Thursday, January 31, 2008

Review Preview: A Magic of Twilight

You'll see the full review on SFRevu tomorrow, but for now...
In Nessantico, the capital and heart of a mighty empire, it is nearly the Golden Jubilee of the Kraljica (a title that equates roughly to empress). She is Marguerite ca'Ludovici, and the twilight years of her long reign are grievously troubled. Her empire is fraying at the seams and dire threats stir at the borders--and within her own city.

Into the cauldron that is Nessantico steps Ana cu'Seranta, a young woman trained to become an acolyte of the Concenzia Faith. Blessed with strong and unconventional magical abilities, Ana becomes a focus of much attention, good and bad, as she navigates the treacherous waters of Nessantico's politics.

Aided by the ancient Archigos (pope) Dhosti, Ana pieces together the power struggles behind the scenes, only to find herself swept to the heights of the Concenzia Faith through an unexpected chain of events.

Along the way, she comes to question some help she is given, fearing that she is being manipulated into being a catspaw for some unknown player. Discovering the truth behind the web of lies--and the secrets of her own uncanny talents--may be the only way Ana and Nessantico can survive.

S.L. Farrell has crafted a wondrous tale of intrigue, adventure, the collision of politics and religion, and the triumph of personal virtue over fear and doubt. The setting of Nessantico is sophisticated, challenging readers to delve deeper into its many layers, while the characters are refreshingly three-dimensional, fully realized, and rarely white or black in their moral choices.

This is no light read. The social system, naming conventions and different titles alone take up a fair amount of head-space for the reader. However, the craft of world-building has rarely been put on display so ingeniously.

Fans of epic fantasy can expect a genuine treat in this book, hopefully the first of many to come.

Strongly recommended.
Like it? That's only about half the review-- so visit the site tomorrow and read the rest. Later!

Spiderwick tonight!

Kat and I are going to see The Spiderwick Chronicles sneak preview here in DC tonight. (We thought it was last night but there was a mixup regarding the date...)

Honestly, we can't wait. We've gotten to know Holly Black just a little (hi, Holly!) and are very eager to see her and Tony diTerlizzi's work translated to the silver screen.
Initial reviews have been fantastic, particularly for Freddie Highmore (perhaps best known as Charlie Bucket in the recent "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" film) and Nick Nolte. We're going to write up a review for SFRevu's February issue, so check back there tomorrow and see what we think.

On a Lighter Note: Eli Stone!

Friends of the blog will know Kat and I interviewed Marc Guggenheim about his Oni Press series Resurrection awhile back. Well, Marc is not only a comic book writer (and a darned good one), he's also a producer and writer for the ABC-TV show Eli Stone, premiering tonight at 10pm EST.

Kat and I don't work for ABC or Marc's production company, but we consider ourselves friends and supporters of his work. So if you're reading this, watch Eli Stone! Early reviews are fantastic and it sounds like the kind of thing Kat and I will LOVE.

Okay, so... do it, okay? thanks!

Absent Friends: John McLoughlin

I lost a friend about a year and a half ago.
Even though I hadn't seen him since 1991, I considered him one of my best friends, and part of my circle--that group you have when you're a teenager and finding out who you are and all of that.
Like I said, hadn't seen him for years... but when I heard he was gone, I wrote the following.
Don't know why I'm posting it now, except that things like this are transitory-- and I don't want to forget what my friends-- past, present or future-- have meant to me.
Here goes.
Who was John McLoughlin to me?

Writing something like this is never easy. In fact, it’s some of the hardest writing there is. How do you capture, in a handful of words, someone who was such a singular person? John McLoughlin was someone who defies easy description and completely demolishes classification or categorization. He was like no one I've ever known.

I'll start at the beginning, which for us would have been 1977.

I met John through Peter Nixon. Peter and I had discussed shooting our own version of Star Wars with action figures, or maybe even some live action. John, a friend of Peter’s, wanted to play Chewbacca. The project never came to anything but it did introduce me to John.

We got to know each other better when we started playing Dungeons & Dragons. John wore an Army fatigue shirt almost all the time—that’s one of the things I remember best about him, from those early days. He was also a big fan of all things military, which included Robert Heinlein’s book Starship Troopers; he believed Heinlein’s somewhat right-wing philosophy was really on to something. And he might not have been all that wrong. He had a spent LAW anti-tank weapon in his garage and a German shepherd that he loved fiercely.

John had a way of calling things the way he saw them. He was unflinching in saying how he felt and what he thought. That didn't sit well with some, but he was honest. Say what you like, I never knew John to say anything he didn't really (at some level) believe. He had integrity I can only admire.

We played D&D a lot that first year. We also played Risk up in John’s room. John was a tough competitor; the only person who really gave him competition was [his brother] Tom. They had a turbulent relationship, to put it mildly; Tom was the only one who could make John absolutely crazy.

John had me over at his house for sleepovers several times, and me likewise. Once, when he was at our house, I was freaking out over a TV commercial for the movie Dawn of the Dead. John laughed about it and convinced me that my fear (of a TV ad!) was pretty ridiculous.

He was a regular at Paul Skeen’s and Peter’s homes, and at mine, but we spent a lot of time in John’s home as well. I remember the GI Joe he kept hanging from his light fixture. Dark humor, certainly, but that was John.

He was generous to a fault and already building up the persona that we'd come to know in high school. In many ways, John was larger than life. He was the John Belushi of our circle, the guy who was always doing something. Life around John was never dull or lacking things to talk about.

When John had a fistfight—in Paul’s driveway—the only one I ever saw him in, I was there. I didn't want to be but John was my friend and I supported him. The fight came to nothing and John wasn't hurt. To this day, I don't know what the fight was about-- but I think he ended up friends with the kid he was fighting.

John’s hairline began to recede after his fifteenth birthday. To make up for it, he started doing his best to grow a beard—and when he succeeded, he wore it always after that. With his beard, high forehead and brawn/bulk built up from his Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) training, he was a teenager who looked like he was going on 40... but he never seemed to age for years after that. And, though maybe this shouldn't be said, he rarely had trouble getting served in bars.

He came to visit on an overnight at Rutgers my first year there—part of a large group that included my sister Beth, her friends Kelly and Diane, Paul, Stephanie and Dwain Smith. It was quite an evening; John was one of the few who wasn't running around half-crazed, thrilled and neurotic about being loose on a college campus.

I could tell a lot of stories about John. If there was a wacky anecdote from my teen years, odds are good John was in it somewhere. He was “As Du Valant,” a French Gran Prix driver, in a memorable incarnation sometime around his senior year in high school, and he was Tristan of Lochmoor for many years in the SCA. It’s telling that his self-given name was included in his obituary; I believe that in many ways, he found himself through this kind of singular reinvention.

My mom’s favorite memory of John is him sitting at our dining room table, making chain mail and describing how it was done. He made some beautiful pieces and took pride in being a craftsman. He also brewed mead, though I don't know if that effort was as successful.

He had a wide circle of friends. D&D introduced him to the Carroll sisters, which led to the SCA. He was the lead techie in the Drama Club [at Monmouth Regional High School] and pushed hard for tech workers to be accorded “varsity letter status” along with the performers. He always drove as many people as could fit into his family’s green Vista Cruiser—perhaps the best-known vehicle from the Drama Club years at Monmouth Regional—and never left the cast parties before they were over, often in the early hours of the morning. He knew everyone and everyone knew him.

A couple of anecdotes weren't so wacky. When Peter collapsed at Rutgers, coming to visit me on his first day home from McGill, John was there... and he drove Peter’s car back from New Brunswick, after we grabbed dinner together. We'd seen Peter to the hospital safely—I was the one who called the family and made sure they knew where he was—but it was John who brought his car back to Tinton Falls.

