The 1980s orgasmic merger of Rock and Film

The1980s was a decade awash in stylistic mergers and acquisitions of venom and spirit. Specifcally, I wish you to understand the bombastic synchronicity between rock music and film. First we have 80s rockers Huey Lewis & The News who showed up in time travel favorite, “Back to the Future.” Then icon of R&B and 80s rock diva, Tina Turner, made the apocalypse fabulous in a chainmail outfit Red Sonja would have died for in the third Mad Max flick, 1985’s Beyond Thunderdome. Turner also cranked out the main tune, “We Don’t Need Another Hero.” I wish she had done more because she dominated the screen. Sidenote: the beloved blue healer Zhaan from Farscape has a small role as Warrior Woman in the second outing of the Mad Max franchise.

Director John Carpenter had his own band, and contributed signature riffs to his movies, especially 1986’s Big Trouble in Little China. The end title jam from 1984’s Buckaroo Banzai was by electronica pro and Grammy winner, Michael L. Boddicker. Danny Elfman of 80s synth-pop band, Oingo Boingo, became better known as a movie maestro for Batman, Weird Science, and most of Tim Burton’s films. Guitar god and front man of Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler, penned the entire soundtrack of 1987 classic, The Princess Bride. Nobody knows what a Vangelis is, but it made an electronic soundtrack for refuses-to-be-dated scifi flick, Blade Runner, that still resonates.

The 1984 fantasy mainstay, The Never Ending Story, sported the only real hit of Limahl, lead singer of 80s Brit-Pop group Kajagoogoo. Although my teen self pined for Jennifer Connelly in 1986’s Labyrinth, David Bowie’s rock god turn as Goblin King Jareth owned that movie. German electronic setup, Tangerine Dream, did the dirty for stunning 1985 fantasy epic, Legend, as well as occult-WW2-thriller, 1983’s The Keep, & western-vampire cult feature, 1987’s Near Dark. Sting may have spun a villainous role in 1984’s Dune, but it was classic rockers Toto that managed the tunes for that flick.

But all of this pales in comparison to what comes next; the majesty of Queen. They rocked the 70s and 80s with stadium rattling anthems and quirky earworm ballads. Even in death frontman Freddie Mercury has become a meme that denotes pure awesomeness. Queen rocked not one but two essential scifi soundtracks: 1986’s Highlander & 1980’s Flash Gordon. Both movie and songs are eminently quotable and singable, and would propel any roadtrip from arduous to astounding. Sidenote: the Prince of Ardentia in Flash Gordon who falls on his sword also shows up as Katanga in Indiana Jones 1 and Kingsley Shacklebolt in Harry Potter.

If you want to experience just how kinky-nasty rock-cinema orgasmic synergy can be, search YouTube for “Martini Ranch/Reach” directed by James Cameron. Yes, that one. It features many faces of 80s scifi and requires 30 minutes on IMDB to properly appreciate.



Ignore the image above for a moment, and try to name the following movie from the 1960s: it’s written by Ian Fleming, it features car chases where the hero uses a tech-savvy vehicle, and has a megalomaniacal villain bent on conquest. Also: bizarre henchmen; foreign intrigue; and finally weird sexual tension but said mega-villain and his “Baroness” as they try to kill each other.

You could say any number of Bond films. And you would be wrong. I just described half the fucking plot of the 1968 proto-steampunk, kid-film extravaganza, Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang. Ian Fleming write the book that inspired the film but he died in 1964, so they needed another dude for the screenplay. They found none other than Roald Dahl, creator of Willy Wonka and other mind-bending stories for scaring kids in the proper British way.

So any other Bond linkages? Oh, my yes. The villain in 1964’s Goldfinger plays the villain here, Baron Bomburst of Vulgaria. Q, the beloved quartermaster of Bond’s gadgets, plays (with a sly wink and a nod) a junk dealer. The director of Casino Royale is here directing and co-writing. The producer on no less than 5 Bond films, Albert Broccoli, is also on staff.

