preorder Alien: Isolation (plus the full cover!)

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Alien: Isolation, my latest novel, is now available for preorder from the usual online sources: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Indie Bound, and also from Forbidden Planet.

There’s also a full cover now, complete with back cover copy. In case you can’t read the image above….

THE OFFICIAL VIDEO GAME ADAPTATION — AND MUCH MORE!

From birth, Amanda Ripley’s life is riddled with hardship. Her parents live on the edge of poverty, so her mother — Ellen Ripley — seeks off-world contracts that lead to a position aboard the commercial hauler Nostromo. Then when the deep-space vessel disappears, Amanda passes into adulthood focused on discovering one thing:

WHAT HAPPENED TO ELLEN RIPLEY?

Amanda’s quest puts her into the underbelly of society, where few can be trusted. On Luna she meets someone who seems the exception — Private Zula Hendricks of the Colonial Marines — but their relationship is short-lived. Just as Amanda appears to hit rock bottom … a lead appears.

To follow it, she must travel to the remote Sevastopol Station. There she hopes to find the answers she seeks. But the station is in ruins, and death stalks the corridors in the form of a deadly alien the likes of which she never could have imagined.

 

a nice review of A Burning House

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Over on Trek Lit Reviews, Dan Gunther has been going through my various novels featuring Captain Klag and the I.K.S. Gorkon, and after reviewing Diplomatic Implausibility, A Good Day to Die, Honor Bound, and Enemy Territory, he now turns his attention to the Klingon Empire novel A Burning House, which, it turns out, was the last book to feature these folks as main characters. (They do show up again briefly in the Destiny trilogy by David Mack and also in my novel A Singular Destiny as supporting players.)

Check out the review!

An excerpt:

I love strong character moments, and this novel is packed full of them. I loved the look at Klingon culture in ways that we don’t usually get: rather than the usual focus on the lives of Klingon warriors, we see farmers, actors, doctors, and see the effects that poverty and change have on the lives of average Klingons. I felt that A Burning House was an excellent exploration of Klingon culture in general, and I would have loved to see where the series would have gone in the future. As it stands, the four books that make up the I.K.S. Gorkon/Klingon Empire series are some of the best Trek novels I have read, and it is almost criminal that Keith R.A. DeCandido doesn’t currently write for the Star Trek novel line. Come on, Simon & Schuster: give this man another contract!

Peter Mayhew, RIP

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Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens, and The Star Wars Holiday Special, and who mentored Joonas Suotamo to take over the role in The Last Jedi, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and the upcoming The Rise of Skywalker, has died at the age of 74.

I’ve always had a tendency to gravitate toward the sidekick more than the hero. I liked Iolaus better than Hercules, Lord Bowler better than Brisco County Jr., Methos and Richie more than Duncan, and so on.

For that and other reasons, I always gravitated toward Chewbacca. As an eight-year-old in the movie theatre, the first thing I wanted to know after Star Wars ended was why Chewie didn’t get a medal like Han and Luke did.

Chewbacca’s loyalty, friendship, dedication, and strength have been a constant throughout all those films I mentioned in the first paragraph. The single most powerful emotional moment in the entire SW saga was in Empire when they had to close the blast doors against the devastating cold of Hoth at night and Chewbacca rears his head back and screams his anguish to the ceiling because his best friend is still out there somewhere.

Rest in peace, Peter Mayhew. You made the sidekick, who didn’t even have any dialogue that the viewers could comprehend, into a passionate, compassionate, brilliant character.

 

the nerdiest article I’ve ever written: all the callbacks to previous MCU movies in Avengers: Endgame

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One of the amazing things about Avengers: Endgame, the 22nd Marvel Cinematic Universe film, is that it explicitly references bits from all 21 previous MCU films. I catalog them in this incredibly nerdy article I wrote for Tor.com. Check it out!

Be warned that the article is FULL OF SPOILERS FOR ENDGAME (NOT TO MENTION THOSE OTHER 21 FILMS)!!!!!!!!

 

4-Color to 35-Millimeter: Aquaman

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It has some serious problems — weak villains, strong female characters who are frustratingly sidelined so the men can do the cool stuff, a paint-by-numbers game plot — but it’s still a big dumb goof of a movie that’s at the very least fun to watch, mainly thanks to the great undersea visuals and its charismatic lead. The great superhero movie rewatch goes underwater with Aquaman.

An excerpt:

Patrick Wilson is simply dreadful, snarling his way through the spectacularly uninteresting part of Orm, who pretty much follows every cliché of the evil monarch with nothing to mitigate it or make him in any way, shape, or form interesting. He’s not even charismatically evil, he’s just a snot. Wilson can be an effective bad guy—his dudebro CIA agent in The A-Team was fantastic—but he brings nothing but a blank stare to the role of Orm.

Dolph Lundgren is actually nuanced as Nereus, but we only get hints of his greater plan. I like that we discover that he knew Orm was manipulating things, but he had his own agenda—which we never actually learn. As with “Dr. Poison” in Wonder Woman, this movie would’ve been far better off focusing on Nereus than Orm or Black Manta.

Speaking of Black Manta, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is even worse than Wilson, as his attempt at vengeful anger feels more like a teenager who’s just been told he’s been grounded. This is made worse by putting him next to Michael Beach in his first scene. Beach is a great actor, and he brings depth and nuance to the role of Jesse Kane, and you kinda wish it had been the son who died and Dad who became Black Manta. If nothing else, that would’ve made the mid-credits scene actually effective. As it is, this movie was about fighting for the crown of an undersea kingdom in order to save the surface from an invasion by a technologically superior force, and the mid-credits scene promises that Aquaman’s next foe will be—erm, the doofus he already defeated twice in this movie and a crazed conspiracy theorist? Really? Bit of a comedown, that…

my Balticon 53 schedule

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As is my wont, I will be at Balticon 53 over Memorial Day weekend at the Renaissance Baltimore Hotel in the Inner Harbor. I will be spending a great deal of time at the eSpec Books table in the dealer room, and Mermaid Precinct will be part of eSpec’s launch party Sunday night from 7-9pm in Ballroom A.

