Review: “Peter Pan”

So this week’s Netflix selection was Peter Pan, the live-action version from 2003, not the animated Disney film. I had originally planned to do this as a double feature with Finding Neverland but we ended up watching them several weeks apart. (Finding Neverland put my wife to sleep almost immediately despite the fact that it starred Johnny Depp, but that’s because she was very tired.)

Anyway, Peter Pan is of course the story of how a small company introduced a new brand of peanut butter that eventually became part of the ConAgra Foods inventory of products … oh, wait, that’s not it. Ehhh, you know what Peter Pan is about so I won’t bother to rehash it. I will say that the film has an excellent cast, particularly Jason Isaacs as George Darling/Captain Hook (even if I did keep expecting Hook to say “My name is Inigo Montoya … you killed my father … prepare to die.”) and Rachel Hurd-Wood as Wendy, not to mention the guy who played Smee, who was just about perfect. (IMDB says his name is Richard Briers. Well done Richard.) We also get Olivia Williams sitting in a chair pining for her children in a fashion that gave me Sixth Sense Olivia-Williams-Pining flashbacks, but if you’re going to flash back, that’s a good movie to go to. Finally, Ludivine Sagnier makes a saucy little Tinkerbell, even if I have no idea how to pronounce her name, because she’s French.

Although it’s probably technically a children’s movie, there are enough humorous asides going on in Peter Pan to keep the grownups amused. (Most of these involve Smee and/or Michael’s teddy bear.) It gets quite dark toward the end, culminating in the climactic fight between Hook and Pan. Let’s just say that if you’re having a midlife crisis or anything, you may want to avoid this film; it’s not going to make you feel any better about your lost youth.

Peter Pan is basically one long CG effect with actors in it, but for once, the special effects do not get in the way of the story. In fact they’re gorgeous, and greatly enhance the overall fantastical feel. It’s like the entire film is set inside a Maxfield Parrish painting. I would recommend checking out some of the “making-of” special features, as the techniques used to create the effects (crew in head to toe blue suits — freaky!!!!) are quite interesting.

This movie put my wife to sleep in about an hour — not bad for a fantasy film starring a bunch of kids and not featuring a single appearance by Johnny Depp.

Hook & Inigo — Separated At Birth?

Random Rejection: “Leech Field”

So I’ve alluded to the fact that I have a file with a LOT of rejection letters in it. I thought it might be interesting to pull one at random from time to time and post it, so everyone can experience the fun of reading what I like to call “you suck” letters (even though they don’t generally actually say “you suck”). So here’s one from 2000, for a short story called “Leech Field”.

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Galley Ho!

This is just a short note to let all who may be breathlessly waiting for Dragon Stones know that it has entered what might be called the “galley” phase, where I order finished copies from Lulu.com and go through them with a highlighter to fix any remaining formatting or style issues (at least, things that I consider formatting or style issues).  I’ve already been through this process with Long Before Dawn and it probably took about two months, but I expect it to go faster this time now that I’ve already done one.  I expect to hit my target of releasing Dragon Stones some time in June, though it won’t be available from book stores until 6-8 weeks after that due to the ISBN lag time.

In the meantime, I’ve started editing my next release, Father’s Books, a ghost story (of sorts) that I wrote after A Flock of Crows.  By now I’m sure everyone realizes that I can’t write a “normal” ghost story, but that’s the easiest way to label Father’s Books right now so I’ll stick with it.  More information will surely follow!

The Amazon Kerfluffle

Last month, it came out that Amazon.com is instituting a new policy that print-on-demand publishers, such as Lulu.com and Hard Shell Word Factory (publisher of Night Watchman), must use Amazon.com’s own POD service BookSurge* or have the print editions of their books dropped from the main store (though they can still be sold by third parties through the Amazon marketplace). Some companies, like Lulu, quickly caved … uhhh, agreed to use BookSurge; others, like Hard Shell, are taking a harder line and refusing to accede to Amazon’s new rules. The net result, for me, is that Night Watchman may be disappearing from the Amazon.com store in the future. I will be watching to see if this happens; so far, it’s still there, but they only have one copy left (“order soon — more on the way”).