Dahl plays fast and free with the book and adds his own style of wackadoo. Then we have famous English cartoonist, Rowland Emett, building the contraptions in Caractacus Pott’s house. His delicious Rube Goldberg-esque, steampunked madness earned him the title “the fantasticator.” Brit comedian and genial pervert Benny Hill plays it straight as a repressed toymaker. And the scariest villain is the Child-Catcher, an evil pied piper, with a ridiculous nose and a wicked dancing step who tricks the kids into prison (the actor was famous for playing bad guys, but was actually a professional stage dancer). The songs are horribly sappy, and I still remember them fondly from my own boyhood.

There’s even a stand-in for the Bond Girl: Truly Scrumptious, the PG version of Pussy Galore. Watch it with your kids, you’ll love it.


BAMF thinks another is BAMF

There can be only Scotland!

Clancy Brown describes himself as a blue-collar character actor, but then goes on to say that all actors are character actors. This from his interview with Adam Pockross at Yahoo Movies on 3-14-14. Clancy is famous for bringing his imposing form, gravelly voice, and intense menace (or rare charm) to such awesome genre fare as Buckaroo Banzai, Carnivale, and Earth2, but we speak here of Highlander.

Pockross asks, “What do you remember about killing James Bond in Highlander?

“That was great fun. If I was ever nervous with a movie star, it was with Sean, because he is every inch Sean Connery, man. He’s a big gorgeous dude. I don’t know how old he was, almost 60, and he was still the most macho thing on the set. We were up on
the top of the staircase that looked pretty precarious and we were not rigged very
well. He was on his knees, and I was standing over him and I remember leaning over and asking him, I said, “Sean, how much do you weigh, man?” And he said, “Oh, 14 stones” or I don’t remember, but some stone, and I was like, “that tells me absolutely nothing. I’m 200 pounds and if you’re over 200 pounds, that means we’ve got like 400 pounds on this slapped together thing. You nervous?” And he says, “No, I’m never nervous.”

So the Kurgan just said a man playing a Spaniard who used to be an Egyptian and speaks with a Scottish accent is the ultimate BAMF. So noted.

Pop up Fact #112: Marc Alaimo – Super Evil Scifi Glue

Marc Alaimo, an actor born in 1942, is arguably the secret glue that holds the scifi skein together. I don’t mean to get all weepy, but this guy might just be keeping us from that black hole Hadron Collider event. There’s just no way to know.

Most fans will know him as Gul Dukat in ST:DS9, but he has played villains and thugs as far back as the 1970s. Marc plagued the Bionic Man and the Bionic Woman, and he stole milk money from the Incredible Hulk. He betrayed the Archer: Fugitive from the Empire (1981), and he tangled with the Greatest American Hero. He foiled the Knight Rider himself, the Hoff and Kitt both. He bedeviled the Master by trapping Demi Moore in the Tardis. He tricked the Last Starfighter, and more recently he resisted Arnie and Michael Ironside in Total Recall.

His credits on Star Trek are too numerous to list, but he’s definitely top ten for different aliens inhabited and shows played. And his prominent neck inspired the ST make-up artists to give the Cardassians their familiar neck ridges.

Why is he so good at playing evil? My guess is that last name. How many times does a kid get called “A Lame-o” before he snaps. Lucky for us he just tortures our cinematic heroes.

Sure, his glue seethes with evil. But he’s the Elmer’s we need, not the Elmer’s we singed up for. Or something.


It’s a Beautiful Thing #27:

BAMFs kick ass but no one expects them to actually … act. It is a little bizarre to me to see Chuck “My beard is death for you” Norris or Ah-nold thunder their way through a flick while their fellow thespians act circles around them like moons about Jupiter. It is a curious joy and a intriguing travesty, and I always wonder what the actors who can act think as they wait for their line amongst the HTH carnage.

Case in point: 1981’s revenge fest, Eye for an Eye, featuring classic Chuck. Every movie Steven Segal did in the 90s, Norris did in the 80s. Except Norris occasionally did it while rocking a red sweater. So, the plot that justifies the violence is standard fare: ex-cop Norris has to find a way to get revenge against a highly connected drug gang for killing his partner and his grilfriend. One wasn’t enough, see.

So, after a bevy of blockheads and mysteries, we get to the finale. At the end, he must beat the iconic tough guy, Professor Tanaka, who is the human equivalent of a concrete wall, so he can get to the boss, Dracula. No, not a vampire, but the much beloved Christopher Lee who is quite happy with his pay, and has been cashing checks from B movies since the 40s.

Just as Norris has stretched his action jeans enough to make mincemeat of Tanaka and Count Dooku, everybody else shows up.

We have the grumpy Police Chief played by none other than the original BAMF, the very originator of the term, Richard Roundtree. Who’s that? I’m just talkin’ about Shaft. Everything Norris did in the 80s, Shaft did in the 70s, but with super-fly style and black leather. Then there is the father of Norris’s girlfriend played by Mako, the versatile actor who can be the wizard-chronicler in Conan, voice a hundred cartoons, and cameo in your TV series with complete dignity and humor.

So Shaft and Mako show up for the finale just in time to remind Norris to be heroic and not kill Saruman.

With forty years, and their other roles tripping through my head, the film is a completely different experience for me as an adult, and it’s a B-YouTube-able thing too.


How To Educate Your Ewok – The Ur-List

Numerous authors and fans have published their Top 10 Fantasy Novel list. I’d like to go meta for a moment and talk about the ur-list that underlies all lists of this nature. Comments are invited. On a personal level, I have a hungry Ewok in my care, and how best to nurture her budding genre sensibilities is important to me. Before you even get to The Hobbit, there are stepping stones of genre literature in regards to educatin’ your chillun’. For now, this rant sticks to books, so the Totoro-minded will have to wait.

So, here be stepping stones:

Stone #1: Dinosaurs. It all begins here. That wonder about the Other Time and the Other Place filled with Other Things. Every kid loves dinosaurs, but there are pernicious side effects. That first fannish flame is one of the reasons, IMHO, that Creationism has struggled v Evolution even in the face of general American apathy and ignorance regarding science. The Bible does not mention le thunder lizards and kids love them, so WWJD? Jesus, in the form of parents who over-value religion, hedge their faith around the T-Rex. That scaly mofo allows the science spark to smolder, and it may rekindle within even the most squashed mind. I don’t mean to be down on JC and the gang, just his most zealous supporters. There’s lots of value in JC’s teachings, and as Darth Vader teaches us, there need be no conflict. So, start with the dinos.

Picture Books are stone 1A for charging the pistons in the headbone of your young’un, specifically the classic toddler trivium of Where the Wild Things Are, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and all things Seuss. The Very Hungry Caterpillar can eat my shorts.

Stone #2: Now we get into your Basic Cultural Mythology. Any region will do: Greco-Roman, Chinese, Norse, Mayan, JesusLand, etc. Other Place and Time again, but now it’s with humans. You can visit Rome and Cairo. You can dress like a Viking, or a Ninja, or a Pirate, or as Noah. This is definitely time for Faerie Tales. Before your kid is ten, she should be able to choose between Pirates and Ninjas. This is the time for all the great psyche scarring. Monsters live in the closet. Really bad ones live under the bed. Bad dreams wake them up. They’re afraid of the dark. Eat your broccoli Timmy or the Vege-stalker under the floorboards will tear the soles off you feet. Nooo, Daddy!!!! I try to have my ewok imagine a big, faithful dog that can attack spiders and zombies for her. Apparently, her fears are zombies, vampires, and red spiders. Since she has never seen the first two outside of Scooby Doo, I’m not sure where she gets that other than DNA. We live in Florida, so I know where the last one comes from. I’m still not sure how her mind works.

Stone #3. Now we’re back to familiar Middle Grade / Young Adult books: Maddy L’engle, Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland, Oz, etc. Basically anything that ends with Potter, Narnia, the Hobbit, and all things by Roald Dahl. If your precious tot starts talking about Twilight, then you’ll have to intervene. Hermione is heroic. Bella is a passive cardboard cutout that feeds the worst fantasies that girls and women can have about their interaction with the male species. Nip that shit early. The Princess Industrial Complex in all its forms must be thwarted. Old School Disney can suck it. There are dozens of books for the warrior-princess, and that’s what we fathers aim to mold. The GeekDad & GeekMom websites are chock full of must-read lists for tweens and teens.

Now that the foundation is set, their taste should be consulted. But know this: if she is to hold her own when addressing the Tribe, she needs some of the 8 essential vitamins and minerals.

