Category Archives: Science Fiction

William Meikle's The Island of Terror, a Professor Challenger Novella

Challenger

 

A writer named William Meikle wrote a novella about Professor Challenger, protag of The Lost World and my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE Arthur Conan Doyle character. Sherlock holmes has NOTHING on this “Homicidal Maniac with a turn for science.”

William Meikle’s novella is out tomorrow and more info about the event can be found here at the Dark Regions website or here on Facebook. Famous Monsters of Filmland has a review here. I don’t see the page for the book at Dark Regions, but here’s a link to Meikle’s books from them.

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[Night Bazaar] How I Found My Strengths as a Writer

From my new column at The Night Bazaar, about finding your strengths and weaknesses as a writer:

I’m far from convinced there’s any such profession as “writer” anymore; we’re all multi-taskers, by definition.

But there is this thing called “writing,” yes, and occasionally I get to do it.

When it comes to writing itself, I like to believe that my strengths are far more numerous than my weaknesses.

But it’s quite possible that I’m kidding myself.

What I do find is that the more I write, the less my strengths matter and the more my weaknesses do. That’s because writing a lot of fiction puts me face-to-face with every possible roadblock in my creative process, and every roadblock is a potential “debunking” of my strengths. It doesn’t matter how great I can write X type of scene, if Y type of scene keeps me from ever finishing my novel.

As a result, all that my strengths do is allow me to get past the weaknesses, or manage them effectively. That’s great news, yeah, but if I take the time to celebrate my strengths, it only slows me down.

Here’s an example.

Read the rest of this post at The Night Bazaar.

Mind Meld at SF Signal

Image from Arthur's Bookshelf.

I was asked to participate in a recent Mind Meld over at the science fiction blog SF Signal. The question was “What book did you last read that you would recommend to a friend.” I love the answers — it’s always great hearing what other readers are enjoying. In keeping with my recent Steampunk reading (though I don’t know if source materials can be steampunk, at least the first time around…), here’s part of mine:

Currently I’m formulating some ideas about a character who writes Victorian science fiction, so the last book I read is one I’ve read before and totally love: The Huge Hunter, or The Steam Man of the Prairies by Edward Sylvester Ellis. It is one of the first examples of the boy inventor genre, a genre that John Clute (well after the fact) called the “Edisonade,” although the main character of The Huge Hunter is actually not a boy — he’s a little person…

Read the rest at SF Signal.
 

 

Free Audio Story — The Panama Laugh: "St. John of the Throwdown"

The 5,000-ish word “St. John of the Throwdown” is set in the zombie-infested world of my debut novel The Panama Laugh, and is available only as an audio download — free! — with Violet Blue reading, on Violet’s podcast Open Source Sex. In it, a homeless teen sleeping on the beach in San Francisco wakes up having to face a crowd of frat boys — and maybe get sent up for murder.

I wrote “St. John of the Throwdown” specifically for Violet to read at a promotional event for The Panama Laugh this month. She was the very first reader of the novel and gave me some incredibly helpful feedback that basically helped me put the whole latter half of the book together. I based the viewpoint character on what I know of her as a teen, drawing on some of her experiences being young and homeless on the streets of San Francisco.

After generously (and brilliantly) reading “St. John” at Z-Day 2011, Violet even more generously agreed to read and release it for free on Open Source Sex. Check it out on Violet’s Libsyn feed here, go to the direct download link here, or if you use iTunes, access open source sex here. Here’s what Violet says about it, incidentally:

Open Source Sex 88: (Non-sex) The Panama Laugh – St. John of the Throwdown
Sep 14, 2011

Tonight’s podcast is a non-sex short story about zombies – and me. Author of the (awesome) new zombie novel The Panama Laugh wrote a short story based on his novel’s universe where a young female street punk in San Francisco goes up against a pack of zombie frat boys. The author Thomas Roche based the story on my very real life as a homeless teen here in SF. If you like action, horror and zombies (and you like me), you’ll love it. If you don’t like those things, tune in for the next podcast which I promise will be delightfully naughty and fun.

http://violetblue.libsyn.com/open-source-sex-88-non-sex-the-panama-laugh-st-john-of-the-throwdown

Terminator 3: Menage A Twat

Miserably, I must tell you that I saw Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines tonight. It is not a good film.

I should say that I consider James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day to be about the best damned action movie ever made, with some of its only real competition coming from Cameron’s other mind-bendingly good second-in-a-franchise action film, Aliens, and his own Citizen Kane of cheesy B movies, the first film in the Terminator franchise — which is good on a whole ‘nother level, having cost about a zillionth as much to make as Terminator 2.

I was not optimistic that T3 would live up to any expectations at all other than the one that says Hollywood can’t make decent movies to save its life anymore. Yup, that’s the one it lived up to. It’s not even bad in an entertaining way…it’s just dull, boring and lame. The plot holes don’t even really have enough plot hole mojo to irritate me. This flick is just sleepy-bye time.

The best thing about this awful flick was that I saw it at the Parkway in Oakland with my friend K. The Parkway is this amazing theater in Oakland where you sit in loveseats and can order dinner, beer and wine. That and the company made it a truly wonderful evening…despite, instead of because of, the film.

There were times, I’ll admit, that I thought I was about to start enjoying T3  the way I would have enjoyed a Jean Claude Van Damme flick. My companion K. said of the film, and I quote, “I didn’t expect it to be any good, so it wasn’t disappointed.”

As anyone who knows me will attest, I am disturbingly weird and obsessive about the pulpiest, trashiest things. My psychiatrist says it comes from some sort of brain disease. Regardless, while I didn’t expect much out of T3 — in fact, I expected it to be crap — it fell short of even my meagre expectations. It wasn’t that it had any major problems — other than the plot being completely improbable and underdeveloped, but I don’t so much care about that. Something was just wrong with it. There was a joi de vivre missing — something that should be even in the very worst science fiction flicks. After all, it’s not like previous decades haven’t given us some really terrible SF movies that I love just the same. Laserblast, anyone?

There’s essentially one passable action scene early in the flick, and then a moderately cool one when the first-generation “terminator” machines come alive. Beyond that, I almost fell asleep.

The most laughable element of the film was its warmed-over attempts to come up with the  sort of character development that ran throughout Terminator 2 as a matter of course. Here, it was so conspicuously forced that it was kind of horrifying. How can someone try to get character development right, and yet get it so wrong? I might as well ask why the sun moves through the sky every day.

Nick Stahl, who I thought was great in the bad-movie classic Disturbing Behavior (one of my pulpy favorites) was hopelessly out of his depth in this role, I don’t even know what to think about his acting skills. I can only conclude he must have been utterly misdirected. His John Connor was reduced to a jittery, freaked-out neurotic with absolutely no hint of his future as a military leader….which would have been just fine if there was some transformation.

And that’s where “character development” took perhaps hte most insulting form I’ve ever seen in a big-budget movie, which is saying something.

Which is to say, thirty minutes into the film, when Stahl’s John Connor is being a why little wuss,  The Terminator serves as dime-store Freud and grabs Connor by the throat, inspiring him to say “Fuck You.”

Voila! Transformation of Fredo Corleone into Michael Corleone achieved, skipping right over the expected second act stuck in Sonny Corleone. Who knew military strategy was  so easy?

This yutz, we’re given to believe, then goes on to  become the greatest military leader the world has  ever known, and will  save the human race. Rather than, say, flagging me down at the mall with some sob story about how his car broke down and he needs $20 to get a Greyhound to San Rafael so he can donate his kidney to his ailing mother.

Whereas the  wisecracking, cocky 13-year-old John Connor in T2 would have distracted me with some goof and stolen my wallet in such a circumstance, T3’s young adult Connor wouldn’t even have been able to keep his story straight.

Like I said, I care more about characters than plot, but even so…some shit is hard to ignore. Here are just a few of the annoying plot holes that bugged me about Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (more explicit spoilers follow):

  • At the beginning of the film, following the (thematically inexplicable) death of his mother from cancer, John Connor lives “off the grid”….but he rides a motorcycle. Anyone who rides a motorcycle knows it requires current registration, insurance and tags, far more so than a car, truck or a boat does. if you don’t keep your registration current, you’re pretty fucked. Cops will pull you over with the slightest excuse. Any idiot trying to live off the grid would drive a car instead, because you’re far less likely to get pulled over for some random reason, and be asked to provide paperwork.
  • Why was the new model of Terminator female? Because female action “heroes” are hot right now? There was never any plot-driven reason for her to have a female form. There was, however, the reason that I, and many other people in the audience, and presumably the filmmakers, like to look at boobies. Okay…forget I asked why, but there’s still no damn reason that a Terminator would need to have a female form, rather than having the larger amount of space (in which to pack heavy-duty skeletal structure, and shit) provided by a beefy frame like Arnold’s.
  • Oh, also, there was a really insulting gag where she pumps her thingies up a cup size. That’s good news, because it means the film gets to be sexist and sexist! Not to mention sexist!
  • …And if you ask me, being able to turn into liquid medal and glorp your way through a drainpipe seems far more bad-ass than having juicy lickable cha-chas. At least in combat. At a strip club? I’d rather have the cha-chas. But still, glorping through a drainpipe seems like a pretty hard-to-beat skill within the overall schema of espionage operations.
  • At one point, the characters rip off a plane. Guess what? I don’t think they store small planes fully fueled.
  • The T-800 (Arnold) mentions to John Connor  the general location of the “hardened location” to which John and Kate escape. He does not give, like GPS coordinates or anything, more like a “sort of thirty-ish miles north of the toxic waste dump” sort of thing.
  • Apparently, however, Connor  was listening soooooooooooooo carefully to Arnold’s non-directions so he could later find the super secret facility from a small plane, without the T-800’s help. Just how easy do you people think it is to find super secret military facilities from the air, over terrain you’re not at all familiar with?
  • Did I mention that “hardened locations” intended as hideaways for the President of the United states are, presumably, not visible from the air. Except this one.
  • He’s also lucky that, although the shelter hasn’t been used for 30 years — and is sufficiently obsolete as to be completely unguarded — the doors and elevators work. Exactly where is this power coming from? It’s still on the power grid, it’s still (presumably) fully stocked with food, since the half-assed end of the flick kinda implies that Nick and My So Called Career are going to, like, hang out down there and fuck like bunnies while the fallout burbles, so they can, like, repopulate the globe or something. (Cue funk music).
  • All right, maybe the facility being stocked with supplies (or not) will be explained in  Terminator 4: John Connor and Kate Brewster Eat Each Other With Plastic Forks. Looking forward to that one.
  • Also, though he thinks that this shelter is the heart of the entire US defense computer grid, John Connor, the Smartest Man on Earth, The Man Who’s Gonna Fuck Up Those Damn Machines Royally, doesn’t notice the fact that the hardened shelter is totally unguarded — kind of implying that maybe it’s not really that important a facility — until he’s already in its bowels. The scene kind of goes something like this:

 

JOHN CONNOR

(scratching head)

Heyyyyy…..waiiiiiiit a minute! There’s nobody down here! DOH!!!!

If the machines can’t kill this yutz….they don’t deserve to rule.

And if this is the best military the human race can produce…hell, Clausewitz would come back to life and slaughter us himself. Now there’s an idea for a movie…

Basically, I will watch any movie with explosions and cyborgs from the future. I’m about the cheapest date an untalented science fiction filmmaker can hope for.

But with a reported $175 million budget, how is it that the first building block of a film — the script — was such a nightmare?

No, don’t answer that. Hollywood movies suck. Well, this one goes on my list of the ten stupidest SF movies of all time…or it would, if it didn’t already have so much competition.

I piss on it from a great height…you’re welcome.