4-Color to 35-Millimeter: Jonah Hex

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A great cast is useless when the script doesn’t get the main character and the directing is lifeless. The great superhero movie rewatch suffers through an utter botch of everything that is good about Jonah Hex, as the first appearance (of many) by Josh Brolin in this rewatch is also by far the least.

An excerpt:

This movie has a remarkably good cast, who almost all give remarkably bad performances. Morgan is superb, as I said, and Reddick also does very well with the dry Smith. But that’s it. Josh Brolin deadpans his way through the role sounding like a fourth-rate Clint Eastwood, his snottiness having none of the bite we’d expect from Hex. Michael Fassbender is relying on his bowler hat and his comedy Irish accent to do his acting for him. Aidan Quinn may be the worst casting of Ulysses Grant ever, neither Michael Shannon nor Will Arnett are actually on screen enough to have any impact, John Malkovich is pretty much phoning it in, and Megan Fox can’t even find the damn phone.

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Jonathan Franzen is a pretentious twatwaffle

Keith reading #1

So Jonathan Franzen, an author who has made more money than I will ever see, has decided to parlay his fame and fortune into a list of advice for writers, his 10 Rules For Novelists. It was published on LitHub, complete with a picture of Franzen in a blazer, manspreading on a big chair, with a bookcase behind him. Said bookcase looks like one of those ones full of encyclopedias that people put in their homes to make it look like they’re intellectuals. One of Franzen’s hands is on his head, which beautifully symbolizes the headache that his dumbshit list gave me when I read it.

Chuck Wendig on Twitter and John Hartness on Facebook have already taken their shots at Franzen, and I’m sure others have too that I haven’t seen. I am on vacation in Italy, so my Internet reading has been sporadic, but Franzen’s outpouring of stupidity was so vacuous, so offensive that I needed to provide a riposte of my own.

Franzen’s first rule is “The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.” Um, okay. Seems to me that most readers fall a lot more on the spectator side of things, and I’ve had a share that I would consider adversaries, but whatever. I certainly prefer to approach my readers in as friendly a manner as possible, so I’ll give him that one.

#2 is where we start getting my blood pressure up. “Fiction that isn’t an author’s personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn’t worth writing for anything but money.” Y’know, I’ve never had any patience with the belief that art should be for art’s sake, and that writing for money is somehow low and base and beneath the consideration of a real artist. I just last week stared up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo didn’t do that for the sake of making great art, he did it because the Pope paid him a fuckton of cash for it. Hell, he hated doing frescoes, preferring to sculpt — but he hated starving to death more, so he took the commission. William Shakespeare wanted to be a poet. Instead, he wrote plays because he was paid for that. Artists make their living by selling their art. Always have, always will, and unless Franzen is donating all the money he’s made writing his fictional output to charity, this rule can go fuck itself in the face.

After giving us a couple of demi-profound bits of gobbledygook, Franzen suddenly veers with #3 into actual writing advice: “Never use the word then as a conjunction — we have and for this purpose. Substituting then is the lazy or tone-deaf writer’s non-solution to the problem of too many ands on the page.” Any writing advice that starts with the word never is bad advice. There are no hard and fast rules with writing and there is nothing you should never do. Also, then isn’t always a substitute for and, because the two words actually mean two different things — and simply links two clauses, while then provides a more specific progression of one thing to the next thing. Then can absolutely be overused. But this rule is too extreme in the other direction.

“Write in the third person unless a really distinctive first-person voice offers itself irresistibly.” Rule #4 can also fuck itself in the face, says the guy who has three separate ongoing original narratives that are first person (the Cassie Zukav stories, the Shirley Holmes/Jack Watson stories, and the upcoming Bram Gold adventures). Again, no hard and fast rules, and this is one of those bits of currently trendy wisdom (like “never have a prologue”) that are utter horseshit. Write in whichever person makes your story work the best. Period.

#5 is total elitist nonsense, so I’m’na enjoy trashing it: “When information becomes free and universally accessible, voluminous research for a novel is devalued along with it.” No, shit-for-brains, free accessible information means voluminous research is available to everyone. The fact that only intellectuals in their ivory towers with their large libraries like that fake one you’re sitting in front of no longer have the exclusive ability to research shit doesn’t make it devalued, it makes it much more awesome. What this rule should be, and is for writers whose heads aren’t lodged in their rectums, is “When information becomes free and universally accessible, you have no excuse not to do voluminous research, especially since your readers will call you on your bullshit.”