Vitamin A: World Fantasy. The land itself is a bona fide character, in much the same way New York is for so many films. This is Narnia & Middle Earth territory. I suggest the stand alone book Tigana, and the following series: the Wheel of Time, Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever (great story and setting, horrible protagonist), the Riftwar saga, the Sword of Truth, the Belgariad, and the first set of the Shannara series, and anything by Zelazny. This may lead to serious addictions to Role-Playing games, video games, cosplay, etc. Some of the series run up to 13 books. I started the Wheel of Time in college and I’m still not done reading. Most of these are adult books, so they should be fodder for the end run of genre taste management.

Vitamin B1: Historical Cycle. For Americans this means the Arthurian cycle of tales, but we have seen stories spun on these themes ad infinitum. Arthur the King has returned, again and again, and frankly needs to rest. If the library has been unholy ground for you, then the internet has arrived to widen your horizons. Let your teen read about the adventures of Gilgamesh, of Krishna, of the 47 Ronin, of the Maccabees, and of the erstwhile ass-kickers of the Scandinavian Eddas and Georgian sagas. So much win, so little time.

Vitamin B2: Character Fantasy. These are the books, that while they may have cool and well-developed realms, the characters carry the legend. I do not mean to imply that Gandalf or Rand al’Thor don’t shine as characters, but I can drop Conan anywhere and he will remain the BAMF barbarian. So too for Elric and his black sword, and Fafhrd & the Mouser.

Niacin: Humor: If you’ve read enough to know your fantasy tropes, then belly laughs are yours for the reading. Find them in Xanth, Discworld, Sweet Silver Blues (and many more) by Glen Cook, the Myth Inc series. These are awesome for teens.

Thiamine: You got your mint chocolate chip. Now you need your Brussel sprouts. Hook your fangs into something non-fiction, an academic treatise or two on the quest of the hero, historical accuracy, or the seriously ancient and naughty Decameron. Try the 13th c. Canterbury Tales on for size. Books by authors about their own writing also work. “Hero with a 1000 Faces” fits here nicely although you will become a pompous ass for a while. Good for teens with an academic bent.

Vitamin C: Grim & Gritty. Tired of princes and damsels? Do elvish angst and easy fixes with high magic leave you slack-jawed? Need to feel some mud between your toes, and some gristle in your shank? You can’t go wrong with the shared realm of Thieves World, or the Black Company by Glen Cook, Game of Thrones by GRRMartin, the Malazan books by Steven Erikson, and the pitiless mercs of Joe Abercrombie. This is my current favorite sub-genre, but see NSFW stickers on all of these, especially Thrones.

Vitamin: D: Urban Fantasy. Yes, bring the phookas and grues into the city. Mix in the tech and the mech and the dirty, dirty sex. Call it Dark Fantasy, Gaslight Romances or Steampunk. This category really steps on everybody’s toes and we love it so. Anything by Neil Gaiman is good. The classic examples of the modern fey arrive from Charles DeLint. Read “Court of the Air” and sequels for steamy-alien-magical immersion. Steven King’s the Dark Tower fits here too. The fare runs from perfect-for-teens to harsh-for-adults. My second favorite sub-genre.

Vitamin B6: Weird. And finally a palette cleanser. Some ginger and wasabi to freshen your tired synapses. For something short go to Harlan Ellison or Catherynne Valente. Long form, go to China Mieville. Not for teens unless they’re really precocious.

So, go now. Fortify thy spawn, and let the world tremble.

Happy Anniversary Poem

November makes it a year of slapping my moniker on the ScriberSpace. Mostly, I toil to keep the spambots busy. And they return the love. In fact, in honor of the occasion, I have reformatted the best spam comments into a poem. It is, IMHO, hidden encouragement from the universe’s purest fountain. I call it…

365 Days of Hyperactive Attention Disorder


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And that’s it. Please don’t stop, you fearless spambots and foreign monkey-trolls smashing your cold fingers into antiquated keyboards. The Scribble Ninja needs your tireless efforts to stay strong.


“When you journey into the unknown, accept the magic.”

