Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Hallowe'en

This is a fun time of year, when imaginations run wild and friends surprise and delight each other with costumes and spooky treats. My youngest nephew is going Trick or Treating as a banana. I love getting creative with costumes but have opted out this year (I'm getting over a nasty cold.)

But I do want to share a little teaser for something coming up soon.

TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN, VOL 10: ESPRIT DE CORPS is coming soon from Black Coats Press!

It's a bigger than usual volume featuring more talented authors than usual, and the return of legendary fantasy writer Michael Moorcock to the Shadowmen anthology series!

My story Quest of the Vourdalaki is an especially Halloween-y theme. It features Cassave, from Jean Ray's surreal haunted house classic, Malpertuis, Cossacks, and vampires in a story inspired by one of my favorite pieces of music (which is also spookily appropriate for the day.

Have a safe and happy Hallowe'en!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Almost Ready for Print!

This is a big month, as my first two novels (both collaborations) to see print and I'm really excited! My collaboration with Win Scott Eckert is A Girl and Her Cat is now available for pre-order from Amazon (more in my next post.)

My other collaboration is The Vampire Count of Monte Cristo written with the amazing Alexandre Dumas. It's the tender story of Edmund Dantes, a young sailor in Napoleon era France with a promising career, a beloved father, and a beautiful fiancee. Of course, any time a story begins like that, you know there's got to be trouble. Edmond finds himself in a perfect storm as jealous enemies and a prosecutor with a guilty secret conspire to steal his love, his future, and his life. Locked in the dungeons of the dreaded Chateau D'if, Edmund encounters a mysterious man with occult skills and makes a dark pact with unholy powers to gain the power to become a creature of the night and seek his revenge.

Here's a first look at the cover:

It's high adventure meets dark magic, with romance and intrigue galore!

My co-writer, Alexandre Dumas, is excited too. Here's what he has to say.

Bon sang! Quel est le lien américaine fait avec mon histoire?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Midian Unmade

This is an upcoming anthology set in the world of Clive Barker's novel CABAL. Bobbie Metevier and I collaborated on a story that we just sent in before the deadline.

The story is titled, "A Song to Sing in Babylon" and it was a lot of fun to write. The story has a lot of unusual inspirations, including a favorite old song by Don McLean.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Indians in the Movies

I saw the new version of The Lone Ranger over the weekend and it gave me a lot to think about... not in a good way. I have the sense that it started life as a shallow, but coherent, screenplay that was overloaded with so much junk in development that we're left with a fast-moving mess that relies on over the top special effects to hide its many shortcomings. It looks like it wants to be a fresh Little Big Man style retelling of the classic character's origin. It fails horribly.

Maybe I'll do a full review later. for right now I want to comment on the movie's use of Native Americans, and their portrayal in movies in general.

The movie starts with a young boy visiting a museum of the wild west in San Francisco in the 1930s. He sees a display labeled "The Noble Savage in his Natural Habitat" in which the display "Savage" is actually a very old Tonto, who has apparently been hired to stand there and pretend to be a mannequin.

It's a bad way to start. For one thing, it's a framing device that is blatantly stolen from Little Big Man with some variations, for another, the intent is clearly to show the racism of a society that would put "noble savages" on display like this. Yet, that's pretty much what the movie does itself.

In the radio shows, Tonto was a Potawatomai, though what a member of that people--usually found in the woodlands of the Great Lakes region--was doing in Texas was never explained. In the movie, Tonto becomes a Comanche, which makes a lot more sense; the Comanche really did live in the Lone Star state. Unfortunately, there's nothing about Tonto or the other Native people in the movie that seems very Comanche. In the big calvary vs. Indians battle, the Comanche are all on foot, despite the fact that the Comanche were a horse culture. Tonto claims that he is hunting evil spirits called wendigos and calls the Lone Ranger "Kemosabe" which he explains is Comanche for "wrong brother." In fact, Kemosabe is not Comanche for anything, it's an Ojibwe word and you can get a little more on the linguistics here. A wendigo is a Native American evil spirit but it comes from the Algonquin peoples of the northern Atlantic woodlands. Different language, different culture, different people.

Why does this irritate me? It's all Native American culture, right?

While that has often been the attitude in Hollywood, It does irritate me. There's as much difference between the culture of the Comanche and the Cree, or the Cheyenne, or the Seminole peoples as between the Greek, Irish and Russian cultures. It makes no more sense to have generic Indians than it does to have generic Europeans.

But generic stereotypes are all we get in The Lone Ranger. There are generic Christian missionaries, generic prostitutes with hearts of gold, generic cavalrymen, generic railroad tycoons, generic psychotic outlaws, generic naive tenderfoots (tenderfeet?) from back east and especially generic Indians. Even Tonto's distinctive costume comes from non-specific view of Native peoples. It was inspired by the painting, "I am Crow" which artist Kirby Sattler freely admits is imaginary and not based on any specific Native culture.

When you go for some sort of generic Native American culture, the result is always going to be shallower than if you actually delve into a specific culture and all its richness. I think there was a noble intent in the movie to have a more positive portrayal of Native people and get rid of the negative stereotypes, and I commend them for that. But positive stereotypes are still stereotypes. Over the years, the portrayal of Native Americans has swung from the "nature's noblemen" to bloodthirsty savages, to spiritual warriors, close to nature. All too seldom they have been portrayed as real people, with their own complex cultures and their own individual personalities.

It would really be nice to see the movies get to that point.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Dry Spell

Do you ever get these? I had am extremely productive winter and spring but am really slogging now to finish two short stories and get a start on the YA novel I've been meaning to do for a long time. The ideas are there and I've even got the free time but it's like wading through waist-deep mud. Any ideas?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness review (no spoilers)

I saw this a few days ago and loved it. It's rare to find something that manages to be a nostalgic thrill and cutting edge entertainment at the same time. Into Darkness channels the spirit of the original Star Trek better than... well, better than just about anything since the original series. It also manages to combine the optimistic spirit of Gene Roddenberry with the darker and grittier tone that modern audiences demand. There's not a whole lot I can say without spoilers but if you're a newbie to Star Trek but like intelligently written, fast-paced SF adventure, you should like this. If you've seen the first of the new Star Trek reboot by J.J. Abrams you'll appreciate it more, and if you've seen the original series and the first few movies you'll appreciate it a lot more. The casting is perfect, the villains (and there are plenty of surprises about who the villains and allies are) are excellent. My only real reservation about Into Darkness is the same problem I had with Iron Man III, The Hobbit, and a lot of other blockbusters. The filmmakers are so in love with their digital FX that the characters and the story are overshadowed. Possibly worse, the long strings of impossible things that FX allow you to do makes the world, and the danger. seem much less real. In other words, the rollercoaster thrills can actually undermine the story. I'm looking forward to the day when directors decide that they've been overdoing it with the FX and pull back. Until then, movies like Into Darkness, that have solid storytelling and good characters as well as dazzling effects will are always welcome.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Also Just Out

Roaring Heart of the Crucible, Moonstone Books' third anthology of stories featuring the Avenger, is out. It's so new I haven't even had time to read my contributors' copy yet. My story, "The Iron Phantom", was a lot of fun to write, and includes the appearance of some other characters who I think will make fans of classic pulp adventures happy. More on this soon.