Wednesday 31 March 2010

Moon, Movie Review

Director: Duncan Jones, 2009

Pros: good acting, thought provoking plot

Cons: slow (but you don't really notice), little action (again, you don't really notice)

Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) only has 2 weeks left on his solitary three year mission mining energy on the moon. He's looking forward to seeing his wife and daughter on Earth again, when he has an accident.

Saying more than that would ruin the movie and that would be a real shame. This is a film you'll be thinking about long after it ends. Go see it.

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Public Lending Right

Think downloading a book for free is the same as borrowing it from the library? If it's a local author, you could be denying them renumeration. Twice.

When libraries buy books the author gets their royalties from the sale. In addition to this, many countries have a public lending right program, which pays authors based on the number of books they have and or how often the books are borrowed from the library.

From the PLR website's downloadable pdf explanation:

"What is Public Lending Right (PLR)?
Public Lending Right is the right of authors to receive payment for free public use of their works in libraries.

How long has it existed?
PLR has been around since the 1 940s. The first country to establish a PLR System was Denmark in 1946, followed by Norway in 1947 and Sweden in 1954. The UK System was set up by the PLR Act of 1979.

How many countries recognise PLR?
Currently around 30 countries recognise lending rights in their legislation; but of these, only 15 have taken the next step of setting up a PLR scheme. (This should increase to 16 next year (2002) when a PLR scheme is set up in France.) Most of the working systems are in Europe, but PLR can also be found in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Israel."

Here's the link for established PLR programs around the world. Click on each country and you'll see how they renumerate their authors.

Yes, that's right, in many countries libraries pay their country's authors.

I discovered this through a comment on Robert J. Sawyer's website. The post is about remaindered books. The segment I'm quoting is part of the second comment.

"On public libraries compensating authors, it depends where you live. If it's in the United States, the author gets his or her normal $2.50 royalty when the library buys the hardcover -- and if 20 people read that hardcover over its life, the author gets 12.5 cents per reader.

If you live just about anywhere else in the Western world, there will be a Public Lending Right system, by which the government will compensate authors for the lost royalties on copies of their books circulated in their own country's libraries (on the assumption that it's wrong to use the author's tax dollars to fund a system that deprives the author of income).

In Canada, the maximum kickback to authors from libraries is about $2,800 per year -- not to be sneezed at, of course, but not huge [and down from $4,300 15 years ago], and only a very small percentage of Canadian SF authors would get the maximum (although I'm lucky enough to be one who does); you need a lot of books, and you need them to be stocked in just about every library, to get that amount."

It may not be much, but authors need to live if readers are to get more books. Just something to consider the next time you contemplate stealing an ebook with the justification of "it's just like borrowing it from the library".

And note, I find it unfortunate that the US doesn't have this system yet.

Friday 26 March 2010

Jeff Somers - A Typical Day in a Writer's Life

I saw this on Orbit's blog. It looks pretty familiar, minus the drinking.
Here's a link to Jeff Somers's blog, where you can read his comments on the writing life. The video itself is embedded from his youtube site.

Lyrebird - Sometimes Fantasy Can't Compete With Reality

I love fantasy novels. I love the different worlds people have created. I love the various mythologies drawn upon to populate these worlds, both animals and people. I love medieval bestiaries, and their explanations of animals, real and imagined. I love creating my own creatures.

But sometimes I forget that the real world has some pretty amazing creatures in it as well. Animals with characteristics it would never have occurred to me to give a fantasy creature I create.

Like the lyrebird. It's mating call includes the sounds of other birds and things it has heard in the forest (animal and man) in order to impress a mate. Things like cameras and chainsaws. And this bird is an incredible mimicker.

The first video is taken from Mackaframmalamma's youtube site.

The second is from the Adelaide zoo, which apparently had construction done. The bird mimics some human speech and it's electric screwdriver is pretty impressive. It's taken from RZSSA's youtube site.

Thursday 25 March 2010

Christopher Moore Signing near Toronto

That's right, Christopher Moore, author of Lamb, Island of the Sequined Love Nun, Fool, Stupidest Angel and more, will be at the Queensway Chapters (1950 Queensway, Etobicoke, (416)622-2838) Tuesday April 20th at 7 pm, signing copies of the third book in his San Francisco Vampire trilogy, Bite Me.

There will be prizes for best costume (dressed as a Moore book character), and he has a fan book you can bring notes and fan art for.

Proof of purchase required.

He'll also be doing signings in Montreal, Ottawa and Waterloo as well as several locations in the US.

Wednesday 24 March 2010

The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Book Review

I finished this book a week or so ago and have been debating whether or not to review it. Normally if I intensely dislike a book I stop reading. But something about this, the writing style, the questions raised, kept me reading, even though I didn't like where the book was going. I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth after I finished, half a desire to chuck the book across the room and half wondering if the author would write a sequel that answered my questions.

Then I discovered this post by Jo Walton about why reviewers tend to not post negative reviews and decided to publish this. But first, my response to Walton's article.

I don't like giving negative reviews. I'm an aspiring writer myself and understand how it feels when someone greatly dislikes your work. Writing is intensely personal for the author. The author has spent months or years working with those characters, getting everything perfect. I don't like telling them it's not perfect (at least from my point of view).

