Monday, August 30, 2010

Chapter 9: In which I note...

The school I now attend has advanced audio recording equipment, and offers classes in recording. For this, I give thanks to all gods, great and small, real and imaginary, eastern and western. Or I just feel grateful I go to such a good school.

The audiobook is moving closer to being a reality.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Chapter 8: In which I elaborate the world of small press

I am a small press publisher, published under Six Gallery Press. It's a local imprint out of Pittsburgh that has been around about 10 years. Six Gallery does not have the resources of a larger company, and there will always be snags.

For instance: I sold out of books on the Elvenslaughter Tour. As an author, this is a flattering problem to have. That means people dug the readings enough to buy the book. Hell, in Columbus I didn't even read from the book, and still sold a few. Anyway, having no books creates a problem when touring: how do I pay for gas, food and tolls? So I sold some on receipt. Took the payment, made out a receipt and gave the name/address to my publisher so they could mail copies.

As of now, they still haven't gotten the books. I have been a personal contact with most of them, checking up on the progress. The fact they haven't gotten their copies is frustrating to me, too. Maybe even moreso for me. I have a deal with my publisher that I receive a certain amount of free copies of the book. After tour ended, I received some of the first edition, but not enough to mail to anybody. Again, small press. At that time, the publisher could only afford to send me 6-8 copies. These I took to Balticon and sold pretty quick, but still left these people who bought books on tour high and dry.

Come July, they still hadn't gotten them. So I wrote the publisher. It turns out our distributor made a gaff and simply forgot about these people's books. According to the publisher, they are just now being sent to the people who bought them in May. Obviously, this sucks, but a lot of it is out of my hands. I just try my best to make sure all my business transactions are done with honor. So I'm not focusing on any kind of sales until everybody gets the books they ordered. No consignment, no nothing.

My book is on its second edition. During tour, I saw some typos/inconsistencies that needed fixed. Now, plenty of major book releases have typos. I don't care. They should take pride in their work and get it perfect before publication. This is something I failed to do, copy editing it all by myself while under a deadline. I don't like selling people something with mistakes in it. I'm going to make the same offer I made on the Facebook page: Anyone who bought a first edition on tour and wants a copy of the second, I will send it to you free of charge. Just give me the contact info. I appreciate everyone who supports me and this book, and I want to show that appreciation.

That is, after I get copies of the book. There are people who bought it on receipt or wholesale during the Southern Bard Tour, and will not get copies soon because the 2nd edition is held up. I am still waiting on the cover to get resized. After this is done, I will personally contact those who bought books to make sure they get their 2nd editions. Like I said, even I won't be getting any copies until this newest edition goes through.

This is why people have agents. This is why people hire folks to handle sales and distribution. I try to be forward-thinking, so worrying about sales that happened four months ago is not my bag. This is small press, mistakes happen, things take time. Things also require my personal touch, since Six Gallery has such a small staff. To everybody who has bought a book on receipt: you have not been forgotten. I'm doing everything in my power to get your copy to you. And thank you for the support. You are the ones who make this worthwhile, with your energy and your feedback and your love of fiction. Thank you thank you thank you.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Chapter 7: Satoshi Kon 1963-2010

I know this posting is late. And I don't feel equipped to do a proper tribute to him. Still, I must show appreciation to one of the premiere animators of our time.

Kon was one of the greatest of the new wave anime directors, marked by his disregard for convention. In a medium that often relies on cliches and tropes, this put him at head of the class. Kon was a master of Hitchcockian suspense. A screening of Perfect Blue can show you that. On first view, I had no idea what to make of that film, other than it set me on edge. What was more amazing was his mastery of the human element. Tokyo Godfathers and Millenium Actress (my favorite) are especially resonant films because they tell human stories. From there, he jumped easily to the weirdness of Paranoia Agent. This is a story about a black boy on rollerblades in Japan who helps people to self-realization by blind-siding them with a baseball bat, and, by God, the show works. His work blurred the lines between reality and fantasy, while showing a knowledge of Japanese culture in all its glory and darkness.