John was rough-and-tumble but always there when he was needed. He came to my dad’s viewing and, if he didn't actually send the condolence card, he bought one.

We saw each other once in awhile as he finished college and spent more time in Philadelphia and south Jersey than in Tinton Falls. I'd graduated and was working, so I had less time to catch up. Our lives were on diverging paths but we made time every now and then. We hung out at Paul’s shared house in Atlantic City one weekend and at his dorm room another time, where John said his floor (he had the job of watching his floor that year) had given him the nickname “Eage”—short for “Eagle,” off his receding hairline. He had a boken (a bamboo practice sword) with which he enforced peace on his floor, which seems appropriately.

The last time I saw him was Christmas Night, 1991. He came to my mother’s last holiday party, before she gave the house to Beth and Glenn and I moved on. We never spoke again and I don't know why. Maybe it was distance, that we were both moving around... or maybe it was that we were both moving on.

He didn't attend the weddings of any of our high school group, that handful of events where we were all together again. Those gatherings were incomplete without John.

The last any of us saw of John might have been 1995 or 1996, when Paul and Stephanie saw him in the stadium parking lot at a Grateful Dead concert. But that isn't my story to tell. As of 2003, Paul heard that John was working in Philadelphia doing construction and was starting to teach computers.

I like to think—I hope—he found tremendous happiness and joy in life, that he had a large circle of newer friends who loved him the way we older friends do. I'm sure they had many stories to tell and miss him just as deeply. All I know is that I regret how nearly sixteen years passed since we last spoke. Maybe John and I hadn't seen each other in a long time, but I knew he was out there somewhere. Knowing now that he’s gone, I miss him even more profoundly.

One last anecdote: in 1980, Peter Nixon came to my door to go to school, teary-eyed. “John’s dead,” he blurted out. My mind reeled. “John McLoughlin?” I asked. “No,” he said, puzzled. “John Lennon.” John got a smile out of hearing that story.

Twenty-six years later, almost to the month, Peter brought me news that John was gone. This time, I got the name right. And I really wish I hadn't.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

This Week's Comics

What am I going to buy today? Let's see...

  • Action Comics #861
  • Avengers Initiative #9 (Dan Slott = promise of entertainment)
  • Countdown to Final Crisis #13 (why am I torturing myself?)
  • Green Lantern #27
  • Spirit #13 (at least it has a cover by Darwyn Cooke... =sigh=)
  • Suburban Glamour #3
  • Trials of Shazam #11
  • Ultimate Secrets (do I want this...?)
  • Ultimate Spider-Man #118
  • Ultimate X-Men #90
Okay, that's the list, as pulled from my LCS. Maybe I can do a Grading the Comics post tomorrow or Friday...

Review Mania Coming!

I have a TON of reviews to get written by tomorrow-- SFRevu's February issue goes live on Friday and I have a lot of stuff to do between now and then.

Such as reviews for:
RUSH OF WINGS by Adrian Phoenix;
LAST DAYS OF KRYPTON by Kevin Anderson;
SMALL FAVOR by Jim Butcher (not out till April, but we want to be early);
DARK WRAITH OF SHANNARA by Terry Brooks et al (another April release but a very fast read--graphic novel sequel to Wishsong of Shannara);
STAR WARS: DARTH BANE-RULE OF TWO by Drew Karpeshyn (like that first name!);
and a few more I can't recall off the top of my head.

Plus an interview we did in November with Jane Yolen, who's probably wondering why it hasn't run by now.

In short, I have a lot of writing to do. Ah, the adventurous life of a sci fi reviewer...

Friday, January 25, 2008

Grading the Comics- week of January 23

Well, it was a pretty huge comics week for me, considering I missed last week entirely. So here's what I thought of this week's crop of titles...

