Early last year, editor Lou Anders approached me about contributing a story to a superhero-themed anthology he was working on.  According to Lou, he wanted to assemble a collection of serious superhero fiction, stories that evoked the dark grittiness of The Dark Knight or the depth and narrative texturing of Watchmen.  He didn’t want tongue-in-cheek or satire.  He wanted honest, prose versions of the types of stories being told by the likes of Gail Simone, Paul Cornell, Matthew Sturges, and Marjorie M. Liu in comic books.  Interestingly enough, those four writers were just a handful of the amazing talent Lou managed to assemble for Masked.  I knew I’d be in great company and figured it was a rare opportunity I couldn’t pass up, so I accepted Lou’s kind offer with the understanding that if my story failed to impress, he wouldn’t have to take it.  I’d find a home for it here on this blog.

I’ve already covered the grueling, oft agonizing process of writing “Downfall”, a short story that, in the end, didn’t turn out quite as short as I’d hoped.  It was one of those instances in which I knew where I wanted to end up, but had no idea how long it would take me to get there.  After some ten months, I stopped work on the story (notice I said “stopped work” and not “finished” because, as I’ve also mentioned in previous entries, if it weren’t for Lou’s deadline, I’d probably still be rewriting it today) and sent it my editor’s way.  To my relief, he liked what he read, which is why you’re reading “Downfall” in print and not in installments on this blog.

Anyway, as thrilled as I was to make my first prose sale, I was infinitely more impressed with the caliber of the other stories that made up the Masked anthology.  Stories like, say, Gail Simone’s “Thug” which is at turns humorous, surprising, touching, and incredibly endearing.  It blew me away – twice.  The first time upon reading it and the second time upon learning it was her first published work of prose fiction.  It was a pleasant surprise that really wasn’t all that surprising given the fact I’ve been a huge fan of Gail’s work on comic books like Villains United, Secret Six, and Welcome to Tranquility (to name just a few).

Today, it gives me great pleasure to kick off our Book of the Month discussion of Masked with this special guest blog by the marvelous Gail Simone…

I came to be a professional writer in an odd way, unlike most of the seasoned professionals who wrote most of the stories in MASKED.  I was a hairdresser in the boonies of Oregon, and online comics fandom was really something I had never experienced. I had never been to a big convention, I’d never written letters, never hung around a comics shop.  I started doing little parody pieces, making fun of everything in the industry, just to amuse my friends.  Long story short, suddenly professional writers were reading my stuff and convincing me, almost forcing me, to attempt to go professional.

So I went right from being an annoying fan to being an annoying professional, and have written comics like the Simpsons, Justice League, Deadpool, Secret Six, Birds of Prey, Action Comics, and lots of other things. I love it. I adore writing comics, and fully intend to continue writing them even if there’s one of those video game apocalypse scenarios and zombie dinosaurs are always chasing me while I look for food and medi-packs.  I’ve written comics and video games and animation and comic strips and more, but I’ve never written prose, not really.

Enter the great Paul Cornell, who is a hero of mine. I’ve loved everything he’s written, and he weirdly likes my work right back. He put me in contact with Lou Anders for this book, and when I heard the line-up of writers, and it was clear it was going to be quite a high quality item, I signed up. I have a habit of jumping in with both feet, or hooves, or whatever.  And the response has been tremendous, so thank goodness it didn’t suck horrendously!  Thank you, Paul, and Lou, for letting me learn on the job with this lovely anthology.

As for my story, I’ll just go ahead here and say SPOILER ALERT.

I do love comics, I love the industry, I love the shared universe ideal that comics have been doing for decades. I think it’s a big, wonderful tapestry, and that’s my favorite part of writing for DC or Marvel.  Even when you are just writing a short story, it’s like you’re collaborating with geniuses and madmen, every single person that’s worked in that universe.

The downside is, the icon books, the poles our tents are pitched upon, were created DECADES ago. And some of the ideas that are central to these universes have been, or ought to have been, passed by by time. The idea that heroes are almost all straight, white, and male is one.