Secondly, everyone has different tastes. The reason I didn't like this book could be the very reason someone else does. That's why I started adding the 'pro' and 'con' segments upfront.

And thirdly, I don't have time to finish books I'm not enjoying (present case excepted). My desire to post about this springs more from the fact that I dedicated the extra time to finishing it as it does from my desire to 'warn others' or rant about the book.

I do understand that a reviewer not willing to give a balanced negative review now and then doesn't necessarily seem critical enough when it comes to the books they give positive reviews to. Which is why I've reviewed a few other books that I thought had literary merit even if I didn't personally like them. It's also easier to give a negative review to a book whose author is deceased (which is not the case here).

Now for the review.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

By: Carrie Ryan

Pros: intriguing setting (fenced in villages with zombies outside), engaging writing - hard to put down

Cons: dubious moral lessons, irritating teen protagonist, too many questions left unanswered

Most of this review will be a rant of what specifically I didn't like about the book, so note the spoiler warning.

The plot: Young Mary's life takes a turn for the worst when her mother dies and the brother of the boy she likes asks for her hand in marriage. Her brother, Jed, kicks her out of the house, so she goes to live with the Sisterhood, the religious leaders of their gated community. Outside the fences lies the forest of hands and teeth, a forest inhabited by zombies, those infected by zombie bites.

I wasn't expecting a zombie book when I started this. Discovering it was a zombie book simply made it more interesting. The cover flap suggests that the story is about the secrets held by the Sisterhood and Mayr's choice to stay in the village or find a life outside it.

That's not what the book is actually about.

****** SPOILER ALERT ******

The book starts with Mary being a very sympathetic character. I was surprised when the head of the Sisterhood called her selfish. Seemed to me she was depressed over being blamed for the death of her mother, something that would psychologically harm anyone. She was also being denied a choice in her own future, she'd either have to join the Sisterhood, a vocation she was not suited for, or marry Harry, the brother of the man she loves.

As time goes on, however, her position becomes less sympathetic.

While living with the Sisterhood Mary nurses Travis, her best friend Cass's fiance and her crush, back to health. She also discovers one secret of the Sisterhood, that they've hidden a girl (Gabrielle) who is not from their village. The knowledge that there is something outside her village causes Mary to dream of the ocean from her mother's stories. She wants to see the ocean, regardless of the cost.

A few weeks later, after she's formally betrothed to the brother of the man she loves, the village is overrun by zombies. Mary, Jed & his wife, Travis, Cass and Harry manage to escape to the fenced pathway that they discover leads between villages.

They eventually reach the village Gabrielle comes from. Mary and Travis are separated from the others and trapped in a house together. They spend the next several weeks with her sitting upstairs and him downstairs. Mary's obsession to find the ocean means she can't find even 3 weeks of happiness with the man she loves. She constantly pushes others aside to reach her goal.

In the end, Mary reaches the ocean. Travis and her brother die saving her life at various points along the way.

And here's what ticked me off most about the book. Mary takes for granted the sacrifices of those around her. The apparent moral of this book is: it doesn't matter who you hurt as long as you reach your goal. That's not a moral I can agree with. That's a 'means justify the ends' mentality, when the ends aren't particularly noble. Mary wasn't finding a cure for the plague, she wanted to see water, and put others at risk in order to do so.

Don't believe me? Here's a quote from the end:
"I wait for peace and happiness but I can only think of Travis [dead] and Harry and Cass and Jacob [left behind]. About how I have lost everything but this place. I try to think about Jed, shame holding me back from remembering how he came after me. How he died saving me. But a part of me also thinks he could be proud that I made it, that I survived. That he knew what he was doing when he stormed into that Forest after me.

I feel the burden of carrying his hope with me."

The square brackets are my additions. I started from a point that shows the beginnings of remorse, but the section ends with her being sure that her brother would be happy that in his death she found the ocean. Yes, he would probably be happy she made it, but this paragraph greatly minimizes his sacrifice and ignores the fact that he had his own hopes and dreams. I'm sure he'd rather be alive than know she reached the ocean.

A second paragraph solidifies her selfishness. "And then I remember Travis pulling me against him and telling me about hope. His voice in my mind is soft, just out of reach like a spent echo. I wonder if these memories are worth holding on to. Are worth the burden. I wonder what purpose they serve."

How could she wonder what purpose remembering the life of a man who died for her would serve? it would serve to remind her of the struggles she went through to get to this place for one thing. It would remind her that others died for her dream. It would, potentially, make her humble that people loved her enough to sacrifice their own lives and dreams for her. But apparently not. She's ready to toss the memory of her first love aside the way she tossed his life aside. (Alright, to be fair she was very unhappy when he died, which makes this sentiment even more odd.) And if she ignores her own past, she'll be more likely to repeat it, letting others die for whatever new scheme she thinks up.

Mary's a woman who doesn't learn from her mistakes, who can never be happy with where she is. I wonder how long she would be content to live by the ocean before something else came up. She also never asked the questions I wanted answered with regards to her personal relationships and with regards to the Sisterhood.

It was a book that left me feeling disappointed and angry.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

5 Book Cover Types That Drive This Bookseller Nuts

While this is a list of cover types I personally don't like, I bet if you ask other booksellers they'll agree that they hate at least a few of these types. I'm not saying these covers are bad, I'm just saying that sometimes books get covers that don't help sales (which is what a cover is supposed to do) because the bookseller doesn't like it or because it doesn't properly portray what the book's about. And please remember, authors have little to no control over the covers of their books.

1) This post came out of my remembrance of a cover so unbearably flourescent that, though we had several copies, we spined them because it was simply too bright to face out. Unfortunately I can't remember which book that was, but I came up with a few others. Flourescents are used a lot, because they draw attention. Most of the time they're fine, but sometimes you get one where the paper is too bright or the picture/text doesn't cover enough of the front and the paper blinds the booksellers.

2) The second category annoys me particularly because I have a history degree. It's covers that are misleading about their subject matter. The first is a novel I've got an example for is about "Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the ancestors of most of the British royal family." (Quoted from the description of the book from the Chapters website.) The original cover (it was later changed) is the rather famous painting of Guenevere knighting Sir Lancelot. This naturally makes one think the book has an Arthurian theme. The second book, Saving Grace by Julie Garwood, takes place in Scotland but has Neuschwanstein, a German castle, on the cover.

I also don't like covers that make you guess the genre. Elantris, a fantasy novel, looked like science fiction when it first came in, and Living With Ghosts, also a fantasy, looked like urban fantasy.

Or covers that look like they're for children but are actually adult novels. (I could only think of one, but I know there are others.)

3) Books with cutouts on the cover. These are annoying because they constantly rip. I remember doing an off site where we couldn't find a copy of A Whole New Mind that wasn't torn. (The head for A Whole New Mind, and the circle around the lion's head are the cutouts sections.)

4) Trade paperback books with flaps for author bio and book description. These never sit on the shelf properly, making the covers hard to see/read. Here's a picture of one I own.

5) The worst offenders are covers that take titles that are already suggestive and play that aspect up, until it's overkill. They also tend to be books that, due to the covers, I'd be unlikely to read on the subway and are therefore harder to hand sell. (The third book is Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl, and yes, those are condoms making up the eyes.)

Monday 22 March 2010


Taken from Tokyoplastic's vimeo page.
Check here for a write up on the short.

Catzilla from tokyoplastic on Vimeo.

Friday 19 March 2010

Blake Charlton - Author Interview

Novel: Spellwright


What's Spellwright about?

It’s an epic fantasy that takes place in a world where magical written languages can be peeled off the page and made physically real. Here spellwrights write luminescent sentences that shape themselves into powerful spells. Adept authors can cast information across thousands of miles or write creatures made purely of text. Into this world is born Nicodemus Weal, a wizardly apprentice who can produce vast amounts of magical language. However, Nico was born with a disability so severe that any text he touches misspells in erratic, sometimes dangerous ways. His disappointing life plods along until one day a powerful wizard is murdered with a misspell. Quickly, Nicodemus becomes the primary suspect of the crime. Hunted by both investigators and a hidden killer, Nicodemus must race to discover the truth about the murder, the nature of magic, and himself.

What are your favourite three books?

Sweet heaven! Just three? I’m breaking into a sweat thinking about narrowing a list down to ten. If I absolutely have to, I’d say Grendel by John Gardner, The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin, and My Own Country: A Doctor’s Story by Abraham Verghese.

We've often heard the phrase, “write what you know”. After medical school, do you think you'll write medical thrillers or do you plan to stick with fantasy? Is there another genre you'd like to write?

It’s hard to see myself writing anything that doesn’t have both fantasy and medicine at its heart. But once the Spellwright Trilogy is complete, I’d like to explore my love for historical fiction. I’ve been keeping casual research notes on two possible projects. The first would be a fantastical murder mystery drawing on the strange beliefs many Elizabethan’s held about the malleability of the body. It would feature a poor girl who’s too witty for her own good and the fascinating historical figure of Thomas Lodge, a playwright who rubbed elbows with (and competed against) Shakespeare before he left literature to earn a medical doctorate and become one of the age’s most respected physicians.

The second possible project would be a science fantasy taking place around 1900s when much of modern medical science was being codified.

The story would focus on a young physician struggling with chronic disease and bumping up against the speculative elements that would allow me to bring to life many of the amazing and underexplored mythologies of Pacific civilizations.

But both of these are very far off on the horizon. I might think of something better in the meantime. And, sadly, it’s a publishing fact of life that I won’t be able to sell them (under my real name, at least) unless the Spellwright books do well. So, I try not to daydream too much and keep my head down and work away at Spellbound and getting the word out about Spellwright.

Do you think epic fantasy will continue to become grittier, with less magic and more moral ambiguity? If so, why did you choose to write classic epic fantasy with lots of magic and a clearly sympathetic protagonist?

In my estimation, the light-on-magic, lots-o-brutality trend of epic fantasy is still gathering steam. The gritty trinity of George R R Martin, Scott Lynch, and Joe Abercrombie is writing excellent fantasies that attract wide audiences and carry on a tradition of greats like Michael Morcock and Gene Wolfe. I read them all. I admire them all (most especially Lynch’s command of voice, wit, and suspense). There are plenty of talented authors rallying to their banner, and I cheer for their success and the success of all fantasy literature.

