Friday, April 26, 2013

The Millions That Were - A clip from Rubberman's Cage

Just a snippet from Rubberman's Cage. Don't read TOO much into what's being said- it's just a theory.. but first, have a peek at the new 'working cover', in case you haven't seen it on my facebook page...

“I've read things,” Gabe said with a look and a tone that wiped away Lenth's smirk. “Things that don't make much sense at all. A place without a ceiling, people ripped like cloth. People by the thousands. Torn, burnt. By tools that I don't understand.”
Lenth scoffed lightly. “Whatever that was that you read... it must be written by someone as a joke. A dumb, mean joke.” Lenth waited for Gabe to agree, or at least entertain the idea.
“No.” Gabe said instead. “I figured that at first too, but there's just too many accounts of the past. It just got worse and worse. The people before, up there; they must have been some kind of... I don't know.”
“But wait,” Lenth said, “if they're so awful, why do they send us things that we need?”
“Maybe they don't.” Gabe shrugged. “Maybe they all finally killed each other off. Maybe it's just the messenger, finding things and bringing them down.”
Lenth glanced at Joints laying there, breathing slow by steady. “So do you think that we... the providers, the subjects, the managers... do you think we're all that's left from those millions of people?”
Gabe sighed and looked around. “I don't know. I have no idea. It all seems pretty far fetched. A lot of it makes an odd kind of sense after a while, but...a place with no ceiling?”
Lenth's smirk returned. “Okay, but let's pretend that's true. What would be the point of us being in this place?”
“I don't know about you, but I don't see any wars in here. Maybe we're protected here. And if they did all kill each other, maybe it will be our job to go back there and... and put people there. Oh, which reminds me, have you gotten your head around this human reproduction thing?”

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Dracula, post-coitus.


-for the book Dracula by Bram Stoker. For the 3 of you out there who haven't read it yet, and intend to do so.

So, I finished reading it last night.It came out in 1896, and as can happen with older works, the style was a notable obstacle to the eyes of a modern reader. I actually find William Shakespeare easier to read. Stoker has also done a fair handful or romance novels, and I think that shows its hand in Dracula here and there.

Our heroes spend a lot of time complimenting each other, on their noble nature, kindness, righteousness, blah, blah, and when speaking of women, how beautiful they are. The treatment of women in general is a tad on the misogynistic side, but Mina is credited for her courage and intellect.. but is always measured against that of a man. Well, such is the era, I suppose. And when Van Helsing hits the scene, he's described by another character for half a bloody page.

"Professor Van Helsing is the most interesting man in the world. He doesn't always hunt vampires, but when he does, he accuses them of having 'child-mind', and criminal mentalities, with all the worldly understanding as 60's batman."

"Vampires are a superstitious, and cowardly lot."
"Holy rosary, Batman! Is that why we're wearing garlic cologne?"

The book is written entirely in the heroes' journal entries, correspondence, and things like that. They go on at length on ideas we've already been introduced to, and with metaphors that sprawl needlessly on, only to have it explained by lengthy sprawling simile.

I'm looking at you, Helsing.
You were expecting Hugh Jackman? Faugh, I say! My movie was kind of passable!

Although I haven't seen the movie in ages, I know there were notable differences.

Woah. Differences? A movie isn't 100% faithful to its book??

For example- Neo is not Jonathan Harker. I was glad to have not seen the movie in so long, so that certain imagery would not taint the book.

Can you tell that I'm a little split on the book? It was a bit of a chore to read.. much of that is due to the era in which it was written, and my GenX.5 brain's perception of it. At the same time, I don't want to give Bram a free pass on the parts that grate overly much.

If nothing else, we owe the book for breathing new un-life into the mythology of the vampire, and establishing many tropes that we know and love today.

Bram's Dracula doesn't sparkle in sunlight, but neither does he burst into flame; he just loses the use of his otherworldly powers. I enjoy the character of Dracula a lot more in the first half. When we first meet him, we get an up close encounter. WE know what he is, but Jonathan does not. As clue after clue is revealed, the 21st century reader can be excused the think, "JONATHAN, you MORON! You should KNOW what he is! Haven't you seen..... uh... every movie about vampires made in the time since this book came out? Huh.. nevermind, proceed, idiot."
"Like, I know, right? Y'know? Vampire! DUH!"
(Above pictured is from the movie Nosferatu. His name is Orlok. His movie is legend in itself.)

