Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Friday, January 27, 2012
Hey, everybody! My wife, the fabulous Emily Devenport, has a new ebook out. It's called Pale Lady, and takes place in an afterlife like no other. And if you go to her posting about it you can get the coupon code that will allow you to get it for $0.00.
What a deal!
Another reason you may want it is because I did the cover.
Not bad if I do say so myself, though I'm still learning the art of ebook cover design.
This is my first solo attempt; the first cover I did was a collaboration with Em for her novel Broken Time (originally published under the pseudonym Maggy Thomas).
Again, pretty good, but since it was part of the learning process, I see things that could have been done differently, and better. I'd go back and redo, but that would eat up a lot of my valuable time. It's better to go on to the next cover, not look back -- do better next time.
Currently, I'm struggling with a cover for the e-edition of Obsidian Harvest, a novella I wrote with Rick Cook. I've done some drawings, scanned them, and am using GIMP to combine them with lettering to make a eyeball-snagging cover.
The problem is, I'm still struggling with the intricacies of GIMP. For this I have to do more than the diddling around I do for my on-the-run, straight-from-the-sketchbook, slam-dunk blog illustrations. Still, I would like for these covers to have the same instant impact.
The problem is, I'm just plain thinking too much. I need to forget about all the technicalities and just do it.
In the words of that American master, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, “I never spent any time thinking about art, I just did things.”
Sunday, January 22, 2012
A black robe, powdered wig, and gavel may be in order – I'm going to be a judge . . . of the first Black Marks Literary Award that is. It'll be for a perviously unpublished science fiction novel. There will be a cash prize of $500, plus the option of publication.
So, if you have a virgin science fiction novel manuscript kicking around that you think is a winner, check out the guidelines, and read them carefully, because they warn:
Any guidelines that aren't expressly followed are grounds for automatic disqualification.
What will I be looking for in picking the winner? What I usually look for in the genre – I hope to get my mind blown. Give me daring feats of the imagination!
I like my sci-fi psychedelic rather than narcotic.
Or, to use a bullfighting metaphor: For me, science fiction should be a burladero rather than a querencia.
For those of you non-aficonados out there, here are the definitions from Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon:
Burladero: a shelter of planks set close together and a little out from the corral or barrera behind which the bullfighters and herders can dodge if pursued.
Querencia: part of the ring that the bull prefers to be in; where he feels at home.
These days, too much science fiction is hunkered down in a querencia rather than surviving close calls in a burladero.
So, go ahead, leave the safe zone, try to blow my mind. It'll make my day. But it won't be easy, I've been soaking my brain in all kinds of weirdness since my Atomic Age childhood. It's made me a bit jaded.
But what's life without challenges?
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Monday, January 16, 2012
I first discovered Nollywood back in 2008, while killing time after we had finished packing for the World Science Fiction Convention/National Parks road trip that inspired my wife Emily to become a geologist – but that's another story. Clicking on the TV, I channel surfed into the farthest reaches of our cable service, and landed in a documentary called This is Nollywood. It blew my mind.
Already being a fan of the works of Nigerians like Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Amos Tutuola, as well as low-budget filmmaking from places beyond Hollywood, my curiosity was inflamed. I got online, did some searches, and found some trailers that also blew my mind.
I've shared these trailers on Facebook, and blogged about them more than once. When I need my emotions uplifted, I seek them out. They have a rapid-fire style that makes the movies seem even more outrageous. I hope to someday write short stories that pack that kind of a punch.
(Awk! I just found out that the trailers I embedded on those posts are no longer available on YouTube. Guess I'll have to do some more searching. But that's life in the Information Age . . . Meanwhile, dig the funkadelic digital fuzz!)
One movie that seem especially bizarre, and interesting, was Across the Bridge.
The trailers (at the time I found several) were incredible. It looked like blaxsploitation in Africa gone stark raving sci-fi. The laser-eyed giant-breasted goddess/devil is one of the most remarkable creations in fantasy film. Sure, her breasts are like something out of a cheapo Fifties Hollywood monster movie – Attack of the Fifty-Foot Woman comes to mind – and her other special effects are examples of video primitivism, but she comes through with a power that today's CGI spectaculars can't match.