I wouldn’t object if you called Spellwright ‘traditional’ or ‘classic’ or ‘high’ fantasy―it's a useful tool for identifying the story as having a megawatt magic-system and being lighter on the brutality. There’s plenty of wonderful stuff happening at this end of the spectrum. As I see it, many of the masters shine brightly-- Tad Williams, Ursula K. Le Guin, Kate Elliot, Terry Brooks, etc etc, and we’ve new supernovas like Patrick Rothfuss and Brandon Sanderson. There are plenty of writers that fall somewhere in the middle; Robin Hobb and Daniel Abraham brilliantly mix elements of the two.

For the moment at least, I’m comfortable in the classical school. I’m interested in exploring big, flashy ideas about language, disability, and the fundamental mechanisms of biological life. A megawatt magic-system allows me to explore those issues through my character’s stories.

In the books you’ve written, who is you favourite character and why?

Magister Agwu Shannon. With his wit and deft prose style, he makes a formidable investigator into the murder. And I can identify with him as an educator of disabled students.

Your main character misspells any magical text he touches, and you have struggled with dyslexia from a very early age. Is educating people about the condition one of your motivations for writing Spellwright?

No. I try to shine a light on disability, but not any one in particular. As you note, Nicodemus can’t help but misspell magical texts, a condition his world calls ‘cacography.’ It’s analogous but not identical to dyslexia. Nico’s teacher, Magister Shannon can see nothing but magical text. Other characters struggle with conditions similar to epilepsy, idiopathic mental retardation, and Tourette Syndrome. My goal isn’t to create a clinical description of any real condition (though when creating my characters I drew upon the clinical knowledge I’ve gained as a disabled person, a former educator, and a medical student). My goal was to examine, in an earnest and accessible way, what disability can do―bad and good―to one’s psyche, how we define ourselves as enabled or disabled, and how we all struggle with strengths and weakness.

If you could, would you change places with any of your characters?

Certainly not! There’s far too much intrigue, desperation, and danger in my books. Seeing very sick people in the hospital and clinic makes one realize how blessed an unintriguing life can be.

How long did it take you to write Spellwright?

A decade. I started Spellwright in between college classes in 2000. I half-heartedly worked on it for two more years before graduating in 2002. Thereafter I would take stretches of time out to write between moonlighting as an English teacher, a medical writer, a JV football couch, a private tutor, and several less exciting jobs. Somehow I picked up an agent and sold the trilogy (with the stipulation that I rewrite roughly half of the book)…right before matriculating into medical school. The past two years I’ve been attending classes, taking tests, and finishing up the final draft.

What was the hardest part of the book for you to write?

The last five thousand words. In a trilogy, the end of books one and two really have to be done right--coming to a satisfactory end while showing all the great stuff that’s coming in the next book. No need to fear an agonizing cliffhanger from me.

Given that you’re a medical student, when and where do you write?

Whenever I can, wherever I can. I often keep my, very small, laptop in my locker in the med school. During the preclinical years, I would write during my lunch hour and when I’d cut the uninspired classes. Now in a research year, I have large stretches of time free to write. I spend those mostly on my couch, in my pajamas, with an ergonomic keyboard on my lap.

What aspect of world building do you enjoy (or hate) the most?

Dreaming up the language-based magic-system was a pure joy, so was imagining how the physical properties of each language would shape the societies that used them. As to what I hate…timelines are a real bother. There’s a lot of rereading that needs to be done to make sure the chronological logistics of the story work, especially regarding character back stories. The devil’s in the details.

Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

The phrases “Write about what you love,” and “Write about what you know,” are often tossed around. It’s advice with some value, but also advice with some danger. Honor only those two mandates and you risk producing a story without tension or edge. I’d add a third, “Write about what you fear.” Doing so gives authors an internal, earnest source of tension as the struggle through their story to identify the nature of their fear.

Penguin Auctions off First Copy of Guy Gavriel Kay's UNDER HEAVEN for Indigo's Love of Reading Fund

Yesterday I received the following press release Penguin Canada:

To celebrate the worldwide launch of international bestseller Guy Gavriel Kay’s much anticipated new novel Under Heaven, Penguin Group (Canada) is auctioning the first book off the press anywhere in the world, autographed by the author. Signed and verified by the printer and the publisher, this first copy includes a product identification slip and letter from the printing press identifying the book as the first copy printed in Canada. The auction begins March 18, 2010 on eBay, and closes March 25, 2010.

All proceeds from the auction will be donated to Indigo Books & Music, Inc.’s Love of Reading Fund. The fund directly supports high-needs elementary school literacy programs across Canada. Guy Gavriel Kay will personally match the winning bid to a maximum of $1000 (CDN). Additionally, Penguin Canada will match the winning bid to a maximum of $500 (CDN).

Under Heaven will go on-sale in Canada on April 3. Inspired by the glory of Tang Dynasty China in the eighth century, Guy Gavriel Kay melds history and the fantastic into something both powerful and emotionally compelling. Under Heaven is a novel on the grandest narrative scale, encompassing the intimate details of individual lives in an unforgettable time and place.

Earlier this month, Penguin Group (Canada) launched, a website dedicated entirely to Kay’s oeuvre, and featuring an array of music files, artwork, and downloadable wallpaper and posters, plus a first chapter excerpt of Under Heaven, a journal by the author, Twitter and Facebook links, book synopsis, and Canadian tour information.

