hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
Based on the footage released thus far, I’m getting a sinking feeling that HBO’s GAME OF THRONES series is going to suck.

I’m not saying this lightly. I’ve been looking forward to seeing this series filmed for years, and I’ve been looking for George R.R. Martin to get an awesome Hollywood victory for longer (we couldda had DOORWAYS!). The ingredients for excellence are there, because HBO has not been stingy, and the series producers have clearly gone to considerable amounts of effort: hordes of extras, huge detailed sets, a costuming budget larger than the budget for some films. Casting is remarkable -- PETER DINKLAGE as Tyrion! Mark Addy as Robert Baratheon! Sean Bean as Ned Stark!

And there's a good chance none of it’s going to matter, because the filming is absolute shit.

Here's what I mean. )
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
I'd picked up A GAME OF KINGS, the first in Dorothy Dunnett's Chronicles of Lymond series, based on a rec somebody had made a while back (I forget who or when or where). And I'd gotten a little way into it, but found it remarkably annoying, so I'd put it down. Then [personal profile] marina started reading it and flailing like a flailing thing over it, so I had to press on with the damn thing to see what she was going on about. And the book got better, but it was really interesting to see how my reaction was completely different from Marina's, in part because we're looking for totally different things.

Which is to say, I am not fond of it, but fandom will fucking love this thing.

Read more... )
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
The paranormal/modern fantasy genre is all the rage these days. From romance to thrillers, the urban fantasy is all over the bookshelves. More than such literary antecedents as, say, Charles de Lint, the authors tend to be heavily influenced by television and film, most notably Joss Whedon's BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: the typical urban fantasy protagonist is smart, good-looking, honest, romantic, and the clueful, in-charge expert on the supernatural threats that most of the world doesn't know about.

Then there's Ray Lilly. )
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
Found via a forgotten course, Roger Boylan links to an article about writers who fail as human beings and has the same reaction I do to a key quote:

[Dickens] gave an interview in 1862 to a young Russian journalist named Fyodor Dostoevsky which Slater [Dickens's biographer] guesses Dickens thought would never see the light of day:

"'He told me that all the good simple people in his novels [like Little Nell] are what he wanted to have been, and his villains were what he was (or rather, what he found in himself), his cruelty, his attacks of causeless enmity towards those who were helpless and looked to him for comfort, his shrinking from those whom he ought to live for, being used up in what he wrote. There were two people in him, he told me: one who feels as he ought to feel and one who feels the opposite. From the one who feels the opposite I make my evil characters, from the one who feels as a man ought to feel I try to live my life.'"


This is remarkable to me because the article refers to DAVID COPPERFIELD and to its readers' ignorance of Dickens's own terrible early life in poverty, and it made me realize that Dickens saw himself in both his protagonist and in the villain, Uriah Heep. Dickens is one of those love-or-loathe writers for me -- A TALE OF TWO CITIES is immortal, DAVID COPPERFIELD is freaking great, and OLIVER TWIST should be hurled aside with great force -- and COPPERFIELD is one of his best works, for me, in part because the villain is so magnificently human and no less evil for being understood as such. Often, especially in fanfic, dark characters are revealed to be nursing a sympathetic heart beneath a cruel exterior, but Dickens's genius is that Uriah Heep's personal tragedy have formed a person who is a through-and-through bastard.

Heep has a bit of dialogue that concludes with what I think is one of the finest villainous monologues, ever:

Read more... )
hradzka: (snoop)
I read Justine Larbalestier's YA novel LIAR, about which I've seen a number of people raving. I'm sure you'll be stunned to find that I didn't like it much; I found it intensely boring until a certain point, and then found it mildly interesting until I got grumpy with it again at the end. This is not because the book is terrible, but because Larbalestier has a writing style that I've seen a lot of in recent years and find deeply annoying: Evocative Monotony.

Evocative Monotony isn't about the story -- not the plot, not even so much the characters -- as much as it is about the emotional effect of the prose. The fiction I go nuts for can have evocative prose, sure, but it produces the bulk of its emotional effect at a remove, by using the characters and what's happening to evoke feeling. Evocative Monotony, on the other hand, is all about prose stylings; it's intended to induce the emotional effect in the reader directly, with less regard for what's happening on the page.