After his introductory in-book month, Drac all but disappears, headed for London. For a time, nothing.. lots of nothing. Then, something. Things that if the reader did not know better, could be entirely unrelated. OK, we're headed into huge spoilers here...

A lunatic in an asylum, a beautiful victim claimed ever-so-slowly, a ship arriving with a dead crew and a telling journal, brought into harbor by the (dracula controlled) weather, and Drac is shown at his most dominating, threatening, and powerful. Unless you count his wielding of minions back at his home turf.

Our heroes clue in to what's going on, (with meeting after meeting, and letters piles upon letters) a tad too late to prevent a tragedy, but they drive Drac from London. And this marks the moment when Drac becomes increasingly a fleeing, powerless rodent.

Our committee of heroes take the offensive, chasing Drac down in a calculated manner befitting an english committee  Slow. They actually have a legitimate Lord on the team, so I imagine they all had powdered wigs, and said "harumph" a lot.
"Harumph! Do take that back! Harumph and and faugh!"

Lord wassisface comes in handy, as his title gets them through certain bottlenecks  and his cash gets them through the rest. For various reasons, they split into three groups of two, and end up converging on the buggy carrying Drac, who's been in torpor for a long while, and essentially helpless.

In the not-so-grand battle that ensued, Drac is slain before waking enough to utter a word. The only wound suffered by our heroes is fatal, but inflicted by one of Drac's hirelings who isn't even aware of Drac's nature. (Maybe even unaware that there was anyone in the box on the buggy.)

Aside from the death of a 2nd tier party member, the killing of Drac felt like more of a mugging, and the being which had shown so much power earlier in the book spent the last third of the story coming off more like a vermin, waiting to get stepped on.

Blame Hollywood maybe, or Castlevania, but I was hoping Drac would get back to his castle, and be the subject of a somewhat grander battle.
Come on, Belmont, this isn't even my final form!
(Genzoman did the art above. Click the pic to go see more of his stuff.)

In the end, it.. was over. I was glad to have read it, and I was perhaps a little gladder to be done of it. I read it mainly to educate myself. Stoker's Dracula is a... if not THE cornerstone of vampires as we know them today.

And now I can be that snot who cites things, and feels superior. Which is why any of us read, isn't it?

Oh, and any of you who may be fans of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, might enjoy a flash I made once with Drac in it.


..... damn... did I just write a book report? Willingly, and of my own volition? Shoot me....

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Red Planet Blues Vancouver Launch - 2/2

Jenni and I arrived in the target destination, on B1 of the library. Oddly, most of the library was dedicated to lending out books. Pfft. It was a serviceable venue, but not as glam as what I've seen of other launch locations for Robert J Sawyer across the country. Next book, I'll have to invite him to launch from my gala ballroom.
It's just like that, but mine is even MORE imaginary!

We were early, but a tidy lineup was already there, nabbing up books, and getting signatures from Rob, camped in the corner. Jenni told me she didn't have much time, and true to her word, she bought a book, had a quick chat with a couple of people, and vanished.

I took this time for my dose of vitamin T(aurine).
Today's "being awake" was brought to you by Monster:Assault.

Vending the books, were the good people from White Dwarf Books, who have been a pillar of the Vancouver sci-fi scene for ages. They're also often on hand serving book-vending purposes around VCON quite often.
I am the keeper of knowledge! All you nerds will bow before me, and gimmie your cash!

After getting my copy, and getting Rob to sign it, making sure not to monopolize him at all while more people waited, I receded to the opposite end of the vending table, where I might stay in earshot of any bits of wisdom that might happen to come from the experienced author.

Heck, a notable part of why I wanted to go to this event was to see how it all went down. I've done signing events myself, I've done readings, but being a hack, I had no claims of doing it right. I was kind of near the tail end of the line mind you, and I had to tell a couple people that I wasn't in line; that I was just loitering. Being a chatty SOB, I ended up in small conversations with random people in and about the lineup. I mentioned to one guy that I write, and found myself giving him my card.

BAD Joe, BAD. You're not here to self promote. No more cards! So I behaved.

A total surprise, one of the teachers from my daughter's pre-school appeared. My daughter's in kindergarten now, we briefly talked about her.

Around this time, Steve Fahnestalk showed up. Always good to see him. I usually see him at VCON. Oh, and good ole FB.

7:00 neared, and Rob politely told the lineup that he had to go up front, and that he'd be doing more signings after everything.
No more signings! Make it stop!

At the front, Rob was announced by... arg, I've forgotten her name. She works at the library, and is head of events or something like that. Rob took the podium, and hid his chocolate milk behind the book.

It might be hard to tell from my vantage point, (WHY DIDN'T I EXPLOIT MY WHEELCHAIR AND SIT UP FRONT?) but the chocolate milk eventually escaped.

Rob commented that dinosaurs, chocolate milk, and pizza are his favourite things. A glance at his library will speak much of dinos. No pizza or chocolate milk books?? WTF?

After a little chatter about the new book, (did he do the reading now, or later? I choose to say now...) he read us a poem from the front of the book that modified an olden gold rush era poem. He then read us a section involving a naked woman running around, a teeny little bomb, and a McGuffin. If they ever make a movie of Red Planet Blues, this scene will rival anime in the department of unabashed boob bouncing.

Character developments! Two of them!

A fun little scene, which promised to lead to treasure hunting and rival entrepreneurs galore. Rob's scene. Not the one above. I couldn't help notice that Rob's reading voice was much more animated than the voice in my head when I read. Even when I read his stuff. Mind you, it was a largely comedic scene. Heartfelt applause from the audience followed the reading.

Also introduced was Shoshana Glick. Aside from being an editor, Sho' is also known due to her name being used in Rob's WWW trilogy. If you google her name, you get half of the results being her real self, and half talking about Rob's version. She came to the table as an interviewer.

She would ask one question, and Rob would use that as a springboard to talk for quite a while. An interesting talk, but when he finished, ready for the next question, Sho' seemed a little shellshocked, and the audience had a bit of a giggle, presumably at the ratio of small question to big answer.

Things wrapped up, and applause given. Rob retreated to his signing station, and the lineup reconstituted itself. When they were all signed, he went on to a short stack to be signed for people who couldn't make it to the event, or copies to be stocked in White Dwarf's store perhaps. I didn't want to interrupt. When the fellow from White Dwarf was free, I asked him about stocking my books in the store. I'd meant to ask for ages. Brick and mortar stores have never been a priority for me, but White Dwarf is special. We traded info, and it was a good first step.

I was about to pack my books away, then I thought, "Hey, I should give my three books to Rob to read!" then I thought, "No, dummy, he's flying around, the last thing he needs is to jam three more books into his luggage." Some of those thoughts must have come out of my mouth, and Rob told me to send him eBooks. Well alright then! It's been done, and I await reports of him vomiting, and/or getting a restraining order.

My books, and Rob's book secured in my chair's storage, I began my trek home. Not wanting to pull out my shiny new book on the skytrain, I read my own stuff. I read my own books on and off. Partly to visit my characters, partly out of vanity, and partly to see things I'd change. Not to change them, (other than typos), but to see the kinds of things I'm prone to do, and think about other ways I could have done them better.

But then I realized I was reading them the way Rob was doing his reading. Bluaha, creepy! My head, get out! Thankfully it wasn't too hard to re-tune my inner reading voice.

I was almost at the end of reading Dracula back home. Rob's voice for a "light hearted funny scene" would not serve Bram Stoker.

I'm going to suck!

Well, I finished reading Bram Stoker's Dracula tonight. I might be whining about it next post. On the plus side, my reading time is now free and clear for sinking my teeth into Red Planet Blues!

G'nite, folks!

Red Planet Blues Vancouver Launch - 1/2

Having Robert J Sawyer in my facebook friends list, I see updates on his goings on. Such hits as "I've finished another book" and "the pope just invented a new award for me" and "the ghost of Isaac Asimov just came by to tell me where he buried his gold."

Maybe not, but you get the idea. As such, of late I've been hearing the news for his latest, Red Planet Blues.
Shucks, if only he could have found a pretty cover for it.