I’m also doing programming, as per usual, which is as follows:

Friday

4-5pm: “Freelancing in the Publishing Industry,” w/Barbara Krasnoff, Ness, and Michael R. Underwood (Mount Washington)

6-7pm: “CSI: Fantasy Edition,” w/John French, David Keener, Kim the Comic Book Goddess, and Gail Z. Martin (Mount Washington)

Saturday

1-2pm: “You Can’t Shop at Target in Middle Earth,” w/D.H. Aire, Elizabeth Bear, Lauren Harris, and Roberta Rogow (Kent)

2-3pm: “Captain Marvel and the Retconning of the MCU,” w/Jack Clemons, Dame Dahlia, Scott Edelman, and John Edward Lawson (Room 8006)

5-6pm: “The Rise and Fall of Marvel on Netflix,” w/D.H. Aire, Ryan Haupt, Hildy Silverman, Sara Testarossa, and Steven H. Wilson (Mount Washington)

8-9pm: reading, w/Danielle Ackley-McPhail

 

I have no programming on Sunday (aside from the launch party) or Monday.

 

my review of Avengers: Endgame, plus lots of other stuff, on Patreon!

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Over the last seven weeks, I’ve put the following on my Patreon:

  • $1/month and up: reviews of the movies Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel, and The Highwaymen
  • $2/month and up: 23 cat pictures
  • $5/month and up: reviews of the TV shows I am the Night and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
  • $7/month and up: 5 excerpts from Alien: Isolation
  • $10/month and up: the vignette “The Street Name Game” (starring Bram Gold from A Furnace Sealed)
  • $20/month and up: first looks at the first five chapters of my novel-in-progress Pigman

Plus all patrons have received the following:

  • first look at the sketch and final illustration by Mark Wheatley that will accompany my story “Alien Invasion of Earth!” in Thrilling Adventure Yarns
  • first look at the sketch and final illustration by Tom Daly that will accompany my story “The Silent Dust” in Brave New Girls: Adventures of Gals and Gizmos
  • first look at the cover for Thrilling Adventure Yarns

Upcoming TV reviews include Prime Suspect series 5, 6, and 7, Republic of Doyle, M*A*S*H seasons 1-2, the second season of She-RaImposters, and Into the Badlands.

So it’s a really good time to sign up. Especially to get my thoughts on Endgame, which is 2800 words of nerdy goodness……

 

my freelance career is old enough to drink

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Twenty-one years ago today I stopped being a full-time employee of the Byron Preiss Multimedia Company. While that wasn’t the last W2 I’d ever get — I’ve done work for the U.S. Census Bureau and Cardinal Spellman High School that both gave me W2s at the end of the year instead of 1099s — it was the last time I was a full-time employee of a company. From that day forward, I was self-employed.

It’s been a winding, rocky, weird-ass road these twenty-one years. There have been some years where I did phenomenally well, others where it was a struggle to feed, clothe, and house myself. I went freelance all those years ago expecting to start up Albé-Shiloh Inc. as a book packager, and to spend my time writing fiction and packaging books and doing some freelance editing here and there. Two decades plus one year later, and ASI is long defunct, having only managed two projects (Imaginings, a 2003 anthology that didn’t get anywhere near the sales or notice I’d been hoping for, and The Inconstant Moon trilogy by Pierce Askegren, published by Ace Books), but I’m still writing fiction. However, I’m doing much less freelance editing than I used to, and I’ve also added “martial artist” to my list of Things I Do, and “karate instructor” to my list of things I get paid for. Go fig’.

Oh yeah, and in 1998, I was married to someone and we lived in a great apartment we owned on the Upper West Side, where I figured we’d both spend the rest of our lives. In 2019, I’m married to someone else, we’re living in a different apartment that we rent in the Bronx, and I have no idea if we’ll be here the rest of our lives or not.

There are still rocky, weird-ass roads to navigate, but I’m also ridiculously happy with my life. It’s nowhere close to perfect, and there are many things I wish were different. But looking at the big picture, I’m in a lovely house with a wonderful wife and two absurd cats, I have a huge collection of loved ones both far and near who are among the finest humans extant, I have a career that I’m very proud of, and in this year alone, I’ve got three novels and a mess of short stories and essays coming out, and right now I’ve got a dozen projects in various stages, and things are generally pretty fantastic. I’m generally healthy, I’m happy, and I’m moderately successful.

Here’s to twenty-one more years of being freelance. And twenty-one after that. At least.

 

midweek music: “Budapest”

Jethro Tull is one of my favorite bands, and one of my favorite songs of theirs is “Budapest,” which bandleader Ian Anderson himself has described as a combination of everything that Jethro Tull has been and done over the years. First heard on 1989’s Crest of a Knave (the album that controversially won the first Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Grammy Award), the song has a bit of blues, a bit of folk, a bit of hard rock, a bit of classical. It’s, in many ways, the quintessential Tull song.

Here’s the original:

 

Here’s a live version from 2003:

 

Here’s a version with an orchestra. I was hoping to find one from the 2005 tour when violinist Lucia Micarelli toured with the band, as I’d always thought that fiddle would add so much to the song, and seeing them in Carnegie Hall that October, I was proven right. YouTube has no such performances that I can find, sadly, so I’ll settle for this: