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Month: February 2003

Merge, damn you

I Love Your Work is a weblog about the filming of Adam Goldberg’s film I Love Your Work. Alternatively, it’s a promotional piece. One of the burning issues of the weblog world is whether or not webloggers are journalists. Many webloggers are very indignant about the possibility that they aren’t journalists. Many journalists roll their eyes at the entire question.

Helen Yeager, who writes I Love Your Work, can’t talk about certain things she saw. She’s part of the promotional effort for the movie; she’s part of the crew (and says as much). It’s an interesting blog but I think that she’s damaged the cause of weblogs as real journalism; by allowing the medium to be coopted, she’s made it harder for other webloggers to be taken seriously. As Film Threat pointed out a while back, “the old press tends to be lazy and a little nearsighted when it comes to making distinctions between groups other than themselves…” Fair? Nah, but still true.

Pulp Fiction

Compare and contrast: Peshawar Lancers and Shanghai Knights.

We’ll do the movie first so you have time to skip it in the theaters. OK, that’s a little harsh, but it was really pretty uninspired. Good martial arts from Jackie, good comedy from Owen Wilson, rather lackluster script. I’m a sucker for Victorian pulp adventure, but this was really by the numbers without anything to distinguish it conceptually. I think moving the setting was a mistake. Leave the duo in the Old West where they’re working against our Western tropes, don’t move them to London and run them through the same dull paces every pair of Victorian pulp adventurers goes through.

Peshawar Lancers is decidedly more interesting, albeit still a failure. There are two sizable problems with the book. First, and most fatal, the plot really makes no sense. The entire book revolves around the need to foil an evil plot, and not surprisingly the plot is foiled, but it’s not foiled conclusively. There’s nothing at all stopping the baddies from making another run at the brass ring. The ending, as a result, was anti-climatic since I couldn’t really read it as anything other than a temporary triumph.

The second problem is that the alternate history is pretty flawed. Concept in a nutshell: a comet hits the earth in 1878, causing a second ice age. England survives by moving wholescale to India and points south. Japan builds itself up as a major power, as do the Ottoman Empire and a France that’s moved to Northern Africa. So far so good.

Russia survives by embracing a cannibalistic religious frenzy. Uh? Cannibalism isn’t going to provide enough food for a country to survive the ice age depicted; it’s just not a varied diet. There aren’t any plants growing in Russia. Where’d the vitamins come from, huh?

So what makes the novel interesting? It’d make a really rambunctious pulp setting, once you embrace the improbability of the evil Russians. (Hard to do that with the novel, since there are five appendixes given over to outlining the probability of the alternate history.) Huge swashbuckling fun, and you wouldn’t have to contend with a hobbled plot. If Peshawar Lancers had been an RPG sourcebook, I’d be recommending it.

Tales of ink and paper

Saith Steve Lieber, comic book creator:

Thanks for asking. I’m working with a novelist on his first comic book project, and doing the research for another one that’ll be all me.

A fan replies:

Sounds good… Any publishers lined-up, or is that much further down the line?
(And any hints on the novelist’s identity?)

And Lieber spills:

No publishers lined up yet, but I guess there’s no reason to be coy. It’s Sean Stewart. He’s an s.f./fantasy writer, probably best known for GALVESTON, an amazing novel that won the World Fantasy Award in 2001. (Actually folks here might know him better as the story guy behind the webgame for the Spielberg film A.I.) He’s taken a serious interest in comics recently, and has a really good feel for how they work.

Woo hoo!

Meme watch

Mr. Sterling — no, it’s OK! This is a technology post, not a review. Read on.

Mr. Sterling, which is continuing to be mediocre, had an interesting little moment last night. Senator Sterling was sitting in a committee meeting tilting at a windmill, while a press conference raged outside. One of his aides was at the press conference, keeping Sterling updated via BlackBerry. No explanation of what was going on, just a flash of one aide typing on a BlackBerry and the aide with Sterling getting the message. You know a technology’s becoming prevalent when it shows up in a TV show without explanation.

Small gathering

If I still lived in San Francisco, I would go to Potlatch 12 this weekend. It looks distinctly like Readercon, an East Coast literary SF convention that started up after I left Boston. It seems to have good guests, there’s going to be a writer’s workship, it benefits Clarion West, and they make a good attempt to put panel notes online. Which is just so cool; I’ve always thought it’s a shame that SF cons don’t tend to preserve their panels. Wiser heads may realize that this is in fact a blessing.

Oasis time

Phew. I finally hit the Warren Ellis run on Excalibur. After all the really bad stuff, it was a total breath of fresh air.

Ellis’ work on Excalibur is not of the quality of Stormwatch or Planetary, but it is very good superhero work. Despite his current distaste for writing ongoing superhero books, I think it’s an excellent form for him. Working within someone else’s continuity must be a pain in the ass, but the challenge seems to bring out his ingenuity.

It doesn’t have the same overarching story that his other superhero runs have had. He did a couple of good arcs, including the superb “London Burning” arc, and you can see him working on developing the style that led to the longterm plotting of Stormwatch, but this is definitely early Ellis. The characterizations are awesome. He turned Kitty Pryde into an adult, and Pete Wisdom is a neat anti-hero without being anything like Wolverine or Gambit. He’s an adult anti-hero. You don’t get a lot of that in superhero comics.

I’d recommend seeking out issues #83-103 of Excalibur, along with his miniseries, Pryde and Wisdom. You can skip the Age of Apocalypse stuff, which was four issues under the X-Caliber title. Slogging through the crap was worth it for the Ellis, but you shouldn’t subject yourself to the same pain and his issues are completely legible even if you haven’t read any of the earlier material.

I have also read all the Ben Rabb issues, which conclude the series, but I’ll talk of those when I’ve regained my strength.