Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Writer’s Pentathlon

To work off the insane amount of pie I eat, I’ve been swimming for a number of years.  When the pool I use closed for renovation, I started running.  So guys at the gym started saying things like “get a bike and you could do a tri” meaning triathlon.  It is true, but why stop there.  What about the modern pentathlon.

What about the modern pentathlon?  Part of the Olympics since 1912, the event comprises swimming, show jumping, running, fencing and pistols at 10 meters.  Designed around Swedish Military cross-training, it reflected skills an infantryman would need in the field.  Oddly enough, these are probably good skills for a science fiction / fantasy writer to master as well.  Going to the range or picking up a sword changes how you write about such things.  If, however, you go down that path you may decide on a different group of sports altogether.

I’m proposing a post-modern pentathlon, more in tune with 21st century society.  These are the skills a current infantrywriter needs:

Running and swimming (to clear the head and clear out the donuts and Scotch)

Shooting (at some point, your fiction will demand it)

Driving (after your trilogy’s made into a set of feature films, and you retire to a farm in Vermont, you’ll still need to get to the bakery)

Tweeting (it's the new fencing)

My training starts . . . now. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

First Review: The Milkman

In Martineck's (Cinco de Mayo) latest novel, Detective Edwin McCallum, assigned the task of finding Geri Vasquez's murderer, is enough of an idealist to want to catch the killer and enough of a realist to realize the system he works in, one in which the world has been divided between three giant corporations, will likely prevent this outcome. Justice does not matter to a post-Buy Up world divided between Ambyr and its rivals BCCA/Hong Kong and India Group; only the bottom line does. Emory Leveski is unfortunate enough to offer the system a cost-effective scapegoat; McCallum knows Leveski is an innocent man but without funds to prove this, seemingly helpless to rescue Leveski from the prison hell he is consigned to. The system is about to find out just how far McCallum will go to fulfill the spirit of the law and not the letter. Reminiscent of the novels of Michael Coney, Frederik Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth as well as Terry Gilliam's Brazil, although with less bitter humor and more outrage than those luminaries, the work is a reductio ad absurdum examination of the increasingly corporatized world in which we all live, an impressive demonstration of the author's skills. (May)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Enjoyment to the Max

Love taking my eight-year-old Max to hockey games.  The Buffalo Sabres are 21-49-9 this season making them the worst team in the conference and arguably the worst team in the league.  None of that makes any difference to Max.

He likes parking and walking under the Thruway.  He likes walking past all the construction going on, with the super-tall cranes and skeletal building forms.  “You can see right inside!”  He likes escalators but he thinks they should be called “recurring stairs.”  I’m in full agreement.  He likes chairs that can fold up on you.  They’re funny.  Granted, he fits better in them than most fans.  He likes LED light boards and ribbons, projections on the ice, horns, bells, whistles and even though he’d beg me to changes channels if I tried playing it in the car – organ music at a hockey game is just fine.

He may or may not like the Sabres’ record this year.  I don’t know.  We never discussed it.  We both like that sound the puck makes against the stick ending a really good pass.

Starting now, I’m going to try to Maximize everything I do.  Should be more fun.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A great little find

The third book in Ian Sales’ Apollo Quartet, Then Will The GreatOcean Wash Deep Above, is a treasure.  Like a sunken chest you’d love to discover snorkeling in St. Croix.  It is compact and contained, feels like it comes from a different time and packed full of precious little gems and nuggets that aren’t for spending.  They are for keeping.  “Wash” is a work of hard science fiction – alternative history – love letter to the space age - making this book about as rare as pirate booty.  And just about as valuable.

As with the other two volumes in the quartet, “Wash” is meticulously researched.  Ian puts together the pieces so nicely that it feels very much like our real history, rather than one that diverges during the Korean War.  The coda in the book remarks on the true story of the characters you’ve just read about and rather than serving as a footnote, the end cap acts to make the whole work – fact and fiction – that much more poignant.  Positioning the real and imagined together serves to illuminate the time and people and culture that helped spur mankind’s last great stage of exploration, above and below.

Human failures amidst humanities greatest achievements – we need to look at history from different angles, which is what this book (and it’s siblings) does so, so well.  We can learn from it and leaning – at the risk of sounding like an afterschool special – is one of our greatest treasures.

I am very much looking forward to the final book of the set.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

And this title was just right

I had read a bevy of Suzanne Church’s stories before and became a bigger and bigger fan with each one.  When I heard the title of her collection would be “Elements” I humphed.  It seemed too simple to me.  Her stories cover horror, fantasy, science fiction (in a myriad of sub-genres) – with poignancy, bending tension and welcome dose of humor.  They are, none of them, simple.  After reading the bundle, I’ve changed my humph to a nod.  All the elements of great story telling are here and working wonders.  Families, fear, love, death – the fundamentals of being human drive Suzanne’s stories even when the characters are not human’s at all.  The combinations make the collection fun, exciting and tearful.  One of my criticisms of many things I read is their lopsidedness.  So dreary, so flighty, so thick with drama – that they become immersions in one emotion. The balance in this collection is refreshing in its perfection.  Not too hot, not too cold.  Just right.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Milkman's nearly here

My new novel The Milkman is up at Amazon, pre-order only. This is not tremendously interesting as such - Amazon has more novels for sale than there are humans on the planet.  Still, it is my book and I haven't grown tired of it just yet.  Check back here in August, when my Amazon ranking is 1,889,997,451,003 and I'll let you know how I'm doing.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Winter Ends March 18

I feel pretty confident in stating the end of this year’s stupefying winter. Disney’s Frozen comes out on DVD and Blu-ray March 18. That is when they will end this nearly four-month long publicity stunt.

When the animated film slid past the $300 million mark on January 8, I thought they would turn the polar vortex machine off and give us all a little thaw. Then they re-released a sing-a-long version – so they kept the weather machine on ice (which means the opposite of what it usually does when you’re talking about a weather machine.) I thought this might end last week, but they announced the release date for take-home units and boom – the return of the Winter Kingdom (as it is called in South Korea, where the movie is setting records without all the weather-related promotion.)

 My theory is that Walt met with Nikola Telsa at the New Yorker hotel in 1943. Walt agreed to back a number of Tesla’s projects, knowing that a lot of them were going to be perfect for his grand amusement park plans. Tesla dies soon after. Nearly all of his personal notes were nowhere to be found. Of course, no one thought to look in Hollywood. (A great sequel to Savings Mr. Banks would be Nearly Saving Nikola.)

 Disney used Tesla’s weather machine sparingly – just a nudge here and there to help make the worthless swampland he bought in Florida habitable. His successors saw things differently in late 2013, leading us to the Frozen winter of ‘13-14.

 I’m asking Disney to turn the damn thing off if I pre-order the combo set. I’d like to let it go, let it go, but the cold does bother me anyway.