Thursday, March 31, 2005

LepreCon 31

So it turns out I'll be a participant at LepreCon 31, May 6-8, 2005, in Carefree, AZ.
It's a Science Fiction convention - I'll be there promoting Creative Guy Publishing, their Amityville House of Pancakes anthology, my The Last Cyberpunk short story (and therefore Neometropolis Magazine as well), and any other publishing successes I see in the next month (there will be at least one - more about that in a future post).

Feel free to stop by! Kevin J. Anderson is slated to be one of the guests of honor.... Ernest & Emily Hogan, plus a bunch of other notables will also be participating.... Should be a fun time!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Eiji Yoshikawa

The novel, "Musashi", by Eiji Yoshikawa is a fictional retelling of the life of Miyamoto Musashi, author of "The Book of Five Rings" and one of the most famous and respected sword masters in world history. The dry, style-less translation from Japanese to English in a 1000 page volume may prove a daunting task for the casual reader - but for those willing to commit the effort - this a compelling and fascinating book. I never found myself bored - and was sad to finally reach the end.

The translation for Yoshikawa's novel, "Taiko", has the same flaws as "Musashi", not to mention that the hundreds and hundreds of pages describing the military actions begin to feel a bit repetitive... But this is another 1000-pager that's worth the effort, for those up to the commitment. It's the fictionalized biography of Toyotomi Hideyoshi's life, and of his relationships with Tokugawa Ieyasu and Oda Nobunaga. All three of these men played critical roles in the unification of Japan.

Both books offer a fascinating glimpse into feudal Japan, right around the time of the unification. Essential reading for anyone with an interest in Japanese History. Sure, I'll recommend James Clavell's "Shogun" too - it's an exciting, entertaining, well-written book (of about 1000 pages). But if you want an authentic Japanese take on the actual historical figures and events, Eiji is your man.

I want to hear you scream

Check it out! My review of Wes Craven's "The Serpent and the Rainbow" is now up at

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Miss TeschMACHER!!!!!

Check out my review of Superman: The Movie posted over at .

I think in 2005, this site and its companion,, are going to grow to become valuable resources for the sci-fi community.

" wants to be one of the Internet's top resources for reviews and information on and about speculative fiction movies available for home purchase."

" wants to be one of the Internet's top resources for reviews and information on and about speculative fiction novels, anthologies, and authors."

Monday, March 28, 2005

Elliott Smith

The "singer/songwriter" label typically evokes imagery either of that annoying guy with the acoustic guitar, sitting on the stool in the coffee shop, singing his bland, poppy original songs, lyrics full of unfunny injokes... ----- either that or Paul Simon.

Dismiss all such preconceptions when listening to singer/songwriter Elliott Smith.

Even as production values on his albums improved, as music execs and critics alike anticipated super-stardom and reknown that would never be for Elliott Smith, his quiet brilliance was never lost beneath the layers of strings and other effects. The soul of the man with the acoustic guitar could be heard across his inventive, catchy, moving chord progressions and soft vocals - and he was never that irritating coffee shop guy. He was quite possibly the best songwriter of the 90s, whose best work is hearfelt, deeply sad, deeply touching, and deeply emotional.

Elliott Smith was found dead in November of 2003; he'd apparently commited suicide.

We miss you, man; your music is beautiful.

For the uninitiated - check out the albums "XO" and "Either/Or".

Friday, March 25, 2005

twisted wrister

For as long as I can remember, hockey has struggled to capture and truly lay claim to its quarter of the American viewing public's "big four" team sports. Given the minimum acceptable level of acknowledgement, and often open contempt, by most sports reporters and anchors, it's closer to a cult than say, the institutions that are Major League Baseball and Pro and College Football. The current NHL strike will only drive the sport deeper underground from the perspective of mainstream sports viewers.
But - what do those unbelievers matter? Those of us who love the game, who know the ecstatic release of seeing the back of the net bulge from a shot past the goalie, who've been thrilled and awed at a graceful deke, at a brilliant dive from a defenseman to break up an od-man rush, at a lightning-fast glove save - - - - - we get it. We appreciate the sparsity of goals, and don't need constant scoring and final tallies in the double/triple digits to remain interested.
You still say you don't like hockey? You won't watch when the NHL (or pro hockey in whatever form) returns to TV and arenas near you? Well - let's examine your objections:

"I can't follow the puck". It's true - this is an acquired skill for all hockey viewers, but it's easily acquired. If you sit down and watch one game, you'll be able to follow the action with little or no effort by the end of the first period. Even when you momentarily lose sight of the puck (as happens occasionally to even the most seasoned viewers and players), you'll be able to find it again quickly without becoming frustrated. Sadly, most people are unwilling to put in even the miniscule amount of effort it takes to get used to this.