The story centres around our hero Lomax, who's a private dick on Mars. Mars being a hotbed for people looking to score fossils, which draw quite a price back on our ole blue marble. It's like the gold rush. Except with dino bones, replicants, and no air. And if that sounds far fetched to you, yiu may as well tell me that cowboys can't be done in space, then we'll step out back.
You uninitiated should know this is Malcom Reynolds. If you don't, go buy the firefly boxed set and the movie Serenity before he calls a man named Jayne as backup. Jayne wears a wooly knitted hat, so you know it's serious.

I digress. That's never happened before. So, I got an invite to the launch event for the book, the evening of April 3rd. When the day came, as usual, I forgot such petty things like breakfast and lunch. I was going by public transit, and realized my gut would be looking for dinner while I was getting off the Skytrain, so an hour before I had to go, I made myself brunchupper. It consisted of shreddies, leftover beany... taco.. stuff, a squirt of honey, and a generous splash of 'cyrstal' hot sauce. (Imagine 'Frank's Red Hot, if it didn't taste like ass.)
Yeah, well, if you think it tastes like shit, why do.. oh, nevermind....

Oh, and for desert, a tube of little caramel eggs leftover from easter. So now I was in an hour long holding pattern of 'hurry up and wait' while a sugar rush started up. Skip ahead, skip ahead, bus, skip ahead, skytrain, and poof.

There I am at the Granville Skytrain station. Most of the skytrain stations are about twenty meters above the ground, hence the name SKYtrain. Granville, like many downtown, are underground. I got off the train, and my spidey senses started tingling... this looked too familiar..was this the station with no wheelchair enevator to the street? Years ago, my wife and I were forced to take the train to the next station, then walk (RUN!!) back toward the offending station to get to an appointment.

To coin a cliche, my heart sank. I searched, and seeing a nook at the end of the platform where elevators are usually 'hidden', I stopped going towards it, when I saw a RED wheelchair sign, pointing back the way I came with the word "emergency" on it. Oh. Splendid. Do I have to call a transit employee to access this? Also, there's no emergency beyond my fear of becoming late.

So there I sat at the bottom of a trio of epically long escalators. I've gone up escalators in my wheelchair before, but even a normal length one can be a little freaky by about half way up. I wandered back out of the way of others, and called the transit help line that is generally used to find smart routes to use. No reception. I went back over to the escalators where the distant shaft of daylight promised a signal out. Reception was terrible, and talking to the lady I got was difficult at best, when behind me:
Cats. Sorry. It's the internet, I was required to.

"Joe?" It was Jenni Merrifield! I've known her through my dealings with VCON since.. since I started going to it! She's the go-to gal for VCON stuff, and she was also going to Rob's launch. I knew as much from facebook, but I didn't expect to run into her. She saw my plight pretty plainly. Guy in a wheelchair at the bottom of a huge escalator? What could go wrong?
This must be an old pic, I've lost weight in the last few years.

She was willing to be my backup.. if I took the escalator with my usual method, she could ride behind me to make sure I don't randomly become a rolling ball of human/titanium death to any below. Then some else who saw my issue came along with more helpful help. She knew where the elevator was. Yeesh. It was around the corner in that nook I gave up on, which turned out to be a hallway. Ugh.

Dramas resolved, Jenni and I made it to the street, and chatted as we made the last couple blocks to the Vancouver Library!
Yes, that IS actually the Vancouver Central Library, but NO, that's not Jenni and I. I think this scene was from 'Caprica'. That building's been in a lot of movies and stuff. Hollywood north, yo. 

Next- actually at the friggin launch!!!

Friday, April 5, 2013

My Arch-Nemefreind

My imagined arch-nemefriend, Robert J. Sawyer signed my book. My book, as in not his.

'Imagined' in that I pose no threat to his sci-fi empire, even if I tried. I have just a fewwwww books to catch up to his tally, (a few is considered to mean between 20 and 30, right?) but recent years have seen a drastic cut to the 'book a year' rhythm I had worked myself into. Oh well, the source of that problem is about the nicest one could want, and they're going to turn two and six next month!