But there’s another that’s just as egregious and a little more subtle. In our industry, decades ago, disabilities and mental illnesses almost always translated to Evil with a capital ‘E.’  If a character was dumb, or had a genetic malformity, or was scarred,  or had a  disability, or mental illness, that was all shorthand, with VERY few exceptions, for being bad, shameful, hateful, murderous, crazy with a thirst for revenge and a disgust for society.  Two-Face, the Penguin, the Joker, the Green Goblin, Dr. Doom, on and on. Even Luthor was a good guy originally until an accident made him bald as a teenager.

I mean, it made for thrilling stories for kids of the age, maybe, but there’s a definite meanness at its core, a definite fear of the unknown.  A sort of genetic xenophobia.

So the story idea for THUG came to me reading about a brainless brick of a powerhouse henchman for the millionth time in some random comic. I had to think, why did someone like that choose to take the difficult path of perhaps getting beaten to shit by the Incredible Hulk or the Flash?

He wasn’t born that way.  Something made him go that way.

And I suspect that something wasn’t a supervillain. I suspect that something was US. All of us, from kindergarten on.

WE might be the makers of the villains. WE might be their secret origins.

THUG is the story of one A. Becker, a huge, developmentally disabled metahuman who is treated very badly by society, and learns to fight back, not so much for revenge, but because finally, almost anyone would in his situation.

It’s told with massive intentional grammatical and spelling errors, which was surprisingly tough to do on a computer where I couldn’t figure out how to turn off the spell check. Just keeping in mind all of THUG’s little bad English habits was surprisingly complex, at least to my prose newbie mind.

It was a joy to be part of this book. The quality of the stories make me proud to be included.

I hope you enjoyed the story too, and thank you to Joseph for including us in his book talk.

Best wishes!

A big thanks to Gail for taking the time to drop by.  But her work here isn’t done yet!  Now, we turn this blog over to you, dear readers.  Feel free to start posing questions for the following contributors to the Masked anthology:

Gail Simone (“Thug”)

Paul Cornell (“Secret Identity”)

Matthew Sturges (“Cleansed and Set in Gold”)

James Maxey (“Where Their Worm Dieth Not”)

Daryl Gregory (“Message from the Bubblegum Factory”)

Mark Chadbourn (“By My Works You Shall Know Me”)

Marjorie M. Liu (“Call Her Savage”)

Lou Anders (editor extraordinaire!)

And yours truly (“Downfall”)

Finally, I was going to address some of the “fan” conspiracy concerns in today’s mailbag but got sidetracked by prep on The Hunt, spinning episode 20, and this blog entry.  As a result, my diminished snark capacitors are only running at forty percent tonight.  So, instead, these super-secret production pics will have to tide you over…

Version #1

Version #2

To infinity and beyond!

49 thoughts on “September 13, 2010: Masked! Gail Simone talks “Thug”! More super-secret production pics!

  1. We definitely need you at 100% snark capacity. Love and thanks for the pictures. Carl sitting in the captain’s chair–loving it.

  2. OK, now I’m caught up!

    @Gilder – I knew I loved you from the very start, but NOW I know you’re a kindred spirit – Anne McCaffrey fan extraordinaire!

    @TammyD – cat – string – ewwwwwwww!

    @Kymm – I witnessed the dibs-ing of the truffles – and they looked goooooooood!

    XD Julie

  3. @4loveofBeckett: Got your DM on Twitter. I tried to answer but can’t, so I hope Joe will be kind enough to let me post this to you. If you could just follow me on Twitter for 24 hours (and I’m not posting a lot right now, so it won’t overwhelm–promise), I’ll DM you with alternative ways to keep in touch. I totally understand. My tweeting like that can get pretty obnoxious. I just giggle when it happens.

  4. Can Chris Roberson / “A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows,” be persuaded to drop by some day? Loved his intricate, well-plotted story of things-are-not-as-they-seem!

    In the “Carl at the bridge” photo, (yay, Carl!) at the upper left, are those two rings in the ceiling tele-portals?

    More on Masked mañana. 🙂

  5. @PBMom — Done. It’s pending. 🙂

    Joe, Am so glad you took the plunge and participated in this book. “Firsts” are brave, risky things to do, and you did a terrific job. 😀

  6. That’s actually Carl at his weekly Friday night dance party rave… he’s constructed a DJ chair with side turn tables & sound system!