"I don't understand all of those rules". Pro Football and Baseball rules are far more complex, and you know them. You can handle hockey. There aren't astrobiologists out there struggling with the concept of "icing".

"I don't like all of the fighting". Honestly, I don't either. It interrupts the game, which is what I'm there to see. I don't, however, think the game's aggressive tone should be taken out. Ugly incidents occur occasionally from the boil-over of unreleased aggression (yes, Todd Beruzzi happened) - so yes, an examination of the game's aggression is in order... but let's maintain the beauty of the hard-hitting, fast-paced game.

"It sucks to watch on TV". Bull. It's not as taylor-made for TV as the NFL, and yes, hockey is a much better experience in person, but this game plays just fine on TV. I used to happily watch Islanders and Rangers games on the tiny little b&w TV in my parents' bedroom. You have TV bigger than my fishtank now, with a superfine, high resolution picture. Also - camera coverage of hockey has advanced and improved ten times over since the 80s... This is a great TV game, and it will continue to get better.

"My attention span can't handle the long stretches of non-stop action". You probably won't admit to this objection - but I think it's a real obstacle to hockey ever achieving mainstream success. Most people NEED those breaks between the brief snatches of action in NFL, MLB, and even to some extent, pro and college basketball games. It's difficult to maintain the sustained focus that an exciting hockey game can sometimes require. In fact, for the hockey fan, those breaks are the worst part of the experience. Keep the action moving!

So if you're willing to pay attention (I wouldn't even go so far as to say "concentrate") and invest a minimal amount of effort, you can learn the beauty, grace, and excitement of hockey. You can get in on the secret. If you're willing to invest as much in your hockey team as you have in your other teams, the payoff is like no other.
My team's first Stanley Cup championship (1995, the ragtag NJ Devils swept the heavily-favored Detroit Red Wings - - subject matter for a future post) is a memory I'll always treasure. I follow teams in other sports, but no championship season of theirs will ever even come close to the Devils' 3 Cup wins.

Oops- another long rant. But I can't omit one last point: this game is also a thrill to play - on ice, on rollerblades, or even just in sneakers.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Mr. Man...fred... jen... sen... den.

The central message of Buddhism is not "Every Man For Himself".

John Cleese is probably the funniest human being ever to walk the earth... and "A Fish Called Wanda" is his best work. I love his Monty Python stuff - I love Fawlty Towers - I even own the VHS tape of Fierce Creatures... but - A Fish Called Wanda rates above them all.
With inspired performances from the entire cast (Kevin Kline's Otto is one of the most memorable film characters of all time), one of the cleverest screenplays ever written, and layers upon layers of witty comedy, this is a movie that benefits from - no, requires - multiple viewings for full appreciation of its subtleties and cleverness. (Note during the closing credits that the actor who played George Thomason was Thomas Georgeson.)

Wake up, limey fish!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Since I mentioned my iTunes "Top 25 Most Played" list in my previous post, I figured I'd post the entire list here (current as of 3/23/2005). Some days I create playlists based on my whim; other times, I'll play my main library on "Shuffle" mode. Here is the ecclectic result:
  1. Vanity Fair ~ Mr. Bungle 29
  2. Organ Donor ~ DJ Shadow 18
  3. Dad and Dog ~ Fredo Viola 17
  4. Saddam A Go-Go ~ GWAR 15
  5. Wine ~ Jack Mangan 14
  6. Did My Time ~ KoRn 14
  8. At The Gates - Slaughter of the Soul ~ At the Gates 12
  9. The Cure - Just Like Heaven ~ The Cure 12
  10. Jack Mangan - Tears of Liquid Mercury ~ Jack Mangan 12
  11. Red Right Hand ~ Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds 12
  12. Waltz #2 (XO) ~ Elliott Smith 11
  13. The Crown and the Ring ~ MANOWAR 11
  14. Asteroid Speed Highway ~ Matt Mango 11
  15. Roberta Flack - First Time Ever I Saw Your Face ~ Roberta Flack 11
  16. Asturias ~ Segovia 11
  17. Shape Of My Heart ~ Sting 11
  18. Institutionalized (original Version) ~ Suicidal Tendencies 11
  19. U Can't Hold No Groove ~ Victor Wooten 11
  20. We Once Were (Two) ~ The Album Leaf 10
  21. Seemingly Endless Time ~ Death Angel 10
  22. Nuthin But a G Thang ~ Dr. Dre 10
  23. Eric B and Rakim - Microphone Fiend ~ Eric B & Rakim 10
  24. Hallowed Be Thy Name ~ Iron Maiden 10
  25. Circle of Stars ~ Jack & Debbie Mangan 10

