World Fantasy Convention 2010, Part I

I’m back from Columbus, Ohio, and as usual, World Fantasy was fantastic and productive! I’m sure I won’t get it all talked about in this first posting, so I’m calling this “Part I.”

About the trip itself: Chicago lived up to its nickname of “the Windy City.” I had a brief connection layover there, and because of high winds, our plane was ordered into a holding pattern before it could land. We were about a half-hour late getting down, and it was a wild ride. I was sitting next to a young, very cute Chinese mom and her restless little two-year-old girl, and the mom seemed really upset and half sick from the bumping and shaking. When we finally got on the ground, she dazedly asked me why the landing had been so rough, and I realized she hadn’t been able to understand the English announcements. I explained to her about the wind, and she said “Ohhh” with an air of revelation. She must have been thinking that American Airlines planes and/or pilots were really bad! The connecting flight was also about thirty minutes late taking off, so it all worked out. The flight schedule monitors at the airport showed nearly every flight DELAYED DELAYED DELAYED DELAYED. Anyway, there were no disasters, so it was a good trip for all of us passengers.

Remember how, at the Con, they give you a bookbag stuffed with free books that publishers are trying to promote? My convention-going friends and I had a good laugh over a distinct pattern on book covers this year. What’s extremely hot right now are books about a tough female protagonist who usually isn’t completely human. She’s half-fairy or half-vampire or half-werewolf or half-something else. She has a big-time rivalry/love interest with a brooding, mysterious guy who is also not human. And here’s the funny part — I am not making this up! — you can lay the books out side-by-side and see this pattern: the tough, beautiful girl is on the cover, but you don’t see her whole face. You see her from about her nose to her knees. She’s invariably wearing close-fitting leather and carrying some kind of formidable weapon, either a big knife or a big gun. Her chest is right about in the center of the cover. And the book’s title very likely is some combination of the words “Angel,” “Dark,” “Moon,” “Blood,” and/or “Hunt.” Heh, heh — if Dragonfly had been published this year, it would have been called Dark Blood Moon Angel Hunt, and Dragonfly would be gasping for breath in her tight corselet. And she would be older than 10/11, at least on the cover!

So, where to begin? I won’t try to do this in any particular order. For several years, I’d been wondering about Arkham House. I hadn’t heard a peep from them, and it was hard to tell from their website whether they were still there or not. Well, talking to some friends in the dealers’ room, I heard that they’ve been going through a rough stretch, a dormant period, but that new life has just been kindled in the embers. On the last morning of the Con, I walked into the dealers’ room for a final time, and my friend Michael (who, I was honored to learn, actually reads this blog!) told me there was someone who wanted to meet me.

It turned out to be a distinguished gentleman named Dr. George A. Vanderburgh, who is one of two editors dedicated to getting Arkham House back on its feet. He shook my hand and pinned an Arkham House pin onto my shirt. We talked for a while. He gave me a photocopied letter explaining the new focus and direction of Arkham House. I’ve since heard from him that Dragonfly is still in print with AH and is still selling slowly — which, eleven years after its publication, is none too shabby! He told me that April Derleth, the owner and publisher of AH, speaks very highly of me, and he said that if I have any unpublished dark fantasy, he would like to have a look at it. I was most honored to meet him and thrilled to see that AH is in good hands, that it is moving forward. It’s the last remaining small-press publisher of weird fiction from the classic pulp era, so it’s a treasure we don’t want to lose. For any blog readers who don’t know: April Derleth is the daughter of August Derleth — who, with Donald Wandrei back in 1939, started Arkham House as a way of getting the works of their friend and mentor H.P. Lovecraft into book form. I have corresponded directly with April Derleth — so I’m just three persons removed from H.P.L. himself! Back in early 2005, I drove through Sauk City, Wisconsin, in a rented car on my way to Illinois. Sauk City is the home of Arkham House. I was there late in the day, so the publishing house was closed, and I hadn’t given them any warning that I was coming. But I saw the entrance driveway and the picturesque cemetery where August Derleth is buried. And the physical layout of Sauk City, combined with my own hometown, became the setting of “The Bone Man,” which I wrote that fall.

But I digress. What I’d really like to do in the near future is write a sequel to Dragonfly and submit it to AH. The book was written with full expectation of a sequel. “So many books, so little time . . .” Anyway, meeting Dr. Vanderburgh was one highlight of the convention for me!

Two guys at different times brought me their copies of the hardback Dragonfly to sign. (I believe they were SF Book Club editions, as the covers were slick, not the ordinary paper finish of the AH edition.) One was at a publisher’s party and one was at my reading. And my book-dealer friend Otto had four copies of the hardback that he had me sign, so that he can sell them as signed copies.

My readings went well! The first was Saturday night at 8:10. I went to dinner with the JABberwocky Literary Agency at 6:00. JABberwocky kindly invites all its clients who are present to dinner one night during the Con, so that we can get to know one another. Because of my readings, I had to bow out before any of the food came — but my very gracious agent Eddie later came to my reading and brought me a box of leftover pizza from the dinner — above and beyond the call of duty!

