October 17, 2017: Masked – the series!

Back in 2009, I was contacted by editor Lou Anders about contributing a story to his forthcoming anthology of superhero fiction.  The collection, he explained, would feature original works from established comic book and SF writers, focusing on grounded, character-driven narratives in the vein of The Dark Knight.  My first reaction was “I don’t know…” for the simple reason that I honestly didn’t think I could pull it off.  I have nothing but respect for authors of prose fiction.  What they do is really, really, REALLY hard.  Scriptwriting, with apologies to screenwriters everywhere, though admittedly challenging, is not even on the same level.  The time and effort required to compose a short story, much less a novel…  Lou, sensing my reticence (I believe I actually wrote “I don’t know…” in my return email to him) suggested he’d leave me time to think about it.  If I ended up writing the short story, he’d include it in the anthology.  If, I didn’t, well then that would be fine too.

So I thought about it.  And came up with a story.  And wrote it.  And rewrote.  And rewrote it countless times until the deadline loomed and I delivered it to Lou.  In the end, it was more of a novelette than a short story.  It took me nine months to write.  In comparison, it takes me about two weeks to write a script.

The critics were kind and, in the end, I was happy with the way my story, “Downfall”, turned out.  On the other hand, I was amazed by the quality of the stories that made up the rest of the collection.  Gail Simone, Bill Willingham, Daryl Gregory, Paul Cornell, and many others delivered some truly memorable tales.

Shortly after the book came out, io9’s Charlie Jane Anders wrote the following article:

This book could teach Hollywood to do superheroes right

Well, seven years later, it looks like it’s going to happen.

Dark Matter EP Producer Vanessa Piazza Sets Multi-Year Producing Partnership With eOne

“Piazza is also developing “Masked,” based on the original super-hero fiction anthology edited by Lou Anders, who will also be involved in the series adaptation. Notable comic and graphic novel writers, including Lilah Sturges, Paul Cornell, and Gail Simone whose short stories appear in the book, will contribute to the anthology series, working with Piazza and executive producer and showrunner Joseph Mallozzi.”

I’m excited to be a part of this for a number of reasons.  First and foremost is the source material, a standout selection of stories that will form the basis of a spectacular superhero-themed anthology series.  Second, is the calibre of the authors I’ll be collaborating with on this one.  Third, is the opportunity I’ll have to re-team with the dynamic and talented Vanessa Piazza.  Fourth is the opportunity I’ll have to work with my old friend, editor and author extraordinaire Lou Anders who will also be involved in the show’s development and production.  To paraphrase Dark Matter’s Wexler: “That’s a win-win-win…win.”

If you’re not familiar Masked, you can just click the icon in the right sidebar.  Or pick yourself up a digital version online or hard copy at your local bookstore.

 

July 7, 2015: Recommended reads! Dark Matter happenings! Ruby Rose! UK Ratings! Dark Horse Comics!

One more day to San Diego Comic Con!  I’m packing light so I can come back heavy.

If you’re in the SDCC neighborhood, come see us: Jodelle Ferland, Melissa O’Neil, Roger Cross, Anthony Lemke, and Executive Producer’s Jay Firestone and Vanessa Piazza for autograph signings at the Dark Horse Comics booth (2615) on Thursday at 5 p.m. and again on Friday at 3 p.m., and our Dark Matter panel on Thursday night (7:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m., Room 6BCF.  Secret will be spilled; no prisoners will be taken!

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If you’re a fan of science fiction and aren’t reading Alastair Reynolds – WHY THE HECK NOT?!!  He is one of a handful of contemporary SF authors who should be required reading.  His books are narratively rich, wondrously engaging hard scifi epics possessed of astounding scope and creative depth.  Sound familiar?  Yes, if you love the works of Iain M. Banks (his Culture books in particular), then you’ll love Alastair Reyolds – and vice versa.

Slow Bullets, his latest release, tells the tale of Scur, a conscripted soldier who, left for dead following a vicious post-armistice ambush, awakens on a prisoner transport vessel.  Something has happened to ship, an accident that has claimed the lives of many in their stasis chambers, but released many more, allies and enemies, who must broker an uneasy truce if they are to survive and find out exactly what happened to them.

At a modest 192 pages, Slow Bullets is a great introduction to Reynolds’ masterful storytelling, and the perfect gateway book for those looking to discover their new favorite SF author.

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Speaking of gateway books, I described Frostborn, the first instalment in author Lou Anders’ Throne & Bones series, as a terrific introduction to the fantasy genre for young readers – or older readers looking to raise future Tokien enthusiasts. The second book, Nightborn, does a great job of building on what has come before, expanding the world and its characters in a bold, dynamic adventure. Familiar faces, Karn the gamer and Thianna the giantess, are joined by (or “run afoul of” to be more precise) two new additions to the series, dark elves Tanthal and Deestra (aspiring elite agent of the Underhand!).  A deeper world, increasingly more complex characters, and a twisty-turny quest for the Horn of Osius make for a highly enjoyable, fast-paced read.

Speaking of books, my very favorite children’s book series is about to be getting the small screen treatment compliments of Netflix.  A Series of Unfortunate Events is a devilishly dark and wickedly humorous series focusing on the treks and travails of the Baudelaire children, three hard-luck but incredibly resourceful orphans.

Here’s hoping this version will allow us to forget the hugely disappointing big screen adaptation hated by fans of the book series and considered non-objectionable by those who didn’t know any better.

No word on a release date.

While you’re here, may I direct your attention to a few Dark Matter-related links:

A first look at Ruby Rose as the android, Wendy, in Dark Matter Episode 7:

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Pretty badass looking, no?

http://www.ew.com/article/2015/07/06/ruby-rose-dark-matter-photo

U.K. scifi fans love us!

http://www.tvwise.co.uk/2015/07/syfy-uks-dark-matter-grows-by-5-in-week-2/

“Pulling off a rare feat, the space opera series actually grew its audience in its second week, drawing a consolidated audience of 393K viewers. All told, Dark Matter posted gains of around 17K viewers or just under 5% on the series premiere’s 376K viewers.

The (albeit marginal) ratings growth is significant, as it makes Dark Matter the first new series launch on Syfy UK in the past year to actually grow its audience from the premiere.”

Big things happening on the Dark Horse Comics front, publishers of the Dark Matter comic:

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/ucp-dark-horse-ink-tv-807049

“In a deal a year in the making, comic book powerhouse Dark Horse (The Mask, Hellboy) is getting into the television business with Universal Cable Productions.”

Today’s entry is dedicated to blog regular Das.  Happy Birthday, Birthday Gal!

May 26, 2015: Akemi! Dark Matter! And friends!

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“Carnibal is eat the same species.”

– Akemi on cannibalism.

“Hello Kitty’s pet is cat so not carnibal but don’t you find strange?”

– Akemi elucidating on the topic of cannibalism.

“My stomach and back is touching.”

– Akemi’s way of letting me know she’s hungry.

“Wow. So depressing Facebook account ever.”

– Akemi passing judgement on my Facebook activity which is entirely comprised of me sharing missing pet and adopt-a-dog posts.

Hey, Germany, look out!  Dark Matter is headed your way:

Space.ca offers up 5 reasons to count down the days until the Dark Matter debut:

http://www.space.ca/article/Dark-Matter#sthash.VZqdJGhx.dpufhttp://www.space.ca/article/Dark-Matter

Dark Matter makes TV.com’s list of 11 Most Anticipated New Series for summer 2015:

http://www.tv.com/news/most-anticipated-new-summer-shows-143154270939/

Get your Dark Matter t-shirts!

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On a non-Dark Matter-related – but no less awesome – here is the trailer for my friend, Lou Anders’ first book, Frostborn:

And a review of his second book, Nightborn:

http://linkis.com/bit.ly/cuL8S

Another prolific friend has a book forthcoming:

https://outtherebooks.wordpress.com/2015/01/06/a-small-excerpt-from-alastair-reynolds-new-novella-slow-bullets-is-available/ 

While another friend seems to be doing alright:

http://io9.com/john-scalzi-signs-a-massive-10-year-13-book-publishing-1706919623

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December 31, 2014: Best Books of 2014!

“Top 25?!”said Paul.  “How many books did you read this year?”

Well, after the paltry 65 I got through in 2013, I decided to make a concerted effort to improve on that embarrassing number in 2014.  My goal was a lofty 120 – which I ended up far exceeding, racking up a very respectable 180 books on the year (and I could have done even better had I not been distracted by this pesky production).

Let’s be real.  Most Best of the Year lists are full of crap, lazily lauding critical darlings or rewarding mere premise over execution (I’m tempted to compile a list of “Top 10 Worst Books That Made Everyone Else’s Top 10 Best Books”).  This, on the other hand, is my diverse list of the books that truly resonated with me this year; books I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.  And do!

So, yeah.  Top 25.  But then, after I started compiling my list, I realized I was excluding some terrific books – and so, I expanded it to a Top 30.  And, eventually, 35.

Many of these books were published prior to this year – but I’ve indicated the 2014 releases with an asterisk (*) and capped my countdown with a mini Top 10 Titles of 2014 list.

All to say – here are the books I most enjoyed reading between January 1st and December 31st (inclusive!) of this year.  It’s a nice eclectic mix covering everything from graphic novels and genre (horror, fantasy, SF, mystery) to general fiction and non-fiction.

What titles made your list?

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*35. BIRD BOX by Josh Malerman

A series of bizarre murder-suicides in Russia pique the media’s interest, but when these horrific incidents begin to proliferate and start striking closer to home, the world descends into a blind panic. Rumour spreads that people are being driven insane by the sight of some mysterious otherworldly entities and, soon, people have retreated into their homes, covering up their windows, refusing to open their eyes if they venture outdoors.  A helluva page-turner.

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*34. THE ROAD TO RECKONING by Robert Lautner

You can almost smell the gun smoke, sweat, and campfire in this gritty Western character piece about a young boy, orphaned after his father’s murder, who enlists the help of an ornery bastard to get him home.  Smart and absorbing.

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*33. FROSTBORN by Lou Anders

Award-winning editor Lou Anders first novel is a Norse-inspired, adventure-fueled tale for young fantasy enthusiasts. Karn, a young farmer-to-be, strikes up an unlikely friendship with Thianna, a half-giantess, to take on undead forces, an ancient dragon, troublesome trolls, an opportunistic uncle, and more! If you’re looking to inspire your child to follow in your Martin/Eddings/Jordan-loving footsteps, then this book is a great place to start.

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32. ANCILLARY JUSTICE – Anne Leckie

The mysterious Breq is much more (and less!) than she appears. Once a military starship possessed of Artificial Intelligence, she now exists as merely one of the thousands of former ancillaries (a.k.a. corpse soldiers) that live as extensions of her former self. Reduced to a single fragile human body, fueled by the memories of her powerful past, she sets out on a seemingly impossible mission of vengeance. Sound cool? Well, it is. And smart. I haven’t read an SF novel this engrossing in quite a while.

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31. A CALCULATED LIFE By Anne Charnock

In the late 21st century, society has stratified into the haves (genetically-enhanced individuals who live comfortable lives free of addiction and crime) and the have-nots (drudge workers who live in segregated, crime-ridden communities). Our protagonist, Jayna, is a hot up-and-comer at a corporation that track global trends. She has the perfect job, the perfect life and yet, she can’t help but feel that something is…off. Perfection aint all it’s cracked up to be and when Jayna decides to inject a little unpredictability into her ordered existence, things take a turn for the dangerous.

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30. SCHRODER by Amity Gaige

In the heat of a custody battle, a desperate father takes his daughter on an ill-advised extended road trip. It’s one of several big errors in judgement that lead our protagonist down an inevitably heartbreaking path. The fairly straightforward premise belies a surprising complexity in this touching and tragic tale. On the surface, not “the type of book” I’d enjoy – but I was thoroughly engrossed.

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29. THE INVERTED WORLD by Christopher Priest

A city moves along a railroad track in constant, laborious progress, attempting to keep up with something called “the optimum” – or risk losing pace and falling victim to a gravitational field that has warped space and time. This is a truly bizarre work of science fiction that jumps between multiple narrative styles in telling a story that is both grounded in its characters yet intellectually and creatively provocative in its conceit. At times, I felt like I was reading Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow – on acid.

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*28. TO RISE AGAIN AT A DECENT HOUR by Joshua Ferris

Online identity theft turns a middle-aged dentist’s life upside-down in this wickedly dark novel about self, faith, and the inherent dangers of not flossing.

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27. The Circle by Dave Eggers

Our young heroine lands a job working for The Circle, a cutting edge internet company that is Google, Facebook, and Yahoo rolled into one. Before she knows it, she is at the forefront of a wave of technological advancements that will revolutionize social interaction. But at what price? A smart, scary book that explores the potentially insidious consequences of our increasingly “connected” lives.  Delivers a powerful message on our increasing willingness to relinquish privacy and freedom in exchange for convenience.

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26. Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

Joe Abercrombie has distinguished himself in a fairly crowded field, delivering gritty, visceral, yet darkly humorous tales that fly in the face of established high fantasy conventions. His world-building is as unique and richly textured as the colorful characters who battle and banter their way through his stories, and I list him among my very favorite authors. Period. Beginning with his first book, The Blade Itself, and continuing through five subsequent novels, I can honestly say “I’ve never read an Abercrombie book I haven’t loved.”.  Red Country is Joe at his consistent best, a story about a young girl, Shy South, who sets off to rescue her younger siblings from a group of murderous outlaws. She is aided in her quest by Lamb, her (seemingly) spineless soft-spoken stepfather, and the unlikeliest of allies in a group of risk-averse mercenaries. A hell of a lot of fun.

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*25. ANNIHILATION by Jeff VanderMeer

A team of four women set out to explore a mysterious region known as Area X. By all accounts, they are the twelfth group to journey into the bizarre amazon-like territory. All of the previous expeditions have ended badly, marked by murders, suicides, disappearances, and, in the case of the eleventh, the inexplicable return of its members, sickened and psychologically broken by their experience. Our narrator, a biologist, apprises us of her team’s progress as they venture deep into Area X, making strange discoveries and unearthing hidden agendas, all the while dogged by a creeping suspicion that all is not right…

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24. The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

A great near-future thriller that follows Detective Henry Palace in his investigation of a suspicious suicide – amidst the backdrop of societal breakdown as the world prepares for the apocalyptic arrival of Asteroid 2011GV.  While the clock ticks down toward an extinction level event, suicides abound and people abandon all to pursue their bucket lists, but Henry demonstrates single-minded focus.  The first book in a three part series, each focusing on a different investigation – and the continuing erosion of civilization.

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23. House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III

A clerical error sparks a property dispute between a former Iranian Air Force Colonel and a recovering addict, a conflict fueled by desperation and pride that eventually leads to tragic consequences. Dubus does a masterful job of presenting us with the very real and very sympathetic people on both sides of the issue. This one will stay with you.

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22. Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch

Herman Koch excels at developing fascinating morally ambiguous, occasionally sociopathic characters – and his books are the opposite of feel-good summer reads.  So, with that warning in mind, prepare to be thoroughly engrossed by this novel about a physician to the stars who faces some serious legal consequences after one of his celebrity patients dies following a botched medical procedure.

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21. Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

After a series of horrific child murders casts suspicion on the local Jewish community (a valuable tax source for the English court), King Henry II brings in a brilliant coroner, educated at the school of medicine in Salerno, to lead the investigation.  The only hitch – she’s a woman.  Operating at a time in England when female doctors are about as prevalent as tennis rackets, our protagonist, Adelia, must feign assistantship to her own assistant in order to solve the murders.  A great historical mystery.

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*20. We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt

A story of two sisters and their incredible bond. Nell and Layla are inseparable, the best of friends, drawn even closer by their parents’ divorce. But Nell begins to notice a change in her sister. Layla becomes withdrawn and secretive, and Nell suspects it may have something to do with a popular high school teacher. Restrained and real.

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*19. Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?  by Roz Chast

At times reminiscent of Art Spiegelman’s brilliant graphic novel Maus in its depiction of the relationship between aging parents and their middle-aged offspring, this bittersweet memoir traces artist Roz Chast’s struggles to care for her increasingly infirm mother and father as they deal with their loss of independence, their health and, eventually, each other.  At times very funny and at times heartbreaking, it’s an eye-opening account of the realities that await us all.

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*18. Afterlife with Archie (Escape from Riverdale) by Roberto Aguire-Sacasa

Archie Andrews and the gang from Riverdale face a zombie apocalypse when their high school dance is crashed by the undead, forcing them to take refuge at Lodge Manor. Surprisingly dark, this grim take on the hitherto silly comic is shockingly effective. Right up there with The Walking Dead and World War Z.

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17. N0S4A2 by Joe Hill

Hill finally comes into his own with an unsettling story about missing kids, a dark fantasy land, and a creepy yet surprisingly nuanced villain. A standout read.

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16. Going Clear by Lawrence Wright

A history of scientology and its frighteningly far reach. Terrifying.

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15. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

I generally hate blog books but this one is the exception.  Incisive, engaging, and very, very funny, it’s complimented by some perfect and perfectly hilarious illustrations.

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*14. Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

Jason Fitger writes a lot of reference letters.  A lot of woeful, meandering, passive-aggressive, unintentionally offensive reference letters that, if nothing else, offer tragic-comic insight into the world of their author, an embittered professor of creative writing at a small liberal arts school.  The book, a hilarious collection of his (un)professional missives, will have you carefully reconsidering the next time you ask someone for a professional recommendation.

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*13. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Many will no doubt draw comparisons to Kate Atkinson’s much-hyped Life After Life given the similar premise – a protagonist is continually reborn after death, reliving his/her life over and over – but whereas Atkinson’s heroine has no knowledge of her past experiences, North’s hero does and this makes for a completely different and (in my opinion) far more interesting narrative.  Armed with the memories of what came before, Harry August discovers others like him, time traveling kalachakra, who hold the secret to saving the world – and ending it.

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*12. In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides

Historical documents, journals, and personal accounts are used to reconstruct the ill-fated polar voyage of the USS Jeanette and its 33 man crew who are forced to undertake a grueling thousand mile journey across the frozen Arctic when their ship goes down in icy waters.  Harrowing.

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11. Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer

When a young American backpacker turns up dead in Capetown and her friend disappears, Detective Benny Griessel is tasked with the politically-charged job finding the missing girl.  The narrative jumps back and forth between the official investigation and the young woman on the run in this highly suspenseful, immensely captivating page-turner.  Impossible to put down, I read this novel in a single night, staying up until 2:00 a.m to finish it.

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*10. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan

It’s an going series, so I’m including it as a 2014 release.  Two former soldiers, deserters, and star-crossed lovers from opposing sides of an interplanetary conflict attempt to put the war behind them and raise their daughter with the help of some unlikely allies.  But their pasts come back to haunt them in the form of some even unlikelier enemies – and otherworldly complications.  The comic book version of an intricately plotted, character-driven cable drama.  Fiercely original.

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*9. The Troop by Nick Cutter

A field trip to an isolated island takes a horrific turn for a group of young boys when their scout leader welcomes an emaciated stranger into their camp. It’s a horror version of Lord of Flies that is at turns harrowing, humorous, and thoroughly engaging. Wonderfully written. It’s heads and shoulders above most novels in the genre.

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8. Super Graphic by Tim Leong

This visual guide to the comic book universe uses pie charts, venn diagrams, bar graphs, maps, and trajectories to highlight fun facts. Whether it’s a rundown of DC’s alternate Earths, the pizza particulars of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the alliances and connections of the denizens of Sin City, a Walking Dead kill counter, a map of Tintin’s travels, or a taxonomy of animal-named characters, there’s something here for most every fan to geek-out over. LOVED it!

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7. The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

Moorish Spain (or a fictional version thereof) is the backdrop of this sweeping historical fantasy involving sieges, warfare, diabolical plots, courtly intrigue, crosses, double-crosses, friendship, and romance. At heart of it all are three protagonists whose backgrounds and alliances lead them on intersecting paths both heroic and tragic. Brilliant world-building and wonderfully nuanced characters. My introduction to the works of author Guy Gavriel Kay novel. Highly recommended.

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6. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

When his wife goes missing, family and friends rally in support of her distressed husband – until evidence surfaces suggesting he may have had a hand in her disappearance.  As suspicion mounts and the onion is peeled on a less than ideal marriage, the reader discovers that appearances can be very deceiving.  Replete with twists and turns, a compelling read.

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*5. Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

Young Prince Yarvi is son to the King of Gettland.  Born with only one good hand and no aspirations to the throne, he has grown up in the shadow of his older brother.  But when his father and brother fall in battle, it falls on him to avenge them.  His scheming uncle has other plans, however, and Yarvi is betrayed and sold into slavery.  And so, it’s from his lowly position as a galley rower riding the Shattered Sea that his quest for revenge begins, one that will see him forge alliances with reprobates and renegades, battle fierce adversaries, and, ultimately, reforge himself into a force to be reckoned with.

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4. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

To honor the memory of his recently deceased father, Judd Altman learns he must sit shiva, spending the week in mourning with his fractured family.  Disparate personalities clash as unresolved issues resurface in this wickedly humorous novel.

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3. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Don Tillman, a brilliant but socially inept professor of genetics, comes up with the optimal means to finding his ideal companion: a sixteen page questionnaire designed to weed out unsuitable candidates and zero in on his perfect match.  His scientifically sound approach to love yields unexpected results in this touching and thoroughly charming novel.

1*2. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Inspired by an experiment in the 1930’s in which a husband and wife research team raised a baby chimp in their home as a member of their family, this novel offers a fictional account of a similar experiment run some sixty years later – and its heartbreaking effects on those involved. Our narrator is Rosemary, a woman who reflects back on her childhood, growing up with a human brother and chimpanzee sister – until the dark day her sister, Fern, was taken away. The loss of their beloved family members has far-reaching consequences for all of them. Some fifteen years later, Rosemary attempts to learn the truth about her sister’s fate.  Humorous and poignant.

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1. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The book opens with our narrator, Jeannette, on her way to a New York City function, when her cab stops beside a homeless women rooting through the trash. Upon closer scrutiny, Jeannette realizes that homeless woman is, in fact, her mother. And so begins one of the most amazing books I’ve read in recent memory. The blurb on the back of the jacket does it an enormous disservice, painting it as a bleak autobiographical account of woman growing up in an abusive family. It’s actually quite touching, uplifting – and incredibly funny, reminiscent of David Sedaris at his very darkest. One of my Top 10 books of all time. Go read it!

MY TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2014

#10 – We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt

#9 – Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

#8 – Afterlife with Archie (Escape from Riverdale) by Roberto Aguire-Sacasa

#7 – Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

#6 – The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

#5 – In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides

#4 – Saga by Brian K. Vaughan

#3 – The Troop by Nick Cutter

#2 – Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

#1 – We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Happy New Year!

August 6, 2013: Lou Anders makes the leap! The Dark Knight Sinks! Mailbag!

Congrats to our friend, Lou Anders, who is poised to make the leap from professional editor to professional author next year with the release of his first novel Thrones and Bones: Frostborn, “a fantasy inspired by Norse folklore involving a dead Viking sea captain, wyverns, and a 1,200-year-old dragon.”  The release date is August of 2014, so I informed him he’s already been booked as our August (of 2014) Book of the Month Club guest author!

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/58612-a-sneak-peek-at-phoebe-yeh-s-debut-crown-list.html

Thanks to all of you who suffered through Dark Knight Rises and took the time to submit your thoughts, in addition to the movie’s many, many stupid and illogical moments Cookie Monster missed in his review.

Thanks, in particular, to gforce and HBMC for offering links to these pointed video critiques that are just too good to languish in the comments section of this blog:

Next week, I thought it would be nice to throw Cookie Monster a bone and have him review a good movie for a change.  And so, next Monday, we’ll all be sitting down to Despicable Me 2.  The week following…

Well, that’s up to you.  Let the nomination process begin!

Mailbag:

Airelle writes: “Well Joe, movie aside,, good place for it,, how did the oven shopping go?”

Answer: We didn’t have to go shopping for a new oven after all.  When we woke up the next morning, our old oven was working again.  Scared straight, I imagine.

Supplyship writes: “I can’t tell if you’re trolling us, or if you really don’t know that actresses Anne Hathaway (Les Mis, Dark Knight Rises) and Natalie Portman (SW-Queen Amidala, Black Swan, Your Highness) are two different women?”

Answer: They are?  Are you sure?  It’s interesting to note that they’re never actually pictured together.

Phantrosity writes: ” Can you infect elephants with goa’uld symbiotes? And would you call the resulting creature a jaffafant, or a japhpha?”

Answer: Oh, I’m sure you could.  But why would you want to?  And the correct term is Jaffelephant.

Joanie writes: “Just wanted to share with you all. The new Doctor Who has been announced…It’s Peter Capaldi!”

Answer: Ah, damnit!  Always the bridesmaid; never the bride!

Bastien writes: “So tell me, great master, when is Stargate going to come back ?”

Answer: To be honest?  I think when MGM feels sufficient time has passed.

Tom writes: “How much money could be lost by turning this into an eBook?”

Answer: Don’t know.  A decision like this would be in the hands of the studio.

 

July 14, 2012: Comic Con Day #2!

“I’ve never seen so much drunk zombies.”  – Akemi walking home after drinks at the Hilton last night.

Well, not really Comic Con Day #2.  Actually, the second half of Day #1 and part of Day #2 as the festivities are ongoing.  Today = my Dark Matter signing.

Where: The Dark Horse Booth (#2615)

When: 4:00 – 5:00

Why?: In addition to checking out my cool new black eye, I’ll be giving away signed copies of Dark Matter #1 AND Stargate swag including signed scripts!

“Back off, lady!”
Zombie family out for a stroll.
Zombie Queen in line-up outside some zombie party.  Braaaaiiiins!  And drinks!
Former Amazing Race contestants, Kint and Vixen (?), not really dressed up at all.
Chicken chillin’
Cookie Monster partying when he should be home watching Steel for our Supermovie of the Week Club!
Wonder Woman teams up with Los Luchadores!
Vader vs. Zombie Nurses! I’d watch this movie!

For dinner, Akemi and I met up with ace editor Lou Anders, extraordinary artist John Picacio, and uber-talented novelist, short story writer, and Astonishing X-Men scribe Marjorie M. Liu for dinner at a place called Seersucker.

John
Lou
John and Marjorie
Cowboy Caviar, a.k.a. Prairie Oysters, a.k.a. bull testicles. I mean, it was on the menu. How could I NOT order it? John and Marjorie were brave enough to try some with me. Lou and Akemi, not so much.

Afterwards, we headed over to the Hilton for drinks with Night Shade Books’ Jeremy Lassen and friends.  On the way, ran into Remi Aubuchon, formerly of Stargate now of Fallen Skies fame, who promised to come by the booth during my signing and offer some supportive heckling.

Lunch at Nobu today.  We’re going back tonight for the sea urchin tempura!

Now, back at the hotel packing up the Stargate swag.  Off to Ghirardelli’s for a peanut butter sundae (and waffle cup for Akemi), then back to the convention center to track down a Hydra and A.I.M. t-shirt, some Dexter-related merchandise for sis, and track down some missing back issues of The Avengers and Thunderbolts. Oh, and sign some copies of Dark Matter!

September 30, 2010: The Masked Superteam Answers Your Questions! Lou Anders! Matthew Sturges! James Maxey! Paul Cornell! Daryl Gregory! Gail Simone! Mark Chadbourn! Marjorie M. Liu! And yours truly!

It’s finally here!  Nine authors and their tireless editor answer your questions about the Masked superhero-themed anthology, comic books, and writing in general.

We’ve got quite a team here.  One could go so far as to call them a “super team”.  And it strikes me that members of this literary superteam have some pretty obvious comic book counterparts…

Lou Anders (Masked)…

 

 

Lou Anders, our fearless leader. The guy with the smarts, the drive, and the resources to assemble the team. Our...

 

 

 

Iron Man

 

Arlan writes: “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?”

LA: Thanks for asking this Arlan, because very often I think people confuse what an editor does with what a copyeditor does. I’m not much when it comes to catching typos or checking grammar (although of course I catch a few), that’s the painstaking job of a copy editor, and an entirely different skill set. If I were comparing it to television, I’d say that the editor fills something more like a producer’s role and the copy editor probably maps onto the role of a line editor on set. In the case of anthologies, the theme of the anthology comes from the anthology editor, who then has to interest authors in the project, and then has to sell the theme plus wish list of authors to a publishing house. Then when the book is sold, you go back to the writers who have expressed interest or promised their participation, and you coach them on exactly what type of story you are looking for. I’m going to save talking about that process for a latter question that dovetails with this one. But in terms of structural changes, short stories are very tight animals, and the caliber of writer we had in Masked so high, that there weren’t too many major changes, just paragraph and sentence-level changes for clarity. In my other hat as Editorial Director of Pyr books though, I’ve suggested deep structural changes in some manuscripts and even gone so far as to suggest to authors what sort of manuscripts I’d like to see from them. Our forthcoming title, The Buntline Special, for example, exists because I called Mike Resnick up on the phone and said, “Hey Mike, have you ever thought about writing a weird western?”

AvidReader writes: “Lou Anders – How did you go about putting together the writers for this project? Which ones did you approach (and why?). Which ones approached you. And which ones came by way of recommendation? And why did you approach Joe about writing superhero fiction? Was it something he had mentioned being interested in?”

LA: Hi AvidReader! Once you have a theme in mind for an anthology, the anthologist puts together a wish list of authors they’d like to have for the project. In this case, the project was “prose stories of superheroes” and my intent was to make the table of contents comprised mostly of people who wrote both comics and books. However, Masked was originally sold to another publishing house, one that went through a change of ownership, and, worried about getting lost in that shuffle, I asked for the rights to revert to me. I then sold it to Pocket Books (who then decided to release it under their new imprint Gallery). But when it was originally set up at the aforementioned other publisher, that publisher was nervous about my intention to include only comic book professionals and asked that I include some heavy-hitting SF authors as well. Which is why I approached the magnificent Stephen Baxter and Ian McDonald, both of whom I’d worked with in the past, and both of whom had an interest in the genre. In terms of approaching comic book authors, I started with those I knew personally (which, it turns out, is quite a lot) and then a couple of them (most notably Paul Cornell) helped me get in touch with others. Now, as to when/how Joe was approached… I’m not actually sure, as it feels like an organic outgrowth of our association over several years now. It’s been a pet peeve of mine for a while that SF in particular is thriving in film, television and gaming but on the (apparent, disputable) decline in books, and I’m always looking for ways to encourage cross-pollination between SF narrative in different media. As a TV producer who actively reads in the genre and then turns around and generously and elegantly campaigns for literary SF&F, Joe is basically one of the great saints of the Lou Church of Speculative Fiction. Asking him to be involved was a no-brainer, the topic of the anthology in question (superheroes) is one that has already colonized multiple media formats and thus dovetails with his chosen field, and a short story is short enough that it affording Joe the opportunity to test the prose waters without committing to something longer. But we all need to harass him constantly for more, whilst showering him with praise for his magnificent contribution, to make sure this isn’t a one-off. He’s far too good at it not to write more prose fiction.

Ponytail writes: “Lou Anders – I know you are going to tell us how you choose the authors, but who picked YOU to do that and put this book together?

LA: Hi Ponytail! As I’ve said earlier, the anthologist comes up with the theme and then sells it to a publishing house. In this case, I sold Masked to the marvelous Jennifer Heddle, who works for Pocket books, but was also the editor who bought my very first professional anthology, Live without a Net, when she was at Roc a decade ago! Jen is tremendous to work with, and she is one of my favorite people in the business. She also has great taste in anthologists. (Cough, cough).

“What do you do if at the last minute an author can not meet your deadline?”

LA: I have a generic voodoo doll I keep in a file cabinet by my desk that can be adapted for just such occasions. But seriously, as long as the author is upfront and communicative about this, no problem. Often times some authors will say they would like to be involved but aren’t sure they can be, and you work around that. The only problem I have ever had was one author on another project, who said repeatedly that they were 100% absolutely in, and therefore whose story I was budgeting space for, who then went to complete radio silence the week stories were due, and didn’t contact me until one month afterward to say they never wrote it. I’ll never work with that author again in any capacity anywhere.

