Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Sidewise Awards

A couple of folks I know, including commenter Jess Nevins, are among the nominees for a Sidewise Award. Congrats to all.

Best Short Form:

Elizabeth Bear, “Les Innocents/Lumiere” (in New Amsterdam, Subterranean Press)
Michael Flynn, “Quaestiones Super Caelo Et Mundo” (in Analog, 7/07)
Matthew Johnson, “Public Safety” (in Asimov’s, 3/07)
Jess Nevins, “An Alternate History of Chinese Science Fiction” (in No Fear of the Future, May 17, 2007)
Chris Roberson, “Metal Dragon Year” (in Interzone, 12/07)
Kristine Kathryn Rusch, “Recovering Apollo 8″ (in Asimov’s, 2/07)
John Scalzi, “Missives from Possible Futures #1: Alternate History Search Results” (in Subterranean Magazine, Winter 2007)

Best Long Form:

Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (HarperCollins)
Robert Conroy, 1945: A Novel (Ballantine Books)
Mary Gentle, Ilario (The Lion’s Eye and The Stone Golem) (Eos)
Jay Lake, Mainspring (Tor Books)
Sophia McDougall, Rome Burning (Orion)
Jo Walton, Ha’penny (Tor Books)

Side by Side #7

I loved this book when I read it in 1971. I also liked Rifkin's Ladyfingers from Gold Medal and his western, King Fisher's Road. Plus another good one, McQuaid, a Putnam hardcover that was reprinted by Berkley.

It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp

Sure Halloween is a long way off, but it's never to early to make sure your son and daughter have the right outfits.

The 100 Best Films

The 100 best films - drama and thriller/action - Telegraph: "You'll laugh, you'll cry and you may angrily demand to know why we've snubbed Meg Ryan in our highly subjective, yet infinitely debatable list of the greatest films of all time."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

News 8 Austin | 24 Hour Local News | TOP STORIES | Cedar Park church helps ease gas price burden: "If gas prices are getting you down, a Cedar Park church would like to help.

As part of its 'Faith in Action Weekend,' members of Highpoint Fellowship Church have struck a deal with an Exxon station to sell gas for $2.49 a gallon on Sunday, April 27.

They've actually bought down the price in order to help people who are struggling because of the high gas prices."

Croc Update (Prestigious Art Exhibit Edition)

Photo at the link. | Life | Sculptures reveal artist's inner thoughts: "In the art piece 'Crocodile Tears,' a weeping crocodile towers above a girl. She extends her left hand, touching the creature's chest in a show of comfort. | Photo Gallery

She already has lost her right arm, from the elbow down -- presumably to the crocodile, who is feigning tears while poised to consume another of the girl's limbs."

Strong Entertainment for the Unafraid!

Friday, April 25, 2008

The NYT Looks at Self-Publishing

You’re an Author? Me Too! - Essay - Book Review - New York Times: "In short, everyone has a story — and everyone wants to tell it. Fewer people may be reading, but everywhere you turn, Americans are sounding their barbaric yawps over the roofs of the world, as good old Walt Whitman, himself a self-published author, once put it."

Hooray for Bill O'Reilly!

He's here to save the day!

Newsman calls for Miley Cyrus media conference over shocking snaps - We're Always On!: "Outspoken newsman Bill O'Reilly has called for a media conference to discuss revealing new photos of teenage star Miley Cyrus that were recently leaked online.

The pictures, which show the 15-year-old Hannah Montana star posing in nothing but lingerie as she lounges on an unnamed boy's lap, have caused outrage.

Fox News anchor O'Reilly is keen to get to the bottom of the scandal - and find out why and how the photos were leaked online earlier this week."

Eight '80s Movies that Should Have Been Hits

I've seen all of these. Some of them I really, really like.


50 Best Cult Books

The Telegraph has another interesting list.

50 best cult books - Telegraph: "Our critics present a selection of history's most notable cult writing. Some is classic. Some is catastrophic. All of it had the power to inspire."

Roger Ebert on JOE VS. THE VOLCANO

Roger Ebert's Journal: "APRIL 25, 2008--Every year I keep meaning to include 'Joe vs. the Volcano' in Ebertfest, and every year something else squeezes it out, some film more urgently requiring our immediate attention, you see. The 1990 John Patrick Shanley film, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, was about a wage slave in a factory where dark clouds lower o'er the sky; he is told he has a Brain Cloud, with only five months to live. How this leaves him to become a candidate for human sacrifice in the South Seas follows a long and winding road, in a film that was a failure in every possible way except that I loved it."

Roger Ebert, Vince Keenan, me, and Judy. That's about all I know who feel this way.

Happy Birthday, Howard Garis!

I see on Bill Peschel's blog (Reader's Almanac), that today's the birthday of the great Howard Garis. Rather than repeat myself, I'll direct you to this post I did a couple of years ago.

Scarlett Johansson Does Tom Waits

Does his songs, that is. On a CD. I read about this a while back, and I thought, "She can sing?" Well, I've been listening to the first single ("Falling Down") from the CD via Rhapsody, and I'd have to say that the jury is still out. The single is mesmerizing, and I like the production, but I'm not so sure about the alleged singing. Not that it matters, I suppose. If you want to get right down to it, Tom Waits doesn't exactly sing, either. I like this one enough to listen to the rest of the CD when it's released.


Barbara Fister has put the tag on me. The meme is this: Pick up the nearest book, turn to page 123, find the fifth sentence from the top of the page, and copy down the next three sentences. Since I'm sitting in MD Anderson while Judy enjoys a CT-Scan, the book nearest me is the one I brought to read, Jeffrey Ford's The Shadow Year. Here are the sentences:

"A terrible drunk. Once he drove his motorcycle through a plate-glass window and was hospitalized for three months."

I waited for her to go on, but she didn't.

Doesn't tell you much, does it? I'll have a review of the book here in a few days, and then you can find out what it's all about.

I'm too lazy to tag anyone else.

The Book You Have to Read

Patti Abbott came up with this idea. She has a great gator photo on her blog, so naturally I went along with her suggestion that some bloggers write about "forgotten" books, books that influenced them but that seem in danger of disappearing. So I thought I'd start with City by Clifford Simak.

We're talking here about one of my favorite books by one of my favorite SF writers. Simak died 20 years ago, and while I don't know for sure, I suspect that few of his books remain in print in mass market editions.
City is a "fix-up" book, composed of a series of chapters that originally appeared as short stories. Each story is a tale about the legendary creature known as "man" and what happened to him. It's about the end of the world, in a way, and it ends not with a bang, but a whimper, just as Eliot predicted. Except for the dogs, Jenkins, a robot, becomes the most human figure in the book, which contains as one of the chapters what is possibly my favorite SF story, "Desertion."

I really loved this book when I first read it more than 50 years ago. I've read it several times since, and I still feel the same way. "Desertion" never gets old, and that last line slays me every single time. I still think it's one of the best I ever read. Check it out.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

'Hoodies' were the scourge of Medieval London - Telegraph: "They are the symbol of today's disaffected youth but a historian has revealed that the hoodie-wearing yob is not just a modern problem.

Professor Robert Bartlett, who is an expert on the Middle Ages, said hooded tops were also the garment of choice for 12th-century juvenile delinquents.

The teenage apprentice boys of London were lawless, violent and the scourge of the capital."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Behold the Awesomeness

My Profile Isn't Posted

iWon News - Paris Hilton talks about public search for new best friend: "LOS ANGELES (AP) - More than 85,000 people want to be Paris Hilton's best friend.

The 27-year-old is using the Internet to cast potential friends for her new reality show, 'Paris Hilton's My New BFF.' The MTV series, which begins production next month, will follow 20 contestants as they live together and vie for the chance to be Hilton's permanent plus-one.

Thousands of candidates have posted profiles and videos on in hopes of winning a spot on the show. Visitors to the site can vote for their favorites, and the top vote-getters will be added to the cast, producers said."

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

Welcome to Russia, er, New York - Machine-Gun-Toting Officers To Patrol NYC Subway: "NEW YORK (CBS) ― More protection against terrorists is coming to a subway station near you. Starting Thursday, special bomb teams - 'Torch Teams' - will be toting submachine guns and bringing bomb-sniffing dogs onto the platforms and into the trains."

What's Going on around Here?

Today from 1-4 pm, I'll be speaking at a mystery writers conference at theTomball College & Community Library, Meeting Room, L129 on the first floor. The topic is Myth or Truth: How Our Past Influences Our Writing. I'm not at all sure I know what that means, but I'll bet the other panelists (John Foxjohn, Russ Hall, Ayn Hunt, William Manchee, Rosemary Poole-Carter, Jo Ann Power, Leann Sweeney, Bev Vincent, and Gayle Wigglesworth) have it all figured out. There'll be refreshments, and everyone will be selling and signing books. It's a free event, so if you're in the area, drop by and say "hey."

After we leave Tomball, Judy and I will drive back to Houston and spend the night in our daughter's townhouse. We'd come back here, but Judy has to be at MD Anderson at 7:00 on Friday morning. It'll be easier just to stay in Houston. Judy will be having her first post-chemo testing. We'll get the results on Wednesday, so keep a good thought.

Alexander the Great Update

Alexander the Great's "Crown," Shield Discovered?: "An ancient Greek tomb thought to have held the body of Alexander the Great's father is actually that of Alexander's half brother, researchers say.

This may mean that some of the artifacts found in the tomb—including a helmet, shield, and silver 'crown'—originally belonged to Alexander the Great himself. Alexander's half brother is thought to have claimed these royal trappings after Alexander's death.

The tomb was one of three royal Macedonian burials excavated in 1977 by archaeologists working in the northern Greek village of Vergina."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Penis Theft Panic Hits City

Penis theft panic hits city.. | Oddly Enough | Reuters: "KINSHASA (Reuters) - Police in Congo have arrested 13 suspected sorcerers accused of using black magic to steal or shrink men's penises after a wave of panic and attempted lynchings triggered by the alleged witchcraft.

Reports of so-called penis snatching are not uncommon in West Africa, where belief in traditional religions and witchcraft remains widespread, and where ritual killings to obtain blood or body parts still occur."

Secrets of Elvis Revealed!

Okay, so it's only one secret. Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

Elvis made secret visit to Britain | "ROCK'n'Roll legend Elvis Presley did in fact visit Britain, it was revealed yesterday, with a secret visit to London accompanied by another rocker.

For more than half a century it was generally accepted the 'King' only made a fleeting transit visit to Scotland in 1960 - much to the disappointment of his legion of UK fans.

But theatre producer Bill Kenwright has revealed in a radio interview that Presley, then 23, managed to go sightseeing in London with Cockney singer Tommy Steele."

Will the Persecution Never End?

Paris Hilton Banned From A Russian Hotel - Starpulse Entertainment News Blog: "Paris HiltonSocialite Paris Hilton has reportedly been banned from a top Russian hotel - after signing her name on its expensive wallpaper. The hotel heiress, 27, wrote 'Paris Moscow 2008' in a black marker pen in $16,000 -a-night suite in the Hyatt Hotel in the Russian capital."

I Have Always Said This Was a G-Rated Blog

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou

8 Pointless Rules all Comic Book Movies Follow

From Cracked.


Robotic vigilante: Homemade 'Bum Bot' patrols in Atlanta - Yahoo! News: "ATLANTA - Cars passing O'Terrill's pub screech to a halt at the sight of a 300-pound, waist-high robot marked 'SECURITY' rolling through downtown long after dark.

The regulars hardly glance outside. They've seen bar owner Rufus Terrill's invention on patrol before — its bright red lights and even brighter spot light blazing, infrared video camera filming and water cannon at the ready in the spinning turret on top.

'You're trespassing. That's private property,' Terrill scolds an older man through the robot's loudspeaker. The man is sitting at the edge of the driveway to a child care center down the street. 'Go on.'"

The Girl Who Killed Things -- Talmage Powell

Talmage Powell was one of those guys who never cracked my Top Ten list, but he wrote some good paperback originals (try the Ed Rivers series, for example). The Girl Who Killed Things is a pretty good try at a Gold Medal book, and it's certainly influenced by James M. Cain (the ending is strongly reminiscent of Postman, at least to me), but it's not up to Cain's level. It's a good book, just not a great one.

Enos Drake goes to Atlanta on business and meets Vi. He thinks she's perfect (he hasn't read any Cain or any Gold Medal books). Drake's from an old, wealthy family in his small town, and he doesn't ask Vi about her background before they marry. When he gets into trouble with a conniving business partner, Vi has the perfect solution: kill the guy. It would be wrong for me to tell you what happens after that. Let's just say that things sort of go as planned, and then they don't. And after they don't, it's downhill from there. You know what I mean.

Good pacing, some nice twists, and some nice swampy local color. Worth checking out.

Update: In a comment below, Todd Mason asks about Zenith Books. So I consulted my copy of Mass Market Publishing in America, edited by some guy named Crider, and read the Zenith article, written by some guy named Pronzini. He says that Zenith was born in 1957 and lasted a couple of years. It was created from the assets of Lion Books, so some titles were originally intended for that imprint. Best-known title: Damon Knight's The People Maker.

Scott Cupp Update

Scott Cupp's new, improved webpage is up, with links to a number of free (and good) stories, not to mention other stuff. Click here to check it out.

UFO Update Update

Phoenix man: Neighbor caused mysterious lights: "There could be a less-than-supernatural explanation behind the strange lights that appeared over Phoenix on Monday night, according to one Phoenix man.

Lino Mailo, 44, said he saw his neighbor launch several helium balloons with flares attached to them from the back porch of his north Phoenix home. Mailo said the balloons took off about 8 p.m., right before the mysterious lights were spotted.

“It's pretty tricky, because the higher the balloons get, the harder it is to tell what they are,” Mailo said."

10 Best Robbery Gone Wrong Scenes

Click here.

Hat tip to Neatorama.

Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare

The most interesting Shakespeare books, movies, and Web sites. - By Ron Rosenbaum - Slate Magazine: "America celebrates Shakespeare's birthday this April 23 with a sonnet contest at the Folger Library and festivities at New York's Shakespeare Society. But as Peter Ackroyd's recent Shakespeare: The Biography reminds us, we're not sure if April 23 was the day Shakespeare was born or the day his birth was assigned."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

UFO Update

They're over Phoenix (with video).

And Florida (also with video).

We're from the TSA . . .

. . . and by golly, we're going to stop attacks by cheese!

Airport screeners to get more security training - News- "WASHINGTON - Airport screeners are about to get new security training designed to help them think creatively about possible threats — including those they have never thought of.

“We have to prepare for attacks that don’t fit our procedures,” such as the traveler who stuffed a block of cheese wrapped in wire into a checked bag, Transportation Security Administration Administrator Kip Hawley told reporters."

Gator Update (Looking for Rachel Ray Edition)

Woman finds 8-foot gator in her kitchen - 04/22/2008 - "OLDSMAR --
This alligator made himself at home in Pinellas County. Authorities say 69-year-old Sandra Frosti of Oldsmar found the eight-foot alligator in her kitchen late Monday night."

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

Update. Here's a link (with video) from Gerard Saylor.

Bond. James Bond.

The Times On-Line has a terrific interactive tour of the James Bond exhibition. The page also includes links to all their Bond articles and Top 10 lists. Click here.

I Had Nothing to Do with This

Stolen crocodile statue returned to france - Halifax Today: "A valuable statue which was stolen from an art gallery in Paris ten years ago is to be returned to the French authorities after it was found in Doncaster.

The bronze statue of a crocodile devouring an antelope, which is worth more than 20,000 Pounds, was discovered in the Auction Rooms in Doncaster town centre in September 2005."

Do You Have Your Artistic License?

If not, you can buy one here.

Hat tip to Boing Boing.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Here's the Plot for Your Next Novel (I Charge 10%)

Former murder case detective held over killing | UK news | "A former Metropolitan police detective has been arrested over the murder of a man whose death he himself investigated.

The arrest was one of six made today in connection with one of Britain's most controversial and high-profile unsolved killings.

Five men were arrested on suspicion of the murder of Daniel Morgan, a 37-year-old private eye who was found dead with an axe in his head in a south London pub car park in 1987.

A sixth man, a serving Met police officer, was arrested on suspicion of misconduct in a public office."


Christina Ricci Upset By 'Black Snake Moan' Marketing - Starpulse Entertainment News Blog: "Christina RicciChristina Ricci is still bitter about the way her 2007 film Black Snake Moan was marketed - because she felt movie posters and trailers exploited women. The actress played a troubled wild girl who is taken in by Samuel L. Jackson's eccentric bluesman character and chained to his radiator in an attempt to rid her of her demons."

It's about Time!

HAYDEN PANETTIERE - PANETTIERE: 'HILTON IS A GENIUS': "Heroes actress HAYDEN PANETTIERE has spoken out in defence of PARIS HILTON's airheaded party girl image - insisting the heiress is actually a 'genius'.

Panettiere, 19, who has been a close friend of Hilton's for several years, says the 27-year-old socialite is actually more level-headed than the dumb 'character' she projects to the media.

She explains, 'She's a nice girl and a lot brighter than people give her credit (for) but no one sees her like that because she plays this character all the time. She's actually a marketing genius.'"

Gunfighter Jory -- Milton Bass

Okay, don't ask me why the title's not Gunfightr Jory. You'd think it might be, since it follows Mistr Jory and Sherrf Jory. Anyway, it's the fourth and (as far as I know) final book about the character. The first two, Jory and the aforementioned Mistr Jory, were published about 20 years before the final two. Somehow, though, I got the feeling that all the books might have been written around the same time. There's a scene in Gunfighter Jory that seems very 1960s to me. Maybe the first two didn't sell as well as expected, so the last ones came out in paperback much later.

But I digress. In Sherrf Jory, as you may (or may not) recall, Jory becomes sheriff of Barronville and cleans up the town. It's now so clean that Jory's getting bored, and then along come some men from the town council of nearby Leesville. They say that since Jory is sheriff of the whole county, he can't just stay in Barronville. He has to clean up Leesville, too.

Jory agrees to check out Leesville, for a fee, and when he and his deputy, Andy, arrive, they find that the former town marshal, Bart Butler, has put a line of bricks across the main street and seceeded from the rest of the town. Since he owns the only saloon and hotel, he's doing pretty well for himself, and his income is supplemented by the outlaw gang living in his hotel.

Jory gets romantically involved with a woman named Maebeth, and Andy falls for Butler. There's sex, there's drugs (I told you there was a very '60s scene), but there's no rock and roll. There are, however, a piano and a trombone.

This isn't a standard powder-burner, though it has all the elements. I liked it, and I'm sorry there are no more Jory books for me to read. Bass left plenty of threads dangling at the end of this one, and I'd like to know what happened to Jory, to Andy, and to the other two women who are after Jory. I guess I never will, though.

The Bourne Ultimatum

This movie really zips along. Jason Bourne's on the run again, trying to discover the secret of his identity, and the CIA's still trying to stop him, no matter who gets killed along the way, because there's a big, dark secret to be covered up. Luckily there's at least one CIA operative who's willing to help Bourne, though she's pretty much powerless for most of the picture.

I've never been much of a Matt Damon fan, but he does Bourne well, and I've enjoyed him in the three movies about the character, despite the fact that he's depressed all the time. I also didn't mind the camera work that seems to have induced Blair-Witch symptoms in some people. Judy said she had to close her eyes at times.

Lots of nice location shooting, non-stop action, a nicely convoluted story, and a good cast throughout. The movie reminded me of why I read a trailer load or two of spy fiction back around 40 years ago. It was a great way to spend an evening.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Croc Update (Vigilante Edition)

Crocodile kills man accused of illegal logging in Myanmar wildlife sanctuary - International Herald Tribune: "YANGON, Myanmar: A crocodile attacked and killed a man who was under arrest for alleged illegal logging in Myanmar, the country's state-run newspaper reported Sunday."

Croc Update (Stolen Brain Edition)

Or he could be following in the footsteps of Victor Frankenstein.

Sunday News: "POLICE in Hwange are on the look out for a suspect who killed a crocodile and removed its brains amid revelations that it could be used for poisoining unsuspecting individuals, it has been learnt.

The Hwange Colliery Company’s Risk and Control department which comprises the coal mining giant’s security personel has called upon residents to promptly report any cases of food poisoning or any person found in position of crocodile brains.
The crocodile was killed at a dam in Madumabisa compound and only its brains were found missing."

Snakes in a Coliseum

The Brownwood Bulletin - Brownwood, TX > News > From snakes, to wildflowers, to cleanup projects, take your pick: "The 44th annual Lone Star Fair and Expo and Brownwood Jaycees Rattlesnake Roundup runs from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. today and from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Brownwood Coliseum. Arts and crafts vendors, educational presentations involving snakes and Guinness world record holder Jackie Bibby will be featured. Admission is $3 for adults and $1 for children."

We went to the Rattlesnake Roundup several times when we lived in Brownwood. I'm not fond of snakes, but it was always an interesting experience.