You can find the Fredo Viola and The Album Leaf tracks for free out on the net (I'm a bad blogger; I'm not going to give you the links.... go use Google). "Circle of Stars" (#25) is my wedding song. Rather than choose some cheesy power ballad, we decided to write and record our own. "Wine" (#5) and "Tears of Liquid Mercury"(#10) are instrumental guitar pieces of mine, also on the CD we gave out to our wedding guests. "Asteroid Speed Highway" is also me (I wrote most of the lyrics and played guitar - it's on Matt Mango's "The Wishing Bridge" CD). The rest can be purchased at or other fine music retailers.

I'll post the list again sometime toward the end of April; we'll see how it's changed....

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Faith No More

OK - I'm not an expert on the enigmatic Mike Patton's career.... there are many who are better qualified to sell you on him and on FNM.
I've read the reviews, but never actually heard his avant garde solo albums, which are apparently little more than long sequences of bizarre screams and sound effects.
I like Mr. Bungle (the song "Vanity Fair" has held the #1 spot in my iTunes "Top 25 Most Played" for months); I haven't heard any of his other projects - - my favorite Mike Patton moments are mostly on the Faith No More album, "Angel Dust".
Like you - I first heard Faith No More when "The Real Thing" came out. The Metallica guys were raving about them - I picked up the casette and knew I'd found a unique masterpiece. Saw them at the Fastlane in Asbury Park right at the peak of their "Epic" popularity. The club was too small for us all.... It was sweltering inside of the little club. I was only 16, and if the bouncers hadn't been overrun with MTV latecomers on the street outside, they probably wouldn't have let me in. As it was, I got in, got soaked with my sweat and the sweat of everyone close by in the cramped floor before the stage, and experienced enlightenment (it was that or heatstroke). Mike Patton was a dynamo of energy, hanging at times from the pipes on the low ceiling, belting out the songs off of the first two albums. I've never experienced a show to match that one....
"Angel Dust" was the next album, which for me, was their peak. They'd said facetiously that they were set to bring back Soft Rock with that album... the tune "A Small Victory" seems to almost back up that statement, repeating a cheesy poppy riff over a heavy, driving, compelling background groove (hut, hut, hut hut hut). Every song on this CD makes a case for greatness, though all are a bit too bizarre, a bit too Faith No More, to ever repeat the mainstream success of "Epic". (check out the way "Everything's Ruined" builds to an awesome climactic finish, same for "Jizzlobber". The album itself anti-climaxes perfectly with an hypnotic version of the "Midnight Cowboy" theme as the last track.)
Their following albums all have their moments, but if you don't know the band, I'd recommend you get started with "The Real Thing". Not their very best, but their most accessible. Follow that up with "Angel Dust".
At their best, they were five virtuosos coming together, fusing their talents to create brilliant songs that were atmospheric, often heavy, often catchy, often dark, often tongue-in-cheek. A shame they broke up.... There will never be another Faith No More. I have no idea why I never saw them live again.

Friday, March 18, 2005


Cyberpunk brought unique style, attitude, dirt, grit and a whole new look to literature, not just Science Fiction. It emerged during the Reagan 80s, when Sci-Fi generally covered deep space operatic stuff, high Tolkien-esque fantasy, and fantastical post-apocalyptic Mad Max-type worlds. Mainstream-ish entertainment options across other mediums and genres, fiction or otherwise, were also highly escapist. This was a time when The Dukes of Hazzard and the A-Team were acceptable entertainment, watched weekly by adults and children with zero sense of irony. Reality television consisted of Game Shows and PBS documentaries. Even the heaviest, most aggressive, anti-mainstream music artists of the time strove for melody and recognized the limitations of "listenable", rebelling from the Top 40 and appealing to outsider kids with high-pitched solos and vocals, reasonable amounts of distortion, loud drums, minor chords, and dissonant note and chord progressions. Rap music was years away from the explosive, harsh realism of Public Enemy and N.W.A. Mainstreamable artists didn't embrace UGLY sounds and themes in their music until the mid-nineties, coincidentally, around the time when Jerry Springer and countless others capitalized by turning those cameras away from nice old Aunt Martha spinning the Wheel Of Fortune and clapping, refocusing on the uglier side of American families and suburban life.

