Unless I miss my guess, I have at least one reader/friend
who’s gonna want to know how I feel about Breaking Dawn, Part II.
I feel like I need to back up and talk about my feelings
about Twilight in general, so here goes.I had a friend who really loved the first three books, told me to read
them, and then read book four.She hated
it so much that she INSISTED that I read all four books, just to see what
happens when a series goes completely wrong.
I eventually audio-read the series, because that’s what I do
with books I care about only marginally. The time in the car must pass
regardless, and this way I can at least get in on the pop culture conversation.
My review was, in general, that the books were, and are,
boring.They are easy to read, and the
pages mostly fly by (except during long, seemingly unedited dialogue sections)
but that nothing happens.Girl meets
vampire, boy and girl fall in love, vampire baseball, girl is taken away from
anything that might be interesting, girl goes to save mom, girl is saved by
The end.At least for
The bigger problem I had with the books as I was reading
them were the sheer number of love story riffs that basically said that if your
boyfriend breaks up with you, you’re better off dead.Ick.Just ick.
Oh, and the dude falling in love with a baby.That was touchy too.
So.I read the books,
and wrote up reviews for the blog I used to post to, Fox Valley Geeks.That’s been shut down now, though you can
locate it if you really want to.
Then I was forced to get into a relationship with the
movies, because my wife wanted to see what the fuss was all about.
I was sorta-kinda okay with this, mostly because I figured
the movies would take out most of the dull stuff and leave only the interesting
bits.I was more or less right about
this.Frankly, the movies didn’t deviate
much from the books.They weren’t
allowed to.And it worked out well for
them, as they spent a few hundred million dollars and will probably pull in
over four billion dollars by the time they’re done.
Pretty great investment, really.
The joke was, they had to keep taking out boring
conversations to insert action sequences that weren’t in the actual text of the
books, because it was the only way to keep the audience awake.Heck, in order to keep the third movie
interesting, Stephenie Meyer had to write a whole new book about a new vampire,
so they could cram scenes from it into the movie so people wouldn’t go into a
coma waiting for something to happen.
And here is where my story takes a bit of a turn.
For a long time, I had a no money clause with the
series.I got the books from the
library, and borrowed copies of the movies so I didn’t have to actually lose
any money in the process.In the end, my
wife insisted on buying the books, but I would only do so during the holidays,
when the price would drop to four bucks for the paperback.
But then it all fell apart.
Kara’s friend was going to be around for the holidays, and
she wanted to see Breaking Dawn in a theater.
It’s a little more insulting to pay for something you don’t
care about, and now I was paying good money to watch mediocre actors say
more, it was only the first part of the story, which meant I would have to go
back and see the second part in a theater as well.
And see it I did.
The joke here is that the movies should have been
exceptionally long.The final Twilight
book is a massive doorstopper of a thing, somewhere north of 700 pages.But much like the previous books, nothing
There are probably close to 100 pages that involve a
wedding.There’s a massive section
devoted to the honeymoon.And then
finally, Bella gets pregnant and the plot tries desperately to kick in.
The problem is, the book is hamstrung by the fact that Bella
is the hero, and the book is told in the first person.
Now, the story tries to skirt that by moving the perspective
to another character for a while, but, blah.At that point Meyer had already demonstrated that she didn’t have the
guts to hurt a character in an important way, much less kill them.
So, the baby is born, Bella becomes a vampire, Jacob falls
in love with the baby.The vampire
police show up to kill the baby, because baby vampires are bad, mmm-kay?And then… they talk it out.
Oh, there’s some bits where other vampires show up to act as
witnesses or whatever, and Bella learns she’s even MORE special than everyone
already thought she was.But those are
subplots that, in the end, have little or nothing to do with the actual story.
The book, and the series, was a complete failure at that
point.But the fans, who mostly hated
the ending, still loved the characters.I guess they just tried not to think about how it ended, or
something.And then they all went to see
the movies of the book they hated.
Why talk about all of this?Because I still, at this point, have no idea why they broke the movie
into two parts.I mean, except for the
part where they get the money.
The thing is, Part II first offers the audience a really,
really long credits sequence.It looks
pretty terrible, as though it was cobbled together from stock footage by an
intern whose only job was to make it last as long as possible.
Then the movie jumps right into Bella waking up, and then
there’s a feeding sequence.The joke is
that it’s supposed to be hard for her not to eat a human, only they don’t
bother showing just how hard it is.So
it doesn’t matter.
Then she meets her creepy CGI
baby.The baby grows up.Despite the fact that Bella had to give her
up family to become a vampire, she doesn’t give up her family.The decision is, of course, made for her, as
are all her decisions.
She gets a house.She
beats a guy at arm wrestling.Her
toddler gets spotted by another vampire who turns her in because there aren’t
supposed to be vampire babies.
Then we meet a bunch of vampires who, ultimately, won’t
matter to the plot at all.As a bonus,
the movie totally strands Lee Pace, a really brilliant actor, by giving him
terrible dialogue and almost no personality.
Everyone gets ready for the Volturi to show up.They show up.
And here’s the big twist, so don’t read this, if you don’t
want it spoiled.
In the books, they talk it out.
In the movie… there’s a giant action sequence with lots of
fighting, and I gotta say, it’s actually pretty great.It is, in fact, hands down the best sequence
in all five movies, and I really enjoyed it.Important people died.Fates were
And then, in my favorite moment in a movie theater this
year, it was revealed to be a dream sequence.
And a woman two rows down from me yelled out, “Seriously!?”
It was the best thing ever.
Of course, this was supposed to be “the future,” as shown by
Alice.Except, if you’re paying attention, you know Alice
can’t see the future when werewolves are involved.
So either she made it up, and the dude who checked her head
was an idiot, or the movies managed to do something interesting by violating
their own internal rules.
And so it goes.
The movie comes to an end, and then we got ANOTHER really
long credits sequence, for every single character in all five movies, followed
by even more credits.Long story short,
they padded the heck out of this flick in hopes that you wouldn’t notice that
if they stuck the two movies together, and cut out the dream sequences and
credits, they could have cranked these things out in a not-as-moneymaking three
Word has come down from on high that Meyer is now saying
“Never say never” to future vampire stories.I don’t really know what they’d be about, since all the characters
involved seem to be set up for eternal youth and beauty.
I think I’ll go back to watching The Vampire Diaries,
It’s times like this I realize I’m a terrible blogger.If John Scalzi gets emailed a question, he
runs to his blog and answers it.A
friend of mine sent me a kindly email saying he read my blog and asked me about
Revolution, and silly me, I sent an email back to him.
This is why I’m not famous.I’m sure there are other reasons.
So, what I’m watching and mostly caught up on…
As my friend pointed out to me, it’s a flawed show.The one geek character is fat and has
glasses, both of which make little to no sense 15 years after the power goes
out.Resorting to hard labor alone
should have made him a bit more fit and trim, and his prescription has probably
changed six times.
But, look, this is not a science show.They are not consulting the Sagans and asking
how this kind of thing works.It’s an
action/adventure show, and glasses are a synonym for smart on TV.We should probably count ourselves lucky that
he’s not carrying a D and D manual around.
Ultimately, I’m neither in love with the show nor bored with
it.It’s fun, it has some solid moments
of humor, and they’re working overtime to keep surprises coming at the audience
every week.They’ve even managed some
nice emotional moments, which can be hard to do this early on in the run of a
I’m good with it, and will watch it to the end of the
Did I do a wrap-up on this?I don’t recall doing one.They
upped the episode count to 20 and broke the season in half, and while I know
there’s going to be a reset button at the end of the season, I kind of don’t
care.The show has been almost
impossibly brutal and well-done this year.And while they haven’t gotten quite at deep emotionally as they have in
the past, I do not care.This might be
my favorite show right now.
I just wanna see how they’re going to get out of this little
mess they’ve been making.
People get mad because the show wins awards, even though
it’s “not as good” as it used to be.To
which I say, feh.The show’s writing and
performances were new and fresh a few years ago, and while every episode is no
longer solid gold, it’s still filled with great writing and excellent
Crawl off this show’s back, critics of America.Be nice.If this was a new show, starting today, you’d claim it was the best
In emailing a different friend, I observed that when your
big guest star that you bring back during sweeps is the nearly forgotten guy
from Road Trip, you clearly didn’t plan to run for eight seasons.
But at this point, Supernatural is the third-highest rated
show on the CW.And while every season
shakes off a few more superfans, the ratings drops are incremental compared to
younger and more famous shows (Remember when Gossip Girl was A Big Deal?It’s blowing out a 13 episode season to wrap
things up, and the audience ain’t coming back for a visit.).
Every year I wonder out loud if the CW itself is doomed, and
every year it manages to hang around.At
this point, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Supernatural didn’t run for ten
years.Or until the CW goes off the
air.Could go either way, really.
As for the show itself, it’s shaking up its format and
trying to rework the relationships of the characters a bit.I appreciate the effort, to be sure, but it
isn’t quite there yet.They have a great
overarching plot (find a prophet and the word of God and send all the demons
away forever) and they haven’t enlisted EVERYONE THEY KNOW to help.That’s nonsensical.
And Sam and Dean are arguing, because it makes with the
drama, but even that feels a little off.
It’s a new showrunner issue, and I’m sure it’ll get
better.And I’m loving the show as I
watch it.It’s just later that I go,
“Well, some of this logic doesn’t quite track.”
Not a banner back half to the season, but funny in spots,
and tying the sale of Star Wars to the Presidential election got pretty danged
The Vampire Diaries:
They’ve been forced to resort to a 60 second explanation of
what’s going on every week.Not even a
“Previously on…”It’s literally, “There
are vampires.And original
vampires.And witches.And werewolves.And hybrids.And…”
They should probably just put someone at the front of the
show helpfully holding up the DVD box sets
of the first three seasons and saying:“Go watch these, then come back.Or you’ll be hopelessly lost.”
This year, so far, they’ve added Hunters, and because of the
fact that the show churns at warp speed, we’re down to exactly one person on
the show who is human, with no supernatural abilities at all.
And credit where credit is due: There’s only one character
on the show I’m kind of sick of.Unfortunately, it’s Elena, the leading lady.They’ve given her this death wish that she’s
now forced to bring up at least six times and episode, and if the show could
get rid of her, I think I’d be okay with it.
Heck, they’ve already set up the same actress as another
character, so they could just bring her back, change the focus of the show, and
carry on. Right now, something needs to change.
But maybe I shouldn’t whine so much. The fact that the show can go at Mach nine and
still have tricks up its sleeve is a minor miracle.
The Big Bang Theory:
They’re still shaking up the cast, slapping characters
together and trying to squeeze the funny out, and for the most part, they do
all right.I have noticed that over the
last couple of years they’ve started shoving more and more characters in, which
generally indicates a problem.
It’s their version of Cousin Oliver syndrome, only no one on
the show is having a baby (well, actually, now that they’ve married off two
characters, I can see the baby thing coming, because they’ve gotta do SOMETHING
for season six, right?) so they add a couple new people to the cast just to
keep things clicking along.
You know what?The
show works, and I laugh sometimes.Good
I’m not terribly enamored with New
York, mostly because I’m not all that sure what to
make of it.Rachel spent a bunch of
years being the big star at home, and now the premise is supposed to be the big
fish in the big pond, but I’m not feeling it.The dance instructor thing feels like Sue 2.0 (or rather, 3.0, since
that had that other women taking Sue on back in Ohio) and I have no idea what
to make of the Kurt thing.
They broke up the various relationships (even though one was
technically already broken…) so maybe the New York
stuff will start to work better, but, eh.
Meanwhile, back home, they’re already recycling plots from
the first season of Glee.Of course, now
Mr. Shu is headed off somewhere (I can’t say I care all that much) and Finn is
now taking over Shu’s season one issues, where his personal life is a wreck and
the only thing that ever mattered to him was Glee, so now he’s going to lead
Meanwhile, we’ve got Rachel 2.0 going through the same love
quadrangle with the new Finn (he was the Glee Project winner in case you didn’t
know) and the new Puck (Puck’s half-brother) and the new Quinn/Santana
Really, all we need at this point is for Finn to start an
affair with Shu’s lady, and we’re pretty much back to season 1 in toto.
Am I hating it?No.I’m still enjoying the
musical numbers, which is just about the only thing that ever made sense on the
show anyway.I’m neutral on Grease,
though recognize it’s a much-beloved musical.Which means this week is gonna be extra-iffy for me, I suspect.
I always go back to Degrassi with this show, because Degrassi
is now 12 seasons into its latest incarnation, with 17 seasons in total, and it
still manages to bump along well, even though they’ve traded out every cast
member.They’ve created new people with
mostly new problems, and the number of times a plot has repeated pretty much
completely I can count on one hand.
Come to think of it, I’m even more disappointed that we
didn’t get the show we were promised, where Tina steps up and learns how hard
it is to be the star.And Blaine
actually has to fit in now that Kurt’s gone, instead of just moping.They’ve got a new and interesting story idea
to approach with Unique, but they’re sort of cramming it in the corners so all
the 2.0s can get more screen time.Eh.
Like I said.The
performances are still fun.
The Walking Dead:
Much has been made at how the show has been invigorated this
season, and I have to confess I’m impressed so far.They managed a handful of action-packed
episodes, they’ve dragged the characters through some vicious but fun-to-watch
storylines, and they did a nice job setting up the Governor.
They’re clearly looking to shake things up this season, and
while it hasn’t quite made it to Vampire Diaries levels of speed, they’ve got a
nice head of steam going.
Can they maintain?That’s a tough question, as the comic got way, way bogged down in the
prison section of the story.But they’ve
wandered off the comic storyline quite a ways at this point, and I think that’s
given them the kind of freedom they need to keep going big.
This might be the season that finally works out all the
(An aside: I’m using the phrase “Shake things up” too
often.I’d apologize, but, hey, it’s not
like it’s costing you anything…)
Community – Seasons 1 – 3:
My wife and I finally got around and through the whole show,
catching up just in time for the new season to show up, only that didn’t
Look, it’s critically acclaimed, and I get why everyone
loves and I get why it doesn’t do better.It’s a show about TV and movie tropes, and they regularly acknowledge
them and try to turn them on their head.If you grew up spending too much time watching a flickering screen, it’s
the greatest thing ever.
But if you don’t get the joke (my wife didn’t watch nearly
as much TV as I did, and some of the episodes are a complete mystery to her)
some of the episodes just ain’t that fun.And if a new viewer tunes in, catches the episode where they make fun of
Westerns, and goes, “I hate Westerns, I’m never watching this show again,”
well, that’s one more viewer they didn’t get.
Right now, they’re set to show back up at the start of next
year, covering for all the shows that are coming to an end either on purpose or
through the failure to find viewers.If
they stuck Community into the Scrubs rotation, and tossed it 18 episodes a year
to fill in for failure shows, the audience will follow it.
As for what I think of the show?I dig it.I think it drags itself a little too far into unreality sometimes, but
I’m good with that.It’s the show that’s
not afraid to try everything.
And unlike Glee, which is equally as random, this show
actually has fairly consistent characters.Who saw THAT coming?
And that’s where I’m at now.I’m way looking forward to the coming new year, wherein I’ll finally be
able to dive into the latest in Degrassi episodes, catch up with Being Human,
and watch Warehouse 13, Spartcus (Final season! Nooooooooooo!) and Game of
I’ve been reading a lot about voter demographics
today. In short, a surprising amount of the election yesterday was determined
by the black, Latino, and female vote.
My daughter, the Ethiopian girl learning Spanish in her
bilingual school, is the new face of the United States.
I am proud to live in a country that has come so far,
and hopeful that our nation can continue along this path. When she steps into
the voting booth thirteen years from now, I hope that her opinions and choices
are respected, and that the faces of our government reflect that of my child.
So Disney bought Lucasfilm.Which is to say, they bought Star Wars, and they plan to have Star Wars
Episode VII out in theaters by 2015.
John Scalzi nailed it, inasmuch as he pointed at The
Avengers and said, “Well, clearly Disney can do this thing right.”
Do I agree?Yeah,
mostly.But sadly, this also means that
the Star Wars mythos is going to wander away from what the movies always were:
The One Holy True Writ.
I mean, if you want a Star Wars fix, there are comics, and
novels, and toys, and a games, and video games, and LARPing, and TV shows, and
fan films, and you know what?None of
them counted, because they weren’t the movies, which is the place George Lucas
took a stand and said, “None of that stuff matters, only this counts.”
Except now, they won’t.The movies will be just another franchise, played with by many with
varying degrees of success not unlike, say, The Children of the Corn.
There are those (and there are many) who will be happy to
see Lucas taken away from his toys.Those are the people who make jokes like, “What prequel trilogy?”But if they thought that was bad, they need
to realize that things can get a whole lot worse.
Friday the 13th Part V worse.
“The Golden Compass,” “Oh, we’re never gonna finish that
trilogy because it crashed and burned,” worse.
Meanwhile, everyone is all, “Get Joss Whedon.”And I’m not saying no, here, but there just
happens to be someone else with some free time on his hands.
Four Words: Christopher Nolan’s Star Wars.
Look, there are a lot cool things that could be done, and a
lot of fun place to take the series, but in the end, it’s never going to go
back to what it was, the vision of one man with a love of ancient sci-fi novels
and serials.Instead, it’ll be a product
produced by a production company.
For the longest time, I thought my books clubs were the only
ones that had problems.Then I bumped
into a friend’s Facebook status, wherein she said (roughly):
“Time to go to my book club, where we will sit around, drink
wine, and not talk about the book none of us finished.”
And that was when I knew that book clubs are, in general, a
bit of a train wreck.
Now, granted, there might be a few really excellent book
clubs out there, where everyone shows up on time, everyone has read the book
from cover to cover, and the person who picked the book has put together a
half-dozen questions that lead to lively, free-change chatting about themes of
the book, the meaning of life, and so on.
I imagine most of these are populated by retirees with a lot
of free time.
Having been in three book clubs that worked to varying
degrees, however, I think there are ways that the average book club can at
least approach a certain level of success.About half of these I’m straight-out thieving from the woman who ran two
of my book clubs.
Though I feel I must emphasize that even with these in
place, the book clubs kept falling apart.But I think that had a lot to do with these rules slipping over
time.And once the rules were gone, the
book club croaked with them.
Let us proceed.
First:Put a cap on
book length.Before I joined my first
book club, the club in question had already imploded once before, because
people gave little or no thought to how big the book should be.At one point, someone chose the entire Lord
of the Rings trilogy.That’s over 1000
pages of reading, and everyone had a month to accomplish it.Needless to say, this book was the most often
cited as the one that crushed the club.
A similar problem hit my third book club, when someone
suggested everyone read the book 1491, which covers the history of America
before Columbus arrived.It’s 540 pages of small print.
No one read it except the guy who suggested it, and someone
who found it in audiobook format.Book
The original cap for the books was supposed to be 250 pages,
but I think even that might be too long.I’m quite sure there are a few hundred books under 200 pages.I would start there.
And I repeat.No
drifting.255 pages is probably
okay.But the very second someone
suggests a 300-pager, nip it in the bud.
Second: Pick books that people might actually enjoy
reading.Fahrenheit 451 is perfect,
because it’s a classic that has an actual story and interesting themes besides.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a terrible
choice, because it’s boring, scattered, and reads like a series of emo blogs
written by a pretentious teenager.
Most of the true book fails seemed to occur when someone
would pick the title of a book pretty much out of a hat because it sounded
interesting, without ever laying eyes on the actual book.To that end, there should probably be a
sub-rule that before picking a book, the person making the selection first must
read the opening 10 or 20 pages.
(Two quick stories about Portrait.The book was so bad only two people at the
club actually read it.This led to no
discussion at all, and the book club went to a movie instead.The Godfather of Green
Bay.Which is a
so-so movie that’s pretty entertaining if you live in Wisconsin.
(Second story: The guy who chose Portrait later made up for
it by choosing The Cat in the Hat.There
a massive annotated book about Cat.I
wholeheartedly endorse talking about this book at your club.)
to be the leader.And that leader needs
to send out reminders about the club night (and the book title) two weeks in
advance, and one week in advance.
And then, the leader must find out who has actually read the
book at that juncture.If there’s a week
to go and the answer is “no one?”The
club needs to be pushed off to another month.
The thing of it is, all of this needs to be handled well in
advance, and between Facebook, email, and texting, it should be an easy
thing.But our clubs were constantly
plagued with messages like, “Are we still meeting?What’s the date again?I haven’t been able to get my hands on the
Fourth: Pick a meeting place, and make it the permanent
Another troublesome question: “Where are we meeting?”
The thing of it is, yes, it’s nice for people to share the
responsibility of hosting, but in reality, it just sucks.Every month, you have to send out a new set
of directions.The distance might be
impossible for some of the book club members.(In one case, we had a 45 minute drive, it was winter, it was dark, and
we had a little one.Needless to say,
that did not happen.)
By meeting in the same place every month, everyone knows how
long it takes to get there as well, so no one is arriving 30 minutes late and
horking up the discussion.
needs to be food.
We did this kind of thing a few ways.There were themed meals to go with the books,
which was fun but could be a lot of work.
Honestly, I’d say either meet up at a restaurant where it’s
quiet enough to talk, or order pizza.Potluck kind of works, but gets problematic in the main course area,
which means someone is going to do a lot of work and probably spend way more
than the person who brings a bag of chips.
Pizza, I say.
Sixth: Make sure the book is easy to get your hands on.
On a couple of occasions, people picked books that were
available free online.Which is great,
except most of us didn’t have Kindles or iPads, and subsequently no one wanted
to read the book online.
Some of these were so-called classics, which meant the
library had one copy.So one person got
that, and everyone else had to pay money for a book they were only going to
read once, if at all.
Finally, feel the need to once again suggest that the books
selected are books that the people in the club actually want to read.Yes, it can be “interesting” to do classics,
but more often than not it gets frustrating and dull quickly.
I was once in a Jane Austen book club, and the thing of it
is, she only wrote six books.But they
were all torture, and in the end a club that started with ten members slowly
shrunk to four.
I’ll grant you that not every book is going to please every
person.However, people in book clubs
are far too prone to picking books that go down like medicine.This will crush your club every time.
To get you started, here are a few books that led to great
Forever Changes: Brendan Halpin (Rated by many as the best
book we’d ever read in the club.)
A Christmas Carol: Charles Dickens (A classic, and most
people know the story, which makes it a super-breezy read.)
Survivor: Chuck Palahniuk(This one is a little longer than it should be for the club, but there’s
lots to talk about and it goes by fast.)
Water for Elephants: Sara Gruen(Also probably too long, but again,
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Douglas Adams
(Everyone read it.The only problem was,
the plot is so thin there isn’t a lot to discuss…)
The Road: Cormac McCarthy (Painfully depressing, but great
Fahrenheit 451: Ray Bradbury (Ebooks make this one even more
The Cat in the Hat: Dr. Seuss (I cannot emphasize how great
the discussion was.)
As for complete failures:
1491 – Only two people finished it.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: Again, two people.
Logan’s Run: Had
interesting ideas, but the book itself isn’t all that well written, which
turned it into a bit of a slog.
Lolita: A little controversy sounds like fun, but man, this
was a tedious book.
She’s got a few free books, if you’re a sampling type, and
her cheapest nvoels will cost you all of a dollar.
Do my friend and yourself a favor and check out her stuff.
I’ve been puzzling over something, and I’m putting it down
here partially to get it out of my head, and partially to get thoughts from the
people who drop by to visit.
At the moment, I’m currently in editing mode, which makes me
tired.I do reread books from time to
time, but I’ve never been the guy who finishes a book and then immediately
reads it again.
(A lot of this has to do with the STACKS of books in my
to-be-read pile.Not to mention the
two-dozen Kindle books I’ve picked up and haven’t gotten around to.I mean, seriously, one of my favorite authors
wrote an ebook, and I’ve only read half of it:
So rereading, this thing I rarely do, is what I’ve been
doing with my Blood Calling series.I’m
reading and editing them, then sending them off to Red Iris, then a week or two
later I have them in my hands again and the only thing preventing them from
coming out is me reading them a SECOND time.Or actually, more like for the fifth or sixth time.
I’m not complaining (okay, a little bit…) but it has kept me
from finishing some other projects.
And there’s this other thing, which I’m going to talk about
a little bit, but not too much, because it involves people who aren’t me.
Readers paying close attention might have noticed that the
third book in the Blood Calling trilogy is dedicated to my friend Liz.That’s not a random thing.About a year ago, I found out Liz has
I cannot stress to you how important Liz is to me and my
family (not to mention her own).More to
the point she loves the Blood Calling books, and she even mentioned them on her
“I’m fighting cancer” blog.
She was the woman who told me they were just as good as The
Hunger Games.And trust me, Liz will
tell you when a book is bad.
Ever since I finished the trilogy, and started working on
other things, she’s subtly and not-so-subtly mentioned that I should continue
Now, I should say that it’s not like she’s trying to guilt
me into it.If anything, it’s a nice
reminder that she likes my writing and wants to see more of it.
I still need to finish Frank, the Lonely Unicorn, but I’m
hoping to wrap that up after all these edits (I may even take a crack and
trying to push through it during National Novel Writing Month), at which point
I plan to turn my attention back to the world of vampires.
Which brings me to my question.
Right now, one of the “big” things in e-publishing is the
serial.Much like a TV show, but slower,
I guess, a new “episode” of the story comes out every month.And then, after the story is done, the whole
thing is stuck into one large book.
My friend Sara, linked up at the top, is doing this with her
massively popular Seasons of the Moon series.And John Scalzi, at man with two Hugos, is tapping into his Old Man’s
War universe and doing this as well.
So now I’m puzzling: If I go back to the universe of
vampires, how should I do it?Do I spend
six months trying to write the next chapter in the story?Do I block out the better part of a year and
do another trilogy?
Or do I sneak it out in sections, as is slowly becoming
I can see certain advantages to both.
I suppose my question is, what do YOU, as a reader, think
you’d prefer?A 60 page chunk of story
at the start of every month?Or a
longer, more-fleshed-out tale every six months?
A year or two ago, I thought it might be fun to work up a
book proposal wherein I spent a year reading all of Stephen King, from Carrie
up to whatever it was he had put out in the last year.
For better or worse, I’ve been reading King since I was
about 12 years old, which means I’m coming up on 25 years of consuming his
prose, and I thought it might be entertaining to compare and contrast my memory
of his work with how it holds up today.
The problem, of course, is that I almost certainly need to
be a much more famous author before I can sell a book like this.Of course, with my Blood Calling series
slowly making headway into the world, maybe that time is coming.
So consider this a bit of a test chapter.
The point of the book, ultimately, would be to discuss not
only King’s massive body of work, but how it influenced me, and more to the
point, how my views of him have changed from when I was 12 until now, as I
re-read his stories.
I’ve already reread some of his books, and, well… you’ll
I’ve told the story of how I came to read King before, but
here’s a summary.
When I was little, I had no interest in scary books.Because they were scary.And I didn’t handle scary well, in books, or
I couldn’t tolerate things like the face-melting sequence in
Raiders of the Lost Ark, so when friends of mine would tell me what happened in
the latest tale of Jason or Freddy, I was all the more convinced that scary
movies weren’t for me.
And that extended to books.
Then one day, desperate for something to read, I borrowed a
copy of a scary short story collection from a friend in study hall.And I got into it.
And of course I knew, because my mom told me, that Stephen
King wrote scary books.So I figured I’d
start reading some of his stuff.
Really, this is a bit like taking a toke of pot, and
deciding to move right on to meth.
For a while, it was easy to find King I hadn’t read.The man was prolific, and even in the late
eighties the guy took up the better part of an entire bookshelf all on his
own.So I could walk in and get
something I hadn’t read before with relative ease.
Which means I was pretty much scraping the bottom of the
barrel by the time I had to go to an entirely different section of the library
(nonfiction!) to find Danse Macabre.
Now, the thing of it is, I had found a few King books I
hadn’t liked much by then.Tommyknockers
was the second worst of the lot, a complete struggle from beginning to
end.And I had read the first forty
pages of The Talisman three or four times before I was able to get through the
entire book.Which I still didn’t enjoy
But Danse Macabre was a whole other kettle of fish.
The books starts with a long introduction that’s designed to
explain why King decided to tackle the subject at hand, which was, at the time,
the most recent 30 years of horror.We’re talking roughly 1950 to 1980, here, and I was reading the book
somewhere around 1990, putting the book a solid ten years out of date.
Even more of a problem for me was the fact that the book
ends when I was about three years old, so pretty much all of his references
were lost on me.Flipping through the
pages, I found a discussion of The Twilight Zone, which to my brain was a flop
movie and a “new” TV series (the show was re-launched in 1985).
I made it a little way into the book, and promptly gave
up.He was trying to examine horror
stories as literature, and it was doing nothing for me.He was also tackling books like Dracula,
which I hadn’t read and didn’t have much interest in picking up.
I couldn’t tell you how far I got into it.Maybe forty pages, maybe fifty. Regardless,
it went back to the library, and I was sure I was never going to pick it up
again.I consoled myself by noting that
I had still read all of King’s fiction, so this nonfiction book didn’t count.
A year or two passed.
I was at a Boy Scout meeting when I decided it was time to
pick the book up again.Not because it
was recommended to me, or because I had gotten older and wiser, but because we
were playing baseball.One of the kids
(his name was Chris, that I remember) said it reminded him of a comic book,
where all the bases were made of body parts, and the baselines were intestines.
I was nauseated, but intrigued.“Where did you read that?”
“I heard about it in Danse Macabre.”
So now I was curious.I hit up the library, got the book, and started over again from page
Once again, it was a massive slog, with a lot of talk about
literature and literary devices and about what is scary and why.I still didn’t care, but I knew that the bit
about the baseball diamond was in there, and wanted to get to it.
And I did.And it
wasn’t much more of a description than what Chris had given me. But by then I
had gotten through a decent chunk of the book, and I pressed on.
To a child who mostly grew up the eighties, the book was
confusing at best.I knew who Ray
Bradbury was, but the rest of the authors were a complete blank to me.I had never heard of any of the horror movies
King had brought up.And again,
Twilight Zone excepted, the TV shows he spoke of were a complete mystery to me.
I finished the book with a shrug.At least I could say I had gotten through it.
Danse Macabre continued to age, as did I.And like all research, it slowly went from
slightly out of date to very out of date, to something of a curiosity, to…
Science fiction tends to age poorly, because technology
always seems to get ahead of whatever curve creative types can come up
with.The data pads on Star Trek seemed
impossibly from the future right up until someone develops the iPad.(Come to think of it, I think the phaser is
the only part of Star Trek technology that no one has created yet.But give it time…)
But for better or worse, King planted a flag and said,
“Here’s where we are in horror.”
By the time I went back to Danse Macabre, I was twenty years
older, and the contents of the book were no longer a mystery to me.I had read Dracula, and Harlan Ellison, and
Richard Matheson.I still hadn’t gotten
around to seeing The Amityville Horror, but I was aware of it, along with all
its sequels and the recent remake.
Heck, I’d even seen The Horror of Party Beach taunted on
Mystery Science Theater 3000.
A few of the names and titles remained a blank, but overall,
I found it to be an impressive overview of horror, pop culture, and literature
Granted, much of King’s conjecture about how horror works,
various kinds of monsters, and whatever else, I could still take or leave.That’s almost certainly more my issue than
his, as I haven’t studied the tenants of literature enough to agree or disagree
Mostly, I was impressed with the depth to which he went to
hunt down information on all the old movies and shows and books.Today, of course, you can pick up a copy of
every episode of Dark Shadows on DVD.But in the late 1970s, as King was writing
this, there was no DVD.Even videotapes were rare and difficult to
come by, and if you wanted to find a book, you had to search through old
bookstores, not hop on the internet and find what you’re looking for thirty
Ultimately what struck me is that thirty years down the
road, King’s book did a surprisingly good job of laying out the pop culture
that was worth remembering, and would be remembered.
I’m a little sad that he probably has neither the time nor
the interest in doing a second survey, ending where the last book began, and
running up to the present day.I suspect
that in thirty years it’ll be a heckuva read…
Hey everybody.I just
wanted to thank everyone who bought a copy of my book Blood Calling.It’s been selling better than anything else
I’ve ever written, which is really cool and makes me feel very author-y.
I wanted to pass this idea along, as it’s something an
author friend of mine once suggested for his own books.
If you can’t afford a copy of my book, or just want to
spread the word about my book, can you contact your local library and ask them
to pick up a copy?
In many cases, you don’t even have to visit your local
library to accomplish this.For example,
my library has an “Interlibrary loan/purchase request” link (you can see it
here, it’s on the right-hand side):
Usually, they ask for things like the title and the ISBN,
which are easily found on the Amazon page:
Now all you have to do is open up your local library site,
pull the information from the linked pages, and wait…
Back when I was unemployed, I made a few requests to the
library for things I just couldn’t justify buying, and they came through for me
again and again.As a thanks, I gave
them a copy of my book, and will continue to do so when future books of mine
But seeing as how I have friends all over the country, well…
another book on the shelves is another chance for me to find a new reader.
This is the story of how I joined a Doctor Who club, even
though I had never seen an episode of Doctor Who in my life.
I’m sure this story will be of limited interest to most
people, but I promised to type it up for one of my former students, and this is
really the best place to do it.
So where to start?
Let’s go with college.
In college, I met a guy named Bob.He met and fell in love with someone in my
hometown, and ended up moving to Wisconsin.(Eventually, I was as an usher in his
wedding, but that isn’t really important to this story.)
After moving to the state, Bob and his wife-to-be invited us
to a game night with a bunch of people we didn’t know.One of those people was named Sue.(She’s also great, but unmarried, which is
not important to this story.)
Sue worked at a local hotel, with a woman named Brenda.(My wife and I sang at her wedding, and I
played piano in her wedding.This is
Across the street from the hotel was a used DVD/Video
Game place, and that IS important.
This is probably close to 10 years ago.I’ve been trying to figure out the exact
date, but I don’t recall what it was.I
even tried to look for our old Yahoo group (I know, right?A Yahoo group!Why didn’t we just send stone tablets through
snail mail?).But the group is gone now,
a victim of email spam.
As a DVD consumer who
also happens to be on a budget, I was deeply in love with any and all used DVD
places I encountered.I still am today,
but all the stores I used to frequent are gone now, victims of the economy and
the end of the DVD boom.
The point is, I probably went to the DVD
place on a weekly basis.I’d drop by for
a few minutes after work, see what was new, maybe grab something I’d been
wanting to get, but didn’t want to pay full price for.Among other things, my copies of The Exorcist
and Children of the Corn III came from
As human beings go, I tend to think of myself as
forgettable.I base this on nothing,
really, except for the fact that I have, on a small handful of occasions,
bumped into people who I went to high school with, and sat in classrooms with,
but who have no idea who I am.Maybe
it’s the beard.
Okay, now things get a little tricky to explain.
There was a fellow who worked at the DVD
place.He had long hair, glasses, and a
jovial attitude.I probably saw him
there once every two weeks or so, alternating with other people who worked at
One day, I was hanging out with Sue and a few other mutual
friends, and Sue said, “You know that DVD
place across the street from the hotel I work at?”
“I work with this woman, Brenda.Her boyfriend works there.Glasses, long hair?”
I nodded in recognition, and the subject just kind of faded.
What I didn’t know is that she’d had a similar conversation
with Brenda and her boyfriend, which went, “My friend Josh goes to your video
store all the time.Beard?Glasses?”
So the next time I went into the store, the guy behind the
counter introduced himself.Actually,
what he said was, “You’re Sue’s friend, right?”
co-worker’s boyfriend, right?”
And then I felt a little awkward, because honestly I don’t
know what the social obligation is to your friend’s co-worker’s boyfriend.
Of course, I feel a little awkward pretty much all the
I may have an event or two shuffled here, but I do recall
that I went back a few times after that, and George (Who was, and still is,
incredibly jovial.Seriously, he’s
pretty much the nicest guy ever.) and I would exchange commentary about the
movies I was thinking about buying.
Then one day, not long after we introduced ourselves, he
gave me a flyer and told me that he was starting a Doctor Who fan club.I kind of shrugged, and admitted that I had
never really seen the show.
This was about 99.99 percent true.Once, in college, I was hanging out with a
couple of friends, and a friend of theirs was trying to find an episode of The
Simpsons on a videotape, and instead he found the last two minutes of a Doctor
Who episode.One of my friends said,
“Doctor Who!I used to watch this all
the time as a kid!”
Also in college, there was a brief attempt to relaunch
Doctor Who with a TV movie.I saw about
30 seconds of that playing on a large TV in a dorm lounge.
That was my entire exposure to the show.
I told George I would think about attending his group.The fact is, I was curious, mostly because I
knew the show existed, I knew it was kind of a geeky thing, and from little I
knew about George we had some similar interests, namely stuff like Buffy the
What finally convinced me to try it was that Sue got in
touch with me and asked if I was going, and I figured if we both went we could
kind of see how the land was lying and go from there.
When I got to the first meeting, it was me, and George and
Sue, and a handful of other people I would come to think of as “the
regulars.”There was some food.And a quick, “Welcome to the first meeting,”
talk, and then we watched the first two episodes of the show.
Now, you have to understand something.I’m not talking about the more recent show
that started in 2005.This was before
2005.There was no “new” show.
No, we were watching the original, started-in-1963 edition
of Doctor Who.
The thing about the show was, it was BBC
back in the day when they’d give you twelve dollars (sorry, “pounds,”) and tell
you to go make a TV show. It was, if memory serves me, designed as a show for
kids, which would hopefully teach them some science, and history, and whatever
else, all with whatever change people could find in the couch that day.
The writing was good.The sets were laughable.The
acting varied wildly, from quite good to, “I think the director owed that guy a
But what kept me going was the camaraderie.Well, that and the fact that I have no self
One of my very favorite TV shows is Mystery Science Theater
3000, which features a guy and two robots making fun of bad movies.
After watching perhaps ten minutes of 1963 era BBC
cheapness, IT WAS ON.Well, not
really.I think something extra-silly
happened, and I made a joke, and everyone laughed.
I won’t sayI evolved the club, but after that, it became
clear that you could like the show, and also be aware that it was more than a
little ridiculous.I can’t think of a
single episode that didn’t get at least some commentary.
So I stayed.
Sue eventually gave up.In one of my favorite moments of the club, George had us all fill out
forms stating what they liked and disliked about the club, in order to improve
it.She wrote, pretty much word for
word, “I like everything about the meetings but Doctor Who.”
Over time, the club shifted a bit.The new Doctor Who arrived on the BBC,
and even though it wasn’t in the states, we got copies and saw it before most
of the US.Eventually, however, it started broadcasting
here at the same time it was broadcasting overseas, and since the show only met
once every two weeks, the club got behind.
There are other interesting memories of the club as
well.As it turned out, one of the
members didn’t like the fact that some of us didn’t take the show very seriously,
and left the group.That was a little
One dude kept showing up to see the new episodes, and he
kept begging for tips on how to download illegal copies of the episodes
himself.I guess he eventually figured
it out, because he dropped out as well.
On one kind of fun occasion, we didn’t play Doctor Who at
all, as the group voted to show the movies I had written that evening.
George wrote a Doctor Who radio drama for a fan group, and I
have the privilege of helping him edit it.Which was fun, until his editor put him through a two sets of revisions
and I had to read the same slightly modified script three times.That was tiring for both of us, I think.
(An aside: I never did develop a favorite Doctor.They all had their good points and their bad
points, and sometimes my dislike of a Doctor had more to do with the variant
(Of the companions, my favorite was easily Sarah Jane Smith,
probably because she was adorable and spunky and a journalist, not unlike my
And then there was the day I left.I was going to be a dad, and I couldn’t stay
in the group because I had to pick my daughter up from day care every
night.The group got me a cake.
A year or two later, the club came to an end.They decided to go out big, and George rented
a movie theater and showed a rare animated Doctor Who on the big screen.He even had the group meet on a weekend, so
guys like myself could attend.
We watched the episodes.We ate movie theater food.And at
the end of it all, I felt like I’d completed a little Whovian journey.
Over the years, I’ve tried to introduce to show to my
wife.She came with me to one meeting,
where we watched the first episode of the new series.She said she liked it, but after that she had
no interest in watching the show with me.Even when it became available on regular TV, so we didn’t have to attend
My time is limited, and it’s even more limited as my kid
gets older, so finding the time to watch the show without her is probably never
going to happen.
All things considered, George could probably run a
professional Doctor Who club, if such a thing existed and paid money.In a handful of years, meeting only every two
weeks, we still got the chance to see every one of the original Doctors.We saw the TV movie.We watched the long-forgotten (for a good
reason) K-9 and Company, the first Doctor Who spinoff.We watched episodes of Torchwood before the
show made it to the states.
Am I a fan of the show?I was, after all, in a fan club for several years.
Let’s go with no.If
I really loved the show with all my heart, I’d probably still be scrambling to
watch it.Borrowing DVDs from friends,
setting aside time in the summer to catch up.
I will say that when I was watching it consistently, the
show had a surprising amount of fun to offer.The newer version of the show was clearly pattered after shows like
Buffy the Vampire Slayer with humor and drama and inside jokes and rewards for
sticking with it.I suspect if I went
back to it, I might love it.
But at the time, what I really loved was the gang of people
watching it.That’s the part I really
miss, and kind of wish I could get back.
But time marches on.Unless you’re the Doctor, I suppose.