Anyway, that first reading was for Black Gate Magazine. Editor John O’Neill put together a mass reading of BG authors. We all had a ten-minute time slot to read from our stories in BG. This was another real highlight of the Con for me. Since so many were reading, the room was packed — it was wonderful to read to an actual audience! Some friends came to support me, too. John knew about my own reading, scheduled for 9:00, so he went out of his way to let me have an early slot. I was the second reader, right on the heels of the now-famous James Enge. I couldn’t have asked for a better time — the audience was warmed up, but they weren’t tired yet. I read a selection from my story “World’s End,” forthcoming in BG #15 (the very next issue!). I think it went over well — several people sought me out afterwards to tell me I’d done a good job, and one editor of a small-press magazine gave me his card and said he hoped I’d submit some stories to him! (I wouldn’t want to be on a panel, where you have to sound intelligent and be erudite; but give me an audience and something scripted, and I’m in my element — a fish in water, a salamander in the fire!)

My own reading was at 9:00 in the Knox Room. I liked the room a lot better than the venue I was given last year, which was the middle of a corridor. A Con volunteer brought me a name card. Instead of the high desk, towering over the room, I opted to stand down on the floor just in front of the audience. I had nine people in attendance, exactly the same number as last year! This year five of them were close personal friends: two from Minnesota and three from Pittsburgh. The sixth was Eddie; the 7th and 8th were a young married couple I know from previous Cons [I was grateful they came!], and the 9th was a gentleman I didn’t know. He asked me to sign his hardback Dragonfly before the reading. He just wanted my name, not a personalization, so I assume he means to re-sell it. But he did stay for the reading!

During the Q and A after the reading, my friend S. asked me a good question: How am I able to write from the perspective of women and girls? (Dragonfly, The Star Shard, and Agondria are all from the perspective of female protagonists.) My answer had two parts: one, on the whole, I prefer the company of females. If I’m going to spend a whole novel in someone’s head, I’d rather be with a lady. But two, answering more seriously: there’s really nothing I change about myself to write from a female perspective. I’m not sure what that says about me! Dragonfly is essentially written from my own perspective at ages 10-11. Are 10-year-old boys that different from 10-year-old girls? I don’t really think so. Cymbril in The Star Shard is basically me, and she’s about 12. The women of Agondria are me. I guess the ultimate answer is that I don’t think gender is that big of an obstacle. Novels such as Corin Booknose and The Fires of the Deep have been written through the POV of a male character. “A Tale of Silences” has a male protagonist, as have most of my Cricket stories. The characters who find me are sometimes male and sometimes female.

I think this is a good place to end Part I. More will be coming in a couple days.


57 Responses to “World Fantasy Convention 2010, Part I”

  1. Lizzie Borden Says:

    “What I’d really like to do in the near future is write a sequel to Dragonfly and submit it to AH.”
    Oh Fred! *squeals with delight* I assumed that it had been so long that you’d moved on to bigger and better things. I tell you, if you ever do write that sequel, I will shout it from the mountain tops and buy copies for everyone I know. Dear goodness, what a wonderful prospect!

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thank you, Lizzie! Concerning all things D-fly, no friend has been more supportive than you! I still remember the time I logged onto your blog after being away from it for months and months, and that very day you just happened to be telling a friend all about this book Dragonfly that she should read . . .

      For me, there are no bigger and better things than Dragonfly! I asked my agent at one point about doing a sequel, and he suggested I wait until I’ve sold some other books, so that it wouldn’t look to prospective publishers as if I’d been doing nothing and taken more than ten years to write a sequel. (Well, Thomas Harris did it that way . . . of course, his books have sold a bit better than mine, but . . .)

      But seriously, a sequel to Dragonfly has always been a dream of mine. It’s never been far from my thoughts. At different times, I’ve played with plot ideas. If God grants me to keep on living, I think it will happen. But it is a consideration of time. Right now I’m under the gun on The Star Shard. I’ve got The House of the Worm going. I’m itching to revisit The Fires of the Deep and get it out the door. There’s no shortage of projects to work on! But I do think a book about Dragonfly would kind of write itself. It might be a good thing to do between other projects to relax, much as I did with a story called “Someplace Cool and Dark” this summer.

  2. John R. Fultz Says:

    Hey, Fred!

    Man! I’m so bummed that I missed your BG reading. I got to the reading room about a half-hour late (I also missed James Enge’s reading). I was there for the next two hours or so. I was so exhausted, I was practically dead on my feet by the time I read my “Vintages of Dream” tale. Response was good but I barely remember it. I had to bug out early and hit the sack, and catch an early morning flight. The whole trip was an experience in walking jetlag. I had a good time–but it would have been a WHOLE lot better if I’d given myself more than two days “on the ground.” Seeing as I don’t really like to fly, I’ll have to be sure I give myself plenty of time between flights in the future. Next year in San Diego, I’ll be hitting all four days of the con once more–since I’m only a hop, skip, and a jump from SD. Whew!

    That’s good news about Arkham House revving back up! Is there any chance they would publish your AGONDRIA novel? I’d love to see that happen…

    I wish we had more time to hang out at the con. Likewise, I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to see this year. Oh, well, I did get two good days of WFC, which is better than none!


    • fsdthreshold Says:

      I’m bummed that I missed yours, too! I think I was still in the BG reading room when you came in — I hung on for as long as I could before I had to go to my reading in the Knox Room.

      It was funny how I was the only writer I saw who read off a paper manuscript! James Enge read off his phone! The guy after me read off a computer screen. I am SO retro!

      WHOA! That is really a good idea about Agondria! I don’t know if Arkham House would go for epic/mythopoeic fantasy . . . but it couldn’t hurt to try! I mean, Agondria is the one book-length thing I have that’s actually finished!

      I felt the same way — I wish we’d had more time to hang out at the Con. Next year, man!