“When you screen the stories (by reading) what are you looking for?I have seen where you have been nominated for several book awards. Have you ever  won? If not, prepare your acceptance speech!”

LA: Thank you. So far it’s been my privilege to lose four Hugo awards, one WFC award, and one PKD award. And I’m happy to go on losing awards year after year. The only award I’ve won thus far is the Chesley Award, not for editing, but for my other hat as Art Director, and I am deeply proud and humbled by it.

“Lou Anders – you said after a particular rave review of Masked, some Hollywood producers called. What was that conversation about?”

LA: Producer: “I saw the io9 article on Masked. Can I get a copy?”
Me: (thinking privately) “Why yes you can. It’s $10.80 on Amazon, $9.99 on Kindle, and I’m sure it’s on the shelf now at the Barnes & Noble in that wonderful shopping center on 3rd Avenue in West Hollywood, right between the Farmer’s Market and CBS Studios. And since as I’m sure you are aware there are colossal orders of magnitude between what films make and what books make, perhaps you could support the arts and ask your assistant to pick it up?”
Me: (speaking aloud) “Certainly. I’ll get one sent out to you straight away.” (goes off to stuff envelope).
In all seriousness, it’s always a long shot, and we don’t honor every request from a production studio for books, but you do try and pick and choose a few promising inquiries because while a long shot, it’s nice when it pays off.

“You also said you would be interested in putting together a Masked 2. Would you call in a new group of writers and do you really think you can come close to or top the original Masked?”

LA: Oooo, that’s an interesting question. There are certainly some characters in Masked that it would be fun to see in a second outing. There are also some comic book authors who were approached for the first volume that weren’t able to be a part of it who might be available this time around. I think it would be nice to do a mix of previous and new contributors. I do think Masked would be hard to top, but as long as we keep the level of contributors equal to the high standard the authors of Masked set, we should be able to match it.

Michelle writes: “Questions for Lou Anders:
– What sort of ground rules did you give the contributors as far as the settings
of the stories, etc?
– Did you have to ask for any changes because stories were too similar or didn’t fit your vision for some reason?
– What considerations did you use to decide the order of the works?”

LA: Hi Michelle. As to ground rules, I sent the contributors a several-pages welcoming letter when the anthology was originally sold. In it, I reiterated what I had said to each of them individually. Here’s a quote from that: “… the idea is to ‘do comics in prose.’ We don’t want to be seen as poking fun from a distance. We’re not a McSweeney’s parody; we want to do work that will be recognized and appreciated by today’s readers of DC/Vertigo, Marvel, Dark Horse, Image et al. Also, the idea is to do the superhero. While I’m very aware that comics encompass a good deal more than men and women in tights, Road to Perdition sans the art panels is just a (very good) gangster story. So we are dealing with the superhero (and/or supervillian) specifically. Someone like The Shadow might be as far to the edge of the table as I’d like to go, and might even fall off that edge, as he’s really proto-superhero pulp not comic book.”

As to changes – ironically we had several superhero names show up in more than one story. We had two “Captain Jerusalem”s for some reason! This didn’t bother me, as I thought it hinted at a big comic book multiversal continuity, but Gallery wanted it changed and so one of the authors kindly volunteered to let the other have it. But apart from that, the stories really did span the spectrum of superheroes and villians. We didn’t seem to end up top heavy with Superman and Batman analogs, as you might have expected. Also, interestingly enough, we did end up with one and only one Shadow character and one Doc Savage character, so we got our proto-superhero archetypes in while leaving the majority of the book to more contemporary style heroes.

Thornyrose writes: “So I’ll throw out a question or two to Mr. Anders. if it’s not too late.
What prompted your choice of authors to solicit stories from? What restrictions or instructions were the authors given before taking on the task? And what are the chances of a sequel volume?
thank you Mr. M. for the blog entries and author introductions. thanks to all the authors participating, and to Mr. Anders for bringing the idea to fruition.”

LA: Hi Thornyrose! I’ve touched on a lot of this already, but I’ll add that we really stressed how important it was to look at what comic books have grown into today. We really didn’t want to approach this from an angle of nostalgia or camp. You can see, I’m sure, how easily it would be for outsiders to fill a book with silly stories written out of imperfect memories of the 60s Batman TV show, etc… In fact, the working title of the book was Holy Super Anthology!, which was junked almost immediately because it invoked exactly the wrong tone. Likewise, early in-house mock-ups of the cover art looked too pop and too camp, and I pushed from the start to get an actual comic book illustrator on the project – in this case, the fantastic Trevor Hairsine (another who Paul Cornell put us in touch with). As to a sequel… I haven’t explored this possibility yet, but I’d say the chances are directly proportional to how many copies of the first book sells! Finally, as that’s my last question, a big thanks to Joe and all his readers for all their support for this and other projects over the past few years. Deeply appreciated.

Matthew Sturges (“Cleansed and Set in Gold”)…

 

 

Matt's wild, no-holds-barred, in-your-face opener marks him as a furious force to be reckoned with. He's our...

 

 

 

Wolverine

 

Arlan writes: “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).”

MS: The idea for Wildcard’s power came from a question I’d been playing with for a while: what if a hero’s power came from a source so horrible that he could never tell anyone what it was? It all kind of spiraled out of that.)

Quade writes: “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”?”

MS: I don’t have any immediate plans to revisit Wildcard or that world, but I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a novel around those characters. Not sure if anyone would buy it, though. If, however, Lou invites me back for Masked 2, you can bet that we’ll see more of him.)

AvidReader writes: “Matthew Sturges – Gripping story but I had one big question. If Wildcard had the power of mind control available to him, why didn’t he use it earlier rather than having the reporter come to his apartment and get as far as she did?”

MS: I think that people of goodwill have an innate desire to confess their sins. The scene with the reporter isn’t as much about her as it is about him. You’re right–he could have taken care of her without even talking to her. But he needed to get it off his chest, and this was the perfect opportunity.

TimC writes: ““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?”

MS: The novels are actually rather less dark. They have their moments, but the two novels are more along the lines of what you’d expect from a standard fantasy novel, temperamentally speaking. I count myself lucky to have more than one avenue for getting ideas out of my head because my imagination tends to be all over the map.

As far as being drawn to that kind of storytelling, it’s true, but I’ve never spent much time wondering about it. I clearly remember reading The Shining when I was thirteen years old and thinking, “Where has this been all my life?” The great thing about horror to me is how deeply it affects us; great horror slaps you in the face and makes you confront and feel things.

KellyK writes: “General question for those Masked authors who make a living writing comic books. I’d like to know how they would compare the challenges of writing for both genres. Pros? Cons?”

MS: In one way, comics is easier. Writing good prose is very taxing, and in comics the only part of your script that the end user ever sees is the dialog; the artist handles the fine points of the narrative. When you’re writing scene and panel descriptions in a comic script, your only audience is the artist, and the main goal there is simply clarity. You don’t need to worry about coming up with the mot juste in order to describe events; you just have to describe them. On the other hand, comics is a very structured medium. Pages are only so big, and individual issues are only so long: typically you have twenty-two pages in which to tell a chunk of story, no more, no less. I imagine it must be a bit like television writing, in which you’re constrained by necessity to structure the story a specific number of acts, each of a specific length. That kind of constraint can be very helpful in structuring a story, but it can also be hellishly limiting. Ultimately, they’re apples and oranges. The one thing that stays the same across any medium is writing effective dialog, and that, to me, is where the true challenge lies.

Ponytail writes: “Matthew Sturges – Thank you for my first ever introduction to comic books with Cleansed and Set in Gold. Loved it! How old were you when you started writing and what did you write about? (crazy stuff, I bet!)”

MS: The first thing I ever actually finished was a short story I wrote when I was eighteen called “Conscience and the Letter Q,” which was a brave attempt at a Borgesian psychological horror story about a kid who murders his step-father. The story is lost to the ages, so I have no idea if it was any good, but it probably wasn’t! It takes a long, long time to get good, unless you’re some kind of crazy genius like John Kennedy Toole. That said, I’d been tinkering with writing since I was about six years old. I think that bug hits most writers pretty early!

Michael A. Burstein writes: “Here is my one question for Matthew Sturges. I don’t think he covered it in the story (if he did, I apologize for missing it), but it’s been bugging me ever since I read it. How did Wildcard discover his powers? Given how he gets his powers, it seems unlikely he ever would have, um, taken the action needed to get his powers to kick in the first time.”

MS: My best guess is that someone lost a finger in an unfortunate accident in a hot dog factory, and that’s where it started. To be honest, I never really worked it out on the assumption that whatever you imagine is more dreadful that anything I could write.

James Maxey (“Where Their Worm Dieth Not”)…

 

 

Erudite yet incredibly entertaining, James is a big-thinker with a huge sense of fun. So, naturally, he's...

 

 

 

The Beast

 

Starship1 writes: “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?”

JM: Definitely a niche market, but slightly less risky than it once was. Ten years ago, the only superhero novels getting printed were licensed properties. You’d find Batman and X-men novels, but any book written about these existing characters required the characters returned to the status quo at the end of the book. Stand alone superhero novels were really rare. When my debut novel Nobody Gets the Girl game out, bookstores weren’t quite sure where to place it. I’d go into some stores and find it with the graphic novels, which probably surprised shoppers who picked it up and found no pictures inside. Other stores would stock it in the science fiction section, while still other stores would place it in the general fiction area.

There was a time when, if your book didn’t fit into a existing marketing slot in a book store, it was doomed. Things are changing now. I’m seeing more and more original superhero novels getting published, like Ghosts of Manhattan and Ex-Heroes. Amazon has given a lifeline to micro-genres. It’s like a store with infinite shelf space, so a book doesn’t have to be a bestseller to be stocked. When you go buy Masked, you get suggestions for other superhero prose. People enthusiastic about superhero novels build reader lists that can lead people to great books that never made it into Barnes and Nobles, like Mur Lafferty’s Playing for Keeps.

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

JM: Here three competing trends collide. Trend one: The appetite for prose fiction in general is on a decline. Short stories in particular have fewer and fewer homes that pay professional rates, and, with very rare exceptions, even if you sell to the top markets, short stories are lucky to be read by more than a few thousand readers. Trend two: It’s easier than ever to get a book or a short story published. So, you have more titles hitting the market at a time when you have less demand, which means that the readers available to an average book are dropping. Trend three: Superheroes are hot and getting hotter. When I was a teenager, superheroes were mostly trapped in comic books and being a fan past the age of 12 labeled you as a nerd. And heaven help you if you were one of those pathetic nerds who would actually go to a comic book convention. Today, events like ComicCon draw crowds in excess of 100,000 fans. Every year, you can count on at least two or three superhero movies being released, and odds are good one of these movies will be the highest grossing movie of the year. There have been enough superhero television shows now that it’s only a matter of time before there’s a cable network devoted to nothing but superheroes. If even 1 superhero fan in 100 who buys movie tickets is interested in reading prose superheroes, that’s a huge potential market.

“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?”

JM: I think the biggest boost would come if a really big name author tackled the genre. If Stephen King or J.K Rowling decided that their next book was going to feature super-powered men in tights, other publishers would scramble to release similar books. Of course, King’s novels already feature a lot of people with superpowers—telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis—but since his heroes don’t put on capes and fight masked villains, his readers don’t know they’re reading about superheroes.

TimC writes: “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?”

JM: The last question first: Obviously, comics aren’t just for kids any more. Most of the critically acclaimed stuff that’s gone on to mainstream respectability, like Sandman and Watchmen, are among my favorites as well. I also liked how Marvel’s Civil War books provided commentary on the balance of privacy versus security, reflecting many of the debates that unfolded in the aftermath of 9-11. I thought that John Ostrander’s Spectre series was really daring in its examination of big moral questions. In some ways, he used that series to put the very notion of God on trial. And the Hourman series written by Tom Peyer repeatedly surprised me with genuine insights into human nature.

The first half of your question is something I’ve spent a lot of time pondering. Why do superheroes and superpowers feel so right? It seems like we should have evolved to accept that we are fairly sluggish, earth-bound creatures. What possible evolutionary advantage can come from imagining that we can run as fast as lightning, or fly like a bird, or lift trucks over our heads? Attempting these things is likely to get us killed and removed from the genetic pool. Yet we can and do imagine these things, and it seems to be hardwired into us. Tell any three-year-old boy that Superman can fly and it makes sense to him. Of course he can fly, and other men can turn invisible, and some men are bulletproof. You can find these same powers popping up in Greek and Egyptian mythology. Visit a tribe in the Amazon that’s never seen a comic book and you’ll discover that they also have tales of heroes who fly, or turn into animals, or breathe underwater. Superheroes seem to be fundamental to the human psyche.

My personal experience is embarrassing, but possibly typical. Until I was almost twenty, I just assumed that one day I would be able to fly. Some doctor would tell me I had the right genetic mutation, or there would be an accident with a radioactive hummingbird, or I’d find the flight-ring left behind by some time traveler. I used to make lists of the stuff I’d need when I finally got my superpowers. I figured biker gear would be the most practical outfit; the leather could stand up to high speed flight and a full helmet would keep bugs out of my teeth. I’d drive around with my left arm held out the open window, feeling the way the wind would run along my skin when I tilted my hand at different angles, cataloging the best ways to hold my arms to minimize drag. Intellectually, if you’d asked me if I’d ever be able to fly one day, I knew I wouldn’t. But, emotionally, it felt self-evident that I would one day. I can still remember the instant when I realized that it wasn’t going to happen. There was this really old man who lived near the college I attended; I don’t remember his name now, but he had to be in his 90’s. He was very frail, but he insisted on walking everywhere on his own. One day I was watching him walking across a room and thinking, “He looks like he’s about to fall over,” and then, bam, he did fall over, breaking his arm. A dozen people ran to help him. I just sat there, feeling so powerless. I kept thinking, if I’d been able to fly already, I could have just swooped in and caught him. Then I grew very chilled by the understanding that was never going to happen. I wasn’t ever going to have the power to swoop in and save anyone. I can still feel the ache of that moment.

But I learned in that moment that the driving force behind my superhero dream wasn’t just about having special powers, it was about having the power to help people. The world is full of bad things that happen to good people, and at the root of the superhero dream is the desire to make the world better. I didn’t want to fly so that I could save money on airfare; I wanted to fly so that I could keep old men from breaking their arms. Superman doesn’t lift cars over his head to impress Lois Lane. He’s out fighting lawlessness, imposing a sense of order to challenges that seem to be beyond the grasp of mere humanity. You get the myth of the Batman because the forces we create to deal with the challenges of poverty and criminality do so often seem impotent, or outright corrupt. Since ordinary human institutions so often let us down, we crave the strong man who can stand up and sock the bad guy in the jaw and make the world right again.

Of course, since superheroes aren’t going to ride to our rescue, it’s up to us, as mere mortals, to battle the suffering and unfairness of the world. I think that the reason the superhero dream has been built into our brains by evolution is that it drives us to be better people.

AvidReader writes: “James Maxey – Excellent story although some of the elements, especially the torture scenes, were difficult to read. Even though you already touched on it in your last visit here, I’d love to know more about your reasons for writing this story and how it applies to your love of comic books. There was so much going on here that I wondered if you considered either making it longer or using it as the basis for a future novel.”

JM: The potential for a book is definitely there. I especially have some ideas about Atomahawk that would probably be enough to keep my brain engaged for a year, which is roughly the amount of time it takes me to work a novel through all of its various drafts. But, this possible novel is competing in my brain with a half dozen other ideas, so it’s tough to say when I’ll finally get around to it.

As you say, I love comic books, and because I spend so much time thinking about them, I often find myself wondering, if a super-powered being did exist, would the superhero career be the best use of their abilities?  For instance, say that you were Superman, and you learned that Lois Lane had breast cancer. With your x-ray vision and heat vision, you could identify all the cancer cells within her and zap them, saving her life. But, of course, if you had this power, would you have the ethical right to stop with her? Let the cops deal with bank robberies, and fire-fighters deal with burning buildings. With your super-speed, you could probably treat a few thousand patients a day, curing stage five cancers that no doctor or drug can touch. And, since you can fly, you can treat patients in New York one day, London the next, Moscow, Tokyo, etc. You could do this 24/7 and save 365,000 lives a year.

Isn’t it more important to do this than to piddle around with Lex Luthor? But, what if once you did turn into Cancer Curing Man, all money going into cancer research dried up? Why would any company spend billions looking for a cure if you’re around? And right now, fear of cancer is probably the biggest reason smoking has declined so much in the US. What if people started smoking again because they knew that Superman wouldn’t let them die of lung cancer? Could you, as Superman, refuse to treat smokers?

Fundamentally, these are stupid questions. There is no Superman. I shouldn’t be awake at three in the morning thinking about this stuff. But, as long as my brain insists on following these mental pathways, I may as well be writing stories based on these meanderings.

Since you mention the torture scene in “Where Their Worm Dieth Not,” let me tell you some of the reasons why I included it. At first glance, it might seem like I’m trying to portray Retaliator as secretly evil or at least crazy by revealing what he does to small time crooks. But, I fully understand the impulses that drive him to such extremes. My best friend was once robbed at gun point. They took his wallet and said that since they had his driver’s license they’d come to where he lived and kill him if he called the cops. Of course, he called the cops anyway, and they caught the two robbers a few hours later driving a car they’d stolen with the driver still tied up and locked in the trunk. So, by my count, they were guilty of kidnapping, armed robbery, and grand theft auto. They should have gone to jail for years, but did a plea bargain and wound up serving six months. My girlfriend’s old apartment was broken into twice, and neither time did the police even send out a squad car. They just took the report over the phone. I had the same response when someone smashed in the window of my car and stole my stereo. I understand that society only has a limited number pool of resources. I don’t know that I’d want to live in a police state powerful enough to stop all crime. But on a gut level, I still feel a sense of outrage that these small time criminals can get away with only a slap on the wrist in the unlikely event they are caught at all. Retaliator is just the expression of this anger. I’m counting on the reader being repulsed by his extremes, but still understanding and maybe even sympathizing with his attempts to impose justice in an unjust world.

Paul Cornell (“Secret Identity”)…

 

 

Scripts, comic books, short stories, and more - Paul is only limited by the power of his limitless imagination. He's our...

 

 

 

Green Lantern

 

TimC writes: “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.”

PC: I’ve always been a fan of Captain Marvel, and I’d always been interested in what the differences would be between the child Billy Batson and the adult he transformed into. My thought process was to find a big difference between secret identity and hero, and the rest went from there. Obviously, one then has a responsibility to make the gay person recognisable to, and relatable to for, gay people. So one asks them. I think there should be a lot more gay characters in comics, and I think we’re getting some good portrayals now, notably Batwoman and Scandal in Secret Six.  A gay male hero in the mainstream is the next thing, I hope.

KellyK writes: “General question for those Masked authors who make a living writing comic books. I’d like to know how they would compare the challenges of writing for both genres. Pros? Cons?”

PC: Well, media rather than genres.  Swapping between media really requires an effort, as Joe I’m sure will attest.  TV and comics have a lot in common, but demand a change in how one thinks about movement.  Try saying ‘she walks out of the door and slams it behind her’ to a comic book artist. Which bit of that is the drawing?  You have unlimited effects budget in comics, but, as in TV, limited space/time.  In prose, of course, anything goes, which always makes it my favourite. It’s then important to *let* yourself do anything, and recognize when it’s right to do so.

AvidReader writes: “Paul Cornell – A great story with a great, great hero. You said you ran this story by some of your gay friends and I’m ultracurious about how they responded. Were they very positive? Were their elements of the story that were changed a result of their input?”

PC: Thank you.  Some of their notes were about Canal Street, purely research details from those who’d spent a lot of time there.  But some of it was about the fears and emotional stresses of being in relationships that don’t have the entire enormous support of mainstream culture.

Kingfisher writes: “For Paul Cornell, What’s the deal with UK comic book writers?  The gang from the other side of the pond rule comics.  Why do think this is?  Is there something there an experience that is uniquely English or Scottish that translates particularly well to comic books?”

PC: I think some of it is economic circumstance: we’re the other country that does comics, and we speak English.  If the US was Francophone, the French comic creators would be the big thing.  We were brought up with all sorts of genres, which gives us a slightly outsider perspective on superheroes, and we grew up with weekly anthologies, which gave us the quality of brevity.  Glad you like the results.

Milani writes: “If you had to choose between writing for television or writing for comic books, which would it be and why?  Writing short stories probably doesn’t even come close to paying as well as the other two, so what is it about the short form that draws you to it?  Does it give you a different sense of satisfaction or does it provide a venue for telling a different type of story?”

PC: I’d choose prose, then comics.  Apart from a couple of juicy possibilities I’m waiting on, I’m hoping to give up TV soon.  The short form is the most challenging, and means you have to express yourself briefly.  Also, I keep being offered nice assignments in short stories, like this one, which I think is one of my best.

Daryl Gregory (“Message from the Bubblegum Factory”)…

 

 

Creatively courageous, big-hearted, and sporting boyish good looks. Daryl is who else but -

 

 

 

Captain America

 

AvidReader writes: “Daryl Gregory – I loved the humor in this story. It’s something you do very well judging from The Devil’s Alphabet. Overall, MftBF ranks as one of my favorite – except for the metafictional twist at the end that I wasn’t a fan of. Why the decision to go that way? Was it something you had planned from the moment you sat down to write the story? And how’s Dracula: The Company of Monsters coming along?”

DG: Hey, AvidReader! Thanks again for reading The Devil’s Alphabet. As for “Message from the Bubblegum Factory,” that metafictional slant was the idea from the beginning, starting with the title, and then onto the first line of the story, which was addressed to “Dear Reader.” (Maybe in the reprint we’ll change it to “Dear Avid Reader.”) But the questions that threads throughout the story — is the narrator trapped in Soliton’s story? does he have free will? — came from taking the rules of the “ultimate big company superhero universe” (as Bill Willingham has it) at face value, treating them seriously, and not in a jokey way.

The narrator is trying to come up with an explanation that fits all the facts of his world — which are the facts of Marvel’s universe, or DC’s. Those worlds diverge from ours when that first superhero appears. Superman starts out fighting gangsters, but soon enough supervillains start showing up, and other superheroes. So, putting on my science fiction writer hat, I wondered, what would explain that? Maybe it’s a virtual reality like a game world, maybe a pocket universe designed especially for Soliton. Or it could be that the narrator is insane. I do have an answer, and I have two more stories in the Soliton universe planned, following Eddie King’s quest to kill his step-father. I just need time to write them!

TimC writes: “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?”

DG: Okay, Tim, now I have to go out and trademark “that Daryl Gregory sense of humor.”

You got me thinking, though. What _is_ my brand of humor? I definitely have a preference in my own stories for comedy that grows out of characters reacting to horrible, terrifying situations, and not from me, the author, adding funny elements to the story, like say an alien with a speech impediment. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Dr. Zoidberg is hands-down my favorite Futurama character.)

In my own stuff I like to have characters use humor in dialog to cover up their fear, humiliation, or despair. In “Bubblegum Factory”, I liked the dissonance between the narrator’s jaunty patter and his depressed mental state. The nuking of Chicago was the 9/11 of his world,  and he blames Soliton for that, but he’s still keeping up the facade of the bantering sidekick. It’s an approach I used in my first novel, whose first-person narrator is having a mental breakdown, and a technique a writing teacher of mine likened to Bluegrass music — if you’re going to talk about murder and betrayal and your dog dying, at least do it to a snappy tempo.

I also like it when characters have deadpan reactions to the latest absurdity. Think “Sean of the Dead” when Mom complains that the people trying to get into the house were “a bit bitey.” Or in Chris Roberson’s comic “iZombie,” the great moment when a guy discovers that his best friend is a were-terrier. He doesn’t freak out, though — the two friends sit down together and play video games. It’s funny, but it works because it’s true to the characters. In my own stuff, if I have someone step out of character to get a laugh from the reader, I may have won the sentence but lost the story.

In “Dracula: Company of Monsters,” there wasn’t much room for the funny in issue 1, but as I work on the scripts I’m finding more and more opportunities for the kinds of comedy I like. The main character Evan, who has been drafted by his uncle in a plan to resurrect Dracula, is in way over his head. As the bodies pile up, Evan would like to be running to an asylum, but he can’t afford to do that. The scenes where he’s desperately trying to come to grips with the latest horror are some of the darkest and funniest scenes in the book. For me, anyway. Some people just don’t find impalement as amusing as I do.

TimC continues: 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?”

DG: Oops — I answered your last question above. Two more Soliton stories to come, Tim — I just don’t know where or when.

As for my first superhero story, I was lucky. I’d been invited into the anthology Eclipse 2, which was supposed to be a collection of original SF and fantasy, but then I turned in this superhero story. Later it was reprinted in a year’s best fantasy anthology, and then in a year’s best SF anthology, so I don’t think anyone knows what genre it is either. With some exceptions, like Stephen Baxter’s tale for Masked, “Vaccum Lad”, superhero stories usually don’t make sense as science fiction. (Reactionless flight? X-Ray vision that works how again?) But even when you invoke magic to explain superpowers (as Paul Cornell does in his story for Masked), they _feel_ more like science fiction. So…. yeah. I was glad the Eclipse editor, Jonathan Strahan, didn’t reject the story out of hand.

AnnettefromSW writes: “You were a comic book fan when you were younger and are now writing comics professionally.  What are the top five comic book characters you’d like to write for an why?  P.S. I think you’d be great on any of the Spiderman titles.”

DG: It’s very simple, people. Let me write Captain America, or the kitten gets it.

I have a great love for the low-powered, street-level heroes like Daredevil, Hawkeye, Batman, and yes, Spider-Man. The stakes seem to be higher when the stats on the character sheet are lower, and I love how there’s room for small tensions and moments in their stories. Something about Peter Parker trying to hide his costume from Aunt May gets to me.

I also particularly love stories about supervillains, and the supervillain lifestyle. Give me any story about the Thunderbolts, or Flash’s Rogues, or Marvel’s TaskMaster and I’ll run with it.

Gail Simone (“Thug”)…

 

 

Revered by legions of fan, Gail is champion of the deemed irredeemable. She's our...

 

 

 

Wonder Woman

 

dasNdanger writes: “@ Gail Simone – 1. In school, where you the bully, the bullied, or the bystander?”

GS: Neither. This probably sounds like baloney, but I hated bullies, always have, and I was tall and athletic for my age. So I used to be the girl who would push around the bullies and tell them to knock it off. I remember chasing one bully into the girl’s room and scaring the crap out of her.  Maybe a little Batgirl was in my mind at the time. Still hate bullies to this day.

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

GS: I think if the characters are writing the story, you’re doing something wrong. They may have ideas, they may get feisty, but the writer still has to drive the vehicle.

“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?”

GS: Hi, Das!  Well, in prose, I think it can be very awkward, these lengthy image description passages. The well-chosen phrase is preferable to a dozen overly flowery ones. So I’d prefer being a bit strict, I think. In comics, I give guidelines to the artists, but I want them to have freedom to use their gifts, that’s why they’re drawing, and not me.

EllenofA writes: “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.”

GS: I don’t have anything particularly illuminating to say about this, I’m afraid, Ellen. Characters are characters. We’re always writing people outside of our own bodies, or it’d be pretty grim reading our stuff. I guess I would say that the spectrum of characters available is what makes writing at DC or MARVEL fun in the first place, you know?

“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?”

GS: It’s not so much that I like the bad guys, as that I enjoy the extremes that comics allows us to write towards. I mean, in comics, you can have the Hulk on one end and Mr. Fantastic on the other, and both are speaking fantasy dialogue, essentially, but it’s fun partially because it’s so damn odd. I see a lot of comics writers writing all the characters with a ‘modern’ ear, making it sound like the conversation in a coffee shop. But that’s boring to me, who wants to hear Galactus talk about the weather?

So, with the bad guys, it’s the twist in speech and behavior that I love. That they curve when they should fire straight. And it’s always fun writing about desperate people.

TimC writes: “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?”

GS: Well, comics allow the artist to do so much of the storytelling, and prose obviously does not. But there are some similar skill sets, like a decent ear for dialogue and hopefully having the understanding of the movement of a plot, etc. So I would hope that most comic writers would have most of the skills needed to write prose or cinema.  I enjoyed the process quite a bit. I had Alvin’s voice and story in my mind before writing it, thankfully. I always say the best advice I can give an aspiring writer is this…Know what it is that would break your character’s heart.  I think if you know that, you know both the strengths and weaknesses of your character.

Pontytail writes: ““Gail Simone – Absolutely loved Thug! Where any of the characters patterned after anyone you know?”

GS: Hhm. I don’t think so, now that you mention it. No one springs to mind, sorry, Ponytail!

KellyK writes: “General question for those Masked authors who make a living writing comic books. I’d like to know how they would compare the challenges of writing for both genres. Pros? Cons?”

GS: Well, I’m pretty hooked on writing comics, Kelly, simply because I love seeing a talented artist take my words and make beautiful pictures out of them. But having complete control, as you do in prose, is pretty lovely as well!

AvidReader writes: “Gail Simone – I love Secret Six! Great. Now that that’s out of the way – Thug. I loved Thug! The clunky language was a little daunting at first but, once you get a handle of it, the story goes very quickly. Thug touched me more deeply than any story in the anthology. Have you been surprised by the response to Thug? Has this experience made you consider possibly writing more prose? Is there a novel in you?”

GS: Thank you, Avid. Yeah, I have been a little surprised. Noting the talent and resumes of the other contributors, there’s always the very real possibility that my story would stink and I’d embarrass myself and have to go live in a hovel selling ships in a bottle to deranged tourists. But the response has been astounding, several writers I really adore said it was their favorite story in the book, or one of their favorites, and a surprising number of people said the story made them cry.  It’s nice to have a story that stuck with people, that meant something to them.  I can only offer my gratitude to those readers.

There might be a novel. I get asked a lot. I’m working on something in my spare time, in fact.

Thanks everyone, for the nifty questions. Hope you picked up the book, there are some wonderful stories in there!

Joseph Mallozzi (“Downfall”)…

 

 

Hey, who invited him? The team's lovable oddball, I was thinking Vibe but eventually went with...

 

 

 

Booster Gold

 

Arlan writes: “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?”

Joe: Strange as it sounds, it ended up as long as it did because that’s as long as it took to tell.  I suppose if I had wanted it shorter, I could have simply tackled a different story.

AvidReader writes: “Joe – Well done. I really enjoyed Downfall. And, while reading it, I couldn’t help but have Marshall remind me of a certain producer. How much of Marshall is you? Were any of the other characters inspired by people you know? And how did you come up with all those crazy superhero names?”

Joe: They say you should write about what you know and, while I admittedly know little about being a reformed supervillain, I do know plenty about mothers who enjoy reading Maeve Binchy.  To be honest, I wasn’t consciously drawing from experience while writing any of the characters although it’s funny that several people who know me said they found my depiction of Marshall somewhat autobiographical.  As for those crazy superhero names all I needed was a dictionary, google search to make sure none of the crazy monikers were taken, and plenty of time.

Ponytail writes: “Joe Mallozzi – Between writing and producing a TV show, travels abroad, keeping up this awesome daily blog, culinary adventures, making specialty desserts, etc, etc, where did you find the time to write a short story?”

Joe: One of the nice/horrible things about being a writer is that you’re rarely ever not working on something.  Whether it’s lying in bed, eating a meal, or listening to your significant other talk about her day, the wheels are always turning.  I tend to run through a particular scene in my head a couple of dozen times before I’ll write it down.  Countless rewrites follow.

“What did your family think about Masked and your short story?”

Joe: Alas, they’ve yet to check it out.  Lulu, my French bulldog, sniffed it curiously several times so I’m optimistic she’ll get around to it eventually.

“Any plans in the future to leave television and become a full time book writer?”

Joe: Who knows what the future holds?  I have an idea for a pretty wacky novel – and an equally wacky second short story.  It’s all about finding the time…

“I forgot I wanted to ask you one more question. The black lab named Remy. Well? Any correlation with your co-worker Remi Aubuchon? Tell the truth!”

Joe: Actually, no.  I came up with the name of Marshall’s black lab well before we’d hired Remi though, for what it’s worth, Remi Aubuchon is just as lovable and great with kids.

“Joe – Lou Anders specifically said your story was one that would make a great movie. How does that make you feel? What if Downfall was made into a movie? Would this definately persuade you to write comics full time?”

Joe: I wouldn’t need any persuading.  I’m presently scripting the first issue of an original comic book series.  More on that in the coming weeks.

Paloosa writes: “1) Any particular writers or story influences that helped you with the choices you made as you struggled through it?”

Joe: Not too long ago, I read a terrific piece of writing advice that came from author Joe Abercrombie.  Actually, it came from Joe’s mother who told him that, when writing “you have to try to be honest”.  As Joe goes on to explain: “Everything that seems dishonest, that seems unconvincing, that seems untrue, weakens the effect. If you keep honest, you can’t go too far wrong.”  And I really took that to heart as I was working “Downfall”.  There were countless times when I’d stop to read what I’d written, and think: “This isn’t me.”  If it felt forced or less-than-genuine, I’d scrap it and start over.  In the end, I have no idea if “Downfall” is honestly great, but I do know it was honest.

“2) Do you feel satisfied in what you accomplished with this story?”

Joe: Very.  The fact that I actually completed it was an accomplishment.  And the very positive feedback I’ve received since its publication has made it all the more satisfying.

“3) What did you learn that might make this process a little less painful for you in writing your next short story adventure?”

Joe: I’ve got a secret for you: most writers I know hate to write because writing is an inherently painful process.  I suppose I’d liken it to childbirth.  Now I’ve never experienced childbirth and chances are pretty good I never will, but I hear it’s mighty painful.  And yet, despite the pain, women continue to have babies.  They may not be as adorable as a nice, fresh copy of your latest book hot off the presses, but I’m sure they nevertheless provide a certain sense of satisfaction.

dasNdanger writes: “Joe – There is one thing I wanted to discuss, and it has to do with the third question I asked Gail – about character descriptions. I noticed you didn’t go into too much detail, and though you did include some description, for my tastes it wasn’t enough. That was the only thing I found lacking in your story.”

Joe: Whenever I read, I tend to skim over the descriptive passages.  As a result, I prefer to be economical in my descriptions, offering up the broad strokes and then allowing the reader to fill in the rest of the picture.

“That said, Joe, if you could also address the last two questions I asked Gail, I’d appreciate it: 1. When you write, do you always stick to your outline, or do your characters start writing the story for you? (I am always curious about this aspect of writing, and like to get different takes on it…and I can’t remember if I’ve asked you this before.)”

Joe: I knew the general story, where I wanted to end up, and most of the scenes in between.  I think it helps to have an outline or, at the very least, a general blueprint of the story in your head, especially if you’re looking to write a series of satisfying set-ups and pay-offs.

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

 

 

His contribution is dark, atmospheric, and mysterious - in contrast to Mark's dashing, charming self. He's our...

 

 

 

Batman

 

Arlan writes: “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.”

MC: Thanks, Arlan.  The twist was the premise so I had to work back from the reveal at the end.

AvidReader writes: “Mark Chadbourn – An awesome story with a very, very cool twist. You’re incredibly prolific and most of your work is in the fantasy realm. I’d like to know if your experience with Masked will lead you to branch out to more superhero-themed fiction? Did trying your hand at another genre maybe lead you to consider branching out? I know you’ve written for television, but I was even thinking along the lines of science fiction? And what’s happening with your pilot?”

MC:  Thanks for the kind words about my ‘Masked’ story. Yes, I currently write fantasy, but I started out writing supernatural thrillers, and I’ve done some SF and crime. I’d be more than happy to do more SF in the future, and to do some more superhero fiction. A lot of writers don’t feel bound by genre limits – they just want to tell stories, and some might fit in one area, and some in another. Personally, I think it’s important for authors to keep shaking up what they do to keep things fresh. The big danger is falling into a rut.

The TV pilot is *sighs wearily* working its way through meeting after meeting.

Everything moves slowly in TV…until it moves fast…)

TimC writes: “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?”

MC:  TimC, firstly let me say, Wonder Woman should *never* have killed that villain.  It was wrong on so many levels.  On the wider issue, I think it’s about maintaining a balance.  The array of heroes should represent as many different outlooks as we have in the real world.  Too many bright Silver Age optimists is as bad as too many grim ‘n’ gritty 80s/90s archetypes.  As readers, we’re all much more sophisticated than the younger readership that was prevalent in the sixties, and I think we need more complex, nuanced heroes rather than one-note good guys.  But I think for a hero to be a hero there has to be a well-defined moral code and that seems lacking, or at least warped, in some contemporary heroes.  Heroes that have ‘Dark’ in the title, or aspire to that, don’t appeal to me, really.  They always end up too simplistic, basic fan-boy fodder.  Batman is much more complex than that.  I have written some comics in the past – a creator-owned Image miniseries, Negative Burn and some other stuff for the now defunct-Caliber.  In the future?  Love to, but that’s up to other people.

Marjorie M. Liu (“Call Her Savage”)…

 

 

A powerhouse with a sense of adventure, when it comes to Marjorie expect the unexpected. She's our...

 

 

 

Psylocke

 

KellyK writes: “General question for those Masked authors who make a living writing comic books. I’d like to know how they would compare the challenges of writing for both genres. Pros? Cons?”

ML: I don’t really see any negatives or challenges.  Well, except for issues of time, and not having enough of it.

I love writing novels, which allow me the space to go deep and complex with a character, and really flesh out a world.  I also love writing comics, which are only twenty-two pages long, and require short, compact stories that rely on dialogue and art to convey what’s going on.  I love the fact that I own the characters in my novels, and I love that in comics I get to play in someone else’s sandbox with established, archetypal characters, such as Wolverine and X-23.

I love telling stories, period.  And I feel very blessed that I get to do so.

EllenofA writes: “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.”

ML: That’s a hard question to answer, for several reasons.  First of all, I don’t typically think of the industry as male-dominated, mostly because I’m well aware of all the women who work in comics.  There are many women creators in this business who are doing fantastic work.  Nor have I experienced any sexism.  I write stories — and no one looks at my gender first before reading the words on the page.

As for your other question, I’ve probably written more male characters in my novels than I have in comics, to be honest!  Or maybe it’s an even split.  I’m not sure, and it doesn’t really matter.  I don’t write by gender.  I write by character.  A male character will have insecurities, obsessions, fears…and all of that will be highly individual.  Same with a female character.  It’s fun!

“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?).”

ML: It had been tickling around my imagination for a while, but not in any coherent shape or form.  Having to write the story for Lou brought everything into focus.  And yes, there are details, history, that didn’t make it into the story — and that are still forming in my head.  When everything has reached boiling point, I think I might like to turn it into a novel.

AvidReader writes: “I really liked your story and was amazed by the world building. Don’t mean to sound like a fantasy ubernerd, but do you create a map? How detailed a backstory did you create for this alternate setting? How much did your Chinese background influence the story? And are you still practicing law? I’d be fascinated to hear how you made the leap from a lawyer’s office to the writer’s study.”

ML: I didn’t create a map, though I do have a sense of where territories — physical and cultural — end and begin in that alternate universe.  Similarly, the backstory isn’t incredibly detailed, but that’s beginning to change.  I need to do some more research, and really immerse myself in that world.  All my visits to China help, to some degree.  I’ve spent a lot of time over there, so I’d say that my background and travels did influence the story to some degree.  It’s always hard to say by how much, but in this instance, it was definitely on my mind.

Nope, not practicing law.  And the leap was fairly simple — at least on paper.  I sold my first book and gave up my legal career to write full time.  I didn’t have a lot of money, and it was a risk — but I stuck with it, and I’m very happy with that decision.  Of course, there’s more to the story, but those are the essentials.

dasNdanger writes: “First let me say that I am thoroughly enjoying Dark Wolverine (now Daken: Dark Wolverine), and I’m impressed by how well this character is being developed. I think he’s made a surprising impact on Marvel U, especially considering the ‘not-another-Wolverine!’ bellyaching he was met with in the beginning. Personally, I loved how Way introduced the slippery little bastard, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Like someone on Bendis’ forum said the other day, Daken makes it cool to be a douchebag.”

ML: Thank you!

“Anyhoo…A few years back I had the privilege of handling a Q&A with Daniel Way for the Marvel discussion forums. Although Origins still had a ways to go, he was able to shed a little light on this newly introduced character, just enough to whet our appetites for what was to come. Now Origins has come to pass and though we do know more about Daken, he still remains quite the mystery, and I do love a good mystery!”

ML: So do we, though we’ll be peeling back some layers over the next twelve months — emotional layers, anyway.  We know Daken is a sociopath, but that’s not all he is.  He wasn’t born that way.  He was made.  And not just by Romulus, either.  The mystery of that personal history will be a driving force in next year’s stories.

“So, a few questions: 1. What have you been able to bring to the character, and do you have a favorite characteristic you like to exploit?”

ML: Dan Way had already created a complex character in Daken when I joined him on the book.  I’m not sure what I’ve brought to the table, except that I love exploring Daken’s ‘playful’ side.  He’s a total psycho, of course, but he does have a very sly sense of humor. He’s a flirt, he’s sexy, he’s not afraid to have some fun while he’s destroying lives.  In a weird way, Daken is a bit of an optimist — at least, when it comes to himself.

“2. In your mind, does Daken have any redeeming qualities, or is he just a total sociopath?”

ML: I really do think he’s redeemable — depending on your definition of that word.  My definition is rather limited — with regards to Daken, anyway.  Redemption is dependent on his priorities.  Will his priorities change?  That remains to be seen.

“3. I have  X-23 on my pull list, looking forward to it (just waiting for the mail)! Question, though: How hard is it to write X-23, Daken, and Wolverine without having them all blur into the same character? What is the defining element in each one that makes them different from the others?”

ML: It’s not hard, actually, because they’re all so incredibly different in their attitudes and approaches to life.  Wolverine is the normal one compared to Daken and X-23!  His son and his clone are both killers, yes — both damaged emotionally — but the ways in which they cope with those troubled childhoods and broken psyches make them polar opposites.  Daken wants to rule the world, while X-23 simply wants to learn how to be a part of it.  Daken manipulates others to get what he wants, while X-23 doesn’t have a tricky bone in her body.  Daken wants power to protect himself.  X-23 doesn’t want power at all, but she has it — and needs to learn how to harness it responsibly.

September 21, 2010: A plethora of pics!

Well fine.

Apologies.  The trailer won’t be coming out until first thing tomorrow morning.  9:00 a.m. to be exact.  So set your watches.

Hopefully these pics will tide you over.

Addendum: Nope, sorry.  9:00 a.m. PDT.  Again, apologies.  The gang at post, led by the lovely Kerry McDowall, did an excellent job getting the trailer finished and ready to go by early afternoon – but we’ve been delayed by circumstances beyond our control.  Hopefully, it’ll be worth the wait.  There were ooh’s and aaah’s aplenty late this afternoon as it was being screened by various cast and crew.

I’ll be out on location tomorrow shooting Day #2 of The Hunt, so blogging time will be minimal.  I’m uploading the trailer vid tonight with the intention of bringing my wordpress blog up on my iphone and hitting “publish” tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.  The trailer will be up here, over on Gateworld, and various other sites including Show Patrol, SFSignal, TVOvermind, Pop Culture Zoo, and John Scalzi’s insanely entertaining Whatever blog.  Check it out at any or all of the aforementioned sites, then head back here an drop me a comment.  I’ll be checking them throughout the day and tomorrow night, time permitting, I’ll hop on and add a little write-up to accompany the trailer.

Today, Ivon informed me that he had bought me a book after listening to a radio interview with its author, John Vailliant.  Titled The Tiger: A True Story of Survival and Vengeance, it’s the true account of one poacher’s bad luck in messing with the wrong gigantic Amur tiger.  From a review by Christopher McDougall: “In 1997, deep in the remote Russian backcountry, a gigantic Amur tiger begins acting like the only thing more savage than a wild animal–us. It doesn’t just attack villagers; it hunts them, picking its targets like a hitman with a contract, at one point even dragging a mattress out of a shack so it can lie comfortably in wait until the woodsman returns home. A few days later, the woodsman’s horrified friends discover remains “so small and so few they could have fit in a shirt pocket.”  That’s what my second grade teacher, Mrs. Vowels, would’ve referred to as “an ouchie”.  Anyway, looking forward to reading this one.

As soon as I finish the one I’m reading now, Fool: A Novel by Christopher Moore, a hilarious retelling of the bard’s King Lear told from the point of the view of Pocket, the king’s fool.  I’m about a hundred pages in and enjoying immensely.  Other recent reads very much worth mentioning: Jeffrey Ford’s The Beyond (the third and final installment of his wildly inventive Well-Built City Trilogy), Jeff VanderMeer’s The Third Bear (a weird and wonderful collection of his short fiction), Daryl Gregory’s first novel Pandemonium (inscrutable, outlandish, and incredibly engaging), the Lou Anders and Jonathan Strahan-edited Swords and Dark Magic (one helluva a fun collection showcasing the likes of such fantasy heavy hitters as Steven Erikson, Glen Cook, Gene Wolfe, James Enge, Michael Moorcock, and Baron Destructo’s good buddy Joe Abercrombie), Stephen King’s Misery (a re-re-re-read of my favorite King novel – Stargate has its fair share of Annie Wilkes’s),  and a mind-bending double-shot of Alastair Reynolds – Zima Blue and Diamond Dog, Turquoise Days.

So what’re YOU reading?

September 16, 2010: More super-secret Stargate: Universe season two set pics! Stargate links!

Less than two weeks until the SGU second season premiere!  That’s Tuesday, September 28th at 9:00 p.m. on SyFy for those in the U.S., and Friday, October 1st at 10:00 p.m. (ET) on Space for those in Canada.  Steve is madly working on that Superfantastic Stargate Trailer to End All Trailers –

Steve putting the finishing touches on his epic masterpiece.

We’re aiming to release the trailer within the next five days.  Stay tuned!

Steve celebrates the end of our incessant note-giving!

Final tech survey in North Van this afternoon for episode #216, The Hunt, followed by the production meeting.  Between the stunts, special effects, visual effects, set builds, make up, and props, the budget was positively vertiginous.  Fortunately, after making a few harmless trims (most notably scenes 56, 60, and the bone budget), it’s now only slightly dizzying.

If you read our September book of the month club pick, the superhero-themed anthology Masked, and have questions for editor Lou Anders, writers Matthew Sturges, Paul Cornell, Marjorie M. Liu, James Maxey, Mark Chadbourn, Gail Simone, Daryl Gregory or yours truly, make sure to post them by Friday night!

Hey, look at who Carl and I ran into on the way back from post today –

Chekov and Zelenka! I mean, actors Gary Chalk and David Nykl!

A couple of Stargate-related links for you to check out.

First, Curt Wagner over at ShowPatrol.com has the scoop on some of the guest stars fans can look forward to in season two of Stargate: Universe – http://bit.ly/ag5dWC.  In addition, he’s posted a slew of set pics including photos of one of our cool, new (fan-demanded) standing sets – http://bit.ly/b1qkP9.

Over at his scifiandtvtalk, Steve Eramo has posted the first part of his reader Q&A with actress Rachel Luttrell (SGA’s Teyla Emmagan) – http://scifiandtvtalk.typepad.com/scifiandtvtalk/2010/09/stargate-atlantis-rachel-luttrell-answers-your-questions-part-1.html#tp

I understand some fairly detailed (read: spoilerific) synopses of the first three episodes – Intervention, Aftermath, and Awakening – have found their way online.  If you really have to know – http://www.gateworld.net/news/2010/09/new-details-on-stargate-universes-first-new-episodes/

SG-1’s Camelot makes Io9’s list of The Best SF/Fantasy Cliffhangers Ever Shown On Television – http://io9.com/5636086/the-best-sffantasy-cliffhangers-ever-shown-on-television

September 14, 2010: Actress Jennifer Spence Answers Your Questions! Masked!

I got a sneak peek at the Stargate: Universe season two trailer this afternoon and it’s – well – is “crazysuperfantastic” a word?  Steve has done an incredible job and I can’t wait for you guys to check it out.  I’m still aiming for the week prior to the SGU second season premiere (Tuesday, September 28th at 9:00 p.m. on SyFy).  Trust me, it’ll be well worth the wait.  LOTS to look forward to this year.

