by his jacket photo. If you were to do that with me, you would be forced to assume that I was some sort of rogue Muppet, eremite priest, or Russian dictator.
When I finally met him at a convention. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that most of what I'd assumed about him was off-base. He wasn't pompous, or stiff, or academic. He was relaxed and friendly, with an easy laugh.
At the last convention we hit together, Wiscon, we sat at the bar for an hour or two and had a lovely argument about Heinlein, and a different argument about C.S. Lewis, and a discussion about purpose of literature and the ethical responsibility of the author. We disagreed a lot.
It was lovely. I love few things more than a conversation with an intelligent person who is passionate in their beliefs and willing to disagree with me.
In short. He turned out to be my favorite sort of person. The sort of person that I wished lived closer to me so that he could come over to my house, watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and get his ass solidly handed to him at Settlers of Catan.
Because, as I've said before, I cannot be beaten at Catan.
Lastly, though not leastly, David may prove instrumental in insuring that y'all get to see books two and three.
Let me explain. At World Fantasy convention last year his hotel was hell and gone from the convention center, and I had rented a car. So one night when things were winding down, I offered to give him a ride.
We wandered out of the hotel to the parking lot. After we had climbed into the car, he looked at me and said, "You're not wearing your seatbelt?"
It wasn't the sentence itself, it was the way he said it. He wasn't chiding, or disapproving. He was honestly shocked. More than that. He was aghast. It was the same tone I use when I say, "You smoke?"
When I say this, usually the unspoken part of my comment is clear, "What are you, a fucking idiot?"
When he looked at me and said, "You're not wearing your seat belt?" I thought to myself, "Of course. I should wear my seat belt. I'd be an idiot not to."
And ever since then, I've worn my seat belt. This means that I'm much more likely to live long enough to get you day two and three of the trilogy, and many more after that.
Despite all of his coolness, it took me a long time to get around to reading David's book. I did mention his book, right?
It's epic fantasy. A nice mix of big empire-level stuff and character centered story. He's a great worldbuilder, which is where my heart lies, and his cultures are varied and well-developed. He leans more toward description, where I tend to do more dialogue. But we're playing a similar game in many ways. Odds are if you dig on Tolkien, Acacia will be right up your alley. Check it out.
Odds are if you like computer games, you either know about Penny Arcade, or you live under a heavy, heavy rock.
What some folks don't realize is that Penny Arcade recently put out their own video game titled On the Rain-Swept Precipice of Darkness. * I played it a while back and enjoyed it to a surprising degree. The interface is solid, the steampunk-ish world is appealing, and the game itself is pleasantly challenging in places, though by no means Nintendo hard.
As you can tell by the title, it's rather tongue-in-cheek. The tone isn't like anything else I've run into before. It's like H. P. Lovecraft and Terry Pratchett had some sort of oddly charismatic love child with Tourette's.
For me, the main selling point was the wit, the good use of language, and the irreverent humor. I'm a big fan of that sort of thing, if you hadn't already guessed.
Best of all, if you're like me and fear leaving the house during the summer for fear that the sun might touch you. You can download the whole game directly via the intertubes.
If you're curious, there's a demo available. If you like that, then I strongly urge you to buy the game and support them in their future endeavors.
That's all for now folks,
*** Edit: An attentive reader has pointed out that the title is actually "On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness." I stand corrected. My bad.
So right now I'm in LA. I'm in the eye of the storm, schedule-wise. I was at Worldcon last weekend, and I'll be at GenCon in a couple of days. Right now I'm helping out a little bit with the Writers of the Future workshop.
And when I say, "a bit" I mean just that. The workshop is run by Tim Powers, who (whom?) I've mentioned before on the blog, albeit briefly. He's one of my favorite authors. And not only does he have an amazing grip on the craft of writing, but he's a great teacher to boot. That means, for the most part, I feel my best contribution to the workshop is to nod and occasionally chime in with an emphatic "hell yes."
Worldcon was cool. I sat on some panels talked about writing, and generally avoided making too much of an ass of myself. That's about as much as I can hope for, overally.
I got about 30 people for my reading, which was nice. I read some poetry, a couple humor columns, including one of my old favorites about guinea pigs, and a tiny piece of book two. Not even hardly a taste, just a tease.
I also had my first experience of randomly seeing someone reading my book in public. Unfortunately, it was at a convention, so it only counts for half points, but it was still pretty cool.
I think I freaked out the woman who was reading it though. I walked up to her and said, "That's my book!" She looked up at me with mingled surprise and horror. Understandable really, that's how I'd feel if I looked up and saw some freakish hobo-muppet crossbreed grinning down at me.
Next weekend I'll be at Gencon, doing all manner of panels, readings, and signings. I'll also be making appearance at the local library, accompanied by the awesome costumers who won the photo contest. A good time will be had by all.
Gech. Stupid hotel computer. I can't make it display the cover of the book. You'll just have to follow the link, I guess.
If the comic sounds familiar, it should. Rich Burlew was the cartoonist who did the lovely tribute to Gary Gygax that I linked to a while back.
It was fun writing the forward for the book, as I really love the comic. Plus Rich drew a comic version of me which is pretty dead on. If you're interested, the book will be available for sale at Gencon, and can be ordered off Rich's website.
A lot of folks have been asking if I'm going to be at San Diego Comic Con this weekend. This is to let everyone know that I'm not.
Yes. I know. Everyone cool in all of god's creation is going to be there. All the authors. All the actors. All the geeks of different creeds and nations. All the JossWhedon.
I've never been to San Diego Comic Con before. This was going to be my first year, but in an act of true selfless love, I agreed to perform my friend's marriage ceremony, and it happened to land on the same weekend.
Don't get me wrong, I don't regret it. This is one of my very best friends, the guy who helped keep me sane during the two years of burning suck that was grad school. We live in different parts of the country now, but I still miss him, and if it were possible I would transplant him here in central Wisconsin. But alas, raised in the Pacific northwest, he is like a delicate hothouse orchid. One of our winters would either kill him, or throw him into some terrible psychosis.
So I'm looking forward to the wedding.... but... well.... the whole Dr. Horrible crew is going to be there. It would have been really cool if I'd managed to get to say howdy to Felicia Day in person, buy a copy of the Guild DVD, and get the cast to sign it.
Then this morning on my daily troll through the interweb, I see that just about all my favoritewebcomicartists are going to be there too. I feel like the kid who forgot his permission slip. And believe me, I know what that feels like. I was always that kid.
So if you're going, have an extra portion of geeky fun on my behalf. Tell JossWhedon I love him, and I'll catch y'all there next year.
A week or two ago a fan wrote in with the following:
Sorry to hear you didn't win the Locus award for Best Debut Novel of the year. Still, I hope you got to rub elbows with the famous people and wear a tux at the Locus awards.
I'd already had a handful of people send me their condolences about not winning. Some were gentle commiserations, while other folks were frothy with rage, upset at the sheer injustice of me not winning ever award in existence. Even the ones that were given out before my book was published. Even the ones that were given out before I was born.
Regardless of the tone, all the messages were sweet. And I told them the same thing: the winner, Heart Shaped Box, was a good book. A really good book, actually. I enjoyed it a lot. (Though I did something I rarely do, and listened to it as an audiobook without actually reading the paper version first.)
For the more morally outraged folks, I explained that Joe hill has actually been writing short stories for a while, so he had a bit of a pre-established readerbase even before his novel came out. Plus, he writes in the thriller/horror genre, which tends to have a bigger readership than epic fantasy. Both of those things, I explained, couldn't help but get him more votes, and that's the cool thing about the Locus Award - everyone gets a vote. It's like a democracy or something.
Plus, Hill's acceptance speech was very gracious. He mentioned all the other nominees, myself included. That's classy.
As for the Locus Awards themselves - they really weren't a tuxedo sort of affair. They're more of a Hawaiian shirt deal. Which, personally, I found kind of refreshing.
I also didn't get to do much elbow rubbing while I was out there. I had some sort of strange fever that left me exhausted and sweaty. Really sweaty. There were occasions where I was literally dripping, and that's not the best way to make a good impression on folks. So, for the most part, I just hung out.
I did get to hear William Gibson talk, which was pretty cool. And I got to hang out with Peter S. Beagle for a while (for reasons that I will discuss in a later blog.) That was terribly exciting despite the fact that I didn't feel very well. My only anxiety is that I looked like I was having the worst panic attack ever. But sweaty exhaustion aside, the fact remains that getting to talk with Mr Beagle made the whole trip worthwhile.
And that, I thought, was the Locus awards in a nutshell.
But it wasn't. Just a couple days ago, someone sent me an e-mail saying it was a shame about the awards. I was robbed, etc. etc.