Unlike most 2012 DragonCon attendees, I immersed myself in everything that did not have a line. Mostly I spent time at the writer panels that featured Mike Stackpole and Aaron Allston, two scifi writers. However, what they had to say on career and craft applies to all scribblers so take heed. I also hit several steampunk panels, some super-specific topical panels, and bathed in the genius of the genre all-stars. This is a long post so feel free to skip around.

#1. Show, Don’t Tell.

Why is it the rule? Because you want the reader to be an active participant in the story. Like your heroes, the reader should be on quest as well, discovering as they go, grabbing up a constant stream of bread crumbs that you, the cackling author, have provided. “Jack was old” is telling, and the reader is passively digesting. “Jack’s gray hair fought to escape the tight leather clasp” is showing. The reader is actively deciphering your words; they are engaged. “Jack spoke angrily.” No bread crumbs, and a sucky adverb. “Jack squeezed his fists until his fingernails broke the skin.” Ooh, I must know why. Tell me more, O author.

#1a corollary: We know this rule. Why do we ignore it so well? Because we are lazy, ignorant sluts. We would rather write 3 words then 10. But lazy, ignorant writing insults the reader and worse … bores her. And after reading this, you’re not ig’nant so …

#1b caveat: Leave your breadcrumbs, but don’t bury them. Make sure the wit and wisdom in your noggin actually makes it to the page. A clue left in your head helps no one.

#1c conundrum. But you can leave ignorant, lazy writing in Draft 1. I met a writer who writes the title and then “The End,” and then backs up and starts banging that keyboard, always seeing that delicious duo of words close by, reminding her not to waste time with perfection when completion is the goal. Likewise, Senor Stackpole says that editing as you go is knocking dirt into the hole you’re digging. One wretched wordslinger in the audience said, “I’ve rewritten my first chapter six times.” Stahp. “Don’t be a chapterist. Be a novelist,” says Stackpole. That being said, sift your breadcrumbs properly in draft #2.

#2 Alternate History & Steampunk tricks of the trade:

  • Read collections of immigrant letters: “I’m eating meat 3x/week.” “I don’t have to doff my hat to everyman.”
  • Only German Zeppelins stayed up. Brit and US versions sank. WW1 killed zeppelin tech. They should have lasted until commercial jet travel in 1960s.
  • WW1 is so often not used as a setting because readers, authors, editors, and publishers just don’t know it like they do WW2.
  • Why does war make such a wonderful setting for an Alt.-Hist. setting? War magnifies decisions and individual acts, and different classes mix.
  • What would be a dramatic peacetime story look like? Only the Titanic’s sinking comes to mind and that has all the same war-time elements.
  • Steam tech must matter to plot and character

#3 Fighting:

  • The fight must reflect the experience of the fighters. Describe each blow for a novice. For a pro: “I dropped them all.”
  • Choreograph the action scenes, especially fights, to make them believable. That means get out of thy chair and find a lusty yeoman to gird thy loins against. So, your spouse or an attractive stranger. Act out the combat.
  • Most past cultures had revenge/blood feud as a sacred duty. There was no compassion for the enemy.
  • Real fights are quick: 5 seconds.
  • Know stakes in the fight beforehand for highest emotional impact.
  • Reveal character in a fight. Are the opponents sneaky, treacherous, honorable?
  • Show the aftermath and the prepwork for a fight. Have grunts grinding out nicks in a sword, repairing armor, and cleaning gear. Oil and soft cloth are used to protect a sword (oil protects from oxygen/rust). Sand’s good for wiping off blood; also an opponents hair, and soil.
  • It may take weeks or months for wounds to heal. Scars! Weakness afterwards is common. Hands get bruised, and buckets of ice need to be on backorder. Limb damage is the most common wound especially for sword fighters.
  • There are no clean fights.
  • Hit soft things (gut) with hard things (fist), and hard things (skull) with soft things (palm).
  • Resist Hollywoodization of violence: Reload; show wounds and shock and dizziness and hearing loss from gunfire; bad guys can’t hit and on full-auto but good guy’s can’t miss. An equally trained 100# woman should lose to a 250# man. Sorry waif-fu practitioners.
  • Limit gun-porn and ammo-spanking: loving descriptions of guns, knives, etc. Why bother?
  • You can’t fight without getting hurt, a willingness to get hurt, and a need to hurt others.

