Gaming goddess Roz Clarke has posted an interview with me about my part in the first Homeworld game, and the relationship between gameplay and narrative. I don’t think I’ve ever gone on record regarding my experiences with Homeworld, beyond simply saying that it changed my life. But now the full story can be told.
Neil Tyson reminded folks on Twitter that today is Gagarin’s birthday, so I went and looked up an old book I’ve got on the early Russian space program in search of his description of man’s first journey into space (1961). There’s a stereotype that astronauts aren’t too articulate in describing the wonders of space; if that’s the case, Gagarin was definitely an exception:
The roar was loud, but not really any louder than what you usually hear in the cockpit of a jet plane. Another interesting thing is that a great many new musical nuances and timbres can be heard in that roar. I have never heard anything like it on earth. I got the impression that the powerful rocket engines were creating the music of the future—perhaps more moving than the music of our time.
I’m 39 today.
People keep asking me how does it feel to be old?
The scarier question is how does it feel to be middle-aged?
Pretty good, actually.
Especially since right now I’m having coffee while watching Captain Zoom lick his ass with the carefree abandon of a creature who cares nothing for birthdays, and is, as Borges pointed out, effectively immortal, given that he knows fuck-all about death.
I told him, but he wouldn’t listen. I said, “Captain Zoom, death will come and wrap you in its steely arms, hahahaahahahahaahahaha.”
He pondered this, and then continued to lick his ass.
In many ways, Ghost Writer is a throwback to paranoid 70s thrillers like THE PARALLAX VIEW, yet it couldn’t be more timely, both for the headlines that Robert Harris’ book generated (thanks to its thinly veiled allusions to Tony Blair), as well as for its take on the war on terror. Ewan MacGregor is self-effacingly brilliant, whereas Pierce Brosnan is a hell of a lot of fun to watch as the disgraced ex-Prime Minister Adam Lang. I kept expecting him to have to deal with a giant laser gun in the sky, but alas, that scene never happened.
But the real star—and ghost—of the movie is director Roman Polanski. One can bet that the irony of the movie’s location was not lost on him—Lang is writing his memors on Martha’s Vineyard, and is on the verge of being trapped there rather than return to face a war crimes tribunal in Europe. But of course, since Polanski can’t go to the U.S. lest he be busted for his own sins, “Martha’s Vineyard” ends up looking somewhat German.
The movie’s final revelation is as provocative as it is sensational—I might even say unlikely—and left my hypersmart friend gnashing her teeth about the movie’s “conspiracy theory” interpretation of history. I’d love to discuss exactly that, but I haven’t declared this post to include spoilers, so it looks as if for now I’ll have to save it for a later date. Hopefully the Men in Black don’t get to me in the meantime.
Well, last year I missed the Campbell nominations for Best New SF Writer by one measly vote, so for my final year of eligibility I’m throwing caution to the winds and announcing my unofficial non-campaign to put me over the top. It’s bad form to campaign TOO hard for those things (though you have until March 13th to vote here). Meanwhile I have a team of strategists digging up dirt on my competitors. For example:
Erin Cashier: who I went to Clarion with. . . she can switch across the breadth of SF (and beyond) with astonishing skill, and is as happy writing about wizards as robots. If I tried to write about wizards, it would be embarrassing, and I would create crap like “Fred the Magician and his Magic Fucking Hat.” And Erin writes about planet-sized spaceships too: her “Cruciger” remains one of the best stories I’ve ever read, and can be found in last year’s Writers of the Future Anthology.
I’m not doing a great job of character assassination, am I? Ok, how about:
Jenny Rappaport: not only was she the agent extraordinaire who sold my Autumn Rain trilogy to Bantam, but she also is a top-notch writer in her own right; stories include “The Sock Thief,” and my personal favorite, “The Untimely Demise of the Quack Quacks,” which she wrote when she was in the third grade, and which still cracks me up every time I read it. So technically her eligibility really ought to have passed by now. Besides, when I was in the third grade I was largely preoccupied with picking my nose and no one ever thought of giving me a prize for it.
DB Grady: who served as a paratrooper in Afghanistan (!), and whose writing combines two of my favorite things: Mars and noir. And from the looks of his website, the man’s as big a Raymond Chandler fan as I am.
Ian McHugh: guy writes fab stories, and won Writers of the Future altogether last year. And he’s Australian too, which clearly gives him an advantage in that that’s where this year’s convention is. At least I sure hope it does, because I’M HALF AUSTRALIAN MYSELF AND AM DESCENDED FROM A FUCKING CONVICT WHO GOT HORSEWHIPPED BY THE BRITISH SO VOTE FOR ME DAMMIT. (That’s actually true. And thanks for letting me get it off my chest.)
And the most vulnerable target of all:
Gail Carriger: who is so commercially successful these days that there’s no way she could be a good writer too. Because that would be too much for my heart to bear. <Leafs through Gail’s debut novel SOULESS while weeping >
Anyway, here’s the ballot, which you have until March 13th to fill out. . though my razors hacked Aussiecon’s computers so that you can’t submit it without putting my name on there. Because that’s the kind of thing you do when you’re descended from convicts.
U Street in D.C has done a lot of transmogrifying in recent years–some of it for the better, some of it . . .well, the latest casualty is Polly’s, which had been around for donkey’s years, and was one of the diviest dive bars you were likely to come across. I rode my bike over there last night for a burger and a beer only to find a handwritten note on the door saying that place had seen its last day.
Nor was its passing mourned in all quarters. Local blogger Prince of Petworth gives it a justified shout-out, but many of the commenters seem to have been put off by alleged olfactory issues across its final phase. In the spirit of full disclosure, my sense of smell sucks, and I always sat near the window anyway, where I didn’t have to listen to gentrified fuckwits complain about how they didn’t have their favorite designer ale on tap. I can forgive a lot if a bar has welded metal sculpture, a wood fire and more than its share of my favorite drinking memories from the last decade and a half.
(Though I got my burger and beer at Saint Ex, which rocked as always.)
So the bad news is that there are no more ARCs for THE MACHINERY OF LIGHT available. Re-reading the rules of yesterday’s contest, I note I didn’t do anything smart like say “while supplies last” or “the first three to respond with the correct answer win”, so I’ve had to piss off everybody who wrote in clamoring for their well-deserved copies. Alienating my diehard fans—I’m smooth that way. Stay tuned, guys, I’m doing what I can to get more.
In the meantime, the good news is that you CAN get ahold of Book Three right now, in bookstores. Only it’s the Book Three of a totally different trilogy. . . for the last few years, fellow D.C. writer David Louis Edelman and I have been busy cranking out our respective trilogies, with our own dramatically different takes on the future of cyberpunk; well, he’s crossed the finish line first with GEOSYNCHRON, which brings the acclaimed (and quite brilliant) Jump 225 Trilogy to a halt. Featuring gorgeous art by Stephen Martiniere, who you know and love as the guy who drew the cover of BURNING SKIES. So what are you waiting for? That’s what I thought.
The JUMP 225 TRILOGY
The first ARCs of THE MACHINERY OF LIGHT have arrived. Each one containing the terrible final secret of Autumn Rain. No bullshit fake endings, no lame stealth set-ups for a fourth book . . this is it.
You want a copy, send me an email by Friday to djwATautumnrain2110.com and name at least two members of Autumn Rain.
UPDATE: folks, we are fresh out –congratulations to the winners (Mike C. of NY, NY; Andrew K. of LA, and Justin K. of Houston, TX) and stay tuned for more offers for free stuff. I hope to have more ARCs in soon. . .
They’re still digging out the rubble from where Joseph Stack crashed his plane into the IRS building in Austin, TX. And they’re still poring over the letter he allegedly wrote that appeared on his website earlier today, where he detailed the “American nightmare” of economic marginalization he’d endured across the last quarter-century. It’s fascinating to watch the web try to make sense of Stack’s own words. Some of the more specious debate centers on whether the man was a right-wing nut or a left-wing nut; another line of ‘analysis’ is aimed at trying to decide whether or not he was a terrorist. As if we even know what that term means: “causes terror” is a little too broad, yet anything less than that, and one’s own ideological prejudices come into play.
Which is, I suppose, the point. We’re so eager to categorize everything into our taxonomy of preconceptions that most of us never even wonder just how logical that taxonomy is in the first place. Stack will be called ‘insane’ and ‘mad’, and he clearly was: but his so-called rant threw a lot of issues into sharp and uncomfortable relief. At a time when the labels of Left vs. Right are ever more useless for describing the contemporary United States in objective terms, Stack is the anomaly. And the greater tragedy is that we’ll be seeing a lot more of his ilk: the way in which those forced to the brink by an unravelling social order articulate their predicament is far more likely to resemble Stack’s primal cry of rage than any politician’s manifesto. Labelling something means you no longer need to think about it. In the age of the web’s firehose-blast of information, that’s ever more important in allowing us to handle tomorrow the same way we handled yesterday.
Legion has excited no little critical derision but it’s made money . . . on track at this point to pulling in twice its budget in the box office. Not a mega-hit but a good start to director Scott Stewart’s career in the majors. It’ll be interesting to see his forthcoming Priest, which also stars Paul Bettany, who’s also the single best thing about Legion. There’s no better way to look ridiculous as an actor than to try and play an angel, but Bettany pulls it off, some of which can be chalked up to the man’s charisma, but credit should also be given to his sculpted-by-Jehovah body.
As to the story itself, it opens with a bang and lags seriously in the middle. Partially because of the ol’ calibration-of-force problem. . . .once Bettany/Michael is inside the diner, only another angel can challenge him, so the movie becomes a big wait for Gabriel to show up and Start the Movie’s Ending. Single best scene was the old lady/demon-bitch . . . particularly as the audience was clearly quite familiar with the scene thanks to the trailer, so everyone was laughing throughout. That’s the right attitude to approach Legion with, which I’d happily watch again (especially on late night TV while tending to the last roach). In the meantime, I’m off to take a trip down memory lane with 1995’s Prophecy . . . .