BOOSTER GOLD #6 - Booster teams up with three Blue Beetles to save the life of Ted Kord, against Rip Hunter's begging him not to do it. Um... okay, Booster and Rip have had their differences, but this seems awfully reckless for Booster (who was supposed to have earned some maturity lately). B

COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS 15 & 14 - Superthing-Prime is on a rampage, the Monitors are getting their butts kicked, Mary is not so Marvel-ous any more, Ray Palmer owns up to what he's been doing and Jason Todd gets a makeover. =sigh= At least we aren't getting more of Piper and His Dead Buddy or Jimmy Olsen Makes Out with a Bug. C-

CRIME BIBLE: LESSONS OF BLOOD #4 (OF 5) - Renee Montoya takes on Flay more directly in this issue, which is a change of pace. Disappointing. C

FREDDY VS JASON VS ASH #4 (OF 6) - Freddy's back and Ash gets to relive his favorite chainsaw-related memory, as Jason has his own blast from the past and doesn't get to do much hacking. A moderately Freddy-heavy issue. B-

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #17 - The lead story fell kind of flat for me, though the backup was better (and opens some intriguing possibilities). Split decision: C+.

MARVEL ZOMBIES 2 #4 (OF 5) - The zombies are back and mixing it up, but I'm not feeling it. Where the earlier miniseries was vital, this comes off as recycled and living off its laurels, which isn't what I look for from Kirkman. D.

NEW X-MEN #46 - The penultimate Messiah CompleX issue speeds up the action, with the kids taking on Predator X (with mixed results), as well as a looming showdown over the mutant baby and what exactly was in Mystique's head all this time. Pretty sweet. B+.

SHE-HULK 2 #25 - I'm dropping this book. F.

TEEN TITANS #55 - I'm pretty close to dropping this book too. D+.

ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR #50 - The team gets back to NYC, which is encased in a cube-shaped forcefield. Reed's science fair project is acting up, and the Seed 19 team is back to fetch it for their boss. Plus Sue breaks up with Reed. B+.

ULTIMATE IRON MAN 2 #2 (OF 4) - Tony and Rhodey find that the US government isn't all that trustworthy and Obadiah Stane shows he really is the nastiest little supergenius-creep in the Ultimate U. B+.

ULTIMATES 3 #2 (OF 5) - Okay, if anyone can explain this book, I'll give 'em a buck. D.

UMBRELLA ACADEMY APOCALYPSE SUITE #5 (OF 6) - Haven't read it yet, want to do it all in one go when the series wraps. n/a

UNCLE SAM & THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS 2 #5 (OF 8) - Human Bomb's backstory, as Red Bee goes hardcore villain. Honest--she's a bad guy now. Plus the return of the original Ray. B.

X-MEN #207 - The end of Messiah CompleX has some major twists and turns, harking back to the team's glory days of the '70s and '80s. Honest, the book hasn't been this good (heck, this READABLE) in years. Major surprise at the end, too. A.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Comics List for This Week

Okay, so what did I pick up last night?

  • MARVEL ZOMBIES 2 #4 (OF 5)
  • NEW X-MEN #46
  • SHE-HULK 2 #25
  • ULTIMATES 3 #2 (OF 5)
  • X-MEN #207

Have to admit, I didn't read any comics at all last night. Considering we have a taping of FANTASTIC FORUM coming this Saturday, I'd better read up fast so I'll have something to talk about.

Look for my reviews and grades for some or all of these in the next few days!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Night of the Cookers Heating up Baltimore

Went to a new restaurant (literally new, they opened about a week and a half ago) in Baltimore. It's Night of the Cookers, on Cathedral Street near the UMD Medical Center and the Meyerhoff Auditorium. The cuisine is largely New Orleans inspired, heavy on seafood and chicken, with some terrific sides. Our party sampled heavily from the diverse entrees and found lots to enjoy.

If you happen to take in the symphony down the street, this is one great place for a bite or an after-show drink.


Saw Cloverfield yesterday and... man, what a movie.
This is NOT one for those who get motion sick easily. If you can't stand a rollercoaster ride, you aren't going to like an hour and a half of camcorder vertigo.
But if you can take it...
You've probably read about the plot already. Rob Hawkins is about to move to a new job in Japan, but hasn't resolved his issues with long-time friend Beth. At a going-away party, they have a fight and she leaves--just before a colossal explosion wracks Manhattan, followed by the spectacular crash of the Statue of Liberty's head practically at Rob's feet. (This is all captured by Rob's friend Hud, who's manning the camcorder to capture goodbye messages from partygoers.)
Clearly something is very, very wrong.
That something is a gigantic monster smashing its way through New York City. Rob and his friends attempt to evacuate via the Brooklyn Bridge but are sent fleeing when the monster strikes. They consider an alternate route when Rob gets a voicemail from Beth; she's badly hurt and needs his help.
Rob goes to her rescue, with a handful of friends in tow.
What they experience in the midst of this onslaught is horrific, challenging them to find reserves of courage and compassion they never suspected in the course of their previous self-absorbed lives. They are not the heroes of the story, merely the innocent bystanders struggling to survive. It's powerful, evocative filmmaking, done on a shoestring budget ($25m) and an ingenious viral marketing campaign launched to little fanfare (but immediate Internet fascination) last year.
And if that isn't enough to get you to see it, the teaser trailer for Star Trek (J.J. Abrams' next project) is attached.
Not sure how often I'll want to revisit this one, but it's a dynamite film. If you ever wanted to see a mashup of Godzilla and Blair Witch Project-- this one's for you.


Hey everyone!
Seems like I've been offline awhile but I've been plenty busy... and there are posts to come explaning all of it, believe me.
First, a short update: I'm fine. The kidney stone issue appears to have been resolved (for now), though I'd like my doctor to confirm that. I'm drinking more water and trying to cut down on caffeine and dairy, both of which are not good for that particular affliction.
Second, had a fantastic time seeing my aunt and uncle out in Colorado last Thursday. We don't get to visit nearly often enough, and I even learned a good deal about my dad's early years-- stuff I'd never heard before. Gonna have to post about that.
Third, the kittens have gotten BIG! Kat and I need to post new pictures. Chrissy is still skinny, Janet is still a tank, but they're full-sized now and I probably shouldn't call them kittens any more.
Last, still working on my novel. Sherin and I are committed to a six-month program to get our first novels done, which is eminently doable. We just need to stick to it.
Hope all's great! So comment and let me hear how you're doing!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Health Update

Looks like I'm going to live awhile longer.
The doctor seems to think I had more than one kidney stone, and had me scanned to see if there are more. If it's really bad, I might need surgery to clean them out--but otherwise, I'll just have to hydrate and down painkillers.
Could be much much worse.
So that's the news on the health front.
Tomorrow, off to Denver for a three-day business trip. Looking forward to seeing Nancy and Ed (my aunt and uncle) while I'm out there.

Monday, January 14, 2008

New Chocolate Restaurant: A+

Kat and I went to the new Artfully Chocolate Kingsbury Confections restaurant on 14th St yesterday. It was packed when we got in but managed to find a place, then went crazy ordering hot chocolate.
Except this is not your father's hot chocolate--not even if your dad mixes in a little booze for those extra-cold winter nights. No, this place has chocolate-based drinks Starbucks wishes it had.
I ordered the Charo, which is a caramel-based semi-sweet chocolate drink that had Kat swooning; she ordered the Liz (semi-sweet with lavender), which she felt was a shade too delicate for her. Next time, I'll order the Judy (milk chocolate with hazelnut) and she'll order the Charo.
We also sampled the bread pudding, which was really good.
The restaurant is associated with Kingsbury of Old Town Alexandria, a place ideal for Valentine shoppers, so you can find a huge assortment of confections to satisfy your palate.
If you happen to be around 14th anytime soon, drop in. Your diet won't love you but your taste buds will.