  7. Hi Mr M!

    Have been editing my review of Masked, and will try to post it later.

    Just wanted to say a big hello to Gail.

    Rarely, very very rarely will a book or story make me stop and involuntarily put my hand to my mouth in shock. “Thug” did just that.

    The writing and theme of this story was first class. The little girl’s story and particularly the main “incident” which provided the hinge of the story made me involuntarily do the whole shock thing….powerful is too small a word for the calibre of this tale.

    I’ll be back later with more thoughts on Masked.


  8. Hi Joe,

    Question –

    In season 1 of SGU, Greer risked his hide for Scott but there was a feeling that Scott wouldn’t risk his rear-end to save Greer. Will we see Scott risk his life to save Greer’s life in season 2?


    Sean D.

  9. For Joe: Liked “Downfall” a lot. Can you speak to how your story ended up as long as it did – it is the longest in the anthology by far. You say you wanted it shorter, how would you go about that?

    For Mark Chadbourn: I must say I didn’t see the twist coming. All along I thought I was clever and had figured out that Styx was the lifelong friend only to discover the twist on the last page – well done.

    For Matthew Sturges: Where did you come up with Wildcard’s power? It is definitely one of the most unique powers I’ve seen among superheroes (and one of the more disgusting).

    For Gail Simone: It seemed to me “Thug” was largely a love story. I liked that the protagonist was able to maintain his child-like view of love throughout and not have it corrupted, despite the numerous opportunities to do so. Great story.

    For Lou Anders: What exactly do you do as editor? Besides arranging the authors and getting their submissions, how much are you involved in the actual stories? Do you give feedback or make changes to the stories while their in progress, or just wait for the final products and then just looks for typos?

  10. Joe

    I hope you do another SGA movie. I among other fans want to either see Shepperd and Todd finally get together, or Shepperd and Teyla. Or even extend to SGU and have it happen there. You had everyone with a love interest, but Shepperd.

  11. Hello Joe,

    So that’s what happened to Franklin. In fact, WHEN WERE YOU PLANNING ON TELLING US HE WAS RECAST??? …And that Carl was taking on the role going forward??? Just kidding!!! 😉

    But seriously, great BTS pics. I can’t wait to see what happens when the new season resumes in a few weeks.

    Best wishes,


    Ps. No offense intended Carl… ;-). Best wishes.

  12. Hello Joe.


    Seriously though… I was glad to read in the mailbag that there has been progress on both movies. I was curious, since 20th Century Fox is the home video distributor for the Stargate DVDs and Blu-rays, what is their say in production (do they even have any?). Speaking of home video, any plans to release a best of collection for SG1 on Blu-ray like you did w/ Atlantis last year? I know many people have been critical of the Atlantis Blu-ray for its length but I still say it is one of the best discs I have ever seen. Not even Avatar had a bit rate that high! …and that DTS master audio soundtrack… It blew me out of my seat!!!

    Well, SGU is starting next week!!! Can’t wait to see what happens!!! I hope to hear stories about the food at the premiere party, or the trip you and the other writers will take to ReFuel to celebrate a job well done!!!

    Best wishes,


  13. Hello Joe.

    I didn’t know my first comment posted. Damn BlackBerry server went out last night as I was trying to post a comment about the picture of Carl in control chair. Not to mention the keyboard on my Storm is acting up again. I hate this phone. Please tell me that it is true that Verizon will start carrying the IPhone in January so I can concert. Internet coverage has been so spotty lately. Oh well. Enough griping. 😉

    Best wishes,


  14. Hey Joe,

    I thought I would share with you my how I spent my summer. My girlfriend always teases me about being a Scifi geek, so I told her I was going to make her watch all ten season of SG1. She watches SGU with me and loves it for different reasons than I do (she likes the character development, I like the action and science). I thought with the different styles between the shows she would not like SG1 at all. After Children of the Gods she was hooked, we watched all ten SG1 seasons and all five Atlantis, most of them she watched by herself while I was at work. I never in a million years would have thought she would like them but she did. Now she is looking forward to the new season of SGU as much as I am if not more. My point is I think it shows some vindication for TPTB in going with a new direction. The character development in SGU got someone watching who never would have before and at the same time gave SG1 and SGA a new fan. So for all the complainers out there enjoy what you have and be happy about it, cause it’s absolutely better than nothing! Thanks for the shows, looking forward to two weeks.


  15. What a great post by Gail! She makes some incredibly sanguine points about superheroes! Don’t know where to start first with questions, since reading Masked I’ve had a hell of a few weeks of friend and family illnesses and catastrophes so I will reread Mask and formulate some questions!

    Thanks to Gail Simone for posting on the blog, she is totally NOT what I pictured when I read Thug! I figured she’d have tuff looking dreads, a nose ring, tattered jeans, be covered in tattoos and have a cigarette dangling from her lips. Instead she is a bright sunshiny gal and I don’t see a single tear tattooed on her cheek. She’s an awesome writer, I will have to check out her comix.

    I see Carl is striking his “engage” pose. If I worked on SGU you would not be able to pry me out of those cool command chairs!

  16. Wait, we can sidetrack your snark with work?
    I have 20 pages of notes from the network you need to read urgently…..

  17. I have a great tip how to make SGU an international success. Just dump the Stargate part and rename the series Universe or just Destiny.

  18. Hey Joe – Oh just got that Jimi Hendrix flashback , ok to be serious if I have to be, is that last super-secret picture you posted of Carl produced by the HDR process? Hey if your unfamiliar with the HDR photo process there’s a fantastic fellow (Trey Ratcliff) who seems to be at the forefront of this process, check out his site http://www.stuckincustoms.com/
    and some of the pictures he’s taken via HDR, looks eerily similar to the picture Carl’s in (“To Infinity and Beyond”) His pictures are brilliant, check out the “Worm Hole” http://stuckincustoms.smugmug.com/Portfolio-The-Best/your-favorites/10668747_AuyBk#976916458_bnRpW-A-LB
    Thanks Joe


  19. Coucou Joseph!

    Comment ça va ? Moi mieux 🙂 je commence à m’habituer !!

    Même si je peu moins passer chaque jour je pense à vous, d’ailleur votre anniversaire approche, je n’ai toujour pas d’idées de cadeaux, y’a t’il quelques chose qui vous ferai plaisir en particulier?

    Ce livre n’est disponible qu’en anglais pour l’instant?

    Merci pour le concept art, cette bête est très étrange, elle n’a pas l’air trés gentil en tout cas.

    Bonne jounée!

  20. My modem went out yesterday (at least I hope that’s all it is). So I am not on my computer and have to hurry… (beware, I ain’t check’in my spelling!)


    EXCELLENT BOOK!! Sharp looking cover. Loved the colors. This is the first comic book I have ever read. I read the stories in order, so my first exposure to comics was Matthew Sturges’ “Cleansed and Set in Gold”. My first response was “what the hell?!” What a crazy wild story!! My favorite line, “Now that I’m the Rock, I realize that I weigh about a million pounds, and I’m not sure if my car will even support my weight. So I steal my neighbor’s Hummer…” OMG, how crazy is that?! NEVER a dull moment. Loved it!!

    I liked all the stories. I liked “Avatar” and “Vacuum Lad”. I liked “Message From the Bubblegum Factory”. Daryl Gregory’s stylish humor was very apparent throughout this story. Loved “A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows”. It told a very nice, well balanced story. It was a bit of a detective story. I figured some things out and was surprised by some things. It was real good. I liked “By My Works You Shall Know Me” and “Call Her Savage”. Steampunk!?

    Joseph Mallozzi’s “Downfall” was very good! Another nicely balanced story. It had all the elements you would expect from a great script he had written. (Joe you should be proud! Be very proud!! You did great and fit right in like a veteran!)

    BUT, coming in at #1, my absolute favorite was “Thug” by Gail Simone. I think it is the “diamond” of the book. Took me a couple pages to adapt to the writing style, then it read very quickly. Loved this story!!! Comic book, fiction, fantasy, who cares. This story was fantastic. Any type of reader would enjoy it. Like someone else said a few days ago, this story you will not forget. It was excellent.

    Since I don’t read comics, I have nothing to compare this book to except TV (Batman) and movies (Superman). But in my opinion it is excellent. Lou Anders, you have assembled a winner! Great job by all.

    Questions will (hopefully) follow. Hey, look. This reveiw contained no spoilers!

  21. I finally picked up a book of the month club and the only question I have is for Matthew Sturges;

    Our “hero” was left in quite the predicament, I would love to see how it pans out. Will there be a follow-up to “Cleaned And Set In Gold”?

  22. @ Airelle – I had pleasant dreams…I dreamt of dwarfs and Hobbits and horses and sprawling countryside…but, alas, no elves. 🙁 At least, I don’t remember any elves.

    I was looking at that picture of Sandro as Gildor, and realized that – like the Wraith and several of my other obsessions – he has a really high forehead. I’ve always liked men with high foreheads, or even receding hairlines. When I was a little girl, I used to curl up with my grandfather and take naps, despite the fact that he coughed terrible because of emphysema. My mom asked me why I did that even when he was coughing, and I said, ‘I love that Pop ’cause him face goes all the way to the back of him head.’

    🙂 I was about 3 when I said that (he passed away when I was 4), so I guess even as a wee little girl I liked big foreheads. 😀

    @ Tammy Dixon – Every now and then one of my cats goes charging through the house like it’s on fire, ‘chased’ by a turd or two trailing behind them like the tail on a kite, stuck as they are to a long piece of my hair that the kitty accidentally swallowed. They do NOT like when you pull it out. 😛 (Hey, it’s not fun for me, either!)

    @ Gail Simone – Gotta make this quick right now – hopefully I will have some time later today to say more. I loved Thug! Loved the first person POV, loved how the story unfolded as it did. It was very touching, and I immediately felt the connection to the character I needed in order to WANT to know his story. I liked how you made it so that I could not only ‘see’ the character, but hear him as well. Very well done! I will try to say more later – right now I’m at work and it’s kinda hectic. 😛


  23. @afg1

    Thats not at all what I meant. I am talking about fandom in general. From Gateworld to other discussion boards, to twitter… everywhere. I just think this whole thing has gotten ridiculous. If you didn’t see the second part of my message I think most of the sides are totally wrong(wether your pro-SGA anti-SGA pro-SGU anti-SGU). Heck, I even feel I was a bit wrong posting that message yesterday (I call out people for living off of attention but then I bring attention to them… kinda dumb eh). And I am sorry for some of the things I said. I still firmly believe in what I posted, I just went about it the wrong way…

    This whole thing has progressed to the point of a joke… thats my only point.

    As for the blog, ya its not mine. But also remember, Joe never asked me(or anyone) to stop asking about the movies. And when Joe politely said hes not taking questions about the movies (mid august) for a while, I haven’t inquired about them since.

    Thanks so much,
    Major D. Davis

  24. @Vegemite

    Well, say the name of the site was the wrong word. How bout passionate SGU haters who like to bash SGU and those involved. lol

    At first I thought those people were ridiculous, but ive also seen the other side(s) become quite irrational as well. (im more talking about some people on GW and other places, not you Joe, though I did address a few issues last post). Both sides are living off attention. I guess I mentioned the site and other controversial topics because I thought people who might get angry at me wouldn’t read what I wrote, but I should have know better. Being sick really fries your brain :p

  25. @Annie: Thanks for the link to LDP. He does have great moves. His daughter must have loved seeing him up there with them.

  26. I’ve been gone for a couple of weeks, and most of that time I was in, of all places, Georgia. While I was there I attended Dragon Con. (The other part of my time I was visiting my family.)

    What I remember is that one or two people did ask rather rudely-toned questions about SGU. Usually, the actors representing a particular branch of a franchise fields those questions. When the questions were asked, the majority of the audience “oooo”ed in a way that should have tipped off the one asking that it was rather rude. I admired Martin G for coming to Alaina’s (and/or SGU’s) defense. And his answer got a big applause from the audience. Guess it was one of those things where you had to be there.

    I am rather sick and tired of the whole argument. Most of the naysayers show a complete lack of understanding of how the television industry works. If you work on a TV show, and it gets cancelled, you no longer have a job. Period. End of story. All people involved on a show are invested in keeping a show on the air as long as they feel there is still story to tell. But, most of the time, the people creating the show are not involved in decisions like whether the show is being renewed or cancelled. Many times they are waiting out word from the real PTB, like MGM, just like the viewers.

    SGA is my favorite show of the franchise. I am still sad that it was cancelled. But I also watch and like SGU. I have read on this blog that the people at Bridge would have loved a 6th season for SGA, too. And that the cancellation of SGA had nothing to do with the pick-up of SGU.

    What I find absurd is when people say the writing, producing, directing, etc. of SGU is so much worse than SGA or SG1. I have a little news flash for you. *Whispers* It’s the same people.

    I don’t think I would be stepping on any of their toes to presume that they want the movie made as much as any of the fans. If SGU is cancelled, SGA will not magically come back. The Stargate franchise will be a beloved show found only in syndication.

    Adam White — I also am sad about your loss.

  27. Hi Joe,

    Hope Masked discussions go for a couple of days as I don’t think I can post a review from an iPhone. Maybe it would be more interesting if I did though and allowed auto-correct to tell the story. Many an interesting email has been sent without checking what auto-correct had decided to do with the words.

  28. @Major D. Davis said ” Both sides are living off attention. I guess I mentioned the site and other controversial topics because I thought people who might get angry at me wouldn’t read what I wrote, but I should have know better. Being sick really fries your brain :p”

    Yeah, both sides have had some issues. :p Get well soon.

    @ avabird said “What I remember is that one or two people did ask rather rudely-toned questions about SGU. Usually, the actors representing a particular branch of a franchise fields those questions. When the questions were asked, the majority of the audience “oooo”ed in a way that should have tipped off the one asking that it was rather rude. I admired Martin G for coming to Alaina’s (and/or SGU’s) defense. And his answer got a big applause from the audience. Guess it was one of those things where you had to be there.”

    Good, so you’re saying that you were there. Can you let us know which panel(s) this was and/or provide a link to the footage of it so we can all form our own opinions? I’d really like to know.

    I think the reason why the “naysayers” show a lack of understanding is because there have been different answers given about why SGA was cancelled. It’s not a lack of understanding the television business but understanding some of TPTB’s conflicting answers. In August of 2008, Gateworld publishes an article where Brad Wright is interviewed. The article starts off saying that “The decision to end Stargate Atlantis and jump to the movie format was made mutually by the SCI FI Channel,
    MGM, and Stargate Productions in Vancouver, executive producer Brad Wright told GateWorld today.” Brad is quoted as saying “The show was doing well. But you don’t wait until the show isn’t doing well before you try to launch movies. If you are going to go do movies when the show has still got life left in it, that’s a good time!”

    Last year on this blog Brad Wright does a Q&A session where he said that if Atlantis had of been performing well that it would still be on the air. So which is it? Was the show cancelled because it was doing well and was popular, or was it cancelled because it wasn’t doing well? These kinds of conflicting answers (and there are more) are why people are confused. When people are confused they have every right to ask for clarification and/or point out where things aren’t clear.

    Speaking of clarification, if the post that was made that started this whole “argument” if that’s what you want to call it for these last few days had have been clear about what exact incident Mallozzi/Gero were talking about I don’t think there would have been so much speculation or debate about it if any at all. I’m still interested to know and I know I’m not the only one, so please give the details since you are saying that you were there and witnessed it.