It is important to remember he worked on classics like Roujin Z and Memories in his early career. He was young and surely had several more beautiful films left in him. For the shortness of his life, his career spanned a pivotal time in the history of anime, and he sure as hell made his contribution.

This is a translation of his final blog. A gut-wrenching farewell. Everyone should read this.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Chapter 6: In which I wax on the fantasy show of the decade

True Blood.

Though I don't have HBO, I've been keeping up with this current season whether by watching HBO On-Demand at my family's or catching it online. This is an interesting season for the show. They've expanded the cast a lot in order to finally create an expansive vision of the world. It hasn't been air-tight storytelling, but it is compelling. The wonderful realization I came to about half-way through the 2nd season, with its seductive maenad leading the town in Dionysian revels, was that I was not merely watching a quasi-horror show. True Blood is an out and out fantasy. Contemporary fantasy. Mythpunk. A southern fried fairytale. It picks up where shows like Buffy and Xena left off, and goes the extra mile.

I've noticed a theme with HBO shows. Season 3 is always the "Remember, these characters are eeeevil" season. Season 3 of The Sopranos had Tony's loveable crew of sociopaths acting racist and beating hookers to death. On the third season of The Wire, we got graphic portrayals of the price of the drug trade, from strung-out junkies to prostitution to people getting killed in a senseless gang war. The third season of Deadwood moved into similarly dark territory, though it had a central villain to represent the sociopathy of the western miner culture. HBO specializes in doing shows about characters we shouldn't sympathize with, making us care about them, then two years later reminding us what total shitbags they are.

That is what I like about True Blood. During the 2nd season, we were rooting for the heroes as they fought a group of Christian fundamentalists who wanted to wipe out all vampires. In season 3, we start to think maybe those guys did have a point. The senseless bloodletting has been amped up. All throughout the season, the vamps have led a trail of destruction. Tara gets terrorized by a psycho vampire (James Frain, more in horror movie mode than sexy!vamp mode). The Vampire King of Mississippi declares war on humans, and still partakes in murder despite the fact a vamp of his age doesn't really need blood. It is continually emphasized that vampires are predators by nature.

What I like about True Blood's portrayal of vampires is that it sits firmly in the middle of Twilight and Let the Right One In. This is not just in the obvious terms of quality, with LTROI being a masterpiece and Twilight being shit. In Twilight, vampires are your perfect, sexy imaginary boyfriend come to life. In LTROI, they're monstrous predators with an insatiable thirst for human blood. On the show, they're sexy, monstrous predators with an insatiable thirst for human blood. No matter how glamorous they are, they are presented as monsters. Even the "mainstream" vampire Bill Compton has killed about five humans in the course of the show for pretty spotty reasons. And the disregard for human life extends all the way to the upper echelons. In the first season, after Bill staked another vampire, the vampire judge had him kill and vampirize a kidnapped girl. Considering the vampire Authority advocates the murder of humans, it makes you wonder why they chose to reveal themselves in the first place. Is it all part of a devilish plot? It makes for compelling TV.

The show is not only about vampires, but werewolves! And shifters! And were-panthers! And now it turns out Sookie is descended from fairies. I admit being spoiled to this revelation by reading the back of a Charlaine Harris book, but its good to see the producers got the idea of the fae right. It is implied by Bill that one of Sookie's ancestors was raped by a fairy. In other words, this ain't Tinkerbell. These are the crib-robbing sprites of olde. I don't know if any fairies will show up in the story's narrative, but I am positive, if they do, they'll be badass. This is basically Faulknerian southern Gothic told through the use of mythological tropes. And it uses these tropes to look at modern ideas, such as the War on Terror and the immigration debate.

The season hasn't been perfect. Sookie's relationship with Bill strains all credulity as he continues to lie to her. Jason's storyline has dragged to a stupid extent, though it has provided opportunity for Ryan Kwanten to show his acting chops. Sam's storyline with his family only picked up about halfway through. As in previous seasons, the stuff gets very soap operatic. However, there are things they've nailed: the tenderness between the vampire Eric and his progeny, Pam. Bill's progeny Jessica's attempts to acclimate to her new undead life. The psychological repercussions of the insanity these characters have been through. The producers of the show have crafted a world where the supernatural has real life consequences.