And the glimpses of Nigerian life – the clothes, neighborhoods, and curious practice of money spraying that I had heard about, but never seen, all promised an exciting new backdrop for the wild fantasy.
When I finally realized that entire movies could be found on YouTube (these last few years have been kind of hectic) I searched and found Across the Bridge. At first I thought the original had spawned a pair of sequels – I was thinking Hollywood structure and marketing – but to my surprise, Parts One, Two, and Three were sections of one long movie. It, like a lot of movies from other parts of the planet, has a slower pace than the manic trailers, and most of the first two parts deal with character development and motivation to want to “suck the breast of everlasting milk.”
I was a bit confused, but I was not disappointed.
The life in the Nigerian town, isolated, with tantalizing glimpses and tastes of a lavish consumer society just out of reach, was as fascinating as any science fiction or fantasy world. Everyone's jealous of those who seem more successful – but, of course, things aren't what they seem. It's the Nigerian Dream rather than the American Dream. Europe is the place where all the wonderful products come from. There it is: the reason for the upheaval and protests all over the world – including Nigeria.
Most of the wonderful cheap thrills of the trailer are concentrated in Part Three. I would recommend just watching that for most of you who are used to contemporary Hollywood's condensed storytelling, but you would miss out on a genuine chance to experience something outside the corporate-generated consumer reality of your pre-packaged life.
It's why I like to watch movies from other cultures without any Mystery Science Theater 3000-style buffering. You shouldn't face the alien with all your defenses up, hurling wisecracks to prove you are smarter than something you don't understand. How smart can you be if you aren't even trying to understand it?
If you cross the bridge, and let the alien weirdness sink into your brain, it just may expand your mind a little -- then you'll see things in the absurdity of it all that will make your laughter something greater.
You may also realize how much you have in common with the guys kneeling down before the tremendous breasts of the devil/goddess.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Here's a Maya elder on the subject:
So, enjoy the Mayanoid stuff for entertainment purposes only -- meanwhile, check out what the real Maya are saying:
Sunday, January 1, 2012
Don't bother with resolutions – they never work. Just make plans – then go out and do them. I don't usually go around giving advice, but that's a damn good chunk of it.
And I've got some plans for the apocalypse-branded year 2012. They're good and diabolical, like those of my mad scientist childhood role models. Call me mad? I'll show you Mad! Bwoohoohoo-hahahahahaha!
First, I'm finally getting into the self-published ebook business. 2012 will see four launched into the smoldering world:
Cortez on Jupiter is almost ready. It'll be out pretty early. I'm almost as excited as I was when it first came out. Meanwhile, you can read “Guerrilla Mural of a Siren's Song,” the story it grew from in Alien Contact.
Next will be Obsidian Harvest, my collaboration with Rick Cook, that first appeared in Analog back in the year 2000. With an Aztec detective and dinosaurs in Mayan city – it's perfect for our times.
Then it'll be Smoking Mirror Blues, with Tezcatlipoca rebooted by a new technology. Can you prove it's not happening right now?
Finally, as we draw close to the final days of the Mayan calendar, High Aztech will rise from the ashes of the traditional publishing world. I'm saving it for last, because scanning it (I wrote it before I had a computer, if you can imagine such a thing), and proofing it, will be a monumental task that will do interesting things to my mental health. I'll report on them here – if they don't get picked up by news outlets or go viral first.
All four of these books have pre-Columbian themes and subject matter, so they fit into the whole 2012/Mayan calendar/end-of-the-world meme that's sweeping over the planet. I don't believe that reaching the end of this cycle means the world will come to an end, but I am not beyond taking advantage of it to grab attention for my own products. I'm reading P.T. Barnum's autobiography. I plan on having fun amid all the psyche-straining work that I'll be doing.
I'll also be writing. I have these projects about Paco Cohen and Victor Theremin that are scraping the hell our of my brainpan. And some unfinished business from 2011 that I'm rushing to get done. The unexpected is lurking around every corner.
Never give up. Doing stuff is the reason for living.