I argue that Cyberpunk helped enable this burgeoning "hard-look-in-the-mirror" approach to entertainment. Led by the triumvirate of William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, and John Shirley, later joined by the godlike Neal Stephenson, we learned that not all Science Fiction heroes were noble and grand; Case and super-cool Molly were vulnerable and fallible, just like we are. Cities were filthy, not shining and gleaming; and the street would subvert technologies for its own uses, not just empower grandiose expeditions for the benefit all of mankind.
Yes, we thrilled at those deserts full of road mutants, the starscapes of battling spaceships, the dragons and elves and their magic, but we didn't recognize those worlds. Cyberpunk gave us grim future settings, all familiar, all somewhat plausible, but all of it felt refreshingly real. We watched the film "Bladerunner" and screamed out, "Yes! This is truth!"

In it's quarter-century-or-so of existence, the Cyberpunk genre's neon star has flickered and dimmed at times.... Some (actually many) have pronounced it dead, but I think its cybernetic heart still beats. The Matrix films aren't Cyberpunk-influenced, they are Cyberpunk. You can also count Spielberg's last two films (Minority Report and AI) and The Fifth Element.
It is its own sub-genre; it does have its own limitations and confines, of course. Those four authors have distanced themselves from the Cyberpunk label, seeking to explore other possibilities, just as any artist of merit feels compelled to do. But Cyberpunk sensibilities are still evident in all of the work they're doing these days, whether it be in the historical novels, the futurist design teachings, the anarchist anti-establishment blogs, or the uber-hip, tech-savvy novels they're putting out. As a fan, I don't need their works to all take place in gritty urban corporation-owned cities; I still thrill at the Cyberpunk edge and feel in their output - and that of all us authors who follow in their tracks.

And now for the plug....................
Check out Neometropolis magazine. They're doing a fine job over there, trying to propel Cyberpunk into this young century (we're living in the time period when a lot of early Cyberpunk stories are set to take place, by the way). And oh look! My short story, "The Last Cyberpunk", is featured on the main web page.

Phew ........ there's so much more to say... but OK, ok, I'm done. Future posts won't be this long-winded :)

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Amityville House of Pancakes

OK - so my very first recommendation is kind-of self-serving.... I'm recommending Amityville House of Pancakes Omnibus vol 1 from Creative Guy Publishing! And oh, look at that - my novella "Dirk Moonfire & the Nefarious Space Women" happens to be in this book!

"Dirk Moonfire" is a post-modern deconstruction of the classic Golden Age space opera, set to redefine gender, race, and character archetype preconceptions, determined to help overthrow the paradigms and make obsolete the classic constrictions of the epic heroic space adventure....

Oh, who am I kidding?

It's a fun story with Zap Guns, strange aliens, bizarre sexual encounters, and titanic, warring space slugs.

So of course I love "Dirk Moonfire & the Nefarious Space Women" and want you to read it, but I really want people to check out all 4 stories in AHOP - all are great reads. Dirk is not even the best story in the book. You also have a cool, wry-witted ghost story, a trippy, cerebral time-travel story, and a laugh-out-loud funny story about an aging punk rocker at odds with the calendar and his new band. And - all are tied together with funny, memorable comments from your zombie hostess, Sally.
Also available as an eBook from Fictionwise ;).

OK, this has started to resemble ----- has become - a big sales pitch for the book - so I'll back off. Buy AHOP. Order AHOP at your local book store (damn right they can get it) or get AHOP at an online merchant. Borrow AHOP from a friend. Read AHOP. You'll like it.

Definition of a Blog


I've begun this blog for a few purposes. In this space, I will:
  • promote my published works.
  • give my legions of fans a place where they can learn of my upcoming events, appearances, publications, etc.
  • create awareness of artwork and significant movements across all mediums that I think deserve your attention; i.e., I'll write a paragraph or two - no college papers - on the merits of the piece and why its worth your attention.

I will NOT use this space to:

  • spill half-baked philosophical ideas as they occur to me
  • link you to other amusing sites and online articles (unless it's a work of art of merit). There are other sites and blogs that already do this very well (, [Bruce Sterling's Blog], to name very few - - - oh no, I've just linked you to other amusing sites!)
  • bash poor pieces of art in any medium (unless I REALLY feel moved by the crappy art)
  • rant about politics (unless I REALLY feel like there's something that needs to be addressed)
  • Get into IMDB-message-board-type debates with trolls, idiots, fanatics, opinionated people. etc. about the artworks I mention here. If you disagree that strongly, start your own blog and spout your opinions there.
  • be anal retentive about grammar and typos; I'll save that kind of effort for my "real" writing. I'm real sorry in advance if that kind of thing botherrs u.

Now - as this blog and I get to know each other better, the rules may waver and change - but for now - I think this is a pretty accurate forecast. Enjoy! I look forward to sharing some good stuff with you.

Oh yeah - Happy St. Patrick's Day