  3. Rich Heinz Says:

    I am bummed that I missed you in Chicago! We live on the north side now, and I am a couple blocks from the L — on the line that goes to O’Hare! Would have loved to see you and give you a brief “Welcome home to Illinois!”

    Let us know when you get back to the states next time. Being in Chicago, we are pretty central that we could have a Concordia reunion in your honor. 🙂

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      That would be great! I will definitely keep your location in mind! This time, I wasn’t in the airport for very long, but wow. I’d love to actually see Chicago again, that “hog butcher to the world,” that “Place of the Wild Onion” (does everyone know that’s the meaning of “Chicago” in a Native American language?). But moreso than the city, it would be nice to get together with you!

    • Daylily Says:

      Hey, let’s not be exclusive here! If there’s going to be a Chicago party sometime, how about inviting the Fellowship of the Blog to attend? I know there are other members of the salon who live in the Midwest. I myself get back to the Midwest at least twice per year, and maybe I could time one of my trips to coincide with said party. Umm, that is, if non-Concordia people are invited . . .

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        Absolutely! I don’t think any of us feel exclusive about Concordia! I would love to meet up with any Fellowship members!

  4. George Says:

    Hello Fred — Say you can call me “hey you,” or “George,” or “Doc” — but if you insist on calling me “Mr.” please use “Dr.” (I retired as a Family Doctor, and Ontario Coroner after 33 years of service in April 2008.) It was a pleasure to meet an Arkham Author — it’s a rare breed these days.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Hello, Dr. Vanderburgh, and my apologies! I should have figured out your appropriate title from your business card. I did note that you are a retired physician and coroner. And you seem to have military service as well? I will edit the blog post accordingly.

      I was honored to meet you! And I’m honored that you’re looking in on this blog!

  5. John R. Fultz Says:

    Good luck with AGONDRIA. I’m itching to read it, and I’d love to see a classic publisher like Arkham House release it. Keep me in the loop, bro!

  6. I say yes to sequel Says:

    A Dragonfly sequel? (gives a deep-throated howl with delight and approval).

    I will be in Chicago “player with railroads” Nov. 17-21 just hanging out with some friends. We are off to MSI for the big Jim Henson Omnimax and exhibit while there. This is costing me a trip to Columbia to cover ISU at Missouri but it is worth it as I might (fingers crossed) draw a bowl game. I thought of you, Jedibabe, as Iowa State nearly upset Nebraska. Were you a regular at Jack Trice? Six of us actually managed to squeeze dinner in at Hickory Park (they don’t take reservations, but show your press card and they will “see if they can find you something”).

    Daylily is right on: a Fellowship of the Blog (FOB?) gathering in my favorite city would be awesome! I bet we can get Scott, Daylily, Shieldmaiden, Marquee, Rich and several others there! Word has it there are flights from Narita to O’Hare …

  7. morwenna Says:

    At a Fellowship of the Blog gathering, members won’t need name tags. We can wear badges emblazoned with our blog icons. 🙂

  8. I say yes to sequel Says:

    What an outstanding idea from Morwenna. Again we see that it is the Ladies of the Blog (Daylily having the original thought) who always come up with the best ideas!

  9. I say yes to sequel Says:

    Pardom me, sensei, but I never see any mention of a certain manuscript that I read not too long ago. What is the status with that work? I bet Shieldmaiden would like to know, too.

    And a big faux pas on me! DUH the ISU/Mizzou game Nov. 20 is in Ames (duh) why else would Jason be so happy to take it from me? As Scott has thought for 30 years, my mind, like that of the HAL-9000, is going … I can feel it … stop, Dave …

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Dear “I say yes”: my agent is hard at work on finding a good buyer for said manuscript. This business is certainly a matter of having patience. Based on responses we’re getting, I think it will find a good home. It’s just a matter of finding the right editor at the right time.

      And by the way: more notes on the convention are coming! Things are insanely busy these days. I have a December 1st deadline on revisions of The Star Shard in addition to teaching, so I’m pretty much busy every moment that I’m awake, and I have no time for sleep . . . but I will hew out time for a blog post within the next few days. (Mainly because I want to put away the pile of convention papers that are piled around my feet, not to be put away until I’ve used them in reporting on the con . . .)

  10. morwenna Says:

    Brown Snowflake, thank you for the laugh about HAL 9000. Just don’t start speaking in a monotone or singing “Daisy Bell”! 🙂

  11. I say yes to sequel Says:

    You are most welcome Morwenna. I can’t believe Marquee DNR, but maybe he has not seen the post yet.

    “My God, its full of stars…”

  12. Chris Says:

    There is a line in a Jack Nicholson movie called “As Good As It Gets”. He’s a troubled author and since he’s played by Jack Nicholson he’s as dark and jaded as he can be in the beginning of the movie.

    One person asks him how he writes a woman character. His answer is hilarious (sexist and crude, but hilarious nonetheless):

    “How do you write women so well?”

    “I take a man, and remove all reason and accountability.”

    Sorry, had to add that one in there because you’d mentioned writing women in your blog.

  13. I say yes to sequel Says:

    What a great line from Jack. I like Jack, but I lump Nicolson, Michael Douglas and Gene Hackman into one group: They are the same character in every movie.

    • Chris Says:

      Agreed. There are actors who play only one character just in different movies and with different names. Rita and I have noted that about some actors recently.

