Friday, December 31, 2004

2004: Rob's favorite novels

Holidays have kept life busy for the most part. OK, the new Playstation 2 games (EA NHL2005 & LOTR: The Third Age) have kept things a bit busy, too. Christmas was pretty good over here I have to say, got some really good books (hopefully), DVDs (LOTR: ROTK EE) and some much needed clothes.

Finished up The Shadow Roads, the excellent conclusion to Sean Russell’s Swan’s War Trilogy and moved onto another Sean, Galveston by Sean Stewart. Also read the 10th anniversary hardcover of Marvels by Busiek and Ross. This is extraordinary visual storytelling, though having read Kingdom Come before Marvels, I can see the improvement in Ross’s style in KC.

Since this is the last day of 2004, I should probably tally off the books I enjoyed the most this year, in no particular order…of course over the next couple of days I may remember one or two.

Sir Apropos of Nothing by Peter David. I’ve long enjoyed David’s comic book work, but this was my first exposure to his prose writing and it may have been the most fun I had reading any book this year. This is a tongue-in-cheek jab at the Fantasy Quest/Heroic Fantasy novel, the laughs seem to come in the right spots and David told a very enjoyable story that both mocked the genre and its idiosyncrasies and fit within the mold very nicely.

Shadowmarch by Tad Williams. Anytime a new Tad Williams book is released, I am happy. Its hard to tell if this is quite up to par with his Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy, but so far, all the notes are sounding right and the story is wonderful.

Fool’s Fate by Robin Hobb. Sad that Fitz’s tale concluded but in the end, Mrs. Hobb did right by the witted bastard. She brought all three of the trilogies she has written together in this final volume of the Tawny Man trilogy.

The Charnel Prince by Greg Keyes. I’ve been impressed with everything I’ve read by Mr. Keyes and his skill continue to improve greatly with each book he writes. This is perhaps the best unfinished series in the genre.

Fat White Vampire Blues by Andrew W. Fox. Mr. Fox’s debut novel of an overweight vampire living the undead life in New Orleans. Like David’s Apropos novel, the tongue is planted in cheek and Fox plays with Vampire genre clichés.

Banewreaker by Jacqueline Carey. A stunning fantasy novel of impending war and the quest to destroy the dark lord. Sound familiar? Of course it does, but Carey takes the framework of the Lord of the Rings and spins an elegant tale from the “dark side” of the conflict. A nearly perfect read. From my review: Ultimately, a fantasy novel, with its mythical creatures and magical elements must succeed on the characters the writer brings to life. Consequently, these interesting characters and interesting story only account for a portion of a good book. To bring everything together, the writing and prose need to be readable, and in this, again, Ms. Carey has more than succeeded on all of these fronts.

The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower by Stephen King. The end of Roland’s quest, and in some ways, one of King’s most terrifying works of fiction. It was kind of sad to see this saga conclude, I’ve spent the majority of my adult life following Roland’s quest. I’ve seen King criticized for his endings in the past, but here, where the ending counted the most, I personally think he absolutely nailed it.

The Etched City by K.J. Bishop. In The Etched City, K.J. Bishop brings to light many themes - love, death, theology, and art. These are some of the Big themes of life and in the pages of her enchanting first novel, she manages to cull them together as consistent and stimulating threads part of the larger conversation. The Etched City is a fairly packed novel, considering its page-count is just over 375 pages, and it does require more than mere skimming….but on the whole, The Etched City is an extremely impressive debut by an author who, based upon this novel and the deserved acclaim it has received, looks to forge a very unique storytelling career.

City of Pearl by Karen Traviss From my SFFWorld Review: Reading an author’s first novel is always an interesting experience, "listening" to a fresh voice with perhaps something new to say. The writer’s reputation rests on her ability to convey an entertaining and thought provoking story, enough so readers will want to read more of the words the writer puts to paper. Karen Traviss has succeeded in doing all these things right in her debut novel, City of Pearl. This is a satisfying, stimulating novel of colonization, alien contact, and choices. While there is inherent inclusion of possible future technology, the strength of this novel, and its place as a great work of Science Fiction, is the implication of where humanity is going, as a society, and as a race.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Christmas Beer..Up, up and away!

In keeping with the holiday spirit of Christmas Week, my beer of the week is Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale. This beer is only available during Christmastime in Samuel Adams Holiday 12 pack. This beer has all the holiday spices you’d expect, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and orange peel. It is a delicious dark beer that has a wonderful hearty taste.

Interesting article on Locus Online today about SF in video games. Nothing really new but still an interesting article. It of course highligh

A day after JK Rowling announced she completed Harry Potter VI, it is’s #1 selling book, and is set to publish July 16, 2005.

Grant Morrison is writing Superman, and tell’s Newsarama what he plans. I am geeking out about this. With Frank Quietly on art, I really don't see how this can be bad.

My author of the week is CS Friedman, an author who has bounced between the realms of Science Fiction and Fantasy, bringing to both sub-genres of Speculative Fiction strong storytelling abilities and a knack for creating compelling characters. I absolutely loved her Coldfire Trilogy – though the origins of the story are SF (humans colonize an earth-like planet), the feel and setting of the story place it more in Fantasy, as the society has more in common with medieval civilization than future and there is a magic of sorts. In this trilogy, she created one of the more compelling characters in fantasy-Gerald Tarrant. Tarrant initially is set as a villain, but he is one you can empathize with and almost admire. Her SF consists of In Conquest Born, The Madness Season, This Alien Shore and The Wildling, sequel to In Conquest Born. In the two of four that I’ve read, the novels are again marked with compelling characters and thought provoking stories. This Alien Shore was a New York Times notable book of the year.

Were these two Separated at birth?
Joe Quesada<--------------------------------->Uncle Kracker
Marvel Comics, EIC <-------------------------->Musician

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Half-blood prince

Were these two separated at birth?

Heat Miser................................................... Syndrome

JK Rowling has finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, so Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff will probably happy when I tell her.

I don’t know where my head’s been lately, work has been annoyingly too busy, life has been hectic and we are only days away from a visit from the big guy in red. Somehow, I forgot to mention Conan yesterday in the good comics of 2004. The #0 issue came out last year and the ongoing reaches issue 11 this week. I haven’t read the old Marvel issues (now being reissued in TPB form by Dark Horse) so I can’t justifiably compare what Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith did to the monthly excellence Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord are producing. The sales have been great on the book and the fan and critical response have been spectacular. I think Mr. Howard would be pleased with the work Busiek and Nord are doing with his most famous of creations.

Another good thing for this DC-fanboy was Grant Morrison’s return to DC comics. Earlier this year saw the great looking Seaguy from Vertigo, a three-issue series that blended superheroics, apocalyptic sf and dark humor into a thought provoking series people are STILL trying to figure out. WE3, Grant’s animal SF story with Frank Quietly is 2/3 of the way complete and this, even though the characters are cybernetically enhanced talking animals, may be a more human story. Mr. Morrison also returned to JLA, in the form of a story arc for JLA Classified. Under his pen, JLA was DC’s flagship title in the late 90s. Rumors have him and Quietly working on Superman next year, so the future is only bright, on that front.

In this week's Science Fiction Weekly, Paul Di Filippo gives a nice review/overview of Jack Vance’s Dying Earth. Vance pretty much created a sub-genre with these stories, that of a a Dying Earth where technology and magic blend together. The creators of Dungeons and Dragons specifically cite the Dying Earth as an inspiration, some of the spells take the names of the characters. Gene Wolfe acknowledges The Dying Earth as an inspiration for his Book of the New Sun and George R.R. Martin considers Vance a master.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Colder than a witch's....

So I was greeted this morning at 6AM in the raw 12 degree cold with a flat tire. Goddamn was it cold. Frustrating as it was, I'm pretty thankful I got the flat pretty much in front of my house rather than on Route 287-a road any who travel it well tell you connects two of the planes of hell. The family get-together turned out pretty good, I've got plenty of great beer and food left over and everybody seemed to have a good time.

Bit of a correction from a couple of days ago. In my post about Karen Traviss, I mentioned her debut novel, City of Pearl. Seems I made a blunder, I thought the book published last year; however, if I had simply read the copyright page I would have seen it actually published in March of this year (2004). Which just goes to show how impressive the year has been for Karen Traviss, to have 3 novels publish in one year, not to mention the fact that one of those novels is the her debut novel AND great reviews. Let me just again double the kudos for Karen Traviss, as I finished Crossing the Line last night and was again most impressed with her work. It may be an understatement to say she is THE breakout Science Fiction writer of 2004.

2004 was a mediocre year for comics, the only two series that really stood out for me were Ex Machina and Peter David’s Fallen Angel. While David’s series began last year, I only really started picking it up this year. The series really defies genre pigeon-holing and quite often, each issue raises more questions than it answers. DC is really supporting David's work and hopefully this series has at least a couple more years left, I'd love to see see it hit #50.

Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris’s Ex Machina mixes superheroics, politics and real world relevance better than any comic on the stands today. The artwork Tony Harris is maybe the best in comics today, he captures little nuances of body language and facial expressions that really bring the characters to life. And of course Vaughan is laying out great scripts and stories.

Mark Waid and Mike Weiringo have been telling really good Fantastic Four stories, which unfortunately is ending soon.

Identity Crisis, aside from Rags Morales’ art was a let down, JLA went down (the Byrne/Claremont mess, the Austen mess) but looks to be back on an upswing thanks to the fact that Kurt Busiek is now writing it is on an upswing. The Azzarello/Lee Superman has been a let down and the Bat-Crossover, what I read of it was so-so.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Notafinga!..I TRIPLE-dog-dare ya!

So for the third year in a row, Mrs. Blog o' Stuff and I are having both sets of parents, my aunt/uncle with their kids (the youngest of whom is our Godchild, the eldest is the hockey team we follow, the middle will be a gold medal winning gymnast) and my wife's aunt/uncle and their daughter (who should get a few athletic scholarship to college) over for the holidays. This is always a hectic thing and somewhat stressful since both my mother-in-law and father sometimes speak a little, shall we say, out of turn, and have diarrhea of the mouth. Anyway, it has turned out to be very nice day each of the last two years, Mrs. Blog o' Stuff does a spectacular job with the spread of food and everybody brings beer, so I'm usually well stocked for the subsequent month as our invitation always clearly asks the invitees to "bring libations and good cheer." The first year, we thought our hot water heater was dying the day before the party and this year, our vacuum cleaner died just as we finished trimming the tree this past weekend. Let's just say the dust-buster doesn'tt quite cut it when picking up the needles from the tree. I always hope to get one of those trees where the needles don't fall off.*** So those are my weekend plans.

Closing out the year-end list from a couple of days ago... are two debut novelists who really impressed me this year. (clicking on the title of each book will take you to my review of the book.)

Robert Buettner – His debut novel, Orphanage, published last month and is receiving a lot of good reviews and hefty words of praise. It is military SF, and with Buettner's military background, he is keeping up the fine tradition of stories of interstellar war set out in books like Heinlein's Starship Troopers and Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. Buettner's writing has a cinematic quality and the pace keeps the pages moving quite briskly. The sequel to Orphanage publishes next year and I can't wait to read it.

Minister Faust – Canadian media personality made quite a splash this summer when his genre-defying novel, Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad, was published by Del Rey books. This book mixes almost many genres – Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Mythic Fiction, Mystery – and the final product is a fun, entertaining read.

For about the 800th time in the past couple of years, Randy Johnson is almost a New York Yankee. I've got mixed feelings on this one. Sure Johnson is a great pitcher, but the Yanks are doing what sent them down the river in the '80s, flushing out their farm system for older pitchers. When George gets a hard-on for a guy, he usually winds up getting him in the long run (See Clemens and Giambi).

The NHL players' union took a big step in reducing salary by 24%, but they are still far from complying with what the NHL owners want to do. Why can't the players just get it through their heads and go with the NFL-like system the NHL owners are proposing?

Beer of the week: Tillburg's Dutch Brown Ale. Similar to Newcastle, but better, plus, it has a funky Jeroen Bosch painting on the bottle. Found this one at a local liquor store after talking beer with one of the guys working there, told him I liked Newcastle and he suggested I try Tillburg's, the rest is history.

Writer of the week, well, I think the five I highlighted the past couple of days will suffice.

***paraphrased from what the mother in A Christmas Story says when the family goes shopping for Christmas trees –"this isn't one of those trees where all the needles fall off, is it? " The greatest Christmas movie of my generation and ever, IMHO (yes, even better than It's a Wonderful Life in my personal canon of Christmas entertainment).

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

New-ish Writers

Perhaps with two weeks still remaining in 2004, it may be a bit early to start the best of prognostications. However, since I know what my reading plate will be filled with for the next couple of weeks, I think I can spout one mini-list: Best Newly Discovered Writer(s) – 2004, that is the author whom I first read this year (even if their debut novel was years ago) and look forward to reading in the future. I’ll post some today and the rest tomorrow.

Without further ado, here goes:

Karen Traviss – Her debut novel, City of Pearl, (click title for my review) published last year, but I read it this year. I thought it was one of the most impressive SF debuts I’ve read in some time and was enthralled by the hard questions her novel raised. I’m currently reading the follow-up, Crossing the Line and the third book in this series publishes next year, The World Before. Ms. Traviss also published a Star Wars novel this year, Republic Commando, and signed to write three more SW books, so there will be no shortage of her work in the future. Based on the two books I’ve read by her, this is a very good thing indeed. While the story takes place hundreds of years into the future, echoes of today are quite present – like conflicting world views, the power of the media, and genetic engineering. And she has created some really cool, interesting aliens.

E.E. Knight – Again, his debut novel, Way of the Wolf published last year, but I read it this year and very much enjoyed it. Way of the Wolf was the first in the sprawling saga entitled The Vampire Earth. His work has a pulpish feel to it, and is very entertaining. In the not-so-distant future, Earth has been taken over by Vampire Aliens, well Vampires have always been here on Earth, but they are actually a race of Ancient Ones, they’ve finally risen up to take over the planet. On the surface, this may seem a somewhat cheesy concept, but Knight makes it work, with engaging characters and stories told with great pace. I also read the second novel in the saga, Choice of the Cat, this year and I’m really looking forward to the third, Way of the Thunderbolt, next year. Mr. Knight has also written a Lara Croft novel and is under contract to write another series of books. Mr. Knight's Way of the Wolf won Compton Crook award for best first novel in science fiction, fantasy, or horror earilier this year.

Juliet Marillier – She’s been publishing fantasy for a few years now, most notably her Sevenwaters Trilogy. A couple of months ago the first novel in the series, Daughter of the Forest, was the SFFWorld Fantasy Book Club selection of the month and this gave me the opportunity to read her work. Ms. Marillier plays with a Celtic folk tale in the novel and spins out an entrancing story of a strong female character. I plan on reading the remaining books in the saga.

Not much else today.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

My Precious....

Lord of the Rings: Return of the King Extended Edition is now available. I hope Santa or Mrs. Blog o' Stuff puts the final piece of the Geek’s Holy Trinity under the tree next Saturday.

Batman Begins – New Trailer up, nuff ‘said. In theaters June 17. Summer '05 looks to be a veritable geek-fest of movies with this, Episode III, The Fantastic Four, and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, among the potential blockbusters I'll be seeing.