I bounced them back the same response: Lost to a good book, established writer, classy speech.
Then the fan replied and said, "You do know that they changed how the votes were counted after the polls were closed, don't you?"
To which I said, "What?"
So he sent me a link or two explaining what had happened.
For those of you without the inclination to click and read the details on your own, here's the short version. After the polls closed, Locus apparently decided to count their subscriber's votes twice when tallying things up.
Which changed the results, obviously. Cory Doctorow's story collection Overclocked would have won first place if everything was even. But after they weighted their subscribers votes double, he came in third.
And, apparently, if they hadn't changed things, I would have won in my category.
So now I really don't know how I feel. Honestly, it would be way easier for me to form an opinion if my book weren't one of those affected by the change. (or should that be "effected?" I can never remember....)
Changing the way the votes are tallied after the polls are closed looks pretty dodgy though, no matter how you shake it. It makes it seem as if things got counted up, then folks started saying, "Hmmmm.... Well, how does it turn out if everyone who lives in New Hampshire gets two votes? No. Not what we're looking for. How about people with a GED only get three-fifths of a vote? Still no good. Starbelly sneeches get ten votes? Yes. Perfect. That works. Let's go with that."
I don't really have a good note to close on. The fact remains that Hill's book is still great and his speech was still classy. If I didn't mind losing to him before, logic says that it shouldn't bother me now.
On the other hand, winning awards is cool. Aside from the warm fuzzy, it creates publicity, and that helps spread the word about the book.
Plus, this award was a plaque of some sort. I could have used that for all sorts of things. Obviously it would be useful for decorating the barren walls of my house and intimidating my enemies, but that's just for starters. I could have also used it for serving drinks when company comes over. It also looked pretty heavy, so I could have used it as a projectile in the eventuality of a zombie attack.
Meh. That's all I've got. I should get back to working on the book.
I thought I might mention this, on the off chance that any of you might be interested....
What's this? An anthology of some sort? Nice cover by Dave McKean. Wow. It's got a story by Tim Powers. Oooh, one by Kage Baker, too. And another by... me?
Honestly, it's just weird to see my name included on the cover with these other folks.
So... yeah. There I am in a book that will be coming out in a couple months. And no, I haven't been dicking around, writing other stories instead of working on the second book. You see, the story included here is actually FROM the second book. It's called "The Road to Levinshir." It's an excerpt from "The Wise Man's Fear."
Not helping matters is the fact that I just found out that they're planning a sequel to the Hobbit. As frequently happens, Penny Arcade managed to sum up my opinions on the matter pretty succinctly. I'm assuming most of you already read their comic, but on the off chance that you haven't. Well... you're really missing out.
What's Penny Arcade you might ask? Well imagine a Geek Gazette, where they lovingly sift and pre-chew the news so it's easier for you to consume. Remove 95% of all the bullshit and pretention that would normally go hand in hand with that, then add some brilliant, ridiculous humor. Season with a witty turn of phrase and a rage garnish and there you are - Penny Arcade.
I read David Keck's book couple years back and really enjoyed it, but there is a caveat: This is not your typical fantasy novel.
We all know most fantasy novels are set in fairly generic medieval settings. The world Keck creates is different. His world is dark ages. Mankind is not on the top of the food chain, and the world is full of dangerous, mythic forces that are not to be fucked with.
At the same time the story remains very realistic. I don't think I've ever read another book that does a better job of depicting the real hardships of a mercenary knight in the dark ages. His description of an injured knight going to a dentist was delightfully spot-on.
Keck's writing style is unique as well. His descriptions are brief, almost poetic in places. Very different than the long, ponderous description that is common with so many fantasy novels these days. To use an artistic analogy: this book is more like a Monet painting than a photograph.
Because of this, the story feels almost dreamlike at times, as the main character moves back and forth between the harsh realities of tournament combat and strange dealings with otherworldly powers. I think this element of Keck's writing caught a lot of readers unprepared, and let to some unfair reviews of his work. You don't bitch because a Monet painting is blurry. It's supposed to be that way, that's the effect the artist was trying to achieve....
The second book in Keck's series came out fairly recently (In a Time of Treason). But starting a series with the second book is not civilized behavior, and people who do it go to the special hell reserved for child molesters and people who talk in the theater.
Anyway, I really enjoyed liked it. But be warned: This is not your typical fantasy novel.