Guy Gavriel Kay was born in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, and raised in Winnipeg. In the 1970's he was retained by the Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien to assist in the editorial construction of Tolkien's posthumously published The Silmarillion. He returned to Canada from Oxford to take a law degree at the University of Toronto and was called to the Bar in Ontario.

Kay became Principal Writer and Associate Producer for the CBC radio series, "The Scales of Justice", dramatizing major criminal trials in Canadian history. He also wrote several episodes when the series later moved to television. He has written social and political commentary for the National Post and the Globe and Mail and for The Guardian in England, and has spoken on a variety of topics at universities and conferences around the world.

In 1984, Kay's first novel, The Summer Tree, the first volume of The Fionavar Tapestry, was published to considerable acclaim in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, and then in a number of countries and languages. In 1990 Viking Canada's edition of his novel Tigana reached the national bestseller list, and his next book A Song for Arbonne debuted at #1 nationally. Kay has been a bestseller with each novel since.

Translations now exceed twenty languages and Kay has toured and read on behalf of his publishers and at literary events across Canada, and in countries ranging from the United States and England to Poland, France, Russia, Croatia, Serbia, Mexico and Greece, among others, with his next international appearance being slated for June 2010 in Shanghai and Beijing. He has been nominated for and has won numerous literary awards and is the recipient of the International Goliardos Prize (presented in Mexico City) for his contributions to the literature of the fantastic.

And come back in April to see the interview I did with Mr. Kay.

Thursday 18 March 2010

Karl Schroeder Online Author Chat

Want to talk to Karl Schroeder, SF writer, futurist and Toronto Public Library SF Writer-in-Residence? He will be doing a live one-hour chat on Book Buzz (Toronto Public Library's online book club) next week. Check it out at on Wednesday March 24th from 7-8.

Background on Karl from the WIR page:
Karl Schroeder's first science fiction novel Ventus was declared a New York Times Notable book in 2001, and his second novel, Permanence, won the 2003 Aurora Award for best Canadian Science Fiction Novel. Karl is best known for the Virga series: Sun of Suns, Queen of Candesce, Pirate Sun, The Sunless Countries, and Ashes of Candesce.

Karl has taught courses on writing science fiction at both the University of Toronto and George Brown College. Together with co-author Cory Doctorow, he wrote The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Science Fiction, practical marketing advice for aspiring authors.

TPL WIR page:
WIR Blog
Karl's homepage:

(Thanks to Dawn Connelly for the information write up and links.)

Sushi Cat!

Are you bored? Want some fun games to play? Welcome to Played Online. It has several categories full of free online games, including Sushi Cat. While you have to be a member to play some of their games, I was able to play Sushi Cat without signing up (sign up is free, but if you don't want to you can play some games without doing so). Think pachinko, only with a cat instead of a ball and you're trying to hit sushi pieces so your cat will grow fat and eventually get the stuffed cat it's in love with.

Wednesday 17 March 2010

Joe Hill, Toronto Signing

For those of you who are in the Toronto area, Joe Hill, author of Heart-Shaped Box, 20th Century Ghosts, and the comic series Locke & Key will be signing copies of his new book, Horns, at the Lillian H. Smith branch of the Toronto Public Library, Monday, March 22 at 7:00 PM.

Lillian H. Smith is located at 239 College Street. And if you haven't checked out the Merril Collection there, which hosts several SF & F events a year, you should.
For more information, call (416) 963-9993

And check out Mr. Hill's website.

And watch him talk about Horns in this excellent book trailer.

Predator, Movie Review

Director: John McTiernan, 1987

Pros: surprisingly good frame story, fascinating characters (each with their own quirks), great special effects (especially for the time), suspenseful

Cons: little to no explanation as to why the predator is there or why it's chosen to hunt this team

After watching Aliens vs Predator my husband was shocked to learn that if I have seen Predator, it was so long ago I no longer remember it. So we watched it, to clear up my ignorance. :)

As with AVP, I was surprised by the complexity of the frame story. I expected the predator to just randomly be hunting people in the jungle for no reason. Luckily that wasn't the case.

Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his crew are hired by the CIA to rescue hostages held by guerrillas in Central America. He quickly realizes that something's not right about the mission but the extent of the deception shocks him.

It's just after this revelation, when they prepare to leave, that the danger level ratchets up. Somehow they've turned from hunters to hunted.

You're given half the movie to get to know the members of Dutch's team so when they start dying, it's not only shocking, it's heart wrenching. There were a few I didn't mind seeing die and others I was hoping would survive. The movie did a good job keeping the suspense high. The humans were clever in their defense and offense strategies.

The invisibility cloak the predator wears was brilliantly done. The special effects hold up pretty well considering when the movie was made. It's obvious a lot of care was taken with regards to the predator's costume and abilities.

The only downside to the movie, aside from the quality of the film (it is old and the copy we had wasn't remastered, so it showed the deterioration) was that the predator's presence was only explained as a myth, that sometimes during hot years the strongest men in the surrounding areas often disappeared in the jungle. Granted, since the movie was from the human's point of view it would have been hard to work in a better explanation. In the end, simply thinking this alien comes to earth to hunt thinking prey works. And is what the AVP franchise is based on.