In an obvious move, DC is releasing and/or re-releasing some classic Batman material, beginning in March, to start getting the kids in the Batman-know:

Tales of the Demon – since Ra’s al Ghul (the Demon) is one of the primary characters in the new Bat-flick, this makes sense. These are stories penned by Denny O’Neill one of the Batman scribes over the past 25 years, and these are considered some of his strongest stories. Sure doesn’t hurt that Neal Adams is the artist on some of these, as well.

Batman: Chronicles Volume 1 – This one is long overdue. DC is reprinting EVERY Batman story in TPB form from Detective #27 going forward. EVERY SINGLE BATMAN STORY, in chronological order. This is a much more affordable way to get these stories than the highly priced DC Archive Editions. Perhaps once Bryan Singer's Superman gets closer to reality, DC will start a similar publishing program with the big Red S.

Batman: Year One Deluxe Edition – this is THE modern retelling of Batman’s origin by Frank Miller and Dave Mazzuchelli. Considered by many to be one of the defining superhero origin stories of all time and a truly amazing piece of graphic fiction, Miller intertwined Jim Gordon's rise in the Gotham police force with the appearance of the mysterous Batman. Along with Dark Knight Returns and the Alan Moore/Brian Bolland masterpiece A Killing Joke, Batman: Year One forms the holy trinity of modern Batman stories. Batman Begins screenwriter David Goyer has acknowledged this as the primary influence for his script of the forthcoming film. This thing is has a price of $19.95, with some unreleased art, so I will definitely be picking it up, even though I have the original issues.

In my younger days of comic book reading and collecting, I gravitated more towards the Superman family of titles than the Batman family of titles. I’ve found over the past few years, that while I still do enjoy good Superman stories, I’m more drawn to Batman. What does this say about me? Am I learning to look more to what is possible than what is impossible? That a hero in a black bat suit is more plausible than a man who can fly and bend steel appeals to me more now is interesting. Either way, my favorite hero is still The Flash.

DC released their solicitations from March
Aside from what I typically pick up, some of what interests me:
Slaine: Warrior’s Dawn, one of the new copub deals with 2000AD looks pretty interesting.
Flash concludes the cross-over with Wonder Woman
Seven Soldiers: Shining Knight #1 (of 4) Grant Morrison writing Modern Fantasy, need I say more?

Earthsea was better than I thought it would be, even if it trails a bit too much from the source material. I’ll be watching the conclusion tonight.

Monday, December 13, 2004


So out of the darkness and into the light / Sparks fly everywhere in sight / From my double barrel, 12 gauge / Can't lock me in your cage

You see us comin' / And you all together run for cover / We're takin’ over this town

Perhaps not the deepest, philosophizing lyrics, but set to the grindings of Dimebag’s guitar and Phil Anselmo’s gut wrenching voice, Cowboys from Hell (both the song and the album) by Pantera, is like a shot of adrenaline injected into the heart. On their own, the lyrics from the song do evoke some pretty cool kick ass imagery. Inspiration for stories maybe. Writers, find inspiration for their words with every iota of their senses, from the sounds and music they hear to everything they see and experience. Good writers can take all these sensual experiences and spit out words that encapsulate these things. Great writers do these things and can move people with their words.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately of the darkness in peoples lives, oddly now at Christmastime. I often in more upbeat moods this time of year, but sometimes the darkness, in a good way, surrounds you and infects your daily thoughts. So to borrow the line from the song, “out of the darkness and into the light” life goes on. I take the dailies and write in my head, and sometimes I’ll let things gestate for quite sometime before putting them to paper – this works sometimes. Others, I write very much in a reactionary manner, put the thoughts and emotions to computer screen before the thoughts have fully matured in my head. That works too, sometimes.

Blatantly stolen from pal estranghero, more Christmas Krampus goodies.

I plan posting some best of the year stuff soon, but I have to sit and think for sometime about the books, specifically. In the past, I kept a spreadsheet of all the books I read, as I read them, and gave them each a little rating between 1 and 10. For whatever reason, at the end of last year, I stopped keeping track in this spreadsheet. Ahhh…the combination of anal-retentiveness and procrastination, something sure to drive one’s wardrobe to the exclusivity of those white jackets with the sleeves strapped into each other in the back.

Reading through Karen Traviss’ excellent 2nd novel, Crossing the Line. Traviss writes very thought-provoking SF, focusing on the interaction human and aliens with very different worldviews. This book reminds me of Octavia Butler’s wonderful Xenogenesis/Lillith’s Brood saga and both books do have the sociological science fiction feel of Ursula K. Le Guin’s SF.

Speaking of Ursula K. Le Guin, tonight, the Sci Fi Channel begins the two-part mini-series The Legend of Earthsea, based upon the watermark novels A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan by legendary writer, Ursula K. LeGuin. This has the looks of a good adaptation/offering from the Sci Fi Channel. However, some of their stuff is hit or miss – I thought the two Dune miniseries were very good, Taken from 2 years ago was very good, even if the ending was a bit of a let down. And I am a huge FarScape fan. The channel has shown some dreck too – the mediocre Riverworld and their deluge of cheesy Satruday night movies. However, Ursula K. Le Guin has made some not-so-supportive comments of the adaptation (Scroll down to the 13 November entry). [I originally saw this link from Matthey Cheney's Mumpsimus blog]

When any book that has been so revered and honored is translated to film, there will always be some quibbles from fans. It is a bit dismaying to see such quibbles from the author of the books, though. I read the books and thought they deserved every accolade they received. Either way, I plan on trying to watch tonight with an open mind.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Gloomy in Jersey

A long, emotionally chaotic week draws to a close. The week started on a high note with the concert, hit grief upon learning of the Death of Dimebag and ends with the ever present dark cloud of bills today. Hopefully seeing some pals tonight and trimming the tree over the weekend will turn things back around.

I wasn’t the world’s biggest Pantera/Damageplan fan, but I did really enjoy the music. For whatever reason, I’m still trying to understand what could drive a person to shoot 5 bullets into the head of a great musician with a reputation for being great to his fans.

Life is what you make it, hard times are, of course a relative thing. I’m a relatively healthy person, I’m married to great gal, I have a pretty good family so I don’t have much to complain about right? Unlike a good friend of mine, I don’t have to sit helpless as I watch a close family member deal with cancer. I didn't just witness my brother murdered on stage for no reason. I’m not bankrupt and destitute. I’m employed. So what right do I have to be moody and down on myself? It’s all relative to your own, personal situation, I guess.

It with those thoughts the following words flowed from my head to the keyboard….

Life is a dark and gloomy thing, peppered occasionally with illuminating specks of light. Life puts constraints on the way you want to get by and frustrations mount when you rail against the unmoving wall of ineptitude. You do your best and it often gets you nowhere. You try your best it gets you even less than nowhere. People ask of you to make castles out of specks of cobbled stones. Castles to house immortals and giants, but with only those cobbled stones, you can only make moatless castles, castles unfit for even the King of Ants and God of Nothing. You seek help from those you are told you can trust, but they are nowhere to be found at the hour of reckoning, having meandered towards their own selfish and foolhardy gains.

When you are presented with situations with which you have no control of the final outcome, what can you do? How can you achieve a piece of mind that the goal in which you’ve become entangled spirals out of control, when you’ve done all in your power to build the proverbial Castle of Immortals? You cannot achieve a piece of mind with these things. You cannot grasp that which you feel is rightfully yours when those who hold dominion over you are even less prepared for the rigors of their life than you are. These fools who miraculously have glided by on the wings of plastic smiles and inferiority smile to your face, but cave-in when your back is turned. They think only of appeasing the moment and not the hour, day and week of greater consequence. Strong words will crumble under a weak spine and offers little for recompense in your life. Distance yourself from these fools if you can, they will do nothing for you.

When you want to achieve a piece of mind disconnected from the reality into which you’ve been thrust is when the ordered days of your life erupt into chaos. From this chaos is born a new path to piece of mind. A new path littered with ineptitude, but an ineptitude you can ignore and still achieve your steadfast goals.

Life is but a path of unreason, with small bursts of happiness: The warm embrace of your loved one on a cold night; a cold glass of beer after a long day of drudgery; a perfectly aimed shot, practiced at gruelingly for uncountable amounts of time. These things for which we struggle through the daily grind of life sometimes, sometimes are worth the struggle. Other times the question, a very simple question, is often asked: Why?

In this reality, we may never have the definitive answer to that complex, one-word question. Fighting against the barriers life throws at us brings us closer to the answer and a defining of who we are and why we continue, inching towards daylight in a cavern of dark, craggy, and amorphous shapes. Answers within questions; changing questions when the answers are secured. This is the life we are given to come to grips with.

© 2004 Rob H. Bedford

Could this passage be an opening to a new novel? A revised opening or new passage to the W.I.P.? Simply the ravings of an underachiever? Only time will tell.

Via pal Scott, found out the following about myself:
You scored as Chaotic Neutral. A Chaotic Neutral person is someone who is self-motivated to the extreme. Thier actions may sometimes confuse others, due to their lack of moral affiliation. They have little respect for laws, and avoid both the temptation of evil and a feeling of duty to do good. These people can go along with either side of an argument- as long as they benifit from the result!

Chaotic Neutral


Chaotic Good


True Neutral


Lawful Good


Chaotic Evil


Neutral Evil


Neutral Good


Lawful Neutral


Lawful Evil


What is your Alignment?
created with

I think I’m getting the hang of this blog thing after about a month, borrow stuff from other people and rant about your days on this mudball.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

6 years ago...& R.I.P. Dimebag

6 years ago today I asked the most important question of my life and was greeted with the sweetest laughter I’ve ever heard. My wife accepted my proposal of marriage. Every year on this day we go to the same restaurant we went that night and celebrate the day.

I just found this out after typing this whole post…In very sad news today (, guitarist Dimebag Darrell was shot and murdered last night (12/8). Dimbeag was the guitar player of Damageplan, but many people may remember him from Pantera one of the best, most consistent Metal bands of the 90s. While grunge was taking over the rock scene, Pantera was kicking ass, carrying on the Metal tradition set forth by Metallica and Megadeth. Their third album, Far Beyond Driven, debuted at #1 on Billboard’s then new Soundscan system. I saw Pantera at the Roseland ballroom during that tour (1994/95?) and it was a great show. I was sad to see the band break up, but even more sad now that they will never reunite. A moment of silence for an excellent guitar player killed in a completely stupid and senseless act.

My writer of the week is Michael Chabon. The Pulitzer Prize winning writer is on the cover of this month’s Locus magazine, he’s got a short novel out (The Final Solution), an edited volume of Short stories (McSweeny’s Enchanting Chamber of Astounding Tales ). His Pulitzer prize winning novel, The Adventures of Kavalier and Klay is our generations Great American Novel. Mr. Chabon is an advocate of comic books and fantastic fiction and a supremely gifted writer.

My beer of the week, change of pace, my liquor of the week is SFFWorld forums, we are putting together our SFFWorld Members Best Book(s) of 2004 .

Cribbed from Pal Mastadge:

1. What did you do in 2004 that you'd never done before?
Voted for president, rather embarrassing since I’m now 30.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Yes but not completely. I continued writing but didn’t write as much as I would have liked. Will probably make another resolution, but that’s a secret.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What countries did you visit?
The ones in my head.

6. What would you like to have in 2005 that you lacked in 2004?
A house and more income to buy the house. The start of an NHL season.

7. What dates from 2004 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
November 7 – the day I turned 30.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Maybe finishing the installation of laminate flooring in my townhouse.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I didn’t write enough and didn’t save enough money.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Illness – no. Injury – yes, cut a gash on my thumb knuckle down to the bone, and needed 6 or 7 stitches. Much less serious than it sounds.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A new suit and probably a book or two.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Randy Johnson – a perfect game at his age, or any age, is simply amazing and one of the rarest achievements in all of sports, though this is more achievement than behavior.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
The NHL players union. The FCC.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Bills, bills, and bills, gifts, comics and books.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Nothing really, maybe seeing my cousin’s hockey team win a couple of tournaments.

16. What song will always remind you of 2004?
Shinedown’s .45 or U2’s Vertigo. Probably Vertigo since it is all over the place.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
Yes I am.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Write more and save more money

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
All over Union County, New Jersey, ‘Eve with my parents, Day with my in-laws and the week before they will all be at our house..

22. Did you fall in love in 2004?
Not so much fall in love, but still falling in love with my wife. Yes, I’m a sap.

23. How many one-night stands?

24. What was your favorite TV program?
Without a doubt, Lost. This is a prime example of great storytelling, something VERY rare on television these days. This along with Smallville is probably the only show I watch on a regular basis.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Hate is a strong word, though there are a number people who I dislike that I didn’t dislike or even know last year.

26. What was the best book you read?
This is tough, considering I read about 50 books or so. I was planning doing a whole post on my “best of ’04,” stay tuned.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Either Shinedown or Dropbox

28. What did you want and get?
Playstation 2. Mrs. Blog ‘o Stuff surprised me with that one.

29. What did you want and not get?
A house.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?
Almost as tough as the book question, perhaps The Incredibles or Saw.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 30, spent the day with my wife, relaxed and did some writing.

32.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Winning the lottery, but of course that would entail actually buying some sort of lottery ticket.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2004?
Dockers and polo shirts during the day, most of the other times shorts.

34. What kept you sane?
Of course sanity is a relative thing, but I’d say – my wife, my friends, reading and writing.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Does being in love with Catherine Zeta-Jones, Faith Hill, Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman count?

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
The big-brother mindset our president seems to be taking, the erosion of our personal freedoms, what seems to be the reunification of church and state, and the continuing distrust of the “people in charge.”

37. Who did you miss?
Opie and Anthony. Ron and Fez.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Probably my friend’s new baby Nicholas.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2004:
Not so much a new lesson, but something that was reinforced: trust can only go so far.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Godsmack was absolutely amazing last night, probably one of the top 3 or 4 concerts I have ever seen. Last night, I also think Godsmack supplanted Metallica as my #2 band. If I have any complaints about the concert it isn’t about Godsmack, it is the venue. The doors opened at 7PM but the band did not go on until 9PM, two hours of standing and waiting. I think the venue just wanted to get some beer money from all the attendees. The good thing about getting there early, though was how close I got to the stage. At the end when Shannon (Larkin) was giving high fives to the crowd, I was close enough to shake hands – only one (smaller) person was between where my wife and I stood and the stage. Mrs. Blog ‘o Stuff is kind of in love with frontman Sully and she was ecstatic to be so close.

When Godsmack came out at 9PM, they started off with Asleep (Awake as it appears on The Other Side) and the crowd was 100% into it from the opening. They went on to play most of the songs from The Other Side as well as Realign, Serenity and an amazing version of Voodoo. Usually at Metal/Hard Rock concerts there is a mosh-pit, but before Godsmack even came out, their manager asked us not to form a mosh-pit, this was going to be a different concert. The band was in top form throughout, from Robbie Merril’s bass solo, to the dueling drums of Shannon Larkin and Sully (on bongos), something I’ll never get tired of seeing, to Tony Rombola on guitar, everything was great.

They ended and came out for the obligatory encore, though in pretty cool move, Sully introduced Lee Richards and John Kosco of Dropbox (the band Sully signed to his own label, Realign records) on vocals. Lee, one of the original members of Godsmack had been sitting in on many of the songs throughout the night. John and Lee performed one of their own Dropbox songs and my god does Kosco have a powerful voice, similar to both Chris Cornell and the late Layne Staley. Sully then came out again and everyone performed Touche. The last song was an awesome blues jam, something about a reefer, a woman from above and whiskey, with Sully on harmonica and singing with Kosco. Tony did a nice guitar solo in the middle of it and the song, to steal a cliché, really blew the roof off the place, sending everyone home happy and satisified.

When their manager told us the show would be different, he was right. A couple of points during the concert, Sully had a Q&A session with the crowd, allowing lucky members of the audience to ask questions. Probably the most important question was when the next album will be released. Godsmack 4, as they are calling it right now, will be released, they hope, in Fall 2005.

Like I said, of all the concerts I’ve been to, this is probably the #3 concert for me – it was different, you could really see the amazing talents of all these musicians on vivid display and they made you really feel like a part of the show. Anybody passing these guys off as knock off’s of Metallica or Alice in Chains (as I’ve seen people critical of the band say) really, really needs to see them perform live. They have an incredible passion for their music and it shines through in their performance.

As we were all walking out we were given free tickets to a metal tribute show, with tribute bands to the following bands: Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Pantera. I just might attend that one since it is a Friday.

On the reading front, just finished with Robert Buettner's Orphanage today and, moments ago posted my official SFFWorld review posted ( I really enjoyed this book and I’d definitely read the next one in Buettner’s saga.

It's been a long work week and it's only Tuesday, Shit.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Godsmack the Krampus!

Not much FSF or Comics to talk, at least until the very end of this post. Music and the holidays are today's themes.

I’m very excited since I’m going to see Godsmack perform an acoustic set at the Starland Ballroom tonight. I saw Disturbed at Starland over the summer, and while it was about 90 degrees inside, Disturbed was very good. Starland is a really great venue a) because it is only about 25 minutes from my house and b) it is just about the perfect size for concerts, good amount of room to move around but intimate enough that you really can see the band. This will be the third time I will see Godsmack in concert. I saw them about a year ago at Asbury Park’s Convention Hall. That was a great concert, I got as close as humanly possible to the stage and of the 20+ or so concerts I’ve seen, it was very near the top of the list. They are a GREAT live band.

I saw Godsmack for the second time a couple of months ago when they opened for Metallica at the Meadowlands, which also happened to be the third time I saw Metallica. I saw Metallica for the first time back in ’91 with about 10 of my high school pals and it was the best concert experience I ever had - 3 hours or Metallica with no opening band, before they cut their hair and got all touchy-feely going and into therapy. I saw Metallica again last summer at the Summer Sanitarium tour, with a bunch of other bands, Limp Bizkit (not bad), Linkin Park (horrible, but I don't like them anyway), Def Tones (not good, but I think their sound system was off), and Mudvayne, (not bad). Metallica was still in top form and had a good set list, with a lot of pre-Load/Reload stuff. However, the concert from about two months ago left me very disappointed. Godsmack, while great, didn’t get enough time to play, the crowd was pretty thin since the concert started relatively early at 7PM and Metallica played ok, but the set list was pretty bad. Metallica didn’t play enough from Puppets, …Justice, or Kill ‘em All. They played more than half of the Black Album and too much garbage from the Load/Reload crap albums. It was like they were promoting the Black Album, my brother in-law, my wife, and I were all very let down.

So now, my brother-in-law, my wife and I and some friends will see Godsmack perform tonight. I don’t think there is an opening act, so a whole two hours of pure Godsmack should be great. I really think one measure of how well a band plays and performs is when things are stripped down and acoustic. Godsmack’s acoustic EP The Other Side is great, Sully is an amazing front-man and drummer, and the band members are all very talented musicians. I’m expecting a great concert.

In holiday news, today is Little Christmas in the German/Austrian traditions. There are quite a few traditions surrounding the Krampus and Little Christmas. As I was brought up, on December 5, the Krampus, an impish-devil like figure, pretty much the Joker to Santa’s Batman, travels the night with Santa. Santa and the Krampus leave “gifts.” If the kid is misbehaving, the Krampus leaves coal in the stocking as a warning that he or she better start being nice or the kid will get more Coal on Christmas morning. If the kid has been behaving, then he or she gets a little stocking stuffer gift basically saying, keep up the good work. My parents always threatened me around this time by warning me to be good or the Krampus will visit. Mrs. Blog-o-stuff and I have been keeping up this tradition since before we were married. Luckily I didn’t get any coal, and of course she didn’t either, so this bodes well for Christmas morning at the Blog-o-Stuff househould.

Pretty busy weekend with Christmas things like getting the tree, putting lights on the tree and outside the townhouse, Christmas shopping and the seemingly never-ending floor installation project I’ve been doing; so again, I feel like I need a day off to recoup after the weekend. In my shoppings, I picked up the third of Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas Trilogy, The Lost Christmas Eve. On the second listen right now and it is a bit different and has a more metal and operatic feel than their previous two Christmas albums (Christmas Eve and other Stories, The Christmas Attic), but still quite good. One of these years, my wife and I will get to one of their live holiday performances.

Thankfully, the Yankees seem to be getting rid of the annoying players, no more Lofton, no more Heredia and hopefully soon, no more Giambi. Maybe they will be watch-able next year. Charley Steiner also left the Radio booth. I loved Steiner when he was behind the desk on ESPN and all the great ESPN commercials he was in, but he just didn't work well broadcasting the Yankees.

Well, that’s it for now, in the next day or two I’ll let you, my millions…..and millions of readers, know how the concert turned out.

Batman/Fanboy-geek-out link of the day

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Etching the Shadows for the Red Nosed Bass

I just posted my review of KJ Bishop’s debut novel, The Etched City for SFFWorld. With that in mind, Ms. Bishop gets my writer of the week award. Ms. Bishop was nominated for the World Fantasy Award last year, as the small-press publisher, Prime Books, published The Etched City in 2003. Last week, it received a wider release under one of Random House’s SF imprints, BantamSpectra. Her name has been around the net for the past year in nothing but praise-worthy tones, let me say the praise is justified and I’m excited about reading more of her work.

Thanks to the banzai cat, I’ve checked out Cheryl Morgan’s latest issue of Emerald City, one of the best and most consistent web-zines covering Fantasy and Science Fiction. Cheryl provides in-depth reviews, for starters. And any fan of FS&F considering making a visit to a Convention should read the ‘zine, she always has great coverage of the conventions she attends and chairs, providing a snapshot of what you may expect should you attend a con. Cheryl generally publishes on a monthly basis. This issue, she’s got a review of Tad Williams’ Shadowmarch, and in it she gives an excellent overview of not just Shadowmarch, but some of Tad’s past work and what truly makes him one of the best modern fantasy writers publishing today. Click over there and read it, you shan’t be disappointed.

As I feared, last night’s episode of Smallville was a typical paint by numbers, what does kryptonite do to people this week episode. After about 25 minutes into the show, I switched to watch Rudolph, which was shown for the 40th year. Yes I’m 30, but so what? Along with Santa in the Thanksgiving Day Parade, this is the other great signifier that the Christmas season is truly in full swing. Last year’s Last year’s Elf, with Will Ferrell, paid a classy homage in its opening to all the Rankin-Bass (creator of the Rudolph special) Christmas specials.

My beer of the week is Bass Ale, which compliments last week’s beer Guinness quite nicely as the bottom of the famous Black & Tan. Bass is an English beer, very tasty and pretty easy to find in your local liquor store or bar.

That's it for today.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Slowly blogging....

The last month of the year is now upon us, and with it, the Christmas season as well.

Work and life have been hectic lately, so I haven’t had as much reading time as I normally like and blogging is slower than I’d like as well. I should have had my review of KJ Bishop’s The Etched City posted at SFFWorld last week, but life always gets in the way. Although it is fairly short at 375+ pages, she has packed a lot of thought-provoking ideas in there and I’m enjoying it. I’ve managed to keep up with my novel writing, though, something always easier said and thought about than done.

I’ll only be picking up a few books at the comic-shop this week, Fallen Angel, Detective and Superman/Batman.

Smallville could be interesting again tonight, it looks like Lana finally finds out about Clark’s heritage. Let’s hope they don’t hit the reset button like they normally do at 8:45PM.

SciFi Wire always has some pretty cool updates. Today they tell us Kevin Spacey may be playing Lex Luthor in the Superman film helmed by Bryan Singer currently in development.

And wait my faithful readers, for tomorrow shall bring the Writer of the Week and my Beer of the Week

Monday, November 29, 2004

Holiday recovery...

Thanksgiving weekend has passed and it was a hectic, but good weekend. Spent most of the weekend in the car driving around Northern New Jersey. Ate a lot, drank some, watched some hockey, and helped my dad build a shed. After all is said and done, I feel like I need a day off to just sit and recover from running around all weekend.

With the films of The Lord of the Rings trilogy now all released, there is very little, if any film to really see this winter. No big event movie, nor any movie that really piques my interest. Sure Alexander is a big movie, but it seems like a wanna-be blockbuster doomed to fail. Blade III: Trinity looks interesting, but is a rental, at best.

Don’t even mention A Series of Unfortunate Events. I’ve read and enjoyed most of the books and my wife absolutely loves the books, too. The promotion behind this movie is not focusing on the darkness of the books and the worst thing they could have done was put Jim Carrey in the role of Count Olaf, king of over-acting and over expression. Olaf was a bit of a goof, but he was much more subtle than anything Carrey does. The only actor who could really fill out that role is dead, Vincent Price. I mean God bless Daniel Handler/Lemony Snicket for being able to make some money off of an enjoyable story, but the films look to bear little resemblance to the original story in the books. It seems as if this is just another vehicle for Jim Carrey to make some absurd annoying facial expressions and not about what really makes the stories special, the distinct characters of each of the kids.

As much as I like Zemeckis, he did the same thing with The Polar Express, or at least it looks like he did from the commercials and what reviewers have said. Again, the movie evolved from a simple kids book, one of the most beautiful Christmas stories by Chris Van Allsburg and the movie is touted as a “Journey Beyond Your Imagination.” The clips make the film look like an action-adventure film and the book really isn’t an adventure, it’s a simple heart-warming story of belief in the Christmas spirit.

Hollywood seems to love to do this to simple enjoyable books- change the heart of the story, expand it into something different and splash it up. Two other examples, one including Jim Carrey are Dr. Seuss books – The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat.

I will step off my podium now, thank you.

Speaking of Blade III, the film is directed, produced and written by David S. Goyer, the guy who has written the next Batman flick, Batman Begins. Batman Begins is going to be directed by Christopher Nolan, the director of two recent very good movies, Memento and Insomnia. Everything I’ve seen about Batman Begins gives me great hope that this will not only be a great superhero/comic book movie, but a great movie period. Via Comic Book Resources, I found this Link to a really good interview with Goyer at Super Hero Hype! In there he says he likes Gene Wolfe, so my respect for him has increased quite a bit, and he looks to have a pretty good plate of stuff he’s working on.

Batman #634, which came out last week was a decent issue, but there is a HUGE problem with the book. The cover credits are as follow: Winick, Mahnke, Nguyen. I was expecting to read a story by Judd Winick with art by Doug Mahnke. Actually, I was looking forward to Mahnke’s art, his penciling was the only standout aspect of Joe Kelly’s run on JLA. This misprint is huge oversight on DC’s part. Not that I dislike Andersen Gabrych as a writer, actually, I thought he had a very good run on Detective Comics recently, it just wasn’t what I was looking forward to. As it stood, the issue was an epilogue to the Uber-Batman crossover, War Games, finishing out the tale, setting the status quo of the Bat-world, it’s just Nightwing, Batman and Robin now and Bats is considered a criminal in Gotham.

However, the comic I enjoyed the most out of last week’s batch was probably Green Lantern: Rebirth #2. Overall, Johns & Van Sciver set a great atmosphere, the art is spectacular, and there is a real sense of the story going somewhere Important. I’m a long-time GL fan (Hell, I’m wearing a silver GL ring as I type this), but I wasn’t as peeved at the handling of Hal Jordan/Parallax as many long-time GL fans. Geoff Johns has a great respect for and knowledge of GL and DC-lore, and it shows here. I am really looking forward to reading the subsequent issues. All the others were pretty good. Supreme Power #13, after a huge delay finally came out and JMS is still telling a pretty good story, worthy of being on the pull-list. I’m still really loving Adam Strange, Azzarello’s Superman finally looks to be going somewhere and Flash was as solid as ever.

Not much else going on.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Unfortunately last night, I ran out of pages to read of Tad Williams’ Shadowmarch and I, and most of Tad’s fans, will have to wait until at least 2006 to read the next volume in the saga, tentatively titled Shadowplay. Aside from those two negative points, and they really aren’t negative marks against the quality of the book itself, the book was great. This Epic novel had everything – encroaching non-human enemies, a multitude of characters, royal intrigue, myth & magic, and most importantly, plausible characters and great storytelling. I look forward to re-reading it when the second volume does arrive’s Science Fiction Weekly is live with a great review by Claude Lalumière of Superman: Secret Identity, the superb Superman mini-series by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen from earlier this year. The duo introduce us to a world with no superheroes, a world much like our own. They introduce us to Clark Kent, a young man who constantly gets the requisite Superman-themed gifts for birthdays and holidays. Then on his birthday, he realizes he has superpowers similar to Kal-El’s. That’s the starting point and from there Busiek takes the reader on a very human, very heartfelt story. I won’t say more since Lalumière does a great job of covering what made this mini-series so wonderful earlier this year and a must have trade-paperback/graphic novel. For me, it again reinstates Busiek’s gift for storytelling in the comics medium, his wonderful ability at mixing the everyday with a sense of wonder.

Author of the week:

This week’s author of the week is Robin Hobb, since the concluding volume of her Tawny Man Trilogy, Fool’s Fate, is released in paperback this week in the US. This book is also the concluding volume in a trilogy of linked trilogies. You see, in Fool’s Fate, Ms. Hobb brings the story of FitzChivalry Farseer to its end. Fitz’s story started in Assassin’s Apprentice, continued in Royal Assassin and Assassin’s Quest. Ms. Hobb then told, in the Liveship Traders trilogy, the story of a family of sea faring traders, who sail on living ships. This saga took place in the same world as Fitz’s story, but in a different locale. After the Liveship saga drew to a close, Ms. Hobb picked up Fitz’s tale 15 years after the conclusion of Assassin’s Quest with Fool’s Errand, and linked the two earlier series more closely. So 9 books in roughly 9 years, a pretty impressive thing in itself, add to that the good reception from both critics and fans of fantasy, and you’ve got one of the modern masters of Fantasy. For me, these nine books stand pretty high on my personal canon of Fantasy Literature, and I can’t recommend them enough to any reader who enjoys Epic/High Fantasy.

I’ll be picking up the following comics from this weeks release list:

Adam Strange #3
Flash #216
Batman #634
Amazing Spider-Man #514
Supreme Power #13
Green Lantern: Rebirth #2
Superman #211

Beer of the week: Guinness. The smooth creamy stout loved the world over. Few beers improve upon taste from bottle/can to draught, and this is one of them. A beer that goes great with a juicy 16oz steak, for me that is one of the true measuring sticks of a good beer.

