Friday, July 30, 2010

Work ethic and success

Fellow Writers of the Future winner Brad Torgersen has some spot-on thoughts on what it takes to break into the field and thrive there.

The realities he describes are certainly something for me to keep in mind for two reasons. One is that I made just six submissions to pro markets before getting a publication, which is obscenely lucky. So if I feel whiny after getting a rejection notice for a story, it's rather pathetic. The second reason that these points are relevant is that I'm feeling whiny today after getting a form rejection without comment from a magazine that I submitted to.

Yeah, we all like to think that our stories are flawless masterpieces that publishers will trip over in their eagerness to get their hands on, but the reality is that there are hundreds of manuscripts competing for just two to four slots in each monthly publication. And even a great story won't necessarily be that one piece that an editor is looking for to round out his product. Besides, this is only the first on a list of twelve markets (magazines and websites) for me to shop this one out to. So, back to work with less moping and more mailing.

With graduation fast approaching, I'll soon have sufficient time to devote to genre writing again. Having said that, even in the time-sucking environment of school I did manage to crank out a solid short story and edit the book from front to back. So it hasn't been a completely unproductive year since plunging back into academia.

Also, fellow first quarter winners KC Ball and Tom Croshill have stories out in the September edition of Analog and current edition of Sybil's Garage respectively.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Two interesting genre film trailers

Sucker Punch: A film set in a 1950s asylum that uses anime imagery to represent the internal struggles of its protagonist.

Let Me In, a remake of Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One in)

A story of childhood romance between a twelve year old boy and an ageless girl set in 1980s Cold-War era Sweden, Let the Right One in is one of the most human vampire movies ever made.

One of the aesthetic impressions the film left me with was that Sweden must have looked something like East Germany at the time. While the country was certainly nowhere as bleak in appearance when I first visited in the early 90s, the visual comparison was apparently deliberate. In the film's English-language making-of DVD clip, the director remarks that "Sweden was a country half-way behind the Iron Curtain..." and goes on to describe some of the changes since then. I've also seen this idea expressed somewhat more humorously in a tongue-in-cheek book called DDR Sverige (East Germany Sweden) while living there during the first half of the 2000s. Either way, accurate or exaggerated, the film's depiction of life in Sweden during the tense 80s adds to its stark sense of atmosphere and place.

Naturally enough, I cringed when I first read that there was going to be a US remake. Once in a while such re-imaginings turn out well--I'm fond of both the original Ring and its counterpart set in Seattle--but normally these go down about as bad (or amusing) as Bollywood ripoffs of American blockbusters. However, the fact that Let Me In's director has kept the new film's setting in the 1980s and placed it in a desolate-looking Arizona has hooked my interest. After having watched the trailer with its almost shot-by-shot recreation of the original, I'm less worried that it will be a transformed into a Hollywood slasher and more concerned that it will end up bogging down in a discussion about the conceptualization of "evil" during the Regan years. Still, who knows? It might work. After all, the first film deviated from the book that it was based on, and to good effect.

An interesting couple weeks for the extremes of science...

We've sound stars almost twice as large as what was previously believed to be the maximum possible size for stellar bodies.

The largest star ever found is 300 times bigger and 10 million times brighter than the Sun

That and we've discovered that the proton is lighter than we thought--a violation of what we knew about the universe and its constants.

I like these discoveries. While they don't threaten to overthrow any scientific paradigms, they are reminders that the universe is a complex place, and that we've got a ways to go before figuring it out.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tyler Carter

Musings and Wanderings

The blog of Tyler Carter, a first place winner in last year's Illustrators of the Future contest. Mr. Carter will be doing the Writers of the Future XXVI illustration for my "Lisa with Child."

Having already interned at Pixar and Disney, he's certainly further ahead in his creative career than I am in mine. So it will be somewhat intimidating to work with such an obviously talented rising star.

On the hand, I am really excited to see what he will come up with for graphic depiction of Lisa.

Portfolio: Tyler Carter

Friday, July 23, 2010

'Rosetta Stone' Of Supervolcanoes Discovered In Italian Alps

'Rosetta Stone' Of Supervolcanoes Discovered In Italian Alps

Also: An interesting look at a cluster of South American 'supervolcanoes' in a region where the earth's crust is quite thick.

Mega Eruption Of Yellowstone's Southern Twin: "Geological Society of America. 'Mega Eruption Of Yellowstone's Southern Twin.' ScienceDaily 28 March 2006. 23 July 2010 "

More Mt. Hood...

Because you can never get enough volcano.


The tentacled horror from Beyond has never tasted

If that's not disturbing enough, apparently Snoop Dog is a Sookie Stackhouse fan...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Spy v. spy gets epic

The Washington Post has an excellent series this week on the growth of the US intelligence community in the Post-9/11 world. I strongly recommend at least browsing the introductory page and taking a look at the interactive charts to get an idea of just how byzantine the United State's intelligence apparatus has become.