Weekend of Purgatory

Bad weekend, folks, health-wise that is.
I had some pain in my lower left back, right around my kidney, last Wednesday. Thought it might be a kidney stone, since I've had them twice before, but Thursday it was okay--then Friday night it resurged with a vengeance.
The kind that leaves you sweating, nauseous and unable to rest comfortably in any position, vertical or horizontal.
Couldn't sleep, naturally.
Saturday morning, I thought about dropping out of an editorial meeting for SFRevu but figured I could make it on Advil. Wasn't fun but I was functional.
Sunday was better. Kat and I went into DC and Pentagon City, had a nice day (more in a later post) and came home... and the twinge flared up again. Not nearly as bad as Friday but I still made a doctor's appointment.
So why am I going on about this?
- I'm a 43-year old man who's seriously overweight and might have health issues I don't suspect;
- My father toughed out feeling bad for a long stretch, only to learn (too late) that he had cancer;
- I'm newly married and don't want to take chances on the years (decades?) I plan to spend with my wife and future children.
So it's better for me to find out now if I have some serious health problems.
I'm getting older and don't take my health for granted the way I used to.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Kat's Updated!

Kat's blog, Stealth Shopper DC, is updated with all kinds of new stuff for this weekend. Check it out!

INSIDE STRAIGHT: Who will be the next American Hero?

Most of you know that I've reviewed INSIDE STRAIGHT both here and on SFRevu, as well as interviewing the two editors with my wife Kat.

Well, Tor Books is taking it to the next level.

The mosaic novel shows small bits of the contests... but coming up on the official website, you'll get to see the contest play out in an expanded format. Enriching the reading experience with web content is a step that few companies have adopted, but offers tremendous potential.
This is a development I'll be watching with great interest and high expectations. Fans of the book (and the series) might expect some cool behind-the-scenes info, tidbits about upcoming stories and maybe even "winner/loser" interviews! Wouldn't that be cool?
Keep an eye out for the tagline: Who will be the next American Hero?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Shout Out for Google Analytics (again)

Y'know, I absolutely love knowing where you readers are coming from. Did you know I had three visits from Russian readers? That is awesome! Welcome to the DR!
Here's a few numbers to throw out there...

  • Canada- 29 visits
  • UK- 28
  • Germany- 24
  • Australia- 12
  • Sweden- 6
  • France, Netherlands, Spain, Italy- 5
  • Russia, Brazil, Philippines, New Zealand, Finland- 3
  • Romania, Bulgaria, Argentina- 2
  • Portugal, Greece, India, Egypt, Indonesia- 1

I think this is just incredible, and very humbling. Mine is one blog out of many millions--and I'm glad that I've had people visit from all over the world.

Thanks! I hope you've enjoyed what you read here and will come back soon.

Oddest Stream of Consciousness Moment Last Night

One of my friends at the comics store said "For a moment there-- when I didn't know who the guy was-- I thought RuPaul was running for President."

Wow. Mental image: towering transvestite entertainer making stump speeches. "My message to America: Be Fabulous!" And the ads... can you imagine the ads? YouTube would never recover.

All this to say: we come up with some pretty crazy stuff on Wednesday night in the ol' comics store.

Stuff I Liked (Random)

Short post on Stuff I Liked 2007:

  • PUSHING DAISIES- absolutely my favorite new show of the year. Incredible cast, excellent storytelling, quirky plots, this one has it all. I hope we'll eventually see the full season, especially since this left off with a very revealing, um, reveal.
  • SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON- first time visiting the big show (known uncharitably among insiders and snobs as "geek prom") in about 11 years, it's vastly bigger than I remember. The convention is dominated by the presence of Hollywood just up the road, with more multimedia than you could see if you were the Multiple Man (hey, a comic reference!). Kat loved it and we owe a huge debt of thanks to John Nee for making it possible. (A close runner up: Baltimore Comicon)
  • BUGLES PLANET DAILY- our funky little joke blog, it's been a lot of fun writing posts for it over the past several months. It's fallen dormant for the moment but it's only temporary.

