Saturday, August 21, 2004


Judy and I went to see Collateral yesterday. If you haven't seen it, you might want to quit reading now, because I'll probably give away some supposed surprises.

Here's the deal. Jamie Foxx plays a taxi driver named Max. My theory about books and movies is that everybody is willing to forgive one big coincidence, but the fact that Max's first fare is an attorney (Jada Pinkett Smith) who's on the hit list of his second fare, Vincent (Tom Cruise) is a little hard to swallow. This isn't really giving anything away, however, since anybody who sees the movie is going to twig to it a lot quicker than Max does.

Since the attorney is #5 on a list of five, Vincent has to kill a lot of people before he gets to her, and he hires Max to drive him from victim to victim (there's a hint in the movie that this has happened at least once before, though not to Max). When Max finds out what's going on, Vincent forces him to participate.

You pretty much know how this is going to turn out. Max, the ordinary guy, will prove to be a little more heroic than Vincent expects, there will be a "suspenseful" chase, and yadda yadda yadda.

I thought the movie was pretty good, though. Cruise does a good villain, and has a nice last line. Foxx is a lot better than I thought he'd be. Really good, in fact. I'm looking forward to seeing how he does as Ray Charles in Ray later on this year.

One jarring note that took me out of the movie: Mark Ruffalo appears as a cop and seems to be playing the same guy he played in In the Cut. I kept expecting Meg Ryan to show up for some hot R-rated sex.

Friday, August 20, 2004


This morning I made a trip to the Disabled Veterans Thrift Store. I try to get by there every couple of weeks because you never know what books might turn up. (I got a run of The Lady from L.U.S.T., for example.) Today there wasn't much, but I picked up a hardback copy of the Gardner Dozois anthology The Year's Best Science Fiction. It's the 1999 edition, so I'll have a chance to catch up with some writers I'm no doubt unfamiliar with.

The DAV store also sells vinyl LPs for seventy cents or three for a buck-fifty. I bought Jethro Tull's Aqualung, something by Styx, and a double album by REO Speedwagon. What can I say? I can't resist a bargain.


FOX23 -- NEWS: "Kennedy Killing to Undergo Digital Review"

Too bad it's going to take at least a year. But then I figure they won't learn anything new anyway.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Working for the Man

When I was in high school, I worked at Red Arrow Freight Lines in the summers and on Saturdays. That probably explains why Algis Budrys' "The Distant Sound of Engines" hit me so hard when I read it in the March 1959 issue of F&SF. And why I've remembered it so well for 45 years. It's not a great story, but when I read it, I thought, "I know people just like the guy telling this story. I go to work with them every day of the summer." And it had some stuff about trucks in it, too.

Not too many years ago, Joe Lansdale and I were talking at AggieCon, and he said he'd like to do an anthology of trucking stories (but he never did). I said, "There's one by Algis Budrys you really should use." I couldn't remember the name of it, of course. So when I opened the Budrys anthology I picked up at Armadillocon, the first thing I looked at was the table of contents. When I saw "The Sound of Distant Engines," I said, "That's it." And it was. I read it immediately. It hasn't dated at all. And I still love it.

There's another story in the book that I also remembered, more for the great Kelly Freas cover illustration on a 1956 Astounding than for the story. It's "The Executioner," and it's a really good story. It's about faith and politics that's just as relevant (and just as true) today as it was nearly 50 years ago, which is pretty scary. Read it if you ever run across it.

Algis Budrys

When I attended the World Science Fiction Convention in San Antonio in 1997, Algis Budrys was one of the major guests. He's a writer I've always sort of kept up with, probably because he has an unusual name, but also because he wrote a story I'm really fond of. (More about that in another post.) And because I really liked the cover of the first paperback edition of Who?

At the WorldCon, one of the freebies was a copy of a Budrys short-story collection called Entertainment, published by the New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA). I didn't get a copy at the time because I didn't know about it. However, there were some copies left over, and they were given away at the recent Armadillocon. This time, I got one.

The stories in the book are from my Golden Age of Science Fiction, 1954-1958, and they originally appeared in the magazines I was devouring at the time: Astounding, Venture, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Infinity. So naturally I've been reading a few of them again. Ah, the nostalgic thrills.


DRUDGE REPORT 2004?: "FLASH: The current version of the PARAMOUNT film TEAM AMERICA is a guaranteed NC-17, with surprisingly graphic scenes of puppet sex.."

Well, that does it. Now I know I'm going to see it.

Something Old, Nothing New

Something Old, Nothing New: "Grudge Matches I'd Like To See
To follow up on the previous post... a few years ago, I actually considered doing a sort of 'Indie Grudge Match' site that would do matches that were too obscure for the WWWF Grudge Match. Foolishly, I dropped the idea and wound up blogging instead. But I thought I'd post about some of the pop-culture grudge matches I'd like to see."

This is a pretty funny post. Or at least I thought so. Click on the link and see for yourself.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Mexican Movie Gallery

Mexican Movie Gallery: "Cinema Diabolico

Overlooked and under appreciated by most US movie poster collectors, marquee art from south of the border offers a no-holds-barred plethora of often shocking and bizarre images. From the super heroic exploits of El Santo, the masked wrestler, to the re-released, re-packaged, and regurgitated US drive-in fare of the 50's and 60's, Mexican cinema art is generally far superior to American theatre graphics of the same time period."

OK, I'll admit it. I find stuff like this irresistible. There are some great posters here. Every link has something cool. I was reminded of the time about 20 years ago when I was lucky enough to be able to see quite a few movies starring masked Mexican wrestlers.

Stark House Press

I've mentioned Stark House Press before, but it never hurts to remind people of a place that's doing a good job. The latest Stark House project is a reprint of two Douglas Sanderson novels in one volume. Sanderson was probably better-known in the U.S. as Malcolm Douglas because of the Gold Medal novels he did under that name. In fact, the Stark House volume reprints one of those books, Pure Sweet Hell. And it's a good one. It also reprints Catch a Fallen Starlet from Avon, and I know a guy who thinks this is one of Sanderson's best. There are introductions by Kevin Burton Smith and Sanderson's son. The book's not due until November, but I wanted to post this before I forgot. I highly recommend it. You can check out the whole line of Stark House books at

Short Stories

Like James Reasoner, I seem to be in the mood for reading short stories. The three I read yesterday are all in Asimov's Science Fiction for June 2003.

The lead story in the issue is John Varley's "The Bellman." I used to like Varley's stories a lot, and I really enjoyed his 2003 "comeback" novel, Red Thunder, which for me captured some of the feeling of Robert Heinlein's YA novels from another era. But I didn't much like "The Bellman." It went along fine until the end, when I suddenly felt as if I'd somehow skipped six pages or so. Maybe I'm supposed to be smart enough to fill in the blanks, and I guess I am, but I prefer to have things made a little more clear. Maybe I'll have another look to see what I missed. Or not.

Cory Doctorow has made a lot of noise in the SF field lately, but I'd never read anything by him. So I was glad to see that he had a story in the issue. It's "Nimby and the Dimension Hoppers," and while it has plenty of weird things in it (living houses, bicycle fields), at heart it's an old-fashioned story of the kind I like. I enjoyed it.

I also enjoyed Lawrence Person's "Morlock Chili." I've been acquainted with Lawrence for years, thanks to attending Armadillocon and Aggiecon, but I don't think I'd ever read his fiction before. This story could definitely have appeared in an issue of, say, Amazing Stories around 1958, and nobody would have been overly surprised. I mean that as a compliment. It's funny and well-written and very Texas, and I'll be looking for Person's name from now on.

Alvin, Texas

As some of you know (and some of you don't), I live in swampy Alvin, Texas, about halfway between Sugar Land and Galveston on Highway 6. NASA is about 12 miles away in a different direction. The weather here in the summer is usually just about what you'd expect in a place the early Spanish explorers deemed unfit for human habitation (and there are many who agree with them, even today). But the last few days have been great. We got a rare August cool front, and we've had record low temperatures for a couple of nights. Better yet, the humidity disappeared. Getting up and out for a little jog in the morning was a pleasure. Unfortunately, the humidity has started creeping back in. By tomorrow we'll be back to the usual August pattern: middle to upper 70s at night middle 90s during the day. With plenty of humidity. But the cool front was really great while it lasted.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Guardian Unlimited Books | Top 10s | Paul Murray: top 10 gothic novels

Guardian Unlimited Books | Top 10s | Paul Murray: top 10 gothic novels: " Paul Murray's top 10 gothic novels"

Well, as I said below, I can't resist a good list. Here's another one. What's really surprising (to me) is that I've read 9 of the 10 books on it. (The one I haven't read is #7.)

Something Old, Nothing New

Something Old, Nothing New: "A non-technical BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL post
One more post about The Bad and the Beautiful, but this time not blathering on about the length of shots. Having seen the movie again -- and if you haven't seen it, please buy or rent the DVD -- I thought I'd make a note of which character is based on which real-life Hollywood figure. Writer Charles Schnee, director Vincente Minnelli and producer John Houseman (aka Professor Kingsfield) drew on various Hollywood stories and legends to create the film, and part of the fun of the movie is guessing who these people are intended to represent. Sometimes it's obvious, sometimes less so:"

This is the intro to an interesting post. I hadn't really read much about THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, so I'd never thought about these correspondences. (You might have to scroll down to find the post.)
Book: The Killing of the Tinkers, by Ken Bruen (2004)
Reading this novel is like grabbing hold of a live wire while ripped to the gills on Guinness. You’re instantly swept up by the Gael force of Jack Taylor’s personality. I wouldn’t mind if Jack took a drop of Powers every now and then instead of Jameson’s, but otherwise I have no complaints. (Well, one. George Pelecanos’ name is misspelled. In two different ways.)

OK, here's my Ken Bruen comment, inspired by Vince's. When I read the three novels in The White Trilogy, I felt about them pretty much the way Vince feels about The Killing of the Tinkers. So when The Guardians came out and was nominated for the Edgar, among others, I sprang for the hardback edition. And I was disappointed. Sure, Jack Taylor's a great character, and I loved the references to the old paperbackers, but I thought the mystery element of the novel was negligible and the solution was perfunctory. To me, the book seemed more like a mainstream novel with a killing in it. I couldn't believe it had been nominated for an Edgar, because to my mind it wasn't a mystery novel at all. Not that it's not a good book. It's just not a mystery. So I haven't been eager to read The Killing of the Tinkers. I probably will, sooner or later, but I'm not springing for the hardback.


I subscribed to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction for quite a few years. Then, sometime in the late '90s, I realized that not a single story in the magazine entertained me. And, even worse, I realized that I didn't understand about half of them. So I let my subscription lapse.

A while back, James Reasoner ( mentioned that he'd been reading the latest issue and that he liked Brad Denton's story called "Sergeant Chip." OK, I thought, if James likes it, it must be OK. (And I like Denton's work a lot. His serial killer novel, Blackburn, is a classic. It's unlike any other serial killer novel you're ever likely to read.)

So while I was at Armadillocon, I bought a copy of the magazine, and last night I read "Sergeant Chip." I'm glad I did. It's a rip-snorting war adventure story that wouldn't have been out of place in the SF digests of the 1950s, though of course it has a modern sensibility. If the other stores in the magazine come up to this standard, I might even consider subscribing again.

I also picked up some copies of recent issues of Asimov's SF or whatever they're calling it these days. I'll be reading some stories in those mags, too, in the hopes . . . .

Monday, August 16, 2004

Introducing the Kalashnikov MP3 player | The Register

Introducing the Kalashnikov MP3 player | The Register : "Introducing the Kalashnikov MP3 player"

What a great idea. This is a must for my next plane trip.

The Enemy

I think I mentioned that I've been reading Lee Child's new one, The Enemy. I'd read all but about 90 pages before we left for Armadillocon, and I didn't bother taking the book with me to finish it while we were there. I'm not sure what that tells us. Probably this: That I didn't find the book so gripping that I was in a sweat to get to the end. Now that I've read it, here are a few random thoughts.

1. The book seems longer than the earlier Jack Reacher books. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I prefer shorter books. Not that the earlier books were short.

2. Child sure does know a lot about the U.S. military. The stuff about the Army, Army life, Army politics, Army this and Army that is almost overwhelming.

3. The book, like the first one Child published about Reacher, is in first person. Don't know why. Maybe because it's a "prequel," set before the third-person books. Some writers switch between first and third person in the same book. Child does it a bit differently.

4. The plot seems pretty complicated, but I'd figured out a lot of it by the time I stopped reading to go to the convention. Maybe that's why I wasn't in a hurry to finish.

5. This wasn't my favorite Jack Reacher book, but I'll probably read the next one.

Telegraph | News | 'Minority Report' police unit consults killers to spot potential murderers

Telegraph | News | 'Minority Report' police unit consults killers to spot potential murderers : "'Minority Report' police unit consults killers to spot potential murderers
By Charlotte Edwardes and Andrew Alderson
(Filed: 15/08/2004)

Detectives are to record and analyse interviews with Britain's most notorious killers in search of clues that will help them identify potential murderers - before they have committed their terrible crimes."

Well, I'd say that there's a mystery novel waiting to be written here. If you write it, I'll take 10%.

"100 Science Fiction Books You Just Have to Read"

Lists of Bests : Phobos Entertainment's "100 Science Fiction Books You Just Have to Read"

I can't resist lists like this. Check it out and see what you think. (There are some other interesting lists on the site, too.)

defective yeti

defective yeti: "There Can Be Only One

Apparently they are making an Alien vs. Predator movie, perhaps because of the success of last year's Jason vs. Freddy. That's cool, I guess, but there are so many other matchups I'd rather see."

If you were lucky enough to miss ALIEN VS. PREDATOR, click the link for the supervillain death-fight tournament bracket. You have to fill in the winners yourself.

Warp Factor

The link above comes courtesy of Jayme Blaschke's Gibberish and leads to a great article by Alison Rowat. It's about the World SF Con. Key sentence: "Having an interest in sci-fi is akin to dabbling in drugs." The rest is equally hilarious.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear : Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear : Thrilling Days of Yesteryear “I did something wrong…once…”

Scroll down to Friday the 13th's entry for the commentary on THE KILLERS if you haven't read it yet. Some great stuff here. Even a photo.

Back Home Again

You constant readers must think I really liked that post about Armadillocon, but I swear it wasn't my fault that it was posted so many times. I blame (A) Blogger, (B) my computer, or (C) both. But now I've deleted all the extras and things are back to what passes for normal around here.

The 11-12 panel last night went better than I expected, so I didn't fall asleep. I can't remember much about it, but that doesn't prove anything.

Today's panel was on baseball novels, especially ones with a fantastic element. We mentioned a lot, including I Don't Care if I ever Come Back, The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant, Rhubarb, The Natural, The Universal Baseball Association, J. Henry Waugh, Prop., The Great American Novel, and Screwball. I'm sure there were a lot of others that I don't remember.

It's good to be home, especially after fighting the traffic on I-10 for a while. Now I can finish reading Lee Child's new one, The Enemy. And then I can start thinking about what to do with all the books I bought at the convention.