I haven’t quite decided yet what I think of this whole thing. I’m not really sure that Amazon doing anything differently from Wal-Mart, which is notorious for beating up suppliers to cut costs and lower prices.  I don’t think Wal-Mart runs its own factories and requires its suppliers to use them, though.  (I could be wrong; if I wanted to do stuff like “research” and “fact-checking” I would be writing non-fiction.)  I guess I’d have to say that on the face of it Amazon is being anti-competitive and the ultimate upshot is likely to be higher POD costs, but we’ll see how it shakes out.  I don’t have much to lose whether my books are on Amazon or not.  The ones who do have something to lose are, I think, the small publishers; a lot of folks in the small press and self-publishing world are extremely agitated about Amazon’s move, and some are calling for a boycott.  Will a boycott succeed?  Probably not; it’s likely to be more symbolic than anything else.  After all, Amazon has been boycotted before, notably over their one-click patent.  The Internet was a smaller place then (fewer tubes) and the boycott still had no noticeable effect.  The current issue at hand is about as arcane as the one-click patent issue, and just as few people care about it; I think Amazon will just get away with it, until and unless it attracts attention from regulators (i.e., never). In any case, I am neither an economist nor an MBA, so my opinion on such matters is probably worth about as much as I make on sales of my book from Amazon.com —  i.e., next to nothing.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a copy of Night Watchman and you can’t find it at Amazon, you can always buy it directly from any number of places, like Barnes and Noble or directly from Hard Shell.  Or you can just swing by the house and pick up a copy; I’ll even sign it, too.

*Disclaimer: I used BookSurge to tear apart, scan, and republish A Flock of Crows is Called a Murder after the original publisher, DarkTales, went out of business.

Review: “Idiocracy”, or, “Mike Judge Says It’s YOUR Fault The World Is Going To Hell”

So the other day we watched Idiocracy, which tells the story of a man who is put into cryogenic sleep and awakes centuries later to become an interplanetary delivery boy in a world populated by aliens, robots, and talking severed heads. Oh, no, sorry, that’s Futurama. Actually, Idiocracy is the story of Joe, who (along with a woman named Rita) is part of an army cryogenics experiment that goes awry. When Joe and Rita awaken 500 years after being frozen, they discover that the world is populated by rejects from the early elimination phase of shows like American Idol, Survivor, and The Real World, as well as the sort of people who try to emulate the things they see on shows like Jackass. (Somehow, despite being complete morons, they manage to keep all their high-tech equipment more or less functional. We can probably assume this equipment is serviced by robots like Bender [Futurama again, sorry].)

The conceit behind this dystopian future is that all the smart people dithered too much over having kids until it was too late, or only had one or two, while the nitwits from Jerry Springer were popping out offspring by the dozen, until eventually they more or less took over the world. This conceit is so plausible that it’s actually frightening.  (I don’t see any kids running around the house here. Sorry, Mike. Do dogs count?)

Anyway, when our hero, average Joe (his name is, literally, Joe), awakens to this new reality, writer/director Mike Judge has plenty of satirical ammunition, which he expends cheerfully obliterating everything from ubiquitous product placement and corporate sponsorship to “reality” shows like Ow My Balls to mass-market consumerism to monster truck rallies. He even gets in a few digs at Child Protective Services that are only marginally less realistic than what we saw earlier in August Rush. While not quite up to the level of his earlier Office Space, there are a number of giggles to be had in Idiocracy.  The relentless stupidity of the future population does eventually get a little wearing, but if nothing else, the President and his cabinet members have plenty of flair.

Idiocracy put my wife to sleep in about 45 minutes, which is pretty good for satire. I definitely heard her laughing once or twice, too.

Interview With The Dragon

Somehow, an interlocutor has managed to interview T’Sian, the dragon from Dragon Stones, without getting burned, eaten, or squashed.  Perhaps that’s because the interviewer is a very cute chow-chow mix.  You can read the interview at Cody Bear Asks.  Don’t worry, the interview is spoiler-free!

Book-In-Progress Review: “World Without End”

Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth is one of my favorite books (even before Oprah featured it), so when the quasi-sequel World Without End came out, I immediately wish-listed it over on BookMooch. A few weeks later it arrived in an enormous package — this is one massive book, just like its predecessor. I’m not that far into it yet so I can’t do a full review, but I can say that it doesn’t hook the reader immediately the way that Pillars did. However, it does seem to be better than the last Follett book I read, Night Over Water.

One thing that is obvious already, though, is that the author’s breast fetish is operating at full tilt — pretty much every single female character who wanders across the page has her breasts stared at, felt up, fantasized over, or otherwise put front and center (so to speak) of her character’s description. Some would suggest, accurately, that all this indicates is that Ken Follett is a dude. But come on, Ken! We’re supposed to at least pretend to occasionally raise our gaze above chest level! You’re going to make the ladies paranoid, and that’ll just make it tougher on all of us …

Having said that, I have of course written my share of such descriptions, especially in my vampire book, Long Before Dawn (available now!). But you know how vampires are; being dead and all, they don’t have many amusements besides stalking humans and drinking blood (Spike’s addiction to the soap opera Passions notwithstanding; most vampires don’t have television in their crypts), so they spend a lot of time being horny.  Which, I guess, makes them not so different from Ken Follett and the rest of us guys … 😉