As a fellow fantasy author and one of the founding members of the League of Reluctant Adults, you would think that Anton Strout would be my friend. In fact, it would be reasonable for you to assume that he has my respect and admiration.
However, nothing could be further from the truth. Strout is, among other things, my mortal enemy. The sordid details of our long-standing feud are multifarious, and I cannot in good conscience list them in a blog that children might read.
Suffice to say that I have many worthwhile reasons to scorn the man, none of which have to do with the fact that he seems to have more luck with the ladies than I do. Nevertheless, I am a gentleman, so I'll mention his book here. Just to show that I am the better person.
I have not read his first book myself, for obvious reasons, but I've heard others say good things. They say that it's urban fantasy with a strong comic twist. Charline Harris gave him a glowing blurb, so if you like her stuff, you might like his too.
One of my favorite things is when fantasy authors play with the conventions of the genre. Joss Whedon, of course, is the champion of this. The whole premise of Buffy the Vampire Slayer starts with the question, "What if that ditsy, helpless blond who gets killed in the horror movie actually kicked some ass instead of running away then falling down?"
Hines is good at playing this game too, except he asks a different question: "What do Goblins do when they're not getting killed by adventurers?"
These are fun books. They're lighthearted, humorous, and have some good storytelling to boot. Best of all, Hines takes the time to actually create a well-developed world for the stories to take place in, complete with a fresh cosmology, and a unique goblin culture.
Added bonus? Hines has written the next two books in the series: Goblin Hero and Goblin War. They're already in print, so you don't have to wait to read the rest of the series, unlike... um... some other authors. Who will remain nameless.
I think I'll stop at three. If you want more, you can always check out my previous recommendations by clicking on the "recommendations" label down below. Elegant in its simplicity, isn't it?
A few of you have e-mailed me, commenting on the ad you saw over at Real Life comics. I like it too, it was written and drawn by the author of the comic, Greg Dean. He's a hell of a nice guy, and a good storyteller to boot.
So feel free to wander over there and check out the ad. It's worth a chuckle. I'm especially fond of the tagline for some reason. I'm not sure why, exactly. It just strikes me as catchy....
And while you're at it, you might want to give the comic a read too. It's good stuff.
In recent news, I got my first piece of hatemail the other day. The author, enraged by the fact that the second book wasn't going to be published on time, told me he wished a dog would bite me on the balls.
There was more to the letter, of course, but that was pretty much the gist of it.
For those of you looking to occupy yourselves in a more productive way while waiting for book two to come out, allow me to make a friendly suggestion: The Guild.
I stumbled onto the Guild about half a year ago and laughed my ass off. If you play computer games, or know anyone who does, odds say you'll laugh your ass off too...
Then, months later, one of my friends forwarded THIS LINK to me.
For those of you too lazy to click, it was a blog post someone made about my book. They liked the book, but they had some pointed comments about the sort of covers they put on fantasy novels these days....
Then I looked more closely, and I realized that the person writing the blog was actress Felicia Day. You've probably seen her in a bunch of things, but my personal geekery stems from the fact that she played Vi on season seven of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I know I should be cooler than this, but the truth is, I was overwhelmed with geeky joy at the thought of her reading my book and liking it.
It was only after looking over Felicia's blog, that I realized she was in The Guild too. Not only does she play Codex, but she actually writes the script for it too....
Anyway, here's the first episode of the guild to get you started.
So today someone came up to me and said, "Have you heard the news?"
"Yeah," I said.
"Yeah," he sighed, "the end of an era."
"To tell you the truth," I said. "I can't quite believe it. I'm a little shook up."
My friend looked at me, surprised. "I didn't know you were that into football. You never struck me as the the type."
"What does football have to do with this?"
"Brett Farve announced his retirement today."
"Fuck Brett Farve," I said. "Gary Gygax is dead."
"Who's that?" they said.
For those of you who don't know your roots, Gary Gygax created D&D. That means he pretty much created roll playing. It's fair to say that Gygax's work has had as much impact on the fantasy genre as anyone. He wasn't just a cornerstone, he was a keystone.
I found out about D&D back in the fifth grade. D&D has always been the refuge of the geeky and unpopular kids. But I was below even that low social strata. I was the kid that wasn't cool enough for the D&D kids to play with.
I checked out a copy of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons from the library and read it all the way through. That was back when AD&D was... well... Advanced.