Please keep those questions and comments coming for September’s Book of the Month Club, Masked.  We’ve got a slew of special guests lined up to field your queries including: Matthew Sturges (“Cleansed and Set in Gold”), James Maxey (“Where Their Worm Dieth Not”), Paul Cornell (“Secret Identity”), Daryl Gregory (“Message from the Bubblegum Factory”), Gail Simone (“Thug), Mark Chadbourn (“By My Works You Shall Know Me”), Marjorie M. Liu (“Call Her Savage”), Lou Anders (our fearless editor), and yours truly (“Downfall”)!

And now, I’d like to turn this blog over to Destiny’s sassiest scientist, Dr. Lisa Park – a.k.a. Jennifer Spence – who has kindly taken time out of her space-suited forays (Come to think of it, what IS she doing in that space suit?) to spend time with us.  Thanks, Jen.  Now back to work on those shield emitters…

Me writes: “Not really a question for Jennifer Spence, but I loved your delivery as Dr. Park of the line in the SG:U finale to Col. Young — Don’t Yell! It was totally unexpected and spot on. I was laughing out loud on that one. Keep up the good work Jennifer, and I look forward to seeing you in Season Two.”

JS: Aw thank you Me! We’ve got some pretty fan-freaking-tastic writers on the show and that line came from none other than Mr. Joe Mallozzi and Paul Mullie smile

Michael writes: “Questions for Jennifer Spence

1) What do you want to see happen for Dr. Park in season 2, besides surviving?”

JS: Hi Michael. I would love to see her become even stronger and explore more of what makes her human. We know she’s smart and can hold her own with the other scientist boys, we know she likes to get it on with the military lads, now I’d like to see what else she can offer the team. Perhaps an episode where she takes on more of a leadership type of role or one in which she must overcome a fear or issue from her past in order to get the team out of a dire situation. I love the idea of secrets. And of course it would be so much fun to have some scenes where she just loses it on someone, like maybe she develops a temper.

“2) What was your initial reaction to Park’s method of coping with being stranded on Destiny; sex?”

JS: Shock followed by absolutely loving the idea! It just added so much depth to my character in that she now had this secret and it’s always great fun as an actor to come up with a reason for a character’s behavior.

“3) What do you like to do the breaks between scenes-hang out with the other actors or hide in a trailer?”

JS: We’re almost always all hanging out between scenes unless someone’s got a big scene to prep and even then everyone is so awesome about offering to run lines. We goof around a ton and regularly get our wrists slapped for getting out of hand wink I mean you put some of the funniest people I’ve ever worked with in a room together and you get non-stop entertainment. I think I now have about 5 videos I’ve shot on my iPhone of Kelamis doing various impressions and bits that we keep pressuring him to perform for us and the man is so sweet that he always obliges! Actually Patrick posted one of them on youtube the other day http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSE7TOd1ieU&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Lou Zucaro writes: “For Jennifer… 1) You had one of the best lines to date in the series last week (“Don’t yell!”). When you read a line like that when you first get your script, is it always obvious how simply great it is, or is it not until you perform it (or even see it when it’s done) that it hits for you?”

JS: Hi Lou. It’s usually obvious to me when I read it thanks to our stellar team of writers. Whenever I see a line like that I get super excited about saying it and I love that those types of lines are generally of the comic variety which can be a nice little addition to dramatic scenes.

“2) You’ve worked on a fair amount of sci-fi. Are you / have you been a fan of the genre or is it something that’s “just happened”? If you’re a fan, what (other than things you’ve been in) are some of your favorites?”

JS: Honestly I was never really a fan of sci-fi before SGU. A lot of the productions that have been shot in Vancouver over the years have been of the sci-fi variety and I’ve been lucky that those that I’ve worked on have all been high quality but in general, I usually didn’t watch shows or movies of that genre. I do remember loving E.T. though and having all the E.T. paraphernalia: stuffed toy, t-shirt, shoelaces, etc. as well as rushing home from school to watch Dr. Who. I finally saw Galaxy Quest a few months ago and LOVED it!

“3) In “The Core” you were an assistant to Stanley Tucci’s character, Dr. Zimsky, and now in a way on SGU, you’re an assistant to Rush. In a knock down, drag-out, cage match of the minds, which difficult genius would you put your money on?”

JS: Probably Rush just cuz he’s always thinking outside the box. Plus Zimsky didn’t end up making it out alive wink

Tim Lade writes: “Dear Ms. Spence.  What is it like to wear the same clothing over and over and over again? I imagine I would get pretty annoyed with whatever I happened to choose to wear the day Icarus Base was attacked.”

JS: Haha! As an actor it’s not so bad just cuz you always know what to expect and our fabulous wardrobe department keeps like 6 sets of the outfit on hand. As the character though, you’re right, it would be pretty frakking annoying to wear the same outfit day in day out. I mean, there’s only so much B.O. you’d be able to get out what with a limited water supply and steam showers!

Mike writes: “Question for Jennifer, how much are you like Dr. Park, being the optimist and placating presence, in real life?

JS: I try to be an optimist as much as possible in real life and I think that’s who I am at heart but of course I still have my moments where I cross over to the dark side.

“What one item would you want to have with you if you were stuck on Destiny?”

JS: I think if I could have only 1 item on the Destiny, it would be my iPhone much as I don’t want to admit my addiction to that blasted thing!

“Are there any actors on the show that you hang out with when not filming? Thanks for answering, and keep up the good work it is nice to see a beautiful lady as part of the science team.”

JS: Aw thanks Mike- so sweet! I think I’ve hung out with pretty much all the cast off, but I think I’ve probably spent the most time with Gilmore & Kelamis. Patrick and I just recently spent a week in L.A. with Kelamis and his lovely wife in their gorgeous home which they completely re-did THEMSELVES!

PBMom writes: “To Jennifer Spence: 1. We know how Dr. Park copes with stress, but what is your coping mechanism (if you can share)?”

JS: Chocolate cake with LOTS of icing.

“2. What are your similarities to Dr. Park and what are your differences?”

JS: I think we’re similar in that we’re both optimistic, solution-oriented and nerds. I think we’re different in that she got her doctorate whereas I went to theatre school, she uses sex to relieve stress whereas I’ll eat a whole chocolate cake, she works with a couple of male scientists who bicker like a married couple whereas I work with a couple of male actors who… you know what- we’re not that different wink

“3. Dog or cat person (or both?)”

JS: I’m definitely a dog person but I like cats too. Especially the ones that seem like dogs trapped in cats’ bodies.

“4. What was your favorite chocolate at Joe’s party (if you attended)?”

JS: Aw man, how to narrow it down?… It was actually probably the brownie (wish I could remember the company). Twas the creamiest, richest, most perfect-level-of-sweetness brownie I’ve ever devoured in my life!

“5. If you had a say in it (which I know you don’t), who would you like more screen time with as an actor with another actor, or as your character with another character.”

JS: Naw don’t make me choose- it’s too hard! I think it would be interesting though to have more scenes with whatever other character brings out the most conflict when paired with Park.

“6. What would be your SGleeU song to sing? Julia Benson answered “You Give Love a Bad Name” by Bon Jovi if that helps.”

JS: “Laid” by James http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ol-KrTTta4g or

http://www.totallyfuzzy.net/ourtube/james/laid-video_a5e2641d2.html

“7. I read somewhere you own a bookstore in Vancouver?  Thank you for being so kind to answer our questions.”

JS: The bookstore you’ve heard about is called Biz Books which is owned by the talented and outstanding Catherine Lough Haggquist who not only has been my boss but a very close friend and mentor AND she played Mary in the SGU episode Sabotage! She has taught me almost everything I know about the film industry and her belief in me is a lot of the reason I stuck it out with acting. She opened Biz Books 14 years ago and it is the only bookstore based in Western Canada that specializes in film, television and theatre related books. The store has just recently evolved from a bricks and mortar retail space into an online and on-location only bookstore www.bizbooks.net. Very excited for its next chapter!

Sean D. writes: “Question for Jennifer: What’s your favorite episode of season 2 so far?”

JS: Aw man, too hard to choose- they’re seriously all good! One that was especially exciting to shoot was Malice because we traveled to New Mexico and it put Park in an extremely challenging situation which then changed her perspective about Rush.

E. writes: “Yaaay! Lisa Park – again, one of my fav secondary characters! Questions for her: Did you practice a lot for the kino sequence in “Darkness”? ‘But it might be great!’-moment made me fell in love with Park’s character.”

JS: Aw you’re sweet, E smile I actually only ended up having a few hours to practice that one. As I recall, it had originally been scheduled to shoot after a long weekend so my plan had been to take the weekend to memorize it and make sure it stuck. A day or 2 before said weekend, I got a call from production asking if I was available to come in later that very afternoon because they wanted to shoot that scene a few days ahead of schedule! Hello heart palpitations! I was working at the bookstore at the time and was slotted to be working there for the rest of the day but of course Cat (see info about Biz Books above) being the awesome woman she is told me to skedaddle and I spent the following few hours memorizing and practicing with anyone and everyone who made eye contact with me wink

“What exactly is Park’s area of expertise? Is it astrophysics?”

JS: She definitely has a lot of knowledge about astrophysics and I think she also has done a lot of research in the fields of computer science (specifically computational linguistics) and geophysics.

“What do you think – does Park feel guilty for sleeping with various guys on Destiny, while she has a boyfriend on Earth?”

JS: I think she definitely feels guilty about cheating on her boyfriend but manages to adopt an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude wink

Paul Moody writes: “Question for Jennifer: You’re cast as a civilian on Destiny; do you ever wish you could have been cast as part of the military contingent so you could run around shouting ‘hoo-rah!’ a lot?”

JS: Haha! Naw, I think the role of a civvy is a lot more fitting for me. I’m a nerd through and through. That being said, I would love for Park to get the opportunity to shoot a gun or backhand a bad guy in an upcoming episode.

Lisa R. writes: “Questions for Jennifer Spence: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. 1) How did you get into the acting business?”

JS: Hi Lisa. I’d always loved acting since I had done skits and stuff at summer camp as a little kid but when I did a community theatre production of “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller just before graduating high school I realized I didn’t really have a choice anymore – it was just what my little heart wanted!

“2) What kind of studying do you do to make your lines believable especially when there’s alot of science in the script? (if you’re not already familiar with the science concepts.)”

JS: When there’s tons of science-speak in the script, I usually start with wikipedia. Then when we go to shoot it, I’ll double check with the writer(s). A couple of times, Patrick and I have gone up to Brad with sketches of what we think the science-speak is referring to and then Brad will draw his own little sketch and patiently explain what’s actually going on!

Simon writes: “Questions for Jennifer: 1) First off, congrats on the Leo Award nomination! Will Dr. Park be getting more screen time in Season 2?”

JS: Aw thank you Simon! Twas truly a thrill! And yes the writers have given Dr Park lots of fun and sometimes unexpected stuff for me to play this season. Many times now, I’ve found myself clapping my hands in delight when I get any sort of tidbit of what’s on the horizon!

“2) How many episode will Park be in this time around?”

JS: As I write this, we are about 15 episodes in and I have been in all but one. Of course being a little greedy guts, I’m hoping I’ll be in all the rest of ’em!

Yazid writes: “Q’s for Jennifer Spence : First, thanks for answering our questions, it’s nice of you. Did you cast for Lisa Park first or any other character?”

JS: Hi Yazid. I read for 2 other parts first and then the producers were lovely enough to find me something else to play. The first incarnation of Dr Lisa Park was actually written as a male scientist named Miles Henry!

“How is the atmosphere on set?”

JS: Rindonculously fun. But also super respectful, patient, supportive, focused and generous.

“How funny is it? Who is the most funny? Were you the victim of someone’s joke on set?”

JS: Super funny. My abs get a mean workout any time I’m on set or between scenes. Everybody on this show is pretty funny but of course it’s always a blast when Louis is around. Haig played a brutal joke on me first season. We had just gotten the script for an upcoming episode so we hurried into our trailers to flip through and see if we were in it or not and if so, if we made it out alive. I think I had just turned to page 1 when I hear Haig (whose room was right next to mine) say “Oh no!” and I yell, “What?!” through the wall and he says, “You die.” Blink blink. “Huh?” I squeak and he shouts, “Yeah Brody says ‘what happened to Park?’ and Riley says ‘she died'”. So at this point I leap to my feet, fly out my trailer door, clamber up the steps to Haig’s door and he opens it laughing his ass off. I think I manage to mumble “I hate you” as I retreat down the stairs backwards never breaking eye contact with him. This is not a set on which one should be gullible. And I am. Oh how I am.

“What is your favorite scene/episode of SGU and why?”

JS: Really really hard to narrow it down to just one. They all have special moments and I can honestly say that I have gotten goosebumps at some point during every single episode. I think “Life” was one of my favorites because we learned so much intimate stuff about the characters.

“Did you know Stargate before playing in SGU?”

JS: I had heard of it and knew how popular it was but I hadn’t actually seen it tsk tsk!

“When are you gonna do a “Chevron/Symbol locked sequence”?”

JS: Haha! Joe?

“Are Rush/Brody/Volker and Park a kind of control room gang? ^^

JS: I think we are! It’s a good dynamic because we’re all so different. What could our gang be called? Maybe Brush-polker? Or Volkush-bark?

“What was the hardest/funniest scene to shoot?”

JS: I think the hardest as well as funniest scenes to shoot were my “reading” scenes in the episode Life. I had never done love scenes like those before so I was kinda nervous but both Zak and Jamil were perfect gentleman and super professional. Because they’re both awesome guys, it ended up being a lot of fun and because both scenes took place in the same location with similar lighting, we shot them back to back so Zak got wrapped and then it was like, “Next!”

“What would you do if you were really stuck on an old rusty ship, billions light years away from home?”

JS: Find out where they kept the chocolate cake.

“Few words in french maybe?  Thank you Jennifer =)”

JS: Merci d’avoir poser ces questions!

Lis writes: “For Jennifer – 1. Do you have any particular science background? You seem to do a lot of tech talk, that must be intimidating.”

JS: I don’t have a science background so it certainly can be intimidating to do the tech talk but once you know what you’re really saying and you run it a bunch of times it’s a lot of fun!

“2. Not really a question I guess, but the reason I find Dr Park so endearing is that she’s obviously an extremely intelligent person but also an extremely normal person. That scene way back at the beginning where she is expressing concern about visiting a planet – melted me a little.”

JS: Aw thanks Lis! I’m glad you feel that way because that’s one of the things I like most about her too is that at the end of the day, she’s just human like all the rest of em.

“3. Why don’t you tweet more often?”

JS: I will try to! No excuses wink

Yazid also writes: “Oopsy, I forgot a question: Thanks. What would you bring on Destiny to make life better?”

JS: Earlier I answered ‘my iPhone’ but now I’m thinking a massage chair.

Myhelix writes: “First of all, you are doing a great job as Dr. Park, hope we´ll see more of you!

JS: Aw thanks Myhelix! And you will definitely see more of me second season!

“1) How is it to work with Louis Ferreira and Robert Carlyle in the same scene together? I have heard Louis is a prankster.”

JS: Being in scenes with those two rocks my world! When I first started on SGU, I didn’t know what to expect – I just had memories of Bobby as Begbie the psycho in Trainspotting and Louis as the psycho serial killer in Durham County. But Bobby is the truest definition of a gentleman. He’s a real sweetheart, completely open and one of the most gracious people I’ve ever met. Louis is totally a prankster and a super funny guy but he also has one of the biggest most generous hearts ever and looks out for us all. I think it was Elyse who dubbed him Papa Smurf. Perfect. One time we were rehearsing a scene and Bobby and Louis switched roles with each other just for the rehearsal and they did it complete with accent reversal and imitation of each other’s physicality! Wish someone had filmed it wink

“2) Is it just my imagination or is Dr. Park a bit afraid of Dr. Rush. Or let´s say, quite uneasy around Rush. Why do you think is that the case?”

JS: I think as much as she wouldn’t want to admit it, Park is a little intimidated by Rush mostly because of how he interacts with the scientists that work with him but also because of his vast knowledge and experience.

Nuno Barreto writes: “For Jennifer Spence… Playing a recurring character, does your time on set differ much from the actors who are playing main characters?”

JS: I think us recurring characters generally get fewer shooting days per episode than the main characters but sometimes we have had just as many depending on the episode.

