from the archives: remembering Shuseki Shihan William Oliver

Yesterday was the 13th anniversary of the death of Shuseki Shihan William Oliver, who founded the discipline of karate that I study. Tonight, we had our annual Shuseki Shihan Oliver Memorial Workout, which we hold on the Tuesday closest to the anniversary of his death on 20 November 2004. Here’s what I wrote in 2014 about Shuseki Shihan Oliver:

 

Today I find myself remembering and memorializing a person I never met.

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Ten years and two months ago, I started training in karate. I was an overweight 35-year-old white belt struggling to actually do the 30-40 push-ups per class that were required. I barely knew anything about karate, was still trying to remember all the terms and get all the moves right. I hadn’t really met any of the black belts aside from Shihan Paul, the owner of the dojo and at the time the only instructor of adult classes. The only color belt I’d met was Cliff, then a brown belt, who assisted Shihan in teaching us white belts.

Ten years ago today, at what was, up until that day, the primary dojo of our discipline, several students arrived at the Upper West Side Kenshikai Karate dojo on 99th and Broadway to find that the founder of Kenshikai, Shuseki Shihan William Oliver, had died.

I never met Shuseki; indeed, on that day ten years ago, I didn’t really know who he was when I was told that he died, except that he was Shihan‘s teacher and the founder of Kenshikai.

In the years since, I have learned quite a bit. Shuseki studied Kyokushin (as did Shihan), and when Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura broke off from Kyokushin to form Seido in 1976, Shuseki joined him (again, as did Shihan, a teenager at the time). In 2001, a disagreement with Kaicho led to Shuseki forming Kenshikai, along with several people who ran their own dojos in New York, Ecuador, and South Africa (Shihan among them).

I got a copy of Fighting Black Kings, the late 1970s documentary which focused on Shuseki as well as two of his fellow Kyokushinkai, Charles Martin and Willie Williams. I found YouTube videos, I watched The True Way, the posthumous documentary put together by the students he left behind to run Kenshikai after his death.

On the one hand, it’s one of the great regrets of my life that I never got to meet Shuseki Shihan William Oliver. On the other hand, I feel like I do know him, because in a sense I see him all the time. He taught Shihan, and he taught other black belts with whom I’ve trained over the years.

And I see him in myself. My own teaching style evolved from watching and learning from and emulating the students of Shuseki.

The one thing I know is true from the footage I’ve seen and from the commonality among those he taught in how they teach is that Shuseki encouraged and pushed without discouraging or forcing. He’d never make you do anything you couldn’t do, but he’d also make you realize that you could do more than you think you can.

I love that I can watch footage of him teaching in 1986 and see that he’s running his students through the same punching drills that I ran the kids through at the afterschool program I teach yesterday.

I wasn’t going to go to the dojo tonight. I’m on deadline, I’ve got a busy weekend at the dojo coming up (there’s a promotion Sunday), and I’m teaching the kids fighting class tomorrow night, and I just didn’t want to. But then I read this magnificent blog entry by Kyoshi Jennifer. Along with her husband, Kyoshi Matthew, they now run the Upper West Side dojo, carrying on for Shuseki (though in a different location). And after reading that, I realized that I had to train today of all days.

So tonight, I plan to go to the dojo, and I plan to punch and kick and block and sweat. And I plan to remember a person I never met, yet who has continued to have a huge influence on me.

Osu, Shuseki Shihan. Rest in peace.

first impressions of Marvel’s The Punisher

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My first impression of The Punisher, the latest Marvel Netflix offering, based on the first three episodes, is up on Tor.com.

An excerpt:

The actual storyline is incredibly predictable and derivative, and one we’ve seen a billion times before. In the original comics, Castle was a Vietnam veteran, and the vet-comes-home-and-can’t-adjust storyline is territory that’s been well trod in the four decades since that war ended. The best chance to give this a special twist is that it is in the MCU, but so far there’s nothing that interesting. It’s just a fairly standard corruption storyline complete with unrealistic faked deaths. (Seriously, why does anyone believe that Lieberman is dead when they didn’t find his body after it fell into the Central Park Reservoir, which is a closed system? If he fell into the Atlantic, I’d buy it, but not an artificial body of water in a constructed park.)

Star Trek Discovery: “Into the Forest I Go”

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Star Trek Discovery‘s ninth episode is also its “mid-season finale,” bringing several plot threads to a close, but leaving a whole mess of others open! My take on “Into the Forest I Go” as we face a two months of no new episodes…..

An excerpt:

What I liked best about this episode, though, is that our heroes were clever, and they triumphed for that reason, not because their enemy was stupid. Kol’s actions in the episode were completely in character, but they weren’t idiotic. His tactical decisions all made perfect sense in context, he just didn’t do as good a job of predicting what Lorca would do as Lorca did predicting what Kol would do.

my AtomaCon 2017 schedule

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I will be the Author Guest of Honor at AtomaCon 2017 this coming weekend in North Charleston, South Carolina. I’ll have a table to sell and sign books throughout the weekend, plus I’ll be doing programming:

Friday

4-5pm: opening ceremonies (main programming)

6-7pm: “The Art of Writing a Media Tie-in Novel,” w/Gail Z. Martin (literary)

 

Saturday

10-11am: practical self defense workshop (literary)

1-2pm: “Star Trek: 50 Years and Beyond,” w/Donna Parker, Frank Parker, Chris Shrewsbury, and Winfield Strock (fandom/costuming)

5.30-6.30pm: “The Game is Afoot–All Things Sherlock,” w/Alexandra Christian, Stuart Jaffe, Nickie Jamison, and Tally Johnson (fandom/costuming)

7-8pm: masquerade–I’ll be one of the judges (main programming)

 

Sunday

11am-noon: reading (literary)

 

Looking forward to seeing folks there!

