Wednesday May 21, 2014
Three librarians, a cartoonist, and a blogger walk into a restaurant.
The cartoonist defaced the menus, the blogger tweeted about it, and then the first librarian cataloged the menu, the second cataloged the tweet, and the third librarian bemoaned the fact that the cartoonist didn't pick up the check and thus leave behind a signed slip with a date on it that could be cataloged as evidence.
No, that's not a thing that actually happened, but Sandra and I did have lunch on Wednesday with three librarians from Brigham Young University's Special Collections.
Here's an amusing thing that did actually happen. All three of them made genuinely horrified faces when I told them about how sometimes I'll get a strip all penciled, and then hate it, and then (and I pantomimed this part) crumple it up and throw it away.
Okay, it was amusing to ME. And I didn't even need to tell them about how, if I'm feeling really grumpy, I'll spill my drink into the wastebasket just to be sure.
You see, in recent years they've taken to collecting early art and all kinds of other records from alumni artist types, and they seem to live in fear that with every passing moment somebody somewhere is throwing something away.
Am I exaggerating? Maaaaaybe.
After lunch they took Sandra and I on a tour of the Special Collections area. It had some things I expected it to have, like first printings of The Book of Mormon, and original letters written by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. It also had some things I didn't expect it to have, like a first printing of Jane Austen's Emma (which Sandra and I got to hold with our bare hands, a fact that made our good friend Mary Robinette Kowal whimper publicly.)
But beyond the unexpected, Special Collections also had some amazingly cool things, like a 19th-century pioneer journal which, after spending a hundred years half-buried in a grain silo being chewed on by rats, was rescued by a conservator who cleaned it up, and then layered each individual page between sheets of Mylar.
And absolutely beyond the pale on the amaze-o-meter, they want my stuff. Those strips we've been selling you? Yeah, the librarians were a little sad to see those go to private collectors who don't have conservators armed with Mylar. But I cheered them right up when I told them that I still have plenty of the earliest originals, including a couple of unpublished versions of early strips which I hand-lettered, and which nobody but Sandra and I have ever seen.
Honestly, the very most amazing thing they had was their shelving. There isn't room down there for every shelf to have its own aisle, so the shelves move. Deep beneath the polished concrete floor, a whisper-quiet motor slides multiple tons of books and shelves--sometimes moving several shelves at once--in order to create an aisle for access. And if the sensors between the shelves fail, those moving shelves can totally kill a librarian dead, and simultaneously stain a lot of books.
(No librarians have died down there yet, but several kick-stools have been sacrificed in the name of library science.)
I won't lie. It feels kind of weird. In some distant future there may be boxes of my stuff awaiting discovery by a collection-delving, thesis-writing grad student who will, I'm sure, lose weeks of productivity to the Schlock Mercenary archives in order to figure out why these horribly-rendered pictures of talking poo are being kept in this box. And if he's not careful, and if the sensors aren't working, he will be crushed to paste in his quest for the deeply esoteric, at which point, though long dead, I WILL HAVE OUTLIVED HIM.
Monday May 19, 2014
Schlock Mercenary Book 10, Longshoreman of the Apocalypse, (LOTA) is now available for pre-order.
LOTA was my 2nd Hugo-nominated work. This 160-page, full-color print collection features stacks of margin art, a scattering of new footnotes, and a bonus story written by Jim Zub, drawn by Ben McSweeney, colored by Travis Walton, and overseen and approved as canon by me. I'm pretty excited to let other people play in this space with me. If you're wondering what's been going on with the in-universe Schlock TV show, you should be pretty excited too.
Longshoreman of the Apocalypse begins with a very powerful introduction by my friend Myke Cole. I was thrilled that he agreed to write this for me, and I couldn't be happier with how his intro turned out. I hope you love it too.
All sketched and unsketched pre-orders are scheduled to ship by June 15th. The pallets of books are en route to the Schlock Mercenary Warehouse, and we're waiting on a phone call to let us know the exact date of their arrival (it'll be sometime in the next ten days.) And then I become terribly, terribly busy, but I shouldn't complain because Sandra becomes even busier.
Setting aside my usual self-deprecatory cracks, I think this is the best book we've done so far. We're getting better at the process of making books, and I've been getting better as a storyteller, but Longshoreman of the Apocalypse stepped ahead of that curve and cleared some new bars thanks to my association with the Writing Excuses crew. This was the first book outlined and brainstormed after I began podcasting about creating genre fiction, and those conversations about this craft really took my work up a few extra notches. This was also the first book in which I involved other writers in the process of refining the story.
So if you don't have any Schlock Mercenary books yet, this tome is a fine place to start. And if you're looking to hook friends on Schlock Mercenary, or just looking to give someone a book they'll love, this story stands well on its own.
And if you need more than just one book, we have a few bundles available. These will shave about 10% off the regular price, and we've created bundles that include LOTA sketch editions.
We also recently took delivery of Sandra's second picture book, Strength of Wild Horses.
And of course there are pins in the store now along with lots of other goodies. There's even a whole category for clearance items!
I've mentioned before that I'm not doing as many sketch editions this time around. Usually I do a thousand. This time I'm only doing about 600. We're not trying to create a sense of urgency, or drive first-day sales, or anything like that. This is just a necessary step in the preservation of my hand. The extra money we make from numbered, sketched books is nice, and we'll miss that, but I think you'd all miss regular comics a lot more.
I'll still sign all the books, and if you catch up with me at a convention I'll sketch in any of your unsketched Schlock books. I'll be at GenCon Indy, Westercon/FantasyCon in Salt Lake, and I'll even be at Lock & Load in about two weeks (though I won't be selling any books there -- you'll have to acquire those ahead of time.) My full schedule is here, and you can count on me to be sketch-ready at any of these events.
Sunday May 18, 2014
Pre-orders for Schlock Mercenary Book 10, Longshoreman of the Apocalypse, will open on Monday, May 19th, at 8:00am Mountain Daylight Time. Sketch editions are limited, and I'm not doing as many this time around as I've done in the past. I really have no idea how long they'll last. You've been warned.
Now I need to sit down with Sandra and make sure all the requisite pieces are in place...
Friday May 16, 2014
I had a blast at Godzilla. I spent a little more time waiting around for monsters than I would have liked, but the pacing and scope of this film were absolutely spot-on for Godzilla. I'm not a connoisseur of kaiju cinema, and I'm certainly no expert on Godzilla's canon so somebody who is should probably fill in all the details here. I liked the 1998 Ferris Bueller Godzilla film well enough, but that was just a movie with a big, reptilian thing in it. This time around Godzilla put actual Godzilla in.
(Look, I know that the classic Godzilla shape is dictated by what mid-20th century technology can create by putting a man in a rubber suit. We're stuck with that now. If you want kaiju that look less like men in rubber suits, there's always Pacific Rim.)
I left my usual kaiju complaint at home. You know the one: "that's too big to be real, because physics." I just can't bring that into a Godzilla movie and expect to do anything but eyeroll when things the size of skyscrapers start tearing down actual skyscrapers.
And speaking of skyscrapers, I think Godzilla is worth seeing in 3D. My friend Sam Butler saw a 2D showing, and he loved it, but the 3D allowed me to wrap my head around just how enormous Godzilla was, especially in scenes where there's something relatable in the foreground, then a cityscape, and then Godzilla in the back. Wow.
In case you're worried about the pacing, let me say this: the parts of the movie that only have people in them, with no monsters at all? They're pretty good. I don't like waiting, but I liked those parts just fine.
Godzilla comes in at #4 for me for the year so far. It easily clears the Threshold of Awesome. Steps right over it on its way downtown, even.
UPDATE: Because you care, and because I forgot to mention it: No, there is no shaky-cam in the action sequences. There's some tumble-cam when there's tumbling, and some running-cam when people are running, but other than that the camera is solid. For the record, shaky-cam in Winter Soldier is why Spider-Man 2 ranks higher for me this year.
UPDATE #2: I saw the film a 2nd time in 2D, but in the fancy DBox seats. It felt a little bit like sitting on a rumble pack, but by the end of the film I was used to it, and I guess it was cool. Not worth $15 for a matinee seat, though. And the 2D? Pretty good, but I was right about the sense of scale not being the same. Was the movie fun the second time around? Yes. And THIS time I caught the Mothra reference in the masking tape on the terrarium. Nice touch.
Tuesday May 13, 2014
With the release of trailers for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film, and the latest Transformers 4 trailer that reveals Optimus Prime riding the T-Rex dinobot "Grimlock," I'm hearing anew the wailing of folks who feel like Michael Bay has destroyed their childhoods.
Well, no. He hasn't. Your childhood and mine are just as intact as they were before these movies came out.
What Bay and numerous others have done during the last sesquidecade of reboots, re-makes, and small-to-large-screen adaptations is capitalize on the nostalgia we feel for certain properties. From The Dukes of Hazzard and Starsky and Hutch to the Transformers franchise, from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies to the Star Wars prequels and the Star Trek Retcon Reboot, we're seeing production companies lower the risk of their investments by putting money into properties that have a built-in fanbase of folks who still hold some nostalgia for the original.
What they're doing is strip-mining our nostalgia, and then not replanting when they're done.
With rare exception, I'm not going to feel any nostalgia for these newer properties in coming years. I won't fondly remember Transformers 2, or Attack of the Clones, and it's not because I'm not the child I was when I saw the Transformers cartoons or The Empire Strikes Back. It's because these latest installments didn't really have anything new to offer.
I admit that I do actually feel some nostalgia for Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. I loved it more back in 2003 than I do now, and I kind of long for the ability to stand in line again for those movies. I think that's what nostalgia is, right? Time passes, and we sort of wish we could go back and experience those things again? And that's exactly why the strip-mining works. The filmmakers tell us that we CAN go experience those things again.
But is that what we really want? When I was interviewed back in 2009 for The People vs George Lucas, I said that what I really wanted Lucas to do was take all that money and social capital and infrastructure and build a new universe with new characters and tell us a new story. Not because I'm sure it would be awesome, but because I want something new.
That said, yes, I'm going to see Godzilla this week, and I'll see Transformers 4, and the new TMNT, and a bunch of other strip-mining operations because unlike REAL strip-mining, this nostalgia isn't home to a bunch of spotted owls and rare conifers. It's just a place in my brain, and now that I know how to word what's being done to that place, I'm actually a little more comfortable with it.
These films may try to say "Ha! You actually CANNOT go back and re-experience Transformers or TMNT or Godzilla for the first time!" but since I already know that I'm less likely to be disappointed. These may still prove to be joyless time-sinks, but with time-travel off the table I stand a better chance of getting my money's worth.