Alan Ball has crafted one of the most compelling fantasy stories of the last decade, and certainly one of the most popular. Blood and sex is the draw; mythology is the sticking point. The success of this show (one could also point to the success of Harry Potter) is testimony to the enduring relevance of these myths. In an era where fantasy is considered a bastard stepchild sort of entertainment, I love seeing a show that so embraces its magical trappings.

In other news on this overexposed supernatural trope: I saw the trailer for the American remake of Let the Right One In. Looks to be a shot-for-shot copy. I've made my peace with this unnecessary cash grab. In a world where Twilight is considered this great vampire story, having Hollywood mass market a vampire tale with depth to subtitle-hating Americans could ultimately be a good thing. I was disappointed in their decision to make Eli a girl, instead of the androgynous creature from the Swedish original. This removes all the queer subtext from the film. Apparently, not only do Americans hate subtitles, but we hate gays as well and can't stand that kind of stuff in a movie. Absolutely cowardly decision.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chapter 5: In Memoriam

In Memoriam

A friend of mine from high school died on Sunday. Funeral services are today. I can't go, seeing as how I'm on the west coast. His name was Marc Gold. He'd been fighting leuukemia for awhile. I think people in their mid-20s feel just as immortal as teenagers, for that brief period. You managed to avoid all the diseases that kill children, and you're too young to die from those that afflict the elderly. Health issues arise, but you know they'll only get serious down the line. Despite my awareness of mortality, I've always carried the subconscious thought that, after graduating college, you're free to go off and start a family and live a lifetime of adventures. Dying at 26 is not right. But that's how it is.

I met Marc when we were both in eighth grade. He was a very smart person who I didn't get to know better until high school. Wicked sense of humor. He was a go-to guy for the school improv team, and a mainstay in the theatre program. He once wrote a play for dinner theatre that got banned for being too racy. So he wrote a play about a play being banned instead. Directed it, too. After high school, Marc went to Columbia University. He will be missed by many.

I feel grateful for the fact that, after nearly 30 years, I've never had to bury someone who was very close to me. I've never had the kind of death where it feels like someone chopped off your arms. Both of my parents are still alive. My maternal grandparents are still alive, and my paternal ones died long before I was born. All of my best friends are still with me. I'm as a lucky as a man can get, in that regard. It's strange when anybody I know dies; I always get that feeling of "Now's the time to go out and live my life! Because who knows what tomorrow will bring!" Its a natural, though kind of selfish feeling, and one I never really follow up on. And something I should be doing anyway. Sometimes I wonder why humans are so good at spinning any event into something about themselves.

Right now a lot of my friends from high school are in the old home town, at the funeral and rememberance services. I wish I could be there with them. Another thing I feel grateful for is, a decade after we graduated, the ties of friendship are so tight between many of us. At the time, high school felt like a hellish emotional rollercoaster. It was also a community, and all the important bonds are still there, strong as steel.

R.I.P. Marc Gold

Awaken Necropolis

The new Baby Killer Estelle album is online, available for free download. It's called Awaken Necroplis and its beautiful. Its also got the long version of my story "Graveyard Shift" with some pretty trippy illustrations. Two years ago the singer for BKE commissioned me to do a piece for the album's liner notes. The funnest part of writing it was creating an homage to weird fiction. I've heard it described as Lovecraftian, and there's some of that in there. The story was primarily inspired by Clark Ashton Smith and his macabre occult tales. Then there's some Robert E. Howard influence in the bloodletting. It was cool to write a piece where I could cut loose. This story has gore and sex like any good pulp should. So download the album:  Read the liner notes for some violent, sexy entertainment. Listen to the album for some mind-blowing anarcho-punk-piano-jazz. Baby Killer Estelle: great job, guys.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Chapter 4: In which I discuss truly sad shit

Crowd of white people holds an anti-Muslim rally at Ground Zero and goes after a black non-Muslim. I hope I am not alone in my disgust. This is Birmingham '65 kind of shit.

The interesting thing is that the desire to build a mosque at Ground Zero stems from bullshit. The plans for this have been around since Bush was president. After 9/11, Bush made a big deal about how we were not waging war on all Muslims. Then he attacked Iraq, using a bombing done by Saudis as the justification. But we have Muslim allies! And we're going to war to free Muslim people. Even those who supported the war never cared about that line, but that's how the PR went. Ever since World War II, America has tried to frame its wars in altruistic terms, so that we seem like heroes and not another marauding empire trying to grab more resources. We went into Korea and Vietnam to "liberate" Good Asians from Bad Asians. Now we wage war in the name of cooperating with Islam. In this stew of BS, building a mosque at Ground Zero to symbolize interfaith cooperation seemed a great idea.

Bush is out of office, we're a decade deep into both wars, and the veneer has cracked completely. The truth lies in the naked hatred of the people at this rally. Even after the black man says I'm not Muslim (which should have been the end of it), they continue to heckle him and call him a coward. One bully actually gets in his face like he's going to get physical. The fact that the man kept his cool in the midst of this hate rally is really admirable. My favorite line was when the organizer told the hard hat-wearing jerkoff to back off so the media can't portray them as white racists. Yes, its the media's fault. Man, just stop being a white racist. Forty years ago, the people at that rally would have lynched the black man.

The most depressing part is that, at this point, I find their blatant hatred refreshing. Enough with the lies.

Chapter 4: In which I posit the question...

Can I get a soundtrack made for my book, like SJ Tucker does with Catherynne Valente? And can it be made by Yoko Kanno? PLEASE?

Been listening to her stuff a lot lately. Its really soothing. The Ghost in the Shell songs are especially top-notch.

In other news, a bull broke free from a bullfight arena and trampeled some bloodthirsty spectators. Justice is done.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Chapter 3: In which I speak on addiction

Doing readings is an addiction.

I just got back to San Francisco Bay area. Graduate school starts in a week, and I've had two days of TA orientation. I need to get started on finding college grants. I need to WRITE more. There are so many things on the plate right now. Also, I would really like to meet more writers out here, of any kind of genre. There are of course the good people at the Berkeley Writers Circle, but I'd like to meet more. Gaining that feeling of community in my new home is important. There are so many things to do, and yet I feel this urge to go out in public again and read, right after finishing a tour.

I could do open mics. Finding good ones is also time-consuming, and it takes awhile to get a good feel for an open mic. It might be cool one night, then lame from then on out. You need to stick with a mic, develop a rapport with the people there, especially if you'd like to maybe feature at some point in the future. That's how you build an audience. The hosts need to know what you're about. I honed my performance skills doing DC poetry open mics, and I'm eager to work on that some more. But trying to find a good open mic (which might help me meet other writers, too) takes time I don't have.

I also don't have any books right now. There's nothing to sell. I'm starting school. There's no practical reason to start booking performances. And all I can think about is this article I'm reading on L. Frank Baum, and how he did a Wizard of Oz magic lantern show that was a huge financial failure for him, but sounds cool as hell to me, and I want to do that for my stories right now. The life of an addict.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Chapter 2: In Which I Discuss Guns, DeBarge, and the Geek Event of the Summer

I live in Oakland, California. I think I can safely say, without really confirming any stereotypes, that this shit is real. The other night I was up in bed, and the people next door were blasting the Debarge family greatest hits. "Share My World," "All This Love," "I Like It," "Love Me In A Special Way" (my favorite). This lasted about half an hour. Then somebody started shooting. Three gunshots, shattered glass, yelling. I have no idea if the shooting had anything to do with the DeBarge or not. Living in Oakland is neither good nor bad, and its certainly no less safe than if I lived in some gated community where racist cops would arrest me for trying to get in my own house. Its just real.

The other day I saw "Scott pilgrim Vs. The World." For months, its been pimped on the internet as THE GREATEST MOVIE OF ALL TIME. It's not. It is, however, hugely entertaining. Edgar Wright's editing skills are top-notch, and he buys whole-heartedly into the world he created. Still, something bothered me.

I'm an old-time anime fan. Thus, I am familiar with fanservice. Fanservice is something put in a show purely to please the dorky demographic. In anime, this is giant robot transformations, pretty anime boys doing homoerotic things (for the fangirls), gratuitous breast jiggling and panty shots. It was halfway through Scott Pilgrim when I realized I was watching "Fanservice--The Movie!" Everything about it, from the videogame story structure and sound effects to the oversimplified love story, is geek porn. As a romantic comedy, it doesn't work. Neither of the leads are well-developed. It exists in the Michael Cera Universe where awkward, creepy guys mysteriously attract beautiful women (Hugh Grant also lives in this universe). The secondary characters get even more short shrift (Snarky Girl #1, Snarky Girl #2, Snarky Gay Guy, Snarky Girl #3). After awhile I had to just turn my brain off and enjoy the bright colors. Indie rock/old-school gamers: you have your movie. I was just expecting more, given the hype and Edgar Wright's pedigree. Worth watching, though.

On another note: At my screening they showed the trailer for "Takers." I laughed as much during that as during the whole "Scott Pilgrim" movie. I love B-movies, and this neo-blaxploitation stuff ranks up there. It's the kind of movie where a group of mostly ethnic bank robbers walk away from explosions in slo-mo. Let's see: You got Idris Elba, trying desperately to class up the joint with his English accent. You got Paul Walker, a guy who started out making late-90s teen films and now does movies made for black guys who play too much Grand Theft Auto. You have that non-actor who played Anakin Skywalker hitting people with baseball bats. You have RnB star/womanbeater Chris Brown jumping off a building onto a BMW. Inbetween, they drink champagne and make love to models in high rise buildings. Looks gloriously awful. Consider my $1 ticket at the third-run theatre sold.

On the small press front: my publisher got a proof of the second edition. The cover was too small. Gah! Sent it back to the printer.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chapter 1: In which I discuss being an author, the small press, touring, sex acts, weird fiction, Bobby Brown and Narnia

Like any good writer, I feel I should drop you off in the middle of the story. Two weeks ago, I sat awake at 3am in an Asheville, North Carolina punk house, while in the room above me lesbians engaged in drugged-out sex acts. This had nothing to do with me, other than the occasional trip to the bathroom where I’d see a naked tattooed body dash across the hallway. For my part, I sat typing on a laptop, getting absolutely destroyed by mosquitoes. There were a lot of bugs; you couldn’t put down a cup of red wine without finding a dozen of them floating in it five minutes later.

Tour is an extended vacation, so I did vacation-like things. Hung around the town. Saw movies at the local theatre (Winter’s Bone, specifically, which was amazing). Listened to other vagrants passing through the house talk about “Chattanooga-style” drunkenness. Asheville is one of those towns all the hippies moved to in the Seventies. As such, it is chocked full of alterna-people, primarily liberal and, as befitting a town with so many older folks, hugely commercial. Like somebody shrank San Francisco and stuck it in the South. In the midst of all this loafing and red wine-drinking, I did a reading which was a lot of fun.

The Book

How did I come to be involved in these shenanigans? Why, through writing a book.

The Jack Daniels Sessions EP is the result of five years of fantasy writing. While the all-encompassing term would be urban fantasy, there are heavy doses of folklore, urban myth, epic fantasy, sword and sorcery, horror and humor writing. It is all written from an African-American perspective, and set in America of the 20th century. The book is illustrated by Rachel Dorrett, with cover illustrations by Dan McCloskey, and is absolutely everything I wanted it to be, in all regards.

Small Press Publishing

My blog is called “Look Ma, No Agent!” because I am a small press writer (the runner-up title was “Angry Drunk Black Man”). My publishing imprint is Six Gallery Press. I went on tour with some copies of the book. I sold them all.

Nobody does promotion for the book except me. Nobody does bookings but me. I am a touring writer, and would have it no other way. Doing readings is one of my absolute favorite things. I like as much as writing the stories, in fact. My first tour was the Elvenslaughter 2010, in which I traveled the Midwest with Dan McCloskey. Second tour was the Southern Bard mini-tour, which wrapped on August 7th. In the last three months, I have read in Chapel Hill NC, Asheville, Charlottesville, Richmond, NYC, Madison WI, Chicago, Bloomington, Columbus, Athens OH, Buffalo, Ithaca, Philly, DC, Baltimore, my homebase of Pittsburgh, and I have done panels at Balticon.

Currently, no copies of my book are available. I recently sent a second edition to my publisher, who sent it to the printing company called Createspace. From there, it is entirely up to their leisure to approve the new edition. Once that’s done, I’ll have it on Amazon, and receive copies of my own which I will consign to stores. And, if any stores want to consign, they can of course order it from Createspace. Having to wait is a pain, but nobody ever said it would be easy.

The next step is obtaining reviews. Review copies will be sent out in the fall. Again, I myself have to look up places to send them to.

This blog is mostly for updates on what I’m doing/writing/where I’m reading. And I will discuss myth and fantasy, which is a primary thing on my mind. Some people write about their lives, but going on about the observations I had about the universe while walking through Golden Gate Park does not sound like interesting writing to me. Talking about 1960s sword-and-sorcery paperbacks like "Thongor" does. So there you go.

New Stories

I have a new story out in issue number 3 of Cyberpunk Apocalypse. It’s called “Graveyard Shift,” and is an ode to the “weird” pulp stories I grew up reading, and continue to read every time I see one in arm’s reach. Lots of blood and sorcery and supernatural happenings. It was a blast to write. This version is actually the short version; I originally wrote the story as the liner notes to a Baby Killer Estelle album, and that longer version will be online with the album soon. I like to think that I’m releasing a 7” and 12” version of the story. By the time “Graveyard Shift” is in book form, that will probably be the "dance remix" version.

I'm also starting work soon on a radio serial, a la "Prairie Home Companion."


The Southern Bard Tour went well. The most exciting part (other than reading, of course) was getting to see the Blue Ridge Mountains. Trying to describe it would be a noble endeavor, but all I can say is hop in your station wagon and see it for yourself. The people who set up readings in Richmond, Charlottesville, Asheville and Chapel Hill were all very friendly.

Having ran out of folders, I stored all my papers in album sleeves.

Richmond was a joint reading between me and Christine Stoddard. It was a blast. Considering the amount of relatives who came, it was even a family-friendly blast.

As mentioned above, Asheville was fun. I spent much time making friends, drinking 40s on rooftops and engaging in the kind of romanticized dillydallying you read about in the average Crimethinc book.

The Charlottesville reading at WriterHouse was originally supposed to be around 6pm, but Gogol Bordello was in town, and of course the entire city was going, so we moved it to 3pm. I’m thinking of growing a giant mustache so I can compete with Gogol Bordello. Anyways, 3pm was a better time. Charlottesville provided me the opportunity to talk at length about contemporary fantasy, and what qualifies as urban fantasy. I sat on a similar panel at Balticon, where I and others (including Tanya Huff!) discussed fantasy sub-genres. It's fun to do these kind of discussions; the whole pseudo-medieval epic fantasy genre is unbelievably stale. People like Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link and China Mieville are changing the field of literature itself, so its cool to give them some lip-service. These discussions are also somewhat amusing, because the final analysis is that genre is completely amorphous, and that titles mean little. And I would have it no other way.

I talked with Internationalist Books in Chapel Hill about doing a “Genre Writers of Color” night. So glad that, in the end, me and Chris Fox just did a normal-ass “speculative writers” reading. While there is a strong ethnic quality to my writing, getting pigeon-holed into the “black writer” category isn’t of interest to me. At all.

My touring vehicle was the same one I used for the Elvenslaughter: A 1987 Ford Crown Victoria. It has horrible gas mileage, but will take me wherever I need to go. It also has a tape deck that ruins cassettes (the death of Tragic Little Pill was especially sad to me). Seeing as how I cannot stand radio, I had to buy cassettes to pass the drive. I make no bones about the fact that I love music. Maybe to an unhealthy degree. Along the way, I listened to The Cars, Prince, a band called Europe and a band called Asia. I bought two Bangles cassettes and the Bobby Brown dance remix tape Dance…Ya Know It. The Bangles’ Everything was pretty good, because, other than “In Your Room” and the perennial prom classic “Eternal Flame,” all of the songs on there were pretty obscure.

As for Bobby Brown: I can’t deny the adrenaline rush when I flipped over the tape and heard the “Ghostbusters II” theme song. A few years ago, in a coke-addled interview, Whitney Houston referred to Bobby as the King of RnB. What people forget is, around 1992, that might have been a legitimate claim. New Jack Swing completely flipped the RnB world over, and nobody did it better than Bobby.

Twice during tour I got to read “Dead Teenagers,” which is story #3 in my book. It’s a piece that calls for a lot of performance, and I hardly got to read it at all on the last tour. I’ll post a copy of the story to the blog soon.

On another note, I am officially over my love affair with Google maps. They turned an 8 and a half hour trip from North Carolina to Pennsylvania into 12 hours. Fuck them. That was Mapquest-level incompetency.

Fantasy Movies

I think I may be the only person left in the world who gives a shit about the Narnia movie franchise. Not because I am the hugest fan of C.S. Lewis, but because I recognize a good story when I see one. I know a lot of people who fell out of love with that series, after reading it as adults and getting disgusted at what they view as abhorrent politics. I never had that problem. My atheism is strong, but not so strong that I’ll disregard a story simply because it has a Christian lean (Hell, the Nativity is one of my favorite stories, period). And as for the series’ racism, well, if you’re going to shun something based on that, just don’t read any books written by early 20th century British authors. It was a different time.

What I always loved about Narnia was the outright dorkiness of the setting. Lewis literally threw everything into a pot and stirred it. Satyrs fight alongside minotaur; talking horses rub noses with unicorns; dragons live on the same islands as sea serpents; the Roman god Bacchus celebrates a victory with Aslan, also known as Jesus H. Christ. The melding of mythologies which Tolkien found so exasperating is actually what makes Lewis’ world refreshing. Nowadays, fantasy readers expect their secondary worlds to be Dungeons and Dragons-style mashups, but at the time Lewis’ blending of mythologies was pretty out there.

These are good stories and, other than the retread called Prince Caspian, they are all unique. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was a fun movie, where they actually managed to combine charm with Lord of the Rings-style epic battles. I would like to see some conclusion to the film series. Also, there’s the prospect of an adaptation of The Last Battle, one of the most insane children’s books ever written.

So, I recently found out they are making Voyage of the Dawn Treader, even after the commercial disappointment of Prince Caspian. Dawn Treader is a rollicking adventure with a great storyline: Caspian and the Pevensies are on the seas, looking for some lords exiled by his Uncle Miraz. Epic fantasy ensues. Which is why this trailer is all the more disappointing.

1. It gives no indication of the plot, or the scope of the tale.

2. They are actually dragging the White Witch into this one again, with another scene of her tempting Edmund. Yes, Tilda Swinton was a great villain. They already had their chance to re-use her in Prince Caspian and now its beating a dead horse.

3. The dufflepuds look terrible. How did CG that bad make it into an official trailer?
I remain cautiously optimistic. I saw Caspian many years ago, and they actually managed to make a good story out of the worst book in the series.

On the flip side, the trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows looks amazing. I never got into the books, though I can see why they appeal to so many people. And I was onboard with the movie series after watching the stellar Prisoner of Azkaban, but by the time I saw Order of the Phoenix the repetitiveness just burnt me out. The fact that they've cynically divided the last movie in two ("Hey, we can get the geeks to pay twice!") is also a turn-off. I don’t think I’ll ever be interested in the series again, but the sheer energy really had it looking like THE MOVIE EVENT OF A GENERATION. So bravo to them. I’m sure they will make a ton of money.

Off to do some writing.