#4 Characterization:

Characterization is the scifi generational change that activated in the late 1980s. Big names of scifi past did not have character arcs. All you neded was a cool premise, space battles, heroes named Dirk, damsels, and bad aliens. Not so today. Now, people expect a character arc, growth, change, and wit. And not just the hero, but the villains and sidekicks and romantic interests, too. Not enough now to have an external plot, but an internal plot as well.

I asked Stackpole for an example of a new character, knowing the inherent trap, and he demured. Personally, I’m thinking Drizzt Do’Urden. Maybe Hellboy? The X-men? A tough call.

Some character traits and building blocks to consider:

  • Describe their mancave, or happy place.
  • How do they act in a bar?
  • If you list traits as a character, then you must make them gel. He likes sushi and baseball. (He’s Japanese!).
  • What famous person would they meet with, dine with, drink with, fight with, sex with?
  • Stackpole says, “Stephen King is best.”
  • If you start with an archetype, then twist and develop. Know your tropes and surprise your sophisticated readers.
  • Steal the traits of real people, not the entire person. Traits can’t sue.
  • Poll your characters about their desires. Interview them.
  • Give challenges to your characters, not just flaws.
  • Why is your bastard worthy of redemption?
  • Don’t forget that the world continues regardless of story and character.

#5 Dialogue:

  • Professionals use their own jargon
  • Edumacated folks use longer words, and longer sentences. Yokels use shorter words, shorter sentences and swear more (I guess this makes me a high-brow yokel).
  • 5 year olds use 5-word sentences, etc
  • Angry folk use short sentences and swear.
  • Don’t forget regional dialects. Do you say pop? Soda? Coke?
  • Women are more attuned to color and decoration. Men are more attuned to threats, spatial relationships, and time.
  • In conversation, men attack, women defend. Males talk less, and are blunt. Women talk more, and are opaque. Blanket statements, of course. Please feel free to villify moi.
  • Hopefully, you’re dialogue is so unique to the character that speech tags become unnecessary.

#6 Plot Problems?

  • You didn’t do enough research.
  • You have a brilliant setting with no story or character.
  • You have a brilliant character with no story.
  • You think outlines are stupid.
  • You’re a nice person but you’re not torturing your characters properly.

#7 Description:

Indulge in info dumps is lazy writing. Parcel it out in bits in prose, yes, but also in dialogue, in character reactions (both physical and emotional) and by the characters manipulating the environment (and their clothing and equipment) and through internal monologue, flashback, memory.

“It was a dark and stormy night. Chad looking out the window aggressively. He was confused. The weatherman had lied to him. Jill watched Chad watch the weather. She was a lovely warrior princess, and she was tired of Chad’s promises. She needed him to act.”


“The lightning illuminated Chad’s haggard features. He flicked the window’s lock open and close. Behind him, Jill wished he would be flicking something of hers. She wondered if the fire-jumping and sword duels had begun back in her court.”

Is the second sentence better? Maybe. But it’s less lazy and it might have ripped a chuckle.

“The child was cute.” No. Show reaction of the PoV character to the cute child. “She was disgusted.” No. “She wore an expression of disgust.” Better. “Her face distorted as if she had kissed a tarantula.” Better still, and it also shows tone: humor, horror, etc.

Pain is not always excruciating. Eyebrows do not always cock. Blood does not always curdle. If an adverb or adjective is not perfect, then find a descriptive phrase.

Don’t just write functional sentences, but quality, fun-to-read sentences.


#8 How To Ruin Your Career:

  • Use cliches
  • Be predictable
  • Miss deadlines (if you have a life-altering event, tell thy Editor and act like a Pro)
  • Be lazy with your language and ignorant of your craft
  • Never tell an editor what you’re doing
  • Engage in flame wars on the internet. Be a troll. Feed trolls.
  • Never thank people.
  • Denigrate women (2/3rds of editors are women).
  • Ignore other writers. They can never help you. (People like to work with people they like. People talk. Editors talk. Con organizers talk.)
  • Approach an agent or editor at a Con as it they are there solely for you. Interrupt them while they are macking on a cutie.
  • Be unprofessional, mean, and snippy.
  • Abuse fans, Con staff, and the publisher house staff.
  • Burn bridges.
  • Get the last word.
  • Gratify your ego.
  • Treat socially awkward fans badly (Fan: “I hated your book.” You: Can you give me the short reason why. Speak to their inner child.)