  14. Marquee Movies Says:

    Mr. Snowflake – I got the Hal reference of course, but deemed it obvious enough that everyone would get it – a friend of mine and I like to give each other movie quotes, the joke being that they are so extraordinarily obvious, like, “I love you, Spartacus!”
    As for the comment that Nicholson, Douglas, and Hackman are the same in every movie, I would point out that a) audiences LIKE their movie stars to be identifiable, b) actors who are REALLY good in a certain type of role SHOULD do the roles they are good at, c) movies with stars playing easily identified roles are much easier to sell, thus it makes good business sense, and d) each of those actors are amazingly good at their crafts, and have done roles as wildly different as can be imagined. However, usually their most popular films (and therefore the best remembered films) are ones where the star plays a character similar to the perception audiences have of him. But believe me, they are each very, very talented, and each have played a marvelous range of characters.

    • Chris Says:

      “I love you, Spartacus”! OMG. Back in college (~’84) my roommate and I were struck by one particular March in which the movie Spartacus was played a couple times and then a bunch of other Tony Curtis movies. So we, being big Spartacus fans, decided that March was “Tony Curtis Month”. We carried this forward for about 20 years (even enlisting my wife to celebrate Tony Curtis Month).

      My favorite aspect of Tony Curtis in Spartacus is that he appears to be playing a Brooklyn guy who just happens to have fallen in with a bunch of escaping Roman slaves and gladiators. His “acting” in that particulare movie is beyond compare.

      “Spah-ta-cus, I luv you as a fadduh…”

      (Actually Gracchus has THE best lines in the entire thing that were honestly good:

      “This republic of ours is something like a rich widow. Most Romans love her as their mother but Crassus dreams of marrying the old girl to put it politely.”

      “You and I have a tendency towards corpulence. Corpulence makes a man reasonable, pleasant and phlegmatic. Have you noticed the nastiest of tyrants are invariably thin?”

      Batiatus: Come with us. See to it I don’t misuse the money.
      Gracchus: Don’t be ridiculous. I’m a Senator.

  15. I say yes to sequel Says:

    Marquee: I would not argue with a single one of the points you made. I just had to make sure you were out there, and tossing Jack et al under the bus was one way I knew to get your attention (and I like all three; Gene’s Frenchy is a classic portrayal).

    I agree (ha ha) on the gosh-awful quotes. When Fred goes off about Jaws I always find it hard not to opine: We are going to need a bigger boat. That is not even my fave line from the film: I prefer
    “there is a clinical name for it…”
    and, of course
    “It is only an island if you look at it from the water.”

    (Mentioning Jaws is like chumming the water … bet we hear from Fred soon!)

  16. fsdthreshold Says:

    Chum in the water! Frenzy! Jaws, Jaws, Jaws!

    Okay, die-hard Jaws fanatics — let’s play a little game. Can you identify which TWO of these lines is NOT a quote from the movie Jaws? (There are two lines that belong to a different movie.)

    1. Can you tell me if there’s a good restaurant or hotel on the island? / Yeah, you walk straight ahead! Ha, ha, ha!

    2. Love to prove that, wouldn’t you? Get your name into the National Geographic?

    3. Twenty-four hours is like THREE WEEKS!

    4. I want my cup back! / You’ll get it!

    5. Whattaya got here, portable shower or monkey cage?

    6. Is anyone eating this? / No.

    7. Is your husband home? I’d really like to talk to him. / Yes, so would I.

    8. Chief–not only do I not want your job . . . but I think you’re the greatest.

    9. How come the sun didn’t use to shine in here? / We bought the house in the fall. This is summer.

    10. Let Polly do the printing! / What’s the matter with my printing? / Let Polly do the printing!

    11. Somebody could have. I was sorta passed out, heh, heh.

    12. We better catch somethin’ — this is my wife’s holiday roast.

    13. Little brown eel swims into the hole . . .

    14. Well, obviously a big fish took a bite out of this big fish.

    15. I’ll find him for three, but I’ll catch him and kill him for ten.

    16. Hey, I don’t need this! I don’t need this Working Class Hero crap!

    17. A Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our bow . . . the ship went down in twelve minutes.

    18. Aye, aye, sir, arrrrh! Won’t have to take this abuse much longer!

    19. Now when he runs, you drop that rope or you’ll lose your hands. I’ve seen fingers torn out at the knuckles.

    20. That’s some bad hat, Harry.

    21. Pippet! Pippet! Come on, Pippet!

  17. I say yes to sequel Says:

    I guess 3 and 4, because I think 14 is from JAWS II.

    “Fellas, lets be reasonable. This is neither the time nor the place for some half-ass autopsy on a fish. And I am not going to stand here and watch that little Kitner kid spill out all over the dock!”

    “You know those guys on the fantail launch? Well, none of them are going to get out of the harbor alive.”

  18. fsdthreshold Says:

    Wait, wait — I could have sworn Spartacus was played by Kirk Douglas. Am I wrong here? We need our movie authority, Mr. MM (or anyone with the gumption to access Or was there a remake or something?

    Oh, wait — if Tony Curtis says, “Spahtacus, I love you as a fadduh,” then I guess he’s not playing Spartacus, so . . . in the words of Emily Latella, “Oh, well, then, that’s different. Never mind.”

    I heard they actually did a remake of The Lion in Winter. In the words of Mr. Smith, “Why, man, why?” Why would anyone want to try improving on perfection? The Lion in Winter is not the sort of film that would benefit from state-of-the-art CGI. So why would any filmmaker think s/he could find better actors than O’Toole and Hepburn?

    So what do you think? Think they’ll eventually remake Jaws?

