Star Wars Episode VII: Grand Canyon

Mrs. Dan and I went to the Grand Canyon last weekend, which is surely the world leader in seemingly impressive names which turn out to be bald understatement when you actually see them. A bit like if Mount Everest was called Giant Rock. You get the idea.

When we were there I was pretty focused on being awestruck and constantly overwhelmed by how massive it is. But while reviewing my photos earlier today, with the grandeur fairly well diluted, a thought struck me almost immediately.

“They should totally film Star Wars here.”

IMG_0326Can’t you just imagine a squadron of X-Wings screaming across the canyon in the dawn light?

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Or Jaina and Jacen Solo sparring with lightsabers on a snowy clifftop?

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Or something involving this extremely wide panorama shot that I really wanted to shoehorn into this post?

I certainly can. And one of the benefits of Disney now owning the franchise is that they could probably afford to rent the entire Canyon National Park for six months to film there!

Man, I really hope J.J. Abrams or Kathleen Kennedy reads this.

He’s Only Gone and Actually Written Something

Yup. Much like Hercules still finding time to stay in shape and have great hair whilst completing his twelve labours, yours truly has found time in his busy schedule of working, sleeping, playing Red Dead Redemption, watching Sherlock, thinking about the Sherlock I just watched, and wishing there were more than three episodes of Sherlock in a season, to actually write some more of my soon-to-be-nearly-upcoming novella – the very science-fictionally titled Causal Nexus.

Entirely gratuitous picture of BC to attract clicks. Hi there, people who were expecting a post about Sherlock!

Chapter six is in the bag, and that’s six of my seven characters introduced. One more chapter will complete the cast, and also act one of the book, which with a gentle, not-quite-literary-but-getting-there pace quite unlike that of the first two books in the series, sets the scene.

Then in act two everything starts going to shit for everybody, which is much more my usual speed. Fun!

If I can get some momentum going I should be able to knock out the rest of the draft in fairly short order. It is, after all, a novella, not a novel, so isn’t likely to run much more than about 50,000 words. I’ve got a third of that done already, so another couple of months at a decent clip should get a draft done. Then it’ll be time to bring in the editor, rustle up a cover, try to remember how to compile ebooks and do paperback layouts, and all that jazz.

Onward! Also: upward!

China on the Moon, Doctor on TV, X-Men at the Movies

Chang’e 3 sticks the landing, and takes home the gold medal in the individual lunar lander parallel bars. That gives China its seventeenth gold in these Olympics.

Wonderful footage from Chang’e 3 as it touches down. This makes China only the third nation in history to land a craft on the Moon, decades after the United Kingdom and Italy both achieved the feat in the 1950s*, their years-long rivalry having driven a technological renaissance that made the European Union the world-leading scientific powerhouse it remains today**.

Continue reading “China on the Moon, Doctor on TV, X-Men at the Movies”

REALLIFE, WRITERLIFE and Tom Hiddleston

Hey, look – I’m really nailing this one-post-every-seven-weeks plan. Keep ’em keen, that’s what I always say.

It’s not, of course. It’s just that WRITERLIFE has been frustratingly derailed by REALLIFE for the last few months. A lot of it’s been good stuff, like moving from Brazil to D.C. and settling into our sweet new apartment, but a fair chunk has been being stupidly busy at the day job. (Which has even been a night job sometimes over the last month. The telecoms software game isn’t all champagne and supermodels, I tells ya.)

But that’s enough of my grumbling. You’re here for superhero movie trailers and sweet, sweet hyperlinkage to stuff wot you should read. Some of you even care about when my next book is going to be out! Thanks to everyone who’s pestered me about that. It’s wonderful that you’re keen to read it, even as I apologetically mumble that no, it’s not going to be this year, but I’m damn sure going to try to get it out before the one-year anniversary of Venus Rising. If I can’t knock out a book a year, then something’s gone wrong. I’m not Fran Lebowitz, here.

So. Let’s get it on.

Continue reading “REALLIFE, WRITERLIFE and Tom Hiddleston”

I’m Reading Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’ And I Have No Idea What It’s About

Yet, I should say. Grabbed you with that controversial headline, though, didn’t I? Hopefully some of King’s many fans rushed here to defend his work in my comments section. (Hi!)

But no–I’m talking about the rare and happy occurrence of starting to read, watch or otherwise consume a book, movie, TV show or other art with absolutely no idea of what the story is about. Because how often does that happen these days?

I’ve heard of The Stand, obviously. I know some people think it’s King’s best book, and that others insist it’s overwrought, overblown, and in need of a good editor. I know that my mum started watching the TV adaptation some years back and gave up a few episodes in.

And that’s all I knew when I saw a copy on the shelf of the second-hand bookstore two blocks away from the new apartment in Washington, D.C. into which Mrs. Dan and I recently moved, priced at what seemed like a bargain $3.00. (The book, not the apartment. They run a little dearer than that.)

Stephen King for three dollars? And it’s a thick one,” thought I. Thumbed it open. “Small print, too. This’ll keep me going for a while.” Closed the book again, looked at the cover. ‘The Complete and Uncut Edition’, it says, and the brief foreword promised 150,000 words, or 500 pages, more story than the already lengthy version that was originally published.