Monsters and treasure and dungeons. Goblins. These days it all seems cliche, but back then.... it was all wondrous and strange. It wasn't just that someone had given you an world to play in, regular books do that. No, with D&D someone had given me the tools to make my own world, and I realized I liked doing that. I liked it a lot...
Eventually I found people to play D&D with. Some of my best memories from high school are playing D&D with my friends, Steven and Ryan. After all these years, they're the only two high school friends I really keep in contact with.
I remember getting the Master D&D rules for Christmas one year. I was maybe 10 or 12. Remember the black box? I read them at my Grampa's house the next day when we went there for breakfast on Christmas day.
"This game requires no gameboard because the action takes place in your imagination."
I learned what a ballista was, and a mangonel. I used to make maps on grid paper. I designed a huge walled city with elaborate fortifications. I made plans for trying to defeat a Tarasque. Instead of a high school graduation party, I asked my parents if I could go up to our cabin for a week with Steve and Ryan. For that week, pretty much all we did was play D&D.
What was my character's name that weekend? His name was Kvothe.
That early Kvothe really didn't have much in common with the modern version. Except, perhaps, that his wisdom was rather low. I started him at first level, too. You nerdcore folks out there know what I'm talking about. The rest of you can't know what that's like, playing a first level wild mage with three hit points and only two spells a day: both of them Nahal's Reckless Dwoemer. He spent a lot of time unconscious.
When I roll play these days, I use a different system. I know I can't go back. If I tried to play basic D&D again, it wouldn't work out. It would be like trying to hook up with my old high-school crush. But the truth is, you love best what you love first. And I loved D&D before I was cynical, before I knew what a cliche was, and before I understood about death. I can't go back. It wouldn't work.
But still, I wish I could.
One of my favorite comics, Order of the Stick, did a tribute strip to Mr Gygax, you can CHECK IT OUT HERE. It states the case pretty well. Thanks Mr. Gygax. I wouldn't be a writer if not for you... And even if I were, I wouldn't have written this book.
Rather than a moment of silence, why don't those of us who used to play the game share a little D&D story in the comments below.
Did I mention that Ursula K. Le Guin read my book?
Did I mention that Ursula K. Le Guin liked my book?
Did I mention that Ursula K. Le Guin agreed to provide a blurb for the book?
"It is a rare and great pleasure to find a fantasist writing not only with the kind of accuracy of language absolutely essential to fantasy-making, but with real music in the words as well. Wherever Pat Rothfuss goes with the big story that begins with The Name of the Wind, he'll carry us with him as a good singer carries us through a song."
Yeah. Can I get a "wow" from the audience?
On a closely related note, if you've never read her Wizards of Earthsea books, you really need to. Not only are they absolutely brilliant, but they're one of the cornerstones of modern fantasy.
If you have read the Earthsea books, you should make sure you've checked out her more recent stuff too. She writes at a consistently awesome level that I hope to emulate over the years.
I've got a cool announcement to make, but you'll have to wait for Friday. It's a leap-day announcement. It's nothing HUGE, but... well... I think it's pretty cool....
Oh, and lastly, the deadline for nominating books for the Hugo ballot is only a couple days away. So if you were planning on doing it, but you're like me and you tend to forget what day it is, don't be caught unawares....
I was hoping to make an announcement about something cool tonight, but I got caught up working on a project and I don't have the energy to do it justice right now. Tomorrow for sure...
However, It's been a little while since I've answered the perennial question, "What should I do until your next book comes out?" Luckily, a friend dragged me to see Cloverfield on Saturday, and a good time was had by all.
Am I saying you should rush out and see it? No. But I will say the following...
1. I very much enjoyed it.
2. I suspect that people will either love the movie, or hate it. I don't think many folks will be in the middle.
3. I expect that people who like my book will have a greater chance of liking Cloverfield than the general population.
Hmmm... That's hard to say....
You remember those SAT questions they used to give? Like this?
Apple is to Pie, as Nathan Fillian is to _____
A) More different pie. B) Duck. C) Firefly. D) All of the Above.
I don't do reviews because I detest spoilers. (Speaking of which, feel free to give your own opinions of the movie in the comments below, but I'm declaring it a strict spoiler free zone. Prosecutors will be violated.)
But while I don't review, I can give you an impression of the movie using this SAT format.
The Wheel of Time is to the Name of the Wind, as King Kong is to Cloverfield.
Not entirely accurate, but I think it gives a general feel for the flavor of the movie.
Maybe it's the sleep deprivation talking, but these word puzzles are kinda fun. Now I can see why they constantly gave us those tests. Here's one you can finish on your own.