    And speaking of, does anyone else want to ring in on those Jaws lines before I announce the answers?

    • Rich Heinz Says:

      Ah! The Lion in Winter! Yes, indeed, that is a lovely fount of quotations. 🙂

      Here’s a favorite…
      Henry II: Give me a little peace.
      Eleanor: A little? Why so modest? How about eternal peace? Now there’s a thought.

    • Chris Says:

      Spartacus was played by Kiiiiiirk, but Tony played Antoninus. His role was much more…jarringly out of place.

    • Chris Says:

      Lion in Winter needed some laser battles. And robot monsters.

      That was the thing I remember thinking after I watched it.

      As for remaking Jaws…well, cgi could definitely improve the shark scenes but I guess the point is “why bother”? Maybe for the good of young kids like us.

      These days it would be lost on me. I have the original to keep me warm.

      The one thing a new remake of Jaws might do better is replace Hooper with an oceanographic chick. When I finally got to work with folks from Woods Hole and visit the campus back when I was working “oceanography” for a year the one thing I noted was that ocean sciences seemed to attract some of the most beautiful of the science women (Lovely Rita Geobabe, notwithstanding).

      If you have to have someone from Woods Hole and it’s the 21st century you need a strong female character.

  19. Marquee Movies Says:

    Chris, it is really unfair to mock Tony Curtis’s “acting” as you put it – this is a common mistake made by many people when they criticize a performance in a movie. Believe me when I tell you, that his “acting” is exactly the way that the director wanted it to be. To laugh at what you percieve as his “Brooklyn” coming out is to ignore the fact that the director wanted this. I keep referring to the director, because, as it should be (and usually is), the director is the captain of the ship. Just like Mr. Miyagi says in “The Karate Kid,” ‘Teacher say, student do.’ The performance is like that because that’s how the director wanted it. But I also keep bringing up the director because the person in question is STANLEY KUBRICK. He was notorious in Hollywood for wanting every part of every scene to be just absolutely right. While yes, he felt like a hired gun directing the film, he was still Kubrick, which means that for the most part, everything (with the possible exceptions of some of Kirk Douglas’s performance) had to fall under Kubrick’s direction. Casting Tony Curtis in this film was smart, because the character had to be a figure of desire, for both men and women, and he was definitely that in 1960. The fact that he didn’t – what? Have the perfect accent for the time period and section of the world he lived in? So what? Neither did Russell Crowe in “Gladiator” – neither did ANY of the characters in Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ.” (In fact, if you’re going to criticize accent, why not criticize the decision of every character to speak in English? That in and of itself is inaccurate, even jarringly wrong.) This reliance on accents to determine the acting skills or effectiveness of a character in a story is one of the most puzzling things that people fixate on. “Spartacus” works as an amazing filmed story because many, many different elements work well together. Now – if Tony Curtis’s performance still bothers you, hey – it’s your house, you get to decide what you like and don’t like. But instead of mocking his “acting,” do the right thing and criticize Kubrick’s direction. If there’s anything in the film you don’t like, it’s pretty much going to be his fault. Now I hope this didn’t come across too harshly – I don’t mean to be rude. But it’s really unfair to make fun of an actor without acknowledging that there is a screenwriter, a director, an editor, and other actors also heavily involved in shaping that performance. Also, the man just died – we should try and be respectful of all people, whether they are alive or dead, but the timing is a bit of a bummer, especially since just about everyone in the industry had really, really nice things to say about Tony Curtis.

    • Chris Says:

      Marquee, I must remind everyone here that I was one of the co-founders of TONY CURTIS MONTH. Celebrated just about every March from 1984 to just a year or two ago!

      Further to the point I actually LOVE Spartacus. It is a fantastic film.

      But Tony Curtis was key to making the film a “complete” work for me. Of course the intellectual side (and the fact that I was rooming with a philosophy major at the time) drew me to Gracchus, but for raw gut-feel stuff it was all about the Tony Curtis!

      Needless to say I and my wife were devestated to read of his recent death. In fact it has come very close to causing me to stop watching anything that is even remotely a motion picture.

      I mean at this point, what is there to be done? When Tony exited stage left, they need only spark the “ghost light” and we can all go home.

      As for Kubrick, well I give him a pass simply because of “Eyes Wide Shut”. Otherwise, after that incident in which he punched my sister in the gut and urinated on our dog, I can barely stand to think of the man.

    • Chris Says:

      I must also add here that I detest “Some Like It Hot” but I can only assume that was because Jack Lemon or Marilyn Monroe dorked up the Tony Curtis vibe for me.

      Or maybe it was because of the cross-dressing which only served to make a mockery of the inherent ultra-manliness that Tony Curtis has always represented for me.

      Or maybe I’m thinking of Jamie Lee Curtis here…I get confused easily.

  20. fsdthreshold Says:

    Now that Chris has had a chance to respond, I’m going to jump in here and thank Marquee Movies for reminding us that directors are, well, directing the movies. It is to the credit of their art that we, the audience, tend to forget all about them. Do we not generally talk about “DeNiro films” or “Pacino films,” etc., as if the lead actor were the sole representative of the movie? We forget about everyone except whom we SEE. And that means everyone else is doing his/her job well, but it’s very good to be reminded that movies are actually “Scorsese films” or “Spielberg films” or whatever (I just picked two directors whose names I could spell).

    Relating the discussion to books, though — I suppose the same thing does happen to writers (the “directors” of books). Everyone knows Conan the Barbarian, but how many people on the street would recognize the name Robert E. Howard? Everyone knows Rambo, but have you heard of David Morrell?

