The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger

The-Dark-Tower-Movie-2017

I saw the tall, slim book on the store shelf with a cool new cover very similar to this movie banner, and decided to pick it up.  (Can’t seem to find an image of the book cover via the Google Oracle though.)  This is the only Dark Tower book I’ve ever read and I wonder when I’m done with it again if I’ll feel compelled to go for the gold and try to read them all.  (Though such a quest would probably take me two years to complete, maybe more!)

The first time I read it, I remember substitute teaching and reading it during my off-period.  I feel like that might have been in Colorado Springs, though it could have been Santa Fe, New Mexico too.  (Funny how the mind works, flashing me back to certain times and places with certain stimuli.)

I don’t have high hopes for the movie, especially given the huge scope of the books.  Movies tend to jack stuff up, especially trying to cram everything into a 2 hour format.  (Or, trying to drag it out to be unnaturally long.  Case in point: The Hobbit, which was basically a short kids’ book, thrown on the rack and stretched to be 9 friggin’ hours long.  I still haven’t watched those movies and don’t plan to.  The very idea is too ridiculous and money-grubby for me.)

I’m also working to read three other books, which are all basically short stories.  I’ll showcase those soon too.  The nice thing about those is you can dip and in out as you please.

A quick quote—slightly abridged—from early in The Gunslinger that I liked.  (I don’t think Mr. King will begrudge me sharing this little snippet):

 

“Do you still believe in an afterlife?” the gunslinger asked him.

Brown nodded.  “I think this is it.”

And here’s another cool cover from ages past that I liked.

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Thor, Loki, and a Lost Space Fleet

Finally getting around to briefly talk about some reading I’ve done lately.

norse-mythologyA couple months ago I read Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, scored from the base library.  Here’s the quick blurb I wrote on GoodReads:

This was actually more simplistic than I expected.  Really written in the style of oral myth tradition.  Which is to say, without a lot of detail or dialogue.  But nonetheless fast and fun.  It was great to get some of the authentic stories of old.  A great, fun way to educate yourself on the classic tales of Thor, Odin, Loki, and Ragnarok.  And told in an epic, building toward The End fashion.

Definitely recommended!

lostI’m currently reading Jack Campbell’s Dauntless: The Lost Fleet, which has been on my shelf forever.

I’m about 100 pages in.  Enjoying the heck out of it!  Definitely satisfies craving for the space opera.  Great character idea—a long lost war hero found to not be dead after all, coping with the new reality of a future Navy where he’s blindly idolized as a hero and worshiped as infallible.  I like the “this is not the Navy you knew” aspect, as the Navy I serve in is not the one I started in, and never was the one I expected!

Campbell also uses some great real-science elements that I hadn’t considered before.  Most notably the great factors of time and distance in space and how they’d affect fleet combat.

So far, just what the space jockey ordered.

I’m also bouncing between a few short story books, as well as assisting as a reader for an action-adventure anthology coming out soon.  I wish I had more time for reading, but…  I guess we all do.

 

World Science Fiction Convention Membership

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Just wanted to make this available.  The price is kind of steep (in my budget-necessary opinion) but if you’re interested and you don’t mind the bill, go for it!

http://www.worldcon.fi/memberships/

According to Mr. Alexander, you just have to be a supporting member to vote.  (Cheapest tier.)

And if you happen to find yourself in Helsinki in August, you’re all set!

I happen to have been stationed in San Antonio a few years back when the convention was held there, which was very nice for me!  I didn’t get a lot of time there, nor did I go downtown on the Riverwalk to party with all the uber-geeks in town looking to let loose (which I’m sure would have been a good time), but I did get to meet Hugh Howey, who’s the poster child of the indie publishing revolution.  So that was nice. He was one panelist on an indie pub forum, which was interesting to listen to.

And the experience got me into the convention center, which allowed me the personal experience necessary to write a certain scene in Twilight of the Gods, which will (I hope) be coming out in 2018.  I have a lot more to write on those books, but I do have a nice chunk already done.  (And once I write the whole thing, beginning to end, I’ll know if it’s going to be two books or three.)

 

The Pulp Revolution

conanSounds cool, doesn’t it?

I am still a novice and outsider to the greater “neo pulp movement,” and likely will remain that way, but I like the idea of it.  Bringing back the ideals of storytelling embodied in the adventure stories of the ’30s and ’40s and beyond.  (That’s where superhero roots started, too, ya know—in the pulps!)

I managed to accidentally trip over some of the modern pulp revolutionists recently, and wish I had more time to explore and advocate for this revival.

But I don’t, really.

I wish I had more writing and reading time to contribute to the conversations and submit stories to some of the new magazines that have grown up to emulate those of the past.

But, unfortunately, I just don’t.  My dance card is pretty full just fulfilling all my own current publishing dreams.  I’ve started quite a few series and have plenty more to start, after I make some progress on the ones I’ve already initiated.

But I think my stuff is pretty “pulpy.”  I’ve actually had a couple of stories published by some of these new young revolutionaries already.  And I’ve found a few more opportunities.  (I just don’t think I can fit it into my writing schedule to try and contribute.)

On kind of a down side, there’s also the faint air of politics to some of talk. I guess that goes with the term “revolution,” right?  And I’m not quite ready to throw my hat into any political rings when it comes to literature and writing/reading tastes.  I figure there’s a flavor out there for everybody, and it’s no ones business what you like.  I’m not here to say one style is better than another.  I know my tastes, and that they often differ from what the mainstream spec fic giants are pushing.  So I certainly sympathize with the underground.  (And hell, it’s always more fun to be part of the underground than the establishment regime anyway, right?)  But I’m not sure I’m ready to burn any citadels to the ground.

I think I’d be more likely to advocate for building your own fortresses, flying your own colors, and allowing the masses (readers) to make up their own minds.  Filter over (or flock to) your banners and leave the regime to figure out for themselves that maybe the aristocracy has been too exclusive all this time.

Anyone confused so far by what I’m talking about?  Not sure you follow?

I am being pretty vague.  Rather noncommittal.  And I’m doing so on purpose.

To be a bit more clear, some of the topics of discussion might be about the major SF/F magazines’ trend for decades toward publishing fluffy literary stories rather than the exciting sci-fi stuff we go to the movies for.  And for bending so far toward, shall we say, “political correctness” as to completely alienate the “evil majority.”  (Very much like everything else in America these days.)  This has also been a hot topic during science fiction award season, and continues to be.  I don’t know all the politics—nor do I want to—but I remember reading some articles last year about how nasty some of it’s been getting when it comes to the Hugo and Nebula awards.

And again, that’s one reason I’m not getting too specific or taking up a pitchfork myself right now.  Because I’d rather advocate for a pulp revival, versus a revolution, and let readers make their own choices.  And hell, you don’t even have to pick one side or the other!  You can read both, appreciate both, depending on your mood.  Personally, I do like some of the literary stuff, but I certainly don’t think it should be the dominant art form that excludes more exciting fiction.  Or that there should even be a dominant art form.  And I don’t think most sci-fi/fantasy fans do either.

So if I’m not jumping on board one way or the other, what’s the point of me typing all this out?  Why should you, the reader of this post, give a shit about this noncommittal rambling?

Well, I just wanted to say something about it, that’s all.  ‘Cuz it’s there.  And I like it, mostly.  And because I wanted to raise awareness and let you, the reader, decide what you like.  Who you want to support.  What books, magazines, blogs, and podcasts you want to frequent and even chip your hard-earned dollars toward supporting (simply by purchasing and reading—and enjoying!—their stuff).

So, if you’re interested, here’s a few places you might go.  Some are forums and blogs, some are sources of reading material, and I see a few neo pulp mags open for submissions.  (If I get the time, maybe I can even submit something.  In some of these cases, I already have!)  This is by no means a long list, it’s just a few leads I have found very recently.  Heck, if you have more, feel free to post them in a comment!

So there you go, a small sample for your perusal.

Now it’s 9am, I’ve been up since 4pm yesterday, and I need to get my ass to bed so I can go back to work again tonight! (And I’ll blame that, too, for why this post is vague and unreadable.)

Good night!

 

Trump and 1984

eyeI can’t believe it!

Two or three weeks ago I started reading 1984 again, which I read 20+ years ago in high school and have been meaning to read again for years.  And as I got through the very first chapter (and am only at chapter 4 now — shows how much reading time I get), that I wanted to blog/tweet about how much 1984 sounded like 2017.  And now it seems i missed the boat!

I just saw on Amazon that 1984 is the #2 ebook right now.  Number 2, out of gazillions!  That’s amazing!

And that theatres are going to play the old movie as a form of protest.  Unbelievable!  Awesome!  And I’m overseas, so I’m going to miss it!

What are some of the similarities, you might ask?  Here’s a few:

The Ministry of Truth is basically in charge of shaping history, media, and public perceptions to match The Party’s politics.

The mantra is (always in all-caps):

WAR IS PEACE

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

There are Thought Police, thought crime, and doublethink.

They’ve always been at war with their current enemy (even though Winston clearly remembers it was the other way around just a few years ago).

And the one that struck me most: the Two-Minute Hate.  Everyone must gather around the telescreen and scream their hatred at images of “the enemy”.

Sounds an awful lot like the state of things now.

1984 or 2017?

And here I thought I was a “clever clogs” discovering this.  And now it’s a big thing!

…That big eye up there, by the way?  It’s mine. 🙂 

Campbell’s Who Goes There?

whogoesthere-fantasypress

The 1982 movie The Thing has long been one of my favorites, probably since about ’83, or whenever it made it to The TV movie of the week.  I finally got my hands on the original novella by John W. Campbell, “Who Goes There?” published by Rocket Ride books and William F. Nolan. (And this paperback has all the marks of a small-time press, which makes me curious as to how they got the rights.  But that’s neither here nor there, really.)

who2So now I have experienced three versions of this story: the John Carpenter film we all know as a SF/horror classic, the original story by Campbell published in 1938, and Nolan’s own movie treatment, which he was hired on for in 1978.  Carpenter’s version won out over Nolan’s for the early ’80s remake, and it’s pretty obvious to me why that happened.

I have to say that having all three of these as options, Carpenter’s movie is by far my favorite and is the most effective.  (Though I admit to some bias—it’s helped shape my story consciousness since childhood.)who6

Who Goes There? obviously has all the elements and the original genius of the story idea, but lacks the scariness and delivery to make it as cool as it should be. Campbell’s style is pretty straight forward and involves mostly dialogue. We don’t see much happening, mostly get it through what is said—more telling than showing, as we say in writing.  What little action or horror we might get comes and goes pretty darn quickly. Of course, this was written in the 30s, so the style and expectations of the time were probably quite different from what we expect today. Even so, there seemed to be a lot of opportunities missed.

The suspense, paranoia, and horror are what make this such a great idea: being isolated in a hostile environment where cabin fever can make this very real without any need for shape-changing aliens. Campbell puts in quite a bit of science–most of the Antarctic expedition are, after all, scientists.  And he makes a lot of credible arguments as to why someone might or might not be the alien. But from the first chapter we pretty much already know there’s an alien involved, which they too quickly decide could be a shape-changer that might imitate humans and have telepathic, mind-reading abilities. (Damn those guys are smart!  And precognitive!)   Any chance for creepy buildup is thrown right out the window.  The alien found is also a blue-skinned humanoid with three red eyes and worm-like hair, which sounds about like an alien you’d expect from the 30s. But, of course, Campbell’s characters are smart enough to determine that this might not be the creature’s true form.

who4Over all, the story is good for the fantastic idea more than anything. In his story, he makes a very thoroughly scientific and horrifiying monster that, if it weren’t for the witnessed shapechanging aspect, could be taken as pure cabin fever for a while. In fact, that could have been a good approach for a bit: making the reader wonder if this is all just paranoia with no real monster. Then, after things got really nasty with someone killing another person, only then showing that the alien is real. Which Campbell kind of does, but well after we’re convinced there is an alien.

That’s another bit I think Carpenter improved on: the movie begins with a dog being chased and shot at by a helicopter, a strange situation that piques our curiosity but doesn’t lend straight to extraterrestrials. Chapter one of the story has the alien laying on a table, dripping as its icy tomb melts.  Boom. Right to it, ball for creepy suspense tossed away on page one.

Third among these versions is Nolan’s own movie treatment. In his forward to this contemporary printing, he states that he was hired on with instructions to “get a lot closer to Campbell’s original.” (As compared to the 1951 movie The Thing from Another World).  In this, in my opinion, he failed miserably. In fact, he didn’t even try to do that.

His treatment is chock full of new characters he invented, including three women, and a very different take on the aliens.  Yes, plural aliens–three of them, who pilot a scout ship into Antarctica during the movie.  But rather than be like a pathogen that infects and slowly replaces everyone in camp, Nolan’s aliens are yellow energy beings and possess one person at a time and wield hand-tube laser beams.  And as they take over and then abandon bodies for a new one, they stuff the deflated skins into lockers and come up with lame stories for why people keep disappearing.  It would be a completely different movie. I could see it being made and think it would fit well on a shelf of (I’m sorry to say, mediocre) sci-fi movies, but I do not feel it would serve as a good take on Who Goes There?

I will say Nolan had a good sense of his characters.  Judging purely by what I have here, I’d say that might be Nolan’s greatest strength.

But as for Who Goes There?  John Carpenter went there, and did so better than even Campbell, in my opinion.  He took Campbell’s ingenious idea for a story and made it a more effective sci-fi/horror/paranoia experience.  After reading the original, though, I could see how Carpenter’s relatively short movie (about an hour and a half) could have been just a little longer to make slightly better use of the paranoia.  But his take on the shape-changing, body-infecting alien is superb in my view, maximizing Campbell’s scientifically thorough and horrifying idea in an isolated, cabin-fever environment.

 

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