According to #6, “The most purely autobiographical fiction requires pure invention. Nobody ever wrote a more autobiographical story than The Metamorphosis.” First off, I’ve never bought the notion that Die Verwandlung is autobiographical, though plenty of literary scholars disagree with me. Second, lots of stories are more autobiographical than Franz Kafka’s work. By the way, you should hire a copy editor for your rules, as you use pure twice in one sentence. Maybe use then somewhere in there?

With #7 we go back to sub-fortune-cookie-level nonsense: “You see more sitting still than chasing after.” In bed.

And then we come to our “hey you kids, get off my lawn” moment with rule #8: “It’s doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” These kids today, with their music and their hair…. Seriously, this is the sort of railing against modern times that always makes me shake my head and wonder what the fuck is wrong with people. Also, having the Internet connection on the same laptop you’re writing on makes it way easier to do research — and answer dumb questions quickly. (“Shit, what kind of clothes would they be wearing in 1874?” “Dammit, what’s that thing at the front of the boat called?” “Who threw that perfect game in the 1956 World Series?”) The Internet is a tool like any other, and smart writers use all the tools at their disposal.

“Interesting verbs,” quoth rule #9, “are seldom very interesting.” Righteo. Let’s just use “to be” all the time. That won’t be boring at all. And hey, who defines what “interesting” is? What’s the solution to uninteresting interesting verbs? (Or is it interesting uninteresting verbs?) Or did Franzen realize that he only had nine rules and so made up some piece of bullshit on the spot to fill it out?

Finally, we close with something that I’m sure sounded profound when it fell, unformed, into Franzen’s gray matter, but I have no idea what it has to do with writing. Or, y’know, the English language: “You have to love before you can be relentless.” Remember, kids, even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

 

4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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Sony wanted very much to give Spider-Man his own big cinematic universe the way Marvel Studios was doing with their Avengers characters, but they forgot to actually make a good movie in the process. The great superhero movie rewatch suffers through an overstuffed mess that is way too reminiscent of Batman Forever and Spider-Man 3 for anyone’s taste: The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

An excerpt:

Let’s start with this, because it’s my biggest problem with this movie: Gwen Stacy dies in the end. On the one hand, yes, she died in the comics. Hell, it’s one of the four or five most famous deaths in a comic book. In many ways the character is better known for having died than for what she was when alive, which is too bad, as she was actually a pretty damned awesome character. That’s why her death was so effective, in fact. (Thank goodness for Spider-Gwen, which mines Marvel’s copious use of alternate timelines to give us the heroic Gwen we all deserve without actually reversing yet another character death.)

The thing is, that’s not a good enough reason to kill her off in this movie. Yes, it happened in the comics. You know what else happened in the comics? Peter was bitten by a radioactive spider, not a genetically engineered one. Peter’s father and mother were secret agents, his father wasn’t a scientist who experimented with spiders. Peter entered a wrestling competition and let a thief steal the receipts, not a guy robbing a bodega, and that guy killed his uncle while robbing their house, not out on the street. Max Dillon was a janitor, not an electrical engineer. The Osborns don’t have a genetic disease, and Norman was the one who became the Green Goblin first. Dr. Kafka’s a compassionate woman not a psychotic man with a stupid accent. For that matter, Gwen died without ever knowing that Peter was Spider-Man.

They didn’t feel the need to pay attention to any of that other stuff, so why be beholden to superhero comics’ most famous fridging?

now available from Story Bundle: The Valor: Military Science Fiction Bundle featuring my novel Guilt in Innocence

All Covers Large

The latest from the fine folks at Story Bundle is The Valor: Military Science Fiction, in which you can get up to ten books for cheapsies! Five bucks (or more) will get you Perihelion by Tami Veldura, Battlenaut Crucible by Robert T. Jeschonek, Can’t Shoot Straight Gang Returns by Blaze Ward, and the anthology Valor, put together by Lee Allred at Fiction River, and featuring stories by Steve Perry, Steven Mohan Jr., Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and more.

If you pay fifteen bucks (or more), you also get six more books: Life of a Dream by Dean Wesley Smith, Skirmishes: A Diving Novel by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Trial Under Fire: A BattleTech Novel by Loren L. Coleman, Invincible by David Burns, Stealing from Pirates by Stefon Mears, and my own Guilt in Innocence, my 2011 Afro-futurist novel about the Olodumare Hegemony and their program to breed telepaths and use them as covert agents.

My old buddy Dean Wesley Smith put the bundle together, so I’ll just let him take it from here……

 

Even though I am not known for writing military science fiction, I may have written more military sf novels than just about anyone. Not kidding. Why is that? I am known for writing Star Trek and that is military science fiction at its finest. But often readers don’t think of Star Trek as military science fiction. It is just Star Trek.

My second published novel was a Star Trek novel in the Deep Space Nine series under a pen name and written with Kristine Kathryn Rusch. I ended up writing thirty-five Star Trek novels over the next decade, sometimes under my own name, sometimes with Kris, sometimes under other pen names.

And I loved it. And I still to this day love the form of military science fiction and write numbers of books and series that are military sf. I think writing military science fiction is in my blood.

When I got the privilege of putting this bundle together, the very first book I thought of was the fantastic volume Fiction River: Valor. Editor Lee Allred may have put together one of the best collections of military science fiction I have had the privilege to read.

And, of course, the next thing I thought of was a stand-alone Diving Series book by New York Times bestselling author Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Her Diving Series takes the idea of military science fiction and makes it real, with fantastic sf elements and military details that feel right. So I asked for Skirmishes: A Diving Universe Novel and luckily it was available.

Next I turned to bestselling writer Loren L. Coleman. Loren is known for writing some of the best books in the BattleTech Universe created by Jordon Weisman. As it so happened, Loren had rights to a BattleTech novel he had written and we are lucky to have such a fantastic example of military sf in this bundle. Thanks, Loren!

Veteran bestselling writer Keith DeCandido, also known for Star Trek, both editing and writing, plus many other military sf books, had a book available in one of his bestselling series. And Blaze Ward, one of the top up-and-coming military sf writers was just finishing a book and allowed me to include it.

Then things really fell into place as quickly I got four yes answers for four wonderful military sf books by Tami Veldura, Stefon Mears, David Bruns, and Robert Jeschonek. Great books, all of them.

It was Kris who suggested that for the last book in the bundle I balance the seriousness with my military sf book of old people in space. Actually, my novel is very serious about aging, but the military part is great fun. So I added Life is a Dream.

Nine novels and an amazing short story collection make this a fantastic military science fiction bundle that I very proud to have put together.

Plus, another bonus: Our charity, AbleGamers, helps people with disabilities enjoy the imaginary worlds of video games all year, as well as in the holidays. The organization provides one-on-one assistance to help people with a variety of disabilities join the lively interactive world of gaming, easing the social isolation that being disabled can bring.

Can’t think of a better cause to help out.

So here’s what you can do: buy the bundle for yourself or your friends who love military science fiction stories, then toss in a few bucks for AbleGamers. Helping others while getting some top science fiction reading. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Also, the holidays are coming up and you can give this as a gift.

And remember, this bundle won’t last very long. Grab this bundle today and toss in a little extra for AbleGamers. You’ll make someone’s life a little brighter, and have hours of wonderful science fiction reading going into the holidays. – Dean Wesley Smith

 

StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.

For more information, visit our website at storybundle.com, tweet us at @storybundle and like us on Facebook. For press inquiries, please email press@storybundle.com.

SHE RIDES!

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At 52,000 words, Mermaid Precinct is, at last, a completed book. It’s been five years since the last novel in the series (Gryphon Precinct), it’s been a year and a half since I ran the Kickstarter to support this book, as it was kinda between publishers, it’s been three months since I started it, but now it’s a completed book! Go me!

Next step is for me and my editors (my wife and my mother, and before you snort, both women are excellent professional editors of many years’ standing) to read it over and make sure it all hangs together. Then it goes into production. Hoping to have it be an actual book by the new year.

Here once again is the back cover copy for the book:

Humans and elves, dwarves and gnomes, wizards and warriors all live and do business in the thriving, overcrowded port city of Cliff’s End, to say nothing of the tourists and travelers who arrive by land and sea, passing through the metropolis on matters of business or pleasure—or on quests. The hard-working, under-appreciated officers of the Cliff’s End Castle Guard work day and night to maintain law and order as best they can.

As Cliff’s End struggles to deal with a massive influx of refugees following a devastating fire in the neighboring city-state of Barlin, the docklands are rocked by a stunning tragedy: the legendary Pirate Queen has been murdered! Long the scourge of the Garamin Sea, the Pirate Queen’s death has ripple effects beyond Cliff’s End. Even as Lieutenants Danthres Tresyllione and Torin ban Wyvald investigate her murder, they find themselves embroiled in conspiracies, politics, and the arcane law of the sea—and of the land!

An all-new adventure of the Cliff’s End Castle Guard!

 

As a bonus for y’all, here’s the opening two paragraphs of the novel:

The early-autumn breeze blew through Lieutenant Danthres Tresyllione’s blonde hair as she stood impatiently on Albin Way wishing Lord Doval would hurry up and finish his speech.

As he’d only just started talking, Danthres was less than optimistic that its end would come any time soon.

 

The plans going forward for the “Precinct” series are simple. I’ve got two more novels under contract, Phoenix Precinct and Manticore Precinct, the creation of which are established in Chapter 1 of Mermaid Precinct (which takes place a year after Gryphon Precinct). In addition, there’s a bunch of stories still to be told, both from the past — Danthres and Torin’s taking down of the crimelord Quanto, as mentioned at the end of “Baker’s Dozen” — and from the one-year gap between Gryphon and Mermaid — which are mentioned in the latter novel. Those stories will likely be supported via Kickstarter, as that model has worked well for “When the Magick Goes Away,” “Baker’s Dozen,” “Gan Brightblade vs. Mitos the Mighty,” and “The Fall of Iaron.” Those stories (along with “The Midwinter of Our Discontent” in the upcoming Release the Virgins!)will eventually be collected in More Tales from Dragon Precinct.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a bunch of other things to take care of……………………………………….

 

my Sunday feeling

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In April 2017, Wrenn and I got married. In November 2018, we finally get to go on our honeymoon. Thanks to a gift, we’re able to spend eighteen days in Italy.

The first time I went to Italy was in 1981. I was twelve years old. My paternal grandfather was born in this country, but he retired to the family home in northern Italy (small town called Sequals about two hours north of Venezia in the region of Friuli). Twice, he paid our airfare for us to come visit him, and we built vacations around it. In August ’81, we spent a month in Italy, with one week in Sequals with Nonno, the other three in Roma, Firenze, Siena, Pisa, Bologna, Ravenna, Padua, Venezia, and Verona. The second trip was in April 1984, where we did a week in Sequals, a weekend in Venezia (which included my fifteenth birthday, which we had at Harry’s Bar, and which is one of my five or six best birthdays ever), and then four days in Paris.

Anyhow, my parents are librarians (well, were, they’re retired now), and even with airfare covered, we had to economize, so we stayed in a lot of cheap pensiones. One such was the Palazzo Ravizza. Back then, the rooms were small and we had to share a bathroom with the entire floor. But it had this amazing garden out back that was absolutely gorgeous, plus it had a stupendous view of the Tuscan hills. Twelve-year-old me decided then and there that when I got married, I would have my honeymoon at this place.

Fast forward thirty-seven years, and I finally get to fulfill that promise I made myself. Mind you, the Palazzo Ravizza is now a luxury resort, so we’re not spending all eighteen days there — only four. And we can only do that much because it’s the off-season. But we’re still getting to do it!

We’ll also be spending a lot of time in Roma, in Firenze, and also just outside Firenze in Sesto Fiorentino, the latter to spend time with the members of my karate dojo’s Italian branch, which is located there. Looking forward to hanging out with them and training with them. We’re also planning to day trip to Milano, and we intend to hit lots of museums and take lots of winery tours.

Meanwhile, stuff’s gotta get done. I’m one scene away from finishing the draft of Mermaid Precinct. I’m getting all the superhero movie rewatches done ahead of time. (I’ve already watched and written up The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which will go up on Tor.com on Friday the 9th, and I’ve watched and written the intro for Jonah Hex; still have to write the plot summary and review for that, which will go up on the 16th). For Patreon, I want to put up the October vignette now that it’s November (oops), and also write my retro-review of M*A*S*H‘s tenth season, and also write my reviews of Snowfall, Hawaii Five-OhHalloween, and Animal Kingdom (both the original Australian movie and the TNT TV show). Some of that may happen on the plane ride Tuesday. I still have to catch up on a bunch of shows that I want to review: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger, The Alienist, Lodge 49, Preacher, The Good Cop, and Murphy Brown. That probably won’t happen until after Italy at this rate, sadly. Oh, and I have some editorial work that’s behind, and I have to write a game tie-in novelette and start another novel. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Anyhow, keep an eye on my Facebook page (personal or fan page, either is fine, and both are public), my Twitter feed @KRADeC, and/or my Instagram for pictures of Italy, of which I will be taking many.