Kvothe is to Harry Potter, as _____ is to _____.
Oh yeah. This seems like a really funny idea right now, but I know as soon as I open my eyes tomorrow I'm going to cringe in anticipation of what'll be waiting for me in the comments...
What should I do #4 - Homestar Runner and Friends.
Okay, forgive me if I'm a little brief here, but it's right at the end of the semester for me. I had a final yesterday, and I have one tomorrow. My end-of-semester grading looms on the horizon like a great looming damn squelchy thing. My Christmas shopping isn't done by half either, which means that the next handful of days are going to be rough...
There are still announcements on the horizon. But they'll have to wait until I have more time to type them up properly.
It's been a couple of weeks since I did an installment of "What should I do while I'm waiting for your next book to come out." Or, as I like to think of it, "Uncle Pat helps find things to read that aren't total crap."
First on the list:
The Dresden Files books by Jim Butcher.
I first became aware of these books when my own book came out back in April, and I was obsessively watching my numbers on Amazon. Butcher's Ninth book had just come out in hardcover, and... well... It was kicking the ass off my book in the rankings. Even when my sales rank jumped up, his was always doing just a little bit better.
So I hated him. Not, y'know, a lot. Just in a kinda vague, grumbly, third-grader way. I'd see his book there, a few places above mine on Amazon's fantasy list. And I'd think things like, "Stupid urban fantasy bullshit. Stupid looking cowboy wizard. Ooohh.. Look who has a staff. How dumb. Grumble grumble."
Then I went out and bought a copy of the first book in the series, Storm Front. And it was REALLY GOOD.
Simply put, these books rocked my socks. I read all nine of them in less than three weeks.
And really, what's not to like? First person story about a clever magicy-type guy who leads a rough life. His magic is gritty and realistic. The author has a vast and eclectic knowledge base that adds nicely to the books. Honestly, I think Butcher might be my long lost twin. I'd love to meet him and talk shop some day.
Butcher writes great action scenes, and his characters change, grow, make mistakes, and reap the consequences of their own actions.
What I'm saying is that it's really good stuff, folks. Read it.
Second, I'd like to bring a book to your attention that probably has been under your radar....
I ran into this book way back I went to a convention in my hometown of Madison. My book had only come out a month or so beforehand, and nobody knew who I was. Or, if they did know, they didn't care much.
While wandering the dealer's room, I had picked up a little promo thing from the Prime Books table. It was one of those things where they print out the first chapter of the book as a teaser.
So I took one and read it at lunch. It hooked me in, and I went back to the table to buy the book. But... alas... the book wasn't going to be released for several months yet, not until November. Lifetimes away for someone with a memory like mine.
But then something magical happened. A person behind the table looked at my convention badge and said, "Wait, I've heard about you. You can have an early copy of the book if you want."
I tried to pay for the book, but they wouldn't let me. It took me a while to realize that they were just GIVING me a copy of the book because I was an author, and they were hoping, if I liked it, then maybe I would say nice things about it and help them spread the word to promote it.
Eventually I realized what was happening. It was like that scene from 2001 where the ape holds up the bone. Except I didn't club anyone to death with my free book. I pretty much just legged it away before anyone tried to take it away from me. It was my first, sweet taste of delicious authory fameperks.
Anyway, the end of the story is that I did read the book and I very much enjoyed it. It reminded me of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, but set in Moscow instead of London. And Sedia draws more on the Russian mythic tradition instead of the western stuff that Gaiman used. That was really interesting, and I learned some cool new stuff because of it.
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...
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.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But I just found out that Madeleine L'Engle died.
When I was a kid, I read a Wrinkle in time and all the later books in the series. They were my favorites. I wanted to *be* Charles Wallace.
(The newer versions have a different cover. But this is the version I read.)
I even wrote her a letter. She was the first and only author I ever wrote to. I think I was in the fourth grade.
And she wrote back to me. Madeleine L'Engle hand wrote me a letter thanking me and telling me she was glad I liked her books. She also told me that she thought it was great that I wanted to be a writer, and that I should do it.
I always hoped that I'd get a chance to meet her, now that I was finally published. I wanted to give her a copy of my book and say, "Thanks for being nice to me when I was a kid. I really needed it back then. And by the way, I really did do it. See?"
Oh Madeleine. I'm sorry I never got the chance to meet you. Thank you for everything.