For newcomers to this blog, here’s a list of science fiction podcasts I’ve been involved with over the years:
|Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy is a talk show hosted by me and John Joseph Adams. We’ve interviewed authors such as George R. R. Martin, Orson Scott Card, and Robert Kirkman.|
|Lightspeed is an online science fiction magazine, and they also have a podcast on iTunes. My story “Cats in Victory” appeared in the debut issue.|
|StarShipSofa is a podcast magazine featuring stories and interviews. My story “Cats in Victory” appeared in Episode 141.|
|Escape Pod is a science fiction short story podcast. My stories “Save Me Plz” and “Blood of Virgins” appeared here.|
|Pseudopod is a horror short story podcast. My stories “The Skull-Faced Boy” and “The Disciple” appeared here.|
|MechMuse, a science fiction short story podcast, is now sadly defunct. My stories “Veil of Ignorance” and “The Second Rat” appeared in the debut issue.|
Find more science fiction podcasts over on Worlds Without End.
Here’s a cool podcast I’ve been listening to recently: WTF with Marc Maron.
Maron is a stand-up comedian who invites people over to the recording studio in his garage and conducts long interviews with them. Most of the guests are other comics, with a smattering of other folks in the arts & entertainment world. Maron is up front about his flaws, failures, insecurities, neuroses, and the all-consuming jealousy he feels toward his more successful peers, and he conducts frankly personal interviews that often deal with awkward topics such as “Why does everyone hate you so much?” Maron has been in stand-up for thirty years or so, and is friends and/or enemies with most of the folks he talks to. So far I’ve listened to interviews with Louis CK, Ira Glass, Sarah Silverman, Kevin Smith, and Bob Saget, all of which were interesting. The most riveting episodes so far have been the two in which Maron confronts Carlos Mencia over a range of grievances that his fellow comedians have against him.
So in response to my last post, my parents write, “So our challenge to you is to create a list of 20 books that a 14-year-old boy would want to read. Heck, make it 10!”
Ten? You insult me, sir. Here’s 24 off the top of my head. Not necessarily the best books or my favorites (though many of them are), but simply my first stab at a list of books that I think have the most chance of being picked up and read by a typical 14-year-old boy.
(And for an in-depth discussion of the issue of boys and reading, check out Episode 2 of my Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.)
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Dragons of the Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman
Homeland by R. A. Salvatore
The Green Futures of Tycho by William Sleator
Singularity by Williams Sleator
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
Illusion by Paula Volsky
A Malady of Magicks by Craig Shaw Gardner
A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony
Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn
The Master of White Storm by Janny Wurts
The Running Man by Stephen King
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
The White Mountains by John Christopher
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Feel free to suggest additions.
This lecture is terrific: Myths and Realities About the Roman Gladiator by Garrett Fagan.
Here’s an interesting and enjoyable podcast I came across recently: The Tolkien Professor.
The host Corey Olsen is a professor at Washington College, where he teaches courses on Chaucer, courtly love, Arthurian literature, the Bible, Greco-Roman mythology, and a full-semester course on the works of Tolkien. He’s obviously a huge Tolkien fan, and his tone while discussing Tolkien’s work is never less than ebullient, and there’s none of the self-indulgent twaddle you might fear from a lit prof. Instead he adheres to Tolkien’s own critical approach, as laid down in Tolkien’s seminal essay “On Fairy-Stories,” and takes the story seriously as a story, focusing on analyzing the characters and pointing out details and connections you might never have noticed before. He’s started out discussing The Hobbit, and is currently about halfway through the book. Check it out.
Here’s a really good free podcast for screenwriters — the Creative Screenwriting Magazine Podcast. Each episode features a long (one hour or so) interview with a different writer (or team). I’ve listened to about twenty of these now, and they’ve all been good. The host Jeff Goldsmith really seems to know what he’s talking about, and he asks substantive questions about writing process, breaking in, making deals, film production, etc., and the writers respond with really interesting, insightful, and often very funny answers. Stop wasting your time watching shallow interviews with airhead movie stars on late night talk shows and listen to this instead.
I just saw that Daniel Abraham’s story “The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics” is now online. This was one of my favorite stories that I read in my contributor’s copy of Fantasy: The Best of the Year 2008 (see “Save Me Plz”). “The Cambist and Lord Iron” originally appeared in John Klima’s anthology Logorrhea, which invited contributors to submit stories inspired by winning spelling bee words. For me, one measure of a great story is that it motivates you to recount the entire plot to people who haven’t read it. I’ve retold “The Cambist and Lord Iron” to several lucky people, including my mom. But I hadn’t gotten very far into my telling when she said, “You’ve told me this story before.” I declared that I hadn’t. She insisted that I had. I insisted that I hadn’t. She said, “Well, I’ve definitely heard this story before.” She then realized that my dad had read the story and that he had already retold the whole thing to her. So that’s how good this story is. Check it out.
ETA: There’s a podcast version as well.
Here are two terrific art-related documentaries that are definitely worth checking out. (If you have Netflix, both are available as instant downloads.)
My Kid Could Paint That starts out as the heartwarming story of a normal, likeable family who discover one day that their four-year-old daughter can paint brilliant works of abstract expressionism that sell for tens of thousands of dollars, and the little girl soon attracts major media attention. But midway through the film, the story takes a plunge down the rabbit hole, when a 20/20 investigation suggests that the little girl isn’t doing the paintings by herself, and that her father is either directing her or retouching her work. The filmmaker, who has become close to the family, doesn’t know what to believe, and he gradually loses faith as his attempts to capture on film the little girl painting something exceptional prove fruitless. But in the end he’s still not sure, and man, neither am I. The owner of the gallery who first displayed the girl’s paintings talks about the frustration he feels as a photo-realist painter who spends months on a piece — deploying the most exacting technique — as he watches canvases that consist of nothing more than a few splashes of paint selling for millions of dollars, and his glee at being able to prove to the art world that even a four-year-old could do it. The question of whether this little girl is a scam or not is therefore set against the larger question of whether abstract expressionism itself is a scam.
So the new Star Trek is thrilling. It was much better than I was expecting, even knowing that it had a 96% approval rating on Rottentomatoes.com. The story does have more than its share of tenuous logic, but the characters are so winning, the scenes so entertaining, and the effects so breathtaking (especially — holy crap — on an IMAX screen) that you just won’t care. When it was over, I gladly would have sat there for a second showing if I could have, and maybe even a third. I can’t even remember the last time I would have said that about a movie.
I’d heard this was in the works, but I didn’t realize they’d actually started coming out: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny from NESFA Press.
In what has to be the bargain of the century, NESFA Press is issuing six–count ’em, six!–collections of Zelazny’s short fiction. The first two books are out, and they are great buys: handsome hardbacks with a newly commissioned Michael Whelan painting for the dust jacket, sewn signatures, notes for each story, commentary from Zelazny, and annotations by someone who’s done his homework. In other words, get this NOW before they go out of print and command princely sums! The print run, I believe, is approximately 2,000 of each volume, so once the word gets out, fans will snap these up. I’m not in a position to go check my copies, but my recollection is that these are around $30 or less each. What amazes me is that the first two books have stories I’ve never been able to locate, since Zelazny had early short fiction published in small magazines, fanzines, prozines, etc. So this is your chance to get all of his short fiction, in hardback, in an edition made specifically for his fans. For the two books on hand, any praise I sing is insufficient: I eagerly await the remaining four titles, due out before Christmas.
I don’t know this fellow — for all I know he works for NESFA Press. If he does he deserves a raise, since I ordered both books immediately after reading this.
Okay, so the clear highlight of the Shocklines Film Series was Treevenge, a diabolical tale about the horrors experienced by fir trees at Christmas time and how the trees wreak bloody vengeance upon humanity.
For a film made for under $5,000 it features surprisingly elaborate eyeball-popping and baby-head-splattering special effects. It’s sort of a tradition in my family at Christmas to watch Die Hard 1 & 2, and Treevenge would make an excellent addition to the lineup if I could just get my hands on a copy. You can get a taste of it by watching this short segment on YouTube (WARNING: Gore).
Here’s a funny song about Paul Krugman:
Here’s a terrific podcast I discovered recently: The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe.