    Regarding accents (and your entire message), Marquee, I agree completely with everything you said, and I’m glad you said it — thank you! — but when an actor does nail the accent exactly right — when you watch a Malkovitch or a Kidman or a Blanchett who gets it right every single time, no matter whom they’re playing — then it is a thing of rare beauty.

    This is almost a blog post unto itself, but the use of English and the degree of modern vernacular to be used when representing the speech of cultures long ago and far away is an issue that I have discussed at length with various writer friends. On the one extreme, you could write the book in a perfectly authentic period language that no modern reader would understand. (Tolkien once remarked that he wished he could have written LOTR entirely in Elvish. But if he’d done that, I don’t think it would be as widely embraced as it is today.) On the other extreme, you can posit that the people of that far-off culture were speaking in their vernacular, so it’s best represented by the slangiest slang of modern American. I also find this approach jarring.

    I generally try to find a balance. If I’m writing about a quasi-European, quasi-medieval culture (as in THE STAR SHARD), I have characters using English; I have them using contractions such as “isn’t,” “I’d,” etc. I DON’T have them saying “okay.” A Cricket editor had me remove a reference to “corn,” since it sounded very New World. She had me change a “canyon” to “ravine” or something, since canyon is something from the American Southwest. (I still remember being jarred by those people eating tacos in The Last Unicorn, though I’m guessing it was done for comedic effect — precisely for that jarring.) Interesting topic!

    • Chris Says:

      Agreed on the director front. I was watching a documentary the other day about Monty Python and they were talking about how “Holy Grail” essentially lost its initial director or Jones and Gilliam split the role (I forget how it came about, but ultimately Jones and Gilliam split the role).

      They had to dramatically different styles of directing and apparently it was hard to make the system work, but somehow they did.

      Now back to languages: Despite Mel Gibson being a generally horrible human being, he has a gift as a director and story teller. His movies invariably get me to watch and enjoy. He somehow knows how to build and tell a story. I was actually rather impressed when he did his Passion play torture movie in “The Passion of the Christ” in aramaic, latin and hebrew. I was equally impressed when he did Apocalypto in Mayan.

      It was ballsy and effective. I’m sure few directors could pull that off.

      It shocks me to realize that great artists in one area can be such abysmal human beings in others.

      “Sing for us Antoninus, sing!”
      “Staaaaat spreadin’ da newz….I’m leavin’ ta-day, I wanna be a paht o’ it…”

      • Chris Says:

        Oh yeah, my inclusion of the “improved” Spartacus singing scene was in no way intended to indicate that Kubrick, Kiiiiiirk, or Tony were horrible human beings.

        I just thought I’d add that in there for fun.

    • Chris Says:

      Corn. Interesting side-note. Never really thought about how editors would look at various food stuffs in novels. But I guess it kinda makes sense (obviously not necessarily applicable here in this sense, thanks jhagman for the clarification).

      Now in my novel set in Medieval Flanders I’ve got my main hero, Bob of ‘s Hertogenbosch doing battle with the dread knight of Ensor in a field of broccoflower.

      Next time, Fred, someone (an editor, a reader, a random stranger on the street) gives you a hard time for use of “corn” I suggest you slug them in the face. And you should stand over their stunned prone body screaming: “Do you *&^%in’ realize how much time I had to spend looking at that *&^%% stuff? I’ll use it wherever the *&^%^% I want in my stories and not only will you deal with it YOU’LL LIKE IT.”

      It might a bit violent but I bet NO ONE would ignore your corn-intensive fiction in the future.

      Maybe it’s that hard edge you are missing. Cheever initially drank to excess, Hemingway was testosterone overdosed, Pynchon is very private, maybe you should establish yourself as vicious, violent advocate for CORN.

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        Good idea! In fact, I think I’ll retitle all my works and re-release them:
        CORNFLY (novel)
        THE THRESHOLD OF CORN (unpublished novel) (a trick to re-release!)
        “The Corn Man”
        THE CORN SHARD (forthcoming novel)
        “Ren and the Corn Imps”
        “A Tale of Corn”
        “The Fool Who Fished for Corn”
        THE CORN OF THE DEEP (novel-in-lack-of-progress)
        CORN BOOKNOSE (Heh, heh, heh!)
        “Murik and the Corn Sack”
        “The Place of Corn”
        “The Corn”
        [You get the idea. Then I’m going to start on mashups of great classic novels. My first project will be PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND CORN.]

  21. jhagman Says:

    Corn is an ancient word for grain- it is a very old world, maize is the true word for the New World “grain”. Medieval Knights would ride through fields of corn, not wheat. Fred, your prose has poetry- I hope editors don’t mess with that too much.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      You know, that is actually what I thought, but I didn’t quite have the certainty to stick up for the word. But I was sure I’d heard the word “corn” in some ancient contexts, as a word for “grain.” Thank you for the vote of confidence and for your kind words!

      Every day I mean to write a new posting here — there’s one more good entry’s worth of material about World Fantasy. But I am just so much under the gun with The Star Shard that I never quite get to it! I’m hoping within the next few days! What a contrast from last year, eh, when I wrote about a five-part report on the convention?!

      • Rich Says:

        As soon as you remarked about corn, I thought, “NO! That has been used for centuries!

        I remembered from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales — a tale about a Miller talks about “grinding corn.” Of course, Chaucer gets a little racy. He uses the term two ways in the tale: one refers to taking grain to a mill, but also uses it as a euphemism for sexual relations.