Top Secret America |

The article makes an number of observations about positive and negative developments over the past nine years. The only one of these that I disagree with at the moment is the authors' apparent unease over the growth of the National Security Agency. I see that expansion as a natural outcome of the ongoing information technology revolution. I know that even speaking of an information age became passé with the close of the 90s, but I do believe that that decade was only the beginning of an era that will likely prove to be as turbulent and transformative as the industrial age that preceded it. As the volume of information gathered, analyzed, or distributed electronically grows, it's only natural that the agency traditionally tasked with responsibility for both defense and offense in this ethereal realm should grow in size.

Many of the new organizational realities, technologies, and methods described in the series are a challenge to me as a writer who wants to tell stories about intelligence officers and military personnel. There are many implications to explore, and it will take time and research and looking at other sources to fully get my head around them.

Monday, July 19, 2010

True Blood vs. Twilight

I know, you recoiled in horror when you read the title. Yet another blogger jumps on the vampire rant bandwagon — perhaps one of the most played out and tired internet memes.

And I really should have the commonsense to stay well away from this topic, but the storyteller in me can’t let it be. There are a number of things that I want to understand about these two franchises: Why do they work so well? What makes their respective fan bases hate each other with a passion normally reserved for politics in our ideologically bi-polar era? Why is it that True Blood fans always refer to their show as a “guilty pleasure,” while Twilight movie and book fans embrace their franchise with an entirely un-ironic fervor?

At present I'm throwing my lot in with those who believe it’s a question of age. Twilight seems taps into every selfish act of wish fulfillment that a young woman could desire, unconstrained by social norms, major life disappointments, or the deeply hurtful views of others. Its heroine is the center of attention for two groups of supernaturals, and her love life is of actual world-shaking consequence rather than just feeling like it. Then there is the hot, unobtainable older lover and his pec-flaunting shirtless rival.

Many of True Blood's progressive fans are quick to spot a hidden Mormon or even racist agenda in this teen drama. Personally, I think they're reading too much into a franchise that is essentially an ideological blank slate of primitive desires. Which is more than a little ironic as True Blood itself is laden with atavistic impulses. However, as the show is nominally a metaphor for the gray rights struggle, it provides a tantalizingly thin fig leaf of legitimacy for plots laden with violence and sex that good progressives would otherwise not go near.

Therein is that "guilty" part of True Blood's many pleasures. Where Twilight is teen desire, True Blood is all about eroticism, drugs, and beatdowns, though with the the initial restraint and wounded hesitancy of adulthood. Unlike Twilight's fans, both the older characters and audience know in their bruised bones that no matter how stimulating, these things really have consequences; that giving into them entirely leads to trauma. And yet they do give in because True Blood is entertainment. Blood flows, naked bodies glisten, and the living and the dead bump uglies with flesh-rending intensity. And because this series is also written by a woman with women in mind, Sookie Stackhouse is pursued by both a progressive-minded southern gentleman and a barbaric and edgy yet subtly suave Nordic god — or rather Alexander Skårsgard as vampire Erik Norseman.

In part, I think True Blood’s pattern of tension giving way to carnage and eroticism is also the child of producer/writer Alan Ball’s frustrations. He spent six years working on Six Feet Under, which was a brilliant series and admirably restrained in the best of ways. The characters were very realistic in their behavior and ordinary in their appearance. Their clothes rarely came flying off, and what little violence went down in the series was either starkly prosaic in the way of real world crime, or it held all the comic ineptness of suburban brawls between members of the white middle class.

After over half a decade of such well-nuanced self-possession, I’m fully sympathetic to Mr. Ball’s desire throw some taut-bodied Hollywood-beautiful actors and actresses onto the stage and have them fuck, fight, and intrigue their way across the Gothic South and back for all it’s worth.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Quintessential Portland song

Sleater-Kinney's "Light Rail Coyote," a song pretty much made up of Stump Town references.

A for-real blog entry on evolutionary psychology in science fiction is in the works, as well as a more coherent critique of the genre as it now stands. I got little burned out on writing this last term with three research papers and a short story. However, a few weeks of summer evening laziness and two non-research classes have got me back in the mood. Vacation's over.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

BBC News - Revealing Japan's low-tech belly

A novel look at Japan that surprised me, even as it rang true.

BBC News - Revealing Japan's low-tech belly

Friday, July 09, 2010

Code Hunters

A stylized western science fiction short from MTV Asia a few years back. Very nice.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Field trip

I'm ending my higher education career with a field trip. Funny how we really do tend to come full circle. Not that I'm complaining

Access to Portland's Bull Run watershed is highly restricted, so this was a real privilege.

A beautiful piece of infrastructure that will likely last centuries at the very least.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Independence Day in Rose City

The crowd was eerily well behaved--more like Northern Europe than the West Coast of the United States. It was only during the illumination's climax that people began to cheer like rowdy westerns.

Sunday, July 04, 2010


...much of the talent, verve, and sheer fun in science fiction seems to be in video games these days.


The call of 1920s-style silent film making

I've never been a fan of the Cthulhu mythos, but I very much enjoyed Andrew Leman's 2005 The Call of Cthulhu. Especially impressive was the obvious amount of effort that went into recreating the feel of a 1920s silent film made at the same time that Lovecraft was penning his stories, as well as the body language of acting during that era.

As a horror story, it does quite well.

Thursday, July 01, 2010