  29. So, Mr. Anders hits another home run with his latest anthology. Masked was a great read, good enough to get the interest of some of my non sci-fi fan workmates. I did resist the temptation to go directly to Downfall, enjoying the buildup of tension to see Mr. M’s “baby”.
    So, starting with “Cleansed and set in Gold”. this one won the “Gross me out but I can’t stop reading” award. What a diabolical superpower! The pacing was excellent, the reveal of Wildcard’s source of powers. This story actually made me pause, wondering what it would be like to be faced with the choices the protagonist has to make.
    “Where the Worm Dieth not” gets the best classical allusion award. this story carried a suprising emotional punch, as Retaliator reasons out what is happening to him and those around him. Loved this story.
    Secret Identity I must admit somewhat baffled me. This was the story that I felt most disconnected with, the one that never lured me into the micro-universe the author was attempting to create. An interesting look at a certain sector of our society, but there was never a hook to pull me into the story.
    The Non-Event was a nice variation on the supervillian story. A simple heist tale with a not so simple twist, a protagonist painted with just enough shading to make him interesting, this story almost made me late to an appointment because I refused to put the book down until I finished it.
    Avatar brings some to mind some comparisons with the recent movie Bad Ass. Unfortunate, really, since I found the short story to be a better rendition of the theme of self made wannabe superhero. My only complaint was that it was perhaps too short. True, it ended at a logical spot, but it left me wanting more.
    Message from the Bubblegum factory wins best use of a sidekick. This story was a nice balance to Non Event, starting with a prison break rather than a heist. The unfolding of the backstory was nicely done, as was the evolution of the sidekick to super-villian status. Another story I’d love to see a sequel to.
    Thug is another of my favorites in this anthology. The first person viewpoint works well. As a reader I could feel the emotional outrage of how the intellually challenged but physically unrivaled supervillian was used and manipulated by the system and others. This felt like the most realistic of the stories, in the sense that the character’s actions and thoughts feel right for the circumstances.
    Vacuum Lad left me with the feeling “is that all??”. Not in a bad way. I loved the premise of evolutionary mutations that sets the stage for a new sub-species of humans to appear on the scene. Kudos for the author’s effort to make his premise scientifically plausible, without bogging down in the details.
    A Knight of Ghost and Shadows gets my “best pulp-hero” award. I loved the classic 1930s setting, the supernatural elements to the tale. Setting the action in a hispanic neighborhood made the story more believable somehow, and worked well. This story actually gew on me more after I had read it.
    Out of time for now. I’ll bore you with more reviews later tonight/early tomorrow. Thanks for having chosen this for BotM, and for bringing the authors into the blog to share their creative processes with us.

  30. Hi,

    Here are my questions for the mailbag.

    1. Are you concerned about the fate of the movies, given the ongoing delay. Essentially, are you concerned that ecen if the films are ultimately given the greenlight, it may not be possible to have the required main cast for both films?

    2. As far as the second season of Stargate Universe is concerned, will we have the chance to touch on the issue of Colonel Young’s relationship with his wife, Emily especially given TJ’s pregnancy?

    Thanks a lot!

  31. As a young kid I used to like the puzzles where they gave you two nearly identical pictures, and you were supposed to spot the 10 differences. Some of the pairs of behind the scenes pictures you post are kinda like that for me. What’s that Japanese word for nostalgia…

    Carl must be a really good sport, or else you have something really good on him. You put him in the oddest situations/pictures. Of course, he’s not usually smiling soooo…..

    @ JulieAloha – thank you for being my witness! However, still no truffles *sniff*…. And yup they did look really good… maybe the next batch *sigh* although maybe I’m not getting a delivery cuz he doesn’t know where the heck I live… *blonde head tilt*

    Regarding the whole cat string/butt thing, my sister’s cat swallowed tinsel and the vet said not to pull it because it could cut through the cat’s insides. That it had to be removed surgically. Course he could have just needed a winter trip to Hawaii, but just to let you know…. Be careful.

    Have a good one!!

  32. This is turning out to be a craptastic week…already. I’ll see what I can do about questions/discussion for Masked.

    @ Gail Simone – 1. In school, where you the bully, the bullied, or the bystander?

    2. When you write, do you always stick to your outline, or do your characters start writing the story for you?

    3. I’m a very visual person and need detailed physical descriptions of characters if I’m going to connect with them – I need to ‘see’ who I’m reading about. However, Elmore Leonard said in his 10 Rules on Writing: “Avoid detailed descriptions of characters”, and I’m finding this to be the case more and more with modern writers – and I hate it. Where do you stand on character descriptions?

    Thankies, Gail!