I have a few more but... gotta run! Back soon with more.

Achy Breaky Me

Remember how I said I hate exercising? I think God has a weird sense of justice, or maybe it's karma getting me for opening my mouth.
I've been hurting around my midsection--first tummy, then kidney-zone-area-- since last night. Thought it might be something I ate, but no... and it kept up all night long. That's two nights with not enough sleep, so if I'm grouchy today you'll know why.
Still, I have to lose at least 40 lbs. or my health problems will only multiply.
Can't some lab somewhere invent a process that does it for me, pain-free, fast and easy?
My future Utopia is not coming along fast enough.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Exercise regimen

I hate working out, I really do.
Kat loves it. She fights her way to the endorphin high and I don't.
Probably the result of being about 70 lbs above my ideal weight, but there it is.
So I'm trying to dredge up some motivation. I'd like to be halfway to 160 lbs by this time next year (which is a pretty low bar to set as a goal but heck, I'm not good at losing weight).
So there it is-- my New Years resolution. Help me keep it! Write in and ask how I'm doing, in case I don't post about it very often.
Wish me luck...


Okay, I know I've been bad, but here are some long-delayed snapshots of some diverse things. (The kittens absolutely LOVED the tree!)

Hope you like them!

Monday, January 7, 2008

American Gladiators 2.0

Last night was the two-hour premiere of the all-new, retooled American Gladiators on NBC. Given the writers' strike, it seems the Peacock Network has little choice but to fill the void with reality programming, and AG is sure... well, not exactly real but TV-close. Call it on a par with American Idol for authenticity.

The original was a guilty pleasure. Over-the-top posturing by the Glads themselves, the narratives of the various competitors (from scrappy underdog to self-assured amateur athlete to blow-dried pretty boys 'n' girls), the sportscast-like style of Mike Adamle and Larry Csonka--what's not to love?

Not sure if the new, 2008 version will achieve that place in my TV schedule, though not for an abundance of competition in that time slot. The new show features revised competitions, updating several old events (a lot of the ones where contestants are knocked off will leave them in the water, like in The Wall and Joust) while offering some interesting new ones (like the tilting-platform Earthquake and the ball-swingin' Hit and Run). The smash-cut style of filming is exactly the same, with Hulk Hogan and Laila Ali providing plenty of rough charm as the hosts.

My major complaint (so far) is the sound quality. Who is mixing this show? The sound levels are terrible--you can barely hear Hulk, Laila or the contestants unless the insanely stoked mob falls near-silent (which doesn't happen much). Given that they don't identify the Glads with subtitles until halfway through the first show (another big mistake), the muddy sound makes the show overall less enjoyable.

We'll have to see if the new folks--Mayhem, Venom, Siren, Wolf, Toa, Fury, Stealth, et al--win a place in my heart. So far... well, we'll see.

Friday, January 4, 2008

2007 Look Back (Reviews)

2007 was a pretty great year in some ways.
I'm looking over the books I reviewed and feel lucky-- I got to read and write about an awful lot of things that entertained me. Hopefully, a positive review gives something back to the writer in two ways: a boost in sales and a bit of ego gratification for the hard and lonely work that is writing.
And so...
Most Exciting Happening
The relaunch of Wild Cards as an ongoing series. I love the books and am glad to see that there will be a trilogy from TOR, kicking off this month with INSIDE STRAIGHT. (My review of this one is up now.)
Latest Book Across the Finish Line
Not an accomplishment by any means, but I have yet to complete my review of Dennis L. McKiernan's ONCE UPON A DREADFUL TIME. This is no slight to Mr. McKiernan (whom I interviewed and found to be a terrific conversationalist as well as an entertaining writer); it's just that I have the attention span of a fruitfly and was besieged by tons of great books. I hope I can do right by Mr. McK before the paperback comes out!
Friendliest Writers
Boy, there were a LOT of them this year, many found at the World Fantasy Convention this past November.
My short (alphabetized) list for folks I really loved meeting and/or talking with:

  • Holly Black (a terrific person and great writer-- WSFA hosted Holly and two others for dinner after the National Book Festival in September; Kat and I had a great night!)
  • Cassandra Clare (CITY OF BONES)
  • Sara Beth Durst (INTO THE WILD-- don't confuse it with the movie)
  • Christopher Golden (whose THE BORDERKIND was second-latest this year *sigh*)
  • Charlaine Harris (incredibly gracious lady and amazingly generous with her time; I'm loving her Harper Connolly mysteries!)
  • John Levitt (didn't meet him in person but got a nice email about his debut novel DOG DAYS)
  • Jeff Mariotte (an old buddy from my long-ago WildStorm days, glad to see he's doing well and looking great, as is his fantastic wife MaryElizabeth Hart)
  • George R.R. Martin (enthusiastic about Wild Cards, fun to talk to, all-around pleasure to meet)
  • Kim Newman (read his ANNO DRACULA stuff- it's great!)
  • Tom Sniegoski (a truly nice guy, met him at San Diego Comic-Con and said hi at WFC- read OWLBOY!)
  • Melinda Snodgrass (see GRRM above, 'cause it applies to her too; she's great)
  • Harry Turtledove (got to ask him about his latest/possibly last "South Wins the Civil War" alternate history series--very dry sense of humor!)
  • F. Paul Wilson (got to say hi at WFC)
  • Gene Wolfe (who is really one of the nicest legends in the SF world)

Biggest Regret
That I didn't finish a novel this year as I'd intended. Then again, that's been my ongoing regret since I started writing professionally in 1986, so there's nothing new there.

New Year's Resolutions
Yeah, like you want to know what I'll try to do and give up sometime in January or February... ;)
But seriously- lose weight and finish a novel. One is more likely than the other but if anyone wants to start a gambling pool on which will actually happen...

And that's it. I might have more to post on this later, views on movies and pop culture and stuff. till then...

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Grading the Comics Delayed

I was going to post a new installment of GRADING THE COMICS today but found (argh) that New Comics Day is Friday this week. That one-two punch of New Years Eve/New Years Day, I suppose.
Ah well.
Here's what I HOPE to be reading tomorrow...

  • All New Atom #19
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer #10
  • Countdown to Final Crisis #17
  • Countdown to Mystery #4
  • Detective Comics #840
  • End League #1 (shout out to Mat and Wendy Broome!)
  • Justice League Unlimited #41
  • Metal Men #5
  • Supergirl #25
  • Teen Titans Year One #1
  • Ultimate Fantastic Four #49 (forgot it last week-- double argh!)
  • Ultimate Human #1
  • Uncanny X-Men #494
  • WildStorm Revelations #1

We'll see how lucky I am getting all these titles.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Year!

Hey folks! Seems like it's been forever since I last blogged. I know, I thought I would be able to post a bit over the holidays but it just didn't happen (obviously). Between being away from home and getting over "holiday-lag," that vacation hangover that won't go away when you've been gone a week... well, you know the story.

On the good side, 2008 is off to a good start. My review of INSIDE STRAIGHT is up at SFRevu, as is Kat's and my interview with George R.R. Martin and Melinda Snodgrass, plus a number of other reviews that made my December very lively. Now I'm kicking back with Mike Carey's latest Felix Castor novel, DEAD MEN'S BOOTS, and enjoying it greatly. Mike is a great guy, a good friend and a terrific writer--so read his stuff!

Anything else? Oh yeah, we're going to put some long-delayed pix of our now-bygone Christmas tree on the blog tonight (cross those fingers), and maybe a few odds and ends.

Hope you all had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
best from me and Kat,