It's a good movie and if you haven't seen it yet, you should.

Tuesday 16 March 2010

Aliens vs Predator, Movie Review

Director: Paul W. S. Anderson, 2004

Pros: great special effects, a surprisingly intelligent frame story (I was expecting action and got a decent backstory for the alien-predator conflict)

Cons: there are too many humans to get to know/like them before they start dying (something the Alien movies and the original Predator (I haven't seen the second yet) did well, so when the characters die you're upset), the alien gestation period is shortened to fit the timeline of the film

Charles Bishop Weyland, of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, heads an expedition to Antarctica to discover the cause of heat signatures his satellites have discovered. Unknown to him, a ship of predators have engaged their 100 year hunting grounds. Their captive alien queen has started breeding eggs. All they need are human hosts to gestate their prey.

But the humans inadvertently start the hunt early, putting the predators at a disadvantage, and giving the aliens an unanticipated edge.

The tagline from the film, "Whoever wins… We lose." says it all. The humans are caught in the middle of a conflict they can't hope to survive.

Here's the trailer:

Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead, World's Biggest Bookstore Signing

Friday April 9th, at 7 pm, the World's Biggest Bookstore in Toronto will be hosting a booksigning for the EDGE horror anthology, Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead. If you're in the area, come on in!

There's even a website for the book:

Several of the contributing authors will be on hand for the signing:
Kelley Armstrong
Claude Lalumiere
Rio Youers
Sandra Kasturi
Gemma Files
Jerome Stueart
Natasha Beaulieu
Kevin Nunn
and the anthology's editor, Nancy Kilpatrick

Friday 12 March 2010

The People of sparks, Book Review

By Jeanne DuPrau

Pros: good moral without being preachy

Cons: the characters act in less realistic manners than in her previous book

The People of Sparks picks up immediately from the end of The City of Ember. But don't expect a story about the evacuation of Ember to the surface, DuPrau skips over the problems associated with leaving in order to focus on the difficulty the Emberites have aboveground.

Enter the village of sparks, Though there are more refugees than villagers, Sparks' leaders agree to feed and house the Emberites for 6 months. Oddly enough, the people of sparks never sit down with the Emberites to find out what they're capable of and what they know. This lack of knowledge and the gradual resentment that grows among the people of Sparks creates problems among the two groups.

Meanwhile Doon falls under the influence of a leader in the making, who feels the people of Sparks aren't doing enough to help them and Lina tries to learn more about the city of her drawings.

The novel teaches reasons conflicts arise without being overly didactic.

Thursday 11 March 2010

City of Ember, Book Review

By Jeanne DuPrau

Pros: realistic character motivations, interesting plot and setting

Cons: a bit slow at times, unrealistic storage time and use of canned goods, etc.

Ember is a city underground. Its people live in buildings and use electricity and goods prepared for them by the Builders. But the city is old. The stored food and supplies are running out. And the generator is slowly failing.

Lina Mayfleet is a new messenger in the city. She uncovers a mystery that might lead to the exit of Ember and the survival of her people. Towards this end, she refriends Doon Harrow, whose job in the pipeworks has allowed him to uncover a few mysteries as well.

The plot is straightforward. The city is failing and only a few people are actively looking for a solution. And unlike some children's books with child protagonists who save the day, The City of Ember's scenario is plausible. I could understand the adult's desire to keep the status quo, to hope that life could continue the way it always had. Meanwhile the antagonists are merely people looking out for their interests about those of the others in the city. Again, perfectly plausible.

The one thing that is not plausible is the idea that canned food, vitamins and other items can last 200+ years and remain usable. But most children won't notice this and as an adult reading the book it didn't detract from the story.

The story proceeds slowly, allowing for development of Lina and Doon. You get a good feel for the city and some of the citizens' attitudes. The blackouts are shown to be suitably horrifying, emphasizing the need for an exodus.

And like the children they are, both Lina and Doon want the attention and admiration of their elders, causing them to make some inadvisable decisions.

A great novel for children. It teaches a few good lessons without being preachy.

Wednesday 10 March 2010

Washington Post Neologism Contest Winners

I tried finding the actual Washington Post article that announced these but couldn't find one. I've seen the exact wording here on other sites and am not sure who the originator of this is, or for that matter what years these winners are supposedly from (Scribd has it posted in 2007). After poking around a bit more it looks like the contest no longer runs, which seems a shame given some of the winners. So for those of you who haven't seen these before or who have forgotten them, the point was to change one letter and create a new definition. The results are hilarious.

"The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly neologism contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternative meanings for common words.

The winners are:

1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.

3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.

6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.

7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle (n), olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

The Washington Post's Style Invitational also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are this year's winners:

1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

2. Foreploy (v): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

3. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

4. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

5. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

6. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

7. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.

8. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit).

9. Karmageddon (n): its like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

10. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

11. Glibido (v): All talk and no action.

12. Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

13. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

14. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

15. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.

And the pick of the literature:

16. Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an asshole."

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Amelie (Le Fabuleux Destin D'Amelie Poulain), Movie Review

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001

Pros: original narrative style with surrealistic elements, quirky characters, interesting plot with interconnected stories

Cons: (it won several awards. I dare you to find a con about this film.)

Amelie Poulain (Audrey Tautou) is home schooled by her neurotic mother, subsequently growing up without friends and unable to properly relate to people. To make up for this lack, she has a highly developed imagination. When she discovers a hidden cache of toys in her apartment she decides to return them to their, now adult, owner. If he's happy to have them back she'll do more good deeds. If he doesn't she won't.

What happens next is a surreal fantasy of love and overcoming your fears.

It's a touching movie, quirky at times and unlike anything you've seen before.

The trailer, which I grabbed from TommyBoy249er's youtube site, gives a feel for what the movie's like.

Monday 8 March 2010

World of Wifecraft, a Parody

I know a bunch of sites have posted this, I embedded this from Benjamin Barak's youtube site. If you're a woman who thinks her boyfriend/husband plays video games too much, this parody's for you. Sometimes stereotypes can be fun.

Friday 5 March 2010

N. K. Jemisin - Author Interview


Website: Epiphany 2.0


OK: Imagine if you had four gods as your slaves, to do with as you please. They're not all-powerful, but they can still bring the smite, and they absolutely have to do what you say. What would you do? End hunger? Prevent natural disasters? Would you send your slaves overseas to end some war, or get rid of some threat? What if they did it by wiping out the entire country in question, making the whole world hate you? Would you then use their power to keep yourself safe? And what if you realized that your slaves were just biding their time, waiting for the chance to take their revenge on you?

This is the world of THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS, where for centuries the Arameri family has used its god-slaves to make the world a better place -- whether it wants to be or not. But the gods have not been idle all this time. They want to be free, and they're going to use one special young woman to achieve this goal. But which is better: a peaceful world under a brutal dictator's thumb, or a free world suffering the gods' wrath unchecked?

> If you could live in your fantasy/sf world, would you? Would you live in somebody else's?

Heck no, I wouldn't live in my fantasy world! I put my worlds through way too much drama. But let's see. Offhand, I would love to live in Naomi Novik's dragon-infested alternate Earth (the Temeraire novels), though not in England during the Napoleonic wars, thanks. And only if I could meet a dragon. I might also like living in Steven Boyett's ARIEL and ELEGY BEACH, which is set on Earth after a change in the laws of physics causes technology to fail and magic to appear. Provided I could learn how to use some pre-gunpowder weapons, master a few basic spells, and scrounge enough modern medicines to not die of a stubbed toe, I think it would be a grand adventure.

> You first wrote the novel that became THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS ten years ago, then rewrote it from scratch. Why?

Because that novel sucked! Seriously, it wasn't bad -- it had the same concept, mostly the same characters, pretty much was the same book down the line. But I was telling the wrong character's story. In that earlier version, the emphasis was on the enslaved gods and their struggle to be free. The story's human protagonist was really just there to tell the gods' story. But what I needed to do was focus on the story of that protagonist, because I think a mortal struggling to deal with angry gods is more interesting than the angry gods themselves. It helped that in the ten years since, I'd gained a lot more skill as a writer, and could employ some techniques that I once would've been afraid to attempt. So I changed a number of specifics about the story -- for example, shifting the voice from third person to first person -- and rewrote it from scratch, this time emphasizing the protagonist's struggles. I'm much happier with the result this time... not the least of which is because it got me a book deal!

> What was the hardest scene for you to write?

A scene in which a character is tortured. There are actually several such scenes in THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS -- consider this fair warning – and I don't stint on describing them because I want to convey just how horrible this act is. But writing those scenes required me to go into a very dark place, and I didn't like being there.

> If you still have one, what's your day job?

At the moment I don't have a day job, though that's temporary. I took a hiatus from my career in order to finish the three books of the Inheritance Trilogy, since I had some short deadlines and didn't think I could handle *two* full time careers at once. But I'm planning to return to my day job, and actually looking forward to it because I love my work -- I'm a career counselor. Basically, I try to help people achieve their dreams (which makes for a weird sort of parallel with writing fantasy).

It's been interesting since the book deal, since becoming a published writer has been *my* dream, but I've come to realize that it's not quite enough for me. I still need to help people to feel fulfilled. So I suppose the ideal balance would be for me to work part-time as a career counselor, and part-time on my writing. We'll see; I'm still working things out.

> What is your university degree in and does it help with your writing?

I have a masters' in counseling psychology, and boy howdy does it help my writing. All my characters have Issues, and trying to resolve them -- or in a few cases, failing utterly -- is usually a key part of their character arc. Also, employing stress reduction techniques when I get close to a deadline helps to keep *me* sane!

> When and where do you write?

I make myself write every day, at least a thousand words a day, preferably two thousand. Generally I work best in midmorning to afternoon (which is one of the reasons why I quit my job), and I work equally well in my home office or in a local coffee shop (though that gets expensive and fattening, since I have to "pay rent" by buying coffee and food). When an idea has really grabbed hold of me, though, I start writing everywhere, anytime. I have often brought my laptop to bed with me; once I typed out a few paragraphs while cooking dinner, with the laptop balanced on top of the microwave. Don't try that at home, kids.

> What's the best/worst thing about writing?

Best: Revising. Because in order to revise, I will have already completed a rough draft -- the story is done, I just need to polish it and prune it into shape. The hardest part of writing, for me, is composing from scratch. It takes me hours to finish my wordcount goal for the day, and I spend a lot of that time staring at the screen, beating my brains for just the right word or phrase, trying this or that combination and discarding it and trying again. I love the finished product, but getting there is seriously hard work.

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

Persistence is the key. If you write a book and it doesn't sell, write another book. If that one doesn't sell, write another. Or do what I did -- go back to an old book and rewrite it from scratch. Then write another. The only way to fail in this game is to stop trying.

> How do you discipline yourself to write?

There was a time, when I was younger, when I waited for "inspiration" to write. I'd skip a few days, then churn out a chapter, then skip some more, and so on. And this was fine -- as long as writing was just a hobby. But when I began to realize that I wanted to write professionally, I needed to start viewing it as a profession. As work. And most people go to work every day, rain or shine, only taking time off for weekends, emergencies, etc. So I decided that I needed to write every day, too, rain or shine. I don't even take time off for weekends; most times I write seven days a week. I have to take myself seriously if I want other people to do the same. Plus -- and maybe more importantly -- I can reasonably expect to finish at least one novel every year at the pace I work. The days when writers could take years to crank out a single book are over; in this competitive market, writers have to produce new work frequently in order to build a brand and encourage readers to follow them.

> How many rejection letters did you get for your first novel or story?

For my first novel, I only got one rejection letter -- but it took two years to come, because I didn't have an agent then and submitted the novel through a publisher's slushpile. This turned out to be a good thing, though, because in the two years I was waiting, I realized that novel was crap. So I set it aside and wrote another, which was the earlier version of THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS. Got about twenty rejections on that one, because I sent it to agents, not publishers (having learned my lesson from the last experience), and agents have speedier turnaround times. The rejections were encouraging, though, so I wrote another novel -- and it got me an agent! But it still didn't sell, and I got maybe ten rejections on that one. Then I rewrote THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS -- and didn't get a single rejection on it. In fact, it went to auction; *three* publishers wanted it. That was

But you know -- I keep that first, two-years-waiting rejection letter framed in my office. It's a great motivator, and a constant reminder that being a writer means failing, and trying again, and failing again, and trying again... until you succeed.

Thursday 4 March 2010

Amazing Star Wars - Kesha Tik Tok Music Video Spoof

Via teddiefilms's youtube channel.

It's his first video. With any luck he'll make many more!

Alien Face Hugger Baby Picture

I wanted to find a bunch of SF related pictures to go with this, but I don't have time. This is a cute (if creepy) picture I found here. Enjoy.

Wednesday 3 March 2010


I guess it shows how long I've been away from Japan that I completely forgot today is Hinamatsuri, or the Dolls Festival. Japanese girls display their dolls leading up to March 3rd and are given candies and other treats. There's a belief that girls who don't put their dolls away promptly after the festival are doomed to remain single. :P

I received a package today from one of my former students, that included two candy sushi* trays! So I got out my paper doll cutout that I used in Japan (I have other, nicer ones, but this was the first one I grabbed and the first I owned). Makes a cute display.

* Obviously I didn't look at the candies too closely before posting about them. They're mostly fruit and vegetable candies, with a candy rice segment on the left one.


It's not sf related, but it is a great feel good video. (And if you're a cynic you can term this fantasy.)

From: Hughnewman1024's youtube site:

"Validation" is a fable about the magic of free parking. Starring TJ Thyne & Vicki Davis. Writer/Director/Composer - Kurt Kuenne. Winner - Best Narrative Short, Cleveland Int'l Film Festival, Winner - Jury Award, Gen Art Chicago Film Festival, Winner - Audience Award, Hawaii Int'l Film Festival, Winner - Best Short Comedy, Breckenridge Festival of Film, Winner - Crystal Heart Award, Best Short Film & Audience Award, Heartland Film Festival, Winner - Christopher & Dana Reeve Audience Award, Williamstown Film Festival, Winner - Best Comedy, Dam Short Film Festival, Winner - Best Short Film, Sedona Int'l Film Festival.

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Ladyhawke, Movie Review

Director: Richard Donner
Released: 1985

Pros: a fascinating plot, interesting characters, excellent scenery, good music

Cons: (I first saw this film as a child and have loved it ever since. I can't think of any cons, but I'm biased. The closest I can come is to say that some of the dialogue seemed rather cheesy upon this latest viewing.)

One of my favourite movies, I decided to watch it again after a long hiatus.
The story tells of the escape of pickpocket and liar Philipe Gastone (Matthew Broderick), from the inescapable dungeons of Aquila. He is rescued from the captain of the guard's attempt to recapture him by former captain Etienne Navarre (Rutger Hauer).

Navarre wants Philipe to get him into Aquila so he can kill the Bishop, the man who cursed him to be a wolf by night and his love, Isabeau (Michelle Pfeiffer), a hawk by day.

The movie alternates between action packed fight scenes and quiet scenes where you learn about the tragedy destroying the protagonists. There is enough humour to prevent the film from becoming too maudlin. Which is a concern as it deals with redemption as well as revenge.

The music is atmospheric and uses synthesizers to good advantage. It's a bit peculiar at first but fits the film magnificently. Ladyhawke was filmed in Italy, giving it glorious backdrops of mountains, authentic castles and dark forests.

I highly recommend it.