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Category: Culture

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.

Dust in the wind

Daniel Keys Moran is sharing his current novel in progress, The Sheriff of Shokes, on his forums. (If that link fails, try this.) You’ll have to register to read it. The Sheriff of Shokes is not set in the Continuing Time, but it is related. DKM explained this once.

Who is this Moran person? He wrote four pretty good novels back in the late 80s and early 90s. You can get them today via QuietVision, and I recommend them. He’s one of the most graceful writers I’ve ever read, blessed and cursed with epic wit. Occasionally it gets in the way, but he’s just so much fun to read.

His setting is the Continuing Time, which is a vast interconnected timeline covering about ten millennia. He says it’s very detailed and that he has notes of gargantuan proportions that explain everything. Thirty-odd books, planned out and in some cases partially written.

Alas, he more or less ground to a halt as far as publishing anything goes back in 1994. In a chronology he sent out then, there are something like 30 Continuing Time novels, and we’re never going to get to see them, which is pretty sad. He’s passionate enough about his work to make me want to see the entire series, but not passionate enough to get the damned things done. Now that print on demand is a reality, there’s no “my publisher sucks” to fall back on. And he married his old editor, so he’s got someone who can edit books handy. No excuse for not giving us a book every couple of years.

Still. It’s worth buying and reading that which we do have.

Ow ow ow ow

Feeling pretty traumatized. The Claremont/Davis Excalibur is good, and the Davis sans Claremont stuff is all kinds of fun if you like that kind of thing, which I do. But eventually Davis goes away and it becomes all fill in authors and lousy art and X-Men crossovers.

Conveniently, you can tell where the really horrendous stuff begins, because there are hologram covers. No kidding. I’ve never owned a comic with a hologram cover before. I feel kind of unclean.

But yet hm

Well, I’m of three or four minds about this. OK, so Mike Meyers has struck a deal to do what he’s calling “film sampling.” I.e., he’s gonna insert himself or other actors into old movies. Remixes. See also Kung Pow.

I want to see what Meyers does with this concept, cause I think he’s comedic gold, even after the last two Austin Powers flicks. But I hate the way the Variety story calls films “properties.” But I think that this sort of remixing will demonstrate the value of having more creative works in the public domain, since it’ll show what people can do given the right to edit. Except that Meyers isn’t gonna be working with public domain movies. And how the hell does this jibe with the whole ClearPlay issue? Are they really saying “It’s OK to screw with the director’s original vision as long as you own the rights to the movie.”?

Well, of course they are. Still, this move blows the hell out of comments like “There are those who would revise a film for what they claim to be benign reasons. But there are others who would alter for pornographic and obscene reasons. To allow one, it would seem you must allow the other.” That’s Jack Valenti talking, there.

Mutant overload

So here’s what happened.

About a month ago, I picked up the four phonebooks of Essential X-Men on a whim. For those unfamiliar, phonebooks are cheap black and white reprints of old comic books. It’s one of the few ways we see long runs of classic comics kept in print. These were the first umpteen issues of Chris Claremont’s run on X-Men, including the Phoenix Saga, and they are darned good. I’d never read ‘em before. The energy of the writing is very engaging, and the plotting is solid and fairly complex. This is the X-Men before they got weighed down with too much continuity. Fun.

After finishing ‘em, I had that completist impulse to go read all the X-Men. I quickly did what I always do when I get that urge; I read the rec.arts.comics.marvel.xbooks FAQ and remind myself of the hash they made of Jean Grey until the impulse goes away.

This time, I was reminded that Warren Ellis’ run on Excalibur represents one of the few significant big chunks of Ellis’ work I’ve never read. After a little more struggle, I convinced myself that it would be OK to read just the Ellis issues, and dropped over to EBay in hopes of finding ‘em. You never know.

That’s where it got bad. I searched on Excalibur, and found an absolutely complete run of every Excalibur-related comic in the world. I mean, everything — the Alan Moore Captain Britain Jasper’s Warp graphic novel, the Wisdom and Pryde mini, the whole damned thing. With no bids on it. And less than an hour to go in the auction, so I didn’t have time to sleep on it and think better of the idea in the morning.

There are now two boxes of Excalibur on my floor, and I’ve been reminded as I reread the FAQ while writing this entry that somewhere in the middle of it all there are gross Phoenix retcons. The Warren Ellis issues start around #85. Fortunately, most of the intervening stuff is Claremont and/or Alan Davis, but there’s a bunch of Scott Lobdell in there too.

If I don’t make it out alive, don’t send in a search party. The risk is too great.


Couple more Oscar tidbits: Donald Kaufman was nominated (along with his brother, Charlie) for Best Adapted Screenplay. That’s gotta be a first. Also, the meticulous kodi notes that none of the Best Picture nominees take place in the modern era. This shows that Miramax likes historicals. Joke! Except not really.

Edit: fixed my gross misquote of kodi. I plead running out the door.