No blurb on the back cover, no clue to the story. Just a black and white photo of an unsmiling King from twenty-odd years ago. And on the cover, a figure on horseback wielding a scythe.

Well, people are going to die in it, I can tell that much.” And I paid my money, and I took my new book home.

It doesn’t actually matter what The Stand is about, and I won’t risk robbing anyone of the same experience I’ve had by describing it. But it did make me think a little about what we’ve lost in this age of constant, immediate, instantaneous media. We’re flooded with trailers, reviews, articles and blogs, each movie studio or television network desperate to shove their product in front of our eyeballs, and a million other internet denizens waiting to pronounce it good, or bad, or simply broadcast that it exists.

God forbid if you haven’t seen the latest episode of Breaking Bad because you’re planning to watch it later. You’d better stay off the internet until you do. (And just to be on the safe side, don’t go to work either.)

We buy books and movies because we read reviews, and plot teasers, and friends tell us “Dude, you have to watch My New Favourite Show. It’s about this geography teacher from Arizona who has Alzheimer’s but becomes a Mafia don in New Jersey before faking his own death and joining the Baltimore police force. It’s fantastic. Netflix it. I’m on season eight.”

I loved The Avengers. And I’m already pretty damn excited about the sequel. So far all I know is it’s coming out in May 2015, and someone or something called Ultron is in it, but I’m sketchy enough on my Avengers canon that I don’t know what that is. But I guarantee that by late April 2015, I’ll know exactly who stars in the movie, who all the new characters are, what Ultron is, and will have seen four different trailers containing 90% of the best scenes from the film. Because I’m weak, and I won’t be able to help myself.

But wouldn’t it be nice, just once, to not have those teasers, those tasters, the constant little dribbles of information that leak out and draw us in? To go back to finding out about a film by seeing a poster for it on the side of a bus stop two weeks before it came out? Or discovering a great new TV show by flicking through channels one night and being gripped by a great scene? Or discovering a new book not by browsing a list of what customers who bought that item also bought, but by wandering into a second-hand bookshop that you didn’t even know was there and just picking one up off the shelf?

You can still do that last one, at least. And you should, I highly recommend it. Because, you see, The Stand is about–

Riddick. Riddick! RIDDIIIIIIICK!

Riddick‘s out now. Grantland posted a wonderful primer on the series, the character, and one Mr. V. Diesel, which is well worth a read.

I love Pitch Black. It’s one of my favourite SF films of all time. Partly because of the minimal ensemble cast of almost unknown actors, partly the stark harshness (harsh starkness?) of the desert and the contrast between blazing day and total night, and partly the grungy lo-fi, low-budget vibe.

But mainly because: Riddick. Intergalactic badass with surgically shined eyes, the wits and moves of an alpha predator, and not a single sleeved shirt.

“Hello, ladies. You’re not afraid of the dark, are you?”

Then four years later came Chronicles of Riddick, a sequel with the kind of grandiose title that made me immediately worried it was going to be a completely different kind of movie. And it was, and it was objectively pretty bad – incomprehensible plot, lots of Royal Shakespeare Company-trained actors hamming it up massively, including Judi Dench (!) – but I still enjoyed it.

Because, you know – Riddick. Who (spoiler alert for a nine year old film!) ended up being emperor of the galaxy! Somehow. Maybe? I’m still not clear. He’s king of the Necromongers, at least! (Ugh.)

The closest we’ll ever get to seeing Khal Drogo on the Iron Throne, basically.

And now, those nine years later, Riddick’s back, and this time – judging by the eponymous titling of the film – it’s personal. I’m trying to avoid reading too much about the movie so I don’t spoiler myself, but I do know he’s not the king of anybody anymore. And the brief synopsis on IMDB sounds remarkably familiar:

Left for dead on a sun-scorched planet, Riddick finds himself up against an alien race of predators.

Pitch Black 2, ladies and gentlemen! I can’t wait.

“The 7 Most Common Misconceptions About Science Fiction Publishing” from io9

Worth a read for any writers aspiring to be published by Tor, Orbit et al. Prepare to have your illusions shattered! (Maybe.)

2) When you’ve published a book, you’re immediately a famous author

Often it seems as though people believe that “as soon as you’ve had a book published you’ve made it somehow,” says Jonathan Oliver with Solaris Publishing. In reality, “it can take a long time to build up a profile as a writer and, unless you’re immensely lucky, your first published novel isn’t immediately going to shoot you into stardom and untold wealth. You don’t just write a book and rest on your laurels. You build up a reputation one book at a time.”

Yup, much like being a recovering alcoholic, becoming a famous author is a long process. Full piece here.

I’m Baaaaaaack

[Silence. After a few moments, footsteps are heard. Faintly at first, but then louder as they approach. A man appears from stage left. His stride stutters for a moment as he glances toward the darkened auditorium, but he gathers himself and steps confidently to the microphone.]

*cough*

[He taps the microphone twice. Feedback whines through the auditorium’s speaker system, and the man winces. He moistens his lips and peers out at the shadowed space where the audience might be.]

“So. I’ve… been away for a while.”

Silence.

“I don’t know if anybody’s out there, but… well. Let’s just pick up where we left off, shall we?”

Continue reading “I’m Baaaaaaack”