#9 Rejectomancy:

“Don’t take rejection personally.” Fuck that. Take rejection personally. Use your rage to make your story better, or burn the long night of oil and ignored chores to build another story.

Scifi grand dame, Connie Willis, got form rejections from the same publications that published her Nebula-award-winning stories! She told us of her Black Day. She always had multiple stories Out There. If she got one crushed, there were others circulating. Then she got back 9 rejected MSs, and seriously considered quitting. But she didn’t. Why? Because she had pre-paid and addressed several envelopes. So she sent some more stuff out and sold some of those same stories that got rejected that day. So, major authors get rejection form letters too.

“I always interpret a rejection letter by analyzing the steaming entrails of the editor.”
#10 Miscellaneous craft and career bits:

  • For Hire work (for Star trek, let’s say) = 6-9 months (as opposed to original work = 12-18 months). Cover art comes in at 80% completion rate, and you may be told to incoporate it. You can’t change the characters, but you can emotionally & mentally torture them. No negotiation. Take deal = do work.
  • Maintain 2,500 words per chapter on average for good flow/pacing. 30,000 words per PoV character (so 3 max usually).
  • At the Con, authors used I-Pads and E-Readers as promo tools, setting them on the table a la digital biz cards. Awesome. Jealous.
  • On Writer’s Group / Online Feedback: issue is not if they like or dislike; did they understand it.
  • Always show the downside to magic in your world.
  • Workshops and Groups will tell you how they would fix it. You must figure out how you would fix it.
  • Don’t e-pub/self-pub your 2nd rate stories. You’ll dilute your own brand.
  • “This is the Golden Age and Wild West of publishing.” If the market can’t handle your lesbian steampunk psycho-ballad, you’ll find an audience online.

“I’ve now filled a frost giant’s codpiece with authorial tricks and tidbits, but I have not told all. If you want the last few secrets you’ll just have to trek to the ATL in 2013. Later, monkeys. I’ve got lit to scribe.”


DragonCon 2012 !

Caught the little bum trying to steal my badge.

As August tripped into September, the citizens of Atlanta could not help but be flummoxed and fandangoed by the wandering horde of scifi geeks last week. You didn’t hear? DragonCon, my friends, in all its glory and pageantry, sundered the peace of downtown ATL in five—five!—hotels for four days. I was happy to be there amongst the aliens, Master Chiefs, lego Han Solos, and Black Widows. I left tired and inspired, and I’m here to bring back truth from the mountaintop.

If you go next year, don’t miss the Saturday morning parade. Almost entirely filled by guests just like you, the costumes dazzled with their inventiveness and attention to detail. I pity the uber-nerd in the Chewbacca get-up since it was still Hot-lanta, but the tribe persevered. You can see some of the best outfits (dancing no less) in multiple videos at YouTube under “DragonCon 2012”. Here’s one:

You can spend the entire con gaming, or going to writing panels as I did, or waiting in line to catch a glimpse of the hot new star on the hot new show, but leave time to absorb the ambient awesomeness. Find the fully functioning R2D2s. Frolic amongst the pokemon and the undead. Take pictures of the witty old, and the busty young, the steampunk families and the industrious loners, and all the men and women dressed as Loki.

While weapons rules and nudity laws remain in effect, the nasty-kinky undergarments get flung about after dark. Burlesques, dances, masquerades and the many bands feed the need to get funky. And it was quite possible to wander into a lightsaber duel.

One huge room was packed with celebs from today’s shows and the hits of yesteryear. Normally, I resist autographs but when Buck Rogers and Wilma Deering are in the same room … I shelled out the bucks. Erin Gray also taught a tai chi class. I’m here to report that it is working. Gil Gerard should have taken the class. I saw an old, pudgy guy from behind and asked him if “Buck” was coming back. Of course, the man was Buck himself. Flustered, I handed him Wilma’s picture. “That uniform never fit me,” he said, eyes twinkling. I had not expected to be there and was $3 short. I promised to come back. It took me all the next day to make it back. He smiled easily. “Thanks. It makes an impression.” The ScribbleNinja holds up the geek honor. For the most part, the actors we see on the screen are waaaay smaller in real life. With the exception of Lou Ferrigno, everyone looked all too human. With the exception of Burt Ward (1960’s campy Robin), everyone was gracious. Burt refused to sign as I’d asked and overcharged me. Ah, well. Maybe I funded his Medicare. He took quite a few Pows to the chin back in the day.

Do budget for the wondrous swag, but go hit the many vendors when something popular is also going on, or it will be like spawning time in the salmon creek except all the fish are bug-eyed monsters. Funny t-shirts, wings, horns, steampunk goggles, lightsabers, figurines, dice, jewelry, costumes, and fabulous artwork.

I’ll do a separate post for just the writing lessons I gathered from known scifi
luminaries to newcomers on the scene.

To conclude, it’s crowded. It’s hot. Some lines are long. Be gracious. Represent your tribe. Thank some of the relentlessly cheerful staff. They welcomed us from the airport banner to the constant requests for direction (the skybridges were confusing as hell). Appreciate the diversity in race, age, gender, disability and vampire affiliation. You CAN be a Browncoat and a Jedi, dammit! I went home floating on phlogiston, and I don’t think it was a coincidence that I could order Dragonfire Salmon in the airport. The scifi gods were happy, and I was too.

Pop-up Fact #123 – Effluvia – Scooby Doo

Parents today can delight in Scooby Doo for several reasons, but there’s crackin’ deep history there too.

Today, Scooby and company enchant my daughter so much that she requests that I tell her bedtime stories about the Mystery Inc gang. And I can because their story logic is wrapped into my psyche. True, Daphne has evolved into a functional adventurer instead of a damsel, and Velma has developed a nerdy chic, but Fred is still in the closet and Shaggy still smokes the wacky tobacky offscreen. Ruh roh! As I told my umpteenth Scooby story, I wondered where did the gang and the cowardly mutt come from. Harken!

In the late 1960s, a parent group, A.C.T. (Aimless Control Tyrants), worried about violence in cartoons, and lobbied against them. Our jaded, modern minds might look at Jonny Quest, the Herculoids, and Space Ghost and wonder – “what violence?” – but back then cartoons were supposed to focus solely on mouse-on-cat violence. While we can credit the A.C.T. for limiting some nefarious marketing activities aimed at kids, they effectively killed all the cool cartoons. Lame fair like the Archies replaced it.

If you’ve stood in a grocery checkout line and flipped through a mild-to-the-point-of-suicide-would-be-fun Archies comic while waiting for grandma to figure out her new debit card, then you know why some TV executive finally said: deliver me from this poxy shite.

Enter the only pre-Pixar animation outfit to rival Disney: Hanna-Barbera. Main H-B writers, Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, created Scooby scripts that were actually scary, and Iwao Takamoto’s art did not feature a Great Dane, but they were eventually toned down, and the tiny dog evolved into skittish Scoob. Takomoto learned art in Manzanar, the WW2 internment camp for Americans that looked Japanese, so Scoob touches that tragedy as well. Thank Takei we’re past those times (Guantanowhat?). Takomoto also directed Charlotte’s Web (which was written by author E.B. White, who also penned Stuart Little, and was presumably the funnier half of Strunk and White, the grammar gurus).

Back to Scooby Doo. Go and search for images of the 60’s black-and-white TV show, Dobie Gillis. Look for a young, goateed Maynard Krebs aka Gilligan. That’s Shaggy. Scooby Doo was influenced by Dobie Gillis, 40’s radio serial, I Love a Mystery, and Enid Blyton’s Famous Five mystery books. Or so Wikipedia tells me.

After Scooby-success paid for their diamond-encrusted bell-bottoms, Ruby-Spears knew shame with the Jabberjaw cartoon, but also managed to scrawl catchy tunes with Josie and the Pussycats (try not to sing the theme song once you’ve heard it), and then they finally came full circle to reclaim that old Herculoids fun with the ultimate hero of post-apocalyptic earth: Thundarr the Barbarian.

Princess Ariel. Ucla the Mok. Super-sorcery and sun swords. Fuck yeah.