  33. [quote]Mel also writes: “And finally blackmail! SG1 and SGA movies will be made on its OWN merits. The ratings were great, the DVDs of them sold MUCH BETTER than SGU. The SG1 movies were a huge success. It doesn’t matter how good or bad SGU is doing.”

    Answer: If you want to believe that, then by all means knock yourself out. But the reality is that should SGU end prematurely, it would be bad for the franchise and have an adverse impact on the SGA movie.[/quote]

    I noticed that the questioner was asking about SG1 AND SGA – but you only responded about the SGA movie.

    SOooo is that a hint that the SG1 movie is moving forward?

  34. Questions for Marjorie M. Liu and Gail Simone –

    What’s it like working in the male-dominated field of comic books? And I’m not just referring to the behind the scenes but the actual on the page experience of writing for mainly male characters.

    Ms. Liu – Several posters have mentioned the fascinating world you created for your short story. I’d like to know how it came about. Was this a world you had envisioned previously or was it created specifically for this story? How much depth did you create to this world (ie. were their details of the backstory and history that didn’t make it into the story?).

    Ms. Simone – Given Thug, Villains United, and Secret Six, I’m going to guess you have a thing for the bad guys (and gals). Wondering if this is an accurate assessment and if so what draws you to these characters? Do you see a possibility of redemption in all of your characters? Do you see a possibility of redemption in all villains?

  35. To James Maxey – A lot of your work has been in prose fiction and, specifically, superhero prose fiction.

    1. How is the market for this sub-genre? Do you find it easy to find a home for your work? Or do many publishers consider it a risky niche market?

    2. Do you think the appetite for superhero fiction of the short story and novel variety will continue to expand?

    3. What would you like to see for this sub-genre in the future and what do you think can be done to help it along?


  36. Matthew Sturges: Cleansed and Set in Gold is a pretty dark in tone. The same can be said for House of Mystery and, to some extent, Fables. Is there something that draws you to this type of storytelling and if so what is it? I haven’t Midwinter yet (I promise I will) but I was wondering if this darker tone is something that runs through your novels as well?

    James Maxey: What is it about comic books that makes them such a powerful source of inspiration for you and what is it about comic books that has continued to capture the imaginations of young and old ever since their creation? Is it mere escapism or is it something more? Comic books aren’t just for kids. Some of the best offer social commentary in a way that is thought-provoking but entertaining at the same time, something for kids but something for adults willing to look beneath the surface. Would you agree and, if you do, what would be your favorite examples of titles that have succeeded in doing this?

    Paul Cornell: What inspired you to write Secret Identity and did you feel any extra pressure going in? What is your opinion of the role of gay characters in comic books and how they’ve been portrayed to date? I’m thinking of characters like Midnighter and Apollo on the one hand, and the new Rawhide Kid on the other.

    Gail Simone: I was surprised to hear this is your first published short story. How did you find writing Thug compared to comic books? Did you struggle with this unfamiliar form or did it come easily? Can you tell me about the process of creating Alvin’s voice. Is it something that just happened in the writing of the story or did you establish his voice for consistency before even sitting down to write?

    More questions for the other writers coming…

  37. And questions for the other writers. Hope I’m not too late.

    Mark Chadbourn: Your protagonist is a dark anti-hero along the lines of Batman, a type of superhero you stated a preference for over the more traditional Superman types. What is your take on the shift toward these anti-heroes in mainstream comics. It seems as though you can’t pick up a title that doesn’t have a dark anti-hero protagonist (or literally have Dark in the title). All of a sudden, those traditional good guys are no longer the rule. Heck we even had Wonder Woman kill a villain a couple of years ago. What’s your opinion on this shift? Do you approve? Is it being overdone? And are there any of these dark heroes that appeal to you in the way Batman does?

    Do you think that comic book writing is in your future?

    Daryl Gregory: You have a great sense of humor that shows up in your work. How important do you think humor is? What does it add? And do you think there is any genre in which its inappropriate or shouldn’t be used? Are we going to see that Daryl Gregory sense of humor in Dracula: Company of Monsters?

    You mentioned selling another superhero-themed short story before this one. Did you know you’d find a home for it when you started? How hard was it finding someone to publish it and how likely is it we’ll see more stories set in the Soliton universe?

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