My problem with this approach isn't that it's ineffective. It's that it's unvarying. Hence the "Monotony." For me, this kind of writing induces *one* emotional effect, usually a certain level of angst, and then stays there throughout the entire course of the piece. It doesn't change. It's confining, and it's boring. LIAR made me feel a certain way, sure, and it kept me feeling that way, and it didn't make me feel any other ways.

I honestly don't think there are any spoilers in this post, but you never know about the comments, if there are any. )
hradzka: SF writer H. Beam Piper. (H. Beam Piper)
Acclaimed SF writer John Scalzi has written and will be publishing a remix/reboot of H. Beam Piper's acclaimed, beloved, Hugo-nominated SF novel LITTLE FUZZY. I am, as y'all know, JUST SLIGHTLY IN THE TANK for H. Beam Piper, and so roughly half the people I know dropped me a line about this and asked for my reaction.

My initial reaction to this news is visible at 2:37 (video).

I'm slightly calmer now. )
hradzka: (wtf)
So, the Consumerist had an article about the Manllow, a fan-crafted Etsy item available in Edward and Jacob versions. (The scariest part: IT HAS HANDS.)

Y'know the first thing I thought of? Other than Japanese 2D love, I mean. Substitute Logan, as seen in Nancy Lorenz's Wolverine/Rogue fanstrip Cheeto Run.

Fandom, you don't know how ahead of your time you are sometimes. Then again, I remember fanfic in which Rogue was sighing over WUTHERING HEIGHTS because Heathcliff reminded her of Logan, and now there's actually an edition of WUTHERING HEIGHTS with a blurb on the cover noting that it's Bella and Edward's favorite book.

...do love-crazed teens really need *advertising* to find WUTHERING HEIGHTS?
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
I've owed Harry Connolly a review of his CHILD OF FIRE, the first novel in his Twenty Palaces series, for a while now. Full disclosure: Harry and I have known each other online for several years and pop up in each other's comments sections fairly often. That said, his book sucked. -- no, I'm just kidding; it's really pretty damn awesome, and its characters are so engaging and its pace so relentless that I tore through it in an afternoon, which makes the delay in this review a little embarrassing.

Read more... )
hradzka: (oh john ringo no)
Some of you folks may recall that a while ago I mentioned that the curious thing about Piers Anthony, to me, is that while people often dump on Anthony for being weird, skeevy, disturbing, and that sort of thing, nobody doing so ever mentions the stuff that *I* find to be really disturbing. (And remember, when we say "Piers Anthony" we're talking about the guy who wrote protoplasmic sex scenes and a story with a dude boinking a mentally retarded woman who was hooked up to a milking machine.) This is odd as hell, because I remember glancing at the book when it first came out, doing a massive double-take on reading that passage, and thinking, "Holy dogshit, this'll get him run out of town on a rail." Curiously, that never happened.

I'm referring to TATHAM MOUND, in which Piers Anthony's hero boinks a ten-year-old girl, using honey for lube.

OH PIERS ANTHONY NO. )
hradzka: (jim with pipe)
I happened to pick up W.S. Baring-Gould's ANNOTATED SHERLOCK HOLMES over lunch, and lemme tell you, it is danged interesting to contemplate the introduction when you have ready access to an iPhone with an inflation calculator app, because W.S. Baring-Gould tells you how much money Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made. Even better, Baring-Gould generously translates these prices into their equivalents in the corresponding years' dollars. This means that I can plug Doyle's earnings into my iPhone and figure out how he was doing, as a doctor and as a writer. In case I haven't mentioned it, the future is awesome.

I honestly don't know whether to stare in slackjawed admiration or just travel back in time to strangle him. )
hradzka: (solace)
  • I was curious as to what kind of Disney fanfic was out there. Not much, and most of what there is is terrible; there's a reason it's a Yuletide-eligible fandom. I did find a truly horrifying Belle/Beast pr0n ficlet that's quite effective.


  • Telekinesis by air jet! I want one.

  • I think my favorite writing on the subject of depression is by F. Scott Fitzgerald, in the form of his three-part essay, "The Crack-Up." Michel Mok provides a view of Fitzgerald from the outside during this period in his excellent interview, "The Other Side of Paradise, Scott Fitzgerald, 40, Engulfed in Despair." I think Fitzgerald's characterization of himself in tentative recovery as, variously, a broken plate -- a metaphor that's been used by others, but none as well -- and a surly dog has a remarkable truth to it, and a kind of grace in its woundedness that escapes most people who try to write about depression or indeed any profoundly affecting emotion. Its conclusion (barring the, to modern readers, jarring little bit of racism) is one of the most remarkable passages I've ever read, particularly the last two sentences:

    I do not any longer like the postman, nor the grocer, nor the editor, nor the cousin’s husband, and he in turn will come to dislike me, so that life will never be very pleasant again, and the sign Cave Canem is hung permanently just above my door. I will try to be a correct animal though, and if you throw me a bone with enough meat on it I may even lick your hand.
hradzka: (cameron undone)
I recently watched A BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK, which is a pretty nifty movie. It falls into a class of films that I don't think has ever been described as a genre: "a guy comes to town and finds a mystery." THE THIRD MAN is another classic example. The nice thing about the genre is that it's not as limiting as (say) the DIE HARD imitators; DIE HARD is a perfect movie, but UNDER SIEGE and PASSENGER 57 and all these other flicks don't depart very much from the DIE HARD formula. Whereas in "a guy comes to town and finds a mystery," the nature of the mystery and the town's reaction to his investigating it can vary considerably.

One thing that was really interesting about the movie is a bit that comes out of nowhere, but is absolute genius: in a climactic scene, Spencer Tracy does a glorious MacGyver bit to save his bacon. It put me in mind of Geoffrey Household's novel ROGUE MALE, which is not a famous blockbuster movie for reasons that escape me (it's been filmed twice, once by Fritz Lang and once for TV with Peter O'Toole; have to look for those). ROGUE MALE is about a prominent Englishman on a hunting trip who, on a whim, just to see if it can be done, tries to aim his rifle at a dictator who is not explicitly stated to be Adolf Hitler. (Household tips his hand very little; he does everything he can to make you think it could just as easily be Stalin.) Caught by the secret police, he is tortured and dumped in an attempt to make his death look accidental, because they don't want an international incident, and the hero is prominent enough that Questions Would Be Asked. But the hero survives and goes on the run, with the bad guys chasing him. It is, I think, the greatest fugitive thriller of all time; the tension never lets up. And there is one part where the hero, in a tight spot, does a completely amazing and horrifyingly brilliant MacGyverism that I wouldn't dream of spoiling for you but will make you go, "Fuck yeah!"

Got me thinking: what are some other works with great MacGyverisms? Not MacGyver's own, I mean.
hradzka: (snoop)
THE MALTESE FALCON is one of my favorite books (though not, I think, my favorite Hammet; that'd be RED HARVEST, which I *really* want to see filmed with period setting but cast black so Don Cheadle can play the Continental Op), but only today did I get around to watching the film. That's the classic version, with Bogard and Astor and Lorre and Greenstreet -- Hollywood had filmed it several times before, but they quit after they got it right. There's a lesson in that.

(Side note: I don't know *how* I'd forgotten that the screenplay and direction were by John Huston. It gives remarkable reverberance to Polanski and Towne's CHINATOWN, because when Jack Nicholson's private eye Jake Gittes is sitting across a table grilling Huston's character, he's *grilling the guy who adapted and directed THE MALTESE FALCON.*)

Anyway, the thing that struck me, watching the film, is that the character I wound up feeling the most for was not in a million years the character I'd expected to.

Spoilers for a story originally written in 1929. )
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
Interesting review of a new book on homosexuality charges in the UK before Oscar Wilde. Lots of neat stuff, including that false accusations were a concern of TPTB -- in some cases, apparently for good reason.
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
Dr. Hermes mentioned THE QUEST OF TARZAN, one of the later Tarzan novels, recently, and it got me curious -- I haven't read all of anything past TARZAN OF THE APES, because while I *love* the original to the depths of my soul, every time I tried reading another I got kind of bored. This was not the case with Burroughs's Barsoom novels, in which shit just relentlessly kept happening; but while TARZAN OF THE APES was jam-packed with unceasing and interesting developments, I kind of got the feeling that after the first one Burroughs never had any really great novel-length ideas for stuff that Tarzan could do. Maybe I'm wrong, so I'm going to try reading 'em again. Anyway, QUEST OF TARZAN has two major plots; the first has Tarzan going up against the white savages the Kuvuru, who steal women from everybody including the Waziri, who are the black tribe Tarzan is cool with. (He has a buddy relationship with Muviro, the hereditary chief of the Waziri, and Tarzan serves as the Waziri's war chief when shit gets thick. As implausible a construct as ERB's imaginary Africa is, it's unfortunate that modern adaptations don't play with the idea of Tarzan as a political power in his corner of it. It's a big problem with white jungle heroes in general these days; they can't stick around their jungle, where cool stuff happens, but they have to come stateside to mix it up in the kind of places and with the kind of people we see in every other movie. Case in point, the upcoming "reimagining" of THE PHANTOM, which might not suck but if you watch the trailer every single person in it, good guys and bad, is white and the show looks like it was shot in Vancouver. C'mon, gimme some stuff in the African nation of Leefalkia with various local factions trying to use the legend of The Ghost Who Walks for their own benefit, or something.)

The second plot is that Jane is flying back from abroad to meet up with Tarzan, and when the plane she's in crashes in the treetops, she assumes leadership and gets her party out of danger. It is early, but I expect these plots to collide at some convenient point. But Jane being bad-ass is pretty interesting to see in an ERB book, especially considering he ignored her wholesale in a bunch of them and actually killed her off in one point (she died in the magazine version; her death turned out to be faked in the book version, or something like that, if I recall my TARZAN ALIVE correctly; thanks, Phil Farmer). Word is that he was inspired by a new romance... um, with the wife of one of his buddies. YOU STAY CLASSY, ERB. Anyway, so I'm reading it, and I hit this exchange.

"But, my dear, I mean you're not going out there alone?" cried Kitty.

"Sure she's not," said Brown. "I'll go along with you, Miss."

"I'm afraid," said Jane, with a smile, "that where I am going, you couldn't follow. Here, let me have your knife."

"I reckon I can go anywhere you can go, Miss," said Brown, grinning.

"Let me have the knife," said Jane. "Why it's a nice big one! I always did like to see a man carrying a man-sized knife."


Edgar Rice Burroughs, you *dog.*
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
I was reading about some new vampire show on the CW on aintitcoolnews, and the guy posting about it mentioned in passing that he knew there were tons of male vampire/human female pairings in film and TV, but he couldn't remember but one that went the other way around except for NEAR DARK. (Although LET THE RIGHT ONE IN sort of counts.) Made me remember reading Angela Sommer-Bodenburg's "Little Vampire" books when I was a kid: the (human) hero had a mutual attraction to his (vampire) best friend's sister, who was also a vampire. IIRC, she got vamped around his age, which was eleven or twelve or so, which would make things *increasingly alarming* if they ever paired up down the road.

Anyway, I wondered how many books in the series there wound up being, so checked the author's website. Turns out there were five published in the states.

Out of a total of *twenty.* The most recent was last year.

Huh.
hradzka: (oh john ringo no)
During my lunch break in the bookstore, I discovered a new entry in the long-running "worst sex scene ever" sweepstakes. From the men's adventure novel DOOMSDAY WARRIOR #2: RED AMERICA, by Ryder Stacy. (There appeared to be at least twelve books in this series; it is set in a Future Occupied America of 2089.)

Their mouths opened and miles of wet tongue rolled out like carpets and entangled in one another. Kim's moans broke into an angel's chorus as she pushed Rock over on his back and mounted him the way she had when he took her virginity in the cell at Pavlov City. )
hradzka: (commies)
Read a very interesting book lately: Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training and Real World Methods, by Rory Miller. Miller is a serious martial artist who is in the unusual situation of getting into lots of real fights for his living: he works as a corrections guard, and so has to get physical on a fairly regular basis. The book is not so much a study on technique as a dissection of dominance games, which Miller calls the Monkey Dance, and the effects and nature of real-life violence. (He notes, for example, that sparring bears pretty much no resemblance to a real fight, and that martial arts training is often conducted very much in a mental box: students enacting a scenario do so within self-prescribed limits, because they're often focused not so much on enacting a realistic scenario as doing what they think the teacher wants them to.)

I read it on the Kindle, so I felt no compunctions about highlighting interesting quotes as I went. Here are some:

". . . people want to believe in magic and secrets and there are other people who will satisfy those beliefs for money and power."

"A man fighting another man for dominance will try to beat him, but a man who thinks that he is fighting a woman for dominance will be seeking to punish her. Punishment is much worse."

"There is a chilling video available of the murder of Deputy Kyle Dinkheller taken from his dashboard camera. Even as the threat loads a rifle, Deputy Dinkheller stays locked in a verbal loop, repeating, over and over, 'Stop that,' and 'Stop loading that rifle!' He continues in that loop until he is shot."

"EMTs are taught that one of the earliest signs of shock is agitation or nervousness. Far more often than I've seen agitation, I've noticed another symptom and it applies to shock, hypothermia, dehydration, hunger, sleep deprivation, and stress hormones: People tend to get really stupid ideas and then become extremely stubborn about them."

"Don't think of territory wholly as space. True, people identify with their territory and will fight for their homes, their 'turf,' or their 'hood.' But they are fighting for their identity, not the piece of ground. Violence is so psychologically damaging, not because of the physical damage but because of the attack on self-image, the attack on one's identity."

Miller's thoughts on people who are in prison are interesting, too, although he of course sees prisoners from the prison guard's perspective. Miller classifies prisoners into 1) people who made a mistake, 2) hustlers, and 3) predators; he believes that a major failing of the criminal justice system is that it assumes most people in prison are in category 1, which Miller opines is the rarest class of criminal, hustlers and predators being more common. He very much looks down on hustlers, but I think that category is rather broad, encompassing as it does everybody from con artists deliberately out to abuse the system to the kind of poor folks David Simon writes about, for whom everything's a hustle in the efforts to get by.
hradzka: (wtf)
Y'know what I've been reading lately?

"Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of the true cat-green. Invest him with all the cruel cunning of an entire Eastern race, accumulated in one giant intellect, with all the resources of science past and present, with all the resources, if you will, of a wealthy government—which, however, already has denied all knowledge of his existence. Imagine that awful being, and you have a mental picture of Dr. Fu Manchu, the yellow peril incarnate in one man."


THE INSIDIOUS DR. FU-MANCHU. Yeah, that's the one. )
hradzka: (commies)
Feeling somewhat less like crap today. ...yay?

To distract myself, a question: are there authors you love, absolutely flat-out love, but who have a quirk of some kind that drives you ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NUTS?

For me: George Pelecanos. I *love* George Pelecanos. The most brilliant crime novelist working today. He knows DC, he writes DC; he knows ins and outs of lots of social scenes, from the street to restaurants to cops to crooks to men trying to delude themselves -- the guy is just flat out garking brilliant, with terrific storylines and characters and dialogue. A lot of his stories deal with the various unwritten rules of racial interaction, and he's very smart about them; he's got a great eye for how characters of different ages and backgrounds talk, and what they say. (Pelecanos does better than anyone else, for example, at writing gangsta dialogue. Because when most white writers try it, they try really hard to make it sound "different" and "hard" and turn it into ghastly minstrel-show shit, but Pelecanos has an absolutely marvelous technique of writing such dialogue and making it believable without being distracting for us Standard English types. No surprise that the guy wrote for THE WIRE.)

But there is one thing about Pelecanos that drives me absolutely up the wall. He is a music guy. I'm very much not. I like music, now -- I love to sing sea shanties, for example, which irritated one ex-girlfriend no end -- but basically, pretty much every song that somebody makes a vid to is something I have never heard of. I don't listen to lots of music, I don't talk music, I almost never turn on the radio, sometimes a month or two goes by without me even opening iTunes, OK? This makes me totally the opposite of George Pelecanos. If he is writing a period novel, for example, he will write about the songs on the radio. The stations the characters listen to. Who the DJs were. He will write about local bands, and who is playing where, and when. If it is a modern story, then he will have his characters *reminisce* about Back In The Day when they would listen to radio station X, and DJ Y, and songs Z, ZZ, and ZZZ Plural Z Alpha. For PAGES. Sometimes he has his older characters talk about Their Time, and they define it by the music they listened to. EVERY BOOK. LOTS OF IT. Swear to God, it drives me NUTS. But I keep reading him, because he's that brilliant.

Anybody else have a beloved writer who has a tic that drives 'em nuts?

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The collected poems from my descent into madness year spent writing daily poems are now available from Lulu as the cheapest 330-page book they would let me make ($16.20). If that's too pricey, you can also get it from Lulu as a free download, or just click on the "a poem every day" tag to read them here. But if you did buy one, that'd be awesome.

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