Wednesday July 9, 2014
Before talking about Hurricane Fever, I need to mention the prequel.
See, I loved Tobias Buckell's Artic Rising, but I felt a tiny bit sad because my favorite character, Prudence "Roo" Jones, Caribbean Intelligence Group agent, wasn't the star of the show. I was delighted when Buckell took us back to that setting with Roo as Hurricane Fever's protagonist. I'm a sucker for sailboats and good secret agents, and Roo is a good secret agent with a sailboat.
I also like near-future science fiction that extrapolates believably from current events. In Arctic Rising, Buckell showed us a world economy turned upside down by the thawing Arctic, which opened up the Northwest Passage. He also gave us commercial arctic airships more than a year before news broke that investors in Iceland and the US were contemplating just such a thing.
Hurricane Fever takes us a several thousand klicks south to the Caribbean, where warmer oceans have increased the frequency, the range, and the intensity of Atlantic hurricanes (a conceit I first saw in John Barnes' Mother of Storms, and which has solid meteorological science behind it.) Those storms are just the backdrop, however, for a piece of spy fiction in the classic vein. Roo has retired to raise his orphaned nephew, but he gets a phone call from a dead friend, and the resulting trip to the post office kicks off a pulse-pounding tour of the islands.
Buckell knows the region -- he grew up there -- and he gets the details right. He mentions the haze of Saharan dust that periodically descends from the skies, and I remember cleaning that very same stuff from my boom box back in 1984 on a Florida beach. His descriptions of hurricanes match my own memories of trying to sleep through a mild one. Oh, and the scene where Roo scrubs the deck? Spot on.
Hurricane Fever is a relatively quick read, but I enjoyed it a lot. You don't need to have read Arctic Rising first, and now that you know Roo lives through that book we've gotten the only potential spoiler out of the way. If you dig super spies, high-tech toys, and heavy weather*, you may just enjoy it too.
*Note: Heavy Weather by Bruce Sterling? Awesome, even twenty years later.
Sunday July 6, 2014
Westercon 67 was a blast. I'm not very good at writing up convention reports, but I can easily take the time to publicly thank Dave Doering for chairing such a wonderful convention, Kate Hatcher for snatching a programming victory from the jaws of defeat, and Mark Osier for filking the excuses right out of our podcasting team. And I'm pretty sure I speak for all of us at Writing Excuses when I thank our special guests, each of whom brought something fresh, wonderful, and unique to the podcast. They included:
Dierdre Saoirse Moen
M. Todd Gallowglass
Mette Ivie Harrison
Peter S. Beagle
(I think that's all of them...)
I'm personally grateful for my fellow panelists: Aneeka, Kevin, Karen, Brook, Zoe, Jess, Sandra, and Keliana. Their perspectives and expertise were what brought the awesome to the panels I participated in. I ended up with something like 12 hours of assorted programming, and with the help of these folks, numerous convention volunteers, and enthusiastic fans I enjoyed every moment.
I also want to thank Brandon, Dan, and Mary, and of course Isaac Stewart, Peter Ahlstrom, and Kara Stewart for making Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology such a wonderful, beautiful book. Oh, and thank you also for not fighting me for that copy I grabbed, which is, as witnessed by Kara and others, the very first one to be removed from the crates. Yes, I licked it, but had you ganged up on me I doubt I could have hung on to it.
And just like that I'm done with conventions for five weeks. During that time I need to make a big stack of comics, write a couple of short stories, and get a leg up on the 2015 Schlock Mercenary calendar. I'll see a few movies, write some reviews for you, catch up on my sleep, and maybe, just maybe I'll get my diet back under control.
The next event on my schedule is GenCon Indy. Perhaps I'll see you there, but until then I'm mostly going to be hiding in this office of mine making all of the things.
Wednesday July 2, 2014
I'm at Westercon 67 and FantasyCon 2014 this weekend in Salt Lake City. Looking for me? Here's where and when you'll be guaranteed to find me:
1:00pm - Salon D & E: Writing Excuses, recording live! Our guests include Cory Doctorow, Deirdre Saoirse Moen, and perhaps even the inimitable Christopher J. Garcia. This will be a two-hour session, but each episode lasts for 20 minutes. Come and go! Just be sure to travel between episodes, rather than while the mics are live.
3:00pm - Salon F & G: Signing and Sketching at my table for an hour or so. Redux!
5:30pm - Salon B & C: Spark in the Blood -- Insights From a Creative Family, with Sandra Tayler and Keliana Tayler. (Spoiler alert: blood is not where the spark is.)
1:00pm - Salon B & C: Guest of Honor Spotlight on Howard Tayler, alternatively known as the "look at me!" panel. I'll talk for a bit, but I'll leave plenty of room for you to ask me whatever you want to.
2:00pm - Salon F & G: Signing and Sketching at my table for an hour or so. Last chance!
Sunday June 29, 2014
This coming weekend, July 3rd through the 6th, I'll be at Westercon 67 alongside Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Dan Wells. We're all Guests of Honor at the event, and we'll be launching the first ever Writing Excuses anthology, SHADOWS BENEATH.
Writing Excuses is the podcast I've been co-hosting with this team (and lots of special guests) since February of 2008. SHADOWS BENEATH contains stories that we brainstormed during episodes of the podcast, as well as episode transcripts for the upcoming episodes in which we critique the stories. Better still (assuming you're into the whole writing process thing), every copy also includes author commentaries and a draft version for each story, so that you can peer behind the curtain a bit and see how we do the things we do.
If you buy the hardback, you get the ebook for no additional charge.
Westercon 67 is in downtown Salt Lake City, and besides the Writing Excuses crew, Cory Doctorow, William Stout, Christopher Garcia, and Bradley Voytek are all Guests of Honor. Westercon is running concurrently with FantasyCon, which is literally right across the street, and if you buy a badge for one, you can get into the other. It's like two conventions in. In fact, it's EXACTLY like that.
Thursday at 1pm we'll be having the SHADOWS BENEATH launch event, and at 2pm we'll begin recording episodes in front of a live audience. We'll do at least one Q&A episode, and our audience will be providing the questions.
Friday June 27, 2014
I just spent an hour with my daughter discussing why we didn't really like Transformers: Age of Extinction, but I'll spare you the full deconstruction. Short version: This one fails to clear the Threshold of Disappointment because by the 100-minute mark I was ready to go home, and Optimus Prime was not yet riding a Dinobot. Nor would he be for another twenty minutes. That is a pretty classic definition of "disappointment," even though I enjoyed large swaths of the film.
The film had too many antagonists, too many protagonists, and it gave me action movie fatigue even though I specifically went to the movie in order to see giant robots fight.
Sadly, I think the film suffers from the strings attached to its Chinese sponsorships. I do not know what those strings were, but I felt like I could see them being pulled. I loved the setting, and Bingbing Li, who played opposite Stanley Tucci, did an outstanding job. Unfortunately, in order to get this stuff into the film, they had to make the film bigger. It feels like two movies, and since it weighs in at 165 minutes, it's just three minutes shy of being twice as long as 1986's The Transformers: The Movie.
We might have been better served by two movies. We would definitely have been better served by a single movie that dropped one of the antagonists, tightened itself around two principal locations, and then tightened its themes around a single message. Tucci, Wahlberg, Li, and Kelsey Grammar could have pulled that off, no problem. They just needed somebody to script the right movie.
I was ready to go home when Transformers: Age of Extinction still had a full hour on the reel, and that's never a good sign. That said, I did have fun. So: if you're immune to action movie fatigue, if you love watching metal things go crunch, and if you don't mind a 165-minute run-time, I say go for it.