Here’s one funny story I heard on the podcast: A skeptic was sent by a TV station to investigate the Amityville Horror house. (This house, the subject of five or so horror movies, was an outright hoax perpetrated by a guy looking to make money by selling his story.) A psychic was sent along in order to provide an alternative viewpoint. As the two of them parked their car, the skeptic noticed a police cruiser parked at the corner. As the psychic approached the house, she said that she sensed an evil presence. She then fell to the ground and started thrashing and moaning, as if afflicted by demons. This prompted the police officers to get out of their cruiser and demand to know what was going on. The skeptic explained that his companion was a psychic and that this was the Amityville Horror house. “No,” said the cop. “That’s two blocks up. You’ve got the wrong house.”
Humanity’s biggest problem, according to this guy, is our collective inability to comprehend the implications of logarithmic scales. Anyone think he’s wrong about any of this? I would really be relieved to learn that he is.
|Bigger Stronger Faster is an extremely entertaining and thought-provoking documentary about competitiveness in American society as viewed through the lens of three brothers who are into bodybuilding and who struggle with whether or not to take steroids. The film has received a 97% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. If you have Netflix, it’s one of the instant downloads. Check it out.|
Here’s the trailer:
In preparation for the upcoming Watchmen feature film, the boys over at Comic Geek Speak are doing a special 12 part issue-by-issue in-depth analysis of the Watchmen graphic novel. If you want someone to point out all the little details you never noticed before, particularly in advance of seeing the film, this is perfect. A word of warning though — each episode is about an hour long, so you’re looking at about 12 hours of show.
Here’s a neat animated short adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Terrible Old Man.” Wow, I wish I had the skills to make something this polished.
Here’s a cool illustration of Cthulhu. Most artists’ renditions of Cthulhu seem to me to be too human. This one is appropriately otherworldly, and very different from your run-of-the-mill octopus-head.
Here’s an S. T. Joshi audio lecture on Lovecraft that’s available through iTunes U. (Link opens iTunes.)
I recently came across this book: Marvel Zombies: Dead Days.
As soon as I saw it I was intrigued. Zombie superheroes? Of course! (My reaction to seeing this book made me think of a review I read years ago in Dragon magazine, where the writer was reviewing a new edition of the Battletech game, and remarked, “Battletech is one of those properties that keeps game designers awake at night going: Why didn’t I think of that?“)
The story in Marvel Zombies: Dead Days is basically that a zombie plague infects all the superheroes on earth, and the zombie superheroes quickly consume all the non-superheroes, and then the zombie superheroes go looking for ways to travel to parallel earths in order to keep on feeding. The zombie version of super-genius Reed Richards finds a way to contact an alternate version of himself (a much younger and more naive version), and convinces this younger version to open a dimensional gateway between the two worlds. The young Reed Richards ends up trapped in the zombie world, while back on his home world his friends struggle to keep the zombie version of the Fantastic Four contained. It’s all pretty awesome, and is made especially creepy by the evil Reed Richards, who is always twisting his zombified body into weird shapes.
I was also really struck by the artwork in the middle section, which was different from most other comic book art I’ve seen. (I’m only a very casual comic book reader.) The art looks very airbrushed and photographic, more like commercial art than traditional comic book art. I thought it was kind of cool. Intrigued, I looked up the artist, Greg Land … and discovered that not everyone is such a big fan.
There are numerous complaints about his art style: That he’s not merely photo-referencing, but is actually tracing and/or digitally altering photographs and/or other artists’ work. That it’s constantly distracting when you start recognizing the faces of celebrities in the comic. That characters’ faces and hairstyles don’t stay consistent from panel to panel (since different reference models were used), and that characters’ expressions often don’t match the events around them. That you see the same faces and poses recycled ad infinitum. And that the artist uses a lot of porn as reference material, and that once you notice this you start seeing “porn face” everywhere in the comic. The whole topic brings up a lot of really interesting issues of copyright, fair use, valid artistic technique, and aesthetics, and it’s also just plain hilarious. There’s a long thread discussing this, with lots of image comparisons. Here’s one example: