101 in 1001: conclusion (#SFWApro)

I’ve written before about the 101 in 1,0001 approach to New Year’s resolutions. Rather than pick a single resolution for a single year, come up with 101 things to do in the next 1,001 days.
My list from 2011 just came due yesterday. I made it through about 50 percent. Not as good as my first list, where I finished over two-thirds. Of course that included moving to Durham and marrying TYG (and various subsidiary goals) so those were Must Do goals in a way few things ever are.
The second list I made maybe 40 percent so this is an improvement. And a lot of them were very close to completion. There were various reading and movie-watching lists I almost finished, for instance.
A lot of the undone goals were writing-related, but that doesn’t surprise me. I tend to scatter a lot of competing goals (I might list three novels I want to complete, for instance) because I’m not sure which one will really click. That said, my performance was still well below where I wanted it to be. However I am still a full-time freelancer (that was on the list) so I’m pleased with that, if nothing else. Plus I got my new contract from McFarland for the time travel book.
Travel goals were disappointing. I wanted to get back to my old home in Florida more often but we haven’t been since the wedding. I would have liked to squeeze out a couple more visits to Mum (and I suppose if I’d pushed myself I could have), though I’ve done better this year.
Anything which involves cleaning, nowhere near done. I was doing pretty well on cleaning regularly until a couple of years back when I had to make multiple visits to Mum while she was sick. Somehow my schedule for that (and a bunch of other stuff) never really got back into the swing. And of course now that I’m working on the time-travel in film book, I really strain. I manage to keep the kitchen sanitary, that’s about it.
On the current 101 list (in hindsight having two lists running at once wasn’t a good call) I have maybe 16 items done with a year to go. But that’s because a lot of them are Do X Every Month goals, so there’s no way to say if I make it until this time next year. So we’ll see.

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Filed under Personal, Time management and goals, Time Travel Book, Writing

On how we set high standards and other writing links (#SFWApro)

This blog post by Scalzi is kind of amusing. He assures readers that yes, he does have three TV series in development based on his books but none of them may come through, or one “may not survive past the first season.”
Yes, that would totally suck. Imagine having a book made into a series that only lasted one season. How pathetic.
This is a common issue for creative people. In an interview, Angela Lansbury some years back discussed her disappointment that her Murder She Wrote had been canceled after a mere 12 years, and how rough it was always missing the brass ring. Because, again, a series that only lasts 12 years is just soooo pathetic.
Likewise, at my much lower level of the game, I rarely sit back and think about the fact I’m a full-time freelancer with more than two dozen published stories. I think of how much I wish one of my novels had sold, how much more I want to do … I think it comes with being a creative person. The sky’s the limit (at least in theory) so it’s easy to be dismayed (at least for me) when I haven’t hit the limit yet.
And, of course, when I got my first story published, it felt like my world had changed. Now, while it feels wonderful, it’s just one more story. I want more!
Which is cool, because that’s what makes me push myself. It’s only bad if I forget that what I’ve already done is already pretty cool (I should add that Scalzi’s post makes it quite clear he’s in no danger of forgetting that).
•Like coffee? The world’s most expensive coffee is marinated in elephant dung.
•Lev Grossman discusses fantasy’s current high profile in pop culture. Of course, only time will tell if fantasy’s really gone mainstream or if Harry Potter and the LOTR movies are exceptions, the way Michael Crichton’s SF made the bestseller mainstream lists when nobody else’s did.
•I linked some time back to a post by a couple of YA writers who say they got a book turned down because the lead was gay (but I don’t have the link handy). Came across this 2011 declaration that the authors got the facts wrong. And a fuller response defending the agents here.There’s a good, even-handed overview here.
•A look at the 19th-century ghost story.
•Author Jim Hines on moments of despair. Good post.
•A guide to finding sources for nonfiction writing and reporting.
•How to submit a non-fiction query to an editor you don’t know.
•Years ago, I read articles about how having a website made book tours obsolete. John Scalzi says no, tours and signings still matter.
•I do not think I’d accept a $5 writing gig.
•Are most of the people who “transcend genre” white and male? Foz Meadows wonders.
•If you’re writing anything set in the 1970s, here’s some cool apartment designs.

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Meanwhile, over in graphic novels (#SFWApro)

JUSTICE LEAGUE: The Trinity War by (primarily) Geoff Johns (with multiple artists) collects one of DC’s New 52 Big Events, as the immortal Pandora discovers her accursed box has actually infected Superman, leaving the Justice League (and the Justice League of America and the Justice League Dark) scrambling to destroy the box and save the Man of Steel. This is very lively and entertaining at first, but the problem with sprawling over multiple series and minseries is that ultimately it becomes unwieldly (I also hate the New 52 Phantom Stranger’s origin, but that’s not Johns’ fault). A bigger problem is that much like Johns’ Green Lantern work, this huge arc doesn’t end, it just feeds into the next big event (it doesn’t help that the villains for that, while powerful, don’t really top what the League is facing here). So a regretful thumb down.
FISHTOWN by Kevin Colden really fell flat for me. The story of a bunch of hard-drinking, hard-doping, hard-screwing teens, the murder they commit and the investigation feels like umpty-zillion movies and TV shows (River’s Edge took similar material and did better) about bad teens behaving badly. Color me unimpressed
12509617BPRD HELL ON EARTH: Gods and Monsters combines two miniseries titled yes, Gods and Monsters (both already in my Hellboy Chronology). Where the previous book, New World showed things not terribly worse than usual, here everything is falling apart as armies of worried drifters begin criss-crossing America looking for safety, monsters attack at random and the BPRD still has to deal uneasily with Abe’s possible role in the world’s transformation. The second miniseries has Liz discover that despite wiping out the entire frog race and retiring to a trailer park, the world still needs her. Overall, these feel more like seeding for future plots than standing on their own. Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi, art by Guy Davis and Tyler Crook (cover by Mignola, rights with current holder)

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Reading Material (#SFWApro)

A PERFECT SPY by John LeCarré has a horrififed British intelligence officer trying to track down chameleonic spymaster Magnus Pym without letting the US know that he may be a traitor of Kim Philby proportions. This, however, is mostly a frame for Pym to reminisce about his life and how it was molded by his even more chameleonic, glad-handing, manipulative father. This is LeCarré’s personal favorite of his books (with the possible exception of The Constant Gardener) due to the heavy autobiographical content, Rick being a stand-in for LeCarré’s own manipulative father (judging from the intro to this edition, the real deal was considerably nastier). Well written though a bit uneven, and even more cynical than LeCarré’s usual, Pym scoffing at Spy Who Came in From the Cold’s claim that the spy networks are the Sane People who keep the crazies from destroying everything.
AMERICAN DAUGHTER GONE TO WAR: On the Front Lines With an Army Nurse in Vietnam by Winnie Smith is, like Home Before Morning, background reading for Southern Discomforts. This is well-executed, though familiar, in its story of grim combat surgery, but it’s interesting to compare the personal lives of the two women: Smith’s comes across much tidier, with fewer affairs and no drugs stronger than booze and tobacco until after the war. Smith also appears to have become much more bitter than van Devanter at everyone from rear-echelon officers to pampered USO stars to the trivial problems of the patients she treated later in the states. According to Smith, it wasn’t until she read Van Devanter’s book that she realized how much anger and pain she was holding inside; good, though I’m not sure it added more to my insight.
SID AND MARTY KROFFT: A Critical Study of Saturday Morning Children’s Television, 1969-1993 by Hal Erickson looks at the creators of countless Saturday morning shows of my childhood including such time travel-relevant ones as the two Land of the Lost series and Lost Saucer. Erickson follows the Kroffts from their Poupees de Paris nudie puppet review (“In those days, live nudie shows were rare enough some of the audience found it quite titillating.”) through their long chain of kidvid starting with H.R. Pufnstuff and their several prime-time variety shows (most successfully Donny and Marie). Dry, but interesting as someone who grew up with these guys (though I was never as fond of them as Erickson). There’s also an interesting appendix discussing a lawsuit the Kroffts filed against McDonalds over ripping off their ideas for McDonald land
H.G. Wells’ THE TIME MACHINE, of course, time travel’s other foundational work, and like Connecticut Yankee it proved informative to reread it. I hadn’t realized how closely the Pal movie follows the book, the big change being that the Time Traveler rescues Weena from the Morlocks and then destroys them (in the original he heads home after she dies in a fire).
While Wells certainly gets as didactic as Twain, he has the advantage of writing at much shorter length and not having his protagonist as smugly confident, the Time Traveler admitting how often his theories about the future world turn out dead wrong. Wells also works in a lot of jokes about previous utopian/future SF, pointing out that most people who visit the future are unlikely to get detailed explanations of how the sewers work (the emphasis on the personal side is what keeps Wells’ SF alive when so many others of that era are vanished).

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Let’s watch a time warp again (#SFWApro)

TIMELINE (2003) adapts the Michael Crichton novel for a story in which an anachronistic discovery at a French archeological site leads the diggers to the discoveries that a)IT millionaire David Thewliss (a Bill Gates clone) has opened a wormhole back into the middle of the Hundred Years War and b)chief archeologist Billy Connolly has gone back through it and been captured by the besieged British. The film is lively without being interesting, quite cliched and occasionally really dumb—Connolly’s off-hand revelation he knows how to make Greek fire (nobody today knows that) passes the other archeologists without a murmur. Gerard Butler adds some energy as an archeologist with a flair for swordplay. “Use the night arrows.”
CRUSADE: A March Through Time (2006) is a vastly superior film from Holland in which a teenage soccer player who just lost the Big Game impulsively uses mother Emily Watson’s experimental time machine and winds up in the middle of the Children’s Crusade. In contrast to the trite melodramatics of Timeline, everything here (religious conflict, anachronistic confusion, love) is very underplayed which makes it much more effective; the protagonist doesn’t debate changing history, he just helps out his companions when they’re in trouble. Well worth a look. “He doesn’t want gold—he wants 25 children.”
TIME KID (2003) is an animated Nickelodeon riff on HG Wells in which a 1902 teenager follows his father into a future dominated by Eloi and Morlocks—er, Lumen and Submen and (uniquely for Time Machine adaptations), forges peace between them (even in the 2002 version, which had intelligent Morlocks, they’re presented as an Other that must be destroyed). That’s partly because the Lumens are simply a power source for Submen technology rather than dinner, but it’s still a nice surprise. “It wasn’t quicksand that swallowed your friend—he was grabbed from below!”
13 GOING ON 30 (2004) stars Jennifer Garner as a teenager hurled into her 30-year-old future self to cope with cell phones (“Do you hear that sound?”), men (“He tried to show me his thingie.”) and her editor’s duties under magazine publisher Andy Sirkis, plus figuring out why childhood friend Mark Ruffalo no longer returns her calls. As I thought on first viewing, this spends far too much time on uninteresting elements, such as Garner’s brilliant idea for giving her magazine a reboot. Her performance still sells the film, which would double bill well with one of the Freaky Friday films. With Kathy Baker as Garner’s mom. “You can’t always get the dream house but you can come close.”
MV5BMjE5Njc0MTEzNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDQ3MDgzMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR2,0,214,317_AL_CHASING CHRISTMAS (2005) is an ABC Family Christmas Carol variation in which a very disgruntled Christmas Past (“So who’s the victim of this year’s guilt-trip?”) quits after dragging Christmas-hater Tom Arnold back to 1965, leaving Arnold stuck in his childhood home. Surprisingly the threat is less Arnold messing up the time stream than that he’ll be erased from existence if Christmas Present (Andrea Roth) can’t bring him home. The fun in this one is everyone knowing what movie they’re in (“Charles Dickens was a former target of ours who wrote a book about his experiences even though we explicitly told him not to!”); overall much better than I expected, and even the stock romance has good touches (although Present falls for Arnold, she doesn’t turn mortal, nor does her Exact Mortal Double miraculously show up). “You have done the most selfish thing anyone has ever done in the history of time—I checked!”
FREQUENCY (2000) has brooding cop Jim Caviezel (unsurprisingly looking 10 years younger than the Man in the Suit) discover his father’s (Dennis Quaid) old ham radio has connected them across 30 years thanks to a freak Northern Lights. The good news is that he saves his father’s life, the bad that by so doing he’s somehow turned a three-victim serial killer into a multiple murderer whose added victims include Caviezel’s mom. Reminiscent of The Caller for the communication across time element (and the climax involving danger in two eras). Occasionally inconsistent in its temporal rules (Caviezel immediately gets new memories when his dad survives, but not when his mum dies), but very warm and affectionate as father and son connect. “You went down 30 years ago, pal—you just don’t know it yet.”
(All rights to image with current holder)

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Filed under Movies, Time Travel Book

This week: kind of a productive mess (#SFWApro)

Various messes including checking up on a sore throat (it’s possible I do not control my voice well), having our heating system pre-winter checkup and generally being slow on my Demand Media stuff. I got it done, but it took up much more time, which meant less left for anything else.
I only got nine hours of fiction in, which was perversely frustrating because the work was going well. I finished rewriting my short “The Grass Is Always Greener,” submitted it on Monday, got it back today (sigh). I’m up to 20,000 words of Southern Discomfort, which is good, though I’m concerned that it doesn’t have the tension it should. On the other hand, my standard criticism from my writer’s group is that I invariably throw everything at my readers pellmell hurly-burly, so maybe being a little slower is a good thing. Certainly it’s fleshing out the town and the supporting cast, so I’ll keep going and see how it shapes up.
I also got my new And column in (not up on the site yet) which again took way longer than expected. Just a draggy week I guess.
But I did get my articles done, plus a reasonably good draft of the first couple of chapters of Time Travel on Screen (or whatever we wind up calling it). I don’t want it to be like the last book, where I was frantically doing the chapters at the last minute, having focused almost entirely on movies.
So yeah, productive, just … a little sloppy.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Time Travel Book

Sexists behaving badly (as usual)

Emma Watson makes a speech saying that gender stereotyping hurts men two, so both sexes should work to end it. So some 4chan users vow to release nude pictures of her online, to teach the Evil Feminist Bitch a lesson. And no, allowing nude photos of yourself does not mean you asked for it. (Update: It’s a hoax put on by some anti-4chan group).
•The Boston Globe provides a quick guide to the events that had gamers freaking out and making rape threats this summer.
•Missouri now requires a 72-hour waiting period before abortion because—well, because they don’t want women getting one. And a Missouri politician is arguing that if Hobby Lobby can deny employees birth-control coverage, then his daughters (two of them adult) shouldn’t be able to get birth control from his insurer.
•Rush Limbaugh’s take on the recent NFL spousal abuse case: Maybe the wife thought being married to a rich and famous guy was worth being hit. A lot of other right-wingers are busy explaining how it’s all liberals’ fault.
•Men are more likely to get flextime requests than women.
•A recent article argues that men actually get harassed more online than women. Echidne takes a closer look.
•A miscarried fetus is found in a school bathroom. Police investigate because dammit, you can’t have girls miscarrying those precious babies! In Iowa, a woman falls down the stairs, then gets charged with feticide because she admitted she was uncomfortable about having the baby, so maybe it wasn’t an accidental fall, eh? Apparently the charges were only dropped because she was in her second trimester, so even if it was intentional she wasn’t a criminal under Iowa law. I’ve covered this topic before.
•In the same vein, a woman faces 18 months in jail because she bought her daughter an abortion drug.
•Here’s an oldie: Marriage counseling columns from the pre-feminist days when everything was the wife’s fault including loneliness and abuse. Which is an era I’ve blogged about here. On the plus side, domestic violence has declined since that era.
•A Brazilian woman goes to a skeevy illegal clinic to get an abortion. It appears she died and the doctor burned the body.
Now an upbeat ending:
•California makes affirmative consent a standard in campus sexual assault: people need to have “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity,” though it can be nonverbal.

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Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches