12.30.2008

Just saw Frank Miller's THE SPIRIT at the movies.

As a comics fan, I'd be remiss if I didn't go see The Spirit, Frank Miller's film adaptation of the influential series by legend Will Eisner - I was there. Of course I realize the film has not performed quite as anticipated and hasn't been met with glowing reviews.

An industry guy (even if only self proclaimed) I couldn't help but separate the comics industry references from the story itself. This seems to be the thing to do in Hollywood, ever since the Spider-Man movie of 2002: to affectionately name minor characters or small locales in comics-related films after comics industry people (even TV's Smallville named a small bridge in the first season, Loeb Bridge after Jeff Loeb as his comics series, Superman for All Seasons was a big influence on the TV show's take on the early life of Clark Kent).

The Spirit contains several insider references, and a surprise industry cameo - and I'm not talking about Stan Lee. The first comics industry reference is the appearance of Frank Miller himself, cameoing as a beat cop, Liebowitz. It took me a minute, but then a local fence played by actor Richard Portnow, was named Donenfeld. And those two were two of the biggest names comics history: Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz.

Now, if you've read one of my favorites novels, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon or the brilliant non-fiction book about the history of American comics, Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book by Gerard Jones, as I have, you'd know these two names intimately.

Donenfeld and Liebowitz are the historic partners of National Allied Publications (later DC Comics), which famously bought the rights to Superman from Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster for a pittance, as was standard at the time, but in this case - they made millions and built an empire. In The Spirit movie they were a schluby cop and a mover of stolen goods... interesting to say the least.

My favorite cameo of the film, aside from Miller himself, was the appearance of current President of DC Comics, Paul Levitz. I've met him a few times, he's a hell of a nice guy and does a great job at DC (he's been there over 20 years). I guess this cameo was a way of him blessing the project (I think his one line is a Superman sort of joke, "You'll believe a man can't fly," or something like that at a point in the film when the Spirit gets caught by his trench coat on a building's gargoyle horn). I thought the cameo was great, as Levitz is not the historical showman that Stan Lee is (nor does he try to be), but his small appearance in The Spirit was noticed by this comics fan, I mean insider.

There was also, of course, in the last scene, the delivery truck that Silken Floss (Scarlett Johansson) drives away in, clearly labeled as... Ditko's (referring to Steve Ditko, legendary co-creator of Spider-Man along with Stan Lee and legendary reclusive Marvel and later DC Comics artist. Little references thrown here and there, a standard place in Hollywood script writing these days.

I realize this isn't much of a movie review, although I never claimed it was going to be. This was more of an observational post about a comics-related movie. Maybe I'll come back and post about the name dropping in The Dark Knight, Iron-Man, and other recent comic book films... but that's for another day.

What did I think of the movie? I liked it but thought it was just ok. I wished I liked it more. I saw a hell of a lot of Sin City in there. And there was plenty of other things to talk about, but this was the angle I chose to discuss. It is what stuck out to me the most, so there it is. I also realized once again, what an influence Eisner was on Miller. In that sense I thought it was nice that he handled the direction of the film.


Happy New Year everyone! Here is to wishing that 2009 is an amazing one.

12.19.2008

On a snowy day

I’m glad I chose yesterday to trample through Manhattan and visit people as today would have been a much soggier choice. Although, I will not be missing a grand meal tonight with some college buddies (SJU) at one of my favorite places in nYc: Churrascaria Plataforma. I’ve been saving up for this meal… not snow, nor sleet, nor the dark of night can stop me.

Just last night I attended the intimate MoCCA holiday party at their gallery space on Broadway. It was a nice pot luck event and people brought all sorts of goodies for everyone to consume. Some of us brought booze and we toasted the holidays and the forthcoming year.



The party was fun and a good time was had by all. A long table was provided for those who wanted to show their personal art portfolios, and that was a nice holiday touch. And I know they have many exciting new things lined up for 2009. [below is the director of MoCCA, Karl Erickson, along with volunteer and MoCCA regular Oliver].




As the snow falls quite heavily today in the big city, I am nostalgic for days spent wandering around Manhattan at Christmas time, going back to my high school days.I’ll have to try to capture the snowy day later on when I go out, but here is yesterday’s snow-less photos of randomness.

Above is the view from Park Ave South of the big clock tower overlooking Madison Park. I was standing in the exact spot that Robin Williams gazed from atop a car in The Fisher King as he waited for Lydia (actress Amanda Plumber) to appear from the building where she worked.


A photo of some very cool railing work in front of an Italian resturant on 50th.


And lastly, Lasagna, an old favorite resturant of mine, that I wasn't sure was still around on the corner of 2nd Avenue. I haven't been in years, but it was good to see it's still there.

Happy holidays!

12.12.2008

A Collection of SF and Fantasy Review blogs

Over at Grasping at the Wind, John Ottinger (an online reviewer of SF and fantasy books) is trying to collect an updated master list of SFF review blogs, and he's using the crowd-source technique to get the job done. The idea is to have anyone reviewing SF and fantasy to add your own blog to the list, then post it, then backlink to John so he can continually update the list. I've added my blog to the ever-growing list at just about 3:30 p.m. today.

The Accidental Bard
A Dribble Of Ink
Adventures in Reading
The Agony Column
The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
Barbara Martin
Bibliophile Stalker
Bibliosnark
BillWardWriter.com
Blood of the Muse
Bookgeeks
Bookrastination
Bookslut
Bookspotcentral
The Book Swede
Breeni Books
Cheryl's Musings
Critical Mass
Dark Wolf Fantasy Reviews
Darque Reviews
Dave Brendon's Fantasy and Sci-Fi Weblog
The Deckled Edge
Dragons, Heroes and Wizards
Dusk Before the Dawn
Enter the Octopus
Eve's Alexandria
Fantasy Book Critic
Fantasy Cafe
Fantasy Debut
Fantasy Book Reviews and News
Fantasy and Sci-fi Lovin' Blog
The Fix
The Foghorn Review
From a Sci-Fi Standpoint
The Galaxy Express
Galleycat
Graeme's Fantasy Book Review
Grasping for the Wind
The Green Man Review
Highlander's Book Reviews
io9
Jumpdrives and Cantrips
Literary Escapism
Michele Lee's Book Love
Monster Librarian
Mostly Harmless Books
My Favourite Books
Neth Space
NextRead
OF Blog of the Fallen
The Old Bat's Belfry
Outside of a Dog
Pat's Fantasy Hotlist
Post-Weird Thoughts
Publisher's Weekly
Reading the Leaves
Realms of Speculative Fiction
Rob's Blog o' Stuff
ScifiChick
SF Diplomat
SciFiGuy
Sci-Fi Songs [Musical Reviews]
Severian's Fantastic Worlds
SF Gospel
SF Reviews.net
SF Revu
SF Signal
SF Site
SFF World's Book Reviews
Silver Reviews
Speculative Fiction Junkie
Speculative Horizons
Sporadic Book Reviews
The Sword Review
Tangent Online
Temple Library Reviews
Tor.com [also a publisher]
The Road Not Taken
Un:Bound
Urban Fantasy Land
Vast and Cool and Unsympathetic
Variety SF
Walker of Worlds
Wands and Worlds
The Wertzone
WJ Fantasy Reviews
The World in a Satin Bag
WriteBlack



Foreign Language (other than English)

Cititor SF [Romanian, but with English Translation]

Elbakin.net [French]


12.10.2008

Keeping an Ear to the Grindstone

As we approach another week's end, I gently keep an eye on the publishing world and what other shoes, sneakers, and boots may have dropped.

McFarlane Toys has announced cutting a few positions, reports The Beat. Nothing major, but obviously even the mighty Spawn creator & toy licensor has felt the sting of a stingy market.


Heidi, at The Beat, also has a nice piece about Nickelodeon magazine's (Nickmag.com) first comic book awards - a neat little piece about the enduring love of comics for youngsters - where they get to vote. Check it.

Also, a publisher I've always loved due to their beautiful design aesthetic, kitchy book ideas, and most-excellent superhero-themed spiral notebooks, Chronicle Books (based in San Francisco) announced that they have also felt backlist sales soften and must tighten the belt strap somewhat, reports Mediabistro's Galleycat blog, here.

The more I hear about "freezes" on salaries, publishing layoffs, and other related happenings, the more I'm reminded to try to stay as well-connected to contacts and friends in the industry, feeling that in our strength we can weather the storm, both under and outside of the corporate umbrella.

On a lighter note, I've a Deal of the Day, as I did some weekly comics shopping and holiday shopping at Midtown Comics earlier. It was a book that I had grabbed a few issues of and read a while back and I was waiting for the first trade paperback to come out: NORTHLANDERS: Book 1: Sven the Returned (from Vertigo/DC Comics).

I've already written a piece for a comics periodical which should be out in a few months, and this book is one of the few I profile as a great read. I'll write a full review of the 1st trade soon, but for $9.99 you get 200 full-color pages and an amazing story of viking adventure. What a steal! You rarely see comic book collections and trade paperbacks so aggresively priced, and I really hope it helps the word get out how great a comic book series this is.

Vikings have been a favorite of mine since I was a little kid [note: this book is targeted toward a mature audience], and this collection, falling under the Vertigo imprint, is equal parts brawn, steel, and balls. Remember, you are reading the blog of a guy who loved last year's Osprey holiday card with pillaging Vikings in a bacchanal-like frenzy. Below illustration by the legendary Angus McBride.

12.04.2008

Dear Old Dad

Sure, yesterday was a tough day, and I don't have much to report on officially today. But I didn't want that to be my last post. So I'm writing again with a little aside, a small personal story about my family.

I found this picture and I thought I'd write about it. My father loved his horror movies. He loved a good scary film and interesting tv shows as well [like the X-Files, Highlander, and the like]. This is something my family always shared, a love of entertainment, good stories, horror, sf and fantasy. I have memories of watching Abbot and Costello with him on Saturday mornings at 11:00 A.M. [my favorite being the one when Wolfman fights Dracula fights Frankenstein].

He was also a big fan of little trinkets and doodads. He built little shelves in his workshop for tools, gadgets, etc. He also always ordered little trinkets through the mail, there were always little boxes and things, he was just a sucker for them. [I wonder which of us 3 children inherited that trait...hmmm].

Anyway, he once wrote this note to my sister as he gave her this Gargoyles [remember the cartoon?] watch as a little birthday present, and she kept it with the note as a momento. It was just like him to do something funny like this, and mind you my sister was in her mid-twenties at the time.


Whenever I am at her apartment I look at the watch, on a shelf, and smile. Just like every time I see a film or new show I knew he would have liked, I say, "Oh, dad would have loved that."

So here is this little photo and this memory of mine to share.

12.03.2008

Grim times in the old book trade

It’s all over the blogosphere. Publishers are making major changes. One publishing news site already referring to today as Black Wednesday. That’s awfully disheartening. But reality, it might be.

Major reorganizations at Random House. The head of Simon & Schuster’s Children’s division “leaving the company.” Lots of shake up at Houghton Mifflin/Harcourt after they announced a freeze on new acquisitions. Also, Christian publishing house, Thomas Nelson announced that it’s cutting 10% of its staff, approximately 55 people (according to Publishers Weekly). Hard times all around. Even if god is your copilot.

The Comic Book and SF & Fantasy world have been affected too. I’ve read about layoffs at Wizards of the Coast, the CEO of Devil’s Due leaving his position along with a few staffers let go. And word from L.A. is that Tokyopop has let a few people go.

Also, a few comic book magazines made some startling announcements this week as well.

The Comic Foundry — only in its fifth issue — decided to call it quits, as the good folks behind it are simply too busy with their day jobs. [Edit. Note: I’ve had one small article published in CF #3, and will hopefully have a longer piece about comics in the last issue, #5]. And this magazine was nominated this year for an Eisner Award – an amazing achievement in the comics industry. [tears]

Also, comics industry veteran, Danny Fingeroth’s comics writing magazine, Write Now! will publish its last issue in Feb. of ’09 reports The Beat. I’ve purchased this magazine many times over the past few years, loving its approach to writing in the industry [something near and dear to my heart]. I’ll be definitely picking up the last issue.

Say it ain’t so? [insert appropriate Weezer riff here]

As a freelancer in the publishing world, this is a precarious time to be entering my second year ‘on the outside’ but such is the state of things. This grim reality reminds me how important it is to maintain a positive attitude, not to burn bridges, and to do everything possible to stay connected.

It is also a reminder to be as much of a jack-of-all-trades as possible. And that’s what this experience was all about for me. Trying my hand at special sales, subsidiary rights, book development, marketing strategy, and of course copyediting and proofreading – which I’m enjoying working on right now.

And, it’s important to hustle. I mean to literally hit the pavement. Getting work done at your desk is just fine, but sometimes in this big city, you have to get out there, walk the streets. Shake some hands.

I spent most of today going up and down subway steps, working my way across town then downtown, then back up again, all in the attempt to make a sale at a specialty store. So I lugged two heavy bags of books with me all day, and then dropped them off until the next specialty sale idea comes my way. You don’t know if you’ll succeed until you get out there and give it a try.

I realize the publishing business, just like any other, can be brutal at times. For me, I can’t see myself working with anything else – I love books. Comics, thrillers, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, and of course non-fiction, such as military history.

I don’t know who I’m writing this post to. Maybe to myself. It’s scary when you see reorganizations happening (and I’ve been through one or two myself) and witness magazines fold. Not to mention watching the news these days about our economy is painful.

But we carry on. That’s what we do. Publishing folk. New Yorkers. Editors. Writers. People. We carry on.

As I told a friend earlier today when I emailed him to see if he was still safe at his day job, in the eternal words of Trent Reznor:

The Way Out Is Through [words to live by]

11.25.2008

Attended SFWA “Mill & Swill” at Society of Illustrators

Last night was the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) yearly event celebrating all those involved with the proliferation of science fiction and fantasy publishing (which usually falls on the heal of Philcon, which was just this past weekend). It is the party thanking all the authors, editors, and other industry professionals for their involvement in the field at the swanky Society of Illustrators locale on East 63rd street.

Earlier in the evening, I met my partner-in-crime for dinner and we discussed the publishing world and how we’re glad to be celebrating fiction and our lives in it even in these hard economic times. It felt good to be able to kick back with some friends and have a drink.

At the party, I ran into Tricia Narwani, editor at Del Rey Manga, handling all sorts of interesting books these days. It was good to see her. I also caught up quickly with Liz Gorinsky, Assoc. Editor extraordinaire at Tor books, she seems to be everywhere these days (it must be one of her innate abilities, like a drow’s levitation).


I also ran into one of my favorite bosses, the esteemed Ellen Asher, who introduced me to industry veteran Ellen Datlow and they kindly posed for a photo. I had worked for Ellen A. for years at the book clubs, and I had always heard good things about Ellen D. and witnessed her winning and accepting another World Fantasy Award at this year’s WFC in Calgary for her work at Tor.

Also, my friends from the Jabberwocky Literary Agency were on hand, Eddie Schneider and proprietor Joshua Bilmes along with friend and aforementioned partner-in-crime, one Peter Brett. I’ve done some consulting work with Jabberwocky this past year, and really enjoyed working with them.


Also, later on in the evening on the second floor terrace, I got to sit with some friends. In the following photo is: buddy Pete Brett, my old SFBC colleague Andy Wheeler, and I got a chance to meet John Ordover (former Pocket Books Star Trek Editor) and Glenn Hauman (of Comicmix). Not pictured is Alex Lencicki, Orbit Books marketing & publicity director, who chatted for a while but somehow evaded photo reconnaisance (he's pretty slick) as well as current SFBC Senior Editor, Rome Quezada.


It was a great time; I got a few minutes to chat with one of the first editors I worked for back when I was an intern at Marvel Comics, Steve Saffel. It’s always good to catch up with Steve, especially since we’ve done lots of business over the years and have always kept in touch. Aside from that, he’s been a great mentor.

I also got to talk to Orbit author, Jeff Somers, whom I met last year at WFC and someone I haven't seen since his reading a few months ago at the KGB Bar. It was good to quickly chat before he and his lovely wife headed back to Jersey. His second book, The Digital Plague is at the top of my 'to be read' list.

The surprise treat of the evening was running into Larry Hama, veteran comics scribe and editor of G.I. Joe comics and other war comics such as The ‘Nam. I’ve read tons of his books and have been a fan for a long while. It was great to talk with him about comics, and my work at Osprey where he did some writing for them as well. It was a real treat to talk to one of my inspirations.


Overall the night was really cool. I'd say that I successfully Milled & Swilled. I’ve been attending this event on-an-off since 2005, and am glad to be a small part of this wonderful publishing community. For anyone I forgot to mention, please forgive me, I did my best to recollect.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

11.21.2008

Packed house at MoCCA for European Comics Event

Last night’s event at the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art (MoCCA) was terrific. It was a packed house, all in attendance to listen to the gifted European comics creators talk very personally about the books they’ve brought to life.

I was volunteering, working at the bar providing refreshments after the conclusion of all of the speeches, and even from my vantage point, you could see that all eyes and ears were tuned into the art of comics creation being spoken about. MoCCA also had large monitors spread out for those of us who weren’t in the main seating area, making it easy to see and listen to the slide shows the creators had prepared.



There were enlightening presentations from all of the creators. Check out Heidi MacDonald’s Publishers Weekly comics culture blog, The Beat, for the expert write up (and a much better photograph than mine of the signing afterwards). She also posts a link to one of the comic book trailers shown by German cartoonist, Isabel Kreitz, promoting her WW II Russian spy illustrated book, DIE SACHE MIT SORGE.

I had a brief chance to meet Isabel while doling out refreshments and told her how much I liked the look of her ambitious spy comic. She was humble, friendly and appreciative. That was the feeling overall at MoCCA last night. There was an air of appreciation of wonderful work from around the globe. The world felt a bit closer and maybe I’m just being sentimental but I really enjoyed it.

I also got a chance to reacquaint myself with some publishing industry professionals, as well as talk comics & film with the trusty other volunteers. Overall it was a great night and another reason why I think it’s important to donate time to a cause – and for me one of the passions of my life has been comics and that is why I was there.

Keep an eye on the MoCCA website as they have many upcoming events soon to be announced.

11.20.2008

MoCCA event this evening: Graphic Novels from Europe

Hey everyone, I'll be volunteering at the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art this evening, as they're hosting an event celebrating Graphic Novels from Europe. This art is from the postcard they sent out last week, announcing events all week at various places throughout the city.



Tonight's event will be at the MoCCA museum right on Broadway, below Houston St. It should be a blast and I hope to see some of you there. I also plan to write a follow up about it here, so stay tuned.

Details are available on the MoCCA website here.

11.14.2008

Comic Book Review of B.P.R.D. 1946 (Volume 9) tpb

This may be the darkest of the B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) books to date. And that is saying a lot.

But, man was it good. As I’ve mentioned before, the BPRD books have continued to impress and sustain, taking place in the Hellboy-spawned world many of us have come to love.When I saw the name of this newest storyline, 1946, I tried to be patient and wait for the trade. I’m not a total trade paperback convert (I still buy approximately 50% of my comics in floppy issues and 50% in trades. It’s part of my past struggling with the newer me who likes the trades crammed in my book shelves for easy access, loaning, and re-reading.

Since I own all of the other BPRD books in trade format, I needed to continue in this way, although I felt the urge to buy the floppies, as they called out to me each month from the comic shop racks.


Then there is the heavy-WW II angle in this book, which I like just fine. Remember, Hellboy was discovered in 1944 by the Allies, right before the end of the war. I really think Mignola & Dysart hit this one out of the park, picking up immediately after the war, in Berlin, with both the occupying American forces and Russian forces vieing for discovery and access to all the secret nazi occult experiments (one of which in ‘44 Hellboy was a result of, himself).

Professor Trevor Bruttenholm (who rescued Hellboy and founded the BPRD) and his assistant Dr. Howard Eaton are sent on special assignment into Berlin to uncover what remained of the Nazi regime’s special occult division. Their reputations preceded them, already infamous in U.S. military circles, due to their involvement in the rescue of one little red guy in '44.

The book gets really weird when Bruttenholm is forced to collaborate with the Soviet allies, headed up by the scariest creature in recent BPRD memory… al little girl with pictails. That’s right, the head of the Russian paranormal unit is an ancient demon in the guise of a little girl in a white dress with a dolly. Talk about creepy. And it bothers me how this doesn’t bother any of the other characters too much. It’s just freaky, scary and wrong. At one point, she tells the story of her origin and reveals herself to a lower level inquiring demon and we see what’s really behind the Russian-accented little darling. Scary.

What is uncovered in the main storyline was a Nazi secret plan to build an army of vampire super soldiers, but the experiments went horribly wrong, and the test subjects become the cause of poor Professor B. And the more he uncovers, the worse the situation gets.

This peculiar story is illustrated by Paul Azaceta with colors by Nick Filardi – and their work shines albeit, darkly. In every shadow lurks a haunted spirit, and every character’s expression has a murky, textured shading that gives the panels a nostalgic feel – perfect for a vampire story taking place in 1946. Even in the depiction of the unit of ragtag soldiers assigned to assist Prof. Bruttenholm, I can see great attention to detail was given to creating individuality amongst the men. This can also be seen in the sketchbook notes by Mignola and Azaceta in the back of the trade.

By the way, the back of the trade has a few neat extras such as a letter from writer Joshua Dysart about his pitch to Mignola, a short BPRD story from Free Comic Book Day, and the aforementioned sketchbook with notes. Not bad.

I am always entertained when reading this series and have been happy with each trade paperback purchase. Not knowing where each story is going to go, BPRD always leads to an excited bit of surprise, and often the trip leads down alleys to the past, buried in dark evil secrets. It's always an adventure. And B.P.R.D. 1946 ends with enough doors open to allow that evil to creep back in at some point in the future…

11.09.2008

World Fantasy Convention 2008 wrap up (late).

Here's a quick World Fantasy Convention 2008 summary, before too much time gets away and I forget to post about it entirely. I really enjoyed my trip to Calgary last week, the cold winter hadn't set in there and the Halloween weekend was quite enjoyable. Well, here I go with an attempt to cover it entirely.


We arrived on Thursday, easy enough flight, and found the weather tolerable and the hotel easy to navigate. Pete and I found the registration area and were with badges and our bag of free books. I lugged home as many as I could, but did leave a few on the exchange table (a good idea I thought). One of the cool things is that Del Rey sent a few hundred copies of Pete's The Warded Man to be part of the gift bags, randomly put in. This was awesome, and it was exciting to see people walking around with, reading and discussing my friend's new book.

In true convention form, we quickly aquainted ourselves with the bar for a pint and a delicious lunch, and a quick cheers with Liz Scheier, Pete's editor at Del Rey. I attended a few panels over the weekend, took some notes, and the weekend was just getting started. I spent this first night in the bar talking about the industry, surrounded by some of the best people in in the business. Later on we ran into Sam Butler, an author and new friend we had met at Albacon last month. The night continued on with good conversation and a few more pints.

Friday was a big day. We had a lot lined up and I was happy to attend Pete's first public reading bright and early at 11 a.m. He had a descent crowd for an early reading, and did a great job with introducing the book and series. He read a snippet from early on in the book, a scene occuring in Cutter's Hollow and it was a good choice I think, ending with a strong demon attack. There was no table in the room, so Pete took up very comfortably in front of the room, and jumped into the story.


Later that afternoon I attended George R.R. Martin's reading. He read a segment from a 'Duncan and Egg' story, part of his Hedge Knight series. These stories take place years before the events in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and I enjoyed hearing of King's Landing again, even if it concerned events from an earlier time. George is such a great reader, his voice deep and strong, he pulls you in. He mentioned that he is aiming for end of year with, A Dance with Dragons. I snapped a quick photo as he put his watch on the table to keep an eye on the clock.



Friday night I was graciously invited to the JABberwocky Literary Agency dinner. I've done some consulting work with Joshua of JABberwocky and was glad to join Eddie, his trusty right hand, at this event along with several others. I was seated next to my good friend Pete, authors Bill Swears, Frederic Durbin, Tim Akers and U.K.'s newest literary agent, John Berlyne, also an associate editor at SFRevu. We had some great conversation about everything from books, comics, tattooes and even the lure of videogames. I also met Canadian bookseller, Chris Szego, we got a chance to chat about SF&F while walking to the dinner, she was really nice and knowledgable. Here is a shot of this dinner (for those whose names I have forgotten, please forgive me as I didn't get everyone's card).

I attended a few more great panels over the weekend, including the "What makes a good anthology" panel. John Joseph Adams, editor of Wastelands - a book I picked up for the trip - and several other panelists discussed the importance of establishing credibility with the reader base, providing a good variety of stories, and also the importance of offering readers material they may not already have. It was interesting to listen to the distinguished panellists (John Joseph Adams, Katheryn Cramer, Gary A. Braunbeck and Darrell Schweitzer) discuss the different ways they go about soliciting stories, selling their ideas to publishers, as well as bringing the projects together. This is something I think about often, as I'd like to work on an anthology project in the near future. I really enjoyed this panel.

On Saturday, I attended the Dark Fantasy Panel featuring David Morrell (one of the weekend's guests of honor, and creator of Rambo incidentally), Nancy Kilpatrick and U.K. writer Graham Joyce. This was another great panel, as 3 authors discussed very personal stories from their childhood, and how that shaped their storytelling techniques and outlook on the world. It was really interesting to listen to these three very different authors share very personal and difficult stories.


Then I was lucky enough to join both Peter Brett and Liz Scheier for dinner to discuss the con weekend at this lovely resturant right across the street called Saltlick. The wine was terrific, the food even better and the company superb. We kept an eye on the clock of course, as Pete had the last of his panels for the weekend, and we didn't want to be late.

This last panel, "Vampire Elves, and other lines that should not be crossed. Or should they?" This was the panel of the weekend, it was terrific. All the panellists: Louise Marley, Peter Brett, Jay Lake, Minister Faust, and Matt Hughes were great speakers. They hit on key topics, talked of successes and failures in trying to cross genres, and all contributed with witty banter that the large audience just ate up. I didn't get any pictures of this event but I was glad to attend, it really was a great panel - I wish they were always as interesting as this one.

Sunday was the banquet which I had to leave halfway through, as our flight was right at 5:15 pm. I got a chance to see most of the winners accept their awards, but missed most of the speeches afterwards. I was glad to at least make part of the event. I really enjoyed the weekend and was glad that I saved up to attend, as a freelance editor trying to survive these days, it was worth it to be there and part of the community.

Lastly, there are a few others I just want to mention that I had a quick chance to meet or talk to briefly, I hope we talk again soon: Bill Willingham (creator of the Vertigo series FABLES, I'm a big fan), Lou Anders, Marc Gasciogne, Christian Dunn, John Joseph Adams, Jim Minz, Patty Garcia, and Alaya Johnson.

It was a great trip. Now I'm spent.

11.03.2008

"Hit Neutral in the Tail of a Comet..."

Lost in Space...



I am finally home from a really cool weekend in Calgary, my first trip to Canada. World Fantasy Con 2008 was all it was cracked up to be and although I’m very tired now, I am very glad to have attended [and I will be reporting on it in detail soon].


But if I may move in reverse, reflecting on the trip in a backward time travel-like sort of way, I have to tell you about this awesome exhibit at the San Francisco International Airport. And although we were not looking forward to a stop-over in San Fran after a long weekend away, there was something eerily right about walking through a science fiction-y exhibit after attending a fantasy books convention all weekend.


Taken from the official press release:
Out of this World! The Twentieth-Century Space Invasion of American Pop Culture features more than 300 space-themed objects from the 1930s through the 1980s, from children’s toys such as flying saucers, space guns, rocket ships and robots, to everyday household objects like air fresheners, sewing needles and packaged foods.



This idea of airport museums was established to add a human element to the often-dreary airport experience. And I’ll tell you this, take two guys delirious with days of strong brews, nerdy conversation and listening to experts on various minutiae, and send them through a warped-yet-fun exhibit like this and suddenly we didn’t feel all alone out there - as if we weren’t already in our own world.


Aside from gigantic metallic robots made by local artists in the area, see entire press release here, there was a treasure trove of collectibles from across the decades of the 1930s through the 1980s. Everything from books, plastic action-figure sets to rare robot toys and my personal favorite section of ray guns…it was incredible!Add to that, fantastic art and blown-up book covers from everything including pulp magazines and classic comics. If this type of exhibit were appearing locally I’d pay good money to go see it. Pay no attention to the ridiculous pictures we took at half-past delirium.


I plan to talk more about the convention next time, I just couldn’t get this cool unexpected experience out of my head and needed to share it. [Editorial note: Not officially included in this airport display were two thirty-five year old idiots. But it was a long day of travel, what can I say?]

11.01.2008

Last known sighting of soon-to-be famous author

I snapped this photograph yesterday, of soon-to-be published in the US, one Peter V. Brett. He was about to have his first public reading of a little book we like to call The Warded Man.

Did he survive? Did he make it out alive? It was halloween afterall, with ghoulish fiends everywhere. Did his temporary warded tattoos save him? Was the reading a success?

You'll have to stay tuned loyal reader. As there are two more days of World Fantasy Con left, and, "...I have many miles to go before I sleep. Many miles to go."

Tune in next time, same Bat-time, same Bat-blog.

10.29.2008

Off to Calgary and World Fantasy Con

I wanted to quickly chime in because bright and early tomorrow I’ll be heading to Calgary to attend my second World Fantasy Convention. I’m very excited as I’ve never been to Canada before and I really enjoyed WFC last year in Saratoga, and this year looks to be a great convention as well.

The WFC con last year was great, and not only because I was there trying to build interest for a new SF imprint I was developing at the time (which sadly didn’t pan out) but also because it is a professional convention and I’m still working my way up in this world. It seems there are so many people to meet and much to learn as I go.This convention is a great opportunity for me to see publishers, editors, writers and artists talk about their craft and experiences. I’ve met so many wonderful people over my years working in publishing and I’m glad to have finally begun attending WFC as I’ve been a lifetime reader, proponent, and book seller of fantasy fiction.

Also, I’m glad to be joining my good friend Peter Brett in this endeavor, as he is scheduled to have his first public reading at WFC, from his forthcoming book, The Warded Man (I might have mentioned it on this blog once or twice).

I plan to attempt some mobile blogging from the road, but we’ll see how all of that goes. I’ll report in personal highlights and tidbits of news as best I can. Please note that a large portion of this convention is experienced at the hotel bar talking shop and attempting to hold your own. I’ll do my best.

I look very much forward to finally visiting the homeland of Wolverine. And on that last note, the only book I plan to bring with me is a new copy of a collection I've been dying to read: WASTELANDS: Stories of the Apocalypse, edited by John Joseph Adams, whom I hope to meet while at WFC.

I'll be sure to post a review of the collection here, when I finish it up. As many of my close friends know I've got post-apocalyptic stories on my mind. Until next time!

10.22.2008

three guys attend Comic Book Club

I attended my first Comic Book Club: Live! show last night along with fellow deviants, Matt Bergin, good friend, publishing professional, and Indy co-creator of the Division 18 comic. That's him in the foreground as Pete and I sadly try to find the address.


Also, Pete Brett, my good buddy, and exciting new fantasy author with his debut novel hitting stores this March: The Warded Man (from Del Rey Books). The book is already out in the UK entitled, The Painted Man, and it's already a best-seller. Here's a photo of Pete with the UK edition (published overseas by the Voyager imprint at Harper Collins).


We've been meeting for years at Midtown Comics, where we buy our weekly comics, talk shop over lunch, and we figured it was finally time to check out this cool little show.

Comic Book Club is a live comic book talk show, hosted by a couple of comics fans: Justin Tyler and Alexander Zalben (as well as Pete Lepage - currently away on his honeymoon. Yes, comic book fans can actually find love and get married).

The show is held weekly, every Tuesday night at the People's Improv Theater on 29th street, a.k.a. The PIT (note the subtle G.I. Joe reference).

Last night's featured guests were the two people behind the exciting new comics magazine, the COMIC FOUNDRY, and that's Laura Hudson (senior editor and the main writer of the mag) and Tim Leong (creator, art director and Editor-in-Chief). Issue #4, the political issue, just arrived in comic shops everywhere this week, be sure to pick up a copy. [that's me with my free copy from the show]

Gratuitously shameless self-promoting note: I have written a small piece which appeared in CF issue #3, and I'm working on one for CF issue #5 due out at the end of the year, oh yeah!

Laura and Tim were great guests, explaining how they wanted to create a new magazine to appeal to comics readers across the board. Readers who like to cross genres, and read everything from indy books to manga to superhero fare.

In essence, someone just like me, who grew up reading superhero books, and will always have a place for them, but also someone who found there are other great indy books out there, like Optic Nerve which I discovered while in college, and added, over time, to my regular reading of Marvel, DC and Dark Horse comics.

I agree that they've created a special comics magazine and that is why I wanted very badly to work with them on it, as I think it speaks to a large audience and treats interest in comics as a lifestyle which it is to me.

The Comic Book Club guys were funny, good interviewers, and put on a good show. I would have liked a bit more participation from the audience, more like a panel at a convention. There was an opportunity before the show to write questions down for the guests, but I feel a show like that is fluid, and on the spot questions might have worked to better effect.

Overall, it was a good time, and I'll be paying attention to their guest list for future shows. Plus - you can't beat the cheap $5 ticket cost for this fun show.

10.14.2008

Back in the saddle


I enjoyed my weekend in Albany attending this year's Albacon but now I am back at home, at my desk, and hard at work editing a book for the good folks at Casemate. It seemed like serendipity that although I was in Albany to geek out on panels and discussions about science fiction and fantasy, I also walked through town and saw many sights and plaques dedicated to events from the time of the Revolutionary War which is related to the project I'm working on at this moment.


My partner-in-crime, Peter Brett, [red hot new fantasy author], participated in many panels at the convention, and it was fun for me to participate as part of the sometimes intimate crowd. We made the best of the show and met some really nice and interesting people along the way, some of whom I may write about here once I get their "ok". We also attended the con's "Ice Cream Social" as anyone who knows me knows I can't pass up free ice cream [and being social].


Aside from our adventures into some questionable neighborhoods while looking for a place to eat, we honestly spent most of the time in the Crown Plaza bar, sometimes eating, usually drinking and often waxing philosophical on all things book related.

10.10.2008

Hitting the road


I'm just about ready to head out to my first Albacon, a regional SF&F convention. October is the best time to do any kind of road trip as the foliage will be beautiful and I'll be attending with my trusty partner-in-crime, Peter V. Brett.

Pete will be participating in his first panels as an author and I'm very excited to support him as he takes this next step in career as a fantasy author. Check out his blog here for updates on the con and his experience as panelist.

I'll also attempt to capture some of the convention experience from the point of view of an editor on the prowl. Stay tuned.


10.07.2008

Attended WHAT A MAN SHOULD KNOW reading by Max Blagg at STRAND


I received an invite via email, sponsored by J.Crew’s new ‘The Liquor Store’ in Tribeca, for a reading by Max Blagg from his new book, What a Man Should Know – a J.Crew book.

The reading took place on the third floor of the STRAND bookstore on Broadway, a perfect locale; I couldn’t have picked a better place myself. This amazing room was filled with first editions, signed editions and had an old world aura that brought me back to another literary time…if only for a while.

Our illustrious J.Crew hosts served up free drinks and I was ecstatic to sample a Dark and Stormy, which I had recently been introduced to while on vacation in the Catskills with my wife recently. Perfect. All I needed was a cigar from Hemmingway, and to talk about big game hunting.


There were also charming appetizers and miniature mugs of beer to sample like the one in the picture below. And best of all, there were copies of the new book, for free, compliments of the illustrious hosts.

The author, a transplant from England to New York in the 1970s has been part of the NYC literary and arts scene for years. He read segments of the new book along with hilarious segments of another book he is working on, charming the crowd. He also graciously signed my copy and was quite appreciative in our quick exchange. A real gent.

His book contains little statements about what a [gentle]man should know, like how to tie a neck tie, how to fish properly, and of course how to talk to a woman. The book is available at the Tribeca J.Crew shop and as well as online.



The charming little book also contains complimentary black & white illustrations by British artist Hugo Guinness. They had a few samples blown up, decorating the room.



This was quite a nice event. Much nicer in fact than things I am used to. I felt well out of my league surrounded by both the literary elite and those from the fashion world whom were invited.

Alas, I was polite, I drank my drink, and then I was off. Now of course I can’t wait to get down to the new store in Tribeca and check it out.

9.24.2008

A Good Wednesday


It’s been a long time since I’ve been psyched for a Wednesday. But today I am psyched. First off, I’m heading to Midtown Comics which I haven’t been to in several weeks. Now that may not seem strange at first glance, but I’m a guy who has been a regular at Midtown since it opened, and a regular Wednesday comic book buyer since about twelve-years-old. Now sure, there were some lapses and breaks over the years. But no flat-out hiatuses, I’ve always been a comic book reader. This week I’m excited to get back to the shop and meet my good buddy for lunch afterward. Comics and lunch, it doesn’t get any better.

The one highlight of the week [which I sadly can't afford at this moment] is the ABSOLUTE RONIN Hardcover by Frank Miller (DC Comics)

[Above is original trade paperback cover art - by Miller]

I loved this book when it first came out, mixing samurai legend and a science fiction-like jump to a future time; it's a tale about second chances and vengeance. Written and drawn by Frank Miller - coming into his own, stylistically – it is an essential part of any comics collection!
It also looks to be another book that I lost after years of loaning out or giving away copies of my trades. I scanned my shelves – it is nowhere to be found. I can’t complain really, as a former graphic novel buyer for the SFBC, I used to get loads of samples, and I reveled in it. I also used to try to give away books to spread the good word of comics when I could. Alas, it'll have to be something saved up for because the sweet thing is the “Absolute” treatment of a Miller classic like Ronin. The oversized, massive hardcover will come with rarely seen promotional art, slick fold-out pages and even more special features.

So don't forget to hit your local comic shop, for special books like this or other great books. I have to get back to my Wednesday list. Joy.

9.13.2008

Kim Deitch: a retrospective Opening Reception at MoCCA


I volunteered last Friday night at MoCCA (that's the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art) at the opening reception for a new exhibit focusing on legendary independent artist (and all around nice guy) Kim Deitch. MoCCA had recently renovated their museum space, and the studio looked incredible. Somehow, I was unable to snap a picture of the esteemed artist with my sad little cell phone camera [this photo of the artist was found via a google search] but I did capture some of the ambiance of the event when able as you'll see below.


Deitch was born into an animation family, the son of animator Gene Deitch. His early work in the underground comix movement of the 1960s solidified his place among the indy comics elite and he has worked non-stop ever since. The MoCCA exhibit, a Kim Deitch retrospective, features samples his art from over the years and it is an excellent collection of his work.

At first some friends, fans and other curious folk appeared and took in the original art, sketches and even a looping video of Deitch's work, enjoying their time wandering the floor. The below photo is my view from behind the counter as I greeted folks as they arrived. The museum also had a few of Deitch's books for sale, all proceeds going to the museum of course].



Above photo of the cover and pages of Deitch's Alias the Cat graphic novel from the good folks at Pantheon. I had carried along with me an early review copy I had rec'd as a book club editor in the hopes to get a signature. Alas, I didn't want to bother Mr Deitch as he generously signed copies of his books for sale for the museum beforehand, or as he videotaped an interview for a comics media organization which walked the viewer through his pieces in the collection as he explained the process.

[Editorial note: If anyone knows the link to the video, or what site posts it, please send it along to me, I'd love to see it - and I'll post link here of course, thanks!]

Update, 9.16.08: The people who were filming at the event were comicology.tv, and here is a link to their Sept. museum round-up piece: http://www.youtube.com/user/comicologytv

As the evening progressed, the opening reception continued to be a big hit, and I was on dual duty as greeter [with my trusty sidekick Will] as well as bartender, doing my best to keep the complimentary wine a-flowin'. As you can see from this shot, the rainy Friday evening couldn't stop cool kats from coming down to check out the exibit on it's opening night.


Sadly, Peter Parker I am not. I was unable to get a photo of Mr. Deitch before I had to run to another engagement. Nor was I able to snap shots of notable Deitch supporters who arrived like: comics legend Gary Panter (who was just the nicest guy when we chatted for a sec), the emminent comics blogger for Publishers Weekly, Heidi McDonald, the ever witty comics culture reporter, Laura Hudson, and of course, MoCCA volunteer coordinator, and Associate Editor at Tor, Liz Gorinsky. I know there are others I'm forgetting, chalk it off to actually volunteering without note-taking afterwards. Either way it was a really well-run event and everyone seemed to enjoy the evening.

Aparently all I can really handle is turning the camera around and taking awkward self-photos like this one in front of some of Deitch's masterful work.


The retrospective exhibit runs through Dec. 5th and is a real treat for any fan of comics art, NY culture or simply art in general. And the museum is neatly located on Broadway just below Houston street. Good times.

9.11.2008

a day to remember



I drove to Astoria Park today, walked around for a bit, then sat under a shady tree to read and write a little. It was a beautiful afternoon, and I listened to the sounds of the city off in the distance as I read some of The Road, and did some research for a new book I'll be editing. An occasional jogger went by, as did the occasional motorcycle or truck in the distance, and even a boat or two passing beneath the Hell Gate Bridge.


I found the perfect shady spot, not far from where I propsed to my wife, nearly two years ago. I sat in the shade of a tree that had roots which made a natural seat on the ground. It was nice to have a peaceful afternoon, at a special locale, on an important day that generally makes me very sad. I think I just found my new favorite spot for the Fall.

9.09.2008

It’s Hard to Watch


It is painful to watch my team loose like this. Yes, my team. I’ve been watching the Raiders, especially on Monday Night Football, for as far as I can remember. Late nights in high school, where my dad would let me stay up late to see if the Raiders could pull off a comeback, like they did back then against Denver when down 24 – 0. It feels like I’m in high school once again. Too many young players and lots of mistakes being made.

Even worse, it’s tough to listen to it all. Once the announcers get on one side of the game it’s just bla, bla, bla. Eddie Royal, a rookie from West Virginia is having the game of his life and listening to the announcers talk about him like he’s god’s gift…brings be back – yet again – to how the announcers used to talk about John Elway. If I had a nickel…

And I like the Mike & Mike guys, especially with Coach Ditka as the 3rd Mike in the booth. But didn’t anyone brief them that you don’t TALK OVER the officials when they’re calling a penalty. It’s like they never watched a pro game before, they talk right over the flag calls. It’s really annoying, especially when all the over-talkers from Madden to Dierdorf know to stop when an official is announcing what’s the penalty.

The Raiders score a touchdown, at the very least, eliminate the chance of a shut-out. But McFadden, the 4th round draft pick, walks himself to the locker room and they’re checking him for a shoulder injury. A 3rd personal foul was just called. They’re falling apart at the seams. They need to hold it together, as I try to hold it together watching. Now a 4th personal foul. I'm so tired, but can't abandon hope.

I didn’t plan to write about sports much here. But these are my boys and it’s very late, and I need to get it out. I I am a weird mix of jock and nerd. I played football in high school and in the parks on Staten Island with friends in full equipment, playing teams from other neighborhoods with names like The New Springville Boys and my personal favorite The Wanderers. I even played a year in college for a Staten Island traveling team, The Warriors.
I digress.

Normally I’m not a much of a rant guy, but tonight I’m feeling it. I realize there are no books mentioned anywhere in this post. Sometimes this will be the case. But I am currently reading a book about sports as I watch the game, so that kind of counts. It's manuscript about baseball, which seems like a much better thing to focus on right about now.

And the final is 41 – 14, ouch.

I wonder if I’ll dream in Silver and Black tonight…

9.03.2008

As I continue with my networking assault...


I make lots of lists. Lists of people to contact, people to check in with, and odd contacts not heard from in a while. I'm all about lists. So as September has arrived and I look ahead this Fall, I am doing my best as a humble freelancer, to stay in touch with the many publishing contacts I've made over the years.

At the same time a good friend of mine, and hot new author, Peter Brett is in the UK for the launch of his new fantasy novel, The Painted Man. Check out his blog for details about his the visit to the HarperCollins UK office, his book store signing, and all that. I wish I was there with him, as it is all very exciting to experience this with him as a friend and publishing professional. I'm very proud.

"Damn, it's a very exciting time."

8.22.2008

Attended Cory Doctorow MEETS DJ Spooky: A CBLDF Benefit Mashup


What can I say about the two creators who met last night to talk about things WAY over my head? It was mind-blowing. Both Cory Doctorow and Sir DJ Spooky were two of the most-learned men I’ve ever listened to, throwing around references on just about everything from the German music scene circa 1920 to governmental initiatives that I didn't even know existed. I was quite-literally blown away by their collective creative output and their top-notch computer-savvy knowledge.


Attending with good friend and co-creator of the small press comic DIVISION 18, Matt Bergin was my co-pilot for this strange trip. We were in awe of the accomplishments of these two seemingly young men: Doctorow being the former European director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and DJ Spooky able to negotiate with the Greek government to be allowed to play a remixed version of a controversial film at the Parthenon - amply modified with speakers to his liking of course.

How do they do it?


All of this was worth it of course, as ticket sales went to support the CBLDF (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund) which is an organization very much worth it. It was very cool of these two esteemed gentlemen to come together for this event, supporting the CBLDF, and talking directly to their fans.

Also, the very slick DJ Spooky treated the crowd to sample cds of his mixes which were handed out and encouraged to be shared. I’ve already loaned them to my friend Nancy who wanted to check them out. It’s all about sharing people…a theme of the evening.


Also, on the way out I picked up Cory Doctorow’s novel Little Brother, which I’d been meaning to read for a while now. I was planning on getting him to sign it, which would have been totally cool, but he seemed quite swamped by the crowd and it may have been a long while before he got to me. Not a problem, I enjoyed listening to him talk about computer freedoms and I can’t wait to read the book in its pure unsigned state.

A good time was had by all and I was sad to have missed the after party where the aforementioned DJ did his business.

If there is one song that amplifies all the lessons I learned at this event, it's Corey Hart from the 1980s hit, Never Surrender:

Just a little more time is all we're asking for

Cause just a little more time could open closing doors

Just a little uncertainty can bring you down

And nobody wants to know you now

And nobody wants to show you how

So if you're lost and on your own

You can never surrender...