“Also your “Don’t yell” line is going to be a classic, it was delivered spot on!”

JS: Thanks Nuno! It was a lot of fun to say!

BoltBait writes: “Questions for Jennifer Spence: 1. Do you enjoy working on the Kino videos? Which was your favorite?”

JS: The Kino videos are always fun to work on! I’ve enjoyed watching all of them for different reasons. I think my favorite was probably the one where Volker is helping Riley and Brody into their spacesuits. Riley tells Volker he has to pee and the ensuing interaction is hilarious. Brody then finishes donning his spacesuit, tries to take a step forward and proceeds to tumble face down. Anytime those 3 get together, I end up peeing my pants wink

“2. Have you ever said to Joe (or any of the other writers), “My character would never say this! She’d say it like this…”?”

JS: Not yet but now you’ve got me curious to know how they’d react! (Just jokes, Joe.)

“3. How many “takes” do typical scenes take to finish on SGU?”

JS: For each ‘set-up’ within a scene, I’d say we do an average of 2 or 3 takes.

“4. Have you ever said to the director, “Let me do that again, I can do better.”?”

JS: Yes I said that to Peter DeLuise once cuz I knew I could appeal to the actor part of him and he let me!

“5. Your character has a Doctorate. What is it in?”

JS: My interpretation is that Park got her doctorate in Planetary Science from MIT and through her studies has also acquired a vast amount of knowledge in computational linguistics and geophysics.

“6. Your profile page on imdb.com doesn’t say much about you. You (or your agent) needs to update that page!”

JS: You’re right! We’re working on it!

“7. Does your character believe that one day she will return home?”

JS: I think she does. Because she’s an optimist I think she believes it’s possible but at the same time, the longer this adventure continues, the more attached she grows to the whole experience and the people she’s sharing it with.

“8. If you were really aboard Destiny, what would you need to preserve your sanity?”

JS: A journal.

Randomness writes: “I have 1 question for Jennifer Spence 1. First of all, let just say you do an amazing job on SGU, you really show a lot of spirit with your character, my question to you is, do you see Lisa Park being around till the end? And with the many years she will of spent aboard Destiny, how do you think she will be, like growth wise? Can you see her becoming stronger, a different person? In a deep romantic relationship with someone?

I know thats a long question, well several questions in one Joe, but it was me asking her if she thinks her character will survive till the end, and if she does, how does she think her character will be.”

JS: Thanks Randomness! I do see Park being around til the end and I hope that’s the case. I think after all those years she will be a much stronger, tougher person, wiser person who probably will be in a deep romantic relationship with one person and will have given up most of her casual ‘reading’.

Tanie writes: “Questions for Jen: Thanx kindly! 1. How did you get into acting?”

JS: See above.

“2. What’s the best part about working on SGU? The people, the scripts, BTS stuff?”

JS: All of the above. It’s got everything going for it! I hope it goes on for many years to come!

“3. Ice-cream or custard?”

JS: Ice-cream.

SG7 writes: “Hi Jennifer! My Questions: 1. If you could go anywhere in the world or have been anywhere in the world and want to return where would you go?”

JS: Right now, I’d really love to go to Hawaii. I’ve never been and I’m dying to see those incredible volcanoes and that beautiful water and attend a luau!

“2. Where would be your favorite place to shop & or Eat & or Drink (ie coffee etc)?”

JS: Probably Italy. I LOVE Italian food, love drinking coffee (even though I’m a wuss and only drink decaf) and damn those Italian ladies sure know how to dress, don’t they?

“Just wanted to say a HUGE congrats on your awesome work on SGU! And I hope TPTB give you lots more screen time in season 2 as you truely add sooo much to the show! And thanx for taking the time to answer our questions! You rock! Cheerz, Heather”

JS: Aw thanks Heather- that means a lot! And uh… feel free to let TPTB in on your wishes there wink Or put it out there to the “universe”, as it were.

Feanor writes: “Questions for Jennifer Spence: I: What is the background for your character’s constant optimism?”

JS: Hi Feanor. My take on it is that she grew up with 2 brothers and always felt underappreciated by her divorced parents especially her father so she had to build herself up in her own mind in order to feel good enough. I think she then started getting so practiced at it that she was able to do the same for her friends when they were feeling inadequate and soon, she’d adapted the “habit of hope” for life.

“II: Do you feel a similarity do the character you are playing?”

JS: I think the biggest similarity between the 2 of us is that we’re both nerds (except I don’t have a friggin clue when it comes to technology). That and we look alike wink

“III: How many times your charachter has approximately done ”reading” during season 1 and will that continue or will your charachter find a new hobby?”

JS: She has “read” with at least 4 guys (that we know of): Greer, Rivers, Marsden and Dunning and I’m wondering if she will next move on to the scientists after she’s run out of military wink

“IV: Is it fun to play in SGU? Good luck and good night!”

JS: Aw man, it’s da best!

“V: What episode do you like in season 2 most from the ones that are already made?”

JS: I think I’ll have to watch the completed versions of all the episodes before I can say J

Nekomajin writes: “I’ve got a question for Jennifer Spence. Lisa Park is one of my favourite character aboard the Destiny. She is pretty, funny and clever. A true geek. Do you think that Lisa can be the female Eli in the future? Thanks for answering.”

JS: A true geek – well said! I think Park is really smart like Eli but nobody can else can be Eli like Eli.

Thank you so much for all your wonderful questions and support! And a very big hug and special thanks to Joe for hosting the q & a and for managing to find the time to write a blog that never fails to entertain and put a smile on our faces.

Jen

Mailbag:

avabird writes: “…I attended Dragon Con. (…) 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.”

Answer: Yes, that’s in line with what I heard from other sources, that the crowd oooh’d, leading someone to speak up in the actress’s defense, something along the lines of “keep it up and she’ll end up scared of you.” – to which some classy individual resplied “With good reason.”.

Mel writes: “So instead of apologizing to the innocent SGA fans at the Dragon Con, you misdirect people towards an incident, which has nothing to do with the Dragon Con.”

Answer: First of all, I never referred to the “innocent SGA fans at the Dragon Con”, only the rude ones.  So, if you were rude and you were offended by what I have to say, tough. If you were innocent and offended by what I had to say, I wasn’t talking about you.  Second, if you check out the comment above, someone who attended one of the panels pretty much confirmed the story I heard.

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.

Mel also writes: “Watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55CRBpqVgdg It starts at 8:50. The fan ask politely the WHOLE panel and NOT specifically Alaina Huffman.”

Answer: What does this fan have to do with what we’ve been talking about?  You’re assuming that this is the incident I was referring to.  It’s not.

Mel also writes: “The simple answer is, because he likes to stir trouble and put fuel to the flames of the “fandom war”, which is going on.”

Answer: Yes, Yes, I know there are many out there who assume I put in a lot of time and effort into hatching these diabolical plots designed to target them specifically but the truth is – and I hate to break it to you – outside of this blog, online fandom is an insignificant part of my life.

Sean D. writes: “Person X enters a stargate a long, long time ago, and finally, present day, the destination stargate is made available, and (poof!) out pops Person X, who should be about 46,000,000 years old now but is still young. :-o

Definitely intriguing.

I’m curious though…

What would initiate finally making that connection once the second stargate is made available?”

Answer: Hmmm, now that I think of it, we’ve dealt with a similar scenario back on SG-1 in an episode titled 48 Hours.  I believe we said that the gate buffer stores the traveler but that degradation occurs over time.  Say, 48 Hours.  I still prefer the original working title: Teal’c Interrupted.

crayonbaby writes: “How did the truffles turn out? Were they gone by the time the game ended? Does the alcohol evaporate in the cooking process? You will have to tell us which one is your favorite so far.”

Answer: I brought the leftovers to work and they were a hit.  All three flavors went over well, but the Guinness Dark Chocolate Truffles – surprise, surprise – were the clear winners.

Abbas Karimjee writes: “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?”

Answer: Not especially, no.

Abbas Karimjee also writes: “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?”

Answer: Yes, we will.

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

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!

August 6, 2010: Editor Lou Anders talks Masked! Another hint at SGU season 2 things to come! More from the Atlantis vault!

Who is that masked man?

Editor Lou Anders is a busy guy.  Lately, he’s been doing the internet rounds for not one but two recently released anthologies.  The first, Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery, co-edited with Jonathan Strahan, includes stories by the likes of Gene Wolfe, Steven Erickson, and Scott Lynch, as well as former guests to this blog James Enge, Glen Cook, Michael Moorcock and Joe Abercrombie  (How’s that for a partial line-up?!).  The second, Masked, is a collection of original superhero fiction that, like Swords & Dark Magic before it, has been receiving a fair amount of positive buzz.  And what I’ve found particularly pleasing about the initial feedback is that, so far, the anthology has appealed to both comic fans and neophytes alike.  I think that says as much about the quality of the stories as it does Lou’s ability to assemble and guide some very talented people.  Though I suppose it should come as no surprise given that Lou, who is the editorial director of the SF&F imprint PYR Books, is a four time Hugo Award nominee for Best Editor and a Chelsea Award Winning Art Director.  He’s also been nominated for the PKD and WFC Awards and presently has nine anthologies to his credit.

I invited Lou to come by, give us an intro to Masked, and offer a little insight into what led him to put together this unique anthology.  Lou offered up the following thoughts…

Hello wonderful fans of Joe. It’s good to be back on this blog. As I sit here, very slowly nursing a Newcastle (“for inspiration”), I’m trying to think what I can say about Masked that is different from what I’ve already said. I’ve been thrilled–and deeply grateful–for the amount of attention Masked has been getting since it debuted. There was almost no pre-buzz on this anthology, and I was worried it was going to be missed, that it would be passed over by SF&F fans and never noticed by comic fans who didn’t venture into SF&F shelves. But from the moment it debuted–at the San Diego Comic Con no less–the interweebs have been quite vocal about it, with multiple new reviews showing up every day and a lot of requests for interviews (one from the Wall Street Journal’s blog, no less). We’ve had a couple producers call requesting copies, done a “soundtrack” feature on largehearted boy, and been praised very enthusiastically on io9. I think that the anthology is really striking a chord with people, and that I was more right than I knew when I wrote in the intro that superheroes were coming into their own in a way they never had before. Not that sophisticated storytelling was anything new for the genre–it’s been around a quarter century since The Dark Knight Returns debuted–but the mainstream acceptance of superheroes has never been higher, as evidenced by the critical-and-box office success of films like The Dark Knight. I’ve been reading comic books since I could read (I have Batman and Detective comics going back to the 50s, though FYI I wasn’t around when they came out), and I think that’s part of it–that the generation that grew up on geek culture is now calling the shots in entertainment as well as being catered to by that entertainment. There have been many attempts to do superheroes in prose over the years (I have the The Further Adventures of the Joker anthology lying around somewhere), but a lot of them have been done in the spirit of camp, outsiders poking fun at the genre, or taking a post-modern, ironic spin on it. I didn’t want to do superheroes with a wink and a nudge. Rather, I wanted Masked to be the kind of book that current readers of DC/Vertigo, Marvel, Dark Horse, Image, et al. would recognize and appreciate, and for that, I turned to the people who actually write comics, plus a few award-winning SF&F author, and one television producer (whose first-ever prose story is so staggeringly good that it will be a sin against god, the future, and the English language itself if he never writes another). And I think that’s the real reason that Masked is getting the attention it is. The calibre of the contributors and the level of talent they bring to its pages. I’m just the guy who cajoled them all into one volume, they did all the heavy lifting. And for that, I’m really, truly grateful. Because they are a super bunch.

And, to cap it off, yet another Masked review: http://superheronovels.com/2010/08/06/welcome-to-the-new-golden-age/

For more of Lou, head on over to www.louanders.com

Another pic from Stargate: Universe season one that hints at things to come in season two…

SGU season one photo courtesy and copyright MGM Television.

And continuing our trip down memory lane, we turn to the Atlantis archives…

Awwwww. I really miss these two. Executive Producer Martin Gero and Jewel Staite (aka Jennifer Keller).

Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Heaps of fun!

Neil and Bill leave a special message for the local high school's science club.

Bill and Marty G. on the set of Brainstorm.

Dave Foley - terrific actor and super nice guy. How nice? Well, at one point, I received a special request from the network for a copy of the script signed by Dave Foley. Turned out someone at SyFy was a HUGE fan and the office wanted to do something special for her. I explained the situation to Dave who was only to happy to sign and then, glancing down at my cell phone, suggested: "Call her up." I did, got his number one fan on the phone, and said: "Hang on. Dave Foley wants to say hi." And he did. It apparently made her month. The guy is a class act.

Well, I should have four solid acts of my script, The Hunt, completed by the time I head back into the office on Monday.  Since I’ll be on set for most of the week, surveying the action on episode #9, Visitation, I’ll have plenty of time to re-read, polish, and forge ahead into that fifth and final act.  I like what I have so far and I’ve always been partial to these types of stories with various intersecting throughlines running on parallel thematic narratives.  It also offers some wonderful insight into a number of different characters (even a few you wouldn’t expect!).  The location shoot should be tons of fun…

August 4, 2010: Author Matthew Sturges stops in! Another SGU season 2 tease! More from the Atlantis archives!

Author Matthew Sturges
Story placement is all-important when assembling an anthology.  You want that first tale to really grab the reader, engage them, and ultimately leave them with a deep impression, the kind that remains long after the story has been read, sort of like the lingering flavors of a fine wine or the bruise bestowed upon an unwitting brainpan.  “Cleaned and Set in Gold” does just that, delivering an outrageously delicious narrative that will leave readers at turns surprised and delighted and, in some cases, even a little dizzy.  It’s the tale of a superhero, The Wildcard, who acquires his powers through peculiar, downright disquieting, means.  While the source of his powers may be at odds with his role as a reservist for the League of Heroes, David Caulfield manages just fine – until a reporter starts looking for answers.  It’s a story about secrets, secret identities, and the questionable sacrifices made in the pursuit of justice.

Its author, Matthew Sturges, is no stranger to the world of comics, having worked alongside fellow Masked contributor Bill Willingham on the Eisnery-nominated Jack of Fables and House of Mystery for DC/Vertigo.  He’s also lent his writing services to titles including Blue Beetle, Justice Society of America, Shadowpact, and the terrific six-issue Crisis Aftermath: Run!  Fantasy Book Critic called his first novel, Midwinter, “the best pure genre debut of 09”.  Its sequel, The Office of Shadow, was just released and, in its review, Publisher’s Weekly points out that “Sturges has an easy ear for dialogue and character”.  And, having just re-read “Cleansed and Set in Gold”, I couldn’t agree more.

I asked Matt to offer up his thoughts on “Cleansed and Set in Gold”. He kindly obliged with the following…

When Lou Anders approached me with the concept of Masked I knew that I wanted in immediately. What appealed to me most was that Lou presented it as a book that would take the concept of superheroes seriously; no “wink, wink, aren’t we clever” stories whose intent was to deconstruct or condescend to the genre (Daryl Gregory’s story is, actually, fairly deconstructive, but it’s brilliant and done with love, so it gets a pass). Instead, these were to be actual superhero stories, and what’s more, he wanted people who’d actually written superhero comics to write as many of the stories as possible.

Having experienced superhero writers is key, I think, because it meant that the stories would be far more likely to avoid cliché. We who work in those particular trenches have seen the classic stories told and retold, and this was an opportunity to tell a kind of story that just couldn’t be told in the context of mainstream superhero comics. I think most superhero writers have a few stories in the dugout that are permanently benched because they can’t imagine who would dare publish them.

“Cleansed and Set in Gold,” for instance, is a story that could never have been printed by DC or Marvel for a number of reasons, not the least of which being the core subject matter of the tale. It’s pretty dark, and even the best artwork would have given a cast to the story that would have rendered the protagonist a difficult character to relate to. One of the great freedoms of prose is that it allows the writer to imply rather than to show. And there are certain instances where showing events gives them an unintended cast because of the viewer’s gut emotional reaction to images.

The genesis of the story was pretty straightforward, and started with a simple What If. What if a superhero had a power whose source was so distasteful and immoral that it was difficult for him to know if what he did with those powers outweighed what he did in order to get them? As I wrote it, it grew and turned into a story about friendship, and the extent to which we define ourselves in terms of those around us. The central premise of the story serendipitously became a metaphor for something universal, which is always a nice thing to happen, because it makes us writers seems smarter than we really are. At least, I hope it does.

And failing all that, it has numerous scenes of people in tights punching monsters. As one of my editors is fond of saying, “When in doubt, punch someone.”

Coincidentally, my grandmother used to have a saying that was not too dissimilar.  And, before you start criticizing her, you should know that she was a tough old bird who lived to 112.  Stories about my grandmother can be found by searching this blog.  Stories about and by Matthew Sturges can be found over on his blog, here: http://matthewsturges.com/wordpress/

Okay, it’s time for another season 2 picture tease (in which I use a photo from a season 1 episode to hint at what’s to come).  Oh, I have a feeling more than a few of you are going to go crazy for this one...

And a little something from the Atlantis archives –
Guest star hangs around catering, waiting for his next scene.
Stunt Coordinator James "Bam Bam" Bamford comes in peace.
What a prima donna. First, he insists that he be wheeled from his trailer to set rather than be forced to walk. Then, he gets this massive piece of chewing gum stuck to the side of his head and it takes the crew an hour to detach it without ruining his make-up.

August 2, 2010: Masked musings! Upcoming guests! A Stargate: Universe season 2 tease of things to come! Stargate: Atlantis behind the scenes! And sundry others!

When editor Lou Anders first approached me about the possibility of contributing a short story to his upcoming superhero-themed anthology, I was admittedly leery.  Having spent my entire career scripting for television, the prospect of producing my first work of short fiction was – well – daunting.  I considered Lou’s offer, went back and forth countless times, and ultimately agreed to participate.  Sort of.  I told Lou that I would be happy to write a short story for the collection – however if, for any reason, it failed to meet his expectations, we would both write it off as a terrific learning experience and I would just go ahead and serialize the story on my blog.

I had a story in mind.  Actually, two stories.  No, actually, one scene and an arena involving a former supervillain gone straight who must, as a condition of his early parole, assist the FBI in solving superhero-related crime.  I took a few days to think about it and, eventually, it took form.  I had what I thought was a great opening, an engaging protagonist, and a fun little ending.  Now, all I had to do was write the damn thing.

Easier said than done.  On average, it takes me about a month to write a script, from pitch to finished draft.  This short story took me about ten times as long as I wrote and endlessly rewrote what I had (and at approximately forty pages, I had a lot!).  Yes, only ten months to write a short story.  I say “only” because, if Lou hadn’t needed it for publication purposes, I’d no doubt still be rewriting it.  And, please understand, it didn’t take that long because I consider it a masterpiece that needed perfecting.  It took that long because writing prose fiction is damn hard, at times – dare I say it – even more agonizing than scriptwriting.  Yet, unlike writing for film and television, you’re more or less going it alone.  Aside from your trusty editor who is there to backstop you, offer words of encouragement, deliver constructive criticism, and inevitably talk you off that ledge, you’re flying solo.  Once the story has been completed – or the deadline looms and you have to stop obsessing over it and just deliver the damn thing – it’s all on you.  There’s no blaming the actor for not holding the prop high enough or the director for failing to get the shot of the platypus’s feet or the steadycam operator for having hiccups on the day or the Director of Photography for forgetting to take his sunglasses off while on set and lighting the scene as bright as the Rockefeller Center Christmas display.  If the story crashes and burns, you’re the only one who’s going down with it.

Fortunately, when Lou eventually got back to me, he was very positive about “Downfall”, and I was able to breathe a huge sigh of relief.  And have continued to do so as the reviews for the anthology have slowly started  to come out.  A few have even had nice things to say about my contribution.  One of the most interesting things about the Masked reviews I’ve read to date is the different stories that have been highlighted as favorites in the various write-ups.

It’s a fairly diverse collection from some very impressive talent – and, over the next few weeks, I’d like to introduce you to some of the great company I keep in the anthology.  Yes, Masked is our September book of the month club selection but, in the lead up to the discussion, I’d like to whet your appetite with a peek at its fabulous stories and their amazing authors.  So, in the very near future, you can look forward to visits from the likes of Marjorie M. Liu (Dark Wolverine, Black Widow, the Dirk & Steele Series, Hunter Kiss series), Paul Cornell (Dr. Who, Dr. Britain and MI13, Dark X-Men), Daryl Gregory (Pandemonium, The Devil’s Alphabet, Dracula: The Company of Monsters), Matthew Sturges (Jack of Fables, House of Mystery, Midwinter), and Mark Chadbourn (The Age of Misrule series, The Dark Age series, BBC’s Doctors) for starters.  And I’ll also see if I can convince our esteemed editor, Lou Anders, to drop by for a pre-BOTMC chat.

Oh, speaking of Masked reviews, here’s another one from Tor.com: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2010/08/review-masked

In his article, Jason Henninger writes: “Many of the stories in Masked remind me of Astro City, a series that investigates the daily lives of superheroes. Astro City takes archetypal heroes and shows how being super-powered affects them personally, or looks at how living among the super-powered changes the lives of bystanders. If Masked can be said to have a central concern, it would be “What does it mean to be a superhero or villain?” The characters’ powers are integral to the stories but displaying this or that neato power isn’t the main thrust.”

And that’s why I highly recommend this collection, not only to comic book fans and fans of superheroes in general, but to discerning readers who enjoy engaging, character-driven stories.

Hey, speaking of our Book of the Month Club and fellow Masked contributor Daryl Gregory – you all have two weeks to finish off The Devil’s Alphabet because discussion begins the week of August 16th with author Daryl Gregory.

In addition to the aforementioned, I’ve got some goodies in the works.  With the premiere of Stargate: Universe’s second season less than a couple of months away, I thought I’d start offering up some subtle little teasers for year two.  Specifically, every so often, I’m going to post a pic from the show’s first season that, while seemingly random or incomprehensible at first glance, will actually prove to be a hint of things to come.  Sort of like this –

And I’ll continue to post pics from the sets and behind-the-scenes of both Stargate: Universe and Stargate: Atlantis.  Like, say, this one –

Jason and Alex. They could never do this on the old Dick Van Dyke Show.

And, of course, this blog will continue to offer an eclectic mix of coverage spanning everything from adorable dogs –

– to disastrous attempts at chile relleno –

They're under there somewhere.

So welcome, one and all – from regulars to first-timers to those who, for form’s sake, publicly insist they don’t read this blog but secretly do anyway.  Welcome!

July 31, 2010: Locus weighs in on Masked! Yet another guilty pleasure! Bubba, cool and crazy! Mailbag!

Well, this is beyond awesome.  Locus, THE Magazine of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Field, has a review of Masked (that superhero-themed anthology edited by Lou Anders I’ve been strongly urging you all to pick up) in its August issue.  It has plenty of nice things to say about the collection and even makes special mention of my story, “Downfall”, which reviewer Rich Horton describes as “nicely twisty […] involving throughout, with some worthwhile surprises.”  So swing by your local magazine shop and pick up the latest issue or, better yet, head on over here – http://www.locusmag.com/ – and get yourself a subscription.

I celebrated today by doing something I’ve wanted to do for a long time…

From left to right: milk chocolate, vanilla, and dark chocolate.

That’s right.  Make ice cream sandwiches from scratch!  I made the three custard bases this morning churned them this afternoon and popped them in the freezer, then made a batch of chocolate chip cookies just before dinner.

I leave the cookie-making to the expert.

I couldn’t decide between the vanilla and the two chocolates so I ended up having all three along with the accompanying six chocolate chip cookies for sandwiching purposes.  Coincidentally, not too long after, I suddenly started feeling under the weather: nauseous, headache, slightly dizzy.  I suspect the bean sprouts in the ramen I had for lunch.

Hey, check it out.  Bubba’s no ear style makes him look ten dog years younger –

Anyone else getting a Marlon Brando vibe?

Anyway, yes, he’s the epitome of cool when he’s chillin’ on the couch.  But, come walk time, he’s anything but –

Today’s blog entry is dedicated to Narelle.  Don’t be a stranger!

Mailbag:

link022 writes: “oris and ancients formed only one before.  We have never had the opportunity to be able to observe one of alteran ship.
given that the destiny is the oldest ancient ship we have ever known.  Is that possible he could looks be like the ships were before the seperation of ancients and oris.”

Answer: Hmm.  Apologies.  I’m not sure I understand the question.  We did encounter an Ancient ship back in the Atlantis’s third season, the warship Aurora.

link022 also writes: “A generator of supplement was used by o neil to join ida’s galaxy.  Is you it as powerful as the E2PZ of the ancients?”

Answer: I would imagine it was as powerful as a ZPM – but not powerful enough to dial Destiny.

Fangsong writes: “Nope, we’re actually going to do a story where Destiny topples off the edge of the universe. Either that or reaches the end of the universe and has to turn around and go back the way they came.” I feel your reply was somewhat ironic but a lot of people are taking it quite litteraly (at least on French forum), should I do so?”

Answer: Really?  They think we’re going to end the series by having Destiny topple off the edge of the universe?  If anything, it would ride the waterfall at the edge of the universe down through the ravine of time.

Runciman writes: “I know you have the audi which is a nice car do you have an interest in them at all?”

Answer: Unlike Mercedes and BMW, Audi has yet to piss me off so I will continue to purchase their product.

Runciman also writes: “Hows jelly doing now shes had her stiches out? has there been any more improvement.”

Answer: She continues to improve.  Although she moves around with obvious discomfort, she is doing more of it.

Runciman also writes: “would there be any possiblility of seeing a vfx screenshot of the whole of the destiny or are you keeping certain parts of it a secret?”

Answer: We’re definitely not holding anything back.  If we have a VFX shot of the Destiny, we’ve used it in the show (and are continuing to add shots as well as we head into season two).

Runciman also writes: “or could we see the concept art like the one you released fro episode 10 Justice.”

Answer: I’ll see what I can dig up in the Art Department when I get back.

Runciman also writes: “P.s. Have you ever eaten pigeon or rabbit? both are very nice in pies lol (i’m from the uk its normal here)”

Answer: Yep.  Pigeon is a menu mainstay at most high end Chinese restaurants, although they call it squab to throw you off.  And my mother makes the best rabbit.

Escyos writes: “Is the Destiny Expedition going to find some supplies of alien coffee, and then become addicted to said alien coffee?”

Answer: Have you hacked into our Season 2 Stories database?

Major D. Davis writes: “1. Just curious, why do you film episodes out of order? Specifically why did you film Visitation out of order?

2. When you film the movies, will it be over hiatus or is it possible shooting (or at least prep) will overlap with SGU?

3. A few months ago you said…. “As I’ve been saying all along, the hold-up in the movies comes not from a lack of desire on anyone’s part. It’s a result of several market factors that will hopefully see a turnaround in the coming months”….. So, did they see a turnaround for the better?

4. MGMs latest Debt extension goes to mid september, so its unlikely they’ll greenlight any projects till then. However, if you received the greenlight for the movies in late September or October, could you still film the movies over SGUs season 2 hiatus?”

Answers: 1. It can be anything from actor availability, timeline for set construction, or scheduling issues for whoever happens to be producing the episode. In the case of Visitation, Brad was producing the episode and since he had already finished Twin Destinies, which he was also producing, he decided to put TD in the #9 slot which gave him time to do a pass on Visitation.

2. No idea.

3. That response was to positive rumblings with regard to the SGA movie.  Since then, I haven’t heard anything re: Extinction.

4. Theoretically possible but very, very tight.

Tim Lade writes: “In the past we haven’t really judged the food based on anything other than taste.  What would you suggest – as a foodie – to base the judging model around?”

Answer: Well, taste is obviously of paramount importance.  I’d also judge the look of the dish (ie. plating) and the dish’s complexity (textural and flavor contrasts, how challenging to prepare, etc.).

steph writes: “Have you read ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’?”

Answer: I did.  I thought the time travel worked well and the ending was great.

Valaur writes: “1. If someone were to use the stones and they had a symbiote or a tok’ra or goa’uld, would the consciousness of that being also be transferred?”

Answer: No idea.  I would think the dominant consciousness (ie. the symbiote) would be the one to switch out.

“2. Has Dr. Perry’s condition improved through the use of technology and knowledge acquired by the SGC? Tritonin? Symbiote? Experimental procedures?”

Answer: No.  And we’ll be seeing Dr. Perry again this upcoming season.

“3. What are your favorite stories, or preferences, to write for Stargate-related episodes? New civilizations and their culture? Ancients? Character-centric? One-offs? Tok’ra? Jaffa? Arcs? Techno-related?”

Answer: I’ve always preferred the stand-alone episodes. Team heads off-world, encounters a problem, solves it, and heads home.  I also prefer the more character-oriented episodes although.

“4. Will we see any hand-held Ancient energy weapons similar to the Zat or wraith stun gun?”

Answer: Possibly.

“5. Will SG: Extinction use the kino? You said in an earlier post that the Kino was originally planned for Atlantis but some difficulties came up and used the MALPs instead, I believe.”

Answer: Nope.  No kinos in Extinction.

“6. I’ve read many bloggers who hate the show yet still watch it for some strange reason that bringing an Atlantis cast member or so into SGU for an episode really means that SGU is a sinking ship and are desperate for a ratings boost. Any comment?”

Answer: As I already said, if that was the case, the guest casting would take place in the first ten episodes because those first ten will decide the fate of the show.

“7. When an episode is spun, do you use story boards? And does the person who receives an episode to write require a dexterous hand for drawing? Or is that done by a separate department? For that matter, could you explain how an episode of Stargate goes from the drawing board to our viewing pleasure?”

Answer: Nope, no storyboards, but we do board our stories (write the various beats up on the white board).

Jim of WVa writes: “How did you learn about Alastair Reynolds?”

Answer: I’m a voracious reader, particularly in the field of SF, and you can’t get much bigger in SF than the Banks-Reynolds-Scalzi triumvirate.  I’d heard great things about Revelation Space, read it, and loved it.

Adam Rosalky writes: “One question I have for you – will we be seeing Eli get out of that “You Are Here” t-shirt?”

Answer: For sure.  Oh, you mean “and into something else”.  Unlikely.  Actually, no, scratch that.  There’s an early season two episode…well, judge for yourself.

victor writes: “1.Is earth basicly deffensless if an attack from the Lucian allience were to occure? or from any other enemy for that matter?”

Answer: There are defenses in place to intercept incoming ships – but they are far less effective than what he had in the past.

“2.If so will the lucian alliance or other enemy make a run for earth in future episodes?”

Answer: Stay tuned.  An interesting scenario, no?

“3.Any chance of finding out what happened to the ori followers and there ships in the milkyway following there defeat, in the future?”

Answer: Alas, no plans to revisit the Ori storyline in SGU.

Arctic Goddess writes: “Since I’m taking things easy while I recover from a 10 day hospital stay, I’m reading Stephen King’s “Under The Dome”.
I like Stephen King, although, at 1072 pages, I find him a bit wordy. He seems to have trouble telling a story in 500 pages or less. I know you said you wanted to read this book once it was in paper back. Have you picked up a copy yet?”

Answer: Yep.  It’s sitting on my to-read pile – which I intend to dive into just as soon as I’ve finished the 1200+ Essential Ellison.

riley writes: “And why do you assume people with a social conscience don’t practice what they preach?”

Answer: A few do but most are very selective about the sacrifices they make.  All I’m saying is I don’t feel like being lectured to by anyone who isn’t willing to walk the walk.

Rex Carter writes: “Hey Joe do you like any british sci-fi like Doctor Who or Torchwood or Ufo?”

Answer: I watched the first two seasons of Dr. Who (Eccleston and Tennant’s first year).  I’ve been meaning to check out a few of the later episodes written by Paul Cornell.

Alexander of Houston writes: “I am thinking of a venue in Japan or S. Korea and Tex-Mex cuisine, or some similar “American” Cuisine being the featured food. I need your help, in your opinion as a foodie as well as Akemi’s opinion as a Japanese, would there be a market for that in Japan?”

Answer: Hate to say it but Akemi is dubious.  I think it would really depend on the marketing as the Japanese consumer is very finicky yet drawn to exclusives.  I recall a Tokyoite telling me that one Starbucks in the neighborhood was always busy while another, only two blocks down, did barely any business at all.  The reason?  People went to the busy Starbucks because it was busy.