  22. I say yes to sequel Says:

    OK, back from Chicago and … wow … MM and Chris duel, Fred eggs them on, and we end up talking about corn! I love it!

    Here is what I know about accents: In the Stars Wars films, the cool Imperial Guys all had English accents. When Americans were used it sucked.

    • Rich Says:

      Someone once noted that it seemed to be implied that the “British” accent showed someone was from Coruscant. Don’t think that was the initial thought, but choices of actors and accents seem to have developed along those lines. 🙂

    • Chris Says:

      Well, of course, when one talks about Tony Curtis emotions run high. Even if we both essentially agree on the man’s ability as a master thespian.

  23. I say yes to sequel Says:

    Not a bad idea about ‘corn’ but you could also step slighty sideways and go with something like “Of Mice and Men and Hominy” and “The Grits of Wrath”

    Can we stand one more comment re: Spartacus? I have seen it once and was less than enthralled. I don’t like Kirk Douglas in anything and think Tony Curtis is just a bit too Liberace for me. I am fully aware this will make me an apostate in the MM and Chris universe…

    As for Stanley…He was behind 2001 and the outstanding Full Metal Jacket. That is enough for me.

    Hey MM: Should I be excited about TRON: Legacy? I loved the original and am worried that this new flick will be like 98% of the movies in the last five years — a cheap excuse to show off “what we can do with special effects now.” What is your take?

    And Chris: Was your TONY CURTIS MONTH a reaction to Fred’s PETER O’TOOLE MONTH or did it pre-date the worship inspired by Masada?

    • Chris Says:

      Couple of points:
      1. Tony Curtis _too Liberace_? That actually made me laugh out loud. For whatever reason I always felt that in interviews that TC did come off as a bit too Liberace. (Speaking of Liberace, Rita and I actually saw his tomb in LA! It’s fabulous!) Still in the end Tony Curtis is all that is “manly” in it’s most many form.

      1b. “Less than enthralled” with Spartacus? Have you thought of seeking help? I mean, this could be the sign of some serious underlying condition that needs attention quickly!

      2. The Tony Curtis Month cult may have been one of those simultaneous happenings with Peter O’Toole Month. I had not heard of that from Fred. But since Masada came out about that time Grant (my room mate) and I spent most of that year just occasionally shouting “Vespasian’s Monkey! Ah hahahahaha” in our best Peter O’Toole voice. I suppose great minds think alike, despite our separation of distance at that time.

      3. “Full Metal Jacket” was a good flick. 2001 never really caught my attention. And I hate the end, but I assume I have to blame Arthur C. for that, but I’ve never read the novel either. It was enough to know that Hal was made at the UofI.

      4. I really do love “Eyes Wide Shut” and not just for the _obvious_ reasons. I like it for the same reason that I liked “Risky Business”. The concept of taking a turn from the path, however briefly, and discovering something horrible can happen. I once heard Risky Busines was supposed to have ended darker. I would have LOVED it much more then.

      I think characters who come to a bad end are the ones that I feel more for, especially if they mis-step or just meander over the line however briefly or fleetingly.

  24. Marquee Movies Says:

    Mr. Snowflake – liked your “Grits of Wrath!” As for predictions on Tron Legacy – I have finally (I hope) learned, from bitter experience, never to make predictions about whether a movie will live up to its hype. All I can say is, I enjoyed the first Tron as well, having gone into it with a sense of wonder. My recommendation is to go into Legacy while trying to hold onto that same appreciation of how beautiful these effects are. (Obviously, also hoping and praying that the story is good and is well-told.) I think it’s interesting to note that those images that were so beautiful and innovative back in 1982 are beautiful again because they’re retroactive. I think the commercials have been great to watch, and again, even if it’s not a strong story, I think I’ll have fun feeling a bit like I did with the first film. I’m actually grateful they didn’t upgrade TOO much, you know? (There’s a long answer for your question!) (Plus, it’s Jeff Bridges – he’s always cool.) And Chris, I’m glad you enjoyed celebrating Tony Curtis month (although your disliking of “Some Like It Hot” is puzzling) – and yes, Risky Business, which I have watched more times than almost any other film, did originally have a darker ending. Nothing shattering, but it was more pessimistic, or more realistic, I guess you could argue. You can actually watch the original ending on the most recent DVD edition of Risky Business – or, if you ask, I’ll be happy to tell you what happens.

  25. I say yes to sequel Says:

    Tell us, MM, tell us! I loved Risky Business too. Chicago was, for Fred, where he went to school. For me it is THE city, so I love the backdrop for RB. The soundtrack, too, featuring Tangerine Dream (‘Love on a Real Train’ is iconic) is great and I join you and Chris in wishing the ending had been a little darker.

    And Chris, about 2001: I have heard Clarke is to blame for the ending, which I, too, never cared for. OF COURSE HAL (the letters before IBM) was going to be born in Champaign-Urbana, home of the Cray-2!

    2010 was a decent movie, but looks really dated and preachy now. I read 2061 when Clarke put it out and thought it was OK but I am glad they let the movie franchise die. (Would love to see someone do ‘Rendevous with Rama’)

    And MM: thanks for the advice on Tron. I concur with every sentiment you expressed.

  26. jhagman Says:

    I hope Fred doesn’t visit Korea anytime soon,,,,,the “irradiance” might be a little too much.

    • Scott Says:


    • Chris Says:

      From the sounds of it, North Korea would dearly like to visit Japan sometime soon.

      What a messy situation. I just recently watched two documentaries on life “inside” North Korea. I love that sort of thing…it’s simply surreal.

      Japan is right to seriously consider what North Korea would like to do. North Korea, not necessarily known for it’s rational approach to…well…anything, clearly has a beef with Japan from long ago. But they also need to deal with the bigger guy on the block just south.

      Personally I am uncertain why N.K. is rattling the saber as it is, it is now a pretty unbalanced war potential. As they say an army marches on its stomach, and I can’t imagine how the DPRK army, despite being the 4th largest standing army in the world, actually has had enough food in the last decade to last very long should war resume on the Peninsula.

      Let’s assume that KJI or his sun KJE were to do the unthinkable and lob a nuke over the border at S.Korea or, heaven forbid, over at Japan just because of their “thought process” I am guessing it would take about 15 seconds for the U.S. to unilaterally level every inhabitable portion of North Korea.

      Only problem would be trying to make up with China afterwards but I’m guessing it wouldn’t be _that_ hard.

      DPRK is playing a game of stupid brinksmanship they can’t really win. The only reason they have been able to act with impugnity lately is because we don’t to stir the kettle ourselves.

      But if DPRK goes too far it won’t be good for them.

      So the poor folks in Japan are staring across the sea at a very unstable enemy who carries with it that which many Asian countries carry: a long history of hatred of Japan for Japan’s former militarism and agression.

      It is hard to imagine Japan of today as the monsters of yesterday but they cut a vicious swath across parts of Asia and the scars are still in living memory for some folks from Nanking down to the Korean Peninsula.

      Then when you couple all that with a seriously mentally unstable (technical term: bat&^%$ insane) governing body as DPRK has, then it’s anyone’s guess how it plays out in the long run.

      Chris’ Prediction: Nothing will come of this. S. Korea will be talked down by the US (ironically in the roll of “cooler heads”), DPRK will quiet down a bit and everyone (including Japan) will get a chance to relax a bit.

      Then we’ll repeat the cycle again in a few years. Ad nauseam.

    • Scott Says:

      I knew what he was talking about. My ? was more a question of “Why did you bring that up?” The comment seemed out of place. One of things that I like about this blog is it’s distinct non-political discourse (other than when Brown Snowflake makes fun of you for your liberal ideals and you shoot back with an attack on his conservative ideals. We all know that you really are rooting for Sarah Palin for President in 2012 and he is itching for Ralph Nader to run for the Green Party again.) 🙂

      As for the threat of nuclear war, as with anyone our age, I grew up with the constant threat of nuclear annihilation. But I remember the films from grade school. If the bombs start dropping, crawl under the desk and everything will be fine. You will be completely protected from the blast and the fallout.

      OH! But if I remember the pictures of Fred’s apartment correctly, he doesn’t have a desk. It’s OK Fred. Find a good heavy pillow. I’m sure it will work just as well.

      Well, I see Fred has posted a new thread. I’m on my way over now.

  27. jhagman Says:

    I made my “irradiance” entry not out of a sense of politics- but out of a sense of where a writer lives and works is of some significance. I really don’t know Fred’s politics (nor do I really care that much). But when a favorite author lives near a potential war zone,,,, in the name of William Hope Hodgson, I wish Fred/Japan/Korea peace!

    • Chris Says:

      I actually liked the turn of the added comment about Korea. It is much on many of our minds lately. And Fred lives right across (only about 100-150miles away) from DPRK.

      The whole concept that Fred lives on what is now a non-military island and is himself effectively non-threatening in any way explores a kind of alternate reality disparate from Japan’s past history in that region.

      And, of course, Fred’s dark past as an armed enforcer for the Mafia and hired gun for whomever would pay him the most money to kill a man. Sometimes he’d do it just for fun. To watch the blood run off into the CORN fields.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thanks, jhagman — I knew what you meant and appreciate your concern!

      As to what my politics are: I doubt you can find a more apolitical creature than me.

      Wow! Did William Hope Hodgson really say “I wish Fred/Japan/Korea peace!”? 🙂

      Chris, just today I was getting a flat tire fixed (bicycle tire), and while the younger repairman (who I think is the son) worked on my bike, the older one (who I think is the father) ushered me into the shop’s glassed-off inner room where there are some chairs around a wood-burning stove. He tossed in some scrap 2×4’s, and we talked about the past, about wars and privations. I’m of the generation that has never known what it’s like to be in want. He was telling me about being a child during WWII, when if people could catch a bird in the neighborhood, they would eat it. The soldiers, most of whom had no guns, dug foxholes in the rice fields of Niigata and waited there with sharpened bamboo sticks. The soldiers were starving and would come to the farmers’ houses at night, asking for any food that could be spared, even a few pickles of the kind normally put on top of rice. We figured out that he is just two years younger than my parents.

      Strangers in Japan are starting to call me “Father” now, which is disturbing. (It reflects my age.) They can no longer justify calling me “Big Brother.”

  28. jhagman Says:

    Of William Hope Hodgson they say that a direct hit of artillery got this future Arkham House writer- Ypres 1917. He was vaporized. I am certain he would wish all concerned peace- especially since he learned the very hard way about consequences.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Did he die in WWI? Wow, and fascinating. Tolkien lives, though most of his closest friends die, and he is invalided home because of trench fever. The Hobbit and LOTR ensue. Hodgson dies, though fortunately, he has already written some things. The House on the Borderlands is on my to-read list. Some of my closest friends recommend him.

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