Anyway, Rob's a Canadian, and I'm a Canadian. He's a wonderful writer, and I'm a.. a writer. So, if I'm going to use anyone as a buoy to aim for in writing, I may as well include Rob as a target. Not that I want to BE Rob, but there's more than a few lessons I could learn by seeing how he gets things done.

Like touring with a new book.That sounds fun. Maybe when my kids are a lot older, and my books are able to pay for it. If that never happens, it's not the end of the world. I hate travel. My wheelchair REALLY hates travel.

Speaking of kids, it's getting close for time to go get my daughter from kindergarten! I was going to go on about the trip to Rob's event, but short blog entries are earlier to digest, aren't they? So! Next time!

So here we are; the future.

I remember in the 80s, and doubtlessly before, many a movie, game, book, were based in 20XX.

In some cases, literally.
Did you think I was kidding? This shit happened ALL THE TIME. It was a dark age.

The above is Megaman X. The list goes on and on. Double Dragon II, I think it was, decided to be more specific, with 199X. Like it matters when a double dragon game is set.

We tend to hear the cop-out "near future" a lot. Hi! I'm guilty, right here! I'm far from alone. Why? Look to the past, and see what they thought the future was.

Hey baby.

Anyone seen my flying car? No?? It must be the stealth technology!! Well, that's ironic, really. Stealth tech wasn't all the rage back in the day, and now we have our stealth bombers, and a number of firms making light-bending fun, which works. I think I haven't seen any results, personally. (lol) But heck, there's a company working on it about a ten minute drive from me! Okay, the photo mock-ups are photoshopped, and look kind of bad, but they say they won't show the real tech to the public for security reasons, and than government agencies have seen their stuff at work.

As cheesy as that sounds, you'd have to live here to see their claims in the cheesiest of contexts.

Maple Ridge. Jus' saying.

So yes, writing about the 'near future' frees us from much Scorn from the far future, and their hindsight.

 But yeah! About the future! Here we are! My house? Looks pretty much the same as houses from the past! The future misfired! Well no, we have small things, which happen to be 'big'. Microwaves, flatscreens, computers, wifi... small components to everyday life that allow so much more than a past that was very recent. Aids being used to cure cancer, cancer being used to cure lycanthropy, 3D printing human organs, Not to mention societal progress.. which can be agonizingly slow, but it progresses.

In summary:


Yeah, thanks for that, Joe. I'd never heard that one, Joe. Neat. Thanks for wasting my time, Joe.

You're welcome.

Next post: My adventure to Robert J Sawyer's launch event for Red Planet Blues at the Vancouver library. Fun was had, transit was ... transited.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"Rubberman's Cage" treks on.. and OW my skull!

"Ooh, who or what is rubberman?" you may ask.
"Does he own this cage, or is he IN it?" you may ask.
(no, no, not quackers!.. oh.. that's not him, I'm safe...)

"Is the cage just a metaphor for everyday life and having your newly walking son run into you while you're crouching down to help him, and crack your goddam skull so hard you're still dizzy hours later?" You may ask.. might not.. that last bit might just be something that happened to me today. Ow goddammitttttt, OW.

But yeah, RC is chugging along slowly. When creating a unique society and environment, (I won't use the term 'alien world', since it's entirely earth-based) you find you have to backtrack a lot to keep things in alignment.

"Why would he know X, when she didn't know X, but knew all about Y?" "Can I justify Z knowing Q, when J has no experience with..." Yeah, see me avoiding spoilers there? Annoying, huh? At thins point, I have very little idea how much can be leaked 'safely'.

I just know that at some point, in the real world, I'm going to be making some very odd cookies, (which I will dare to eat, and mayhaps serve at VCON one day)

Here's some leaks you can handle:

Alright, the 'brother' Lenth has emerged as the chief protagonist. The other brothers, (Joints, Spots, and Blue) were not as motivated to defy the routine that Rubberman can imposed their entire lives. As such, Lenth has found out that the whole of existence is larger than five people, and the handful of rooms he knows as his reality.

He's even saw several 'females', or 'lumpy men' as he still has habit to call them. Now he's facing his master's masters, and he seeks answers as to where his brother 'Slim' was taken after he became dead. Whatever that means. Lenth really wants to speak with Slim.

And the apparent powers that be have questions for Lenth as well.