 

in memoriam

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

—Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918), Canadian Army

4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Punisher (1989), The Punisher (2004), and Punisher: War Zone

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On the eve of the release of Netflix’s The Punisher season 1, I take a look back at the last three attempts to do Frank Castle in live action. The great superhero movie rewatch examines the 1989 and 2004 versions of The Punisher as well as Punisher: War Zone.

An excerpt:

Most fundamentally, the movies improve each time in terms of casting the lead. Dolph Lundgren is, in a word, terrible. He grimaces a lot and mutters his lines and stares blankly into space. Thomas Jane actually manages to make Castle a person in the opening parts of the movie, making the blank affect he has as the Punisher much more effective, because we actually see the change. Even so, though, Jane’s character reminds me a lot of the character the Punisher is based on, Mack Bolan, who’s pretty much an automaton, and spectacularly boring. (I do like how Jane delivers the monologue about the meaning of the word “upset” during his brief conversation with his old FBI partner and their boss on the subject of the lack of arrests for the Castle family massacre.)

It’s left to Ray Stevenson to actually bring nuance to the role. Stevenson’s facial expressions are subtle and pained. You can see the agony of his life etched on his face, from the visit to his family’s grave to his realization that he killed a federal agent to his unwillingness to let Budiansky go down the same dark road he’s on.

from the archives: it was twenty years ago today….

This ran on my blog on this day in 2014, celebrating the 20th anniversary of my first published fiction.

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In November 1994, exactly twenty years ago, Berkley Books and Byron Preiss Multimedia Company co-published a short story anthology in trade paperback entitled The Ultimate Spider-Man (this was six years before Marvel debuted their “Ultimate” line). With a cover by Mike Zeck & Phil Zimelman, and with Stan Lee as Editor, the anthology featured a bunch of Spider-Man short stories by a variety of folks ranging from science fiction authors like Tom De Haven, Dean Wesley Smith, Craig Shaw Gardner, Lawrence Watt-Evans, and Greg Cox to comics writers like Peter David, Ann Nocenti, David Michelinie, Robert L. Washington III, and Stan Lee his own self.

Also in that anthology, as the penultimate story, was “An Evening in the Bronx with Venom,” written by John Gregory Betancourt and Keith R.A. DeCandido. We wrote that story at the 11th hour — hell, past the 11th hour — because we needed a Venom story and didn’t have one. Stan’s name on the cover notwithstanding, John and I were the actual editors of the anthology, and we’d been having trouble getting a proposal approved that featured Venom. Since Venom was a) on the cover and b) by far Spider-Man’s most popular villain in 1994, we had to have a Venom story in the book. We finally built our story around a one-sentence springboard that the person at Marvel who was doing the approvals (one of the assistants in the Spider-Man office — after a year, the approvals were transferred from Marvel editorial to Marvel’s Creative Services section) sent us.

It was an intense collaboration, one that happened in less than a week. There are parts of that story I know I wrote (the fight scenes), there are parts of the story I know John wrote (the initial scene in the safehouse from Detective Hawkins’s POV), and there are parts of that story where I haven’t the first fucking clue who wrote what because it was that intense.

That was the first piece of my fiction that was ever published.

Twenty years later, I’ve written 60 more stories that have also been published, in anthologies, collections, and magazines. I’ve written 50 novels and a bunch more novellas, comic books, reviews, and articles. I’ve won a Lifetime Achievement Award, I’ve appeared on more than one best-seller list.

From that first story, which came about from the most ridiculous of circumstances, I have built a career I’m extremely proud of. And I hope it keeps going for a lot more than 20 more years………

another review of Aliens: Bug Hunt

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Another cool review I found online, this one of Aliens: Bug Hunt. It was written by Matthew Fryer, and he does a very detailed review, including notes on each story.

Here’s what he said about my story:

In “Deep Background” by Keith R.A. DeCandido, the corporate ruthlessness hinted at in “Episode 22” is taken to expert levels. We find a journalist conducting an investigation of Weyland-Yutani by tagging along with a unit of marines called into action. It’s punchy, tackles cover-ups from an interesting perspective, and delivers a sting in the tail.

an especially nice review of Nights of the Living Dead

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Well, this made my night….

Found another review of Nights of the Living Dead, this one by Bub Smith for Slack Jaw Punks. It’s effusive in its praise, but the following bit is what caught my eye and put a song in my heart:

…there were quite a few names on the list I had never heard of that shocked the hell out of me. Most notably Keith DeCandido. His story, “Live and [On] the Scene” was a fantastic take on a zombie outbreak with characters whose actions are real. It’s a story from the media’s side of the outbreak, but also a story of family, identity and death. What DeCandido did in just a handful pages is something most film makers never come close to.

Thank you, Bub Smith, wherever you are. Glad you liked the story. *raises glass*

 

I’m on The X-Cast‘s “podwatch” episode #25

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The X-Cast has been doing a “podwatch” where each day they take about twenty minutes to look at two episodes of The X-Files, as a lead-in to the upcoming 11th season. I’ve been on twice before, discussing “Ice,” “Space,” “Fire,” and “Beyond the Sea,” and now I’m back for my final appearance on the podwatch talkin’ ’bout the last two episodes of season two, “Our Town” and “Anasazi.”

Check it out!