The Yankees have made little movement thus far in the off-season, as the never-ending quest to acquire Randy Johnson continues.

Tomorrow’s turkey day, a day filled with food and drink to celebrate family, or as some cynics have said, to celebrate our colonists one act of kindness in our otherwise genocide-like attitude towards Native Americans.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Godzilla and goodbye to 'Ringo again has posted nice, informative essay, this time a Godzilla overview by Godzilla uber-fan and artist extraordinaire, Bob Eggleton. In it, Bob mentions Godzilla receiving a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and I say, it’s about time. I grew up watching Godzilla and have been somewhat of a closet fan of the Big G for my whole life, though I haven’t seen any of the newer ones since Godzilla versus Destroyah and Godzilla 2000, perhaps a trip to the flea market will change that. What can I say, something about giant monsters fighting appeals to me.

Distressing comic news, via Near Mint Heroes as Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo will be leaving Fantastic Four after the current Galactus Storyline. A solid writer/artist team leaving is often a disappointing thing, and Waid & ‘Ringo have been doing a bang-up job for the past two years. Marvel says the new creative team will blow our socks off, or some such ridiculous marketing fluff; I hope there is some truth to that, but the new creative team will have big shoes to fill, indeed. Will it be Bendis or Millar, their go-to-guys? I hope not. FF readers will just have to wait and see.

Here in New Jersey, Speilberg and Tom Cruise are shooting a War of the Worlds remake. This marks two War of the Worlds films in production right now. Cruise & Speilberg did some good things in Minority Report, though, I have to say, I don't have high hopes for WotW.

Not much else, just wanted to add a couple of trivialities in addition to the new linkage on the righ.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Let me take you down to..

Took my wife to Avenue Q over the weekend. I gave her the tickets for her birthday and the date for the play/musical arrived. And damned, if the writers didn’t have me in mind as the target audience for the thing, then I’d like to meet that target guy and say it sucks to be me. But seriously, I’ve seen a number of Broadway shows and Off-Broadway shows, and I can’t remember having a better time, laughing out loud and just shaking my head in agreement at what the puppets and actors were singing and saying.

And for a change of pace today, we went to see Saw. This movie was very good, with a lot of good misdirection going on. The ending was one of the great Holy Shit moments for me, in terms of thrillers/horror flicks. A lot of people have already seen The Grudge, but Saw I think is the one they should see. Gave you the same How the hell did they think of that feeling as Se7en.

Comics blurbs…
Ex Machina #6 – start of a new storyline, and possibly more clues into The Great Machine’s powers.

Superman/Batman #14 – not bad, Pacheco’s art was great, this one has possibilities. I was thinking of dropping the title, though I’m always a sucker, at least in comics, for alternate realities.

From last Week JSA#67 – pretty good story, but I’ve got to say, the art was a little bit of a let down. I think the inker really overpowered Dave Gibbons art. I always thought Gibbons drew a great Superman, but this didn’t look like his Superman.

Fantatic Four #520 Waid & ‘Ringo are spinning out good solid superhero stories.

Still on the pile are Wonder Woman #210, Conan #10.

Not much else for now.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

GRRM, comics, weekly awards

George R. R. Martin posted an excerpt from A Feast for Crows yesterday, in I guess, hopes of keeping his fans from e-mailing him and threatening him about the delays of the book. Many of his readers are discontent with the long wait since the last book, A Sword of Storms. Granted, the man has taken longer to publish the book than he initially planned, but so what. What I’ve read of his work leaves me with every confidence that the wait will be worth it. It’s not like there aren’t other good writers publishing today, just take a look at my sidebar.

One of the hottest topics in the SFFWorld forums lately was initiated by Mr. Martin’s posting of his political thoughts after the election. The thrust of the thread/argument initially was whether or not readers should allow an author’s political views to deter them from reading said author’s work. In the case of Mr. Martin, if you don’t agree with his views on the election, should you continue reading his work? While the topic has wandered a bit, it has been a fairly healthy debate with a few well-known authors posting their thoughts (R.A. Salvatore, Matt Stover and R. Scott Bakker).

Where do I stand on the subject? It is not always easy to separate the artist from the art he or she creates. Their political views, something essentially helping to shape who they are, by definition is going to flavor their writing in some respect. However, I think I can usually separate the two and read the story on its own merits, but knowing the background of the writer can sometimes creep up. If the story is strong enough, if the plot is crafted well enough, if the characters act plausibly, then ultimately, I can read and enjoy the story.

Tomorrow at the comic-shop, I’ll be picking up the following:

Conan #10
Ex Machina #6
JLA #108
Superman/Batman #14
Wonder Woman #210
Fantastic Four #520

Superman/Batman will have art by Carlos Pacheco, who did a fabulous job on Arrowsmith and some JSA stuff. Senor Pacheco is going to be the regular artist on the Green Lantern ongoing, once GL: Rebirth finishes up. Other than that, all pretty solid looking stuff.

This week’s writer of the week is the great pulp-writer, Robert E. Howard. Howard helped birth the sub-genre of Heroic Fantasy and Sword and Sorcery. REH created, arguably, one of the most recognizable and storied icons in ALL of AMERICAN Literature – Conan the Barbarian. Next week, Del Rey books is publishing The Bloody Crown of Conan, the second volume of Del Rey’s reissues of the Conan Wandering Star volumes and the third Robert E. Howard reprint in the past year-and-a-half. Earlier this year, The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane published, and I believe and hope, Del Rey plans on publishing most of REH’s stuff, I’m particularly looking forward to reading Bran Mok Man. The 10th issue of Dark Horse’s Conan series publishes this week. Kurt Busiek is scripting great stories and Cary Nord is creating some great looking art, all told is this is very faithful to the spirit of the REH originals.

My beer of the week is from America’s oldest brewery: Yuengling Lager. This is my favorite every-day beer, it is refreshing crisp and goes down great with a burger, a slice of pizza or while bowling.

Hopefully tonight's Smallville will not be paint by numbers.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

I’m so rornery….

First off, over at the SFFWorld forums I help administrate, we are running an Interactive discussion with acclaimed Fantasy & Science Fiction author Matthew Woodring Stover [Iron Dawn, Jericho Moon, Heroes Die, Blade of Tyshalle, Traitor (Star Wars: New Jedi Order), Shatterpoint (A Clone Wars Novel), and the forthcoming novelization of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith]. We ran an interactive discussion with R.A. Salvatore (creator of the Forgotten Realms icon Drizzt Do'Urden, the best-selling DemonWars/Corona saga, and two Star Wars novels – the first New Jedi Order novel (Vector Prime) and the Episode II – Attack of the Clones novelization) in the past, which was very successful and garnered a very good response from our forum members. Mr. Salvatore seemed to enjoy it and he provided great feedback to all of the questions.

Second, How Dungeons Changed the World via Locus Magazine Online

Third, SFSite’s Mid-November issue went live today, which always helps to keep the month moving along. Rick Norwood liked The Incredibles, but not as much as I did, and Rick liked Team America about as much as I did. Parker and Stone delivered a very entertaining satirical musical with great songs like America – FUCK YEAH, I’m So Ronery and Pearl Harbor. My favorite line is probably from the Pearl Harbor song, either I miss you like Michael Bay missed the mark with Pearl Harbor or I need you like Ben Affleck needs acting school/He was terrible in that film.

Fourth, more rumors (via Comic Book Resources) of the proposed Green Lantern movie, and drum-roll…its Ben Browder of FarScape fame. Honestly, right now, I can’t know of a better choice. He helped carry FarScape to four seasons and one recent Mini-series. He’s proven he can work with SF material (if GL isn’t Science Fiction, I don’t know what comic book is), he has fit in with alien creatures that are part and parcel of some of the GL stories. Whether it’s the Kyle Rayner GL or the Hal Jordan GL, both have come across, at times, as a wiseass, a smartass and cocky (in-a-humorous manner), three characteristics that helped define Browder’s portrayal of Commander John Crichton on FarScape. So paint me one happy fanboy should this ever really happen, since a Green Lantern movie has been rumored for over 10 years. But hey, Spidey was in all sorts of development hell for about the same period of time, and that turned out ok, didn’t it?

Finished up Jonathan Strange the other day. There was a good story at the heart of the book, but the style didn’t entirely agree with me and utlimately decreased my overall enjoyment of the novel. I appreciate she wrote the novel in a specific style (19th Century English novel), but it was never a style I thoroughly enjoyed. I think she did a great job of building up a plausible magical England, and a history of magic in England, and a good job with the characters, but I would have been happier if the novel were trimmed a couple of hundred pages (it is almost 800 pages). I would probably give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. Will I read the sequel? Probably. Will I rush out to read it? Depends on what is on my reading plate at the time.

Speaking of rushing out to read a book…as soon as that was finished, I jumped into Tad WilliamsShadowmarch and I’m absolutely loving every bit of it. This is exactly what Epic Fantasy should be. This just may challenge Greg KeyesThe Charnel Prince for my favorite read of this year’s releases.

In sports news Barry Bonds was voted the NL MVP yesterday, the safe choice, and honestly, one that is a little tough to argue. However, for as good as he is, he comes across twice as arrogant on the field. The better choice would have been Adrian Beltre, the Dodgers would not have been in the playoffs without him, no questions about it. I personally would have gone with Pujols, probably the best offensive player in the game, and hey kids, he actually runs, instead of saunters, to first base.

Does anybody read this?

Sunday, November 14, 2004

The Incredibles

Well, just got back from The Incredibles, and I was very impressed. For the most part it did live up to the hype. Of course, there are obvious comparisons to be made to the Fantastic Four comic, but I think Brad Bird did in a way that was not a total rip-off. This movie also tackled a lot of the themes from the seminal Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons masterpiece Watchmen. My single line praise for the movie would be to say it does not poke fun at the super-hero genre, it takes the cliches, plays with them and tells a great story.

This is a movie I cannot wait to own on DVD.

Got some cool stuff from the in-laws for my b-day over the weekend, Spider-Man 2 for the PlayStation 2 and the complete Season 1 boxed set of FarScape.

Not much else for today.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

B.I.P, Lost anticipation, grey, books,

Like life, this blog is a work in progress. I just added the HaloScan comment option for all of my posts. I’ll be adding more linkage to the sidebar as time goes on. I’m also thinking of becoming an amazon associate, since I plan on pimping out good books, movies and games. Any thoughts, my millions….and millions of readers?

It’s a grey day here in New Jersey and that sums up my mood today. Just one of those days that seems to be taking up space. It amazes me how stupid drivers get at the slightest hint of precipitation. Of course I’m all for being a safe driver, but not to the detriment of the traffic flow and not overly cautious where you fear driving near the speed limit.

Looking forward to playing the PS2 tonight after watching the taped episode of Lost with my wife. It is one of the handful of shows worth watching and if it isn’t the best show on TV, it comes pretty damned close. Probably like most people, my wife and I have our own favorites and nicknames for each character. Dr. Jack (Matthew Fox) will always be Charlie, from Party of Five, Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) will always, of course, be Merry from LOTR, this only confuses matters when referring to each character, and I suspect it was intentional. My favorite characters are probably the the Big Guy (Hurley) and Kate. Besides the fact that Kate is gorgeous, she is a complex character, she’s gorgeous, we still don’t know too much about even after her spotlight episode, and she’s gorgeous.

This show is a prime example of good storytelling, the writers reveal the situation and for lack of a better word, “the world” of the story through the characters eyes. The writers leave just enough unexplained to keep viewers hooked. We learn about a different characters past on each episode, and as the season moves on this works well to throw you off balance, since as the show builds up you may begin to form your own past for each character, and when the episode focuses on that particular character, you have to adjust your view of the character. There is no better example how well this worked than on the character of Locke. The guy I really want to find out about is Sawyer, who comes across as the eeevil one.

Received some cool news in the e-mail inbox yesterday, I’ll soon be receiving review copies of KJ Bishop’s World Fantasy Award nominee The Etched City and the re-release of George R. R. Martin’s Fevre Dream. Martin’s book has been long out of print, and Bantam Spectra is smartly reissuing the book for eager readers of his A Song of Ice and Fire saga looking for something to tide them over until A Feast for Crows publishes, hopefully next year. Fevre Dream was also nominated for the World Fantasy Award when it first published, and is considered one of the finest vampire novels ever written, and as Mr. Martin himself puts it “Bram Stoker meets Mark Twain.”

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Smallville, amazon’s best and bowling

Yet another rather pedestrian, paint-by-numbers episode of Smallville last night. Well, except for Lois in gothish-witchy-slutty-lingerie garb, a pedestrian episode. Odd that Lois would conveniently return to Smallville in KANSAS for an interview with college recruiter from Princeton, NEW JERSEY (mapquest tells us there are about 1100 miles between Princeton, NJ and Kansas City, KS) Lazy convenient writing this week, typical Clark’s friends-get-powers-discover-his-powers-and-conveniently-forget-at-about-Clark’s-powers-at-the-8:45- mark, paint-by-numbers stuff that doesn’t have much dramatic tension, and the basic plot structure for far too many episodes. I guess that is my major gripe this season, aside from Chloe not staying “dead,” is that many plot elements are conveniently contrived. There were good episodes this season, particularly the one with The Flash, but this was an episode that revealed very little except to further illustrate Clark’s weakness to magic, that Jor-El/Krypton may be responsible for many of the witches in the past (Damn pretty soon, he’s going to be responsible for humans on earth), and of course showing Lois/Erica Durance in ahem, magical outfits.

Clicked over to yesterday and saw the announcement for their Best of 2004 lists. In Fantasy and Science Fiction it should come as little surprise Stephen King’s final Dark Tower volume got the top nod from their editors, and for the most, part it is a tough one to argue, since I’m one of his many “constant readers.” A bit wordy, but the ending was perfect.

However, I was pleasantly surprised to see Greg Keyes The Charnel Prince, a book I reviewed earlier this year for get the #2 nod from their editors. It is the second book in The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone Saga, and for my money, one of the top 2 or 3 multivolume fantasy sagas currently publishing. It’s been compared to George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire as well as Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. Impressive comparisons by any stretch of the imagination and the books, so far really do live up to the comparisons. The Briar King came out last year and is now available in paperback if you want to catch up. Best of all, Greg really does have a pretty strict plan for the series, with the third book, The Blood Knight, hopefully publishing next year and the fourth and final probably a year after that. I interviewed Greg at the time The Briar King published, he came across as a very good guy and a thorough and extremely cognizant writer, in terms of the traditions of the Fantasy genre, a good idea of what readers want to see, and perhaps most importantly, how to tell a great story that both utilizes the genre constraints/clichés and is fresh and new.

Yesterday I mentioned Ex Machina, the great comic published by DC’s Wildstorm imprint. Just discovered today they are publishing a Trade of the first five issues in January for $9.95.

Tonight’s bowling night, hopefully we can move up in the money rankings and bring our averages up a bit, it hasn’t been the best season so far, but we still have fun and throw back a couple of cold ones. Or may the reverse – have a couple of cold ones and have some fun.

I suppose this enough geekery for one day.